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Digital marketing and advertising offer excellent opportunities to expand your company’s reach around the globe. But they can also help you build up your audience in local communities and open your business up to potential customer in your area. Google reports that about 46% of all online searches have a local intent behind them, meaning their users are seeking services, information, or other content specific to a location.

To help connect those users with the localized search results they’re seeking, Google has made changes to its algorithm to account for location in its search engine results page (SERP) listings. Another important search tool is Google’s Local Pack, which aims to connect users to specific local businesses they might be trying to discover.

If you’re a business owner or marketer targeting a local audience, Google’s Local Pack is an important tool to incorporate into your SEO strategy. Here’s a detailed guide on what the Local Pack is, why it matters, and how you can use it to build or expand your own business.

What is Google’s Local Pack?

Any Google search user is likely familiar with the Google Local Pack, although they might not know it by name. The Local Pack is a SERP feature that appears on the first page of results for any search query with a local intent. It features a map of business locations along with listings for three businesses relevant to a particular search.

Originally showing seven results, the Local Pack has since been pared down to three, with an option for users to click over to a longer page of results in Google Maps. Google creates these Local Pack results through its Google My Business listings, based on what the algorithm thinks are the most relevant results for a given search.

Why you should care about Google’s Local Pack

Although the Local Pack has a greater impact for certain businesses and industries than others, it’s valuable to any business looking to strengthen its visibility and engage with a local audience. Because the Local Pack appears at the top of the first SERP, it offers local businesses a boosted online presence as a shortcut to the top of the SERP listings that your company might not be able to reach through SEO alone.

The Local Pack also makes it easy for search users to find your business’s website, hours, address, and phone number. If you’re targeting click-to-call referrals through Google, the Local Pack is a crucial referral channel that needs to be targeted (we’ll break down how to do this below).

For restaurants; service companies ranging from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to dentistry; local retail shops; or any business with a brick-and-mortar presence that’s looking to increase awareness, in-store traffic, and sales at the local level, Google’s Local Pack can be a great asset, offering a handful of features that benefit both search users and local businesses.

Features of the Local Pack

The Local Pack appears as a widget at the top of the SERP, providing key information that can help users decide whether those local results are relevant to their needs. The largest of these features is a map, which helps users determine the business’s location.

Because proximity to the user’s location plays such a large role in purchasing decisions — they typically show a preference, for example, for a nearby dentist rather than one who is 10 minutes further away — the map is important to the value of the Local Pack. The three businesses appearing in the Local Pack are listed beside the map, with key information for each: a physical address; a phone number; a link to the business’s website and directions to its location, if applicable; and information about whether it’s open — or when its location will be open next. The average review rating is also displayed, helping you narrow down your options based on the public consensus on each business.

At the bottom of the listing, a link to “more places” is available if you’d like to see more than the three selected options. On mobile devices, each listing will also offer a click-to-call button that will open your phone app and call the business directly. All of these features help customers quickly find the information they’re seeking, and they simplify the decision-making process by quickly providing essential information.

Pros and cons of Google’s Local Pack

Like any digital marketing tool, Google’s Local Pack offers advantages and disadvantages when targeting local listings via search. The positives are fairly obvious and, in general, outweigh the negatives of this search feature. For example, the opportunity to earn increased visibility can be significant, depending on your location and the competitiveness of your market, as well as the potential value of Local Pack visibility to companies in your particular niche.

Similarly, the Local Pack makes it easy to generate referrals to your website, via phone, and to your physical location. Plus, this premium SERP space doesn’t cost you anything, unlike paid search campaigns.

But there are some disadvantages to watch out for. If your market is competitive and you’re struggling to get visibility in the Local Pack, for example, the existence of this search feature doesn’t do you much good. In fact, it can hurt you if you’re ranking high in local SEO, only to see other businesses undercut your SEO success by claiming territory in the Local Pack.

Meanwhile, Local Pack visibility isn’t as helpful if your Google My Business information isn’t up to date. Fortunately, this disadvantage is one that you can control by taking greater ownership of your company’s search profile.

Optimizing your site for Google’s Local Pack

There’s no extra work required to sign up for your business to appear in Google’s Local Pack. These search results are generated through the information in Google’s business listings, so if you’ve set up your business account or your business is already listed in this database, then you should be eligible to appear in the Local Pack.

If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing yet, visit the Google My Business website and complete the steps to claim ownership. Once you own your Google My Business listing, the best thing you can do is to make sure your profile is optimized for maximum visibility. Google offers a handful of tips to improve your odds of appearing in the Local Pack:

  • Enter as much information about your business as possible. The more complete your business profile is, the more Google’s algorithm is likely to favor you. Make sure your information is accurate and up to date, including your physical address, your business category, and key attributes of your business. This information is used by Google to determine if your business is relevant to a particular search.
  • Verify your location. Google offers a verification process to ensure the accuracy of location information. This affects not just your Local Pack results, but also your organic search ranking and your visibility in products such as Google Maps. Visit your Google My Business page to check your verification status and complete the process, if needed.
  • Add photos to your business listing. Pictures of the storefront, interior, menu, and other elements are used by search users to determine whether they would like to visit a business location. Provide these photos to expand on the information available about your business through the Local Pack.
  • Update information as it changes. If you extend or change your hours, make sure you update your profile. This is true for official holidays: Google lets business owners verify their holiday hours, which can boost their visibility around these holidays by giving users more reliable results in the Local Pack.
  • Respond to online reviews to demonstrate customer service and engage with your customers. Google’s algorithm values businesses that respond to customer reviews, and the company reports that doing so can result in greater visibility.

 

Integrating Google My Business with CallRail

If you carefully manage your business listing and increase appearances in the Local Pack, this search feature can lead to increased local brand awareness and more revenue for your business.

Want more insight into the call you get from your Google My Business listing? Learn more about the new integration with CallRail here.

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When you create partnerships with other organizations, you increase your ability to sell your products to a wider audience. A key factor of success for your channel is a cohesive marketing strategy. The challenge is that each of your partners will have a unique set of customers with an equally unique collection of needs and preferences.

Let’s face it, your partners know their prospects better than you. At the same time, they need to understand your products and offerings. In order to effectively market through your channel partners, you’ll have to create a cooperative marketing strategy. Keep reading for tips on how to build that strategy for you and your partners.

Determine the Nature of Your Partnership

Partnerships can take on many forms. These include:

  • – An independent sales rep partnering with you to sell your products.
  • – A company bundling your product in with theirs.
  • – A company using your product as a base, and customizing it to meet the needs of their audience.
  • – A dual effort to reach audience members that you engage in with another business.
  • – Creating a new product or product line in partnership with another business.

Work with your partner to create customer personas

One of the key reasons to work with partners is to access a different audience than you normally do. This might be audiences in previously unreachable geographic locations, niche audiences, or simply members of demographic groups that you are not able to reach on your own.

Before you and your partner begin creating content, you should know as much as possible about their audience. Once you’ve established who your partner is targeting, you should construct a plan for how to best reach them.

Turn your partner into a thought leader

Even if you decide to write the majority of the marketing content for your partners, it is your partner who will be doing most of the outreach. If they take on some or all of the content creation themselves, they’ll need an even deeper and broader knowledge of your products and services. Be prepared to dedicate some time to getting them up to speed so that they can provide knowledgeable answers to potential questions coming from prospects.

Map the customer journey with your partner

The customer journey is another area in which you and your partner must collaborate to combine your knowledge and come up with a cohesive strategy. The best approach for you is to share your customer journey maps with your partner. Then, you can work with them to identify new and different paths that their audience might take as they discover your products.

Create shared marketing goals

Every successful marketing initiative should begin with some clearly stated goals. In partnerships, this is more complex because the goals of both parties must be taken into consideration.

With channel marketing, some common goals might be generating shared leads, increased referrals, and opening new revenue streams for both partners. You may find that you’ll need to hold some pretty intensive strategy meetings before the ideal set of goals emerges.

Work on co-branded content

A crucial part of partner marketing success is co-branded content. This content enables you and your partners to create powerful marketing collateral that speaks to customers through all channels. 

Examples of co-branded content include:

  • – White Paper
  • – eBook
  • – Blog Posts
  • – Shared Landing Pages
  • – Co-Presented Webinars

About the author: Daniela McVicker is a blogger with rich experience in writing about UX design, content planning, and digital marketing. Currently, she is the chief contributor at Top Writers Review where she helps individuals and organizations improve their web content writing, design, and planning skills.

The post Creating a Cohesive Content Marketing Strategy appeared first on Partner Relationship Management Software (PRM).

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What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a list (or lists) of links that represent part of a website or the totality of a website. Sitemaps can contain more information about the content like creation date, last update, importance, run-time, content rating, etc. For optimal results, a sitemap should update dynamically when new content is added, but there may be instances where a static sitemap is all you can manage.

A sitemap is not necessary for proper SEO, but is highly recommended and usually easy to implement. If you have a small site, and the pages are linked together well, you might not need a sitemap. It becomes more important for larger sites that publish fresh content often.

A sitemap is a good way to let search engines know about all the pages on your website, but it should not be depended on as the sole way to discover pages on the site. Creating a strong site structure with relevant contextual linking is still very important to a search engine’s understanding of a site.

We will review a couple of different types of sitemaps: XML sitemap and HTML sitemap.

What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a list of links in a standard markup language that Google prefers. This language provides additional metadata and context to a list of items. You can reference this page on the XML sitemap standard.

You can submit your XML sitemap to Google directly in Google Search Console, or by linking to your sitemap in your robots.txt file. For very large sites, you may need an XML sitemap index page that lists multiple XML sitemaps. This can simply be split into manageable sizes or organized by type of content.

Google offers guidelines on creating special XML sitemaps for Video, Images and News. By creating one of these special sitemaps, you can be included in a more rich search experience from Google. This article will focus on sitemaps for website pages only.

What are the guidelines for XML sitemaps?

Google shares best practices for XML sitemaps. A quick summary of the main things to be concerned with:

  1. Use fully qualified, absolute URLs that are status 200.
  2. Don’t submit relative URLs. Include the full URL, starting with https:// or http:/, including subdomain (if used) and the domain.
  3. Use canonical URLs, don’t submit URLs that create duplicate pages.
  4. Post the sitemap at the site root so that it will affect all files on the domain. It can be posted in a folder, but only affects files in that folder.
  5. Sitemap files must be UTF-8 encoded
  6. Maximum sitemap size is 50,000 URLs/50MB uncompressed. Use a sitemap index file to list individual sitemaps and submit this single file to Google.
  7. If you have different URLs for mobile and desktop versions of a page, Google recommends pointing to only one version in a sitemap.
  8. Use only ASCII characters
  9. Google ignores priority and changefreq values, so don’t bother adding them.
  10. Google reads the lastmod value, but if you misrepresent this value, they will stop reading it.

 

What is an HTML sitemap?

An HTML sitemap is a list of links representing the pages on your website in HTML format. You might create a simplistic HTML sitemap that just outlines the main sections of your website to give visitors a nice overview of what you have available.

A more powerful HTML sitemap is recommended to cover every page on your website, and if the linking is setup in an optimal way, it can help create a flat site structure that distributes PageRank more evenly to all pages.

Why are sitemaps important?

XML sitemaps can help search engines like Google discover new pages on your site or pages that are not linked very well on your site. It is usually easy to implement, and can be a good catch-all. It’s a basic SEO recommendation, but don’t expect it to boost search rankings or traffic.

An HTML sitemap can be a powerful tool, especially if the website is large (over 2000 pages) and the linking architecture is only set up around topic or listing pages with pagination. The HTML sitemap can improve site structure and link value distribution on a very large site.

If your website is only a few pages, and you don’t publish many posts or articles, an HTML sitemap isn’t likely to help very much.

Crawl depth tells you about your site structure

To understand how a sitemap can help a website, you really need to know more about crawl depth. Crawl depth is a measurement of how far away a page is from the homepage. In other words, how many levels (or clicks) away from the homepage is another page? Crawl depth starts at 0 for the homepage, and every page linked from that page is depth of 1, every page linked from those pages is depth of 2 and so on. Crawl depth doesn’t technically have to start with the homepage, but could be any page where you started crawling links on a website. Crawl depth for a page is always measured at the lowest level that a link to that page is found on, so additional links found at higher (worse) depths do not affect crawl depth.

This metric is a good way to see if you have structural issues. You can use a web crawler, like Screaming Frog, to crawl a website and check crawl depths for pages. If you find important pages at very deep crawl levels then you should add more linking structures to support those pages.

Pages that are not linked to often will appear unimportant to a search engine. It may not even prioritize crawling a page and including it in the search index if the page has low link value.

Ideal site structure

The pages that you want to rank well in organic search results (usually your content pages) should be found at a very low crawl depth, 2-3 is great. 4-5 is OK, and 6 or more is usually going to be an issue. Efforts should be made to create as shallow a site architecture as possible.

When a site gets large enough to have listing pages paginated in the hundreds, you become dependent on some type of next/previous navigation on those page sets. Link value is exponentially degrading at each level, and by level 6 or higher the pages are receiving such low internal link value it can affect their search ranking performance. If your entire site architecture depends on long, paginated topic/category pages your older content is probably suffering because of it.

Building an optimal HTML sitemap

When building an HTML sitemap, make sure it is not setup in a long, paginated sequence. The goal will be to create two basic pagetypes: a sitemap index page, and a sitemap page. The sitemap index will contain links to sitemap pages which contain links to content pages (or other important pages). The sitemap page would be a list of links to content pages.

How many links should you list on a page? Google used to recommend no more than 100 on a page, but has since expanded that guidance saying there is no limit, but it should be a “reasonable amount.” I recommend 100-500 links on a page, leaning toward the lower end if possible.

For example, you might have 10,000 articles on a website. You would create an index page for your HTML sitemap, using a URL like this:

your-website.com/sitemap

This 1 page would contain all the links to individual sitemap pages. With 10,000 articles, that means you will have 100 individual sitemap pages with 100 links on each one (100×100=10,000). It’s useful to break this up by content type or some other descriptive filter. If you did it by content type, it might look like this:

The above example page contains a simple list of links like this:

News page 1
News page 2
News page 3
News page 4
Videos page 1
Videos page 2
Podcasts page 1
Podcasts page 2
Podcasts page 3

 

The trick here is listing every sitemap page on the initial sitemap index page. This will create a “flat” site structure. In the above example, it would ensure that every content page is only 3 levels away from the homepage. A flat site architecture will distribute link value equally among all content pages. An HTML sitemap index page can be very large if the site is very large. Here is a good example of an HTML sitemap.

Depth 0:      Homepage (links to /sitemap in footer)
Depth 1:       /sitemap
Depth 2:      /sitemap/news1
Depth 2:      /sitemap/news2
Depth 3:      /20349423/this-is-your-news-article-page

Compare this to a setup on a site that doesn’t have an HTML sitemap and instead relies on their category pages to link to older content. Let’s assume that pagination links 1-10 are shown, on page 1 and each page has 20 links to content pages.  If the category page has 4,000 content items, that’s 200 pages for this topic. The depth looks like this:

Depth 0 homepage (links to all topic pages)
Depth 1 parent topic (links to child topics)
Depth 2 child topic pages 1-10
Depth 3 200 content pages linked from page 1-10
Depth 4 Child topic pages 11-20
Depth 5 200 content pages linked from page 11-20
Depth 6 Child topic pages 21-30
Depth 7 200 content pages linked from page 21-30

Very quickly, the depth grows high and link value to older content pages shrinks to almost nothing. There are different types of creative pagination strategies, but they all have their drawbacks in page value distribution. A more effective way to let page value flow evenly through a site is by building an HTML sitemap.

It is recommend creating an HTML sitemap with some value to people, like organizing around content types or helping users get a better idea of everything the site covers. You can choose to build them with or without a template wrapper, it can be as simple as a list of links with no style. This can be a quick, low effort strategy to flatten a large site architecture without building a more complex set of linking structures.

You might want to look into other ways to slice and organize your content, by author, by date, by alpha, by topic, by tag, by location, by industry, etc. There are many ways to build more linking structures to bolster a strong site structure. Don’t forget about the classic contextual link, within your paragraphs, these are the strongest internal link signal of all because there is context (words) around the link.

Create a sitemap with an XML sitemap generator

If you need some help getting started, a sitemap generator might be useful. There are many tools out there that can create small or large XML sitemaps and even some that will update dynamically. If you are small and not using wordpress, don’t have many resources, there are ways to build a static XML sitemap, like Screaming Frog Web Crawler or Google has a page of recommendations for XML sitemap generators.

If you have a website development team, they might want to build a system to update the XML sitemap daily or even hourly, depending how often you publish new pages.

WordPress and XML sitemap plugins

There are plenty of free plugin options for wordpress. Google sitemap generator is free and highly rated. The Yoast plugin is very popular and has many helpful SEO features, including dynamic XML sitemap generation. The free version of it will generate a dynamic XML sitemap.

The post XML sitemap vs HTML Sitemap: SEO benefits for each appeared first on CallRail.

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Some people believe it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to completely master a skill. It’s a (sometimes) divisive school of thought, but let’s say—for a second—that we live in a world where it’s completely true. Well, in this world, I’m a master social media user. 

a pleasure to meet you

I’m not just blowing hot air. I’m a millennial—I grew up using social media, and I’ve done my 10,000 hours of digital time. I started young, chatting on AOL and meticulously curating my Myspace profile (yeah, that’s how I learned HTML—don’t @ me). I, like the rest of the world, migrated from Myspace to Facebook, and over the years, I’ve frequented YouTube, Tumblr, Formspring, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitch, Reddit, Yik Yak, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Vine, and TikTok. I’ve left some of these platforms in the dust, but on any given day, I’ll check six different social sites—and that doesn’t even count my other daily online must-dos. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I know my stuff. I’m extremely familiar with Internet etiquette (yeah, there’s Internet etiquette), and I know the social media marketing mistakes that push people like me—potential consumers—far, far away from a business. So, let’s cover some of the most common social media mistakes by companies. 

1. Posting Soulless Content

Nothing makes me unfollow or block a company faster than a phone-it-in approach to social posts. People usually use social media to take a break from the day, unwind, or catch up on what’s happening—so, if you want to earn a place on their (i.e., your patients’) feeds, you have to offer up some good, quality content.

That doesn’t mean you should run your social accounts like Wendy’s runs its Twitter profile (that would actually be a really bad idea), but you also don’t have to post soulless, boring content. Here’s a trick: try posting things you would be excited to see on your own Facebook feed—provided they are still related to your clinic. You may be surprised at how far this exercise takes you. 

they're liking it

Take WebPT, for example. We earn our place on therapists’ social feeds by providing links to high-quality, topical, frequently updated educational content—and the occasional puppy video

2. Not Posting Regularly 

The whole point of curating a social media profile is to market to patients through a medium that most of them are using regularly. Social media marketing helps you spread your clinic’s brand and message, and it helps patients connect with you. If you’re not posting regularly, then you’re not helping patients learn about who you are—and if they can’t figure out who the heck you are fairly quickly, don’t count on them sticking around to find out. 

rhianna

Plus, inactive social accounts can give the impression that a company is inactive or out of business—and that’s not an assumption you want prospective patients to make. 

3. Missing Contact Information (Including a Link to Your Site)

Here’s a lesser-known fact about me. If I can’t find a company’s contact information within 30 seconds of landing on its social media profile, I tap out, move on, and don’t think about that company again. Oh yeah, I’m an impatient millennial—I’ll give you that. But know this: I’m not alone. Most Internet users spend “fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page.”

nope

Think of it this way: if a potential patient is actively looking at your clinic’s social posts, there’s a very good chance that he or she is already seriously thinking about going to your clinic. But, you can’t exactly book an appointment on Twitter or Facebook—so, patients need to have a concrete way to reach out and schedule with you. If the patient can’t find your phone number, address, email, or website (which is a surprisingly frustrating experience), then he or she will probably move on. Opportunity lost. 

4. Having Inaccurate Information in Your Bio 

So, maybe your clinic’s social media posting game is on point, and maybe you recognize that it’s important to put information in your bio—but is that information accurate? Have you updated the contact information on your profile recently? Does it contain outdated information about your services or the payers you accept? Having incorrect info on any of your clinic’s accounts reflects poorly on your credibility and professionalism, and it could erode the trust of potential patients. You don’t want them walking in and immediately thinking your clinic is a mess. 

room on fire

5. Using Facebook as Your Website 

This is a public service announcement: your clinic’s Facebook page is not a functional website, and it should only supplement your actual website—not replace it. If you fail to create a real website for your clinic, you’re forfeiting:

And honestly—millennial or not—it just looks unprofessional, and it usually reduces my interest in a business to zero. 

after zero consideration I'm happy to say, Hard Pass

Don’t get me wrong; Facebook business pages are okay (and you should definitely have one) but it should only exist secondary to your standalone website. Need help building one? Check out our free guide to creating a physical therapy website.  

6. Failing to Respond to Reviews

Failing to respond to reviews—both negative and positive—is a big, existential social marketing no-no. If patients see an unattended negative review on social media—or anywhere else, for that matter—they’ll begin to wonder whether there’s a grain of truth to the complaint. If they can’t find anything that refutes the bad review, you can bet your bottom line that they’ll turn tail and continue their search for a PT clinic elsewhere.

That’s not to say you should pander to trolls (i.e., reviewers who have no ground to stand on), but it looks good if you politely and kindly address any bad reviews that filter in. And respond to the good and neutral reviews, too! It shows that you value your patients’ feedback, and that their priorities and goals are top-of-mind. Not sure what to say? Learn how to respond to every kind of patient review here.   


So, what’s the secret to social media success, you ask? 

Bob Ross petting a fawn

Remember that you’re out there trying to have real conversations with real people. Ensure that your interactions with them provide value, and try to post content that you’d be excited to see on your own feed. Be positive, keep your contact information updated and easily visible, and most importantly, post like you give a hoot (i.e., don’t phone it in). Have questions? Leave them in the comment section below, and we’ll do our best to help.

The post The 6 Worst Things PT Clinics Do on Social Media appeared first on WebPT.

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