Companies That Tried to Cheat Google And Lost

At first blush, it makes no sense. Google’s algorithm represents one of the most powerful artificial intelligences known to man. Why would any company try to cheat that system and not play by the rules? The answer’s simple: companies have tried to cheat Google for the same reasons they’ve tried to cheat in myriad other ways throughout history–to grow, to compete, to survive.

The current digital marketing landscape is one of the most fiercely competitive spaces in business. Around the world, companies spend billions of dollars, annually, to claw their way up through search engines as they try to best competitors (who are often displayed mere inches away in search results).

Companies who tried to cheat Google and lost infographic.

In the early years of Google, it was its own version of the Wild West. Google engineers had to work overtime to keep up with enterprising business owners looking for loopholes. Since then, particularly with recent algorithm updates, balance has been restored and Google has begun to crack down on companies that engage in shortcuts, or “black hat” SEO practices. Still, the path to present day is littered with high-profile examples of companies that tried, and failed, to get an unfair advantage.

Among these examples are revered companies, with great legacies–companies like BMW, The Home Depot, The Washington Post, BBC, eBay. And they all paid a price, in one way or another.

Some infractions occurred many years ago, like when WordPress used “doorway pages” in 2005, to rank for high-cost advertising keywords. Doorway pages are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries, which in turn manipulate Google’s algorithm. When WordPress was caught, Google punished them by causing their home page to not rank for its name, for two full days. In 2016, that loss of traffic would equate to more than $10 million in lost revenue.

Other infractions occurred more recently, like when The Home Depot asked recommended providers for hidden links in 2012. The hardware retailer had providers share links to specific Home Depot pages, with recommended anchor text. As a penalty, Google degraded many of the company’s pages from their Page One rank, over the course of two months. In 2016, an equivalent loss of traffic would be worth more than $37 million.

In the end, the lesson is clear: when it comes to an SEO strategy, it pays to play by the rules. And not just because it ensures you’ll avoid penalties–there’s ample evidence that white hat SEO services are not just tolerated by Google, they’re encouraged as best business practices.

How to Leverage Social Media While Attending Conferences

It’s not easy to build meaningful relationships at conferences. Organizers may try to ease awkward introductions (and 50-foot staredowns) with networking events, and a majority of people at the conference may be interested in networking, but that doesn’t make it easy. You’re surrounded by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people; some are vying for attention, others refuse to socialize; some have sales agendas, others have bad breath. So how do you cut through the noise (or silence), to make the most of your conferences?

Get social (media).

Below you’ll find expert advice from six of marketing’s biggest influencers and keynote conference speakers, on how to leverage social media when building relationships at conferences.

Let’s dive in.

Joe Pulizzi head shot for round up blog post on social media.


Founder of Content Marketing Institute, author of Content Inc.

What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with influencers/speakers on social media while at a conference?

Leading up to the event you can share their content on Twitter and LinkedIn and tag them.  Then, when you reach out to connect at the event, they are more likely to know who you are in advance.

Which social media channels are the best to use while attending a conference?

At least in the marketing realm, it’s Twitter and it’s not even close.

What mishaps or mistakes have you seen people do on social media at conferences that they shouldn’t?

Overshare.  Share when something is valuable to share.  If you don’t have anything valuable, don’t share it.

Are there any hashtag tips or things to look out for while at a conference?

Usually, there are multiple versions of conference hashtags.  It’s good to just use all of them at the same time.

Robert Rose head shot for round up blog on social media.


Chief Strategy Advisor at Content Marketing Institute & Senior Contributing Analyst at Digital Clarity Group, author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing

What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with influencers/speakers on social media while at a conference?

I find that it’s through LinkedIn. Certainly outreach through Twitter is good too – but unfortunately, if it’s a popular session, or there are a lot of tweets happening during the event it might go unseen. But a connection through LinkedIn, with context, and a reason to connect – and all of that is what gets my attention.

Which social media channels are the best to use while attending a conference?

Well, Twitter and LinkedIn are my two go-to’s. But, honestly, I’m seeing A LOT more Snapchat and Facebook Live Video these days – so don’t overlook those just because I’m not on them.

What mishaps or mistakes have you seen people do on social media at conferences that they shouldn’t?

I think the biggest is either trying to sell or make an ask as the first outreach. I will often get the “hey, just saw you speak – you should stop by our booth to check out our new solution” Tweet. There is nothing that guarantees that I WON’T stop by the booth more than making that your first outreach to me.

What should attendees do to increase their chances of networking on social media while at a conference?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to speakers, or other attendees. Everyone is there to learn and meet new people. And, if you think you’re shy, just know that EVERYONE is in the same boat as you. Even the speakers are often looking to have good conversations.

Are there unique/unexpected strategies that you’ve seen work?

Creating meetups through social media are really fun. Basically, leveraging off the Hashtag of the event – and seeing about throwing an impromptu meet up.  For example, after one of my sessions, at a marketing conference, I ended up inadvertently creating a meme about “Frank, the Content Marketing Guy”. And somebody did a very cool thing by setting up an impromptu meet up at the bar using the hashtag “#WeAreAllFrank”.  Apparently like 10 people showed up at the bar and they had a great conversation.meetups through social media are really fun. Basically, leveraging off the Hashtag of the event – and seeing about throwing an impromptu meet up.

Eric Enge headshot for roundup blog about social media.


Founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, author of The Art of SEO

What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with influencers on social media while at a conference?

The most important thing is to go to a conference with a commitment to make connections. This may force you a bit out of your comfort zone, but you just have to do it. I think the best approach to doing that is a matter of style. For me, I selected great speakers I wanted to meet, prepared insights and/or questions for them, sat in the front row when they spoke, and was the first person to go up to speak with them. Worked like a champ.

For others, it might be more about embracing the social scene and meeting people at the various events and parties. I do that too, but I’m better at the former than the latter.

Of course, if you can land a speaking slot, that’s great too. Then you’ll have people seeking you out.

What mishaps or mistakes have you seen people do on social media at conferences that they shouldn’t?

The mistakes that people make on social is not that much different than they are elsewhere:

  • They self-promote too much. No one wants to hear it!
  • They make disparaging comments, or otherwise say things that are not appreciated by the bulk of the people that see their social posts.

What should attendees do to increase their chances of networking on social media while at a conference?

To me, going to networking events should also be considered social media. Get out there and engage.  Make a friend at a conference, and suddenly you might find a new person who is frequently sharing your content.

I also think about speaking as a social media activity. I often say this when presenting, and then have people look at me like I’m crazy, until I ask the audience how many people have followed me as a result of seeing me speak.

Point is, leverage your physical presence to build your social presence and impact. People are far more likely to share content on an ongoing basis if they’ve met you, or seen you speak.

Are there unique/unexpected strategies that you’ve seen work?

Going up to speakers after they finish speaking is my main one. But, to re-emphasize, make sure you have something of value TO THEM to communicate when you get up there.  I also think my idea of sitting in the front row and being the first one up to talk to them is helpful too.  Their mind is still fresh. Trust me, after 3 or 4 people talk to you right after a presentation, the speaker can start to be a bit fatigued by the process.

John Doherty headshot for roundup blog on social media


Founder of Credo

What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with influencers/speakers on social media while at a conference?

The simplest way to do this is quite easy – engage with their content on social media while they are speaking, mention them in your tweets, ask questions directly to them. With the exception of most of the keynote speakers (who sometimes are paid to be there and quite hard to meet in person), speakers are just normal people who want to share ideas and get feedback from the crowd.

Many will stick around to answer questions after their session or will go out in the hallway or something afterward, so you can go ask them questions in person. Make sure you follow them on social media and keep engaging with them there after the conference as well.

Which social media channels are the best to use while attending a conference?

Twitter and only Twitter. Facebook isn’t real-time enough to facilitate conversation. It can be great for organizing get-togethers at the conference, but if you want to engage in conversation in real-time, then it’s all about Twitter and the conference hashtag still.

What should attendees do to increase their chances of networking on social media while at a conference?

Honestly, I think this is the wrong question. Instead, think about connecting with people, not “networking”. No one wants to hang out with that person at networking events who is just trying to hand out their business card to everyone. Social media at conferences is a facilitator for offline connections. Conferences are valuable for the in-person connections you make, so use social media to make connections with people and then make a point of meeting them in person at a conference event.

Are there unique/unexpected strategies that you’ve seen work?

The best strategies I’ve seen work for leveraging a conference’s social media are:

  • Promoted hashtags. Not for “hey come talk to us about our thing”, but for something you are doing to add value to the conference – “Hey, come to this bar from 530-630 for an open bar on us!”
  • Live tweeting the conference. This is a great way to get your face in front of everyone at the conference who is on social media.
  • Write roundups of the conference from the day, using social media. I did this in 2011/2012 for some of the major conferences I attended, using Storify to catalog my live tweet stream and then posting it as a blog post. This was a great way to get attention to my blog following on from the conference.

Andrew Davis headshot for roundup blog on social media.


Founder of Monumental Shift, author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships

What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with influencers and speakers on social media while at a conference?

I think this is a great question, but I’d actually break it into three parts.

Before a conference, I think the best thing you can do is actually pick a few influencers or speakers you want to meet with, and consume their content. Comment on their blog posts or their LinkedIn posts, or interact with them on Twitter about the stuff they’re already doing. You want to build a relationship with them before the event by not even mentioning the event but just consuming what they share. I think that’s a great start so that they’re familiar with the person before they get to the event.

During the event, I think one of the things you can do then- you know, as the event approaches- is say, “I’m going to the event, I’m looking forward to seeing you speak, I’d love to connect while we’re at the conference.” And you can do that on social media, or- you know- you can do that via email, but I think that’s a great way to do it.

While you’re at the event, I think- first- you want to- you know- say hi to the person if you see them before the event in person, remind them of who you are, try to- you know- tweet at them or with them just before you meet them so they’re familiar and remember who you are. Second, I think you should obviously go to their session and the more you share what you learned during the session I think the more willing they are to spend some time with you. And then, after the session, if you want to spend more time with them, say hi in person right after they speak.

And then, finally, after the event is over, creating some content about what you learned from that speaker or influencer is a great way to have a really solid relationship with that person.

Which social media channels are best to use while attending a conference?

I think any of the “live” quote/unquote channels are the best ones. So live video streaming on Facebook, live on Periscope is very, very popular right now- streaming that stuff is great. And then obviously Twitter, which is very real-time and fast-paced, is a great way to share. Instagram is also good too.

What mishaps or mistakes have you seen people do on social media at conferences that they shouldn’t?

I think some simple ones are- trying to engage in a conversation immediately after a session is very hard to do. Usually, the speakers and influencers are mobbed with people and it takes a lot of time to get back to people on social media after you’ve spoken. Especially if there’s heavy tweeting or heavy sharing from your session. So don’t be offended if they don’t get back to you. I think that’s helpful.

One of the biggest mistakes I think people make is trying to promote their products or services using the hashtag during a session, by trying to connect the relevancy of the session to whatever product or service they offer. And, finally, giving any constructive criticism about the speaker via a public forum is really annoying.

What should attendees do to increase their chances of networking on social media while at a conference?

I think the first rule is by adding value to the event and making sure that they’re not over-spamming or tweeting at an event but sharing the most interesting stuff. And actually having a conversation, not just pushing out what they learned, but re-sharing and chatting about the things they’re learning.

Are there any unique or unexpected strategies that you’ve seen work?

There are people that have done really interesting things at events. I’ve gone to an event where somebody created trading cards for all the speakers. And they were using the trading cards as kind of a promotional piece, but everybody got different cards and was trying to connect all seven of them. That was kind of interesting.

Brian Fanzo headshot for round up blog about social media.


Founder/CEO of iSocialFanz

My general tips for my community and those I mentor are:

#ShowUcare before the event, influencers or speakers know or need to know that you care.  Tweet, share and engage prior to an event creating a dialog not about what you do or want to do rather your excitement on celebrating what they do.  That way when you do introduce yourself it was more than just I tweeted you or we follow each other on social media.

Influencers & Speakers are busy but they also have a core group of people who they trust and influence them.  Focus on engaging and connecting with those people which will eventually put your content in front of that influencer or speaker in an organic authentic way, often times leading to that speaker or influencer reaching out to you to find out more about you rather than you knocking down their doors.

 What’s the best way for conference goers to connect with speakers?

Create dialog before the event, share and promote the speaker the day of the event and then follow up or engage where that speaker likes to engage the most.  If you don’t know where that is, look at their public social media posts and see where they direct one to one conversations with others to.  For me I like twitter, therefore someone sending me a twitter video for example with a question or desire to me will stand out far more than someone commenting on a LinkedIn post or Instagram picture from the event.

Which social media channels would you recommend using?

Keep it simple stupid… you must go where the audience is and engage there and don’t expect them to come to you.  For live events and live conversations, both Twitter and Instagram seem to be the main hub, with Snapchat also being an option. Connecting with people during live events on these channels make growing relationships easier and then segue to become Facebook and Linkedin connections is a natural next step.

What mishaps or mistakes have you seen people do that they shouldn’t?

Don’t bother influencers or speakers by tweeting at them telling them what they should do or what you need them to do…  Too many make the ask or spew their information on people who are already busy without even considering the concept of presenting that information in a way that provides value or explains why spending time to consume would be worth it for an influencer or speaker.

What should attendees do to increase their chances of networking on social media while at a conference?

Think of the actual event as just one aspect of the networking…. do your research beforehand, have a strategy of who and why you want to meet people while at the event and also do a recap and follow up after the event to bridge the gap back to a digital conversation.

Are there any hashtag tips or things to look out for while at a conference?

Standout from the noise of the event hashtag by doing what others aren’t doing….  create twitter videos, or social tiles or live stream. We all get 140 characters and when someone is looking at just the hashtag, your follower count holds no weight, so you need to stand out from the noise of what others are tweeting.

Attending a conference can provide a lot of value, and utilizing social media to your advantage is just one way. These days there is a conference for everyone, so if you’re looking to go to one we have a Conference Guide to help you narrow down your search based on marketing tactics you’re interested in, location and more. Click the button below to go to our interactive list of conferences!

Three Free Tools to Increase Your Site Speed

We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” This is especially true when it comes to your website.  In a world where everything has to be immediate and on-demand, nothing’s more annoying than waiting for a page to load. With 8-second-long attention spans (less than a goldfish), human beings have little patience for slow page loads. If you want to get your message across quickly, you need a fast-loading page.

Keeping the attention of prospective consumers isn’t the only benefit of fast-loading pages—they’re also important to your SEO campaign. An experiment performed for a SearchMetrics conference found sites on the first page of search results loaded in about 0.7-0.8 seconds, while sites on the second page loaded in 1.4 seconds. You can be sure of one thing: site speed is correlated with your rankings.

Wondering how to check the speed of your website?

Google Developers PageSpeed Insights

Of all the tools I use, I rely most on this. It reflects Google’s recommendations for how a given site can be improved. Although it’s not as advanced as other site speed tools, it’s definitely a great starting point.


GTMetrix gives you a score, as well as advanced recommendations on how to speed up your site. You can also get your Yscore from GTMetrix, along with the average page load time.


Pingdom shows you what elements of your site are taking the longest time to load. For example, if 52% of the load time is spent rendering images, you or your developer can take steps to help images load faster, thereby reducing overall page load time. Pingdom also tells you how fast your site is compared to others it tested that day.

How can I take action on my test results?

After using these tools a few times you might default to a favorite, but we always recommend running each tool separately to perform a full analysis. Once this is done, you’ll probably have a laundry list of potential improvements. You’ll need to determine which ones are most important to address. In my experience, the following improvements are the easiest to implement and give the most substantial results:

Compress your images

Running images through a round of lossless compression doesn’t hurt quality, and it helps them load faster. All original data remains, the compression just removes excess and redundant information. If you were to decompress the images, all data would still be there (which is not the case with lossy compression).

Leverage browser caching

Every time someone comes to the site, the browser needs to render your images. But if you set browser caching, the browser doesn’t need to re-load the image every time. Instead, they pull the cached version. This will make a big improvement for repeat visitors to your website! I usually set most images out for a week, but it can depend on how often you change your styles/images. You can also leverage browser caching for CSS and Javascript files, so they don’t need to load every time. If you haven’t been using browser caching, expect big wins in the speed department!

Defer parsing of JavaScript

Before a page is fully loaded, the browser must parse together all scripts, leading to slow load times. Ask your developer if you can just execute the files needed to render a page, in order to reduce the initial load time. The rest of the JavaScript can fire after the initial page load, as long as it’s not needed for rendering. These are all recommendations your web developer will be able to implement for you. Once you receive confirmation that things have been updated, we recommend you run the site speed tools again.

Check your website one final time to make sure everything has been executed properly. Once you’ve updated some of the fundamental elements and re-checked your site, start performing monthly checks in your analytics account. The Site Speed report in Google Analytics will be able to compare pre-site speed analysis dates to post-site speed analysis dates, to continue monitoring and analyzing your site’s performance.

The Importance of Anchor Text Diversity

If your goal is to attract new visitors and grow your audience, you should start by trying to grow non branded search traffic to your website. What exactly does that mean? Non branded search traffic comes to your website using keywords that do not include anything related to your brand. In order to attract this type of traffic to your website, you need to first determine the keywords you want your website to rank for in the search engines. You can then start to rank for those keywords by building backlinks with anchor text that includes some variation of those keywords that you want to rank for.

What Is Anchor Text?

When someone refers to “anchor text” they are referring to the characters and words that are displayed when linking out to another website on the web. anchor text exampleIn this example above there are two hyperlinks with anchor text. The example of anchor text is “Chicago and SEO” and the second example is “website audit”

How Does Anchor Text Influence Search Engine Rankings?

The main ways that search engines use anchor text, is to help determine what the subject matter of the linked page is about. In the example I showed above, the website audit anchor text is meant to tell the search engines that the content of the linked document covers the topic of a website audit. If a wide variety of websites use a similar set of keywords to describe that particular page, that page will start to rank for that particular keyword in the search engine results.

Are Anchor Text Links Frowned Upon?

There has been some debate within the search industry on how much anchor text still effects search engine rankings. Way back in the early 2000s Google weighted anchor text backlinks as an extremely high ranking signal within its algorithm. Today anchor text, while not as powerful as it once was, is still a strong attribute in determining search result rankings. Results of a recent case study by Ahrefs suggests that, domain strength is not enough for an individual page to rank without some sort of keyword targeted anchor text. This study examined over 255 websites, and their findings showed that exact match anchor text links still have some influence when found on relevant placements within competitive niches. There was also a correlation with results on page one that have at least one keyword rich anchor text link and its ability to rank highly for that specific keyword. Rand Fishkin of the SEO consulting company Moz, recently listed 20 attributes that influences a links value and listed anchor text as the #1 attribute. He believes there is still a strong value in anchor text backlinks and that they move the needle more than links without any targeted anchor text. He does caution that exact match anchor links should be kept to a minimum, saying that too many exact match anchor links will likely lead to Google penalizing your website.

The Importance Of Anchor Text Diversity

Having a strong and diverse set of anchor text in your backlink profile is an essential component to modern SEO. Google has put a strong emphasis on the diversity of your of your profile and the quality of your backlinks. Anchor text diversity can come in many forms such as branded anchors (your website name), generic anchors (click here, this website, this infographic), author links (your name), exact match links (‘website audit’), partial matches (‘mobile website audit’) and naked URL’s. ( This infographic from Ahrefs has a cool breakdown of what anchor text distribution should look like.


Building backlinks with anchor text is one way you can help your website achieve higher rankings for non branded terms. Improving the rankings of keywords other than your brand name, will help to attract new audiences to your site while building your customer portfolio and increasing the bottom line of your business. Not everyone looking for your services know’s your name, so growing your non-branding traffic helps on a local level too. Download our guide that covers all of the local search improvements you can make to help rank better for your key search terms in Chicago and surrounding areas.

Download the Ultimate Chicago List of Citation and Link Sources

The Eight Values That Will Make Your Content ‘Newsworthy’

The press release came in from the Member for Bathurst via fax. The office of the Honorable Gerard Martin, our state representative, wanted us to know that they’d purchased two new fire engines for the town and apparently, they thought that a certain grumpy, severely hungover newsroom intern would find this interesting. They were wrong. But I wrote it into the news bulletin anyway, for two reasons. Continue reading “The Eight Values That Will Make Your Content ‘Newsworthy’”

Three Ways PR and SEO Can Be Best Friends

Ever since Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates rocked the SEO world, digital marketers have been forced to lay down their black hat tactics and focus on marketing efforts that have been in place for years. Link building was especially hit hard by the algorithm updates, and as a result, content marketing has emerged as a lead means for facilitating SEO campaigns.  SEO is essentially the practice of making your website and your content easy for both the visitor and Google to navigate and consume. Content is a huge part of this. In order for content marketing to work, you have to create genuinely interesting stories, infographics, videos and interactives that educate, entertain and keep the user’s attention. Continue reading “Three Ways PR and SEO Can Be Best Friends”

How to Create Perfect Local Landing Pages

Landing pages matter, and making it clear where your business operates is particularly critical for small businesses trying to compete with national brands. A great local landing page should help your business make more money in two ways.

For example, last week I came home and I was hungry; so after a quick Google search I ended up landing on Domino’s Pizza, and the page tells me the following. “There’s a Domino’s 10 minutes away from your house. There’s some more Domino’s in Chicago. Here’s some coupons.” Boom. Sold. Pizza came in 30 minutes, piping hot and delicious.

On the flip side, I once found a bicycle I liked searching for “Chicago bike shop.” The issue? The store was in Bollingbrook! It ranked for Chicago terms anyway because its location wasn’t made clear on its landing page. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the company’s bike. So, how do you create the perfect local landing pages that lead customers to your business?

Start with the Four Ps

Before you set out on your journey to create local landing pages, let’s throw back to Marketing 101. You probably remember the Four Ps—the granddaddy of all marketing theory and advice.


The core of all marketing efforts comes down to what you offer. It doesn’t matter if your business is literally across the street from my house—if you can’t convince me that this product or service is something I need, something that is better than the alternatives, then I’m not going to buy. I need information about what exactly is being offered.


Price can go a lot of different directions and isn’t always a necessary factor when it comes to making a sale. Take Digital Third Coast, for instance—we don’t have listed prices, because every project is custom built. But what we do emphasize is value. We focus on making the most of client budgets and focusing on ROI. You need to make it clear that the customer is getting value—be that by saving money, avoiding aggravation, saving time, whatever. Price isn’t always a matter of money.


Once we’ve established our product and the value we provide, it becomes a matter of crafting the right message and delivering it to the right before through our marketing efforts. If you’re reading this, you’re well familiar with this concept already—we’re creating these pages so we can promote and drive traffic from Google.


It goes without saying that if we’re talking about local pages, we need to make it very clear our location or area of service.

Any good marketer will tell you that all four of these need to be well-defined and executed well in order to succeed. With that in mind, let’s dive into applying these principles to real life and talk about how you can create great pages for your local business.

Creating a Quality Local Website

There’s three main types of pages we want to focus on when creating a local site. Each page has its own role in improving your local SEO results and driving PPC conversions.

  1. Home Page: An overview of everything your business does.
  2. Service Pages: An overview of a specific service or problem (i.e. “water heater replacement” in the case of a plumber).
  3. Location Pages: An overview of a specific area you service (i.e. :Wicker Park Plumber”).

Make sure you DO NOT create pages specifying both a service AND location (i.e. “Water heater replacement Wicker Park”). These terms are so narrow, they tend to lead down a rabbit hole, necessitating dozens and dozens of pages with incredibly thin content that does not benefit the user. Focus on creating great Service and Location pages, and you’ll pull rank for the long-tail terms.

Some Examples

For this example I did a search for “Chicago plumber,” “pest control Brooklyn” and some other local key terms, and I found a few websites that embody the key principles of great local pages. None are perfect, but there’s a lot of companies that have the core ideas in place and thus, they rank well in these searches.

Home Page: Baethke & Son Plumbing

This home page is very basic, but it gets so many of the basics right. They aren’t a large company by any stretch, much smaller than someone like Roto-Rooter, but they appeared above the national company in search results. Why? Area of service is very, very clear— “Chicago’s North Side and North Shore Neighborhoods” is the first thing we see on the page. The service map on the homepage makes it very easy to understand exactly where the company is offering its services.


example of a well targeted chicago plumber home page


Page Content

Page Contentmatters greatly for organic ranking. These guys have a few paragraphs of text, and there’s even more after the screenshot here gets cut off. They make use of key terms like “plumbing emergency” “water heater repair”—there’s no stuffing, there’s variety and relevance, and that drives organic results.

Easy Navigation

Easy Navigation is a total blessing. Need emergency service right now? They have you covered. There’s a big button leading to a list of services and specialties that they offer. It’s a very basic website, but it’s very easy to navigate. And keep in mind with a lot of local services like plumbing, your customers might not be the most tech-saavy, and they’re more likely to be on mobile. Follow the principle of Don’t Make Me Think—a grade schooler should be able to understand how to interact with your site.

Easy to Convert

With a BIG phone number in the top corner when the page loads, and you can schedule an appointment online instantly. Make yourself as easy as possible to get in touch with. There’s yet another form down the page. It’s a little bit excessive but as an analyst I’d rather see TOO many contact options, rather than making it hard for your customers to reach out to you.

For what was likely a basic web design job on WordPress, this website covered a lot of the key elements by making its services clear, service area and location clear, and making it easy for visitors to get in touch with them.

Service Page: Baethke Plumbing

We once again reference our new plumbing friends with a pretty solid example of how to make a service-focused page—this one addresses the exciting world of water heaters! So why does this work?

Example of a local service page

Knowledge of the service: 

One of the key things when it comes to your service pages is showing people that you’re an expert on the given query. Here they make mention of both repairing existing heaters and installing new ones, as well as the ability to service both tankless and conventional heaters, while making it clear which brands they service.

The right keywords: 

“Chicago plumbing,” “water heater repair,” it’s all there. There’s also a good number of words on the page, helping them to rank in organic search.

Call to action:

And a phone number at the end. Perfect! Drive them to your sales team.

Location-Focused Page: Ecology Exterminators

I came across this page when working on a webinar with Review Trackers, and really liked it. Here’s why:

example of a location-based local landing page for a Brooklyn exterminator

Specific Location Information: 

They’re targeting Bushwick, a large neighborhood in Brooklyn. There’s information here that’s very specific to Bushwick (i.e. speaking about bed bugs, because those happen to be a particular issue that hits Bushwick moreso then a lot of neighborhoods.) Even a review on the page from a customer in Bushwick! So relevant!

Location Shown on Map:

We very clearly see the area they’re referring to. If you service the whole town/neighborhood and some surrounding communities, you might want to use a service area map like the plumbing examples.

Best Practices Continued: 

There’s the major selling points, there’s some reviews on the page, there’s a large phone number and contact form—all things we called out earlier also apply to this page.

Remember the Four Ps

Making great local pages can be time-consuming, but it’s not too hard if you approach it the right way! The home page needs to be broad and focus on the main area, with service pages showing expertise in providing that service and the location pages showing a history and knowledge of that particular area. Keep the classic four Ps in mind on each type of page.


Make it clear what you’re offering and where you’re offering it at by fleshing out service and location pages that clearly target your customers.


Clear contact information drives customers to convert. That’s the goal of all this promotion.


Emphasize value—you don’t need to state a price, but think about your consumer and what they value most. Speak to their needs.


Make it clear you not only operate in a certain area, but have a history of expertise in the given area.

These examples should have you well on your way to creating great local landing pages, but if you’re curious to really step up the game and learn more, check out our Chicagoland Local SEO e-book, where we dive even deeper into how to make a great local site.

Download the Ultimate Chicago List of Citation and Link Sources


How To Rank Better Without Link Building

Before I tell you how you can rank better without building links, I want to clear something up. Link building is awesome. If you want to see SEO results, then creating content and using it to build links should be at the top of your list of priorities. However, sometimes you might not have the time or budget to link build, or you might want to focus more of your resources into alternative SEO strategies.  In fact, taking care of your onsite SEO while continuing to build links will only magnify your SEO results. So given this, how can you rank better without building links? To do so, you need to build up the authority of your domain.

Having your domain viewed as an authority is a crucial step to take when trying to improve your digital marketing efforts.  We’ve explained the importance of Domain Authority (DA) previously, but put simply, building your DA is essential if you want your website to be found in the search results.  This is especially true in highly competitive verticals.  The more authority your domain has, the more likely it is to show up in the search results for queries relevant to your business. DA can be difficult to influence directly since it’s an aggregate of other SEO metrics. Because Google uses so many ranking factors in deciding how to rank sites, any metric that tries to approximate Google’s algorithm needs to incorporate many factors as well. As we’ve explained recently, backlinks are still the biggest ranking factor. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to move the needle without building links.

Develop Great On-Site Content

Producing highly informative and useful on-site content is a great way to strengthen the authority of your domain. SEO aside, people are more likely to view you as an authority if you are able to provide in-depth and educational resources that provide answers to the questions they are seeking. People use Google to seek answers to questions. That is the main service that Google aims to provide.  Domains that are able to provide answers to questions in a meaningful and credible way will be seen as authorities on that particular subject matter. Furthermore, developing unique content – from blog posts to resource pages – will also help your website attract links organically. On-site content should be highly informative, unique, entertaining and most importantly, easy to share.

Be Active on Your Social Media

Social media is a great way to not only amplify your on-site content but it also a great medium for building authority. Having a large and engaged social following is a great signal to Google that your domain is an authority within your field. I would even wager to say that having an engaged social following is more important than just having a large number of followers. An engaged social audience has a higher tendency to comment on and share your content within their network. Make the effort to engage your audience and to actively build your social following. An engaged and active social audience conveys authority without the need for external backlinks.

Non-Linked Mentions Provide Value Too!

There are many instances in which your brand is mentioned online without a backlink to your domain.  There is still value in this when building authority for your domain. Having your brand mentioned on a high authority website like the New York Times provides both credibility and authority for your domain as well as great exposure for your brand.  You are being sourced as an authority regardless of whether or not you are linked too. These mentions provide great value. A great way to build up mentions for your brand online is by responding to interview requests from local news publications and also industry publications relevant to your brand.  Help A Reporter Out is a great online service that allows you to build brand mentions. These mentions provide branding value as well authority building value.

Keyword Research and Mapping

Last but absolutely not least, keyword research and mapping will not help build your authority, but it will absolutely help you rank better for the keywords you care about. Telling search engines what your pages are actually about by doing simple things like optimizing your title tags and your page copy can give any page a good boost. Here are a few articles to help you get started on your keyword mapping journey.


While building external backlinks is a great way to strengthen your site, there are plenty of other SEO strategies you can follow to improve your rankings. By creating great on-site content that is easily shareable and actively promoting it on your social media channels, you help to strengthen the authority of your domain without spending the time and budget needed to build links. If you’re thinking about getting started on an SEO campaign, you’re probably interested in understanding how long it’ll take you to see results. Check out our e-book to find out.

Successful SEO Doesn’t Happen Overnight. Learn more about the factors that affect each phase of SEO with our collection of case studies illustrating how long it takes to see SEO results.

How Do You Measure the Success of a Viral Piece?

For many of our clients, having something “go viral” is one of their goals at the beginning of our partnership. There’s kind of a mystique that surrounds the word “viral”; we associate it with beloved videos like “Charlie bit me” or memorable campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge, moments that will live on in pop culture history. And of course it’s natural for business owners and content marketers to want something they created to “go viral,” because then surely, right after those millions of YouTube videos or social shares, customers will come beating down your door, chasing your product and service, all because of a particularly funny explainer video. Well, that’s not quite how it works. First, you have to define what successful viral marketing means to your content strategy. Then, you can find the tools that will best help you measure your success. Here’s how. Continue reading “How Do You Measure the Success of a Viral Piece?”

Why You Should Do Remarketing

Have you ever been followed around the internet by that pair of running shoes you’ve been eyeballing or had Verizon Wireless offer you $200 to join them after you’ve been to their site? That’s remarketing! And, believe it or not, it’s pretty effective. Google has published a ton of case studies on how it can help increase conversions, and we’ve seen the benefits as PPC managers at DTC. But how do you know if it’ll be a successful strategy for your business? Should I do remarketing? Continue reading “Why You Should Do Remarketing”