3 Social Media Ideas that Set Your Business Apart

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

one lit light bulb that is like business that stands out on social mediaWe humans are creatures of habit. We find something that works and we stick to it, like that morning coffee routine or that muffin you pick up at the corner store every morning.  For the most parts routines are great, but they do get to be a problem when business owners and managers stick to the same thing over and over on social media. It gets stagnant. The same posts (and kind of posts) get boring in the ever-evolving—and crowded—world of social media.

So how can your business stand out among the crowd?  You don’t have to get rid of what works for your business (please don’t!), but you can start to mix some “new age” posts into your social media plan.

Over-the-top images

Three sixty photos, striking images, relevant memes, infographics—all these visuals set your business apart on social media.  They catch people’s eye and can create a connection with their relevancy.  If you want to make your business stand out on social media, up the ante of your social media images.

One note of caution: make sure your images are relevant to your business, and not just random images.  Use the same tone with the images so you create a consistent business voice that drives your customers to a sale—and aren’t just a bunch of random images.  If you don’t know how to tie all the pieces together into a clear, relevant social media campaign, trust your efforts to someone who can. 

Videos

There is some great news in the world of social media videos: you don’t have to be a professional to shoot them anymore with professional editing equipment.  While those videos still have a place in your marketing plan, short videos from your tablet or phone can make your post stand out correctly (if part of a plan and played out correctly).  Your videos don’t have to be very long, but they need to be relevant and interesting.  Not all your posts should be video, but an occasional video can make you stand out in the feed.

Go live

If you want to take videos a step further, it’s time to go live on social media.  Don’t overdo it; many a business or user has lost a good chunk of social media followers because they are sick of getting constant notifications about your live video.

Instead, be strategic.  Go live before an event or when something BIG happens.  Don’t sell in your videos: entertain or deliver value without banging your followers over the head with annoying advertisements.  Use your live video to broadcast advice from and expert about tiling their bathroom or how to fix their bicycle.  Or give your followers the “inside scoop” and broadcast one of your employees (with their permission) participating in a community event—a post that’s sure to make you stand out.

5 Areas to Invest Your Marketing Dollars in 2017

Businessman with binoculars looking to future of marketingA progressive small business owner or manager always looks ahead, whether it’s to the next service your customers want, the methods of delivery, or the next way to be part of the community.  The same goes for marketing.  If you want to stay ahead in marketing your business, the end of the year (both fiscal and calendar) is a great time to look for the “next big thing” to invest your marketing budget.

To be clear, we’re not talking about fads.  Fad marketing comes and goes, making your investment a short-term investment.  No, we’re talking about long-term strategies that keep delivering dividends well into the future and you can integrate with your tried-and-true strategies (direct mail, advertising, etc.)

Optimized Website

If a new website is on your list of business marketing tasks for the New Year, add optimization to your list of considerations for the new site (in additional to functional and aesthetics).  An optimized site is built for the search engines, both in terms of structure and content.  An optimized website is built for an optimal user experience (both on desktop and mobile) with speed, relevance, images, and content playing a key role.

You can’t get an optimized website built by just anyone, so be selective about the individual or company you hire to build your website.  Some companies can give you a website that is beautiful, but difficult for search engines to index. One of our clients had first-hand experience with this phenomenon.  When it came time for them to build a new website, a friend promised to build them a beautiful and cheap site.  They took this friend up on their offer, and the result was disastrous. The website was beautiful, but the content and structure was so poor that they dropped in search engine results like a stone.  Take their story to heart; invest your dollars into an optimized website that search engines and your target audience notices.

SEO

Getting indexed by search engines is only half the battle.  If you want to get to the top of search engine results, it’s time to add search engine optimization to your list of marketing tools.  Specifically, we’ve seen businesses get excellent marketing results from local SEO which targets customers within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius from their location (or locations).  Local SEO also works within a short amount of time.

One of our clients in southeastern Wisconsin saw their website traffic double in just four months because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Remember that website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. Our client receives significantly more form submissions every week from potential customers thanks to SEO, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a marketing win on two different fronts: for your audience and search engines.  Content marketing is the process of creating content to your website.  We’ve seen significant results for businesses that use a blog for this purpose.  With a strategic plan and regular posts, content marketing creates more pages to be indexed by search engines.  More pages equals better search engine results, and higher rankings on search engine results pages.

More importantly, content marketing delivers value to your customers and potential customers—if you promote it (i.e. on social media, in emails, more ideas here).  Relevant and regular content answers your customers’ questions and assists them with their problems, building trust and driving them toward a sale.

If you’re considering content marketing, start with a calendar and a plan.  Regularly posted content is important to achieve results, so make sure your calendar is ‘doable’ or enlist the help of a content marketing firm that can execute—or hire a company to take on the planning and execution with your input (here’s how to weed out a quality candidate).

Social Media Marketing

Social media is all the rage, but it’s a marketing tool that’s not going away any time soon.  With the number of social media users steadily increasing, social media is a unique opportunity to connect with your customers and potential customers—and to drive sales.  Like content marketing, social media is an opportunity for your business to build trust.

You can do that by choosing a social media site (or sites) that fits the demographic of the audience you want to reach, and adding social media posts to your list marketing calendar.  Remember, that social media is not a billboard; it’s a way to connect.  To that end, post content that builds trust and sells—with a majority of it aimed at entertaining (when appropriate) and building trust. (More ‘must haves’ of a solid social media presence here.)

Social media takes time, so make sure you don’t get in over your head on multiple social media sites that you don’t have time for (automated sites like Hootsuite and Buffer can help).  Tailor your posts to each individual social media site for best results; social media users can see when you don’t know what you’re doing.  If you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, trust your social media marketing to experts that do.

Email Marketing

Email marketing sounds so simple; get a list of emails and send out an email asking your customers to buy your products.  In reality, email marketing is a marathon of regular, relevant emails —and a marathon that yields long-term results.  Include your emails strategically in your marketing plan, and make sure you send your emails to recipients who want to receive it.

Email marketing drives your customers back to your website (which should be built for an awesome experience), to your social media pages, or to your content to build trust.  Emails can be automated and sent out by automated programs, or you can trust your emails to marketing firms that have the experience and expertise to draft attention-grabbing emails.  We’ve seen statistics that say the return on investment can be as high as 400% with email marketing, making email marketing one of the premiere areas to invest your budget dollars.

Step by Step: How to Get Your Business Up & Selling on Social Media

popular social media icons on tablet screen ready for business ready to useYou just sign up your business up for social media and….

And WHAT?

The fact that you’re reading this post means you’re looking for the answer to that question.  The answer isn’t always a million followers and a zillion sales for your business—unless you take a more strategic jump into the world of social media.

Make a plan with a goal.

Too many businesses wander into social media, and keep wandering because they have no goal.  Social media should not feel like you’re trying to find your way through a dark room with a blindfold on.  Crafting a plan with a goal eliminates that, and gives you guidance as you choose the right social media posts and create content for social media.

Use the SMART acronym to choose your goal.  The S in SMART is for specific; be as specific as possible about what you hope to achieve.  M is measurable; your goal should be something you are able to measure so your have a clear idea of how far/close you’ve come to reaching it.  The latter sentiment takes us to the next letter in our acronym, attainable.  As much as you want to reach 1 million followers, remember that social media is a marathon effort not a sprint.  Set a goal you can reach.  R is for relevant; your goal should be in line with your business goals.  T is for timely.  When do you want to reach your goal?

Write your goals down, and create a calendar with tactics that help you reach your goal.  Be flexible as you follow your calendar; the best brands on social media (wisely) choose content that is relevant to their audience’s “right now.”

Do your research.

Who do you want to reach?  Who is your audience?  Instead of jumping on board every social media channel you don’t have time for, be more strategic.  Think about who your audience is, and choose the social media channel with the demographic that helps you reach that audience.

As you do your research, don’t buy into the one-size-fits-all notion that you can simply link two social media channels to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.  Each social media channel is different, and you’re going to achieve your goals if you cater your posts to that specific channel.  If you feel like you don’t know how to make that happen, contact the experts who can.  There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your efforts to a company who has the expertise about the specifics of each channel and can help you reach your social media goals.

Follow through.

This sounds simple enough, but “following through” on social media is the one challenge that we see businesses repeatedly have problems with.  (That’s usually why they contact us.)  Most businesses start with good intentions, filling their social media channels with posts…until they don’t.  Suddenly their social media channels go silent, and they’re not achieving the goals they set out to achieve.

To help (but not replace) with regular social media posts, use automation to your advantage.  Use services like Hootsuite or Buffer to automate your posts so you can post regularly and get the results you signed up to achieve (or contact someone who can).

If you want to achieve results, don’t just sell on social media (more tips for solid social media presence here). While you set out to sell your products on social media, you have to post relevant and regular content that your audience cares about—and leads you to your ultimate social media goal.

20 Ways to Spice Up Your Holiday Marketing Campaign

muffins, tea, and holiday drink filled with holiday cheer from marketing campaignIt’s never too late, or too early, to spice up your holiday marketing campaign. Fact is, the holidays are a great time to relate to your audience in your content marketing, on social media, and in emails to your customers. 

That doesn’t mean you should abandon your planned marketing campaign and just post random holiday “stuff.”  It does mean that you should add some holiday cheer into your plan that your target audience wants to see (if you don’t have time, give yourself the gift of a marketing firm that can keep your social media posts regular).  Here are a few ideas that’ll spice up your holiday marketing campaign—and your followers’ interest.

  1. Pictures of how your office or store is “decking the halls”
  2. Social media post about business involvement in community
  3. Video of holiday cheer (i.e. slideshow of photos of décor, company service in community, etc.)
  4. Ask on social media for photos of holiday cheer from followers (i.e. their pictures of elf on the shelf, favorite cookie design, favorite gift, etc.)
  5. Offer social media only discounts and incentives to buy (make sure you don’t only post sales info)
  6. Email with ways to help them with holiday gifts (i.e. free shipping, ideas, etc.)
  7. Content that helps with holiday to-do list
  8. Story about retro holiday favorite that ties into business or industry (content or social media)
  9. Holiday fun memes (relatable to your industry)
  10. Content with last-minute tips about getting ready for the holidays
  11. Testimonials from clients about how product or service made holidays better
  12. Content with relatable holiday stories
  13. Holiday countdown graphics
  14. Social media contest asking for pictures with special holiday prize for winner
  15. Run a poll (i.e. does our tree look best with this tree topper, what holiday coffee flavor is best, etc.)
  16. Run trivia question about holidays on social media
  17. Create a hashtag (if you are on a social media channel that uses them) that relates to the holiday (i.e. #soooonotreadyforholidays, #holidayfailx2, etc.-make sure you do your research before using)
  18. Content about New Year’s resolutions
  19. Memes about the New Year
  20. Content with New Year’s predictions related to your industry

Small Business Owners: 4 Marketing Terms You Should Know (& Use!)

business growth chart with people celebrating business growth from online marketingWhen you’re looking to grow your business, there are a lot places you can turn to: fellow business owners, consultants, marketing firms.  All of them can feel like you’re swimming upstream without a paddle and stranded in a sea of marketing jargon.  And the whole time you’re listening all you want to do is run and grow your business.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of marketing terms every small business owner should know and use to grow their business.  Or, more accurately, if you only want to run your business and not worry about marketing, what jargon to look for when you contact marketing firms about these online marketing tactics (otherwise known as jargon).

Website Optimization/SEO

It used to be that all you needed was a beautiful website to grow your business online.  Today a beautifully-designed website is not enough to get your business customers off the web.  Your website just sits without promotion—unless you optimize your website for search engines.

An optimized website starts with a well-built website, structured for search engines.  Your optimized website should have an easy-to-navigate menu system and fast loading speed, both for optimal user experience and search engine credit.  The next step is adding optimized content to your website, written for search engines and customers.  Make sure your contact information is clearly included on your website for customers and search engines to use.  Use compelling images on your website optimized for search engines and to get customers’ attention. Make your website mobile-friendly for the benefit of smart phone and tablet users alike (and a huge turn-off to customers and search engines if your website isn’t mobile-friendly). How can you tell if your current website is optimized well? Ask the pros.

To expand the reach of your optimized website, consider search engine optimization which is everything mentioned above with a technological boost.  SEO technology is offered by specialized companies that keep up with this evolving technology (more information here).  There are several types of SEO technology, but we’ve seen great success for companies that use local SEO to target a local audience.

Local SEO technology targets users that are searching online in your target area. Local SEO gets business websites at the top of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius.  Think of it as a prominently displayed modern phonebook ad—without looking like an ad.  SEO gets your website in the listings below the ads, which is important when you look at the statistics. Today, 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books (comScore) and 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT , Apr 2011). 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search engine results.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the equivalent of an online newsletter article posted online regularly, though it doesn’t always have to be an article.  Content marketing is the strategic producing of videos, images, and articles that give your customers/readers something.  That ‘something’ can be an answer to a problem, entertainment (when appropriate), or information.

All of this content is added to your website on a regular basis (several times a week, once a week, once every two weeks, etc.)  So how does all this good content (find out how to tell if your content is good here) help grow your company? If you plan your content and marketing of that content well, your blog posts can be a valuable asset to your customers and potential customers.  Your content can help them with their problems, build their trust, and entertain them (when appropriate).

Content marketing also has another benefit: it gives your website more credibility in the eyes of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  Adding content to your website adds more valuable pages (if you post excellent content) that search engines want to deliver to their users.  This in turn can help boost where your website is listed in search engine results when customers and potential customers search for your business.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is more than just a place to keep up with your friends.  It’s also a valuable place to market your business, so you don’t alienate your personal friends with sales pitches.  More than that, it’s an excellent platform to market your brand.

More than that, social media is an ideal place to connect with your customers even when they don’t need you.  Pictures of your staff (when appropriate) and day-to-day operations, entertaining memes, content that answers their questions—all these types of content give your business a face and a personal connection with potential customers (here’s how to build that social media following).  One note: marketing your business on social media is only effective if you post regularly so your connection is consistent (other signs of a solid social media presence are listed here).

Email Marketing

Sending emails to your customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your business—if you do it right.  Build a solid email list (here’s how to and how not to build an email list).  Write emails with strong headlines and content.  Strong headlines are not always sales pitches, they are creative attention-grabbers.

The content of a successful email is different for every company, but it doesn’t have to include a lot of text.  Give your customers value, like a discount or information that your readers want.  Make it worth their while to open your email—and to click on the links to your optimized website, social media marketing, and content marketing pages.

Why Facebook Isn’t Always Right for Your Company

happy businessman jumping into social media for companyWhen business owners see—or start to hear about—the benefits of social media for business, their first inclination is to jump on board.  It makes sense, especially with all the goals that can be achieved with a solid social media presence.

There is one down side to just jumping in to social media: the step of choosing what social media site is right for the business is completely overlooked.  Instead, most people tend to sign up for the biggest site so they can cast a big net, or the social media site they have a personal profile on.

That’s when you need to just slow down.

Don’t get us wrong: we’re not saying that Facebook is the wrong site for every business (we’re not!).  We’ve achieved great things for many businesses on Facebook.  What we are saying is that when you’re considering signing your business up for social media, your first step should be deciding what site or sites is right for you—and how many sites you can manage well.

Choosing the right social media site(s)

social media sites behind smart phoneMatching your business to the right social media site (or sites) is a match made in heaven, because it allows you to reach the people who like—and want to buy—your products.  They’re your target audience—and should be your social media focus.

That’s the problem with jumping on the biggest site, or the site you have a personal profile on.  If your target audience isn’t on that social media site (more info on social media sites and key demographics in this infographic), you’re not going to engage with the people you want—and want you.

Are you a hair salon or bridal shop? Consider Pinterest, where images and a mostly-female demographic fit with your product. Sports team? Consider Twitter where fans are waiting for your 140-character updates.

Worse for your business is when you jump on that site, or all the major social media sites, and then discover you don’t have time.  An abandoned Facebook page, Twitter profile, or any other business page isn’t going to get you results—and it looks bad to anyone who happens upon your abandoned site.

What makes a solid social media presence

Plan

A good social media plan for your business revolves around two key factors: target audience and business calendar. Knowing your target audience facilitates 1) choosing social media sites; 2) selecting the right tone for your audience; 3) determining what content you create and post to social media that fits your audience.

A good social media marketing plan follows the 80/20 or 70/30 rule. Twenty percent of your posts should be promotional and 80% entertaining (if appropriate), relevant and valuable to your audience.

Scheduling tool

To execute a stellar and efficient social media plan, sign up for a good scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite or Buffer. Don’t schedule your social media posts too far in advance so you can stay on top of trending topics.  When necessary, be flexible when needed.

Hash tags

On certain social media sites, such as Twitter and Instagram, hash tags are not optional —at least not for anyone (or business) who wants to gain traction on social media. Posts with relevant hash tags can expose your post to potential followers interested in your industry or topic. Hash tags are also invaluable when starting a conversation, running a photo contest, promoting an event, or executing a coordinated social media campaign. Create original hash tags without any “online baggage” (i.e. used before with negative connotations, taken from a competitor) and promote them through an integrated marketing campaign that includes online and offline marketing efforts.

Quality images

Social media posts with images have been proven time and again to receive significantly more engagement than posts without. Use this social media image cheat sheet to create images optimal for your social media network, and be very selective about the images you create or choose. Don’t just pull random images off the internet; this can lead to serious legal repercussions (more about image copyright info by Hootsuite here).

If you decide Pinterest or Instagram is right for your business, don’t just worry about size; worry about the quality of your images. These social media networks are visual networks, and you won’t get results unless you have high-quality images and attention-grabbing text.

Regular posts/Time

Your social media plan isn’t going to gain momentum if you’re present for a period and gone for awhile.  Inconsistent social media posts are going to get you nowhere if you take the feast and famine approach.  Put simply, great social media execution requires regular time—and not just when you have the time.

The definition of “regular” depends on the social media site you are on. Whatever site—and the frequency of your posts—you find works for your company, choose quality posts over quantity. Twenty ‘junk’ tweets or posts won’t get you results (except for bogus followers) if your tweets aren’t valuable and relevant. If you don’t have time to produce and find quality posts, outsource your efforts for optimal social media results on the right site for your business.

5 Things You Should Look for in a Content Marketing Firm

business interviewing potential content marketing firmEver since the benefits of content marketing became clear (i.e. increased web traffic, value for your customers, etc.), the internet is crawling with content marketing firms full of promises.  “Choose us!  We get you results!” One of the scariest promises we saw recently was “Fully automated blog gets you to the top!”

While all those promises sound wonderful and we know it can be hard to sift through the smoothest sales talks, there are a five clear signs that can help you weed out the disreputable and find the best content marketing firms (for your business and your budget) that have these commonalities.

Data

A reputable content marketing firm should be able to provide data to back their claims up, both in the benefits of content marketing and what they can do.  If your content marketing firm delivers only promises and not numbers, walk away.  Contact a reputable content marketing firm that can tell you what a content marketing plan can do for your business, and what they have done for other businesses in the past, with real, concrete data.

Experience

Not only can a good content marketing company back up their claims with data, they have the experience to know that it doesn’t happen in a box.  Look for a company that doesn’t just offer content marketing, because the best online marketing plan includes online and offline marketing services that coordinate together for a solid marketing strategy.  Content marketing pieces are no good unless you use have a strategy for promoting the content; a good content marketing firm knows that (or can give you recommendations on how to use your content).

Clients

With all the internet claims and content marketing firms online, testimonials or case studies from a firm’s clients with long-standing relationships can be your godsend—a clear sign your content marketing firm is more than just a robot somewhere pumping out keyword-stuffed text.

Questions

There are many content marketing firms that use a one-size-fits-all approach to content marketing.  They target businesses in the same industry, and produce a slew of articles that fit the industry.  While that sounds wonderful, those generic topics don’t address the specific services your business offers or give your business a face.  If your content marketing firm doesn’t ask you specific questions about your business, your clients, and target audience, it’s time to turn the tables and start asking them questions.

No shadiness

Just as copying off your classmate’s paper landed you in hot water back in school, internet plagiarism comes with some very stiff internet penalties.  If you even suspect a potential content marketing firm of any shady marketing practices, run far, far away—to a reputable content marketing firm that can deliver quality content that gets you results (that they can prove).

4 Shady (Bad) Marketing Tactics You Should Run From (FAST)

businessperson being scared by bad marketing tactics on paperWhen you’re a business owner, it can feel like you have a target on your back.  Everyone wants and knows how to grow your business, and they’re all offering to make it happen—for a cost.  While some of the marketing promises might sound, well, promising, a bit of caution is wise when sifting through the offers for a variety of reasons. Shady marketing firms can take your money and not deliver, or, worse, use shady marketing tactics that lead to penalties and a marketing mess that can take a LONG time to recover from.

Most of these firms aren’t walking around with signs that say, “I’m as shady as the day is long!” so it’s up to you look through the sales pitch and look for whiffs that they might not deliver.  Here are a few shady marketing practices that you should look for, and avoid (as the old adage goes) “like the plague.”

Buying email followers

This is one of those situations where if the promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Marketing firms promise to beef up your email list quickly because sending an email to more recipients would (in theory) increase your chance of sales conversions.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, if you throw more darts at a dart board, inevitably several are going to hit the target.  While the claim seems to make sense, an email list that delivers long-term (note, not short-term) results is built over time via in-person contacts, social media, online offers, and advertising (a full list of ideas for building an email list here).  If you want to reap those long-term results, contact companies that give you advice on a comprehensive marketing plan that builds a legitimate email list to recipients who want to receive your emails.

Paid links

Backlinks are important to the SEO of your site, but paid links can do just the opposite.  Google has made it very clear that if they find paid links, they penalize the sites responsible.  If your marketing firm mentions buying backlinks (links back to your blog) or using any dishonest means to ‘get’ backlinks to your blog or website, walk away from their deal.

Instead, look for firms that can deliver the ‘real’ deal: marketing firms that can give you testimonials from clients who have gotten long-term SEO results (local results if you have a local clientele to reach).  They don’t have to deliver their trade secrets, but a good SEO firm should be able to give you information about their service so you know you’re not using black hat SEO that could get you penalized.

Buying social media followers

We are still shocked at the amount of money this multi-million dollar industry generates, and we can certainly understand why people buy into it.  The rationalization is simple: having thousands and thousands of followers gives you a lot of street credibility.  Plus, it’s sure to make other people follow you, and accomplish all those goals you set for social media marketing.

The truth is more disappointing: while buying social media followers may make you look good, it doesn’t give you any more than numbers.  Fake social media followers aren’t an engaged audience that connects with you and drives sales.  Remember, no matter what those Twitter account with the strange font tell you, purchasing followers is not going to get you long-term results.

Plagarism

Very few content marketing firms would walk up to you and blatantly say (and certainly not any reputable marketing firms), “we’re going to steal content from another site and paste it into your blog.”  But you should be concerned if your content creator doesn’t seem to want any input at all for content topics, now or in the future.  To be clear, not every content marketing company is full of plagiarists, and it’s normal to re-purpose old content into a new, in-depth piece.  However, you should be wary of automatic “content generators” that may be “reusing content” from other sites.  It won’t help the SEO of your website, and you’ll be responsible for stolen content.

Your Top SEO Questions Answered by the Pros

question marks painted on a asphalt road surface signifying seo questionsWe’ve noticed a common theme when we talk to clients about search engine optimization (SEO).  The truth is that even though SEO has been around for awhile, and has evolved into an incontrovertible marketing tool, many business owners and managers have the same questions about SEO.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about SEO—and the answers we have for business owners who need to decide if SEO is right for their business.

What is SEO? What is website optimization?

If you look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”  When applying this to getting your business found online, search engine optimization is the processes and content involved in creating an ideal website for search engines and users.  In the past, SEO was focused solely on search engines. Over the years SEO has evolved into a user-focused marketing tool.

Today’s search engines want to deliver quality information for online users, so modern SEO has evolved into a process of optimizing for two target audiences: search engines and your users (know who they are).  Website optimization is an important part of any marketing plan, along with content marketing (which improves your website’s SEO value), social media, and email marketing.

Why should I consider SEO? Is it black hat marketing?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most misunderstood elements of a solid digital marketing plan. Between the myths and the shady SEO vendors of the past (and present), SEO has earned a bad reputation that it really doesn’t deserve.

That being said, some of the SEO tactics used today (and in the past) are considered black hat, which are tactics that are used to manipulate organic results.  Be wary of SEO firms that mention buying links, directing users to non-relevant links, and writing content full of a keyword that doesn’t make sense (completely different than optimized writing).  Using black hat tactics to market your website can result in brutal search engine penalties that can take years to resolve.

The proof that SEO works (without black hat tactics) is in the data.  One of our clients, a local print company, was positioned at the top of search engines just a week after utilizing our SEO technology. Their results were localized, with their company showing up in cities and towns search results within 30 miles of their location, including a major metropolitan area. They also invested in content marketing to keep their site content updated and give their customers value, yielding long-term results; their printing firm has remained at the top of the major search engines since launch. Better search engine results have meant more digital exposure for their business, higher website traffic, and stronger opportunity for online conversions.

Is SEO dead?

SEO has changed, but it is not dead. This is a misperception based on the fact that old search engine optimization tactics (keyword stuffing, spammy links, etc.) don’t work in the evolving world of online marketing. That doesn’t mean SEO is dead—far from it—it means that optimization has evolved into optimized writing and technology that delivers exactly what the search engines want: relevant, valuable content (both text and visual on your website, blog via content marketing, social media, etc.).

To get the results that modern SEO can deliver, business owners and managers can either learn the new and continually evolving art of optimizing a website, blog, and social media with well-researched keywords and topics specifically targeted at your customers or hire the professionals who can (and can keep up with it).  If you are a business with a local audience, you can take that a step farther by utilizing specific local SEO technology that targets customers in communities around each business location.

Is SEO going to get me in trouble with Google?

Black hat SEO (i.e. keyword stuffing, cloaking, etc.) can get your business penalized, but modern SEO tactics do not.  Writing optimized content your users want to read for your website and blog, adding pages to your website that deliver value to your customers, building a solid website with optimal structure—all these tactics gain you favor with Google.

What does SEO do for my website? Why should I care about SEO?

Believe it or not, a beautiful, mobile, and user-friendly website is not enough. “There,” you think, “I’ve invested in this website. Customers come and find me!” Unfortunately that’s not how it works—though there are ways to drive traffic to and optimize your website naturally. Customers have a ton of online options, and studies have shown that they make more than 60% of their purchasing decision online.  That’s where local SEO comes in.  Local SEO can get you at the top of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization is a smart marketing strategy because online is where people today are looking for products, services and information (and don’t get us started on the effect of mobile devices on search traffic). Statistics back this trend up:

More and more, American consumers are looking to the internet to find local solutions and information. If you’re not online, you’re not on their radar. With more than 90% of users turning to search engines for information, local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s (shameless self promotion here)—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using keywords your audience searches for.

How does SEO help a company with multiple locations?

Local SEO can get you at the top of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20 or 50 mile radius. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization is a smart marketing strategy because online is where people today are looking for products, services and information (and don’t even get us started on the effect of mobile devices).

Want proof that local SEO works? One of our clients, a flooring company with multiple locations, saw their website traffic double in just four months because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. The flooring company receives form submissions every week from potential customers, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package. If you want to tap into that same local search engine technology to get results for your company, read our blog post about SEO terminology or see it in action.

When should I worry about my website’s optimization? 

Ideally, you should optimize your website before a redesign (along with these other elements of your website) or when launching a new website.  However, it’s never too late to use SEO tactics to improve traffic to your website and online conversions.

What should I look for in a SEO company?

We’re not going to lie to you:  there are a lot of SEO providers who make promises they can’t back up.  A quality SEO provider has:

Years of experience in technology

A good SEO company has years of experience in technology and keeps up-to-date with information about search engine ranking signals, such as page loading speed, links, etc.  SEO is always evolving, and a quality company isn’t stuck in yesterday’s technology.

Doesn’t use black hat SEO

If you hear words during the sales pitch—or in subsequent conversations—like, “cloaking” or “keyword stuffing,”—or they talk in generic topics about buying links or using content from other sites—alarm bells should go off in your head.  Black hat SEO tactics can get your website penalized so stay away from any company that even suggests it.

Provides data to prove their work

Because search engines are always striving to personalize search results, you can’t just go to your computer and see the results of your SEO efforts.  Ask for data that backs up their assurances of a quality job, and shy away from companies that decline to show you proof.  Choose a company that can give you reports detailing your local SEO results.

Can make recommendations about your online presence

A good SEO company can make online marketing recommendations beyond optimizing your website, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Social Media Ideas Your Audience Actually Wants to See

A group of five students looking at an awesome social media postA recent study gave us insight into our social media audience’s psyche from the flip side of the coin, by telling us the top reason people unfollow brands.  Not surprisingly, the top reason was too many promotions (in clear language: too much selling!).  Don’t misunderstand the results: you can still sell on social media BUT you have to take a much more subtle approach.  Sell them with your excellent customer service skills.  Sell them with valuable information that solves their problems (content marketing!). Entertain them when appropriate.  Give them what they want.

Which leads us to the question: what do your social media users want to see?  What not only captures their interest, but keeps it?  What makes them follow your brand and come to you first when it’s time to buy?

Insider photos

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  On social media, a fantastic quality image is worth likes, retweets, and comments.  That image can be from a camera, phone, or online photo service.  What it shouldn’t be from is a random copyrighted photo from the internet.  Nothing can get you in legal hot water faster than using random photos from the internet (we know, we’ve seen it). Use this article from Hootsuite to understand the basics of internet images and copyrights, and proceed with caution.

What can get you more likes, retweets, and comments than any stock image off the internet are “insider photos.”  These are photos that give your audience insight into your business, services, and products.  They are photos of what you’ve done, the people delivering the services (with their written permission), and all the small things that happen along the way.  You know what we’re talking about, because you’ve probably seen other businesses post them: pictures of their work, photos congratulating an employee on their anniversary, photos of their product being used…there are a million possibilities (many in your daily operations).  If you need help identifying those opportunities, it’s time to contact the pros.

Videos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million clicks.  After all, that is what made YouTube the second biggest channel in social media today.  Use professional videos, amateur photos edited at the office, and a short video (really short-60 seconds max for Instagram) from your mobile devices to build anticipation for an event, give your audience insight into your daily operations, and show them how they can use your products to help them.  Your videos don’t have to be long; remember, you need to capture your user’s short attention spans and you only have a short time to do so (and a whole bunch of other media in their social media feed to compete against).

Memes

When used correctly, a good social media meme can be a valuable part of any social media plan.  One disclaimer: be careful when choosing your memes and the timing of your memes.  Don’t post anything that offend or cause backlash against your business.  If you have any concerns about the appropriateness or timing (such as after a tragedy), don’t post it.

Those are the don’ts of using memes in your social media plan, these are the do’s.  Post memes that fit with your marketing plan.  Remember, the study mentioned at the beginning of this article: don’t over promote.  Memes are meant to be entertaining, so entertain your audience; you should know who they are, so target the humor directly at them.

Value

Everyone’s got problems.  Give them answers.  If you own or manage a pet food business, help your pet owners with training tips for their puppies and grooming tips for their cats.  Use content marketing to optimize your website and for relevant articles for your social media followers (more ways to use this content here).

Along with your content, share other content as well.  The digital world is full of information that can help your social media audience.  Find those articles and share them (along with other video and visual content) with your followers.  If your followers ask a question, answer them promptly (within hours of their comment or message)—and keep giving them what they want on social media so you can get more questions, comments, and engagement.