Category Archives: Online marketing

Integrated Marketing: 15 Ways to Connect Your Offline & Online Marketing

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

businessman with tablet connecting offline and online marketingIt’s one of the biggest mistakes we see in marketing today: companies treating their online marketing (i.e. website, social media, content marketing, SEO) like it exists in a bubble separate from in-person customer service, radio and billboard advertising (traditional marketing).  Yes, we consider customer service as part of your marketing efforts—and you should too!—because customer service is part of the customer experience and many offline and online marketing tools rely on direct conversations with the customer (read how marketing can’t exist without excellent customer service here).  That doesn’t mean you should “hard sell” during every customer inquiry; if you’ve followed our blog enough, you know we recommend using a more subtle approach and selling when appropriate.

That being said, integrating all your marketing together—print, radio, SEO, content marketing, social media, TV (everything!)—sounds great in theory (doesn’t it?), but it’s hard to imagine how to apply to your business marketing without solid concrete examples of online and offline marketing integration:

  1. Keep the feel of your offline and online materials the same (i.e. colors, logo, text, etc.)
  2. Use your billboard or radio to market a social media contest or campaign (coordinate your efforts through a strategic marketing plan).
  3. Add your social media channel URLs to your print pieces.
  4. Answer customer questions by directing them to the content marketing piece that answers the question.
  5. Offer an incentive to customers that join your email marketing list.
  6. Draft email marketing pieces that bring your customers (and potential customers) into your store.
  7. Answer frequently asked off-line questions from customers in your email and content marketing pieces.
  8. Add pictures & notices of in-store discounts to your social media channels.
  9. Give people a glimpse of the results of your services with pictures and videos in your email and social media marketing.
  10. Use local search engine optimization to reach the attention of local customers.
  11. Build a solid website that is mobile marketing friendly (with all the contact information easy to find) for customers that want to visit your store.
  12. Use similar graphics in a coordinated and customized (for the specific platform) social media and print advertising campaign.
  13. Add QR codes to your print materials connected to strategic URLs for a social media or website page.
  14. Use your website, social media, content and email marketing to promote your offline events.
  15. Post videos and pictures of your store, products, or employees (with their permission!) on YouTube and social media to draw your online customers into your business.

If you need any other ideas, or need help crafting a marketing plan that integrates your offline and online efforts, don’t be afraid to contact a marketing agency (like us!) that can help coordinate your efforts and get you the maximum results for your marketing dollar.

5 Must Haves of Every Online Marketing Plan

Puzzle Squares On Smartphone Shows Pieces of Online MarketingWhen we were coming up with a title for this post, the logical choice was ‘5 essential elements of an internet marketing plan.’ Though logical, that title didn’t strike us as strong enough—not nearly strong enough to emphasize how much owners and managers need these must-haves to achieve online marketing results.  No one is going to find out about your website just from its mere existence (called the ‘if we build it, they will come’ phenomena).  Your business MUST have a solid internet marketing plan with all the essential elements that drives customers to your online presence—and converts them to paying customers.

Solid website

A solid website seems like a given; after visiting thousands of sub-par websites, we’re here to tell you that isn’t true.  Your online marketing efforts should revolve around your customers (not what you want them to know, but what they want to know) to drive traffic to your website.  Without a solid website for customers to land on and use, all your online marketing efforts are going to result in a big goose egg.  A solid website includes:

  • Text your English teacher would approve (i.e. no spelling errors, typos, grammatically correct),
  • Excellent user experience (clear call-to-actions, user-friendly navigation, etc.),
  • Design targeted toward your primary audience,
  • Mobile-friendly features and option,
  • Easy-to-read content written specifically for your audience,
  • Loading speed,
  • Quality images,
  • Contact information.

It’s important to note that you need all of these elements when building a solid website.  We’ve all seen websites that have some of these elements but not other key parts; we’d strongly recommend you go down this checklist and make sure your website checks off all the boxes.  If it doesn’t, find a company that can build a solid, customized website for your company—and provide all the services that go into a high-quality website (professional writing, design, security, etc.)

SEO

SEO Optimize Keywords Links Signpost Showing Website Marketing Optimization road sign for local seoSearch engine optimization is creating an optimal website and content for search engines to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are many different ways to optimize your website, but here are some of general, basic ways:

  • Adding regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content targeted for your primary audience
  • Using search engine optimization tactics such as writing strong, accurate headlines and building an optimized website structure
  • Hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.

Local search engine optimization technology can get you at the top of organic search engine listings in local towns and cities. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization technology is an essential part of reaching local customers searching for information and services. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website at the top of local organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.

Content Marketing

blog at center of targetContent marketing is creating and sharing content relevant to your customers. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless.

The goal of content marketing is to build trust. In the past, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. Excellent content marketing delivers the information your customers are searching for on the internet (on search engines and on social media), and gives them links to find more out about products, and to contact your business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with search engines. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.  If you don’t have time to maintain a regular content marketing schedule, contact a company that can produce professional content specific to your business and targeted at your customers. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Remember that you still need to allocate time to give input.

Content should be shared via social media, email marketing, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Social Media Marketing

social media sites behind smart phoneSocial media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. Social media marketing gives your business these benefits:

  • Ability to provide excellent and prompt customer service. Studies show that customers expect a response within two hours, and that number is dropping. Respond promptly, because studies also repeatedly show that customers come back to businesses who have delivered quality customer service in the past—even if their product or service costs more than competitors.
  • Unsolicited testimonials. Customers can leave reviews or comments about your products on your social media sites. Obviously, these reviews can go both ways, but you can also turn those negative comments into a positive. Start by not deleting negative comments or reviews. Instead, embrace the opportunity to show your business can provide excellent customer service. If the reviewer is particularly angry, use these tips to defuse the situation.
  • Chance to sell your products and services. We’ve seen businesses where customers messaged to set up appointments. We’ve seen other customers comment on pictures on social media and tag their friends because they really like the product.

When choosing what social media network to join, determine what networks your customers are on. Factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for social media.  Automation tools can help with this process, but don’t overuse social media automation.   Be real on social media and avoid the common social media marketing ‘traps’ that some businesses fall in.  A solid social media presence consists of regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network), relevant resources, and prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service).  To check all those criteria off your list, designate a staff member (or company) adequate time to devote to your efforts.

Email Marketing  

Statistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers and good email marketing program.  Don’t send out thousands of emails from your company server.

To get the best results out of your email marketing, don’t buy random email lists.  Spam emails are a sure turn-off for customers and potential customers. Instead, compile a strong email list by:

  • Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
  • Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch in-store or at tradeshows.
  • Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases.
  • Create a social media contest, and include an honest request for their email in the contest.

Craft emails with all the elements of a essential email marketing piece:

  • Truthful, eye-catching email subject line.
  • Strong media, videos, and visuals.
  • Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA).

Online Marketing Diagram Shows Blogs Websites Social Media And Email ListsIntegration

For optimal results, integrate all your online marketing efforts into a regular, coordinated internet marketing plan.  Start with a strong, optimized website with search engine optimization, and create a blog with topics that drive traffic back to your website.  Finally, create a schedule in-line with your business cycle that promotes your content (email marketing, social media marketing) and your website. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.

20 Things You Can Learn from Our 20 Years of Marketing

20 Target Showing Anniversary of our Experienced Marketing CompanyCue drum roll.

We’re been around for 20 years. That’s right, we’ve provided 20 years of marketing services. In those 20 years, we’ve learned a thing or two (or three or 20 or…).  We could write a novel about how marketing (and online marketing) has evolved over the years, but everyone loves a list (it is one of the most popular content marketing ideas). We’ve found that one of the most important services we can provide is educating our clients…so here it goes: 20 concepts about search engine optimization, email marketing, social media and content marketing you can use in your online marketing efforts.

  1. Online marketing ALWAYS changes.
  2. Knowing your audience has, and always will be, the #1 rule of marketing. It’s also the key to success.
  3. Small businesses can achieve BIG results on an affordable budget. Don’t assume an online marketing company is too expensive.
  4. There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your company’s marketing. Many a marketing effort has, and will, fail because of a manager or owner with good intentions.
  5. There are do’s and don’ts of outsourcing that every company manager or owner should understand if they want to get marketing results.
  6. The best inspiration for your marketing can be found with the people who interact with your customers.
  7. Search engine optimization is always evolving (it’s not dead, just evolving). This is one SEO myth that drives us crazy—among others.
  8. Not all search engine optimization technology is created equal.
  9. Design your website for your audience (see #2) and optimize your site for search engines and your customers.
  10. Integrate ALL your marketing tools for optimal results.
  11. ALWAYS remember you are marketing to humans. Don’t focus too much on search engines; you are writing for real people (if you need assistance, outsource—see #4).
  12. Content marketing is not advertising. Stop yelling at your customers! Instead, ask this question.
  13. Headlines matter…in the “old” days on mail pieces, and today in email and content marketing.
  14. Every content marketing plan needs to be accompanied by a solid promotion plan.
  15. You don’t have to be on every social media site (here’s how to target your efforts).
  16. Marketing doesn’t work without excellent customer service to back it up.
  17. Be smart with the ways you cut corners in your social marketing efforts—it can backfire.
  18. Don’t jump into social media without everything you need to achieve results—and don’t be intimidated by the list of social media must-haves. Small businesses can achieve results on a small budget (see #4).
  19. You have to commit to online marketing, and stick to it. This is just one of two R’s to use in online marketing.
  20. There is so much more to learn, and continue to learn, about online marketing (see #1). Follow marketing blogs and publications for information, or outsource to a company that keeps up with the latest information and trends.

7 Blogging Mistakes We See Again and Again

dart on blog target when you don't make blogging mistakesBlogs dominate as one of the top online marketing tools today; the sheer number of blogs may be why we see so many blogging mistakes again and again and again…and why so many managers and marketers miss out on the opportunities they set up the blog for in the first place.

To be sure, blogging is a detail-oriented effort. Writing a blog post and missing one (or several) of those details is a blogging mistake that, willingly or unwillingly, sabotages your blogging results.

Not knowing who you’re writing for

If you don’t know who you’re writing to, you’re doing yourself a disservice before you even start writing. And when we say writing “to,” we don’t just mean search engines (though you should also be concerned about optimizing your blog posts-we wrote about how here), but the people you want reading your posts and buying your products.  Your audience is going to respond to content relevant to their life, and you’re not going to use the tone or hit on those relevant topics if you don’t know who they are, the tone they use, and what they care about.

Not writing as part of a plan

Do you have a distribution plan for your blog posts? And a strategy behind your posts and marketing efforts? Know what you want to achieve before you start, and set up a plan with blog posts and promotions that helps you achieve those goals (i.e. establish brand authority, increase website traffic, grow email list, etc.)  This gives you not only a set plan, but also a purpose behind every blog post (which you can use to craft a clear call to action in your post).

Horrible Headlines

Do you want people to click on your post? Put some thought into your headlines. A good headline draws a reader into the post and is TRUTHFUL. Avoid click bait headlines; you may see an increase in traffic, but you’ll also see an increase in your bounce rate. All great  headlines have a commonality: they speak to your audience. Common examples of good headlines include questions (How can I fix this?), lists (5 Ways to fix your problem), or strong words (5 Horrible Mistakes You’re Making Fixing Your Problem).

Using low-quality images

You have just a few seconds to get your audience’s attention, and a low quality image is going to leave your audience clicking their internet browser’s back button in droves. Invest in high quality images that are relevant to your blog posts, or hire a content marketing firm that can deliver high quality blog posts and images. Whatever you decide to do, PLEASE (PLEASE!) do NOT steal images from other internet sites. Just because an image is on the internet does not mean you can take it and use it for your own.

Forgetting your call to action

Your audience shouldn’t have a doubt about what you want them to do by the end of your blog post. Include a clear call to action in your content or video. Your call to action doesn’t always have to be a hard sell, but you do need to include a call to action in line (i.e. for more information, to find out more, to find out your options for…, etc.) with the goal of your article and your blog.

Too much selling

We can hear you, “but that’s why I write blog posts! That’s why I invest my time and money.” Today’s customers don’t want to be barraged by advertisements and sales pitches. Your job is to be helpful and offer your customers resources so they can find what they need. Don’t get us wrong; that doesn’t mean you can’t create an online marketing plan with promotional posts (i.e. social media, mailers, emails, etc.). Use the 80/20 guide. Try to schedule 20% promotional and 80% helpful and entertaining posts that bring value to your customers.

Not keeping up with blog posts

Content marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You don’t have to be a runner to know that means that regular posts are the key to content marketing success. If you can’t keep up with writing quality blog posts, hire experts that can not only write the blog posts but can also manage all the details.

6 of Our Favorite Tips for Optimizing Your Website

SEO Optimize Keywords Links Signpost Showing Website Marketing OptimizationIt’s never too late to turn your efforts to website optimization. With the number of mobile searches now bypassing desktop searches and 95% of smartphone users reporting that they have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT), every day is the time to seize the day and get your website up to search engine standards.  The good news is that optimizing your website isn’t that complicated if you know what you’re doing—and have the time to devote to your website optimization.

Write for your audience.

We feel like broken records with this tip, but there’s a reason why ‘knowing your audience’ is the number one rule of marketing. Knowing your audience is key to success when planning social media posts, delving into email marketing, planning a brochure, and creating optimized content for your audience.

Once you know who you are audience is, write for them. Use a brand voice appropriate for your audience, and select topics and key words they would use in their online searches. For example, if you run a pet store, you might write a blog post focused around the right dog food for their pet. As you write, think about your audience and what they would want to know. Include keywords and topics relevant to their query in your quality content.

Don’t focus entirely on search engines.

You’re trying to get to the top of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, so your efforts should be focused on optimization entirely for the search engines, right? That’s what many a business owner thinks, then wonders why their conversion rates are not increasing. If you want customers to visit your site, and buy from you, write your content for them—not just for the search engines. For example, while you should use keywords in your content for optimal results (here’s a great article on how to choose your keywords), writing an article stuffed full of the same keywords turns readers off and kills your chance to convert.

It’s never too early to think about site structure (and mobile users).

The structure of your website is an integral part of search engine optimization, so plan ahead. Start thinking about optimal site structure when building a new website, or find a company that does. Some of the items on your checklist should be: optimized URLs, pages that are easily shareable, relevant content, strong images and video, excellent title tags, mobile-friendly features. You read that last item right; use of mobile devices is not going away, and it is not going to decrease. Plan accordingly.

Don’t stop optimizing.

Once you’ve built an optimized website, don’t let your efforts end there. Websites with regular, high quality, updated content get better results with the search engines. What does that mean for your business? You need to deliver customer-focused, optimized content that speaks to your audience and contains excellent images and videos. If you don’t think you have the time or knowledge to deliver, contact an online marketing company that can create optimized content on a regular basis (called content marketing). Once you’ve contracted with the company, do them (and yourself) a favor: stay involved. Schedule regular contacts with the company so you can give them topics relevant to your company and feedback or questions that you hear from your customers during daily business operations.

Embrace SEO technology.

One of the most common misnomers we hear is that businesses only need optimized writing to get to the top of search engines. We wish it was true (how easy would that be?), but unfortunately it’s not. Getting to the top of search engine rankings is dependent on the structure of your site, updated content, optimized writing, and utilizing the right search engine strategy. For companies targeting customers across the United States, the right SEO plan is a national SEO strategy without any local focus. If your business is a brick-and-mortar location focused on growing a local customer base, contact a company focused on localized SEO. Localized SEO technology targets customers in your preferred areas, earning your company the top spot for customers searching for a local business that can solve their problem.

Be flexible.

Today’s SEO is not your grandma’s game of stuffing a page full of the same keyword. In fact, those kind of old-school SEO tactics, and black hat SEO tactics, can get your website penalized and kick your company off the digital map. Like most online marketing tools, SEO is a freight train running down the tracks. As search engines implement updates to improve user experience, be ready to adapt your marketing efforts and adopt best-use practices to get to the top of search engine results.

Of course, if you find you don’t have time (or the expertise) to use all these tips, you can always outsource your online marketing. You’ll get optimal results…without having to understand all the website optimization techniques, and without having to stay up to date on the latest updates in search engine optimization.

8 Tips for a Successful Holiday Online Marketing Campaign

holiday online marketingIf you haven’t started crafting your plan for your holiday online marketing efforts yet, it’s time to get started—and not give up. With more than $460 billion spent every year on holiday gifts in the United States and millions of users online every day, you’d be foolish not to use online marketing to make your customers aware that you can help them check off a few boxes on their gift list.

While that all sounds well and good (and easy), there is a difference between a holiday marketing campaign and a successful marketing campaign. The difference? Value. We’re not just talking about a discount, or giving your customers the best deal, but delivering value to their doorstep (and on their computer and smart phone). That value can be advice, information, answers to their questions, entertainment, products, services, customer service—any resource that solves their problem. So how do you plan a holiday online marketing campaign that delivers value to your customers? As you wrack your brain for holiday marketing ideas, our gift to you are the guidelines that make your marketing plan successful:

Target your efforts

You can’t run an online marketing campaign without social media nowadays. It’s a missed opportunity, but don’t feel like you have to be on every social media channel: on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and all the other social media platforms. Be strategic about your social media marketing efforts. Target your efforts to social media channels where you know your customers are, and focus your efforts. If you’re a bridal salon, focus on Pinterest and Instagram. Both social media channels have a strong female demographic of followers, and are very visual social media platforms. If your business caters to other businesses, focus your efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter which are proven B2B marketing tools.

Don’t oversell

Yes, your products would make great gifts. Yes, the world should know. But remember that social media marketing is not advertising (though you can take advertise on social media). “Sell, sell, sell!” tactics are an act of sabotage on social media, and decrease your chances of engagement with your followers. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell your products or services on social media, it means that you shouldn’t ONLY sell on social media.

Identify their pain points

frustrated womanWhat do your customers want to know? What resources can you provide and share that answers their questions? The holidays may be the jolliest time of the year, but it does bring with it a bit of holiday stress (and cleaning and hustle and bustle) as well as questions about gift choices, how to make life easier, and how to handle any holiday crisis that may arise over the holidays.

Invest in media

Videos and graphics are not optional in a successful media campaign. A wide variety of visuals is a must-have to capture your customers’ attention. Make sure you know the ideal size for each of your social media channels; if you are using Instagram, make sure your photos are high resolution for best results.

Create lists

A list is one of the most popular kinds of content that capture people’s attention, so use it. Create a holiday countdown on social media, or a list of gifts (perhaps a list of funny or unusual gift ideas?). Don’t feel your lists have to be solely about your products; remember you are trying to bring value to your customers.

Tell a story

Storytelling is still one of the most effective strategies in online marketing. Use it to your advantage in your content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing efforts. Include photos and videos for optimum results.

Don’t treat your online marketing as a standalone effort

digital marketingToo often business owners and managers don’t let the proverbial left hand know what the right hand is doing; they think that traditional marketing channels is its own animal, and online marketing exists in a bubble. In short, integrate your efforts into a marketing plan so you can use a consistent voice and brand across traditional and online marketing channels.

Bring in back-up

The holidays are crazy both professionally and personally. Don’t be afraid to call in the professionals for assistance in your online marketing. Outsourcing can be the solution that guarantees that your business runs a successful holiday marketing campaign, so you don’t end up with a bag of coal at the end of the holiday season.

5 Ways to Make (and Keep!) Your Online Customers Happy

online marketingLet’s just say it: a significant part of your online marketing efforts should be focused on keeping your customers happy. Sure, we use other terms to describe the concept—customer satisfaction, enhancing their digital experience, customer service, etc.—but really the crux of your online marketing strategy should be focused on your customers and how you can keep them happy with you now, and interested enough to come back. The truth of online marketing is that there is no magic recipe, no standard road map for that goal. And with the advent of new online marketing tools, social media platforms, and search engine optimization strategies, the “magic recipe” for customer satisfaction is continually evolving. Yet even in the midst of all the digital evolution, there are some hard and fast guides you can use in your pursuit of customer happiness.

Know who your customers are

Take the number one rule of marketing to heart when writing optimized content for your website or blog, or emails to send out: know your audience. You’re not going to keep your customers happy if you don’t know the type of customer you are trying to satisfy. Create a buyer persona of your “typical” customer, and create content and emails for that customer type.

If you’re an outdoor gear store with a younger audience, create marketing pieces with information and tips for your customers’ next adventure. Are you a bridal store who caterers to younger brides? Answer the questions you hear in the story on your website, in emails, on your blog, on social media—wherever you have a social media presence.

Know where your online customers are

Once you identify your key audience, don’t randomly dive into online marketing without being strategic about your efforts. Target your efforts where you know your customers are. If you are considering using social media to connect with your customers, do your research. Choose a social media channel where your target audience spends a great deal of their time. Don’t feel you have to be everywhere online; be realistic and strategic about your online marketing efforts.

Engage with them

We often talk about using engagement to measure our social media and online marketing tactics; what about measuring how we engage with them online? Do you just throw social media posts and content out there and see what happens? Do you respond to emails that come in through your website, social media comments and questions quickly? Remember that one of the unique elements of online marketing is that it’s a two-way street; take advantage of that to the fullest. Engage with them, deliver excellent customer service and don’t be afraid to say thank you. It’s refreshing—and too infrequently done, by our standards.

Give them what they want

Is your content relatable to your audience? Can they relate to the problem you are writing about or choosing content about? Does your content relate to the age group of your audience? One way to choose relatable content is to listen to your customers, or talk to the people that do, and write content that answers their questions. You can also put your content marketing in the hands of professionals that can. Remember social media is not about JUST selling to your customer (though you can certainly do that some of the time)—that goal is met by posting and sharing relatable content that helps them, and about listening.

Being relatable can be especially challenging if you feel your industry is “boring,” but that’s where it pays to be creative—and to know your voice. Don’t try to be humorous in an industry where it’s not appropriate (such as for a funeral home). However, we’ve seen heating and cooling businesses, pest control companies, tire shops, many “boring” shops create relatable, entertaining online marketing pieces.

Don’t stop

Online marketing is not a feast or famine exercise; successful online marketing is regular and consistent. Allocate your time accordingly; create a strategic plan that uses all the elements of a successful online marketing plan and execute accordingly. If you need assistance in drafting a plan, or executing regular and relatable content, enlist the help of an online marketing firm. It’s a move that makes you and your customers happy; a bonus in your efforts to keep your customers happy.

Don’t Listen to these Bad SEO Tips

search engine optimizationThe world of digital marketing is fraught with misconceptions and bad advice. We’ve found this to be true in almost every part of digital marketing; if we had a penny for every bad piece of social media marketing advice we’ve heard, we’d be buried in pennies. That penny pile would have nothing on search engine optimization, which is full of junk ideas and misunderstandings. The pile of pennies of SEO misconceptions would reach to the sky; that’s why we’ve tackled some of the worst SEO tips we’ve heard, and the truth behind them:

“SEO is dead.”

We’re getting really, really tired of this. SEO is not dead, it’s just changing. The days of keyword stuffing and buying links are gone, and has been replaced by SEO tactics centered around technical aspects and optimized content that gives your users, and the search engines, what they want the way they want it.

These new SEO tactics achieve results; we’ve seen a local flooring company increase their website traffic double in just four months because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. The flooring company receives form submissions every week from potential customers, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package.

“SEO is not technical; it’s just about writing optimized content.”

Don’t ignore this piece of advice, but put it into context. Optimized content, text written for optimal results on search engines, gives your business website a digital marketing advantage. However, technical SEO pushes that advantage over the edge and positions your website well on search engine results pages (SERPs). To maximize that investment, invest in an ongoing content marketing strategy, which produces fresh content relevant to your industry and your audience. Content marketing provides updated content to your customers and your search engines on a continual basis.

“Buying links gets you to the top of the search rankings.”

Buying links also gets you penalized by Google. It’s a black hat SEO tactic that you should never listen to. If you produce excellent content through content marketing, or have excellent content produced for you, you’ll earn those links without penalties.

“You don’t need SEO if you don’t sell products online.”

Completely false. Think back to the last time you were looking for a plumber, or a dentist, or carpeting. You went online and typed in “local plumbers,” right? Just because your company doesn’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, doesn’t mean that you don’t need SEO. Statistics don’t lie: 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books (comScore), and a startling 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT , Apr 2011). Making an affordable investment SEO technology means your company is on the list next time one of your local potential customers types in keywords that pertain to your business.

“SEO only works for national companies.”

No, no, and no! We’ve helped businesses of all shapes and sizes achieve local results—online exposure in front of potential customers in surrounding communities—with our search engine optimization technology. Local search engine optimization technology can get you in front of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20 or 50 mile radius. With more than 90% of users turning to search engines for information, local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using topics and keywords your audience searches for.

“One SEO firm is as good as the next.”

No. Like any other industry, you have to weed out the good from the bad. Be wary of outlandish promises and guarantees. Ask for references and testimonials of past successes; steer clear of firms that use black-hat SEO practices, such as keyword stuffing and buying backlinks. Ask your SEO firm to see their technology; a demo can give you the full picture of what you’re in for, and the SEO results you’ll achieve.

Are you taking advantage of all the digital marketing tools that increase sales?

search engine optimizationYou know you need to do something about online marketing, but you don’t know what. You’ve heard all the buzz terms: social media, search engine optimization, content marketing, online marketing, email marketing, digital marketing, blog; but you have no idea what they mean, and how to use them for your business. You’re not alone; we talk to business owners and managers every day who are in the same boat. They know their business needs the online exposure. They know it is the wave of the future as statistics repeatedly show that more people are using online to find local businesses—and not the phone book.

Increasingly, we’re finding more and more of our job is to educate business owners about these tools; they know they need them, but they don’t know why or even what they are. We’ve addressed why in past blog posts, but here’s the what of digital tools and, more importantly, how to make them work for your business.

SEO

local seoSearch engine optimization is just what it says—creating an optimal website for search engines to browse and rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are three different ways to optimize your website:

  • By creating regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content users want to read.
  • By using search engine optimization tactics on your website such as writing accurate headlines and excellent content on each page.
  • By hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.

Local search engine optimization technology can get you in front of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20 or 50 mile radius. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, you need to integrate search engine optimization into your marketing strategy because people are looking for products, services and information online—a lot of people. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.

Content Marketing

content marketingContent marketing is creating and sharing content. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless. The goal of a blog is two-fold:

  • To give your audience what they want. The #1 rule of marketing is to know your audience. If you are a sports retailer, your audience is going to be different than a spa or wedding venue’s customers. Find out what your audience wants to know and give it to them. How do you figure that out? Ask them. Listen to them on your social media sites. In a way, you’re using a business blog to provide customer service.
  • Build trust. If you give your customers and potential customers what they want: entertainment, answers to their questions, knowledge, you can earn their trust. In the old days, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. They’re cruising the web because it’s convenient and easy to find what they need, both in information, services and products. Or they’re clicking on links they receive in their email. A business blog gives them the information they’re looking for on the internet, and gives them links to find more out about products or to contact a business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with a tool that more than 90% of online users turn to for information: search engines. Top search engines gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content of your website pages. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.

A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. What does regular mean? Regular means that you post content once, twice, or three times a week, or twice a month—whatever you can manage—without gaps in content posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Use this list of do’s and don’ts for outsourcing, and remember that you still need to allocate time to give input to get maximum content marketing results.

Social Media Marketing

social media marketingSocial media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. This is a two-way street! While you may be on social media networks for sales conversions, this is your chance to listen to what your customers want and give them relevant resources to help solve their problems (and no the answer to their life problems is not always your product or service!). Social media marketing also gives your business other benefits:

  • Ability to provide excellent and prompt customer service (with an emphasis on prompt!). Studies show that customers expect a response within two hours, and that number is dropping. Respond promptly, because studies also repeatedly show that customers come back to businesses who have delivered quality customer service in the past—even if their product or service costs more than competitors.
  • Unsolicited testimonials. Customers can leave reviews or comments about your products on your social media sites. Obviously, these reviews can go both ways, but you can also turn those negative comments into a positive. Start by not deleting negative comments or reviews. Instead, embrace the opportunity to show your business can provide excellent customer service. If the reviewer is particularly angry, use these tips to defuse the situation.
  • Chance to sell your products, and your company. We’ve seen businesses where the customers messaged to set up appointments. We’ve seen other customers comment on pictures on social media and tag their friends because they really like the product.

When choosing what social media network to join, determine where your audience is online. For example, if your audience is predominantly female, choose a social media network with a strong female following. Also factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for the network or networks. Many a business has signed up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the works because they want to be everywhere and everything, without a thought about the amount of time it takes to properly maintain each social media network. Each network has its own audience and way of doing things. If you’re not playing by the “rules” on each social media network, you’re not going to get the results you signed up for. A solid social media presence has:

  • Regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network)
  • Relevant resources for your customers
  • A customer-centric presence, not a business-centric approach
  • Prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service)

If you want to cash in on the benefits and opportunities that come with social media but don’t have the time, outsource your business social media page or profile to experts that can manage your social media network(s). Remember, don’t measure your success on the number of followers, but on the number of engaged followers.

Email Marketing

digital marketingStatistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers. Note the catch: interested customers, so don’t start buying random email lists. Even worse, if you “steal” emails, such as sending numerous emails to an email account without proper consent; you run the risk of getting your server blacklisted after the email user flags your emails as junk. So what’s the best way to create a valuable list of interested customers?

  • Give them an incentive. Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
  • Create a graphic or pop up on your website or blog. Chances are, if the user is interested in your website or blog articles, they want to know to more. This is your chance to deliver with emails that contain valuable information and discounts.
  • Include your ask in your pitch at tradeshows and events. Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch. Take the opportunity to keep the interest of potential customers with valuable information (not just sales pitches) and relevant discounts.
  • Give your customers the option during or after their purchase. Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases. Put a card in your shipments asking customers to keep in touch.
  • Ask your customers for their email addresses on social media. Create a social media contest, and include a request for their email in the contest. Just make sure you are honest about what you are asking; you don’t want to lose your customers’ trust.

Once you’ve got a reliable email list, make sure you don’t just blast out emails with sales offers. Take the same approach you take to your social media marketing and content marketing efforts; be sure to include all the significant parts of a successful email:

  • Create great subject line. All great email headlines speak to your audience. Whether that is through an attention-grabbing headline (e.g. 5 things you’re doing wrong) or a title that speaks to their pain point or entertains them. Don’t produce a headline to get their attention, or uses all the key words that your audience is looking for, and doesn’t deliver any value. Remember, the best way to sell to a customer is to build their trust. Misleading them has the opposite effect.
  • Use different media and visuals. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all mentality when planning and selecting visuals for your digital marketing efforts. Create videos and graphics for every different preference, or purchase them.
  • Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA). The definition of a CTA is not always about a purchase. A call-to-action can be a graphic, asking your audience to contact you with questions (remember you want to build trust) or inviting their input (about a product, a funny picture, anything).
  • Keep testing. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.

Integration

Remember that all these digital marketing tools are most effective as part of a digital marketing tool box. Always make sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing; create a schedule to make sure that you are taking full advantage of your digital marketing efforts. If you don’t have time, find an effective marketing company that can; outsourcing can be the solution that guarantees that your business is getting the most out of your digital marketing tools.

Common Social Media Sins to Avoid

social media marketingThis article could be titled “How not to waste your time on social media.” Truly if you’re committing any of these common social media sins, you’re not getting everything out of social media that you set out to do. You might be achieving results, but your social media presence could be more. There’s so much potential in social media for businesses. Yes, we know Facebook has limited your organic page reach. Yes, we know it’s difficult to quantify the return on investment. When it comes to social media, with effort comes incredible rewards, such as customer retention, an opportunity to build trust with future customers, and the ability to sell your products and services—if you build a solid social media presence.

Note the catch. Your business can reap benefits from a solid social media presence, which has these key elements:

  • Regular posts
  • Relevant resources for your customers
  • A customer-centric presence, not a business-centric approach
  • Excellent customer service

If you want to cash in on the benefits and opportunities that come with social media but don’t have the time, outsource your business social media page or profile to experts that can manage your social media networks. You’ll still have to give input, but you won’t have to worry about making these social media sins (or about learning from them).

Jumping into social media without a goal

Hopefully you jumped into social media with a goal (though if you didn’t, it’s not too late), and not because everyone else was online. What did you want to get out of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn? Here are examples of a few goals you can set, including (but not limited to):

  • set your business up as a subject matter expert,
  • gain potential customers’ trust with great content,
  • build a community around your brand,
  • connect with your customers.

You don’t have to feel restricted to these goals, or to just one of them. The point is that you’re going to get the best results from social media by having a goal and a plan. Think strategically: how can I reach my goal on social media? For example, if your goal is to set your business up as a subject matter expert, what kind of posts and content can help you reach that goal? Have a plan, but be flexible. The world of social media is always evolving, and so should your social media posts; but at the end of the day, your goal is the same. At least for now, because as your business grows and changes so can your social media goal.

Not focusing your social media efforts

Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily when it comes to social media. When it comes to social media, choose quality over quantity. You can open five different social media accounts and proudly add the icons to your website, but if you can’t deliver regular and quality posts on all five of those platforms, you’re a letdown. Note: a quality post is also specifically geared to that social media platform culture and audience (i.e. hashtags on Twitter, longer posts on Facebook, etc.). Please don’t link your social media accounts, like your LinkedIn and Twitter account. Everyone can tell you did it, and the posts aren’t effective. In summary, you’re not going to set out to achieve those goals on social media if you’re not delivering what your audience wants.

That’s why it’s important to do research before you even think about opening a social media account. Ask yourself: who are my customers (female/male, age group, etc.)? What social media network fits my business? Where are my customers? If you are a wedding dress shop, consider Pinterest where a majority of the audience is female. If your marketing efforts are primarily B2B, choose the professional social media network LinkedIn. If your audience is younger, choose a social media network like Instagram.

Too much selling

We can hear you, “but that’s why I’m online! That’s why I invest my time and money.” Today’s customers don’t want to be barraged by advertisements and sales pitches. You’ll find that your engagement numbers—those responding, liking, favoriting and asking questions—quickly decrease. Don’t get us wrong: it’s okay to offer discounts (in fact customers follow your company for that reason), but your job is to be helpful and offer your customers resources so they can find what they need. Don’t get us wrong; that doesn’t mean you can’t sell on social media. Use the 80/20 guide. Try to schedule 20% promotional and 80% helpful and entertaining posts that bring value to your customers.

Thinking that social media is all about you

Many business owners think of social media as a one-way street, another traditional form of advertisement—a megaphone where they can shout out to the world all about well, them. If you follow their business, that’s what you want, right? The answer is very simple: no. Your followers want information that’s relevant to their lives, discounts/the inside scoop, a (human) connection. They don’t want to be yelled at.

Instead, post content that satisfies two requirements, the two R’s: relatable and relevant. Everything you post should be relatable to your customers and relevant to their everyday lives. What do they want to know? What do they need to know to solve their problems? For example, if you’re a pet store, you should post articles about pet nutrition, health issues, food and product recalls, and (believe it or not) funny pet memes and videos. Yes, we know that cat videos and memes have received a bad rap in recent years. But they’re also incredibly entertaining. Just because you are a business, doesn’t mean you can’t use humor. Just make sure you use it when it’s appropriate—and that it’s appropriate for your business.

Ignoring your customers (and potential customers)

This is one of the worst mistakes a business can make on social media: not being social. Remember, social media is a two-way forum. If your customers ask a question, or leave a review, you need to respond—and respond timely. Studies have shown that your customers’ expect a response on social media, and that they are responding a quick response. That doesn’t mean you need to stay awake all night responding to customers, especially if you put your hours on Facebook. It does mean that you need to reply as quickly as possible, even if the review or inquiry has a negative tone. We’ve even given you step by step instructions how to respond in a recent blog post.

If you get a negative review or comment, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Don’t ignore it. Instead, seize the day and use this as a chance to listen and provide excellent customer service. Deleting a negative comment only angers your already angry customer and makes it look like you have something to hide. Your customers are taking the time to engage with you, now it’s your turn to return the favor. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll earn their trust.

Giving up, even for a little while

Note that one of the elements of a solid social media presence is regular posts. The definition of regular is dependent upon your brand and the social media network. That’s why it’s important to post regular and relevant posts on social media, and don’t be afraid to automate them. In addition to scheduling posts on Facebook, you can also use programs like Hootsuite and Buffer to automate your social media posts and tweets on any of the major social media networks. The moral of the story is to not give up on social media, not even for a little while. Social media is a marathon, and you don’t want to interrupt the momentum once you get it going. If you can’t keep up, contact a marketing agency that can. It’s worth it to reap the benefits of social media—without worry about committing any social media sins.