Google Analytics: Why it’s the Best and What You Should Do with It! – Part 1

July 28th, 2014

orange county seo and analyticsSmall business owners, whether in Orange County, or pretty much anywhere, need Google Analytics now more than ever before.

Like any powerful tool, it’s as complicated as it needs to be, but don’t let that stop you from jumping in. The information you’ll start gathering in Google Analytics is invaluable – even if you don’t understand it all at first. There’s a lot to understand, but there are also lots of whole communities of people happy to help you out.

The standard reports that come with any Google Analytics account are a good place to start even if you aren’t exactly sure what to do with all of that hard, cold data. Eventually you’ll use it to fashion, record and later modify your Internet presence. Even if yours is already a successful and totally “bricks-and-mortar” business, everything you do online, is going to be icing on the cake.  Just have your account set up and verified and you can log in and start learning.

What Questions Am I Answering?

Google Analytics, perhaps any analytics, sounds like a pile of statistics. For lots of hands-on business owners, it can be like a trip back to business school. But it wants to be user-friendly, even if it isn’t always.

For the truly Analytics obsessive, the pleasure of Analytics comes from knowing what questions you can answer and from seeing them getting answered – almost in real time. Any analytics reports you’re looking at are going to be delayed by at most a few hours.  Though it’s easy to look at monthly summaries, you don’t need to wait for the end of each month. It’s always up-to-date.

The most important questions we want to start looking at are these:

  1. “How are people finding my site?”
  2. “How long are they staying?”
  3. “Which pages are attracting the most visitors?”
  4. And “What else can I learn about my audience?”

Now, those are the fairly easy questions to start getting answered, but they represent really just the bare minimum of what you can start to learn.

Why are Analytics so Important?

Who is visiting? For how long? And what are they doing on my site.

Running a simple five page website in the hopes that people will find it, read it and come in to your shop is just not how it works.

Business owners often want to know why and they start to look at how that website might work a bit better. Google Analytics remains the single greatest tool to getting you going in the right direction.

If you’re running a bricks and mortar business, you need to know where your visitors are coming from. Are they mostly from Ohio? If that’s the case, you need to modify your online content with your Southern California location. How many of them are coming to you from a mobile device or tablet? Is your website easily navigable for those mobile visitors? All these questions are vital to the success of your website – and ultimately, its effect on your bottom-line.

Nine times out of ten, people approach a company like ours and want – simply – more traffic.

But the way that SEO has evolved, the only way to get more traffic is to get more out of the traffic you already have. That means doing more with it, and satisfying more of the searches that people are ultimately making. On today’s internet, it’s a pretty severe misunderstanding to think that you need one million hits to break even with your 1% conversions.

On the other hand, Google Analytics is how Google partners with you to better understand why people visit your site and what they’re seeking. Satisfy them, and Google will be satisfied too. And then they’ll start sending more traffic.

Most newbies are going to spend the bulk of their time on reports like All Traffic, and All Referrals. Both are under the “Acquisition” heading. They’re easy to understand and they give you a good idea how people are finding you.

Pageviews & Bounce Rate

Lastly for this brief introduction, we want to at least glance at your Bounce Rate and the Pageviews your site is receiving. Both of these metrics are listed under Behavior/Site Content/All Pages. But we want to mention all of this here under the heading of “Doing more with the traffic that you’re already getting.” Google takes very seriously the number of the number of pages any given visitor will read. If they just land on the first page and then leave, that’s a Bounce.

In short, you want the Pageviews to go up and the Bounce Rate to go down.

Pageviews are a count of how many times each page was loaded. So you can see the popularity of every page on your site and hopefully build more similar and equally attractive pages. If a page’s Bounce Rate is too high, you need to change it. It simply means that people are landing on it, but without finding what they’re after, they’re leaving. Often this indicates that you should add simpler, clearer language, or a more concise and obvious call to action (or two). And Google will reward you – with more traffic!

Once you master these beginner’s steps, we can almost guarantee you’ll actually want to dig in a little further. We’ll cover that in part two of this brief series.

Image via: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_Analytics_Sample_Dashboard.jpg

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Eight Vital SEO Tips for Orange County Hotels

June 23rd, 2014

orange county seoTrip Advisor lists 395 hotels in Orange County. There are also 37 B & Bs, 42 specialty lodgings and no less than 644 Vacation Rentals. Where ever you fall in that mix, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

We put together this list of best practices – for SEO and for conversion optimization – whether you’re running a small Orange County hotel, or managing a slew of vacation rentals. Orange County is a complicated place – that’s why we love it – but it’s also highly competitive in both senses of the word. If you can make it, you can definitely make it here. Read the rest of this entry »

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9 SEO Essentials for Orange County Brick and Mortar Businesses

May 21st, 2014

orange county seo company

Now that some of the shine has worn off of ecommerce and online retailing, bricks and mortar stores are breathing a little easier

People have figured out: It’s fun going shopping! Thank goodness, everything in life hasn’t moved online. People are still visiting, checking out your stuff, and piling some of it into the cart. But whatever the nature of your bricks and mortar operation, Orange County retail is not going anywhere.

Online, there’s lots to be done for the multitude of shopping, services and eating establishments. That doesn’t mean moving more of your business online, though you can do that, too. Rather, let’s focus on what the average bricks and mortar store can do to boost their walk-in business.

Both Local and Traditional SEO require using very specific techniques so that more and more people can find your site easily. But “Local SEO” generally includes tactics likely to focus on visitors in or of a specific geographic location. Most “traditional SEO” refers to the tactics used to get any visitor irrespective of location and presumably because the site owners goals include providing service or products to anyone, anywhere. You can find out more here.

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Link Building or Content Building?

April 21st, 2014

link building or content building8 Good Reasons to Concentrate on Content, not on Links

So you have your business website set up to draw visitors from all over Orange County. It’s ready to entice them and convert them or at the very least to get an email address off of them. Now you have some place to continue adding content, like a blog or a customer service portal with easy navigation so that all of your visitors can find what they need and remain thankful to you for providing it.

Now the question is, do you concentrate more on building more content? Or do you work on linking more, other, highly ranked sites back to your existing content? That debate continues.

For lots of us big mouth experts, the answer is easy.

For the Orange County small business owner, it’s still, often, not so clear. Let’s look at it this way.

1) Content is the Far More Affordable Option

Most of the link builders you’ll meet are going to give you valueless or even damaging links. That’s the nature of the game. Links that are easy to get are useless and the people who can really build valuable links will really make you pay for them. The results still won’t be as good as what you can do with quality organic content and organic back linking.

Hiring and working with a decent copywriter is not expensive and has all kinds of benefits beyond simply building links and an interesting website. Find and work with a writer

– or even two or three. You may need to work closely with them at first, but a good copywriter will learn your business and your customer base.

2) Value

It’s far easier to measure the value of pages on your site than the value of links to your overall ranking. Unless a particular link is feeding you visible traffic, you won’t know the value of a link to your overall ranking. But pages of written copy are easy to evaluate in terms of “likes”, “shares” and traffic. Exact search terms might be a little more difficult to determine, but there is almost no limit to the number of search terms you can benefit from. Anyone who offers to “optimize” your site with fewer than a hundred search phrases is selling you short. Adding content means you’re always adding search terms.

3) Writing is Thinking.

That’s why a lot of people hate it, right? Working closely with a copywriter, or better, handing them a draft allows you to not just re-focus your service, your site and your business. You also get it far better spelled out so that you can see the cracks, the gaps – and the opportunities. Good copywriters know this.  Writing is about ten times more intensive than reading. If your business is not writing, you’re very likely operating on just a vague understanding of your business model. Re-writing your business plan every couple of years is just good business, and the more you have written, the better prepared you’ll be for the next draft.

4) Links don’t do P.R.

Content does. Content generates links, and you can, perhaps, estimate the extent of your public outreach just by counting up those links, but that’s not PR. Public relations is inserting your business into the public conversation. It can be a little more complex than that, but why shouldn’t you be there when the cameras are clicking and the pages are getting scanned?  Submission based links are all but wiped out as a valuable ranking factor. Guest blogging goes on, but it’s not valuable for the links, unless there is actual buzz.

5) Writers are everywhere.

You don’t have to get the very best writer, and especially not on the first try. On the contrary, you can always evaluate what they’ve done – and get another one if it didn’t work out. Doing that with an SEO team will cost about ten times more and take three times longer. Link builders? They were virtually wiped out by algorithm changes (Panda and especially Penguin ) and their links were too. But let’s look closer at those landscape altering algorithm changes.

6) Working against Google is just not viable.

Lots of business people would never do Black-Hat trades with their customers, suppliers or partners – yet they only think of Google in terms of gaming the system. Google has spelled out how it wants you to work with them. That work involves quality content that engages and educates your visitor – be they a customer or not. The plan calls for quality content, transparent business relations (and reviews) and natural, organic linking schemes. Not back linking plans.

7) Branding without a Plan is like Talking without a Voice.

Branding just baffles lots of business people, and were it not for Google and the Internet, business people would probably spend (lose) as much to Branding experts as they do to SEO consultants. The shame is, Branding will get you better returns and the more you do it the better you get at it. But you can’t do it without a plan. As mentioned above (#3), planning means writing, and thinking and reading and clarifying. Essentially, you’re writing up a “person” not a just logo and that person needs to be as complete as the people you know. Think about that.

Better yet, think about this. Fyodor Dostoevsky could write up a character in two pages. At the end of those two pages, you’ll feel that you know that person better than the actual people in your life. That’s the task of branding. There’s no better way to develop the elusive brand than to write it up, continually, over a period of time, and let it interact with your customers. It’s not only totally do-able, it’s what’s expected of you.

8) Thinking “They Already Get It” is a Recipe for Disaster

It’s a bit macho too. And that’s probably where most of the resistance to content comes from. Business people are no-nonsense, and telling stories and customer-service is too often presented as a ladies’ game. The truth is, people buy from people, not from companies. If people bought from companies, companies would all be vending machines. On the contrary, telling your complete story, in bite sized pieces, is smarter, and allows you to re-convince even existing customers to come back for more. Existing customers are your most cost effective source for new customers.

There’s not much more reason for resisting now is there, macho man? Work with your content. Work with a bright, energetic writer and you’ll wonder why you ever wasted so much money on SEO. A year from now, you’ll be re-inventing your business. Good luck!

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Tweaking the Irvine California Restaurant Website for Sales

March 31st, 2014

restaurant website seo orange countySeven Easy Tweaks You Can Make Today.

Destination Irvine, the Convention and Visitors Bureau website of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, lists no fewer than 389 Irvine restaurants, cafes, eateries, supper clubs and dining rooms all over Irvine. Probably every one of them gets a handful of visitors every month from their listing on the site. The number of qualified sales they’re getting from that traffic is probably right down there next to zero, in the .0001 monthly sales range.

Standing out is important, but standing out in a list of 389 is next to impossible. These are just seven easy things you can do today to ramp up your sales and get your own website to finally pay for itself.

1) Make Your Contact Info, Location and Hours Obvious.

Make it really obvious. Put it on every page, and in the header and footer if possible. That’s all that half of your Internet visitors want, so give it to them. Let them make the call and you’re half way there.

2) Spell Out Your Menu.

This is the second most important thing on your menu. No matter how big it is, or how often it changes, your menu needs to be in HTML coded pages and not in a downloadable PDF. A PDF is just a devastating mistake that costs you customers, keywords and money. You’re webmaster needs to be as creative as your kitchen staff, but get the information up there in as many pages as are necessary. Don’t hold back.

3) Collect Email Addresses.

This one is simple. If you tweak your website until you are blue in the face, you might get 5-6% sales from visitors. Sending out regular well-crafted emails, that promote your brand and what you offer, should get you better returns. Better than 10% is possible and the bigger your list, the better the returns. Anyone of the major email-marketing service providers can get you started, and most of them will let you start out for free.

4) No More Seduction! Branding!

Remember, guests (or potential guests) don’t visit your site to get provoked into hunger. A nice “idea” of the cuisine is ok, but it’s not your job to seduce them (like old-school television was always trying to do). Rather, give some thought to the kind of “Person” they would like, or expect, in this situation, and be that person. That’s what good branding, done well, is all about.  If the experience of your restaurant is lavish, then pour some more on. But if you’re a no-nonsense, good deal for 30 or 40 bucks, then match your website to your no-nonsense customers. Either way, set up a communicative, honest space for sharing what you’re about, and share away.  The higher your prices, the more information people expect to justify the cost. Chef Bios really only start to be important at the upper-ranges of the market.

5) No Slideshows and No Flash!

It’s taken years for marketers to figure this out, but slideshows don’t work. Flash, even less so. Visitors realize what a slideshow is in about 1.5 seconds and they look away almost immediately. I bet you do it, too. So, why should your visitors be any different? Just eliminate all the sliders and the bells and whistles and go with solid, attractive design, that emphasizes your brand first and your location/contact info second. Then your menu.  Background music? You really need to step back from that one and probably have your head examined.

6) Mobile and Responsive Design

Most visitors are not going to come from the Chamber of Commerce website. People look for restaurant websites when they are 1) hungry 2) planning a dinner, lunch, meeting, date or something similar. Either of those can be taken care of from a smart phone, and are increasingly For the same reason as we discussed above, that visitors often have a distinct purpose for visiting, you must ensure you have a mobile website. Visitors to your restaurant website will often be on the move, making a decision on the spur of the moment. Visiting a website on a mobile device only to be presented with a broken website or one that is too large to load fast via mobile will drive traffic away. All Restaurant Engine customers get a mobile version of their website included to ensure visitors can find what they’re looking for regardless of the device they use to browse.

7)  Page Load Times.

This one isn’t necessarily a “tweak” and improving your page load times can get downright complicated. Most of today’s “responsive design” websites are much faster and so you really can kill those two birds with one stone. Page load times are just like waiting for the waiter, and you probably know that some people get impatient almost immediately. Make sure your images are not too big and talk with your webmaster about the other steps you need to take to speed things up for mobile or traditional internet visitors.

Finally, let’s look again at number 4. Branding is one of the toughest things for people new to online marketing to figure out. It’s easy to say “the personification” of everything that your business represents. But obviously in writing an article like the above, we have to consider not just all the different 389 restaurants in Irvine, but all the others who aren’t on that list. All of them – probably more than 500 Irvine restaurants – are struggling to distinguish themselves and to stand out.

Most of them are going to imitate what other restaurants are doing. That’s exactly the opposite of what they should do. If you want to really tweak for sales, start doing what the people you respect do. Offer honesty, integrity, and support to your neighbors and friends. Do it on Social Media, too. Give away advice for free. Put up your other local Irvine businesses – or non-profits – for free and let people know why you are doing it. Share some of their information too.

Do all of that, and you’ll see your sales take off.

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Local SEO Tips for Orange County Restaurants

February 24th, 2014

Restaurant SEO is all about Local SEO. For all but the very biggest and most famous restaurants, and especially in Orange County, there’s always going to be a big slice of the population searching for the right food – importantly – in the right location.

Local SEO is totally “location, location, location” and the great thing is – even obscure or hard-to-guess locations can not only benefit, but really shine. Look at it this way, 34 cities are incorporated in Orange County, and outside of those there are another 15 cities that are unincorporated – but just as good. Every one of these places is subdivided into more neighborhoods, hamlets, corners, zones and areas than any one person can name. Even the nicknames, or totally informal mini-neighborhood names will work and so will your plazas and malls and shopping center names.

You can break them down. So can your customers. If they’re not local, then they’re asking “Where are we?” and they’re getting accurate answers. You don’t have to memorize every place name in the county, just the ones relative to you, your customers, your delivery or service area and hopefully a good sample of the places surrounding.

TripAdvisor lists, at this writing, 7,094 restaurants in Orange County. Getting your restaurant to stand out from the rest is the point of this article.

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15 Things You Should Know about Content Marketing

January 28th, 2014

Content Marketing Cycle

Content marketing was a big, big buzzword for 2013, not least in Orange County. By the end of the year, as luck would have it, some very good pins were stuck into the bubble of people thinking that content marketing is the answer to everything. “Content marketing will never work” is the must-read for 2014, and the comments at the bottom are a must too. But before we get too contradictory right up front, keep in mind that Content Marketing was never the be-all-end-all for quick, impulse purchases and throw-away relationships.

If you’re thinking of content marketing for your Orange County business, you should also think of the multiple ways that content marketing is construed. Content marketing really is, simultaneously:

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Eight Things To Do Today To Get All Your Locations Noticed In Search

January 21st, 2014

Local-SEO-Tips---Whitepaper

As a local Search Engine Marketing Company, we deal with a variety of companies headquartered in Orange County, but have 20, 50 or even hundreds of locations nationwide. It is not small feat to get the local SEO in order for all of these locations.

Distinguishing each of your shops from corporate headquarters or a parent company website can be important or even vital, depending on what services are offered at each location.

We put together these eight vital steps, whether you’re in one, ten or twenty locations. A full sixty percent of the searches made – in your town too – result in a transaction. The market for local and mobile search is, frankly, too big to ignore and an ever-increasing local and mobile search audience is there. The question is can they find you?

Click here to download the Free Whitepaper

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10 Great Content Ideas for your Orange County Beachfront Business

December 18th, 2013

orange county seoNo one, anywhere, makes quite enough of the beaches in Orange County. It’s a great tourism economy and running a business in the Orange County coast can be satisfying and lucrative.

That should be a good thing because there is actually a big opening if you’re running a business anywhere in coastal Orange County – or writing a blog about one. Whether you’re doing content trying to nail traffic, or you’re doing it more for straight marketing and communications, try any, all or just the most appropriate of the following. Take this list, build it out, rough it up and then polish it and you’ll have ten great articles for the next 3 months of active marketing.

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Newsletter Statistics

November 22nd, 2013

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