(Easy) Local SEO Checklist

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

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!)

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.

2019 Online Search Trends Businesses Should Know (and Use)

ground on tablets searching for local businessesOnline consumer behaviors are always a concern for business owners. If they’re not, they should be.

A targeted marketing plan revolves around those behaviors. To reach customers, business owners should continuously be asking, “Where are our customers online? How can our business engage with them? What means are they using to find our business?”

In general terms, the list includes local search listings, social media, and review sites (read more about how customers find businesses here). The first tactic, local search engine listings, is one of the most significant and studies prove it. According to Google, more than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during an online search.

To get the full benefit of this information, smart business owners and managers (or their trusted marketing firm) not only understand the significance of search engines but apply the information to their marketing. Specifically, there are four recent internet search trends that should be on business’ radar and utilized in a comprehensive online marketing strategy.

Voice Search

According to Forbes, an average of one billion voice searches occur every month. That number is impressive, and demonstrates a growing internet search trend. Consumers are using their devices to find the answers to their problems. Voice searches make life easier for consumers, meaning the amount of voice searches are only going to rise. The one disclaimer follows the old adage about putting all one’s eggs in a basket. While businesses should adapt efforts to voice search, traditional search engine optimization tactics should still be utilized for maximum results.

The application: Businesses need to consider the enormity of voice search when producing online content. Online content doesn’t need to be oversimplified, but it should be written with relevant terms in the same way consumers speak. The major search engines recognize this rising search trend and factor voice-friendly content into rankings. This effort should be coordinated with efforts to improve local search engine optimization since, according to Google, nearly a third of all searches are location-based.

“Near me” Searches

The combination of the explosion of mobile device usage and voice search has resulted in an increase of “near me” searches. This category of internet search trends refers to any search relating to a location near the consumer, such as “near me” or “restaurants Madison WI.” The majority of these searches originate from mobile devices. Many of these local searches result in sales. Google says these consumers are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.

The application: Businesses need to invest in local search engine optimization tactics (as detailed in this post about ways to get businesses found in local searches). This effort includes a complete Google My Business profile and update listings on review sites and local directories. Of course, local SEO only goes as far as getting consumers to the business website. A comprehensive SEO effort should include an optimized and fast-loading website that converts consumers into customers.

Question and ‘How to’ Searches

Website content is an effort that search engines and consumers appreciate. The effort should start when building a website with optimized content and continue with a regular content marketing production calendar. Regular, high-quality website content is a factor in search engine rankings and should be an important part of a business marketing plan. Content should be produced to fit the business sales cycle and recent internet search trends. Recent Google articles have indicated that consumers are using the internet to find answers, making ‘how to’ and question searches a top priority for businesses producing quality content.

The application: Businesses need to develop a comprehensive marketing plan with a custom content marketing calendar. All content should be produced with a clear deadline, posted regularly, and be generated with the latest internet search trends in mind. If there is a lack of staffing or expertise, these efforts can be outsourced to a quality content marketing firm.

Business Owners: Your Practical (and Complete) Digital Marketing Checklist

business team working off digital marketing checklistEffective digital marketing is a combination of online tactics that drives potential customers to a business. For most businesses, a successful marketing plan includes a website, social media, search engine optimization, content marketing, and e-mail. It should also involve nearly every person on staff.

The whole effort can be overwhelming—and overwhelmingly technological. That’s why we’ve broken down modern digital marketing into a complete checklist for business owners and managers. This digital marketing checklist can be divided up among appropriate staff members, or used to determine what tasks should outsourced to a marketing firm.

Website

___ Build site with optimized structure (i.e. schema markups, site maps, etc.) and HTTPS (for security and higher search engine ranking)

___ Organize content into easy-to-navigate pages (including About Us and Contact page)

___ Design website with uniform branding and content tone

___ Make website mobile-friendly for smartphone use (this is not optional)

___ Optimize website content (written) for search engines and voice search

___ Produce and locate optimized images and video

___ Build site with fast-loading speed (A one-second delay while loading a mobile website can decrease conversions by up to 20%. – Google)

Content Marketing

___ Add blog to website

___ Create content production calendar (with deadlines, topics and questions that follow sales cycle, responsible parties, etc.)

___ Add optimized posts with quality images, content, and video

___ Evaluate and adjust future calendars accordingly

Local Search Engine Optimization

___ Claim Google My Business listing

___ Update listings in local online directories

___ Develop a multi-channel strategy for eliciting positive reviews on review sites (i.e. Yelp, Manta, Better Business Bureau)

  • Ask for a review from satisfied customers with a follow-up e-mail
  • Have the salesperson at final meeting
  • Put a sign by the register asking for reviews
  • Include a flyer in product packaging with a request for a review
  • Ask for review when corresponding with customer in social media messages
  • Include a request for reviews in e-mail newsletters and with receipts

Social Media

___ Select social media site(s) where target audience is active

___ Develop plan for social media marketing (with deadlines, topics that follow sales cycle, posts, etc.)

___ Collect images and information for social media (outsource the task if needed)

___ Evaluate social media efforts periodically and adjust plan accordingly

___ Designate a staff member to monitor and promptly respond to comments and messages

Email Marketing

___ Develop multi-channel approach for asking for e-mail addresses

  • Add e-mail opt-in page to website
  • Ask for customer e-mail address at register
  • Post website page with e-mail request on social media
  • Have sales team ask for e-mail addresses at meetings
  • Include request for e-mail address in follow-up e-mails
  • Add postcard with ask for e-mail address in product shipments

___ Set regular schedule of e-mails (with deadlines and topics that follow sales and event calendar)

___ Produce regular e-mails in e-mail marketing programs (i.e. Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, etc.)

___ Regularly evaluate open rates and other data from e-mails to set future topics and schedule

12 Awesome Stats that Prove Local SEO Pays Off

group of friends looking for information on smartphonesDigital marketing is like a speeding freight train. Along the way, digital marketing trends pop up and evolve; some disappear down a dead-end track, never to be seen or heard again (good-bye cloaking). Smart company owners and managers jump on board at key stops, putting the right trends to work and reaping the rewards of a strategic digital marketing plan.

Local search engine optimization, both on-site and off-site, is a digital marketing trend that’s here to stay. The reason behind the long-lasting nature of local SEO is that it’s based off real consumer behaviors.

Think about it. People look for answers to their problems online. Often, those answers are products and services. Sometimes those answers are information. All of this information can be found online, making online searches a key source of leads and sales for local businesses. Smart local business owners are investing in a solid local SEO strategy (more on how to kickstart a local SEO plan here) based on statistics that highlight key consumer behaviors.

Consumers are using local search to find businesses.

Key takeaway for businesses: Every effort (either in-house or by outsourced experts) should be made to get into local search listings, such as claiming listings on Google My Business, review sites, and local directories.

Mobile-friendly websites are important part of website optimization and customer conversions.

Key takeaway for businesses: Business websites need to be optimized for search engines and consumers. An optimized, fast, and mobile-friendly site is not optional for any business who wants to get higher search engine listings and convert visitors into sales.

Positive online reviews play a key part in customers’ buying decisions and search engine rankings.

Key takeaway for businesses: Online review sites play an important role in earning customer trust and a solid local SEO effort. Businesses need to take steps to claim listings on review sites and create a comprehensive in-house strategy of asking for reviews from satisfied customers.

How to Get Your Business Found on Local Searches

woman on smartphone looking for local businessAccording to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search” (Search Engine Watch). The statistics demonstrate an ever-growing consumer trend. Potential customers are searching for products and services online. Local businesses are showing up in the search results—or are they?

Those businesses that aren’t showing up in local searches are missing out on a HUGE opportunity. Search Engine Watch went on to note, “Google says these people are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.That statistic is even more mind-numbing because Google processes more than 2 trillion internet searches per year.

Fortunately, a lost opportunity doesn’t have to remain that way. Local businesses can step up their local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and get included in local search listings. In many ways, local SEO is easier now for local businesses than in the past when national brands dominated, however it does take a concerted effort. Here’s what local businesses need to know AND the local SEO steps that turn a missed opportunity into more sales.

Google My Business Profile

Google My Business is used by the search engine giant as an online business directory. Google My Business profiles, especially those confirmed and updated, show up on maps and search results. Specifically, Google My Business listings show up when online viewers search for local products and services. The best part of Google My Business is that claiming a business profile free. There is only caveat; according to their policy, business profiles can only be claimed by the business owner.

How to get started: Follow the process to claim the business’ Google My Business listing; there is a short waiting period involved because Google needs to send a postcard to the business address. Completely fill out as much information as possible, including the address, business service and product information, and hours. Use this article from Search Engine Journal as a guide, or contact experts experienced in optimizing Google my Business listing and knowledgeable in local search engine optimization.

Review Sites

Online reviews are a valuable asset for businesses. Reviews on popular websites like Yelp, Manta, and the Better Business Bureau and social media play a significant role in building customer trust. These sites are also likely to come up during searches, such as when potential customers are researching local businesses. It’s important to note that in a business’ quest for positive reviews, there is some risk involved. Along with positive reviews, customers may also leave negative reviews. When and if this happens, contact a firm with automated software for monitoring websites and follow these steps for responding to negative comments. Negative reviews are actually an opportunity for businesses to showcase their prompt and excellent customer services.

How to get started: Obtaining positive reviews is a two-part effort. Visit popular websites and claim the business listing (or contact an experienced marketing firm to tackle the task). Pay attention to the fine print; some of these websites prohibit asking for reviews on the website. However, companies can develop a multi-channel strategy for asking for reviews. For example, in-person staff can be trained to ask for online reviews. Asks can also be included in customer e-mails and other marketing materials (this list of ideas to incorporate into current operating procedures can help).

Local Directories

Think of local directories as a modern-day phone book. Many of these online phone books are used by online viewers to find local businesses who provide products and services. Search engines, noting this consumer trend, include these online phone books in search results, making them a high priority for businesses wanting to get found in local searches.

How to get started: Don’t take a haphazard approach to listings on local directories; complete and accurate listings are vital for success. Entrust the effort to the experts or research local directories (this article from Search Engine Journal can help). Compile a list of directories that are relevant and valuable to the business, then determine if the business is listed on the sites. If there is no listing, follow directions for completing a business listing.

Website Optimization

A website is the only place where a business can truly tell their story, making it a valuable marketing tool. Businesses should optimize their website during the building process and regularly throughout the life of the website. During website building, the website should be structured for optimal speed and search engines. For local businesses, pages should be added that use local optimization technology. The technology ensures that the website is listed in organic search rankings initiated by online users around a specific location (or locations).

Websites should also be mobile-friendly; this is not an option. Search engines value mobile-friendly websites and regularly added content, both of which are signals that determine the order of listings on search engine results pages. The latter can be achieved through strategic and high-quality content marketing.

How to get started: When building a website, business owners should employ staff or firms knowledgeable in website optimization. For continual optimization, high-quality, optimized content should be added on a regular basis. (Use these tips to produce relevant, quality content.) An experienced staff member can be tasked with compiling a marketing calendar for content—and meeting deadlines—or the task can be outsourced to an experienced content marketing firm.

Effective Online Marketing Tactics that Target Local Customers

local business trying to reach local customers with marketingLocal businesses need to invest their dollars into marketing tactics that target local customers. After all, a customer thousands of miles away isn’t going to travel cross country to buy your product.

And local customers aren’t looking in their phone book anymore. Consider phone books in the same category as the extinct do-do bird.

It’s time to move into the modern age of smartphones and tablets—and use them to target local viewers that can actually buy.

The chance for increasing sales is high. The investment (of time and funds) in the marketing tactic doesn’t have to be (if you choose the right marketing firm that delivers results).

To be clear, we’re not discounting the significance of in-person customer interactions. Customer service (both online and off) is more important than ever, building relationships and customer loyalty. However, you have to reach customers before you can provide excellent customer service. Far too often, local business owners waste their money on generic marketing tactics that can reach anybody anywhere. Frankly, a flooring store isn’t going to increase sales if their marketing is seen 1,000 miles away.

Website Optimization

An optimized website is built and designed for users and search engines. This is not done blindly. The best websites are built with the right structure for search engines and fast enough for any impatient customer (statistics have shown that online viewers leave websites that take too long).

For the benefit of both search engines and online viewers, website content should be written with information and images relevant to local online viewers. Lastly, contact information for the business should be included on several web pages for search engines and customers. For the latter, include easy-to-use ways to contact the business, such as a contact form and social media.

Optimization Technology

An optimized website is the first step; it shouldn’t be the last. The next step is to continually optimize with content and technology. Search engines credit websites that regularly add high-quality content (i.e. blog posts, infographics, etc.) Online viewers use the content as they research topics that solve their problem. The answer is to regularly add content to the website for both online viewers and search engines. If a staff member isn’t available to do so or doesn’t have expertise, consider outsourcing the effort to the experts.

For brick-and-mortar businesses with one or several locations, optimization technology is the logical next step. Optimization technology specifically targets customers within a specific radius around a business location (or locations). This marketing tactic takes a high level of expertise and understanding of best-use search engine practices; use this guide to choose a marketing firm that offers effective optimization technology that has proven results.

Social Media

Social media is a free marketing tactic that gets results. Unfortunately, those results can be hit-or-miss if some best-use social media practices aren’t followed. Sales-driven posts can also be more in the miss category if these ideas for local social media posts aren’t used.

To build a solid social media following that buys, promote the social media channel on every marketing piece (i.e. website, e-mails, traditional mailers) and during in-person interactions (i.e. register sales, sales meetings, etc.) Get the maximum amount of followers and audience engagement by carefully choosing the social media network that the business target audience is on. Use this helpful social media chart to select the right social media networks and post regularly for maximum effect. Regular posts fit into the “not too often, not often enough” category. The exact schedule should be determined by using statistics, social media insight, and a testing method that determines the best time for customer engagement (i.e. comments, likes, etc.)

Increasing sales on social media does not necessarily mean “only sales” posts. Social media marketing is more of a subtle practice; approximately 60 percent of posts should be sales and 40 percent should be relevant content. To that end, plan a marketing calendar that meets this criterion and showcases the local nature of the business (this list of ideas for social media posts).

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics—especially for local businesses. The first step is to build an e-mail list that is open to communications (use this list of ideas for building an e-mail list). Try to avoid buying e-mail lists which can fill the list with e-mail users that don’t have any interest in the business.

Set a regular schedule of e-mails (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) around dates that are relevant to the e-mail recipients. Try to avoid sending e-mails too often (this is a sure-fire way to annoy e-mail recipients). If the schedule starts to feel too arduous, consider outsourcing the effort a marketing firm.

In the e-mails, include content that is relevant to the target audience. Just like social media content, these topics are not always sales-driven. For local businesses, include community events that the e-mail users are interested in and topics that e-mail recipients want to act on. For a maximum return-on-investment, include call-to-actions in the e-mail that are easy-to-use.

7 Ways to Improve EVERY Part of Your Online Marketing

Businessman with binoculars looking into futureYou’re starting to get this whole online marketing thing. You feel like a master of your company’s social media. You’re gaining some traction in your efforts in terms of results, but…

Traditional marketing tactics can grow stagnant. National marketing tactics don’t target local residents that convert into potential customers.

Even the most solid marketing has some room for improvement—or an opportunity to take marketing efforts to the next level.

Make your website search engine friendly.

A company website is the only place where a company can tell their story. This is the only place to highlight products and services that potential customers might be interested in.

But are potential customers seeing it?

If the website is not optimized for search engines, the answer is probably no. Every website—especially websites of businesses trying to reach local customers—should be optimized for search engines. Website content should be written for search engines and the target audience. Websites should include quality images and video that makes it a top pick for search engines and online viewers.

To reach a local audience, take optimization a step further. Employ local optimization technology that can reach potential customers around the company location (or locations). (Use these tips to select a company that can get and demonstrate results.)

Start adding content to your website.

To search engines, regularly added quality content is a signal of a quality website. For customers, well-written content with excellent images is an efficient and easy way to get information to questions. Basically, regular and relevant content helps websites get higher rankings and earn awareness and loyalty with potential customers.

A well-executed content marketing plan can be implemented with some research. Content should be added to a marketing plan with scheduled dates and responsible parties. If the latter is an issue, producing content can be outsourced (affordably) to a marketing firm.

Use GREAT (not just good) images.

Visuals are an important part of any marketing effort. Statistics have shown that both online users and search engines prefer marketing pieces with high-quality images. Head into the next phase of online marketing with the images that meet (and exceed) customer expectations.

Fortunately, high-quality images do not always need to bust the budget. There are several options: in-house production, contracting with an image service, or outsourcing to a marketing agency. There are pros and cons of each option. Customized images are a unique perk of in-house production. However, there are costs (for equipment and staffing) for this option. An online image service is a great resource, though the cost and common images can be a disadvantage. The last option, outsourcing marketing to an agency, may be the most expensive option but comes with professional pieces with high-quality images.

Tap into the power of video.

Videos are a valuable addition to websites and social media, making it an effective marketing strategy. If cost is an issue, consider adding a live video to the marketing schedule. Choose an event worth live-streaming, such as a grand opening or a local community event.

The alternative is purchasing a video with content that won’t change for a time. This kind of content, called evergreen content, can be used on a website or as part of an effective social media marketing campaign.

Be more regular with social media posts.

Effective social media campaigns (that get results) have two commonalities: relevance and regular posts. The concept is that the posts and content are relevant to the target audience, and published on a regular scheduled that increases awareness. Some social media sites even give preference to brands that publish on a regular basis.

The optimal time and frequency for publishing depend on the industry, social media site, and target audience. Use social media insights, data from the experts, and a little experimentation to set an effective schedule; choose the right scheduling tool to make the process more efficient.

Earn more e-mail followers that buy.

E-mail marketing can be an effective marketing tactic IF the recipients are open to the messages. The latter is the key. Building a strong e-mail list isn’t complicated, but it does take a concerted effort. Simple additions, such as a website opt-in and in-person ask (or one of these ideas for building a solid e-mail list), can be the start of building a solid e-mail list.

Start protecting (not just promoting) your brand.

Negative comments and reviews cost businesses significant revenue every day. A recent study proved that potential customers do online research before purchasing; negative reviews tend to drive potential customers away. Instead of pretending that negative reviews don’t exist, take the offensive.

Protecting a company from online negativity isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, especially when using automated software. Because there are numerous sites for online reviews, automated software is a requirement for an efficient brand protection process. Brand protection software monitors for online reviews, allowing businesses to respond to reviews before they are even posted (contact a firm for more information on brand protection software).

8 Simple Ways to Improve Your Website

company manager looking at sales growth because of company websiteA bad company website is more than just an embarrassment, especially when an exceptional website is a key factor in business growth. A website plays a significant role in establishing a favorable first impression, building customer trust, and gaining sales. It is the foundation of all online marketing efforts. A terrible website does more than makes a company look bad. An awful, dysfunctional website costs a company trust—and lost sales.

This is the end of the bad news. The good news is that improving a company website is not as complicated as it may seems—or as expensive (depending on the website, of course). A bad company website is not always a lost cause or a complicated fix.

Add better images

Well-written websites are great. Well-written websites with compelling images and videos are AWESOME. One of the easiest ways to improve a company website is to start using quality images that capture customer attention and want to see more. Fortunately, obtaining quality images isn’t as hard as it used to be; smartphones and tablets can take quality photos and video. Free images can be found on Unsplash and Pexels, or purchased through a quality image site or from a local photographer. (Use these tips to choose the best images for a business website.)

Optimize, optimize, optimize

Optimization is one of the most overlooked aspects of a first-rate website. While the term may sound complicated, the basic principle is not: optimization is the process of making a website optimal for search engines. The simplest form of optimization is writing quality content for search engines and optimizing images (these tips for optimizing website images can help). One of the most effective ways to optimize a website, especially businesses with a local customer base, is to utilize local search engine optimization technology. Local optimization technology can be used to reach customers within 10-50 miles of a business location (or locations). (Use these tips to select the right local optimization technology.)

Write quality content

Search engines use many different signals (Google uses well over 200) to rank websites. One of the signals indicative of website quality is regular and relevant content (here is how content marketing works and benefits websites). Luckily, quality content is not as expensive as expected; custom content (drafted specifically for the company) can be produced in-house or outsourced to the professionals (very affordably). Be leery of marketing firms that sell sub-par content or duplicate content that has already been published.

Include (better) call-to-actions

A good call-to-action is strategically placed and easy for customers. A stellar website is full of excellent call-to-actions that don’t make a visitor feel like they are getting a concussion from “buy, buy, buy!” To meet the needs of a diverse audience, make sure that each call-to-action is linked to a different way that fits the preference of the target audience.

Add easy ways to continue the conversation

Social media is one of the most effective ways to communicate with potential customers and build the loyalty that retains existing customers (if managed correctly, use these tips for a successful social media strategy). Add links to existing company social media accounts throughout the website; commonly, businesses add these links to the Contact Us page, in the header and footer of each page, and on the Home page. Links to social media pages can also be added in the text.

Improve website speed

Google recently wrote that a one second delay while loading a mobile website can decrease conversions by up to 20%. Customers don’t want to wait, and page loading speed is another factor when search engines rank websites. Literally, it makes cents (pun intended) to decrease page loading times. The exact way to speed up the website depends on the construction; contact a marketing firm for ways to improve page loading times or ask for a quote to build a new (and better) website.

Fix dead end pages

Customers love an easy-to-navigate website, which is way website pages with errors can be so frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to end up with dead ends and errors, especially with websites with a lot of pages. Websites with errors can also be a black eye to search engines; spending time clearing errors or hiring the professionals to find and fix bad website pages can be worth the time and funds.

Be mobile-friendly

A mobile-friendly website is not just an option any more. According to Google, the amount of searches on mobile devices surpassed searches on desktops. Desktop websites do not always function properly on mobile devices, causing frustration and loss of sales.