You Can Report Robocalls Promoting Google Local Optimization

When I first started managing websites, a client once called me in panic. He told me that he had received a letter from someone that said he owed them several hundred dollars for submitting his website to search engines. Even though I was an online marketing beginner, I was pretty sure that the Internet didn’t work this way. I went to my client’s office where he showed me the letter. It was a crude looking invoice that said the charges were for “submitting your website to Google, Bing, and Yahoo”. After I assured my client that it was a scam, I did some investigating. I looked up the return address and found out it was for a storage lot near Niagara Falls. I called the owner of the storage lot and he seemed just as confused as I was. Either way, I let it go and told all my other clients to disregard letters like this.

Since then, I’ve noticed a lot of scammers taking advantage of people’s ignorance. When it comes to scams related to search engines, it usually involves trying to get people to pay money for services that are free.

What To Do About Google Robocalls?

In the last few months, our office has gotten numerous robocalls saying that our Google listing is unverified and we should press 1 to speak to a rep who can help us solve this problem. If this was from a legitimate company, they probably would have noticed that our listing is indeed verified and that we operate Spider Gourmet, an SEO company that specializes in this sort of thing.

3PRIME optimized google my business listing

At first, I just hung up when I got these calls. But then they became more numerous so I decided to do something about it. The next time I got a Google listing robocall, I pressed the option to speak to a rep. I asked him “Do you know that you’re calling an SEO company?” He feigned ignorance. I asked him politely, but firmly, to stop calling us. He got defensive and said I was being disrespectful. Not wanting to hear any more nonsense, I hung up on him. In the next few weeks, we still got several more of these calls but they eventually stopped.

Now, I’m a SEO professional and was able to know when I was being lied to. However, not everyone else is in this position. Our clients have also complained that they have also been receiving these calls. Many of my friends have also asked me about these calls as well. This enrages me because Google My Business (the service that handles your Google listing) is and has always been a free service. If you are going to pay to have an SEO company do it for you, it should be a company you know and trust, not one that relies on unsolicited robocalls. These companies using Google’s name are trying to get business, or worse, trying to steal personal information.

Recently, Google has taken notice of these robocalls:

“This year, we’ve received hundreds of complaints from users about illegal robocalls they’ve received from callers claiming to be affiliated with Google. They often promote misleading offers for improving users Google My Business profiles or search ranking. These calls are not from Google, and we’re making sure our clients know how to report them. Should you ever receive this type of call, you can report them directly here.”

To further help users, Google has set up a place to report these robocalls. If you receive one of these calls, be sure to write down anything about the call, such as the phone number, the company name, and any other identifiable information. Then fill out this form. By each of us doing our part, we can work together to put a stop to this dishonest practice.

4 Reasons Most SEO Experts are Proficient in Using Microsoft Excel

If you’ve ever spent a little while reading some of the many SEO blogs, journals and magazines online, you’ve undoubtedly seen at least one or two guides showing you how to use special Excel spreadsheets to streamline all sorts of analytical, organizational and strategy-related tasks.

 

The widespread usage of Microsoft Excel in the SEO industry is far more than a trend. It is a practical a necessity. Spreadsheets and their formulas give SEO professionals the highest level of control over campaign-critical data analysis and reporting.

 

If you’re still not sure why Excel is considered by many to be a must-have tool for SEO, consider the following:

1. It Saves Time and Effort

First and foremost, Excel is mostly loved for its ability to save the user a tremendous amount of time and effort. With all data centralized into a highly flexible and customizable interface consisting of rows, columns, and cells, it is possible to gain the most complete view of every campaign’s most important attributes in the quickest and most convenient manner possible. Excel makes sorting and interpreting data about as easy as it can get.

2. Most SEO Firms List Excel Proficiency as a Job Requirement

If you’re ever browsing for jobs in the SEO field, one of the main requirements you’ll notice that most firms have is proficiency with Excel. In basic terms, if you don’t know how to use Excel, good luck getting a job in SEO. That alone should tell you just how beneficial Excel can be in your own SEO endeavours. If you truly aspire to reach your full potential in SEO and marketing, it is strongly suggested that you read up on using Excel, especially articles with an SEO focus.

3. Spreadsheets Make it Possible to Centralize and Organize Data

Excel is so widely used in the SEO community because it can import data from a wide variety of sources. SEO professionals often use multiple analytical tools to keep track of keyword and linking stats (i.e – OpenSiteExplorer, Google Analytics, Etc.). Instead of having to switch back and forth between interfaces, the best solution is to export the data from each tool in the form of a .TSV, .CSV, or other Excel compatible format. Once exported, the data from each different tool can be imported into a single “master spreadsheet” for maximum efficiency.

4. It Will Make You a Master of Strategy and Planning

Another huge advantage Excel offers is the ability to brainstorm and create robust content and keyword strategies. You can put together lists of titles, topic ideas, URLs, site names, notes and any other useful components that will help you develop a more enveloping strategy. Excel can also be used to quickly build amazing keyword lists.

Remember that Excel is Only as Capable as the User Controlling It

Excel is one of those tools that can be practically useless to someone who has no clue what they’re doing. On the other hand, for the person who is diligent enough to learn how to use all of its features, Excel will reward with unparalleled level of data control and analysis.

Internet Safety Tips for Cyber Security Month

With the dawning of the internet age we’ve received technological advancements that have made our lives easier and more connected. But with every ying there’s a yang. And in this case, the yang is a rather frighteningly persistent cabal of hackers, internet con artists, phishers and Nigerian princes. Thanks to these groups, and more, October is now known as National Cyber Security Month.

Here at 3PRIME we realize how important good security tools and techniques are, because we’re not only protecting ourselves but our clients as well. That’s why we wanted to share some tips we gathered from SingleHop. SingleHop is a global provider of hosted IT infrastructure and cloud computing. Their client lists includes notable names such as Harvard, Triple A and Symantec, so you can be sure that they really know their stuff. So, without further ado, here are a few helpful internet security tips courtesy of:

singlehop

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Testing video object schema coding on a new page

Google structured data tool, click to enlarge

Google structured data tool, click to enlarge

In the hard slog towards building a true Semantic Web, “rich data” is one of the stops. Marking video, audio, article content, products and many other types of data allows it to be categorized much more easily, and in a much more precise, specific and versatile way than old HTML meta tags.

We have recently created a new furniture liquidators page on the website of our client Universal Hotel Liquidators; we have marked an embedded video on the page with extensive rich data.

In order to validate rich data snippets, you can use the convenient Google structured data validation tool, which allows you to input any URL and see if the meta data is entered correctly. In this post, you can see an example of meta data testing on the new page we added for our client.

While most, if not all, of the fields can be omitted – for example, you can enter the video thumbnail URL but not the video’s duration – the more information you enter, the more capabilities your site will have for organizing and managing your data, and the more likely your data will be to get properly parsed and categorized by search engines. This is why using structured data properly is important for online businesses, if they want to increase the chance of their products showing up in online shopping directories such as Google Shopping.

This is only a small sample of what structured data can do for you and your site; mastering this powerful tool will only become more important as more activity happens online.

Could the Godaddy SEO Tool really work?

We’ve worked on hundreds of websites over the years, and every week we hear from someone we served in the past. This week we received a call requesting information on SEO services for a new domain a client had setup on Godaddy website builder. They were going to first try Godaddy’s SEO service and get back to us after giving that a chance. I thought it was worth providing some insight into what you’re really buying with a service that’s about $3 per month.

The Godaddy seo tool really only offers 3 things

  1. Submission – This is a service that is a free tool from the major search engines, and there is no reason to pay a monthly fee for it, hence the low price.
  2. PayPerClick – If you aren’t familiar with this, we’d be glad to discuss, but for their pricing they cannot have any significant budget at play for you
  3. Analysis – They will give you a report telling you what you need to do, but you will still have to do it. You can generate a similar report with a free tool online.

I would also note that the website builder tool produces a fairly poorly coded website, something that negatively impact search rankings.

While there is nothing wrong with trying out an affordable tool, website owners should not assume that this will serve as a solution for building a website that can earn and maintain top organic rankings in Google. You will need to invest time into expanding the content on your site to lay the groundwork to compete effectively for valuable keywords.

 

Acxiom: Local Search’s Most Influential Data Aggregator

In our last post, Factual: A Key Player in Local Search, we talked about the data aggregator Factual and its impact on local search marketing. In this post, we will discuss Acxiom, a more established and prominent data aggregator.

About The Company

Acxiom is a publicly-traded company that was founded in 1969. The company is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. According to Wikipedia, “Acxiom offers marketing and information management services…Acxiom collects, analyzes, and parses customer and business information for clients, helping them to target advertising campaigns, score leads, and more”. According to Forrester Research, Acxiom is one of the leading database marketing services and technology companies in the world.

As A Data Aggregator

Acxiom has a major influence on the local search ecosystem. According to Moz Local, Acxiom is the primary or secondary feed to several important directories, especially Superpages, YP.com, and Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local):

Courtesy of Moz Local

Courtesy of Moz Local

Acxiom says their information goes to the following places:

  • Directly to over 80 companies in the Internet Yellow Page and Local Search marketplace
  • Directly to the largest search engines
  • 250+ distribution partners through online private labeled solutions
  • Directly to the top directory print publishers

Because of Acxiom’s powerful influence on the local search ecosystem, it is important that you take control of your listing in their database. We’ve seen instances where a company’s Google listing has their current address while Acxiom has their older address. This seemingly minor inconsistency led to the Google listing being suspended.

Claiming Your Listing 

The good news is that, unlike Factual, it’s relatively easy to claim and modify an Acxiom listing. The first step is to create an account in Acxiom’s My Business Listing Manager. Once logged in, you need to search for your business to see if it’s already there. If not, you must create a listing. Listing verification can be done via telephone or through submitting official documents that contain the business’s name and address.

For the most part, creating and claiming an Acxiom listing is pretty straightforward, but complications can arise. At 3PRIME LLC, Acxiom is an essential part of our Local SEO package. We believe having Acxiom under control, a lot of common problems in local search marketing can be avoided.

To receive a proposal for our annual program to optimize local search rankings and use online business listings for effective marketing, contact us today!

Image Credits:

  1. http://d1avok0lzls2w.cloudfront.net/uploads/blog/522f825795c145.51334569.jpg

Factual: A Key Player in Local Search

Local search directories (such as Google My Business, Yahoo Local, and Bing Places) get their information on business from several key sources:

  • The primary source is the companies themselves.
  • The second source is users who submit information (such as photos) about business.
  • The third source is other local search directories.
  • The fourth (and often most overlooked source) is from data aggregators.

What Is a Data Aggregator?

Data aggregators are vast databases that local search directories regularly verify their listing information against. Some of the more well-known data aggregators include Infogroup, Axciom, and Localeze. Local search directories often get their information using a combination of the sources listed above. However there are some directories that get all the information from a single data aggregator and no other source. All of this results in a very complicated local search ecosystem.

Courtesy of Moz Local

Courtesy of Moz Local

Overall, data aggregators are the most trusted source for business information and essentially serve as the backbone of local search.

Who Is Factual?

Factual is one of the newest (but least known) data aggregators. It was established in 2007 and is headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in San Francisco and Shanghai. According to their website, Factual has data for “over 65 million local businesses and points of interest in 50 countries”. Factual strives to clean up and standardize data, while preventing duplicate and erroneous listings. Even though Factual doesn’t have the same name recognition as the other 3 data aggregators, its influence is not to be underestimated. As you can see below, Factual is the primary feed to Apple Maps and Yelp, and a secondary feed to Bing and Trip Advisor. Factual also has some influence over Google My Business (formerly Google + Local).

Courtesy of Moz Local

Courtesy of Moz Local

The above map on Factual was created in 2013 so it is safe to assume that Factual’s influence on local search has grown since then.

Fixing Your Business Information on Factual

Unlike the other data aggregators (Infogroup, Axciom, and Localeze), Factual doesn’t allow users to update business information directly on their website. Instead, you must go through a “Trusted Data Contributor (TDC)”. Some well known TDCs include GoDaddy, Moz, and Yext. In order to fix your business information, you must sign up for a paid membership for one of these TDCs. Costs vary depending on the package you purchase.

Image Credits:

1: http://d1avok0lzls2w.cloudfront.net/uploads/blog/522f818cc55bd8.75231791.jpg
2: http://d1avok0lzls2w.cloudfront.net/uploads/blog/522f82670ed1d4.47301709.jpg

1 Minute fix for WordPress XML-RPC Pingback Vulnerability to Quadratic Attack

At 3PRIME, we are stewards for quite a few hosting customers, many of whom love wordpress. As such, we support that platform so that we may support the efforts of our disparate clientele.

By now everyone has heard of XML Quadratic Blowup Attack vulnerability in wordpress.

The WordPress Core Team has done there due diligence and have submitted a patch for the vulnerability. You can implement it readily by updating your wordpress runtime to the latest greatest version (or the latest greatest patch build of your current installation). If you haven’t already, you should absolutely update your installation the next chance you get.

XML-RPC is a Problem

Something that bears mentioning here is the WordPress XML-RPC itself.

Unless you are using a plugin that requires using this now nearly ancient form of site access and control, XML-RPC is otherwise extra baggage that you need not carry around.

Given the utter lack of usage of XML-RPC throughout our client sites, the best fix for the current vulnerability, a great preventative measure against similar attack vectors, is to simply disable XML-RPC altogether.

In our case, we did this server-wide. Setting up a directive for Apache couldn’t be easier.

In your configuration file (httpd.conf or, preferably, a pre-VirtualHost Include file), simply include the following snippet:

Apache – Disable xmlrpc.php

For the Nginx crowd out there, you can use the following:

Nginx – Disable xmlrpc.php

If your site (or your clients’ sites) are not coupled to WordPress XML-RPC, disabling XML-RPC altogether is a great way to reduce one attack vector that is often overlooked, exposed, and effectively exploited.

3PRIME Launches New Responsive Theme for Precision Cutting Services in CT

PCS-new-homepage

What you’re looking at now is the new homepage for Precision Cutting Services. Precision Cutting Services is a high quality tree cutting and lawn care business that performs work in the Hamden and southern Connecticut area. We’ve been performing a wide range of work for Precision Cutting Services for quite some time now. As stated above, we just relaunched their site with a new responsive theme which provides their web portal with several great features. First of all it looks great. It features large, clear pictures of the Precision Cutting Services’ crew at work. Moreover, the theme transforms the website into a responsive viewing experience for mobile devices and tablets. So now it will look just as good on them as it already does on desktops and laptops.

Creating sites with responsive themes serves to not only improve their look but also helps their rankings as it is one of the many features that Google takes into account when placing sites in search results. Think your company’s website could use some sprucing up? Then don’t hesitate to contact us.