Digital marketing

Local search engine optimization

Local search engine optimization (SEO) benefits from backlinks as I’ve discussed in other blog posts. See my posts on how to reach out for backlinks and how to get them organically. In addition to backlinks, there are several more things that you can do to rank high locally.

(1) Submit your site to a directory aggregator

A tool like Moz Local or Bright Local can really help you rank higher–especially on the maps results high on the page. What they do is automate the process of submitting your business to local internet directories. This allows you to have consistent name, address, phone number and landing page URL on as many sites as possible. Number and consistency of your directory listings is an important Google ranking factor.

(2) Create and optimize a page for each physical location

If you have one location or several, each location should have a webpage dedicated to it. This webpage should be your main landing page for local results so you will want to optimize it using a tool like Surfer SEO. You also need to make sure you have a local phone number, address and embedded interactive map for each location page. Additional things you can do is give directions to the location because directions will include additional local keywords.

(3) Route as many links as possible to location pages

Rather than linking to your homepage, you should set up all of your web directory listings so that they link directly to the location you are targeting.

Internally, you should ensure there are lots of links to your location pages. Link to them from the main menu and also create blog posts that link to the location pages.

(4) Get some reviews

This is slightly off topic because having a lot of positive reviews doesn’t help a ton with ranking but it definitely helps you get clicked on when you do show up. Unless your business is a restaurant or hotel you will need to actively solicit reviews. The reason is that in other categories people tend to only post a review if they are very upset. To counteract this problem you need to go out and get positive reviews to dilute any damage from bad reviews.

Here are a few approaches to get reviews:

  • Put a QR code on the back of a business card and give an incentive to service providers for getting positive reviews. They just hand it to the customer and ask them to click on the code before they leave the story ideally.
  • You can also email out review requests, or text them out. If your business is in an industry that tends to attract a lot of negativity (property management, some medical fields, etc.) you should do a 2-step process where you first ask people how their service was, then ask for a review only if they’re satisfied. There are businesses that can automate this processs (we do!). You can also just download your emails on a weekly basis to send out an email blast. For very small businesses just text all of your customers the day after they got their service.


Following this simple process of building out and optimizing location pages for each physical location will help you to rank higher on Google. This gets at the fact that Google wants to rank the most relevant content. So if you are a dentist who has two locations in the Phoenix valley, or even one, Google wants to link people to the location page that is most relevant to them, not to the homepage. Remember that Google is in the business of serving up webpages not websites. So using this system can help Google pick the most relevant page from your site and you both win.

Digital marketing

Two ways to reach out for backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. They are, and have always been, the primary ranking factor Google uses in its algorithm to determine which sites go to the top of its index. Backlinks are an essential component of search engine optimization. I previously blogged about two ways to get organic backlinks. What if the backlinks don’t just roll in organically? This blog post covers that topic by covering two ways to reach out for backlinks: (1) guest blogging, and (2) press outreach.

(1) Guest blogging

You can reach out to the content managers of related websites to ask if they will let you write a guest blog post. This guest post will link back to content on your site. There have been rumors over the years that this technique doesn’t work any more. This is false. Guest blogging is the #1 method affiliate bloggers use to rank high. Here are a few tips and best practices:

Websites to reach out to:

  1. Sites that rank well for your target keyword(s) or in your topic area (but not direct competitors)
  2. Sites that have a blog or some way to post fresh content

How to reach out:

  1. Email them through their website or connect with them on Linkedin. You can also use a tool like Rocketreach to try to find their email address. On Linkedin you can see all of the employees of a company and search within it. Look for a content manager if it is a big company. For small companies, look for the owner or marketing manager.
  2. Consider offering a payment for placement (they may also ask you to pay to place your blog post). $50 to $150 is the range that I usually see. This is way more cost-effective than buying Google ads by the way.
  3. Consider suggesting two different topic ideas you might write about, letting them choose one. These topics should be very relevant and useful for their site. Also link to some of the content you have created on other sites to highlight the level of quality they should expect.

Guest blogging can be a slog but over time if you’re consistent the links can really add up.

(2) Press outreach

The other option for outreach is through the press. There are several approaches to this. Here’s what I’ve gotten to work well:

  1. Build and manage your own email list using tools like Rocketreach and Saleshandy or subscribe to a service that already has journalist emails available like Prowly.
  2. Scour Google News for stories that are relevant to your topic area to see what kinds of stories are press-worthy within your niche.
  3. Write a press release that (a) tells an interesting, timely story, (b) has relevant, useful data, and (c) has lots of expert quotes from people at your company (doctors, analysts, lawyers, etc.). The press release should not directly promote your company, your products or services.

Press releases should go out on a regular, consistent basis so that reporters get used to seeing content from the same PR people. The goal of this kind of outreach is just to get a backlink to your site. For example, the journalist may link to your press release or the profile page of the subject matter expert you’ve quoted in the press release.

To build a great relationship with the press you should do the following:

  1. Regular, consistent press releases of high quality
  2. Add a newsroom to your website. This should include press releases, a short company bio, bios for your subject matter experts, any press mentions, and a point of contact for the press. If you have all of this it gives reporters the impression that you will be easy to work with and worth their time. They don’t want to have to call through your phone tree. Make it easy by showing that you’re used to working with the press and make it easy for the press to contact you.

Don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts at press outreach fall flat. Learn from early failures by using them to help you figure out what reporters want and how to reach them. Consider, for example, going back to Google News to study more of the content that gets published in your area. Also, consider taking a class to get better at crafting press releases.


Backlinks don’t always show up organically. Given their importance in Google ranking it’s important to have a few tools to help you go out and get them and rank higher. I have successfully used both press outreach and guest blogging over the years and I can confirm that they do work. Such tactics are more important when you are small and starting out as you can benefit more from organic backlink growth once your site is more established.

Digital marketing

Two ways to get organic backlinks

The idea of a backlink is simple: every time a website links to the target website, Google counts this as a vote of approval for the target site. And the higher the quality of the inbound link, and the more relevant it is to the target site, the more “link juice” it conveys.The rumors over the years that Google has stopped using backlinks in its index have all been false. Without backlinks there would be no Google. No better ranking factor has shown up. Google can only use information that is available to create its index and backlinks continue to be an important (though gameable) quality signal.

One of the more often repeated mantras of search engine optimization is “just create good content,” implying that good content alone will get you backlinks and Google ranking. This is only half-true. Even good content must be promoted somehow. Here are two ways you can promote that good content so that you can obtain organic backlinks (people linking to your site organically, without being asked).

(1) Build a network or following on social media

Your social media connections are your best source of organic backlinks. If you engage with and create and share engaging content with your network of like-minded social media connections and followers, you will get organic backlinks. This is how it works:

  1. You post a blog post to your Twitter or Linkedin feed.
  2. Your reader is interested in your blog post and feels it is relevant for their site. They create a blog post that links to your blog post.

Done. Organic backlinks. Without social media engagement it’s hard to see how one can even obtain organic backlinks. Social media is an essential tool if organic backlinks are your goal. No content is good enough to rank without it organically.

(2) Boost ranking content

When your website gets fairly well-established you will start to notice that random blog posts are ranking in surprising ways. It’s hard to know how or why Google chooses which of your content pieces to elevate but when it happens you should react. Here’s what I mean:

  1. Go into Google Search Console and find which among your blog posts have been getting the most views and clicks over the last 28 days.
  2. Use Surfer or similar tool to optimize the on-page SEO for each of these ranking blog posts that you would like to target.
  3. For each targeted blog post, create five new blog posts that are related to the targeted blog post. Each subordinate blog post should (a) link to the targeted blog post high on the page, and (b) link to one other subordinate blog post lower on the page. Don’t include other links to other sites if you can avoid it. You can find topics for subordinate blog posts by seeing the “people also ask” section of the search results that your target blog post is showing up in. This process of creating subordinate blog posts that link to the target blog post is called reverse content silo and is very effective at helping to boost already ranking content.

The overall idea behind this method of boosting already ranking content to rank higher is that once it hits the first page for high-volume searches people will start to see it as authority content. So when other people are writing relevant blog posts they will link to your content as sources and you will build organic backlinks in this way.

Note: The blog posts you boost don’t have to be important sales pages of your website. The goal of this process is just to get backlinks so it doesn’t matter what the content is that you are promoting.


“Just create good content” is not a good mantra for search engine optimization. The problem is the “just.” You must also promote it. I’ve described two ways to do this: (1) by building a social media following and (2) by intentionally boosting content that already ranks high.

Software reviews

Is it time to move your graphic design work to the cloud?

For years we’ve been stuck using Adobe software. It’s expensive, it’s clunky, it has more features than most people need. It’s not web-friendly as the files it outputs are too large even for email. It’s also not cloud based so it ties you to a machine or requires you to carry around said machine. Adobe is, however, the design standard and has been for 30 years or so. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s clear it doesn’t fit everybody’s needs. Back in the day we used to use a tool called Macromedia Fireworks to do quick and easy web-ready graphics. Adobe bought it and killed it unfortunately. When I transitioned into consumer research and took a break from digital marketing about 8 years ago, I quite Adobe. During that time, I first used Sketch, then transitioned entirely to Gravit for graphic design.

My tool of choice for many years has been Gravit (now Called Corel Vector). Corel Vector is very easy to use, easy to make web-friendly files, etc. It excels as a graphic design tool so you may want to use something else for photo editing. It is currently $99 per year but there is a new subscriber discount and a 15-day trial.

Even if your someone who uses Adobe for everything, you may want to incorporate Corel Vector into your work flow for efficiency. Literally everything is fewer clicks than it is in Adobe Illustrator. It could save you a lot of time.

I made a few videos to help students learn how to do graphic design, and how to use the tools so I thought I’d share them here:

Flyer design with Gravit (Dr. Charlton)
Website mockup with Gravit (Dr. Charlton)

Featured image at top is by Steve Johnson.

Digital marketing

Why you should never use Google Ads “Smart Campaigns”

It may seem super convenient to set up a Google “Smart Campaign” but I beg you not to, and I will explain why. The idea of the Smart Campaign great: you just basically let Google’s software decide for you how to spend your ad money. The problem is that over the years Google has drifted towards meeting its own needs at the expense of the advertisers. People sign up for Google Ads because they want to show up on Google. In the case of “Smart Campaigns,” Google pulls a bait and switch (without mentioning it) and runs your ads to run as little text ads on Youtube and various spammy websites that have Google Adsense enabled. And people only click to try to ‘x’ out of them but the x is so small that they click on your ad, go to your website by mistake and you get charged for it. Nearly all of the money you spend on these various platforms is wasted and unlikely to translate to customers.

Take for example the following image pulled from a client’s Google Smart Campaign dashboard:

In this case, rather than showing up on Google like the client intended, they were forced to pay for spammy ads at the bottom of random websites and Youtube ads. I never use so-called Smart Campaigns. In this case the owner set up the campaign himself. This is a very competent owner who was basically bamboozled by Google.

Google likes to default people into its Smart Campaigns but you can switch to Expert Mode by clicking on the wrench at the top right of your ads dashboard. Once you are in Expert Mode, you can go ahead and disable every kind of ad except for Google search engine ads. This means excluding your ads from running on the “display network” or “partner search.”

Software reviews

You want a Wix website for your doctor’s office or small business

I started building websites from scratch in 2007, using Dreamweaver to visualize the code I was creating. In 2010 I made the switch to WordPress to benefit from its content management features. More recently, in 2021 I started to really favor Wix‘s platform. What do I like about Wix (vs. WordPress):

  1. Modern design. It’s easier to make full-width layouts giving it a much more modern design. There are workarounds to do this for WordPress as well but generally speaking WordPress tries to push you into a narrow, centered column design.
  2. Less coding is required. Anyone can make a Wix website without coding. It’s super easy to use. To be honest, you do have to get used to the glitchy interface. At first you may end up with strange gaps in your page or overlapping content but once you get used to it those things are easily resolved.
  3. Drag and drop. You can basically rearrange your website layout however you want.
  4. Stock photos. Not only does Wix have a great library of free stock photos but it allows you to access $3 photos from Shutterstock which is one of the most complete stock photo libraries in the world.
  5. Marketing features. I really like the built-in marketing features including the full-featured CRM (customer relations management tool), SEO (search engine optimization).

Don’t get me wrong–I still love WordPress. This site is a WordPress site. But at the end of the day, it’s just not going to be as flexible or modern as a Wix site without a whole lot of work.