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

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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

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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!)

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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

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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!)

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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

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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

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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.

(Easy) Local SEO Checklist

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customer on tablet and smartphone using local seoMarketing a business online for local customers is hard. Marketing a business online for local customers is easy. A business can view marketing either way, especially when sifting through information about getting a business found in local searches. The effort is definitely worthwhile; the statistics about local search certainly prove that local SEO pays off.

Marketing a business online is not a one-time effort. It’s an on-going effort that requires regular effort and expertise. This checklist breaks down the effort into a checklist that can get a business started managing their local marketing—and getting results.

Google My Business Profile

___ Search for any pre-existing Google My Business listings

___ Claim Google My Business listing

___ Add as much information to the GMB listing as possible, including service area and hours

___ Include photos and brand logos

___ Use the code listed on the postcard to verify the GMB listing

___ Keep business hours updated

___ Respond to customer reviews

Quick tip: Google tends to favor listings that are relevant to users’ searches. Make sure the business listing is as complete as possible to ensure that the listing is relevant to potential searches.

Review Sites

___ Strategically select review sites that are pertinent to the business (choose from this list of review sites from Search Engine Journal)

___ Claim business listing on review sites

___ Develop a strategy for eliciting positive reviews

___ Review customer interactions for chances to ask for reviews

___ Add an ask for reviews to customer follow-up emails

___ Include ask for reviews to staff training

___ Add link to review sites to all promotional materials

___ Use review monitoring software to monitor sites for reviews

___ Develop protocol for responding to negative reviews (or outsource to professionals with experience)

Quick tip: If possible, ask satisfied customers for reviews (use this list of ways to ask for business reviews). Be careful about asking for reviews on review sites, which may be prohibited by the site.

Local Directories

___ Compile a list of directories that are relevant and valuable to the business (Use this list from Search Engine Journal as a resource)

___ Search directories to see if there is an existing listing

___ Correct incorrect information on existing directories

___ Completely fill in existing and new listings on local directories

Quick tip: Make sure that the information, tone, and visual aspects of the listings are consistent.

Website Optimization

___ Build a website with structure designed for search engines (i.e. simple and optimized URLs, schema markups, speed, etc.)

___ Make sure the website is mobile-friendly

___ Write optimized content for the target audience (and search engines)

___ Select and optimize website images

___ Create an easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate website

___ Optimize site navigation

___ Use testimonials (like from social media) on the website to build trust

___ Request website crawl to get website indexed

___ Use website traffic monitoring tools to gauge traffic

___ Research topics and keywords to generate high-quality, optimized content

___ Add high-quality, optimized content to the website regularly

___ Utilize local website optimization for reaching local customers

___ Monitor rankings and traffic and address any traffic drops or ranking issues

Quick tip: Outsource parts of the process for a comprehensive online marketing strategy that gets results and follows website trends.

6 Quick Reasons for Your Website Traffic Drop

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young businessman upset because of drop in website trafficWebsite traffic monitoring tools (like Google Analytics) give business owners the power to gauge website traffic—but it comes with a downfall. Business owners can see when website traffic increases (yeah!) and drops suddenly (bad). (It is important to note that every website experiences periodic decreases in website traffic.) A sharp (and continual) drop in website traffic interrupts reaching marketing goals and occurs for an infinite number of reasons.

Not every busy business owner has time to sift through an endless list of reasons for a website traffic drop, especially when every minute is incredibly valuable. This list of the most common reasons for drops in website traffic can give any website owner a start in correcting the problem (and, hopefully, a resolution). For a full analysis, contact professionals that can diagnose the issue and recommend future actions that resolve the issue and enhance current marketing efforts.

Data Error

Sometimes the reason for a drop in website traffic is not related to traffic at all. The actual reason for the sudden decrease occurs because of an error with the measurement tool.

Search engine giant Google lists an incorrect URL as one of the most common reasons. This problem can easily be fixed by double checking every character of the URL entered. One letter or an incorrect character can be the source of a data problem.

The drop can also be attributed to an incorrect report, such as the wrong type of report or dates. A second glance at the report can minimize any panic attacks or headaches. When using Google Analytics, ensure that the report reflects the desired data time (i.e. hourly, daily, monthly).

Crawling Delay

Search engines continuously crawl the web and index website pages. Google gives a brief overview of the process in this article. Most website owners expect that continual process to occur immediately, especially after requesting a website crawl. In reality, there can be delays in crawling and indexing. If the website is not indexed seven days after the request, it may be time to get more information.

The process for finding out if a website or page has been indexed is a simple one. Simply, open a browser and do a search for the website URL. Again, ensure that the URL is accurate. If the website is not indexed, the next step is to request a website crawl or contact the professionals to find out if there is a reason for the oversight.

Website Change

There are several changes to a website that can show up as a website traffic drop. A website outage or interruption in service can trigger a drop in website traffic.

More drastic changes are also a source of a decrease in website traffic. A major change in website structure or a broken link (or many broken links) can trigger a drop in website traffic. Broken links, which occur when users get an error message instead of a page, are a major culprit in website traffic drops.

A loss in backlinks, which are links to the website from other sources, can also cause a sharp decrease to show up on the website traffic graph. Backlinks are an important ranking factor to search engines. For that reason, backlinks should be checked periodically to monitor this situation.

Search Engine Penalty

The sooner a business recognizes a search engine penalty, the sooner the recovery process can begin. A sharp decrease in website traffic can be a sign of a search engine penalty. Search engine penalties can be issued because of user-generated spam, duplicate content, broken links, and redirects. (A full list of reasons for search engine penalties can be found in this article.) The exact reason can be found in the Google Search Console. Businesses should make every effort to initiate the recovery process as soon as possible, or consult a search engine firm that can assist and recommend other ways to generate website traffic.

Algorithm Changes

Search engines use a complex formula to determine website rankings. Periodically, these algorithms are changed, such as when preference was given to mobile-friendly websites. Search engine firms typically stay on top of these changes (it is, literally, their jobs) and can prepare websites for the change without a website traffic drop. Unless business owners and managers plan on staying on top of every algorithm change, it makes cents (literally, pun intended) to consult with or outsource to a search engine firm with experience and expertise.

Competition Change

This may be the most annoying reason for a website traffic drop. Sometimes website traffic is lost to other competitors. When this occurs, an analysis of the situation is the next step. Answer these questions: 1) What website is now receiving the website traffic? 2) Why is this site receiving the website traffic? These questions can be answered with search engine tools or by consulting a search engine firm with the tools. The end result of the analysis should get marketing results—and a return of that invaluable website traffic.

How to Get Better Reviews for Your Business (and Better Local SEO!)

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business team excited about positive reviews and better local seoBetter online reviews are better for local SEO and better for business. Statistics prove the statement true; online reviews play an important role in building trust with potential customers. Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business.

Search engines are also rewarding businesses for excellent reviews. Review sites are an integral part of a comprehensive and effective local search engine optimization effort. Fortunately, getting reviews—specifically positive reviews—can be easily integrated into existing operations, though it does require a strategic approach and implementation. The effort also may require outsourcing for a complete, optimized online presence.

Select review listing sites relevant to your business.

The list of online review sites may vary slightly for every business. Businesses need to select local directories and review sites relevant to their industry and their audience. The list is long, but can include significant sites like Google My Business, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Manta. (Local SEO experts can assist with the process of selecting sites and planning a comprehensive local SEO strategy.)

The first site, Google My Business, should be on every business list and should include a complete profile. This guide from Search Engine Journal details the process to an optimized Google My Business profile. Once completed, the process for getting reviews that can complete the profile and build trust should be established.

Review business standard operating procedures for opportunities.

There are numerous opportunities for businesses to ask for reviews and deliver the service that generates positive feedback. Every interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to earn satisfied customers. Make staff members aware that they are part of the process, and that negative reviews can be left by customers at any time.

To elicit positive reviews, try to ask satisfied customers shortly after a good service delivery. This can be done by the salesperson who follows up, the staff member who delivered the service, or by a manager who contacts the customer to gauge the level of satisfaction. Customers typically respond to in-person requests. (A more in-depth list of ways to ask for reviews can be found in this post.) Once the opportunities are identified, assign the task to a specific staff position or party to ensure consistent requests for reviews are made. If the ask for reviews is made electronically, be careful of making the ask for a review on the review sites. Some review sites prohibit asking for reviews on the website.

Customers appreciate when the process to leave a review is simple, so take steps to make the process as easy and convenient as possible. If the request is made in person, send the link the customer’s e-mail after they have agreed. For businesses with an automated survey system, follow up survey responses with the link for a review. In the same way, include shortcuts to the company’s review sites in electronic communications, on the website, and on business social media sites.

Include review asks in training protocols.

The process for identifying and requesting reviews should be included in the procedure for training future staff members. For example, future sales staff should be trained on follow-up procedures that include the request for reviews. If the process is part of the registration process, train future staff on procedures for identifying satisfied customers and requesting reviews.

Another part of asking for reviews is responding. Companies should respond to every review and train the staff responsible on the correct ways to deliver excellent customer service to negative inquiries. Responses to negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service. If the resolution to the negative review is simple, respond publicly with a comment. For more in-depth matters, respond to the customer with private messages. If the matter is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, ask the customer if they would be willing to change their review.