Monthly Archives: May 2019

Website Optimization: Why SEO Matters (and What Works!)

women looking at optimized websites on tabletWebsites are one of the MOST powerful online marketing tools; they serve as the only platform online where a business can truly tell its story. This is not an overstatement. With ever-changing algorithms that continually cut audience reach, not even social media sites can say the same. While social media is an effective way to increase website traffic and customer interactions, the foundation of a solid online marketing plan is still the website.

Modern business websites need to be optimized for the target audience and search engines, making the website planning and building process with carefully planned website SEO more crucial than ever.

Importance of Website Speed

Waiting is become incredibly unpopular in almost every aspect of life—especially online. The winding circle while waiting for an app or a website to load can be maddening; it also costs business owners valuable inquiries and, eventually sales.

The statistics back it up. According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.

A fast website is not a luxury anymore; it’s a requirement for every business website. The Search Engine Journal recently published shocking statistics from an Unbounce study. Almost seventy percent of consumers reported that slow page loading speed plays a role in their buying decision. Forty-six percent of online users put “waiting for a website page to load” on their mobile devices at the top of their dislike list, according to Google.

Other Website Features that Count

A fast website is only a part of a stellar online customer experience that leads to more inquiries and customer conversions. That fact is why, according to Search Engine Journal, a website’s excellent customer experience is an integral part of high rankings on Google.

With over a billion websites online, the competition for the top of search engine rankings is fierce. In addition to website speed, modern websites need to built with an optimized structure. A secure HTTPS website is now a top priority for any business looking to improve their search engine ranking. That’s just the start of the list; websites also need to be mobile-friendly (also not an option for websites any more). More than half of all searches are done on a mobile device.

For businesses keeping track, the list of website features that get a website in front of potential customers is fast website loading speed, a secure protocol, and mobile-friendly design. Also high on the list is top-quality content.

Importance of Content

Optimized content valuable to online users, both on a website and blog, increases the amount of time online users spend on a page. This makes content an important search engine ranking signal—and should make it a high priority for businesses (either produced in-house or outsourced to professionals).

Basically, content should be written and developed for online users and search engines—-and keep being written and published on a regular basis. Websites with regular and relevant content continue to be ranked higher on search engines (and subsequently, in front of more potential customers). The content should be written for the target audience (potential customers) and optimized with keywords relevant to the online viewers and business. (Note: this does not mean packed with keywords, which is actually detrimental to content performance.)

In addition to well-written content, images and video should be included on the page for an optimal customer experience. (These content marketing do’s and don’ts can also contribute to a successful content plan.) Regularly published content should be promoted regularly to increase website traffic and reach marketing goals.

Value of Off-Site Local SEO

An optimized website is only part of the search engine optimization process. Off-site search engine optimization is also a factor when trying to gain valuable rankings, especially for local brick-and-mortar businesses. There are several aspects to local SEO: an optimized Google My Business listing, complete listings on review sites and online directories, and a process for brand reputation management. (This local SEO checklist breaks the process down into manageable steps.)

The process starts with claiming a business Google My Business listing and filling it out completely (this step-by-step guide for Google My Business is helpful). In addition to Google My Business, businesses should also strategically choose and add listings to online directories and review sites that are relevant to the business. Every listing should be filled out consistently with the exact same business name and address (i.e. Street versus St., Ste. Versus Suite).

Search engines list these review sites and directories (with the specific business listing) in relevant search engine results, such as in the “restaurants near me” or “flooring stores near me” searches. For that reason, businesses should concentrate on eliciting positive reviews and using positive customer service to communicate with customers leaving negative reviews.

6 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Local SEO

customers looking at smartphone for local businessLocal businesses need local SEO. This isn’t an overstatement or an opinion. When a company’s local SEO efforts are sub-par, the company misses out on valuable opportunities to gain website traffic, leads, and sales. Fortunately, the effort doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it does need to be comprehensive and start with a few simple steps.

Confirm your Google My Business listing.

Think of Google My Business as a giant online directory filled with local business listings. When customers search for local businesses (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “antiques near me,” “furnace repair near me”), the search engine giant pulls the most relevant and local listings.

The process makes claiming a business’ Google My Business listing a top priority for companies wanting to improve their local SEO. The claiming process is free, but does need to be confirmed by a postcard sent to the business address. For optimal results, take the process a step further by optimizing the GMB listing or outsource the task of creating and optimizing to trusted marketing professionals.

Find more opportunities to ask for online reviews.

Online reviews are a key part of a local SEO strategy that gets results. Online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business are incredibly relevant to customer searches about companies, making reviews a valuable asset for local companies.

Most customers won’t leave a review unless asked—and companies have numerous opportunities to do so. The process of asking for reviews (and improving local SEO) starts with a complete evaluation of company standard operating procedures. Companies can ask for reviews via:

  • Electronic communications (i.e. company promotional emails, sales professional emails to clients, follow-up emails after receiving product or service, etc.)
  • In-person asks (i.e. cashier during check-out process, sales professional in follow-up meeting, technician after service is completed, etc.)
  • Paper ask (i.e. postcard with information to leave review with package, sales professional thank you note, etc.)

Monitor online reviews.

Asking for online reviews comes with a risk. This risk can be minimized by only asking customers that are satisfied, but the truth is that some customers leave negative reviews. While finding a negative review is never pleasant, negative reviews come with an opportunity. The key word here is “find.” Companies cannot seize on the opportunity to showcase their excellent customer service until they are aware of the review.

Negative reviews can be located with diligent online monitoring or via automated software (contact a marketing company for an automated monitoring option). The latter option makes companies aware of every review so they can respond (to both negative and positive reviews). When the review is negative, companies should respond promptly without getting defensive. Instead, companies need to acknowledge the issue and offer to discuss the matter privately (through electronic messages).

A company employee should be designated to answer and resolve the matter (if possible) to eliminate the chance of the inquiry falling through the cracks. This employee should be chosen carefully and should be trained to respond using the best customer services practices. If the customer’s issue is fully resolved to their satisfaction, company employees can ask for the customer to remove or revise their review.

Embrace the latest online search trends.

The way people find products and services online is continually evolving. Companies wanting to get online customers need to utilize this information when optimizing their online presence. Online consumers are using voice search and mobile devices for their searches. More than a million voice searches are done every month, according to this Forbes article. The amount of searches on mobile devices surpassed searches done on desktop devices years ago.

This information is invaluable for businesses, but only if used correctly. Companies should construct websites optimized for long-tail keywords, with a structure built for search engines, and with optimized media (video and images). These basics are only part of developing a website that shows up in online searches. A marketing professional can help fill in the gaps and ensure that every website element is optimized for the latest search trends.

Make it clear online the business is local (or has locations).

One of the most important aspects of local SEO is to make it incredibly obvious that the business is local or has multiple locations—without compromising the customer experience. The effort should start on a website with the location clearly spelled out on the Contact Us page, multiple location pages (if the business has more than one location), and on other optimized website pages. In addition to a clear location, businesses can also benefit from localized content and local links.

This effort comes with an incredible attention to detail. Companies should take extreme care to ensure that the name, address, and phone number is exact on the website and any other online listings. For example, address road should be written as ‘Road’ or ‘Rd.’ in all listings.

List the business in local online business directories.

Local online business directories are a powerful—and strategic—local SEO tool. The first step is to research local business directories and select the right “online phone books” relevant to the company. This comprehensive list of online directories is an excellent start (and can be used by a company or as part of an outsourced local SEO campaign). When filling in the listings, make sure that every name, address, and phone number are exactly the same. Consistency is key; all listings should include the same suite number and label (‘Ste.’ Or ‘Suite).

6 Legit Ways to Get More (Real!) Instagram Followers

taking photo with phone for Instagram to get more followersSocial media app Instagram is a real contender in the marketing world. These statistics from Hootsuite don’t lie. More than 1 billion users are on Instagram every month. Instagram is incredibly popular with users under the age of 35. Even more startingly, Search Engine Journal recently reported that 54% of users surveyed bought a product after seeing it on Instagram.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean every business should jump onto the Instagram bandwagon. To the contrary, businesses should carefully consider their options for social media sites and ask two key questions:

  • How much time does the business have to devote to social media?
  • What social media site is our target audience using?

Essentially, these questions drive toward an important point. It’s better for businesses to have a solid presence on one social media site than it is to have five social media profiles that are not being updated.

Simply, the decision to choose what social media site (or sites) should be strategic to ensure optimal results. Businesses should decide what social media site (or sites) they have time to effectively use and devote to those efforts. If there is a discrepancy between that list and staffing time, businesses can outsource the efforts to an online marketing firm that can assist with marketing efforts.

In the same way, businesses should never put all their proverbial eggs in one basket. The best online marketing strategies are composed of multiple tactics (i.e. website SEO, local SEO, email marketing, social media, etc.) This online marketing checklist and guide can help businesses develop and follow an effective marketing plan.

If part of that plan is Instagram, use these ways to get more real Instagram followers. Unfortunately, Instagram is full of fake accounts and unscrupulous users who buy fake Instagram followers to boost their numbers. It’s a vanity effort, but not one that generates results and sales. Instead, use these legitimate ways to gain real followers and get results from this social media site.

Decide on and plan for the content that followers want.

Before posting any photos, businesses need to set a strategy with content produced specifically for the target audience. Simply, ask “what does the target audience want to see?” Businesses need to ask this question continually when setting goals and drafting a plan with content produced specifically for the target audience.

While high-quality content is optimal, even those “amateur photos” can get results. Businesses need to keep in mind that the target audience usually cares more about the content than the quality. While that doesn’t excuse poorly-produced content, this fact should not keep businesses from posting to this photo-sharing social media app.

Research and produce a creative hashtag.

Besides photos, hashtags are the bread and butter of Instagram. Hashtags are the way to participate in conversations, engage customers in brand discussions and contests, and make posts infinitely more entertaining. Hashtags that fit into the first two categories are the ones that engage, but don’t dismiss those creative hashtags. Creative hashtags show personality, and leave a lasting impression on followers (who now want to share those clever posts).

Creative hashtags can also be the foundation of a solid, branded campaign. When drafting creative hashtags for brand campaigns, carefully research the hashtag to ensure that is not already being used. Businesses should also be conscientious of the tone to ensure that all communications are consistent across promotional channels.

Promote, promote, promote those hashtags.

The saying, “nothing exists in a vacuum” has never proven truer than for Instagram hashtags (as well as for other social media campaigns). Before and during a branded campaign, promote the hashtag on all other marketing materials as much as possible. Businesses should consider promoting hashtags in emails, on the business website, on signs, on postcards included in shipments and bag, and in any other branded communications. Cross-promotion yields results. Businesses can gain Instagram followers through a well-executed brand campaign.

Join relevant conversations.

Conversations are the heart of social media, and should play a prime part in business social media strategies. Whenever possible, start conversations that are relevant to the business and community (the latter is especially true for brick-and-mortar businesses). For brick-and-mortar businesses who draft a community-based strategy, location-based hashtags and the places tabs should play a key role in the marketing strategy. To engage in industry-relevant conversations, follow accounts and hashtags specific to the industry. Both of these efforts are integral to engaging and gaining more Instagram followers.

Use effective call-to-actions.

No business Instagram strategy is complete without consideration of the customer experience off-app. When drafting a strategy, businesses need to draft effective call-to-actions that spur customer action and review customer pages for an optimal customer experience. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t reach marketing goals because of website pages and menus that are difficult-to-use. In these cases, businesses may gain more Instagram followers but lose sales and miss those important marketing goals.

Post consistently.

Business social media efforts are a marathon, not a sprint. To reach social media goals, businesses need to post relevant content consistently (or outsource the effort to professionals that can assist with regular and relevant posts). This Business2Community article answers the question spot on. There is no clear-cut answer for how often to post to Instagram; the answer is different for every business and industry. Businesses should draft a plan and adjust efforts to find the right frequency for posting to Instagram, and the right times when followers are online. Regular Instagram posts at the right times are the key to gaining more (real!) Instagram followers.