All posts by KD Interactive

customers on smart phone and laptop looking for local businesses

7 Local SEO Myths to IGNORE

Local SEO can get a business more customers and sales. Local SEO myths don’t.

These online marketing statements sound black-and-white, but reality is not always that simple. As business owners try to sift through information about local search engine optimization (SEO), it’s easy to get caught up in the truths and untruths. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the latter; those outrageous local SEO myths that stand between businesses and results.

Let’s start with the worst local SEO myth.

SEO is junk.

This is an online marketing myth that has been around for a long time (and honestly needs to go away). It has its roots when black-hat search engine optimization tactics stopped working and results were not immediately obvious.

Recent search engine optimization statistics prove the opposite to be true. SEO is here to stay, and local SEO is a proven way for local businesses to be found online. These online marketing tactics utilize the latest online trends to build trust online. In local SEO, the goal of these tactics is to get a business found in online searches for local businesses and solutions.

All a company needs to attract Google’s attention is an optimized website.

A website built and created for readers and search engines is only one part of a strong optimized online presence—but only a part. In addition to a website, businesses should also utilize marketing tactics that meet their goals. A local business should also complete a Google My Business listing, maintain a strong social media presence, request and monitor reviews, and employ other online marketing tactics (use this full checklist of local SEO tactics) that target customers and search engines. (Find out more about how reviews play a HUGE part in getting a company found online.)

Adding keywords and cities throughout a website makes it rank better in local searches.

To be clear, the term “optimized” does not imply that a website should be loaded with keywords, local cities, and the business address. To the contrary, a website stuffed with keywords is actually a black-hat on-site SEO tactic that earn a Google penalty. In addition, loading every page with cities and location information can deter potential customers and make a business look like amateurs. Instead, businesses should build an optimized website utilizing the latest online trends and SEO tactics (or contact SEO professionals that can).

Google My Business listings are optional.

This local SEO myth is partially true. Google My Business (GMB) listings are completely optional. Business may even still get high rankings without a GMB listing. The key word is “may.” However, for a business serious about attracting local customers, verifying and completing a GMB listing is an essential part of a strong local SEO presence. A completed GMB listing guarantees that accurate information is used in search engine listings; to be clear, however, not all the information included may show up in listings, though customers have access to the filled-out information.

A bigger service area on Google My Business yields bigger results.

Many businesses are under the impression that if they designate a large service area in Google My Business, they get ranked in all the cities within the service area. The truth is that potential customers can see the service area and see how far a business travels, but the information does not guarantee high rankings in search results in all the cities within the service area.

Content is only for big businesses.

The one tactic that has continually proven to be an important part of a strong SEO presence is high-quality content (even through all the Google algorithm updates)—and it’s not just a tactic for large businesses. High-quality, optimized content produced on a regular basis is well within small businesses’ reach and their budget. Content marketing also comes with other benefits because content can be used for other promotional purposes. To get high-quality website content, businesses should designate the task to a marketing employee or outsource the effort to professionals with a proven track record.

There is nothing companies can do about reviews.

Negative and positive reviews are not—entirely—a random occurrence, though positive reviews on review sites are an important part of local SEO.  Though businesses cannot control when customers post, asking for and responding to reviews is an effort that can managed on a daily basis.

Because positive reviews are an important part of building trust online, businesses should evaluate their daily interactions with customers for chances to ask satisfied customers for reviews. This can be done by sales personnel at a follow-up meeting or during the checkout process. When reviews are posted, businesses should monitor social media sites and review sites to ensure that all reviews receive a response and customers are satisfied with their service.

hands on laptop sending business email as part of email marketing campaign

8 (Easy) Ways to Build a Solid Email List

When it comes to building email lists, we feel like (some) companies are missing the mark. There are so many missed opportunities and misconceptions that can stand in the way of results.

To be clear, there are a lot of results to be had. This list of email marketing benefits from Business2Community spells out the most compelling reasons, including building brand awareness and generating more website traffic and sales.

It should be noted that none of those results are reachable without building a solid email list and producing relevant emails. The basis of every solid e-mail list is a list of recipients that want to receive communications from the business and emails with information they want to receive. Here’s how to get started on the first part of the process: building an e-mail list that gets results.

 How to Build a Solid Email List

Don’t buy or rent e-mail lists.

The first, and biggest, part of gathering emails for marketing purposes is a stern “don’t.” As tempting as it may be, don’t buy or rent email lists. This unfortunately all-to-common practice can lead to wasted efforts and incredibly low results.

Put simply, if the people behind those e-mail lists don’t want to receive e-mails from a business, they’re not going to open the e-mail. This leads to a higher bounce rate and lower open and click-through rate, which can get businesses tagged as spammers without generating any (or few) sales.

Ask in sales meeting, tradeshows, and at the register.

The biggest missed opportunities for e-mail addresses come during daily interactions: in sales meetings, trade show interactions, and during in-person checkouts. This is a prime reason why every employee should be included in the effort to request e-mails (and ask for online reviews).

The exact method of asking is different for every business, which is why identifying opportunities involves an overall evaluation of all business practices. For businesses that ship products, marketing materials asking for e-mails can be included. If the sales process is online, a follow-up email can be sent thanking them for their business and asking if they would like to communicate further.

If a sales team is involved, there are several chances for these asks: during follow-up visits and interactions. Even technicians can collect e-mails and ask for reviews when the service is delivered. Both of these efforts can be useful for marketing purposes and improving a business’ local SEO. (For more information on the pros, contact local SEO experts.)  

Create a social media ad.

Social media is an essential part of every business marketing effort and another way to boost a business email list. Effective social media ads are run on social media sites that reach the target audience (more on how to choose the right social media site here) and are targeted (via interests, demographics, or location) to ensure that a relevant audience is being reached. These ads may include incentives for compliance, such as a discount for e-mail list sign-up or an offer that the viewers can’t refuse.

Make e-mail sign-up part of the check-out process.

For e-commerce websites, an e-mail sign-up is a logical part of the buying process. The exact process of the e-mail sign-up should be easy and reasonable. Long forms and indirect links can weaken the resolve of even the most dedicated user.

Directing users to the e-mail process should be just as clear-cut. The ask can be made via a box included in the purchasing process or via a follow-up e-mail after the purchase. If repeat sales or retaining customers is a campaign goal, the follow-up can include an incentive for another purchase (i.e. percentage off on next purchase, discount on certain item, etc.)

Make followers aware of the perks of e-mails in a social media post.

Social media is a great way to spread the word about the benefits of joining an e-mail list. This is a business’ chance to (occasionally) let users know what they’re missing out on (exclusive e-mail offers) and direct them to the e-mail sign-up page. Social media posts about the e-mail list should be included in a regular social media plan with relevant topics.

Add the request to promotional materials.

The request for e-mails can extend beyond social media and in-person asks. The ask for e-mails should be included on promotional materials strategically produced for the targeted audience. As with online, the request should make the process easy for the recipient. QR codes (which are easy to scan with a mobile device) and URLs to the sign-up page are both easy and effective. The preferred method can be included on brochures, post cards, materials included in shipments, and trade show packets.

Add a pop-up with the ask to the business website.

Website pop-ups can be unpopular and incredibly effective for e-mail sign-ups. The pop-ups should utilize the best online marketing practices and give viewers a reason to want to click. These incentives could include a discount for e-mail sign-up or valuable insider tips that viewers only receive for taking action.

Include the request on the business blog.

Content marketing is a great way to bolster a website’s search engine rankings, offer customers valuable and relevant tips, ask for engagement on social media, and request e-mail sign-ups. The request for e-mail sign-up can be included as a call-to-action in the content, in blog pop-ups, or in clickable images on the blog. These clickable images can include, “for more information, subscribe…” or “to get more great tips, sign-up…”

Tips for Effective Email Sign-Ups

  • Make it easy for users to sign-up (no long forms!)
  • Give users an incentive to sign-up.
  • Make the sign-up process secure.
  • Include the ask for e-mail sign-up in business standard operating procedures.
  • Ask employees to spread the word about the business email list on social media, in e-mails, and in e-mail signatures.

Ideas for Engaging E-mail Content

  • Blog posts relevant to the season or recipient (from the company or from other industry leaders)
  • Sales/discounts/offers (including exclusive offers that make the recipient feel like part of a loyal club)
  • Useful tips
  • Communications from business leaders
  • Requests for donations
  • Daily points of interest
  • Photos and videos relevant to the audience
magnifying glass on search engine rankings in Google

Local Businesses: How to Rock Rankings in Google

How do local businesses get customers to (and through) the door? Driving online and foot traffic is (or should be) the bread-and-butter of every local business marketing strategy. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including (but not limited to) email lists, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

The last item isn’t as tangible as sending out regular emails to customers or posting to social media, but it’s one of the most important ways to drive customers to your business. SEO is the process of getting to the top of search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases. For some businesses, this can be phrases like, “school backpacks for preschoolers” or “backyard grills.”

For local brick-and-mortar businesses, the focus on SEO results needs to be far more specific. After all, a person searching for flooring in Wisconsin isn’t going to contact a business in Ohio. For businesses with a specific target area (around their business or business location), local SEO is one of the top ways to ensure that local businesses are showing up in online user’s searches.

Statistics from Google, the most popular internet search engine, prove this marketing tactic to be successful:

Those statistics are based off of real online behaviors. When a person is looking for a product or service, they are going online to research products and businesses that provide the specific product or business. This could be an intensive process or an impulsive search online. Some of the research is done through voice search or typed-in keywords, phrases, and questions.

If a local business wants to be found in these searches, the business name and information needs to show up in search results. This can be in the form of tips and information, business-specific information, or lists of local businesses that provide a product or service (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “djs near me,” etc.)  There are numerous ways business can show up in searches; this list is just the start of a business’ targeted local SEO efforts (for more technical local SEO, contact local SEO experts).

Claim a Google My Business listing.

Online visitors need businesses that provide products and services. They look for them online, either by typing in or asking questions. An article on Forbes estimated that an average of one billion voice searches occur every month.

In a Google searches, the businesses listed as answers in those searches are often pulled from Google My Business (GMB). GMB is an online directory of local businesses.

To be included in GMB, business can claim a free GMB listing. To verify the listing, businesses need to enter a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add strategic content to your website.

High-quality, optimized content is a huge asset in local SEO. The content can answer questions or provide information relevant to searches about the product or service. Either way, the content must bring some value to the reader.

Years ago, this content would have to be 300 words and only text to be high in the rankings in Google. As search engines have evolved and the sheer amount of content has multiplied (exponentially), the stakes for content has skyrocketed.

Modern content needs to be optimized with keywords and topics relevant to online searches. This does NOT mean repeating keywords over and over, which is called “keyword stuffing” and is penalized by search engines. To be clear, the content not only needs to be optimized for search engines but also for the target audience. (Optimized content can be outsourced to professionals to get regular content that gets results.)

All content should contain images optimized for higher rankings in Google. These images should have relevant alt text and ideally would be a video that provides more value for the reader. While these images should be clear, they should not slow down page loading speed. Page loading speed is another Google ranking factor.

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%.

Claim directory and review site listings.

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). For this reason, business listings on review sites and online directories are a common result on search engine results pages (generated after a search).

Businesses should compile a list of online review sites and web directories relevant to their industry and claim listings on those sites. Every listing should have consistent information—even down to the abbreviations. The suite should be “Ste.” on every site, the same for “Rd.” and “Ave.”   

These sites also play an integral part in building trust with potential customers. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business. To earn those positive reviews, businesses should provide excellent customer service and make asking for reviews a standard part of the process. Every staff member should be trained to provide an excellent experience and ask satisfied customers for a positive review.

To make the process easy for the customer, businesses should look for opportunities to ask for reviews. This could include a link included in a follow-up email, a postcard included in a package, or an in-person ask from a salesman or technician.

Build a website with an optimized structure.

An optimized website is an integral part of every business’ SEO toolbox. To get high rankings on Googles, businesses must structure their website for search engines. In addition, an optimized website must load quickly, contain relevant keywords, never have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions, and contain no broken links.

Astoundingly, almost three-quarters of all Americans have a smartphone. The growing amount of smartphones should be a key part of every company’s marketing strategy. According to Google, almost half of all mobile users are frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. This trend is reflected by Google, which include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

customers shopping for products found online

Top Local Marketing Tactics that Earn Your Business (More) Sales

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get more local customers is online. This isn’t a misprint; the local customers down the street from the business or the customer driving around doing errands is on their computer and smartphone right now looking for information (mobile usage statistics show the latter to be especially true).

With that being stated, don’t throw away those postcards or signs just yet. After all, local marketing is the process of using tactics to reach local customers around the business. Rather, businesses should integrate traditional marketing tactics with online strategies that drive customers into the business in-person or via phone or message. Think of the process as connecting with a person who is walking by on their phone and doesn’t look up.

Effective local marketing campaigns target many potential customers on their phones and computers and convert those visitors into customers. The key word “effective” comes with a marketing plan that integrates tactics into a seamless series of strategic online and in-person interactions with potential customers. While all that sounds like a mouthful, it basically revolves around a list of social media posts, e-mails, and other tactics that reach potential customers.

Those communications should be focused on driving local people to the business location, website, or social media messages. To be effective, most businesses should use all or most of the one-time or ongoing tactics listed below; the exact list of tactics included in the marketing plan that gets results is different for every business.

Be part of the community on social media.

If a business wants to be seen as local, the business needs to show they are local. This tactic is a great way to build awareness and loyalty within the community. Businesses can sponsor local events, host events, and promote local causes and events on social media. One note: this is an effective tactic IF the business chooses the social media site (or sites) that has users from the local community and in the business’ targeted demographic.

This effort is not just about showcasing what the business is doing. It’s also about sharing news about community events (such as holiday events) and publicizing local causes. In addition to information and company promotions, businesses should regularly share photos and videos of company volunteering days, company-sponsored events that benefit a local cause, and posts from local organizations that the business endorses. These social media efforts need to be regular to be effective; if the business cannot maintain a regular schedule of relevant posts, the effort can be outsourced for best results.

Completely fill out the Google My Business listing.

Google My Business (GMB) is an online directory that the search engine uses to answer online visitors’ questions. GMB listings show up when visitors ask to see “flooring companies near me” or “coffee shops near me.”

To show up in those search listings, businesses should claim their Google My Business listing. Claiming the listing is free, but it does require entering a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add the business information (exact information) to online review sites and directories.

Accurate information on online review sites and directories is an important part of showing up in online searches. When checking and entering information, businesses need to make sure that the listings are the same on every suite. Even road and suite abbreviations should be consistent.

When choosing online review sites and directories, businesses should start with popular sites like Yelp and Manta. Depending on the industry, businesses may want to consider listings on other sites as well.

Start asking for reviews.

According to a recent report, more than three-quarters consumers report that they research businesses before purchasing. An easy way to build trust with online visitors is to have a review or social media site full of positive reviews. The best way to get those reviews is to ask.

Businesses staff can ask customers during almost every interaction, such as at the checkout or in a follow-up communication. Signage and marketing postcards placed in packages and bags can also be an easy way to request a product or service review (a full list of ways to ask for reviews can be found here). To make the review process easier for customers, salesman and managers can also send follow-up emails with satisfied customers with links to review sites.

Build an e-mail list.

E-mails are a form of marketing with a huge return-on-investment. However, email marketing is not effective without a list of recipients interested in the product or service.

There are several ways to ask for e-mail addresses, both in-person and electronically. Salesman and checkout staff can ask customers if they would like to provide an e-mail address during the sales process or in follow-up communications. Automated e-mails sent after a completed transaction can provide a link where customers can sign up to receive electronic communications. On websites and on social media, businesses can ask customers if they would like to opt-in to their e-mail list. These ideas are just a few of many ways to build an e-mail list; there also a few tactics to avoid so customers are not driven away with unwanted e-mails.

Once a solid e-mail list is built, the “trick” that gets results is to draft an e-mail with information that the recipients want to read. The subject should get the recipients’ attention and make them want to read the contents. Businesses should include strategic call-to-actions (i.e. “for more information,” “click here for…,” etc.) that make it easy for recipients to interact and with the business. Every e-mail should include links to the website and social media sites.

10 Steps to Successful Online & Website SEO

online shopper finding business that utilized local seoKnowing the basics of search engine optimization (SEO)—and using the latest tactics—can be the difference between being lost online and generating valuable business leads. Successful local SEO gets a business found by local online visitors who are searching for information related to the business. Because search engines look for factors that cater to a better online experience for visitors, these tips can also convert visitors and give a business the edge over a competitor’s less-than-stellar web presence.

SEO can be broken down into two types: on-site and off-site. On-site SEO is the process of optimizing a website for search engines. This effort sets up a website so it checks off boxes on the list of search engine ranking signals. Off-site SEO are those checklist items that ensure a business shows up in search engine listings, such as a listing on an online directory.

While businesses have been using SEO for many years, SEO is an ever-evolving process with a changing list of ranking factors. To stay on top of those updates (and on top of the search engine results page), use these steps to get started and a professional marketing company to utilize the latest SEO practices.

On-Site SEO

Build a website with optimized structure and easy-to-use navigation.

Google has specifically stated that a HTTPS website is a top ranking signal. In addition to a secure HTTPS site, a website needs an optimized structure with an easy-to-use navigation. The latter is important for SEO and visitors. While SEO gets a website found, a website with an easy-to-use menu and conveniently positioned call-to-actions turns online visitors into buyers.

Consider website speed.

Website page loading speed matters, both to search engines and visitors. According to Google, when website page loading 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%.

Make the website mobile-friendly.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of Americans have a smartphone. Google reports that more than half of online searches came from a search on a mobile device. Both of these statistics are the reason that a mobile-friendly site with fast loading time is a search engine signal.

Add optimized website content (for search engines and voice searches).

Optimized website content contains keywords that are relevant to online visitors’ searches. Basically, the website should contain information with keywords relevant to online searches—without sounding canned. This is another way that professionally-drafted website content can satisfy search engines and online visitors.

Select and optimize website images and video.

Website images are another integral part of a stellar website, both for online visitors and search engines. These images and videos should not be random media downloaded off of the internet (in fact, this is a huge online marketing mistake). Instead, the photos and video should be professional quality purchased or produced in-house. (These tips on choosing the right images for online marketing are invaluable.)

Add content on a regular basis.

New content regularly added to a website is a top search engine ranking signal. These types of content should be added on a regular basis to a website for optimal results. All content should be optimized with strategic keywords and information valuable to online visitors.

Off-Site SEO

Completely fill out a Google My Business listing.

Google My Business listings show up in searches when online users search for a local business. Businesses who claim a free listing can customize the information that shows up, such as the hours and listings. 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.

Claim review site listings.

Accurate listings on review sites are a valuable source of online traffic and a vital part of a business local SEO. This makes accurate and standard listings on Yelp, Manta, and the Better Business Bureau an important part of business’ efforts to get found online. Review sites should be monitored regularly (manually or with an automated system) to ensure that all negative reviews are responded to with excellent customer service.

Review company protocols to find ways to ask for reviews.

Positive online reviews build trust and earn customers. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of online visitors have reported that they factor online reviews into their purchasing decision. Businesses should make getting more reviews a top priority in daily operations; many of the asks for reviews can be integrated into daily operations.

Choose online directories.

Accurate business listings on online directories are another key to getting found in local searches. When claiming listings, businesses should make sure that the information is consistent on all sites. For example, an address with a street or suite should be written out fully or abbreviated the same on all sites. This effort can be done in-house or managed and updated by professionals as part of a comprehensive local SEO plan.

10 Tips that Get Businesses Better Social Media (and Results!)

user on phone looking at social mediaSocial media should be the source of more customer interactions and engagements—not frustrations. This list of social media tips gets business owner and managers the improved social media presence that gets the results they want.

Those results should mirror the benefits of a solid business social media presence:

  • Raising brand awareness,
  • Driving more traffic to a business location,
  • Generating more business leads,
  • Driving more traffic to a business website,
  • Increasing interactions with current and potential customers,
  • Generating more messages to the business

Tip #1: Make a clear (but flexible) social media plan.

The good news about this social media tip is that it’s never too late to draft a plan. The plan should be flexible and open to improvisation when needed, but provide a clear foundation for getting results. It should be important to note that the social media marketing plan should cater to what the target audience wants to know, not what businesses want to tell them. This post details the process that gets businesses up and selling on social media.

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

Tip #2: Choose a social media site that your target audience is actually on.

The long-and-short of the process should include documenting the target audience (who the business is trying to reach) and selecting the social media platform that the target audience is on. This part of the process is outlined in this post.

What Social Media Site Fits Your Brand?

Tip #3: Take the two R’s of social media to heart.

While there are many parts of building and maintaining a results-driven presence on social media, the basis is the same for every social media platform:

Understanding the Two R’s of Social Media Marketing

Tip #4: Build a social media following that wants to engage with the brand.

Businesses should never pass up on an opportunity to attract followers that are interested in the brand. These social media followers are not randomly bought and paid for. Instead, they are “recruited” at meetings, at check-out (in-person or online), and through off-line marketing materials.

10 Offline & Online Tips to Build Your Social Media Following

Tip #5: Never stop testing social media ideas.

The age old question, “what should be posted to social media?” is answered in this post. In addition to these lists (the second is more specific to local businesses targeting local customers), ideas can also be found by reviewing competitor pages. The exact formula for a business social media page is different for every business and should be continually tested to ensure that it fits customers’ preferences and updated social media trends.

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

Local Businesses: 30 Ideas for Your Next Social Media Post

Tip #6: Focus on goals.

There is no doubt that online bantering and entertainment is part of the customer experience (when appropriate). However, these social media strategies do not always achieve goals the business set out to achieve.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Sales

Tip #7: For local results, use social media to connect with local customers.

For local businesses with local social media marketing goals, world-wide recognition is nice—but it does nothing to help get local customers and sales. Local businesses need to use different tactics to showcase their part in the community and the value they can provide to anyone who stops in (or contacts them). This approach does not always mean using a “sell, sell, sell!” approach, as discussed in this post for local businesses.

How can I use social media to connect with local customers?

Tip #8: Make the WHOLE customer experience favorable—especially customer service!

Customers appreciate businesses that make their life easier. Businesses can meet (and surpass) those expectations by providing helpful information, entertaining them, and answering their questions. The latter effort is more important than ever because customers expect quick, helpful, and complete answers. This post discusses how businesses can respond to customers and earn their business.

6 Rules for Delivering Excellent Customer Service on Social Media

Tip #9: Only the best and most relevant images work on social media.

Statistics have repeatedly shown that marketing with images get better results. The exact nature of those images is different for every business, but there are some guidelines businesses can use when choosing images for social media. Depending on the social media platform, the images don’t have to be high-quality but they do have to be highly relevant to the target audience.

How to Choose the Best Online Marketing Images

Tip #10: Don’t put all those proverbial eggs in one basket.

As beneficial as social media is, a business social media presence should never be a stand-alone marketing tool. Not every customer or potential customer is going to find a business or want to interact on social media. Instead, a social media plan should be part of a bigger marketing plan that includes SEO, email, and other marketing tactics. This post details the process.

Step by step: Make SEO, Content, Social Media & Email Work Together for You

20+ Startling SEO Statistics that Get You More Business

tablet that user is using to do Google searchSEO is more than just the talk of a bunch of technological blowhards. It’s a digital necessity that generates leads and sales, but not one that has to be accepted blindly (or at the word of every digital blowhard).

Fortunately, there are hard-and-fast numbers that confirm why businesses should invest in SEO and dictate where businesses should invest their marketing dollars. If the numbers aren’t enough, business owners and managers should let personal experience do the talking. There’s scarcely a place anyone can go without encountering people on smart phones, desktop computers, and tablets looking for information on online search engine listings.

If businesses want to be at the top of those search engine listings, they need to put search engine optimization (SEO) to work for their business.  Put simply, search engine optimization is the process of convincing search engines the business should be at the top of relevant online searches. To do so, websites—and a business’ online presence—has to check off more than 200 boxes to get to the top of search engine listings in front of potential customers (or hire SEO experts to manage the task).

With customers and sales on the line, earning those key positions on search engines should be a high-priority investment catered to ever-evolving search trends. But don’t take this technological blowhard’s word for it. The proof is in these SEO statistics (all compiled into one easy list).

Why SEO is Important

  1. A recent study proved that potential customers do online research before purchasing.
  2. More than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine.
  3. Google is the most popular search engine, with almost three-quarters of the market. (HubSpot).
  4. Search engine giant Google processes more than 2 trillion searches per year. (Search Engine Land)
  5. More than a million voice searches are done every month, according to this Forbes article.
  6. More than three-quarters of all mobile searches end in an offline sale.
  7. Eighteen percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.
  8. According to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search.”(Search Engine Watch)

Why Mobile-Friendly Websites & Website Speed Matters

  1. Seventy-seven percent of all Americans have a smartphone.(Pew Research Center)
  2. According to Google, more than half of searches initiated from mobile devices.
  3. Almost half of all online users are annoyed by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. (Google)
  4. “52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.” (Google)
  5. According to Google, when the time for a websitepage to loadgoes 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%.
  6. Search Engine Journalrecently 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.
  7. 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.
  8. More than half of all searches are done on a mobile device.

Why Getting Good Online Reviews Are a Top Priority

  1. More than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Google, 2018)
  2. On average, consumers need at least 10 reviews to trust a company. (BrightLocal)
  3. Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land).
  4. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business.
  5. More than half of all customers select companies with four stars or more. (BrightLocal)

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.