You are a small business owner with a local target audience. Of course, your local audience needs to find your shop or office, and you want to use social media for that. But, in the plethora of platforms, you just have no clue where to start. So you post something on Facebook, try a tweet now and then, but nothing happens. To small business owners, social media can feel like a struggle every time. And perhaps that last word sums it all up: you are probably just putting your extra time into social media. Whereas investing actual, accountable time in social media will probably pay off way more.

Investing that time deliberately means you need to figure out some things first. Let us help you with that.

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What platforms should I use?

You need to find the social platforms your target audience uses. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reach the right people. There are (at least) two ways to find out what these platforms are:

  • Ask your customers what social media they use. That might be Twitter or Snapchat, but can also be Yelp or Meetup.com, depending on your type of business. Simply ask your customers and see what response you get. If you have hundreds of customers a week, this is probably not the best course of action.
  • Simply start using a certain social platform. And see what happens. I prefer this option over the alternatives. Try everything, keep track of the results, and stop doing the things that don’t work for your business after a couple of months. Don’t give up the next day, but set a goal for yourself and see if you can achieve that.

Read more: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin?’ »

Factors that influence social media for small business

There are many things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about social media plans as a small business owner. Your results will depend on the platform you’ve chosen, but the three factors below also definitely play a part.

Give it time

Keep your expectations in check: your social following won’t grow overnight. Don’t expect people to follow you right after creating a profile. You need to invest that time we talked about. And creating a profile isn’t investing time, that should be done in a few minutes. The actual time investment starts right after that.

Create relevant content

You need to make sure your messages/mentions/promotions/articles are worth sharing. In other words, your content, in general, must be relevant and worthwhile. At Yoast, we try to publish five articles a week, but only if we have something that deserves publishing. We’d rather skip a day than publish something that could backfire on (for instance) social media, due to lack of relevance.

The need for relevance can hold back certain businesses from using social media. People often say:

“But I have nothing worth sharing.”

That’s nonsense. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have projects, testimonials, pictures, and quotes worth sharing. No need to write new blog posts every day, simply find something you’re proud of and share it. And if you do want to start a blog, Marieke has some tips to get inspiration for you. For those who want to dive into blogging, there is always our ultimate guide to blogging.

Don’t give up

The third factor that influences social media for small business is determination. To work properly, social media for small businesses has to be a continuous process of publishing and engaging. Saying “I have tried social media and it’s just not my thing” doesn’t show determination. You may have tried Snapchat, and it’s not your cup of tea. That’s fine. But perhaps Facebook is. And maybe posting on Facebook isn’t for you, but engaging in Facebook Groups might be. I call bullsh*t on the statement that “social media isn’t your thing.” You probably just haven’t found the right medium or platform.

Social media usage for small businesses

Let me go over some social platforms and give you some ideas on how to use them. This isn’t a blueprint for your own social media strategy: the actual use will depend on your type of business and the time you are willing to invest in social media. Here are some ideas:

Twitter

Twitter is an excellent way to send messages and interact with your local community. Two things come in handy here:

  • Hashtags. Hashtags allow you to connect your tweet to an individual subject, without having to add an extensive introduction. It’s being used to tweet about television shows like #GoT or cities like #Seattle. Especially adding your town’s name to a tweet will get you local attention. We can confirm this works even for #Wijchen, the small town where we’re located.
  • Advanced Search. If you are looking for a way to get involved in relevant, local conversations, you should try the advanced search option on Twitter. It allows you to search for any subject you like, in the area you want. See screenshot below.

Social media for small business: Twitter Advanced Search

Facebook

First things first: is your company already on Facebook? I recommend adding it as a local business or place. Facebook has 1.94 billion monthly active users and 1.28 billion daily active users on average (Source: Facebook). Facebook is huge. That alone should be reason enough to add your business to Facebook. And adding your company to Facebook isn’t that hard. It’s a relatively small effort when it comes to social media for small business owners.

Promote your page to your personal friends, get likes, and share updates and photos. Note that for sales posts (“Buy our product!”), you have a better chance of success if you ‘boost‘ your post just a little bit. Boosting can be done for a specified audience, with the location being one of the filters.

Another reason Facebook is an attractive choice for your social media efforts is Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups can be about just about everything. A quick search for Facebook groups about Milwaukee shows how much variety there is:

Social media for small business: Facebook Groups Milwaukee

Pokemon Go, Refugee supporters, Saab, ukulele, auto modelers, running – you name the subject, and Facebook has a group for you. Usually, there are also networking groups for local business people. Just search and find the group that fits your need. Introduce yourself and your business, and engage in discussions. That’s an easy, time efficient way to promote yourself and your company to a local audience.

Instagram

Do you have product images or photos worth sharing? In that case, Instagram might be the social platform for you. Instagram works with hashtags, much like Twitter. I use hashtag apps like Hashme or Tag o’Matic to find the right ones matching my content. Hashtags on Instagram work like a charm when adding local content. An example:

#seattle #seattlelife #seattleart #seattleartist #seattlelove #downtownseattle #spaceneedle #spaceneedleview #spaceneedles #washington #spaceneedleseattle #washingtonstate #seattlewa #seattleskyline #seattlecenter

It took me 30 seconds to find 15 relevant local hashtags using that last app. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags a post, by the way. Use these to your advantage!

Of course, there are many more social media platforms for small businesses. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with options right now. One thing I would like to mention is that review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are also social sites. They shouldn’t be forgotten if your business is mentioned on these sites. Be sure to monitor your mentions there and act on them if needed. That’s also being social!

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Measure your social media efforts

We have written some articles on the various analytics tools for social media networks, and I’d like to point you to these as well. Keeping track of followers and reach gives you an indication of how well your strategy is working. Focus on the numbers that tell you something about engagement, to see what social networks do indeed help you build your community. Here we go:

  • Facebook Insights: Get 30 likes, and Insights will be available. After 100 likes on your page, you can even compare your numbers to the competition.
  • Twitter Analytics: See who your influencers are: the people that like your tweets and have a nice following of their own. Find local influencers and get acquainted with them: ask them to tweet about you now and then.
  • Iconosquare for Instagram: As there still is no proper analytics for Instagram from Instagram, I rely on Iconosquare for that. Use it to find the best time to post, and see what kind of content works best for your business.

Please check out these tools yourself. Keep a keen eye on trends and engagement, as that is the most important thing in my opinion.

The obvious social media strategy works best

I want to leave you with two final thoughts here:

  • Post engaging content, because that is the best way to build an audience. Sounds simple, but it is pretty hard. Don’t be afraid to experiment here. Usually, personal stories lead to the most and best engagement. Having said that, Yoast office life pictures on social media often lead to questions about the awesome features of Yoast SEO Premium (for instance). Keep an open mind and help any customer with whatever question they have, related or not. The engagement counts, not the subject of your post.
  • Your employees are your brand ambassadors on social media. They love your company, enjoy working there and are most likely to share a lot of your social content if not all. Your employees create that local snowball effect. After all, most of their connections on Facebook are probably/usually living in the same geographical area as you. Acknowledge this, and stay aware of the value of these ‘in-house’ shares.

That’s it for now! I’m sure I’ve convinced you that even as a small business, investing some time and effort into your social media strategy will pay off. So go for it! And feel free to drop any questions or thoughts about social media for small business in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

SEO isn’t just for large companies. As a small business or local business, there is actually a lot you can do to achieve local goals yourself. Many of these things relate to focus. In this ultimate guide for local and small business SEO, we’ll tell you about finding your niche, optimizing pages and social media efforts.

Way back in 2014 we promised you in our post on local SEO that we’d be writing a bit more about local and small businesses. Considering that local SEO is basically the optimization process for the local results in search engines, we can say that local SEO is often closely related to small business SEO. This is why we decided to discuss both in this article.

In this article, you’ll find a variety of related topics:

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As long as Google’s local search result pages continue to grow and improve, we’re not done with this subject. But in the meantime, we’d like to present you our ultimate guide to local and small business SEO. Let’s start at the beginning of your SEO process.

Finding your shop’s niche

Especially for local or small businesses, determining your niche is very important. When you know your niche, you can emphasize what makes your products or brand unique, therefore improving your odds to rank well for them. If you have a clear niche, you can locally compete with large national brands in spite of their multi-million advertisement budgets.

Find out who your customers are and what words they use to describe your product, because people will use the same terms to find your website. Using these terms, often made into long-tail keywords, can really help you optimize your local business SEO. Make your keywords as specific as possible.  Once you’ve done all this, don’t forget to monitor your niche as it evolves with the growth of your company.

Find your shop’s niche

Low budget branding

We have mentioned this over and over: branding is very important for SEO. Branding deals with things like your logo and your tagline. How do they represent your company without further context? What do your logo and tagline reveal about your values and your field of expertise? It’s all about recognition.

Read more: ‘Low budget branding tips for small businesses’ »

A tip for branding: share your expertise! You can do that in blog posts and on social media. We’ll talk about this some more, further down this guide.

Start writing great content

Your small business SEO will get a significant boost from the right content. Many small business owners put products and contact details on their website and that’s basically it. But there is so much more to tell and share!

Focus on making an awesome first impression on your potential customer. Write about your business, your business goals, how great your products are and things like that. You can also discuss market developments or local events that relate to your business. These are just a few tips for your local SEO content strategy.

When writing your content, be realistic about the chances of that content to rank. If you are in a highly competitive market, content works very well as a marketing tool and/or as input for social media. But it will probably not get you that number one spot in Google, and that’s fine. Manage your expectations.

Picking the right keywords to optimize for is very important. Usually, it’s a good idea to pick mid-tail keywords, including the local area you are focusing on. It really doesn’t matter if you add this content to your site as a page or blog post. Just make sure that you write about things that people want to talk about or that make people talk about your business in a positive way.

Keep reading: ‘Improve your small business SEO today’ »

Share your content on social media

Did you know you can actually sell your products on social media itself? While that’s very cool, in most cases social media are used for brand awareness or to lead potential customers to a sale. Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, your company, and your products to establish a certain image and to get the right traffic to your company website. Social media, used in the right way, can contribute to small business SEO.

I tend to compare social media to a marketplace where all the stand owners know each other and customers browse among the products. At some point, someone will tell other visitors where to go to for a product: “The cheese over there is delicious”, “you should really check the fruit over there”. This is what real life social media are like. So make sure people start talking about you. And start talking about yourself online, to make others start talking to you on social platforms. Lastly, actively engage in social media conversations, to let people know you are listening.

Use Social Media to increase your sales

Local ranking factors that help your small business SEO

There are many things that influence your local rankings, but there is one very obvious one: your address details (NAP). Make sure to add these in the right formatting (in code), using schema.org details. You can use our Local SEO plugin for that. Furthermore, ask your web developer to dig into AMP, like Joost mentions in this Ask Yoast about AMP for small businesses. Besides that, it may help to add your city, and perhaps your state, in the title of your pages for easier recognition as well.

Google My Business

Make sure you use the exact same NAP details on both your website and your Google My Business listing. This is the only way for Google to understand the relationship between them. Add these details for instance in your footer and of course, on your contact page. Google My Business really is your friend if you want to rank in your specific geographical area, so get your details right!

Improve local SEO with Google My Business

Adding ratings and reviews

Google My Business, like Facebook, allows others to leave a review of your company. If your company has a good rating, people will be more inclined to click to your website from any of these two websites. Be sure to monitor and maintain these reviews.

If you get a negative review for some reason, react by solving your customer’s problem. Ask them to change their review afterwards. In other words, turn that dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador!

It’s not that hard to get involved in these reviews and ratings. Find more information on that in the article below.

Read on: ‘Get local reviews and ratings’ »

Social ‘proof’, like the ratings and reviews mentioned above, should be backed by a sufficient amount of links from local directories like:

  1. Yelp
  2. SuperPages
  3. YP.com
  4. ReferLocal.com
  5. Yahoo
  6. Bestoftheweb
  7. etc.

You should be mentioned on these pages, for the obvious reason that this means your website is linked. If you manage to get some links from the related local websites in that directory, that will also help your site’s findability. Note that the last category of links has to be from websites that are in a related profession. It’s of no use to have your bakery website linked from an accountant’s website. 

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If your small business is closely related to other businesses that are not located in the same area, you should definitively also ask these businesses for a link. Google spiders the web link by link. If your business is linked from a website that is in the same field of business, that link is extra valuable to you.

Near me searches

When speaking about local rankings, we also have to mention near me searches. These are searches and search suggestions that include words like “near me”, “closest”, “open” and “nearby”. Optimizing for these searches is similar to optimizing for local, but applies for global brands as well (“buy legos near me”). So you’ll have to think a bit outside of your usual box – there’s probably more to optimize for. Google really focuses on search terms like these, as you can read here:

Is that a Possum near me?

In conclusion

As we’ve seen, there are many things you can do as a small business to improve your site and rank better. You should start by focusing on your niche and emphasizing your uniqueness. Think about how you present your brand: logos and tag lines are important to give your customers an idea of who you are as a business.

You can increase your visibility by creating great content on your site, optimized for the right keywords. Also, it always helps if you present yourself actively on social media. There are several factors related to local SEO that help small businesses. Make sure Google My Business has the right details, keep track of your ratings and reviews, and try to get linked by related small businesses. Finally, try to optimize for ‘ near me’ searches.

Read more: ‘5 questions: Talking local SEO with David Mihm’ »

Back in 2012, Twitter introduced a system called Twitter Cards which allows site owners to display enhanced tweets on their websites using a syntax very similar to that of OpenGraph. Thanks to this new system, Twitter can show nicer looking tweets, including ones containing media such as images, audio and video.

How does it work?

As mentioned in the introduction, Twitter Cards make use of a very similar syntax to that of OpenGraph. Twitter has some properties that are specific for their platform which you can see in the following snippet:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@yoast"/>
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@michielheijmans"/>

The twitter:card property is required and defines the type of card you want to show. You have four flavors here: summary, summary_large_image, app and player. What the difference is between all these different cards can be found in the documentation.

Both twitter:site and twitter:creator are optional and point to the Twitter account of the website publishing the content and the author.

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OpenGraph

When it comes to parsing URLs, images and descriptions, Twitter makes use of existing og: properties. You can overwrite these og: properties with Twitter specific ones, but most of the time this isn’t something you’d want. If your goal is to display completely different information on Twitter, then these tags allow you to override default behavior.

There’s one thing to take into account when using both the Twitter and OpenGraph options. Twitter uses name to specify the attribute whereas OpenGraph makes use of the property attribute. Take this into account if you plan on manually implementing Twitter Cards.

Implementing Twitter Cards

As with other meta tags, you need to add the Twitter tags in the <head> of your website and ensure that the values are set properly on a per-page basis. This can quickly becomes an unwieldy task for a blog, so we built a feature that generates the proper meta tags for you.

Twitter Card settings in Yoast SEO

Twitter Card input field in Yoast SEO

Want to change the look of the Twitter Card for a specific post or page? Just use the form on the Social tab. Here you can tweak specific properties to your liking.

Additionally, our Premium plugin contains Social Previews which display what the Twitter Card will eventually look like based on the current page or post:

twitter cards in yoast seo premium

Twitter Card: Preview your Twitter post with Yoast SEO Premium

Twitter Cards are a great (visual) addition and can help increase traffic to your website!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use social media’ »

Adding videos to your pages or posts can enrich the experience a user has on your site. In our case, for instance, when we want to explain how a certain feature of Yoast SEO works, adding a video or screencast showing you how to use it, will most likely contribute to the understanding of the use of it. So sensibly adding videos to your site – at the right spots – is something we recommend! You might wonder though, if it’s better to upload the video to your own server, or to use a platform like YouTube and embed it. Learn what’s best!

Tony Devine emailed Ask Yoast with this question:

“I’m going to add a third party video, which I have permission to use, to my website. It’s already hosted on YouTube. Should I put the files on my own server or should I leave them on YouTube instead?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Video on YouTube or own site

In the video we explain what could be the advantages of both options:

Well, to be honest it doesn’t really matter, because getting the video snippet in the search results – which was quite easy in the old days – is quite hard now. So instead of allowing every site in the search results to have video snippets, Google has switched to a system with white listing sites that are allowed to have video snippets. And the chances of your site being among them are zero, to be honest.

So you’re not going to get a video snippet. The boost that you would get from that particular SEO benefit is gone. This means the biggest boost that you’ll get from adding a video, is that people will interact with your page more, if that video is on there. So it might still be a very good idea to have that video on that page. However, it doesn’t really matter at that point where you have posted it.

The only thing that I would consider – if you have permission to use and do some stuff to the video – is republishing the video somewhere. Either on YouTube or somewhere else, and optimize the metadata, because then you could be found on YouTube. And YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine in the world after Google. So maybe think of that. If you’re not allowed to do that, just include the YouTube URL and you’re fine.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post we’ll explain how we’ve done this at Yoast and will give you some pointers on how to get started.

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What are social buttons?

For those who don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. This is great for gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

At Yoast, our social buttons look as follow:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how these buttons were implemented. Your initial thought might be that this was added with some kind of plugin. However, at Yoast we decided to add it to our theme. This gives us extra control in how we style and display things. Of course we could have decided to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal for us.

We’ve decided to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way we can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how we implemented a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with psuedo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';

$title = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
$og_image = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.

$images   = $og_image->get_images();
$url = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
$url .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
$url .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
$url .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
$url .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
echo esc_attr( $url );
}
?>
<div id="social-share">
<div class="socialbox">
<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share" href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>">
<i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i>
</a>
</div>
</div>

The above code could be used in a similar fashion for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise you look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons in your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better.
At Yoast, we use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of the social media sharing is done correctly so we can easily see what social media platforms are popular among our readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) {
	$( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) {
		e.preventDefault();
		
		if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) {
			__gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) );
		}
	});	
});

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The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information we passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows us to easily extend the social-share div and add more buttons.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in headof your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Posts in this series

Metadata #1: meta tags in the head

Metadata #2: link rel metadata

Metadata #3: Social and international

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

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But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

If you have a local business, selling products or services, you have to think about the local ranking of your website. Local optimization will help you surface for related search queries in your area. As Google shows local results first in a lot of cases, you need to make sure Google understands where you are located. In this article, we’ll go over all the things you can do to improve Google’s understanding of your location, which obviously improves your chances to rank locally.

Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:

  • Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
  • Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, you’ll get a good ranking.
  • Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.

Let’s start with your address details

If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, at least add your address in the right way. The right way to do this is using schema.org, either by adding LocalBusiness schema.org tags around your address details or via JSON-LD. Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.

Our Local SEO plugin makes adding that LocalBusiness schema to your pages a breeze.

This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.

Google My Business

For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like on your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.

Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.

Your site’s NAP need to be exactly the same as your Google My Business listing’s NAP

Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.

Facebook listing and reviews

What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order.

Facebook also allows for reviews, like here for the Apple Store on Fifth Av. Note that this really is a local review, as the Fifth Avenue store scores a 4.6 average rating and the Amsterdam store just scores a 2.9 at the moment…

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City and state in title

The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Read this article (2014), as Arjan sheds some more light on other aspects of local SEO as well. And please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure.

Local directories help your local ranking

Next to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with a gazillion unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.

So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just link. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!

Links from related, local businesses

Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, as these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).

Social mentions from local tweeps

Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.

Some say links, from other websites, directories and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site, and the right people talking about you on for instance Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website:

Optimize your content for better local rankings

Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:

  • You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
  • There is a river which is needed for transport
  • Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
  • The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
  • There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.

These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!

Read more: ‘Tips for your local content strategy’ »

One more thing: Google also uses prominence as a local ranking factor

Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

Over the last year, we’ve written quite a bit about branding. Branding is often associated with investing lots of money in marketing and promotion. Branding is about getting people to relate to your company and products. Branding is about trying to make your brand synonym for a certain product or service. This can be a lengthy and hard project. It can potentially cost you all of your revenue. However, for a lot of small business owners, the investment in branding will have to be made with a relatively small budget. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on how to go about your own low-budget branding.

Psst… want to learn how to make your online shop a ranking machine? Stay tuned, because next week we’ll launch our Shop SEO eBook!

Brand values

Branding with a limited budget starts with defining your company’s and your brand’s values. You need to think about what you, as a brand, want to communicate to the world. This is obviously totally free, provided you are capable of doing this yourself. It’s a pretty hard task when you think of it. It’s about your mission, the things that make your brand your brand. Brand values relate to Cialdini’s seventh principle, Unity.

My favorite example illustrating that unity is outdoor brands like Patagonia and The North Face, which make you feel included in their business ‘family’. We are all alike, share the same values. By being able to relate to these brands and their values, we are more enticed to buy their products. It’s a brand for us, outdoor people.

Take some time to define your brand values. That way you’re able to communicate your main message in a clear and consistent way. It makes your marketing all the easier. You’ll be able to create brand ambassadors, even on a budget.

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Come up with a proper tagline

Now that you have defined your brand values, it’s time to summarize all of this into one single tagline. WordPress’ mission is to “democratize publishing“. In your tagline, you reflect your values and combine these with your added value for the customer, user or visitor. Again, be consistent. If you set a tagline, your actions and products should relate to that tagline, actually even be based upon it. It summarizes your business.

Rethink your logo

Having a great logo is essential. When designing that logo, you’ll have to keep in mind that it’s probably something you’ll have for years. It’s the main thing – besides yourself – that will trigger (brand) recognition. Not that you will never be allowed to change your logo, but don’t ‘just’ add a logo. Think about how it stands out from other logos, for instance on a local sponsor board. We actually did this with our current one.

Design that logo, print it, stick it on your fridge for a week or so, and see if there’s anything about it that starts to annoy you. If so, back to the drawing board. Feel like you don’t relate to it in terms of business values or even personality? Back to the drawing board. When talking about low-budget branding, designing a great logo is probably your most expensive task.

We still haven’t spent that much money, right? But then, we just designed the basis.

Online low-budget branding

You might be a local bakery with 10 employees, or a local industrial company employing up to 500 people. These all can be qualified as ‘small business’. All have the same main goal when they start: the need to establish a name in their field of expertise. There are multiple ways to do this, without a huge budget. Low-budget branding is facilitated by the surplus of social media. Low-budget branding is possible because of all the blogs that relate to your niche.

Costs?

I do a lot of local networking, because I really like the city we live in, and the huge variety of entrepreneurs that work in Wijchen (our hometown). During network meetings, one of the phrases I often hear is: “Social media is just costing me too much time”. To be honest, it might be wise to stop whining about the costs and start seeing the revenue social media can bring you. It really is the easiest and probably one of the cheapest ways to promote your brand. Basically, it costs you time and time alone (depending on how aggressive you want to use the medium).

Share your expertise

Twitter is used to keep in touch with like-minded business owners. Discover the huge number of Facebook groups in your area, and/or in your field of expertise. Bond with people that share the same values. Feel free to answer questions in your field of business, be sure to do this with confidence. Position yourself as the to-go-to company for these questions. Help people that way and create brand ambassadors.

Scary? No. But you really have to put some effort in establishing your position. It won’t happen overnight. Before we became a business, Joost was already sharing content/expertise and our open source software. He engaged actively in forum and social media discussions about WordPress and SEO. Commenting on other people’s blogs. Time before revenue: 8 years. I’m not saying you need to wait eight years before making money with your passion. But I do think that you should be able to write, comment and take a stand in topics that matter to you from the start.

Make yourself visible

Eventually, it all comes back to business values. Everything you communicate should reflect these values. It’ll give you guidelines and will make sure your message is delivered in the same way, always. Low-budget branding might be just about that: making yourself visible, in a consistent way.

Any additions and your own experiences in this are welcome.

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

Social media is not only an important part of your marketing strategy, but it’s important for your SEO strategy as well. LinkedIn publishing platform Pulse is one of the many content publishing platforms out there. You can read stories and news from other publishers, and you can publish your own content. But could you publish the same blog post on Pulse, as the one you post on your own site? Or should you post an excerpt and link back to your site? Does Google consider content on Pulse as duplicate content? Joost will answer this question in this Ask Yoast.

Guy Andefors from Stockholm in Sweden emailed us the following question:

“Can we safely republish an entire blog post on Pulse or should we post an excerpt and link back to our site?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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LinkedIn Pulse

Read the transcript of the video here:

To be honest, if you post your own blog post first, make sure that it’s indexed in Google and then post it on Pulse with a link underneath the posting: “This post originally appeared on…” linking back to your blog post. If you do this, you should be okay.

It’s not rel=canonical, but Google is smart enough to understand most of that and work its way through, so you should be okay. It might still rank the LinkedIn one higher, if your own domain is not that strong, because it might think that it actually gets a better interaction on LinkedIn. If that’s the case you should think about maybe using excerpts. Just try it a bit, see how it works for you. It really depends on how strong your own domain is and on what you want to achieve. If it works on LinkedIn, maybe leave it on LinkedIn and then make people click from LinkedIn to your site. That’s just as good for you, if it works. 

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we do our best to answer your SEO question! Need some help with your site’s SEO? Send your question to ask@yoast.com. You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘DIY: Duplicate content check’ »