Tag - Google

Google Local Service Ads

Google Local Services Ads – A New Google Ad Program

Google Local Services is a new ad platform by Google, not to be confused with Google AdWords. Perhaps you have already seen these ads - they appear in the same place Google AdWords would typically appear (before search results) but the one thing that makes them different is the green check mark by the ad with "GOOGLE GUARANTEED" appearing next to it. There has been a lot of confusion about the difference between Google Local Services and Google Adwords - let me explain.

In order to have a Google Local Services account, there is some vetting that has to be performed by Google. When creating an account you have to send your business license and insurance details, complete a free background check and have a verified customer write a review. This process typically takes over a month to complete. Hopefully Google will speed up this process, but this is what I've experienced recently when setting up accounts for clients.

Google Local Services charges on a per lead basis. In other words, you don't get charged when a customer clicks on your ad - you get charged when the customer calls you. This is a key differentiator between AdWords and Local Services. AdWords charges every time someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. The cost per lead with Local Services is significantly more than the cost per click with AdWords. The cost varies by industry. I've read reports that some industries charge as little as $5 per lead up to $150 per lead. Like Google AdWords, Local Services pricing is based on competition.

With Google AdWords, you target keyword searches within a service area. Google Local Services shows your ads based on the type of service you offer. You still get to select a service area to display the ads, but the options are not as detailed as Google AdWords.

At the time of this article, Google Local Services is not available for all industries and is specific to certain service areas. If your industry qualifies, I think Google Local Services is worth the investment. If you're interested in setting up a Google Local Services or Google AdWords account, I can help. Contact me today to learn more about getting an ad campaign setup for your business.

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How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a tool to manage your company's online presence across Google, including search and maps. Over time Google My Business has changed quite a bit and they're always adding additional features to help business owners connect with potential clients. In my opinion, this is the most important listing for any business and it's crucial that the information listed is accurate and comprehensive.

Once you login to your Google My Business account, navigate to the "Info" tab. Ensure the categories selected for your business are accurate. You can select multiple categories, which I encourage you do. Sometimes Google will word categories differently so be sure to research other companies in your industry to see which categories they're using. A search on Google Maps will show the main category below the business name. For example, if you look at my listing you'll see my main category is "Website Designer".

Next, make sure your business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is accurate. See this article I wrote regarding the importance of your NAP. Ensure your business hours, website URL and services are accurate. For the description take your time and make sure it sounds professional.

One of the most commonly overlooked sections of Google My Business is the Photos tab. Add as many photos as possible, especially if you're in the service industry. Potential customers want to see your work and your employees doing the work. Personally, I won't even consider calling a company if there aren't pictures of them doing work.

More recently Google My Business added a section for "Posts". My theory is this was introduced to replace Google+. The problem with these posts is they only show on your profile for one week. If you create blog posts on a weekly basis (which you should be doing for SEO) then just copy those over. Otherwise I recommend posting SOMETHING weekly. Google is putting a lot of weight on this right now.

If you need help claiming your business on Google or need other website work contact me today and I'll be happy to help.

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Why Your Business NAP is so Important

Why Your Business NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is so Important

NAP is short for your business name, address and phone number. When Google scans various databases on the internet for your company it's absolutely crucial that these three items are EXACT and consistent. If I was on Yelp as "Brian Houdek The Web Designer" or "Brian Houdek Web Design LLC" or "Brian Houdek Web Design Inc" Google would look at that as a completely different company than "Brian Houdek Web Design". If your address is "123 Test St" it's crucial you write it exactly the same throughout the internet. "123 Test St." (dot after St.) or "123 Test Street" will be looked at as different and therefore not the same company. Finally, your phone number must remain consistent. Did your number change over the years? Do you have a local number and an 800 number? Make sure you always pick one primary phone number and always enter that phone number as the primary one.

The more LEGITIMATE databases your company information is in the better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). These directories give your business validity in the eyes of Google. Most of them link back to your website, which is another ranking factor Google uses. As a rule of thumb, I recommend my clients use their Google My Business listing as the "master" listing, ensuring all other listings have the same information.

On the Internet there are four major data aggregators that store your business information. These are Neustar Localeze, InfoUSA, Acxiom and Factual. These data aggregators take your business information and push it out to many smaller databases on the Internet. In addition to these aggregators, there are also many big name directories your business should be in. Examples are Bing Places For Business, Apple Maps, Angie's List, Manta and many, many more.

I have multiple tools to scan these databases and see where your business information is missing or inaccurate. I can easily update this information and charge a flat fee. If you want me to run a free scan for your business contact me today.

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Google Fonts - Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts – Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts says their goal is to make "the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography." They certainly have done that and their selection of fonts continues to grow. Every Google Font is free and open source, meaning that you don't have to worry about licensing issues. At the time of this article there are 915 to choose from.

I have been using Google Fonts on my websites for years. However, even if you're not a web designer you can download the fonts to your computer and use them in any document. To the right of each font you'll see a + symbol. Once you press that Google "adds" it to your downloads (a popup menu that appears in the bottom right after adding the font). If you click on the downloads (it will say # Family Selected) you will notice a download icon on the top right. To download the entire font family with different font weights and italic styles click on "Customize". On this screen you can select the entire font family if you want. Once you have everything selected, download the fonts and install them on your computer.

Do you have a website that needs better use of fonts? Interested in learning more about Google Fonts? Contact Me today and I'd be happy to show you how Google Fonts can improve your website.

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Search Engine Optimization Considerations

Search Engine Optimization Considerations

While the content on your website plays a very large role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there are many parts to ranking well with Google and Bing. A business that has had a web presence for 15 years is going to have a big advantage over a new company with no web presence. One big reason is the number of legitimate websites linking to your website. The older your domain is the higher probability third party websites are linking to it. There are four major data aggregators on the Internet (Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom and Factual) that distribute your business information to many smaller third party websites. In order to get your business indexed with them you have to use third party tools. Over the years I have helped many clients accomplish this task at a very reasonable cost.Another commonly overlooked part of SEO is social media presence. Google has been giving increasing weight to companies with an active social media presence. I recommend my clients post once per week on multiple platforms. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the best to focus on. Posting to all three can be accomplished using third party software that allows you to post to all your social media platforms from one place.Fresh content on your website is another important ranking factor. For most small businesses this is tough. Your services never change, so what do you do? The answer is a blog. I've built many blogs for clients that link to their social media platforms. You post to your Wordpress blog and the post is automatically shared to all of your social media platforms.Over the years SEO has changed. On-page SEO is and will always be the most important ranking factor, but the off-page SEO content is playing an increasing role in Google's rankings. Contact me today for a customized plan for your business. 
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SSL Certificates Now Included For All Clients

SSL Certificates Now Included For All Clients

I recently upgraded to a VPS Server with InMotion Hosting and secured every website I host with a basic SSL certificate. An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate establishes a secure, encrypted link between a web server and the browser. If you look at the top of your address bar on my website you will see a green lock symbol, indicating the presence of an SSL certificate. Previously SSL was only recommended for clients who had eCommerce websites, or any website that collects personal information, such as logins. If you're entering information on a website without an SSL certificate everything you enter can be intercepted by unscrupulous hackers and potentially used for nefarious purposes.

Why do I need an SSL Certificate?

As previously mentioned encrypting your data is a great reason to have an SSL certificate.  However, the primary driving factor for me was that Google takes into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms. Many times I can get a website to rank in the top 5 search results, but after that, the little things make a big difference. An SSL certificate can give your website a few extra points to hop over your competition. I always pride myself on creating visually appealing, responsive websites that rank well. After all, the best-looking website in the World means nothing if it can't be found.

What does an SSL Certificate Cost?

For clients who use my website hosting, it costs them NOTHING for a BASIC SSL Certificate. This basic SSL certificate will give you the green lock symbol and satisfy Google's SSL recommendation. However, if you have an eCommerce website this SSL Certificate is not sufficient. Yes, it will encrypt your data but there are higher levels of paid SSL certificates. A paid SSL certificate also gives you a warranty. For example, a Comodo EssentialSSL Certificate ($29/year) gives you a $10,000 warranty. A Comodo EV SSL ($88.88/year) gives a $1,750,000 warranty. A dedicated SSL certificate also requires a dedicated IP Address ($24/year).

Why Doesn't Every Website use SSL?

Cost. Before moving to my new VPS server with InMotion I did not have the option to issue a self-assigned SSL certificate. Even if I did it would require a dedicated IP address, which costs an additional $24/year. One enormous benefit of my VPS server is that I can issue SSL certificates on one shared IP address. It costs me nothing, so it costs my clients nothing.

The Brian Houdek Web Design Advantage

As a freelance website and graphic designer, I'm always striving to differentiate myself from my competition. If I discover a way to give my clients an advantage I'm going to implement those changes for every customer. The server I used before moving to this VPS server was good. It was fast and stable. This VPS server is faster and more stable. I also backup all of my websites every two weeks to the Amazon S3 Cloud just in case something goes wrong. I charge nothing for that. I use WP Rocket, a caching plugin, that speeds up my Wordpress websites. This would cost $39 per website if you bought it on your own. I charge nothing. I use professional stock images, which I pay for but don't charge anything extra. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something I implement into EVERY website from the beginning. I monitor my websites search engine rankings and adjust to improve them. Most companies charge monthly for SEO services. To me, these are things my clients need for their website to stand out from the crowd. If you know someone who needs a professional website or graphic designer they can trust I'd love to show them the Brian Houdek Web Design advantage.
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