Ways to Build Trust with Your Customers Online

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two people shaking hands and trusting each otherThere are a million quotes about the value of trust in human relationships, but Ronald Reagan’s few words might be the most in line with what your potential customers want “trust, but verify.”

It’s your job to build the trust and provide the verification. No matter what kind of business you market—B2B, B2C—never lose sight of the fact that you need to build trust with humans (even if their paths to you is different, more here). Here are ten ways to verify your customer’s trust so you can earn their business time and time again.

Answer their questions

When your customers have a question, they let their fingers on the keyboard do the talking. Even if you don’t have 24/7 staffing, there are several ways to answer their questions. One way is to have the answer ready before your customers ask the question; add a Frequently Answered Questions page to your website with short answers to the questions and add in-depth answers to your blog (via text and video-if you don’t have time or expertise, contact a firm that can product quality blog posts).

Share the blog posts on your social media, along with other articles and videos that can answer their questions. Give your online audience a chance to get their questions answered and trust you as the expert who gave them the answer.

Be available

A business is missing a key opportunity when they don’t answer an email or social media inquiry from a potential customer. Don’t just respond to inquiries that come in; respond promptly within a few hours of the inquiry (if not faster)—even if the inquiry is negative.

If the customer is angry, don’t ignore the message. Instead, take a deep breath and provide a professional response. Give them an answer to their problem (more tips for handling an angry online customer here).

Be human

Though you can’t see your online audience, be human in all your online marketing efforts. Respond promptly with a human voice; giving an automated robotic response is going to alienate and, in some cases, anger your online audience (more tips for delivering excellent customer service here). Use that same human tone in your email marketing pieces, on your website, and throughout your social media presence.

Have others tell them about you

We already talked about how customers and potential customers are increasingly turning to the web to research companies. One of the biggest factors in their decision is testimonials and reviews. Showcase these reviews in your marketing efforts (with a mixture of other marketing content)—along with the excellent customer service you provide to people who have a problem. Monitor the website for negative reviews (or contact a company who can) and use these tips to protect your online presence. Respond to any comments from your customers, and show you listen; these two components prove to those interested in your company that you are worthy of their trust.

Local Businesses: Get Customers to Your Door (and Keep Them Coming Back)

customer headed to local business after looking onlineIf you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s the million dollar question: how do you increase the amount of customers who walk through the door—and keep them coming back? The answer may not be as tangible as your company’s location (computers and the internet never are), but the results—customers walking in the door, contacting you, coming back time and time again—are real and rewarding as your business grows.

Target local customers (not just everyone!).

It’s hard to look at a crowd and not see dollar signs, but to effectively market you need to thin the crowd. As tempting as it might be to take a “the more the merrier” approach, it makes more cents (pun intended) to target your local customers. Customers residing thousands of miles away aren’t going to be ordering your product or services; you need them to be able to walk in the door.

As such, invest your budget to marketing tactics that targets your local customers: emails, mail marketing pieces, local search engine optimization. All three of these options target local customers in zip codes around your business. Email marketing does require an initial visit—-either in your store or on your website—but has a high return on investment if you deliver valuable information (not only sales information) to them every month. The return on your mail marketing pieces depends on value, whether the method fits your demographic, and—similar to your email—whether your piece delivers some value to your customer.

The third tactic, local search engine optimization, is verified by an important statistic: more than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine. The rise of mobile marketing has led to larger stakes: more than ¾ of all mobile searches end in an offline sale. Local search engine optimization targets your local customers (in zip codes within miles of your location) so they get the information they’re looking for—and the call-to-actions that lead them to contact your business (either in-person, via email or phone).

Build a solid foundation to your local marketing plan.

A block tower with a heavy top load is going to topple without a strong base. When marketing your business, this means you can promote your website—the base of your marketing—as much as you want; however, if your website isn’t strong, it’s not going to drive customers to you.

A strong website is comprised of a strong structure built for search engines, content targeted at your customers, call-to-actions that produce results, and contact information that makes it easy for your customers to contact you. Once you’ve built a strong website (more information about strong websites here), you can build a marketing plan with strategic promotion (i.e. social media, email marketing, local SEO, etc.)

Make your social media site very local-minded.

If social media is part of your marketing plan, show your customers why they should stop in. This recommendation comes with one disclaimer: you don’t want your customers to feel like you are screaming advertisements at them. Mix photos of your store and personnel, information of upcoming specials and sales, and other relevant tips and information in to your targeted marketing plan. Since you are local, add one other key component to your social media plan: information and pictures from local community events. Show your business is part of your community.

Take customer service to the next level.

There is one factor that can set your business apart from your national competitors, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for it: prompt and excellent customer service. Now it’s your turn to prove it—every way your customers contact you. Respond promptly to e-mails, social media inquiries, phone calls, and in-person requests. Use these tips to respond, and respond quickly; prompt means within hours, or even minutes, of when the question comes in. Don’t shy away from a response if the inquiry is negative. Instead, use the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If the request is public (such as on social media), ask the customer to privately message you with details.

Monitor your online reviews.

Online reviews may seem inconsequential to your local business, but the reality is that online reviews can majorly impact your business. Social media and local review sites are full of negative and positive information left by your customers. Your potential customers see that information as they research your business, which is why you need to monitor the reviews and take steps to resolve negative reviews. If you want to make the process easier, contact a marketing firm with an automated system that informs you when reviews come in and gives you time to respond.

Strong Ways to Beef Up Your Mediocre Website

Fit woman showing her muscles ready to optimize websiteWe were going to write an article about how the stakes for today’s websites have been raised exponentionally. It’s not just enough to just have a website; modern websites have to be faster, better organized, optimized, and mobile-friendly.

Why?

Search engines and social media sites rank mobile-friendly sites higher. Online viewers are abandoning websites that don’t load quickly enough. The quality of content is important, both to search engines and customers.

This quest for the perfect website is getting real.

Mediocre websites just won’t cut it anymore. Your customers are demanding a well-designed, functional, easy-to-use website. You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t indulge them. Here’s how.

Add quality images and video.

People process images faster than text. Yet, one of the top offenses we see online is websites with sub-par images—or, even worse, no images. That does not mean you should steal images off the internet (repeat: that DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD STEAL IMAGES OFF THE INTERNET). Images online cannot be copied and pasted onto your website; many of those images are property and can leave your business open to legal ramifications.

Instead, create your own images and videos or buy the rights to specific images that you can strategically use in your marketing materials. Choose relevant photos to your content, preferably with people’s faces (here’s why images with faces perform better). Look at the overall design of your design, and choose images with complementary colors.

Make it easier to contact you.

People don’t want to waste their time, and they want to make any action they need to take easy. Include call-to-actions in your content, easy-to-use buttons that catch your eye, and quick ways to contact your company ON EVERY PAGE.

Easy contact methods are not enough. If your potential customers don’t hear from you, they move on to the company that does. Implement a stellar customer service process. Assign the responses to a well-trained staff member, and set the standard for response high. All responses should be within hours, not days of the customer’s inquiry. If you don’t have an immediate answer, let the customer know you have received their inquiry and ask additional questions so you can provide the information they want. Unless the inquiry is off the wall (or spam), respond to every e-mail that comes in. Don’t pass up the opportunity to turn a negative inquiry into a positive customer experience.

Optimize it.

businessman with tablet connecting offline and online marketingMore than 90% of website users start their search for information on search engines. Optimize your website for top search engines, such as Google and Bing—or contact a company that can optimize your website for you. Build a site structure optimal for search engines, include strong headlines with relevant keywords, add images with the correct tags, and write content your users want to read with relevant keywords and topics. Text written for your brochure won’t have this information (though it is a start).

Fix any broken links or pages with errors, a major no-go for optimized websites. The major advantage to this process is that not only do your optimization efforts make your websites more appealing to search engines, but also to your online viewers.

If you are a business with local customers, make your contact information incredibly prominent and consider investing in local search engine optimization technology. Local SEO technology optimizes your website so it is ranked highly in searches run by your target audience, your local customers.

Make it faster.

Long website page loads are more than just an inconvenience; they cost you page views and sales. As this article from KISS Metrics states:

According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.”

But the stakes have gotten higher with the rise of mobile devices; not only are smart phone and tablet users looking for a fast load, they are also looking—no demanding—mobile-friendly sites (as these statistics on Social Media Today show). Choose a website design company that includes a mobile-friendly website; this is a must of the modern era, not a maybe.

Add content.

Content is more than a luxury; it’s a must for any company that wants to improve their ranking with search engines and their target audience. Adding content to a website indicates to search engines that your business is relevant to users, and shows users that you want to answer their questions. In essence, high-quality content builds trust with two vital audiences.

Notice the disclaimer: high-quality. High-quality content is grammatically correct, relevant to your audience, complete, and keyword-optimized (if you don’t know how to write it, contact a writer who has the expertise to produce high-quality content for your website). Low-quality content contains typos, sales-focused information, and poor optimization. Content can also be used to drive traffic to your website from emails and social media.

Business Owners: All Your Marketing Questions Answered

man roaring into a megaphone trying to spread the word about business with lots of marketing questionsMarketing your business can be HARD.

We hear you, and we hear your questions. We hear them from our clients, our fellow business owners, our marketing associates.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of answers to the questions we hear. While we can’t give any hard-and-fast rules (post this, do this, etc.) that automatically go viral, we can give you marketing guidelines that you can apply to your business (and to your targeted audience).

Why am I not getting any more followers and likes on social media?

Many a business owner has jumped out of social media expecting immediate results. They don’t understand why their customers don’t like their posts, message them with questions, or come in to buy.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for these business owners, but there is a list of reasons why they may not be getting results from their social media presence:

  • Business is not on the social media platform where target audience is;
  • There is no strategy behind the social media posts;
  • The business does not have “personal” content that sets them apart;
  • The social media posts are irregularly posted;
  • The business only posts advertising and sales-heavy content;
  • The content posted is irrelevant to the target audience;
  • The business bought followers;
  • The social media posts don’t contain images (or really bad images-here’s how to choose relevant images);
  • The business posts at times when their audience is not online;
  • There are unrealistic expectations;
  • The business does not respond to messages in a timely manner;
  • The business alienates the audience with angry or controversial posts.

If you want to know more, read our post with more details about these common problems—and how to fix them. 

How do I increase the reach of my website?

After you invest all your time, funds, and effort into a website, it’s the logical next step: figuring out how to make your investment work for you. How do you let people know it’s out there? Or, even better, get your website in front of your local customers without much work?

  • Send an email to your customers (build a email list with these tips) as part of your marketing plan with a clear call-to-action;
  • Use website optimization to get to the top search engine listings (ask us how);
  • Announce your new website on social media and keep including your website in your social media posts;
  • Write quality content with links back to your website (this also is a ranking signal of a quality website with top search engines);
  • Fill out profiles with your website on relevant review sites.

Find out more about promoting your website after it’s built—and continually promoting it as part of a solid marketing plan.

What should I post to social media?

This is one of the most common questions we hear from business owners. Our answer is usually pre-empted by a question, “Who are your followers? Who is your target audience?” Once you have an idea of you are communicating with (note, not talking to, you should always view social media as a two-way conversation), build a plan with:

Exclusive discounts. Make your customers feel appreciated and like they are getting a deal just for them because they follow you on social media.

Entertainment. If appropriate for your business and chosen tone, give your followers entertaining graphics and information that makes them want more.

Resources. Build trust with your audience by giving them helpful articles and videos.

(Occasional) giveaways. Give your audience an incentive to take part in an occasional guessing contest.

Want a more concrete list of social media ideas? Here are a few ideas for your next post; find a more extensive list of ideas to post to social media here.

  • Photos with a request for an appropriate caption
  • Inside photos of your facility or employees (with their consent)
  • How-to videos
  • Share news from your community (especially photos of your business involvement)
  • Guessing contest
  • Photos of the history of your business
  • Memes (when appropriate)
  • Photo or video that gives followers a sneak peak
  • Helpful articles with tips
  • Photos and videos that highlight your succeses
  • Motivational quotes
  • Photos relevant to your business on a National Day
  • Upcoming sales and offer graphics

When should I post to social media?

If you speak to an empty room, would you expect to get heard? That’s what exactly is happening when a business owner or marketer posts when no one is online. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for when to post that guarantees success, and every industry is different.

To figure out when is the optimal time for social media posts, use these guidelines:

Know your audience. If your target audience is a “more experienced” demographic, post earlier in the evening to reach the optimal amount of followers. Do the same for a younger audience, business-to-business audience, or whomever follows your brand.

Use statistics. Social media sites and scheduling tools often offer analytics that can help you track when your audience is online and when to post.

Relate to your industry. Industry norms can help guide your social media plan (and this article from Social Media today can help with that information).

What the heck is a blog?

We admit that this isn’t a common question, but it is our favorite—and we have heard many versions of this inquiry. “What is content marketing?” “What is a blog?” “What does a blog do for my website?”

The simple answer: content marketing is the process of providing content targeted at your audience.  One of the most successful content marketing tools we’ve found is a blog. A blog filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, and infographics, can be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked. As a bonus, search engines use new, quality content as a ranking signal, giving your blog posts and website a higher ranking in search engine results.

To be successful, new content needs to contain strategic content (in line with your marketing and optimization plan) published on a regular basis; if you need assistance, contact a marketing firm that can meet your needs and has the expertise to answer all your questions.

5 Things Your Online Audience Wish You Knew

customer with megaphone screaming out what she wantsYou may not see your social media followers. You may not know who your website visitors are. But those visitors should be the center of your online marketing strategy. From the second you figure out who your online audience is, it’s time to start crafting content for them. Here’s what they wish you knew—and what you should take to heart when marketing to them.

We LOVE images and videos

Would you believe that there are still businesses and organizations that are posting on social media and content marketing pieces without images? But the numbers say otherwise; statistics have repeatedly shown that posts perform significantly better with images and videos. Use these tips for choosing the best images for your social media and content marketing, and use them frequently (or outsource to a marketing firm that can produce quality images for your marketing).

We are not looking for your website

Unless they need you, the average customer is not surfing the web looking up random websites; instead they visit business websites when they want or need them. When they have a problem, they look for businesses or content that can help fix their problem. The takeaway? Don’t expect that customers are looking for you; instead you need to take steps to get your website at the top of the list and noticed. Contact a local optimization firm to optimize your website and get it listed at the top of searches by local customers. Create a rigorous social media, content, and email marketing plan to reach your audience with relevant and timely information so they notice you—and search for you when the time is right.

We don’t want to be yelled at (all the time)

While your customers understand that you’re trying to make money, they don’t want to be screamed at. They don’t want social media to be like listening to series of obnoxious radio ads. Instead, they want relevant and regular (and sometimes entertaining) content and social media posts. Don’t fill your social media and content marketing posts with “buy, buy, buy!” content. Instead, use the 80-20 rule for social media: 80% non-sales content and 20% sales pitches. Follow a regular calendar of social media posts  and content marketing pieces (or outsource your efforts to a marketing company that can keep up) for maximum results.

We want it easy

Don’t make your customers work; make your website and any call-to-actions easy to fulfill. Your website should be easy to navigate, contacting your company off of social media should be a walk in the park, and finding contact information on your next email should be extremely simple. One disclaimer: don’t make it too easy; you don’t want to get inundated by spam emails. Your time, and your audience’s, is valuable. Treat it like gold whenever you design a website, social media page, content marketing or email marketing piece.

We want to be answered

Marketing and customer service should go hand in hand. Don’t go to all the effort marketing your business without answering the inquiries PROMPTLY. The term “promptly” has taken on new meaning as well; today, customers expect a reply within two hours or less. Don’t leave them hanging; they’ll just move on to the next business. Assign a staff member to respond to every inquiry that comes in from social media, the website, or email marketing. Train them to respond correctly and promptly (more than once a day), and show what great customer service your business offers—even for those with negative feedback.

How do customers find your business website?

people looking at computer and tablet finding business websiteShocking fact of the day: people are not looking for your website. Unless they have a good reason to search for your website, unless they know it’s out there, your website is just another of the millions of websites out there.

So how can you get that perfectly designed, easy-to-navigate, branded website in front of the people who matter: your customers and customers-to-be? To get the answer, you need to look at the process through the eyes of the very people you want to reach. How do they find out about businesses? What channels do they use to find information?

Answering these questions comes with a somewhat annoying disclaimer: every customer is different and goes through the process differently. Customize your marketing to the channels that your target audience uses to find information.

Search engine listings

When people have a problem, they turn to the modern phone book: the internet. Indeed, statistics show that more than 90% of online experiences start with a search. If you want your website found online, and you want customers to use your website, you need to invest in two vital marketing tools.

Optimization is the process of optimizing your website for the search engines your audience uses to find you (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). We’ve given you a few tips to get you started as you write the content for your website; the next step is to use optimization technology so your website shows up in search engine results pages of local users. To stay at the top of the listings, write and produce regular high-quality content (information on what makes content high-quality here) so your website is recognized as a source of fresh, user-friendly content.

Once your website is at the top of the listings, it’s time to keep on them on your website with mobile marketing. Mobile marketing is more than just a new age fad; it’s a necessity when research shows that more than three-quarters of Americans have a smartphone. Your website needs (note, NEEDS) to be mobile-friendly for search engines, who use mobile websites as a factor in the rating process, and users who click on your website. They aren’t going to stay on the website if they can’t browse it on their smartphone easily.

Email

Using email to contact customers is a marketing tool with one of the highest rates of return. There is a caveat; you’re not going to get those returns unless your email recipients want to hear from you. Don’t buy e-mail addresses. Build a solid e-mail list by asking for e-mail addresses at the counter, in your content marketing, on social media, through contests, or by offering a discount (other ideas to build your e-mail list here).

When you produce an e-mail, use solid content (to save time, recycle content you’ve produced for your website) and strong call-to-actions to make your recipients want to visit your website. Include strong headlines, images, and videos to capture their attention and keep it.

Social Media

Social media can be useful in two ways: to connect with customers on social media and as an unbiased third-party review of your company. First, social media can be a powerful way to regularly post relevant content that makes customers follow your company—even when they are not contacting you for a sale. Choose your social media platform carefully; it’s more important to create a stellar social media presence on one channel than to be mediocre on many different social media channels. To drive traffic from social media to your website, include posts with your website link in your marketing plan. If you create fresh, high-quality content marketing pieces, add that to the plan.

A solid social media presence can be useful for driving traffic in another way. Include your website in your social media profile and pin a post to the top of the profile with your website link. Users often use your social media page as a way to research your company, and see what past customers think of your business.

Review sites

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). Powerful statistics like this show how important it is to have a solid profile on a review site. Include as much information about your business as is feasible, including your website. Monitor the sites for negative reviews, and use the reviews to showcase your excellent customer service. If you are concerned about the amount of time it takes to monitor the sites, contact a marketing firm that has the tools that can help you efficiently monitor your company’s profiles on the review sites for any negative reviews. Your website and business are going to benefit in the long-term.

7 Things Your Marketing Firm Wish You Knew

businessman on phone with marketing firm exec who is frustratedOnline marketing is important and evolving, and can seem like the dark (and unknown) frontier.

Or you don’t have time.

Or you hate marketing.

Whatever your reason for outsourcing your marketing, you didn’t invest your funds without expecting some results. And we’re sure your marketing firm can deliver (though we’re partial to a certain online marketing firm if you want local results) IF you hold up your end of the bargain. Here’s what your marketing firm wished you knew (and did) so you’re not that “one” client that expects the moon but isn’t getting results.

We need to be in the loop

You can’t hand over the keys to your marketing and expect results without contributing. Pictures from events, new products in your store, employees delivering excellent service…all these images are vital to an effective marketing campaign. Don’t expect everything for nothing; keep your marketing firm in the loop. Notify them of upcoming events. Return their calls or send e-mails and texts with information and images, then let them do the “marketing magic.”

Viral is not always a good thing

Every business owner seems to be chasing the magic rainbow: the viral video or image that immediately puts them in front of everyone in the world. The truth is that while there is some value in viral, instant fame comes with a price. A million likes on Facebook can actually lead to less engagement or a million views from random people who are not from your targeted audience (those likely to buy) are not going to help you achieve your goal of increasing sales. Think of marketing as a marathon not a sprint. Slow and steady progress with an engaged following wins the sales race.

A crummy website delivers crummy results

A website is more than a marketing nuisance; it’s the way your customers judge your business. A professionally-designed, easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly, optimized website filled with well-written content earns their trust and sales. It also gains the attention of search engines who seek to deliver the best results to online users (read more about the optimization process here). Don’t skimp when building your new website (or expect the moon from a crummy website!); it is, after all, the foundation for a solid marketing plan.

Your customers are tired of being sold to

You want to increase sales. Your marketing firm gets that. But solid marketing efforts are relevant; your customers don’t want to be screamed at 24/7. Hard-selling posts can be included in your plan, but not every post and written piece needs to be a hard sell. Instead, use the 80/20 rule; 80% are relevant marketing pieces and 20% are targeted selling. (Avoid any marketing firms that tell you otherwise!) Your goal is to give them all the information they need to make a buying decision (content and email marketing are ideal for this), then provide fantastic customer service when they are ready to contact you for the sale.

Strategic tactics (and a plan!) are important

Many a business owner thinks that online marketing is like a point-and-shoot camera. Just post to social media, write up a few sentences, copy and paste a few lines from a brochure, right? This is where a plan and knowledge is really, really important. Don’t undervalue the strategy that a marketing firm can bring to your business; they can make sure that your content is targeted, website optimized, social media posts are scheduled for peak times for your targeted audience, and your email marketing is personalized—all to meet your goals. We know because we do this every day.

You’re overthinking it

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but we have talked to quite a few business owners who think that everything they do is not good enough for marketing. Not every image has to be professional and not every post has to be perfect. Today, relevancy—especially on social media—trumps perfect.

You don’t have time

If we had a penny for every client that said, “I’ll send that to you as soon as I have time” or every business owner that thought they had time to fill in the marketing blanks and never did, we’d be drowning in pennies. There’s no shame or blame in handing over your marketing efforts to the professionals, especially when you don’t have time. Be honest with yourself. An experienced marketing firm can cover all your marketing basis when you don’t have time; all you have to do is ask and give input on a regular basis.

How to Choose the Best Online Marketing Images

woman taking photo for marketing pieceIn this case, statistics don’t lie. Every kind of marketing tactic—websites, blog articles, e-commerce, social media, email marketing—performs better with images, as the statistics show:

There is a caveat (we know, everyone hates those). Not just any image is going to set your image apart from the crowd. Your image has to be the right image to get results. Here’s how to find, or produce, the perfect image for your marketing.

Photo rights

This may seem like a minor detail, but the perfect image is more than just aesthetically pleasing; it’s legal to use, because whether you have the right to use an image is a BIG deal. Nothing makes our blood boil more when someone tells our clients, “You can use any image you find online.”  If someone tells you this, know that they are very, very WRONG.

The truth is that using any image you find online can land you in legal hot water, or at the very least owing money to the party who owns the image rights. Just assume that every image you find is off limits, unless you are using a free image service that explicitly spells out your right to use the images.

Relevant to your content

As great as it is to use any quality photo, choose a photo that’s connected to the topic you’re writing about for maximum impact. While the photo doesn’t always have to be exactly on topic, the perfect image is relevant to what you’re writing about. It draws your reader in and gives them a clue as to what’s coming as they read (remember that people process images faster than text). In addition to relevant, the image should capture your reader’s attention and make them want to dive into your content.

Quality

A high quality image is not necessarily a high resolution photo—and does not always need to be taken by a professional photographer. Technology has evolved over the years, so now even smartphones and tablets can be used to take photos for some platforms.

The key is to know the right resolution and size for your project; a blurry or stretched photo is an embarrassment to your brand. To avoid embarrassing, subpar images, know the optimal image sizes for all your platforms (i.e. blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and use the information as you produce and use images. Think of a quality image as a chance to make a favorable first impression and make your business look like the professionals you are.

People pictures are preferred

Research has shown time and time again (and surprisingly!) that images with a face or faces are preferred by online users. When searching or taking photos, remember that images with people can improve your website traffic and engagement metrics.

The key is to know your audience—and your limitations (it’s okay to consider outsourcing for quality images and expertise). Who is reading your blog posts? What do they want to see? Do the same for your social media—and any other promotional tools, such as your emails—when you craft your content and choose your images.

(Easy) Ways to Improve your Website’s Local SEO Like a Pro

Victorious corporate man celebrating with his arms lifted in the air because he improved website SEOSearch engine optimization was an entirely different concept when we set up shop 20 years ago. Today, SEO is more of an umbrella term covering all the different tactics that influence the hundreds of signals search engines use to compile search engine result pages. Though SEO has evolved, the value of excellent SEO has not; good SEO is still an important part of reaching (and converting!) local users into loyal customers. Here’s how you can (easily) gain valuable SEO points for your website—and towards your bottom line.

Improve your ranking

Optimizing your website may seem like an abstract concept, but the formula is very real. Use keywords and strong headlines in your website content, use a solid website structure during the designing process, and make sure your website loads quickly to gain favor with search engines and your customers.

Make it easier: Do your research. Contact a SEO provider with a proven track record, affordable local SEO services that have proven results, and the expertise to make it work for your business.

Start blogging (well!)

A website with updated, quality content helpful for online users is a precious commodity to your target audience—and therefore valuable to search engines. Note the adjective: quality. Poorly written advertisements just won’t cut it. Instead, invest your time in writing blog posts on topics relevant to your target audience with information they want to know. As you write, include relevant topics and keywords so the search engines find and put your post at the top of the list.

Make it easier: Supplement your content marketing with outsourced blog posts. Make sure each post is in line with your online marketing plan so the voice and topics are consistent.

Use social media

The relationship between social media and SEO is a complicated one, as outlined in this article by Social Media Today.  While having a solid social media presence doesn’t overtly or directly improve your website’s ranking, it does give you an outlet to push your content out.  The resulting clicks and links that stem from writing excellent content generate signals that the search engines need to move up in the rankings.

Make it easier: Make an online marketing plan that you can stick to and flexible enough that you can improvise with your social media posts (for current trends, interesting content, etc.)

Take an interest in reviews

If you’re like almost every other customer, online reviews matter: 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). Fact is, all the online reviews about your company—both positive and negative—matter, and can make a major impact on your bottom line. To make sure there is more positive than negative, establish a solid presence on all major review sites and monitor the reviews that are posted. Use negative reviews as an opportunity to showcase your company’s excellent customer service skills (tips on how to do so here).

Make it easier: Use a reputation management tool that can monitor and alert you to new reviews. To make the process even easier, contact a marketing company that has a quality reputation management tool ready (and that they can assist you with).

What should I post to social media? What do people want to see?

light bulb of social media ideas above girlIt’s the million dollar question “what on earth should I post to social media today?”—especially on days when you feel like you have less than zero ideas for social media posts for your business.  What’s more, the stakes are higher.  With thousands of other brands to compete with, as well as the million other posts that fill up your followers, it’s hard to find the social media ideas that give your brand the edge—and sometimes it’s hard to find anything to post about.

We’ve compiled a list of social media ideas that can spark your inspiration—and the start of a slew of quality social media posts (all carefully planned out-here’s how to create a solid marketing plan).  If you’re tired of continually searching for ideas—and trying to keep up with the freight train that is digital marketing—remember, there is always the choice that gives you a break: outsource your efforts (or even part of your marketing) to the pros.

  1. Photos your followers can caption
  2. Pictures of your employees at work
  3. Share photos from events your business sponsors or is involved in
  4. How-to videos
  5. Pictures that help celebrate a national day (i.e. national donut day, national pet day, etc.)
  6. A picture that leaves users guessing—then ask them for their guesses (i.e. number of candies in the candy jar, number of items on a pallet, etc.)
  7. Historical pictures of your business or early employees
  8. Pictures of your products
  9. Ask people for a prediction
  10. “Inside scoop” video (for new products, inside new location, etc.)
  11. Sneak peak photos (i.e. pictures of part of an address sign from a new location, photos of part of a new product)
  12. Share articles that you find helpful
  13. Memes
  14. Testimonials from customers
  15. Funny things from the workday
  16. News articles about your company
  17. Industry news
  18. Fill in the blank
  19. Ask for feedback on new products or services
  20. Blog post (from your blog)
  21. Reminder about valuable page on your website
  22. Link to a photo gallery
  23. Photos from the past year (a look back)
  24. Reminder about an upcoming date
  25. Unique fact about your business or product
  26. Post with day-theme (i.e. Motivation Monday, Throwback Thursday, etc.)