How to Choose the Best Online Marketing Images

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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.)

How can I protect my business’ online reputation?

Smiling businesswoman standing with laptop and showing thumb up after reading positive review about companyYou don’t have to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation to know how valuable it is to protect your company’s brand online.  Poor reviews, fraudulent claims, and negative comments may seem small, but can have a huge impact on your brand—and your bottom line.  Bad reviews (literally) cost you sales.  Since the process of protecting your brand is so valuable, it’s never too early to get started protecting—and building—your business’ reputation.

Provide excellent customer service

Adequate customer service won’t do.  Every customer interaction—both in-person and online—should result in a positive review.  For consistent in-person customer service, train every member of your team that interacts with customers and vendors on proper phone and sales tactics.

For your online brand, assign customer service to a specific staff member or group of staff members to make sure every customer interaction is promptly addressed. Customers expect—actually demand—a reply to their questions within hours (or minutes) of their inquiry.  Take that customer service to the next level by offering a response that sounds like a human.  Canned responses won’t do; use that and these other online customer service tips to ensure that your customers are happy—and leaving positive reviews about the excellent service they received.

Reach your customers with everything they need

If you want your customers to choose your product or service, give them everything they need—and more than your competitors do.  For new customers, reach them early in the purchasing process before they are ready to buy.  Think like your customers do, and give them the tips and information (answers to their questions!) they’re looking for while they decide what to buy.

Search engine optimization (SEO), website content, content marketing, and social media are the four tactics that together can achieve that purpose. Together, these four online marketing tactics combine to reach potential customers and gain their trust.  SEO optimizes your website for the search engines so your website appears at the top of the listings when they look for products and services (local listings when you use local SEO).   Website content gives them the information your targeted audience needs.

Content marketing answers all their questions beyond what your website provides.  Through a series of content and images, content marketing answers your customers questions and gives them the information they need.  To search engines, content marketing is a signal that you are giving your customers what they want and need.  It also “tells” search engines that you are keeping your website updated with fresh new content. (If you don’t have time to deliver quality content, contact a marketing group that can.)

You can push your content marketing pieces out through social media channels, which is another way to gain your customers’ trust.  Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be information, tips, and entertainment that can build their trust.  Twenty percent should be direct selling about your products and services.

Establish a strong online brand

Your company goes to great lengths to create a favorable impression with your in-person customers and vendors; do the same online.  Craft a solid website that anchors all your online marketing efforts (use these tips to ensure your website is quality).  Respond to all website inquiries that come through promptly.

Use social media sites to make the conversation with your customers two-way.  Research social media sites and post regularly on the sites where your customers are (more information on choosing the right social media sites for your brand here).  In your social media posts, build trust and reach your customers with information about your products and services (social media post ideas here).  Respond to all inquiries promptly with excellent customer service.

Monitor online reviews

If you don’t use online reviews to choose a company product or service, you may be the only one.  Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land).  Monitor online reviews on social media sites and review sites to see what customers are saying about your business (after all your potential customers are).

If someone does post a negative review, take a deep breath.  Do not try to argue with the customer.  Do not use a canned, blah-blah-blah response that sounds like a bad customer service recording.  Instead, contact the customer with a human voice and ask to start a private conversation with them.  Ask them for information about their contact with your business.  Don’t be defensive; instead work together with the customer to come to a resolution.  There are automated solutions that can make the process more efficient; however, remember that the human element should always shine through as your protect your business’ reputation.

7 BIG Reasons Why People Abandon Your Website

Man pointing gun at laptop because of bad websiteEvery business strives to make a favorable first impression with potential customers.  The good ones look for feedback and positive reactions to see what works so they can keep making a good impression.  In some cases, though, it’s the other reactions you get from your audience that should shape your future actions—especially in online marketing.

Obviously, if people don’t like the content you post to social media, don’t post it again.  In the same way, if your audience isn’t sticking around on your website (high bounce rate), take it to heart for future marketing.  Here are 10 of the most common reasons that your audience could be repulsed by your website (and what to do about it).

Your website is not mobile-friendly

What: With statistics putting American ownership of smart phones between 50% and 66% of the population, it makes cents (pun intended) to have a mobile-friendly website.  If they can’t read the text or take any action on your website, they are going to walk (or click in this case) away.

What you can learn from it: The investment into a mobile-friendly is worth it, especially with the number of mobile devices growing every year.  If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it makes sense to hire a website company to create a more modern and user-friendly website as soon as possible.

Your website content isn’t readable

What: Big blocks of text.  Fluffy content.  Content that sounds like you swallowed an encyclopedia.  Irrelevant blocks of information that clearly weren’t meant for the audience.  The list of unreadable content blunders could go on and on.

What you can learn from it: When you write content for your site, put yourself in your reader’s shoes (and search engines-more info on writing for them here).  Write in short paragraphs that are easy to read—and with information your audience wants to know (or hire the professionals that can).

They are not impressed with the old design (not “old school” but “old”)

What: While vintage may be fashionable in other areas, old design just looks old.  If your website design looks like one of the first websites to hit the internet, people are going to look at it as outdated and behind the times—and leave.

What you can learn from it: When it comes to online, updated design is the name of the game.  You can make your website look like your other vintage marketing materials without making it look outdated.

They’re tired of waiting

What: Slow page speeds are one of the top reasons why visitors hit the back button.  In this age of instant gratification, they’re not going to wait for the content and graphics they want.  Statistics from KISS Metrics shows that the longer your users wait, the more are going to do the digital walk-away.

What you can learn from it: Test your website to make sure the page loads quickly (or hire a website company that does).

They are repulsed by annoying pop-ups

What: You may think that ‘repulsed’ is a strong word, but repulsed is the exact emotion many people feel about annoying pop-ups.  Pop-ups can be an incredibly effective way to collect e-mails or boost sales, but they can also have the opposite effect of making people leave.

What you can learn from it: Choose the pop-ups you add to your website, and the way they are displayed carefully.  Give your website visitors an easy way to opt out of the pop-ups, and monitor your bounce rate to see if your pop-up is driving more people away than retaining them.

Typos

What: A typo in your content may seem like a small thing, but amateur content can make a black mark in the favorable impression you’re trying to accomplish.  Amateur content makes you look like an amateur company.

What you can learn from it:  Check, check, and double check your content.  Make sure you work is checked by another party, or hire the professionals that do.

The images you use are “amateur” (to put it nicely)

What:  Your company is judged by the quality of your images on your website.  If you don’t have quality images, website visitors are going to think your service or product is as crummy as your website images.

What you can learn from it: If your business wants to look professional, they need to use professional images.  Ask a photographer to take pictures of your services or products (they can be used again on social media or marketing materials) and use stock photos as needed.  Your website is your chance to impress your audience; if they are not impressed, they are going to leave your website (quickly!).

10 Concrete Ways to Get More Website Visitors

crowd of shoppers who want to visit websitesMarketing gurus can talk in all the concepts all they want (guilty!), but this blog post is not about concepts.  This list is all about more concrete, hard-and-fast ways to get more visitors to your website—and logically, to turn those visitors into paying customers.

Make sure your website is worth the visit(s).

Let’s be clear: you are not going to get meaningful website traffic that increases sales unless you have a solid website.  A solid website is well-organized, has information written specifically for your audience (if you can’t, contact the pros that can), loads pages quickly, and has an easy-to-use contact site that visitors can use (more must haves for a solid website here).  Many a business has tried to promote a crappy website only to find their initial traffic numbers have gone up—but so has their bounce rate (the number of customers leaving their website quickly).

Add your website URLs as the call-to-action in your content marketing pieces.

Content marketing is a powerful piece of marketing; writing content about relevant topics that you can share builds trust with your audience and search engines.  That content also gives you a logical place to include your website URLs.  Think about it: if you write about a problem you can solve, or something you can help with, it makes cents (pun intended) to link the call-to-action (i.e. for more information, if you have any questions, etc.) to your website where they can contact you for help.

Optimize your website pages.

If you want to get to your customers, you’re going to need to charm a powerful tool that’ll get you there: search engines.  Write your website content with two audiences in mind (or hire pros who can): your customers and search engines.  Include well-written, optimized, relevant content to keep everyone happy (including yourself when you gain website traffic).

Include website page links in your next email.

Email marketing is a marketing tool with one of the highest return-on-investments—if you build your email list the right way.  Once you have a solid email list full of people who want to receive your communications, make sure you catch their attention with creative headlines and direct people logically to your website for information.  Note: that doesn’t mean you should fill your email full of random website links.  Instead, add them in logically to your email text (or use your content marketing pieces in your email) so your users understand what you want them to do.

Use optimization to get your website to the top.

When users have questions or need information, they go to the top search engines (Bing, Google, Yahoo) and ask.  Website optimization gets your website on page one (if done right and with the right technology) so users can find your website (and your content) easily.  If you are a local business, you can target your website optimization efforts even tighter; top local SEO firms can get your website at the top of user’s searches within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius of your location.

 Add a website page URL to your postcards.

Adding your website to your postcards, direct mail pieces, and brochures should be common practice.  If you have a page where your customers and potential customers can (and want to) interact with your business, add the website URL and an easy-to-scan graphic to get them to your page.

Share your website on social media.

In the middle of all the sharing business pictures and funny memes, it’s easy to forget to share pages from your website.  Make sure that your website is a place people want to go to, and add sharing pages from your website to your marketing plan.  For example, if you have a page full of coupons, videos, tips, and discounts, let your customers and potential customers know—and make it easy for them to visit the page from social media.

Make your website part of your next video.

Video is the future, so use it to your advantage.  You don’t have to make a whole video and jump around and scream your website URL.  Instead, make a video with a purpose (as part of a campaign in your marketing plan) and logically insert your website URL as part of the video.  For example, if you are making a video about an event, add a page to your website with information and a call-to-action (or put it on social media) and include the URL in your video.

Invest in social media ads.

Social media advertising can be a powerful way to promote your website, if you make it relevant.  Social media ads are not a billboard; you need to craft an ad that people (your targeted audience) want to click on to make it effective.

Include your website URL EVERYWHERE.

We admit this isn’t a hard-and-fast tactic, but it’s time to start thinking about your website as part of your business instead of an isolated marketing tactic (more ideas for integrated tactics here).  If you have a solid website, put it to work.  You’ll be glad you did—and so should your customers.

6 Red Flags that Scream You Need a New Website

angry woman screaming at smart phone“Ugh!”  “This blows!”  “Seriously, this website is so yesterday.”  Strong repulsions are not the reaction any business owner or manager wants when it comes to their business website.  You have literally one chance to make a favorable impression online, and a website with one of these red flags is not going to get the reaction you want.

Your website isn’t mobile-friendly

You’d have to be unconscious to not notice how common smart phones and tablets have become.  With statistics putting American ownership of smart phones between 50% and 66% of the population, it makes cents (pun intended) to have a mobile-friendly website.

If you don’t, your website is not going to impress your two key audiences: search engines and users.  Search engines have publicly announced that mobile-friendly websites are going to get more credit for being mobile-friendly; users that do land on your website are going to jump ship almost as soon as they find it.  In essence, you’re not going to be listed where customers can find you.  Even if they do find you, your customers are not going to review all the information you created for your website.

Your website takes forever to load

Slow websites increase bounce rates; online users that get tired of waiting for a website to load, leave.  If you want your website to drive up sales, make sure that the pages load quickly enough for the most impatient users.  Slow-loading pages also give you a black mark in the eyes of search engines; major search engines like Google have publicly said that slow page loading speed can send your website off the first page of search engine results.

Why should you care about search engine listings? More than 90% of users use search engines to find information, products, and services.  With the increased use of smart phones, users are now upping the ante and using their mobile devices to find local products and services in their area.  Local SEO technology gets your website at the top of users’ search engine results within 10, 20, or 50 mile radius (find out more about local SEO in this post).

Your website isn’t worth promoting

A beautiful website is an obsolete marketing tool if you don’t promote it.  If you’re so ashamed of your website that you don’t feel the need to promote it, it’s time to invest in a new website that represents your company.  Make sure your new website has all the must-haves: functionality, a solid contact us page, well-written content, social proof.  If you don’t have time, contact a company that can make it a reality.

Once your new website is online, it’s time to promote and use it.  An excellent website never stops working for you.  Use search engine technology to get your website at the top of local users’ search engine listings.  Include useful website pages on your social media sites.  Add relevant content to your blog targeted specifically at your audience to increase traffic and online conversions. 

Your website isn’t functional

A properly-organized website is a rare and valuable gem, giving your customers an intuitive navigation system (menu and links to related content) that makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for.  If you are getting a lot of complaints from customers that they can’t find information, or your website isn’t performing as hoped, it’s time to step outside your business and look at your company as a customer would look at it.  What topics do they want to know about?  Where would they look for it?

Once you have your answers, draft a chart (or hire the experts who can do so quickly with minimal input). Use others—people outside of your company—as a sounding board to get to a finalized menu.  Sometimes you can be so close to your company and topics that it’s hard to see your company from the outside.

You’ve re-branded

When your business comes up with a new logo or takes any other steps to rebrand, don’t overlook rebranding your website and online profiles.  To the contrary, creating a website with your new logo and marketing language should be one of your top priorities.  Do the same with any social media profiles or online review profiles you’ve created; your goal is to have a uniform online business presence.

Your website looks old and is outdated

Don’t brush off a website with outdated information. Potential customers won’t call you, or do their research on your site if they know it’s outdated.  What’s even worse is when they think they’ve found the answer to their problem only to get an email that says, “sorry, our website is wrong.”

There are only so many changes that should be made to a website before a full website rebuild is in order.  Contact a quality marketing company if you don’t have the time for the process, and give them information and files they need to get you the business you want from your website.

8 BIG Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Your Business Online

man laying head on desk confused by online marketingWe get it: online marketing is a dark, mysterious abyss that is new and unknown.  It’s not as satisfying as a sale that is closed in-person.  It’s not as concrete as those in-person interactions that come with a customer that walks in the door of your business.  We’ve heard it all before from our clients.

But online marketing gets customers to your door, both in-person and via the internet.  Online marketing builds trust with your customers before they pick up the phone or walk in—if you take these do’s and don’ts to heart when marketing your business online.

Do invest in a solid website.

A mobile-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and functional website is worth its weight in gold.  A solid website is the foundation of a strong marketing plan with pages full of information that your audience wants to read—and you want to direct them to (more information on the musts of a solid website can be found here).

Don’t create a website and neglect it.

The days of producing a solid website for the sake of having a website is over.  Nowadays, that website needs to work for you.  It needs to have content optimized for search engines so your website shows up at the top of results and on search engine maps.  It needs to have a solid contact page that you can direct your customers to when they have questions.  It needs to have links to your social media pages so potential customers can continue to connect with you.  It needs to have content that answers your customers’ questions and scores points with search engines (more info on regular content here).

Do get the attention of search engines.

Keep two key audiences in mind when you write content for your website: your customers and search engines.  More than 90% of all online searches start with a search engine so it makes cents (pun intended) to optimize your website content and invest in search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO technology gets your website to the top of users’ search engine results within 10, 20, or 50 mile radius (more information on local SEO in this post).

Don’t start marketing without an integrated plan.

The key is integrated.  Your marketing efforts need to be strategic, and an integrated plan that coordinates your online and offline marketing tactics is key (get started with these tips for drafting a marketing plan for your business).  Draft an integrated plan that is flexible enough to bend with the trends and inclusive enough that your brand message is clearly heard in your online (social media, content marketing pieces, etc.) and offline (post cards, ads, etc.) channels.

Do invest in mobile marketing.

Marketing for mobile devices is not just a fade.  It’s not going away.  To the contrary, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are a wave of the future that we all need to get used to and cater to.  If you have a website that isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to contact a website design company to get a new, mobile-friendly website (built with these website must-haves) online.

Don’t think you have to reach everyone.

Stop trying to reach everyone; instead target your communications for a better return on your investment.  Who are your customers? What information do they want? Where are they online? Where are they offline?  How can you reach them? The answers to your questions should guide your targeted marketing efforts.

Do outsource your online marketing efforts if you don’t have time.

Even with the best of intentions, many a business owner or manager has run out of time to carry out even the most well-thought out marketing plan.  The internet is full of blogs and social media sites started by businesses who abandoned them because of lack of time.  If you find you don’t have enough time, don’t hesitate to outsource your efforts to the local experts that can meet your needs and your budget. 

Don’t cheat and copy and paste the same text on all your social media sites.

Sorry, you’re not fooling anyone when you post the same text to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s not effective. People can tell you’re haven’t created information specific to them, and it’s not going to perform as well.  If you feel a little out of your league (knowledge and time-wise) on a social media channel, contact a marketing company that can use the same voice as you already use and get results when you feel you’re in over your head.

7 BIG Reasons Your Website Isn’t Getting Noticed

woman covering her eyes not looking at company websitesTwenty years ago when we were just starting out, just having a website put your business at the head of the class.  It set you apart and gave you automatic status as a leader in your industry.  Ah, the good “old days.”

Now having a business website is about as commonplace as having an internet connection—and expectations for those sites are higher than ever.  Put simply: why create a business to have a business website that doesn’t do anything for you?  That isn’t coming up in potential customers’ search engine listings?  That isn’t giving your customers the information they need and bringing in inquiries?

If your website isn’t meeting any of those expectations mentioned above, and getting you the response you want from customers, you’re in luck.  We’ve compiled a list of the most common reasons why websites don’t get noticed (by customers and search engines).

Your website content (writing) sucks

We hate to be so frank, but the internet is littered full of websites with terrible, terrible writing.  Writing that isn’t targeted at potential customers (doesn’t include what they want to know), writing full of grammatical errors and typos, writing that isn’t divide up into short, easy-to-read paragraphs and sections.  Even if your website writing just fits one of these categories, your website content isn’t going to perform to its full potential.

If you want to create a better, more readable website that decreases your website bounce rate, hire a professional (or professionals) to create an affordable website with well-organized content that draws website visitors in, gives them (and search engines) what they need to know, and an easy way to contact you if they have any questions or needs.

You haven’t integrated your marketing

It’s amazing how many business owners see their website and their offline communications as completely separate, never to be connected in any way.  However, your in-store and on-phone communications play a key role in promoting your website.  To bring the two together, create signs and cards with your website and social media printed on them (other ideas for integrating your marketing here).  Talk to your staff about promoting your website as they interact with customers.  If you are building an email list, give your customers an incentive to sign up for your email list.

To integrate all your different sales and communications into a solid strategy, create a communications plan that times all your messages (both online and offline) so your customers are getting regular interactions with your brand. (We’ve given you instructions on how to build a solid marketing plan here.)

You’re not using local SEO

Local search engine optimization (SEO) for a local business only makes cents; after all, if you’re trying to reach local customers in local communities around your local business, SEO technology and tactics gets your website at the top of your local customers’ search engine listings.  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 the internet is where people are searching 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; today 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books (comScore).  Ninety-five percent of smartphone users have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT , Apr 2011).  The numbers are equally as impressive for businesses that have included local SEO in their marketing strategy.  A local flooring company 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.

Your website stays static

Your job is not done when you publish your new (and hopefully well-organized, aesthetically beautiful and functional) website.  Your job has just begun.  To continue to feed the fire that’s hopefully erupted by your new website, update your website with information relevant to your audience.  It’s called content marketing, and, if executed properly, can get the attention of both your target audience and search engines.

The goal of content marketing is to build trust with your audience so don’t fill it full of sales pitches.  This isn’t advertising.  It’s a series of well-written content that answers your customers’ questions with timely, relevant topics.  For example, if you’re a travel agent, your blog is going to answer common travelers’ questions and give them information about their next trip.  It sounds easy, but many a business has run out of time when trying to execute a flawless content marketing strategy; be realistic about the time you have available and don’t be afraid to consult the experts.  Pair that with a solid content promotion strategy, and your content marketing is going to be hit with your potential customers.

There is a secondary perk of content marketing.  Search engines scan the web for content relevant to use in users’ searches.  They also gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content you produce. By posting regular content, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.

Your contact page is lacking

This is where knowing your audiences (yes, plural) really pays off: potential customers and search engines.  The perfect contact page makes it simple for your customers to contact you (both in-person, on the phone, and via email) with an accessible contact form that is easy to fill out.  The perfect contact form is a fine line: a form with just enough fields that you can get the contact information you need to contact the customer but not too many fields that your potential customers aren’t intimidated by the form.

In addition, your contact page needs to have a second purpose: to make it easy for search engines to scan the page and include it in their search engine listing. Statistics have shown that more searches are being done on mobile devices than on desktops, and many of those searches are targeted at finding the location of local companies.  Make sure your hours, phone number, and address are included on the contact page for search engines and customers.

You aren’t promoting it through social media

Your social media sites (here’s how to determine how many social media sites are right for you) and website should be on speaking terms, both literally and figuratively.  Actively promote your website on your social media channels, and make it easy for users to share your content on social media.  Links to your social media sites should also be conveniently located on your website so potential customers can check out your social media reviews and posts.

You aren’t linking back to your website in your emails

Email marketing is a tactic with one of the largest return-on-investments in marketing.  Every email should be strategically sprinkled (sprinkled, not overrun) with links to your website.  Don’t just send out an email with your website in the footer; instead show your readers how valuable your website can be to them.  If you are creating new content on your website, tie these two tactics together for a strategy that’s sure to get your business noticed.

8 Marketing Mistakes Local Businesses Make ALL the Time

map of world on laptop for business owner looking to reach local customersIt’s easy to take the “follow the leader” approach to marketing.  After all, if that marketing tactic has worked for other (bigger) businesses, it should work for you, right? However, following the “big dogs” can be the wrong strategy when you’re trying to reach local customers and they are marketing to a much larger, national audience.

We’re not saying you can’t use resources that national suppliers send your way, or use elements of a national strategy in your marketing.  But you should avoid these marketing pitfalls we’ve seen many local businesses make when they use marketing tactics meant for a not-so-local audience.

Not showcasing your community involvement

If you want to reach your local customers, show them you’re in their community—and an active participant.  Share an occasional social media post about an event you sponsor, pictures of a public event you’re involved in (i.e. business trick-or-treating, class your staff gave at a local school or group, etc.), or any other proof that you are a trust-worthy member of your community.

Forgetting to include a solid contact page with your website

This is local business 101: if you want your local customers to contact you and you want search engines to bring up your address in search results, you NEED a contact us page with all your information on your website.  It’s shocking how many businesses don’t include that basic information on their website.

Not investing in local SEO

More than 90% of online users use search engines to find information.  If your business is not listed on the search engine, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to get their attention and their business.  There are many kinds of SEO that businesses use for their website; local SEO gets your business in front of users within a certain radius of your business (and your business locations).  Don’t just take our word on it; research the what, why, and how of local SEO before you invest in this valuable marketing tool (and read about the proof that it works).

Thinking you have to be everywhere

Overreaching is one of the most common mistakes we see local business owners make; they want to reach EVERYONE so bad that they miss out on the opportunity to reach their targeted local audience.  These business owners see the ‘big dogs’ on every social media site, and they follow by signing up for every social media site.  Unfortunately, they can’t keep up with the workload and the result is that they miss out on what they set out to achieve: reaching their local audience (more info on effective tactics to reach a local audience here).

Treating social media like a world-wide connector

Your local business social media strategy should be different than a national business with a wide scope.  One of the biggest (and most common) errors we see is a local business that doesn’t have its contact information on social media.  If your social media goal is aimed at your local customers, carry it out with solid marketing tactics in your social media plan.

Not using email to connect with customers

Email marketing is one of the most valuable tools for small business owners, but one that they often don’t utilize.  We’re not talking about cold-selling emails sent to addresses on an email list bought online.  We’re talking about emails sent to customers who have given you their consent to send them emails (use this info to build your email list)—customers who want to hear from you and have an interest in your business.

Failing to include calls to action in your marketing

What do you want your customers to do?  Surprisingly, one of the biggest mistakes we see local businesses make is not telling their customers what they want them to do.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean always screaming in their face: “CALL US NOW!”  The right call-to-action is somewhere in between; a sentence or graphic that lets your customers know what they can do to find an answer to their problem (you, the local business!).

Not taking advantage of local reviews

Local reviews of your business—positive local reviews—are an important part of marketing to local customers that many business owners fail to utilize.  Ask for local reviews on social media and local review sites, and respond to those customers that indicate they had a less-than-stellar experience.  Showcase your company’s responsiveness and excellent customer service—and enjoy the results of a sound local marketing tactic.