Monthly Archives: March 2017

6 Red Flags that Scream You Need a New Website

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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.