Where Do Search Engines Get Their Information?

By Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding

Have you ever wondered where search engines get their information?

Well, you probably know that search engines gather information about your business directly from the words on your website – but you may be surprised to learn your government and other industries also play a part in your online visibility.

Here is a (rare) list of data sources by a search engine:

  • Dun & Bradstreet
  • US Federal Government
  • State Governments
  • SEC filings
  • company websites
  • our users
  • and more

As if that’s not scary enough – same goes for your bank, credit card company, mortgage company, car leasing company, utility companies (and more).

Clearly, the data about your business that search engines see and use to index and rank it comes from more than just your website.

Search engines use these off-website datasets as a way of matching your physical address, contact information, and type of business to your website and to other datasets (like other search engines and directory listings). Hundreds of datasets like this all feed into their algorithm (search program) used to index and display your business when someone searches for the services or products you offer, as well as how to connect to you, or travel to your actual place of business (think OnStar, mobile phones & GPS).

If you want your business to have great visibility on search engines – you’ve got to have consistent data about your business where search engines can find it.

Sometimes – and more often than you might think, the information search engines have about your business differs from what you may use as your standard business information. This difference dilutes the information about your business that search engines use and ultimately impacts your online visibility and ranking.

Perhaps you only list “LLC” with your business name occasionally (I never use it), or at times use your cell number as the primary number instead of the business line (common with small businesses), or maybe you don’t use your suite# with consistency.

These small variations in data all add up to giant headaches down the road that impact how discoverable a business is when someone searches for them. With recent changes to search engine’s algorithms, these problems have become much more prevalent over the past eighteen months or so. And the older the business – the larger the data discrepancies.

“Branding consistency and accurate online citations of our college and its programs is very important to us”, says Leslie Peck, Marketing Director of Rhode Island’s New England Institute of Technology. “As a commuter college most of whose students commute, many of the same marketing elements that work for Rhode Island’s small businesses work for us as well, including the need to have people find us on their home computers, smartphones, or GPS. Our online data needs to be consistent.”

All this different data about your business floating around the world-wide-web is how you can end up with multiple business listings on search engines like Google, Bing or on directories like Yelp and Manta. If you’re a young business with business listings all over the internet but don’t recall making them yourself – now you know how they got there.

It is critical to find any incorrect or duplicate online business listings and go through the processes of having them corrected, merged, or deleted. Being vigilant in purifying your business listing data (also called citation data) increases your online visibility on search engines – especially for local businesses. It’s a complicated and time-consuming process -but it’s got to get done. If not addressed, search engines will multiply this error-ridden data and your business could be pushed farther down the rankings.

Making sure this business data is consistent is recognized top website developers.

“We always make sure the business contact information we list on a website is consistent with both Google and Facebook” says Seedling Creative Jason Zagami “If it’s not, we advise them [client] on how to fix it” he adds.

For website designers – getting their clients sites discovered in search also means getting their own creative discovered on search – it’s a win-win.

If you have ever considered using an automated link building service like Yodle or Yext to build or correct backlinks for your business – these services will only compound your problems. These companies are one-way directory providers – they do not merge or correct data – they only create new business listings. That’s all they do – so they’ll leave a lot of incorrect business citations untouched. BTW – should you decide to cancel your service contract with them – the listings they created will be deleted; negating any gains.

Many companies and associations use branded versions of these services (called white-label services) – so you’ve got to be careful. Yahoo, MerchantCircle, Chamber Of Commerce all use a white-labeled version of Yext while many franchise businesses like ServiceMaster, CARSTAR, and Meineke choose Yodle.

Read our comments to this Forbes article for info on the perils of using Yext and Yodle for small business marketing.

The first step to correcting this business data mess is discovering the errors – below are a few search strings you can use to discover how search engines see your business data. The quotation marks are intentional – so be sure to use them, and mix up your business name if it consists of more than a couple of words. All you need to do is plug these into your search bar of your favorite browser, when you discover an error – look for ways to correct it. Sometimes the best way to correct these listing errors is to contact the webmaster, other times there’s an edit link, but sometimes you’ve just got to rake through the Help files – every directory and search engine will have its own method.

Enter these 5 search strings into your favorite search engine to find the business listings that are ruining your online visibility:

  1. “business name” zip code
  2. “business name” phone number (like this: 123-456-7890)
  3. “address” phone number
  4. “business name” with & without LLC/Inc
  5. “address” with & without suite#/Unit# (if applicable)

If your business has changed names or has moved in the past 5 years, make sure you search for the old addresses, business name and phone number. Fix these by either merging, changing or deleting as permitted.

Using these methods to clean up and unify your online business listing data is a great way to make sure your business is primed for discovery.

#citationbuilding #localseo

Posted in citation | NAP | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The hidden Cost Of The Free Business Review Monitoring Service FreeReviewMonitoring.com

freereviewmonitoring.com costs more than freeBusiness reviews, stars, ratings, and all that come with it, have become vital marketing elements for small-medium sized businesses (SMBs) in recent years. It’s not a secret that great business reviews can quickly convert a prospecting searcher into a lead or sale – but if your business has poor online reviews, you run the risk of not only losing sales, and your business reputation, but prime visibility on search engines as well.

Needless to say, the demand for SMBs to find a reputation management platform to watch their online business reviews is at its peak, and while fee-based services are easy to find, not every company can afford them or is convinced yet they need it.

Enter the free business review monitoring sites, like the widely publicized http://www.freereviewmonitoring.com.  As you might have guessed however – free isn’t always free – even with FreeReviewMonitoring.com.

The hidden cost of FREE business review monitoring services

In a recent MarketWired article, FreeReviewMonitoring.com CEO Julius Kurushko was quoted as saying: “We are here to let SMBs quickly and easily monitor their reviews for free. Our focus is to help them successfully activate their happy clients to improve and keep up their overall reputation; that portion of the service will be a paid feature.”

The pitch is that SMBs can monitor their reviews for free and only pay for paid improvement and upkeep (whatever upkeep means).

The catch – it’s only free for a single location.

the hidden cost of free business review sites

How much do peanuts cost Jim?

A fact that is not written anywhere on their website as of this
writing and for which their namesake certainly doesn’t convey.  In fact – they seem to intentionally avoid the cost question altogether.

So, if your business has multiple locations – it’s not free. Have a satellite location –not free again. Want to manage different businesses (say, an interior design company and a law firm that you own) on the same account – nope, can’t do that either.

According to Jim, the helpful and concise customer service rep who lives inside the website chat box:  “It’s one free location”.  Doesn’t say that anywhere – but that’s what it is.

The documentation on the site doesn’t mention any limitations, but there you have it – free business review monitoring that isn’t free for all.

By Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding Company – a SMB focused local SEO company in Rhode Island
Posted in Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , , ,

Apple Ousts Google – here’s how to get your business listed on DuckDuckGo

 How to get listed on duckduckgo.comApple Just Announced it is replacing Google Search with the alternative search engine DuckDuckGo.

So you should probably be thinking about how well your business ranks on duckduckgo.com

SEO experts know that Google isn’t the only search engine that businesses need to be discovered on.  If they want their business to show up on Apple products in the very near future (and they should) – they need to make sure they have high visibility and top ranking on the search engine with the funny name “DuckDuckGo“.

So Just How Do You Get Your Business Listed On DuckDuckGo?

Since they do not accept listing requests or offer business profiles like other search engines – businesses need to focus on building great business profiles (think #SEO ) on Yahoo and Bing – DuckDuckGo pulls business citation data from them.

Now you know . . . .

Posted in citation | NAP, link building | backlink, Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

4 Local Citation Building Tips for Local SEO

by Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding

Business Citations Are Any Mention Of Your Business Name And Primary Contact Information On Other Webpages.

Rhode Island SEO and local citation building services

This primary data is often called NAP and consists of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP – you get the picture).

Examples of a business citation are your online Yellow-Pages directory listing, or a business listing on your local Chamber of Commerce website.  Your social media sites also have references of your business NAP, and those are also citations.


These citations are important for local marketing because they are a verification element search engines use to confirm the facts about your business and exactly where it’s located.  The more qualified the data search engines have about your business, the more they will trust your business data. Likewise, when search engines see the continuity of not just your business NAP, but also of your keyword usage and descriptive wording throughout the internet – that trust can grow exponentially.  It is at this tipping point that citation building starts to really pay off.

Top 4 Tips For Local Citation Building:

  1. Be 100% consistent with the wording of your business name
  2. Use your local phone number as the primary contact.  Use a toll-free (if you have one) secondary.  When only one choice is available, stick with the local.
  3. Never (stress never) use a call tracking # for any local internet marketing (never)
  4. Make sure to use your complete address including suite or unit number if it applies [verify here]

In addition to these 4 tips, the trick to making citation building (AKA: link building) work for your business is to be linking up with trusted citation sources and to be in a state of constant citation-building.  The weekend warrior approach will not work as search engines are tracking your activity/inactivity when it comes to link building.  Activity pays dividends.

Our advice – keep building those business citations, make sure your NAP is bullseye consistent, only link with trusted resources, and stay true to these 4 tips for citation building.

Posted in Local Citation Building, Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , ,

How I Got Into SEO – My Story

One of the questions I get asked often, is how I got into SEO.

Rhode Island SEO expert - Chris SheehyNearly everyone is completely surprised to learn that I didn’t plan on becoming a search engine specialist – not by a long shot.

Truth is I came home one day to tell my wife I had quit my corporate job to go-it-alone with my first business (looking back, her reaction wasn’t what I had envisioned, but she has always been my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her). That was 1997, and like any other bootstrap entrepreneur, I had a ton of ambition but with a new home and our first child on the way – little money to back up my idea. So I did what everyone was doing in the dot.com days, I built a website to promote my little start-up.

In no time I also had a newsletter and a weblog (that’s what blogs were called before they were cool) and was creating content like crazy.

Before I knew it my website was nominated for an industry award, and I was making new clients from this new thing called “the world wide web”.  And then Google was born (which BTW – I thought was a stupid idea).  Ranking & SEO quickly became an obsession of mine and a passion that to this day I enjoy.

When I tell business owners I know how SEO works for them – I mean it, and have the experience (and mistakes) to back it up.

It’s this experience that differentiates me from my competition, and in this industry – experience pays dividends.

Reading DIY SEO articles makes you as much a SEOer as reading MotorTrend makes you a race car driver.  Experience is in doing.  I learned this the hard way in my early days, and continue to learn every day.

My business lasted several years, but I was ultimately made an offer for a corporate position from the software manufacturer I was using that I couldn’t refuse. I spent a few years in the corporate environment for two fantastic companies until I was faced with the only option of having to move to the mid-west to grow professionally.

So, like I had done in 1997, I came home from my day job one day to announce to my wife that I had quit my corporate job to go-it-alone with a new business. I built a website, opened a blog (or two), and jumped into social media.

The year was 2009 – and the story continues. . . .

Posted in Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Internet Marketing Metrics – what to measure?


by Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding Company
rhode island seo - search engine optimization tips.png

The answer depends on their goals – but as a baseline, we recommend businesses have a handle on the following 17 internet marketing metrics:

(We included +/- signs to show which direction you should be moving toward)


  • - Bounce Rate
  • + Conversions
  • + Domain Authority & PageRank
  • + Keyword Ranking
  • + Business Citation Backlinks Created/Corrected
  • + Returning Visitors
  • - Site Page-Load Speed
  • + Site Traffic
  • + Share of Voice (SOV) / Market Penetration
  • + Unique Visitors


  • + Engagement – likes, shares, comments
  • + Conversions

PPC (Paid Advertising)

  • + Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • + Conversion (form based and/or phone call)
  • - Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
  • + Quality Score

Google Analytic (GA) is a great place to gather this data – and you can’t beat the cost, it’s free.  If you already have GA, make sure you are using the most recent recording code – it’s recently changed.  Clicky is a good alternate to GA but it will cost a few bucks – it’s not much though and you just might find you like the reporting and visuals better.  There’s a free trial.

Posted in local SEO | local search, Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , ,

SEO By The Numbers

SEO By The Numbers

A SEO Cheat Sheet 4 Character Counts, Pixel Width, and Other Stuff

By Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding Co. [updated May 14, 2014]

META character count limits and SEOLately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from businesses concerned with optimizing the back-end data of their website called the META.  This data is helpful in informing search engines and viewers alike about the pages of a website.

The calls typically have concerned the technical aspect of META Tags with questions ranging from “are we properly keyword optimized?” to “are we within character limits for our META elements?”.

I think I’ve written enough recently on keyword research & keyword optimization, so I’ll jump right to the mysterious side of META Tags, and character count limits as they impact search engine optimization.

Let me start by saying many of the character limitations you read/hear about aren’t actually character count limitations at all; but rather pixel limitations.  Different letters and numbers occupy more/less pixel space than others (think of “i/I” vs. “w/W”).  It can seem overly complicated to measure text in pixels– so character counts have been overly simplified and used as the standard.  It is for this reason you typically see number-ranges instead of hard-set numbers when researching the topic.  So character counts it is.

And also be aware that character counts are mainly best practice SEO suggestions – so don’t assume that nailing these will instantly drive more traffic to your website, by itself – it won’t.  But they should certainly be considered when assessing which of the 200-ish website SEO signals of your website you need to modify in order to improve your visibility and rank.

So without further ado – here’s our top 6 elements to consider taken directly from our in-house  META Data SEO Cheat Sheet for character counts and META Title & Description pixel width consideration.

Used wisely and with discretion, it will aid in fine-honing your website’s search engine optimization elements and help to signal more traffic to your site.

  • META-Title                       30 min -65 max characters (200-512 pixels)
  • META-Description         70 min -160 max characters (400-932 pixels)
  • META-Keywords              5 words – 200 characters (not that they matter)
  • H-Tags                                 70 characters max
  • URL length                         115 characters max
  • Image Alt Attribute        100 characters max
Posted in Rhode Island SEO | SEO Rhode Island | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments