google search engine with magnifying glass user looking for optimized websites

How to Start Optimizing a Website

Optimizing a website is the first step in increasing website traffic and conversions—especially when executed as part of a local search engine optimization strategy. While it may be the first step, website optimization is a multi-step process that caters to the latest visitor search trends and updated algorithms initiated by search engines.

The whole effort can be overwhelming, but that shouldn’t push “optimizing a website” to the bottom of the to-do list. To the contrary, the latest estimates put the number of Google searches at approximately two trillion searches a year. A study published by Search Engine Land found that more than three-quarter of all local searches end in a sale. The statistics behind search engine optimization are undeniably persuasive, which is why it’s time for every business to dive into optimizing their website and make it a top priority.

Consider search intent.

The first step of optimizing a website is to consider the intent behind the users searching for the website. Simply, what keywords would they use to find the website? This is an important step in the process, because being ranked for the wrong keywords results in a high website page bounce rate. Put simply, searchers aren’t going to browse through the website and buy if the site doesn’t have the information they were searching for.

A key factor in keyword research should be the rise in voice searches. According to a study done by Adobe, almost half (48%) of all searches are initiated by voice. The increase in voice searches are leading to the rise of “near me” and “how to” search phrases, which should be included in website content. (Keyword research can be completed by a company in-house or outsourced to search professionals.)

When keyword research is complete, the keywords should be strategically included in all website content. An effective website page should include optimized titles, website text, meta data, and content.

Worry about website speed.

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

These SEO statistics lead to the next consideration: website speed. Slow websites repel visitors, and search engines have noticed. Search engines are now placing an emphasis on website loading times, and businesses should take note and use Moz best practices for page speed.

A secondary consideration of this process is evaluating the overall website navigation. Every website should be classified as easy-to-find, with visitors able to find information quickly and minimal page redirects. The latter also can increase website page speed and reduce the website bounce rate.

Make it mobile-friendly.

This aspect of optimizing a website has long-term roots, as reflected in the 2012 Google article that stated that more than half of all users were less likely to utilize a company because of a bad mobile experience. According to Google, more than half of all searches are done on a mobile device. According to Pew Research Center, 8 out of 10 Americans own a smartphone.

These SEO statistics point to the importance—no, the necessity—of having a mobile-friendly website. Mobile-friendly sites rank higher in search engines, making it an essential part of an optimized website. Google has even published guidance on mobile-friendly websites. Put simply, every page should be easy-to-use on a desktop or mobile device. This should include all forms, including contact forms, which are a key step in converting visitors into online customers.

small business owner stressed about crisis marketing

6 Small Business Marketing Tips for Difficult Times

The only certainty in this world is uncertainty, which is why we’ve put together these small business marketing tips that can help owners and staff connect with clients during difficult times. Unfortunately, small businesses and their customers are all too familiar with illnesses, natural disasters, recessions, and other times of uncertainty. While businesses can’t avoid the storm, they can use some best-use marketing practices and lessons to not only weather the storm—but even thrive.

DON’T ignore the source of customers’ anxiety.

The best businesses relate to their customers online the same way they do in-person. Businesses don’t exist in a bubble, and they shouldn’t act like it. Every communication should sound human, including during difficult times. This is a time to recognize their source of anxiety and empathize with customers with social media posts and messages and website messaging. When the next step is not clear, it’s okay for businesses to acknowledge the problem, admit they are in the midst of planning and working on future updates.

As a local business, this is also a chance to be part of the community and share helpful information. Customers appreciate businesses that are there during the good and bad times, sharing resources for assistance and brightening their day.

DO adapt business (and business communications) to customer needs.

Businesses that weather the storm are flexible enough to adapt to the worst situations. In many cases, these situations are not business as normal; savvy business owners and employees are flexible enough to adapt their business practices to meet customer needs. If customers can’t come to them, they make their products available in other ways. When customers’ needs change, businesses recognize this and are flexible enough to alter their business model or hours of operation.

DON’T forget to tell customers about business changes.

A business’ communications about those changes are an integral part of weathering the proverbial storm. If a business has decided to alter their standard operating plan, they need to promptly and succinctly communicate their plans. When a small business is limiting their hours, they need to decide how to tell their customers—and post the information right away. If the business is taking orders over the phone or through a website, the business needs to promptly inform customers of the phone number or website link.

In an incredibly technological world, the communication plan should include emails, social media posts, and website messages. When there is limited internet access, businesses can use word-of-mouth marketing tactics to reach customers.  

DON’T miss a customer message.

An uncertain time can be very chaotic, but customers still reach out to businesses via social media and email. Even during difficult times, businesses need to designate a trained staff member to respond promptly to messages and comments. If the comment is public and involves personal information, the staff member should ask the customer to send a private message so the business can resolve the matter without disclosing personal information.  

DO take the time to plan for the future.

Even during a crisis, small businesses should plan for the future. Even in a changing climate, businesses should anticipate different scenarios and craft responses for each situation. When a message is communicated to customers, all staff members at the small business should be informed of the content and given messaging for future inquiries.

While a crisis can be very difficult, it is also a time for evaluation. This is a time for businesses to look for gaps in their present marketing, craft a plan to address any issues, and make a plan for any future crises. Businesses can take steps to supplement marketing staffing, improve the speed of responses, and resolve website traffic issues.

DON’T stop communicating.

It’s common for businesses to feel like the crisis is over and their work is done. This stance couldn’t be any more wrong. Small businesses benefit from regular and relevant communications, during and after a difficult time. When the storm is over, this is the time for businesses to make and follow a marketing plan that reaches new local customers and guides a business through the easy and difficult times.

customer on smartphone looking for local business that uses local seo

Small Businesses: 9 Local SEO Tips that Get You to the Top

Most small businesses can’t imagine getting over-the-top results from a small marketing budget. However, with online marketing, the smallest details matter, which is why these local SEO tips can get a local small business to the top of local search engine results. Of course, that top position in local search results won’t come overnight, but it does come with regular efforts (detailed in this checklist) and utilization of the latest local SEO tactics.  

Local SEO can get local businesses local customers who are interested in purchasing local products and services. Unfortunately, online marketing myths always seem to follow these successful marketing tactics; this list of do’s and don’ts of local SEO can give businesses the positive practices that reach local customers and the negative myths that inhibit marketing results.

Do optimize the business Google My Business site.

A Google My Business (GMB) listing is an important part of a local SEO strategy. A complete and optimized GMB listing isn’t just an effective way to get marketing results, it’s free.

To optimize a business GMB listing, the business must first verify the listing. This can be done by requesting and entering a code sent by Google. To get the most out of the listing, the business should completely fill out the GMB listing (with these instructions for an optimized Google My Business from Search Engine Journal). For best results, small businesses should take this local SEO tip seriously and add their logo and product pictures, plus the business address (if applicable), website URL, business hours, and service area. (A local SEO service can also optimize the listing as part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy.)

Don’t believe that a bigger service area on Google My Business gets more results.

The Google My Business service area has become the source of many business’ misconceptions. Many businesses believe that if they make the service area bigger, they get higher rankings in all the cities and towns. Research has proved this myth not to be true. While online visitors can see the service area, a bigger service area does not guarantee higher rankings in the service area.

Do make review sites a top priority.

Review sites are becoming an important part of customers’ buying process. Even for local businesses that provide services, customers are using Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to choose the best business. Search Engine Land recently published a study that reported that more than 80% of all consumers trust reviews as much as an in-person recommendation. Bright Local published a consumer review survey that said that consumers would only choose businesses with more than four stars.

These local SEO statistics make this local SEO tip a priority for businesses. Instead of leaving reviews to chance, businesses should claim their listing, make sure all information is accurate, and ask satisfied customers for reviews. The ask can be done in-person or in follow-up communications (ways to ask for a review are included in this list). There are many opportunities for asks; a business should review their standard operating procedures and include the request in future employee trainings.

Don’t forget to monitor reviews.

Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t see review sites as an on-going local SEO tactic. This misconception is a risky stance. Instead, small businesses should monitor review sites (or contract with marketing pros with an automated review site monitoring system) and respond to negative reviews.

While it might be tempting to respond with angry comebacks to negative reviews, small businesses should respond with empathy and ask to take the conversation to a private conversation. This not only takes the discussion off-line, it also gives businesses the chance to resolve the situation to the customers’ satisfaction.  

Do make sure the NAP is consistent.

The building address is a significant part of every online small business listing—more important than many businesses realize. It is not only important to include the address, but there is also value in ensuring that every name, address, and phone number follow the same format on every site. The business name should be identical in every listing. A business’ suite should be abbreviated the same or written out, along with the road and other address information. The same goes for the phone number. While the NAP may seem like a minor detail, it is a minor detail that is worth utilizing in a business local SEO strategy.

Don’t forget about link building.

Link building is the practice of building links from other websites to the business’ website. In the past, this practice was linked to the black-hat SEO tactic of buying links. Often this black-hat tactic resulted in links to sub-par websites, which sabotaged SEO results for small businesses.

Modern link building revolves around getting links to reputable websites, resulting in reputable results. (Link building can be outsourced to marketing professionals for efficient results.) To search engines, link building is a third-party verification of a website. The third-party verification plays a role in how a website is ranked on search engines.

Do add local information to a business website.

If a business wants to be seen by local visitors, the business should include local information on the business website. The local information should be included in the original website copy and in optimized content regularly added to the site (produced by the business or content professionals).

In addition to local information, website content should never be produced without keyword research. Keyword research ensures that a website content is optimized for visitor search intent. Simply, this means that the content should be crafted with keywords used by the business’ target audience. This targeted online marketing approach increases website conversions because users visiting the site want to purchase the product or service.

Don’t bore website visitors with local, local, local…

While localized website content is an integral part of a local SEO strategy, it’s important not to alienate visitors by overdoing the localization. There are examples of this local SEO mistake all over the internet. Many businesses list cities or draft content with so much localization it sounds like an amateur produced it.

Do be social.

Social media may not be the first marketing tactic that comes to mind with local SEO, but it is an important part of every local business marketing strategy. Business social media channels reach customers interested in the business, and builds loyalty and engagement with customers. In addition, social media sites are crawled by search engines and, if utilized effectively, can result in an increase in website visits. For a full return-on-investment, business should select social media sites utilized by their target audience and regularly post relevant information.

highway with traffic just like website traffic from visitors

10 BIG Ways to Increase Your LOCAL Website Traffic (With Checklist)

Increasing website traffic should be a top goal for almost every business. The simple truth is that a website that isn’t visited isn’t going to get customers. The complex truth is that there’s more to increasing website traffic than that—especially for local businesses.

For local businesses, website visits are just visits—unless those visitors are local with an interest in the products and services. A visitor thousands of miles away isn’t going to contact a business for a remodeling quote or to purchase flooring. Targeted traffic, on the other hand, is a valuable tool that results in more local visitors searching for the business’ products or services. These visitors are more likely to buy because they are looking to buy.  

While these tactics are listed individually, the most effective way to increase local website traffic is to coordinate these tactics into a strategic marketing campaign. The campaign can be steered by a creating a marketing plan and performing regular evaluations (executed by business staff or local marketing professionals). These regular evaluations allow businesses to adjust future marketing efforts and utilize past efforts that have yielded customer engagement and sales. While the big picture can be incredibly technological, this checklist for increasing website traffic breaks down the effort into actionable, effective marketing tactics.      

Checklist for Increasing Website Traffic

Establish and maintain free social media profiles.

___Choose social media sites with demographics that match business’ target audience (use these social media stats).

___Regularly share relevant information.

___Add social media posts with website URL.

___Respond to customers’ messages and provide excellent customer service.

Produce blog content with researched keywords.

___Add quality content produced with keywords that match search intent of target audience to website.

___Include internal links to website in content.

Leverage the power of landing pages.

___Research keywords searched by target audience for on-page SEO.

___Produce optimized landing pages focused around research keywords.

___Include quality images and videos that increase conversions.

Verify and optimize a Google My Business listing.

___Verify Google My Business (GMB) listing.

____Completely fill in information on the GMB listing.

___Add photos of business location and products, which increases engagement.

___Include website URL in GMB listing.

Establish listings on online directories.

___Select online directories relevant to the industry.

___Completely fill out the listing with the website URL and exact same name and address.

Advertise on social media.

___Choose the social media site with demographics that fit the business’ target audience.

___Create a targeted ad with quality images and catchy text.

___Specify settings so the ad is targeted to local visitors and audience demographics.

Build an email marketing list.

___Ask customers for their email in-person and online (use these ideas for building a solid email list).

___Review standard procedures for opportunities to ask for customers’ emails.

___Include the ask for emails to training materials for new employees.

Include the website URL with YouTube videos.

___Include the website URL in the video.

___Add the URL to the YouTube profile.

Add the website to printed promotional materials.

___Include the website on every printed material (either with the URL).

___Pass out materials with the website URL at events.

___Distribute the printed materials in bags or on receipts.

Optimize the website.

*This effort does not drive traffic, but does ensure that the website is easy to navigate by search engines and website visitors.

___Establish an easy-to-navigate website for visitors.

___Make the page mobile-friendly.

___Structure the site for smooth indexing by search engines.

man looking at business online marketing that didn't utilize marketing trends

5 Marketing Trends Your Business Hasn’t Used (and It Shows)

There’s knowing about marketing trends—and then there’s, well, knowing. It’s one thing to know about the latest online marketing trends. It’s another to USE those marketing trends to draft a marketing plan that connects with a target audience and yields, ultimately, more customers and sales.

If small businesses aren’t incorporating those marketing trends, they are falling behind their competition. They aren’t getting found online by local users or converting them to customers. They aren’t earning as many sales as they could.

But this article isn’t about blame. It’s about bringing local businesses up-to-date on trends that bring a solid return-on-investment.

Voice Search

Voice search is not a new marketing trend, but it’s one that’s not slowing down anytime soon. With the rise of voice search comes opportunity, and unfortunately many businesses are missing out on capitalizing on this consumer behavior.

So how can businesses “cash in” on this rising opportunity? The answer isn’t a simple singular application, but it should be reflected in the tone and structure of future online marketing projects. Every digital marketing project should be structured for search engines and consumer browsing. Marketing channels should have fast upload speeds and a conversational tone with phrases used by visitors.

Videos

Videos are also a marketing trend that’s not going anywhere—and small businesses need to make this a regular part of their marketing efforts. The good news is that producing a marketing video doesn’t require as much effort as it used to, thanks to easy-to-use video editors and high-quality mobile devices.

The list of ideas for marketing videos is long. Small businesses can produce videos with tips, product and service demos, or about customer experiences. For live videos, businesses can record behind-the-scenes footage or give insight into a unique part of the business. Videos should be promoted as part of a strategic marketing plan.

Optimized Content

Customer search intent should be the core of every piece of digital content produced, and marketing trends suggest the production process should go a step further. In addition to utilizing a conversational tone for voice search, content should also be crafted specifically for the target audience. In the past this meant incorporating keywords (and this is still an important content marketing practice), but the effort should also utilize recent search trends.

If the process sounds incredibly complicated, it’s time to bring in the experts to combine all the essential elements into content drafted specifically for the target audience. The online world has become incredibly crowded, and utilizing the latest information (directly from the source or from marketing professionals) gives businesses an edge over the competition.

Online Customer Experience

In the past, business’ online customer experience has been incredibly one-sided. It’s time for businesses to create an online presence that focuses on the customer. Statistics have repeatedly shown that customers turn to businesses that not only solve their problems, but make it a positive experience.

In practical terms, this means that every aspect of the experience should be easy-to-use. It should be easy to find information, easy to contact the business, easy to communicate with the business, and easy to buy. The whole process should be focused on the customer, and should involve many staff members. Small businesses need to be prepared to provide prompt customer service on a channel that the customer prefers.

Automation

Automation is making the whole marketing process more efficient, giving businesses the keys to get more from every minute of their marketing efforts. This process can make getting online reviews easier for businesses, especially with systems that can monitor online reviews and give customers more chances to leave positive reviews. This automated system is definitely worth the effort; statistics have repeatedly proven that customers are basing their purchases off of positive reviews left by other customers. Review automation is only one marketing solution; the future of automation is looking bright for businesses willing to embrace these marketing trends.

office desk with tools for planning marketing budget

How to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Budget

Every dollar in a small business marketing budget matters, especially when the budget is tight. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips that help small businesses get the best return-on-investment for their marketing dollar.

Realize that growth requires spending

Unfortunately, small business marketing follows the old adage, “nothing in life is free.” (Though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t can’t be affordable.) While setting up a social media profile may be free, social media marketing is rarely effective unless the profile is maintained regularly with relevant content. The production and maintenance take time, and time is money. However, if marketing on social media is done well, it results in more customers and sales. Effective marketing yields results but effective marketing requires a regular allotment of time (such as a regular check-in with the marketing team or hands-on marketing) and funds.

Make a plan

One of the easiest ways to get the most out of a small business marketing budget is to make a plan. This step results in a documented strategy that ensures the budget is allocated into marketing tactics with a high ROI that can be regularly checked and evaluated. An effective marketing plan starts with a few simple questions and should include a marketing schedule. The schedule should follow the business’ sales cycle and clearly designate the party responsible for executing each tactic.

Choose tactics that target local customers

A marketing plan is only as effective as the tactics included. Small businesses should take this selection a step further and choose tactics that target a local audience, such as local SEO, social media, or on-page website optimization. These tactics typically have the highest ROI and strategically leverage every dollar of a marketing budget. Local SEO and on-page website optimization target local customers by building authority with search engines, allowing them to appear at the top of local searches. These marketing tactics are backed by statics. Search Engine Watch recently published a Google report that stated local searches led 50% of mobile users to a local store.

Outsource when needed

The crux of an effective marketing plan is productive execution. Regular marketing is an important part of building brand awareness and engaging customers. While small businesses tend to believe that marketing is cheaper when done in-house, the opposite actually proves to be true in certain situations. This is where a (quick) evaluation can be an important step toward yielding results. Businesses should ask, “What marketing do we need? Do we have the staff and time to effectively execute the plan?”

The answer might be a clear yes or no, or only a partial positive or negative. For some businesses, it is more cost-effective to outsource part—or all—of the marketing (a request for a quote can answer the question). To be clear, even if the answer is a completely positive and it makes the most sense to completely outsource, businesses still should plan on allocating some time. Regular check-ins and contributions are an important part of creating a custom marketing plan with the same tone and look.  

marketing plan meeting

10 Questions that Yield the Perfect Small Business Marketing Plan

This post is not about social media or local SEO (though both marketing tactics should be on every local business’ radar); instead, this practical post is for small businesses looking to draft (and use) a marketing plan that gets results.

While drafting a marketing plan adds another item to the year-end task list, the process is definitely worth the effort. A small business marketing plan provides the direction that ensures that every marketing tactic and investment is strategic; it allows businesses to strategically choose the right marketing tactics and get the most from investments of time and money.

A marketing plan ensures that the marketing process is more methodical, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be incredibly practical as well. The plan doesn’t have to be full of technical marketing jargon, but it should include some vital information that stems from asking several strategic marketing plan questions.

What is the current state of the industry? What are the unique strengths of the business?

This section of a small business marketing plan doesn’t have to be long, but should detail the environment of the business’ industry. This section should also include information about competitors, and what sets the small business apart.

Put simply, the latter should answer the question “what makes customers want to buy from the business?” The answer may be excellent customer service, a unique form of service delivery, or a product advantage. Whatever the answer, this information can be used to create marketing messages that detail why customers should buy from the business.

What current marketing tactics are being used? What marketing has worked in the past?

The marketing plan should detail past marketing tactics (i.e. social media, content marketing, etc.) and the success (or not) of past marketing campaigns. In addition to detailing the past, this part of the marketing plan should also include future marketing tactics and ideas to be included in a marketing calendar.

Who is the business’ target audience? Who is the ideal customer?

This is one of the most important marketing plan questions, and, unfortunately, one that not many small businesses address. The marketing plan should specifically detail who the business is targeting. Instead of the generic “everyone,” this section of the small business marketing plan should provide demographic information (and location specifics, if the business is local) of the target audience.

What new products or services are we introducing?

A small business marketing plan should provide direction for a marketing calendar; a list of new products and services (with projected roll out dates) guides decisions about future marketing tactics and ideas.

What are the future goals? How are those goals evaluated?

Future goals are an essential part of a small business marketing plan. This section should also detail how the goals are evaluated and when they are evaluated. When setting goals, it is important for small business owners to be realistic and to realize that quality matters more than quantity. As tempting as it is to set goals like, “gain 10,000 new followers on social media,” it is important to realize that the amount of social media engagement contributes far more customer loyalty and future sales.

What staffing and budget is available for marketing?

Just as with marketing goals, this portion of the small business marketing plan should be an honest assessment of the staffing time and expertise available for reaching goals. If this assessment proves that there is a gap in available staffing (or expertise), certain tasks should be outsourced to a marketing team of specialists with experience and a track record of results.

In addition to staffing, this area should also set a budget for marketing. Though some marketing tactics may be (technically) free, it should be recognized that results are gained by regular and relevant efforts (which cost money).

The answers to each of these questions should be documented so progress is regularly tracked and results are easily evaluated. A custom-drafted marketing plan can also be drafted by a professional marketing team with marketing tactics specifically chosen for the small business (and fitting within the marketing budget).

businessman celebration successful market plan execution

Effective Marketing Plan Tips & Ideas that Get Incredible Results

Most business owners would agree that they want to reach more customers, but very few know how to craft a marketing plan that reaches potential customers. A marketing plan captures all those business growth ideas and gives a business a clear execution plan that achieves results. A marketing plan includes:

  • Summary of the business’ current situation (including product or service, current effective marketing tactics, challenges, etc.)
  • Target audience (including demographic specifics)
  • Future goals (makes these goals specific, such as social media engagement goals, website traffic, etc.)
  • Budget
  • Tactics used in future marketing efforts (i.e. social media, content marketing, advertising, etc.)
  • Marketing schedule (with party responsible for execution and clear deadlines)

Benefits of a Marketing Plan

  • A marketing plan provides focus so the targeted audience is reached.
  • Planning ahead allows for adequate planning and preparation (and avoids charges for rushed projects).
  • A marketing plan puts ideas into a document, so the business can regularly revisit the plan and make sure work is being done.
  • It allows a business to track results—and refine future marketing.

Tips for an Incredibly Effective Marketing Plan

Effective marketing plans are built, not given. The best marketing plan sets clear goals and outlines tactics that coordinate together to achieve those goals. As such, there are some clear marketing plan tips that businesses should use to create a coordinated and target effort that provides the best return-on-investment for the marketing budget.

Identify a target audience.

A target audience is an important part of effective marketing because it guides the selection and tone of future marketing. Instead of saying “everyone,” a marketing plan should specify the location (especially true for local businesses) and demographics of the target audience. A clearly defined audience can dictate the right social media channels that are used by the demographic. (The demographics of social media are outlined in this Sprout Social report.) If the target audience location is key, a marketing plan can demonstrate the need for solid local SEO services.

Set reachable goals.

Most businesses want to growth their business. The most effective marketing plans aim for growth, but do so with a set of annual attainable goals. As nice as it would be to gain thousands of social media followers, a marketing plan breaks the effort into step-by-step goals that get hundreds of customers in the target audience ever year.

Remember, that effective marketing is all about quality over quantity. For local businesses, reaching thousands of customers hundreds of miles away that can’t buy is a waste of marketing funds. Instead, it makes cents (pun intended) for local businesses to invest in marketing tactics that reach local customers that are in a position to purchase the business’ goods and services. A hundred local customers that can or may buy are more valuable than thousands of national customers.

Be realistic.

The crux of a well-executed marketing plan is to be realistic about the amount of staff available to carry it out. If a business wants to keep the effort in-house, the responsible staff member should be chosen carefully (with the right skills and expertise) and have the time available to devote to regular marketing efforts. All marketing passwords should be stored at the business. User profiles should be set up for the business, not the individual.

When there are not staff members available (or not enough time in the day), it may be time to outsource efforts. Just as when hiring a new staff member, a marketing firm should be chosen carefully. The marketing firm should be screened carefully and should be able to provide firm data that demonstrates the return-on-investment of every marketing tactic. For local businesses, the marketing firm should especially be able to demonstrate a clear expertise and have a track record of getting targeted results for local businesses.

Strategically choose tactics that fit with goals.

Targeted marketing requires targeted marketing tactics. This is especially true for small businesses who don’t have the staffing, time, or budget for large-scale marketing. Instead, businesses should choose marketing tactics that reach the target audience and provide the best return-on-investment.

Marketing Plan Ideas

An effective marketing plan utilizes marketing tactics that reach the target audience, though the combination of those tactics is different for every business. This list includes marketing tactics that build trust with an online audience and provide a solid return-on-investment.

Local SEO

Local SEO services set up a business online so that it shows up in searches by local customers. This marketing tactic involves multiple steps, such as claiming listings on online directories, building an optimized website, and creating and promoting quality content. The whole effort is a series of one-time and ongoing tasks that build trust with search engines and online customers. Because it is an ongoing process, it often pays off to outsource this effort to a local SEO service.

It’s also a marketing tactic backed by statistics. Another study published in Search Engine Land found that 78% of all local mobile searches result in offline purchases. Local SEO gets a business found in local searches, and builds continual trust with brand reputation management. Again, the latter is based off of online user behaviors. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

Content

Quality content attracts customers in two ways: through listing in search engines and via email and social media. Well-written content with well-chosen images establish a company as a local industry expert and the answer to customers’ problems.

The key is to produce optimized content that positions the content in relevant customer searches and results in clicks on social media and in emails. For the effort to be successful, the content needs to be regularly posted and relevant to the target audience. Content creation should also involve keyword and search intent research and end with a promotion strategy that reaches the target audience. For regular and strategic content creation, a calendar with topics, deadlines, and responsible parties (either in-house or by a quality content firm) should be crafted and maintained.

Social Media

Social media is a marketing tactic that requires strategic planning and execution. The effort starts with selecting the right social media channels based on the target audience and continues with regular posts relevant to the industry and audience.

This marketing tactic is about more than just selling products. Social media also gives businesses the chance to showcase their involvement in local causes, showcase projects and achievements, talk to their customers (with excellent online customer service), and gain positive reviews that show up in online searches.

The latter two elements of social media are often overlooked by businesses. Prompt and excellent customer service is an interaction that can result in sales and loyalty, though it needs to be delivered promptly. For this reason, businesses should select experienced staff members for the responses and establish a system for response and follow-up.

On social media and online review sites, positive reviews are earned; however, businesses are passing up on a chance to earn more customers by not asking for them. There are many opportunities for businesses to remind customers to leave reviews, which is why businesses should incorporate the asks into existing marketing pieces and customer interactions. The effort should be a comprehensive business effort with every staff member trained to deliver during service delivery.

Website Optimization

A well-built, easy-to-use website is worth its weight in gold, both in the eyes of customers and search engines. The website is a business’ chance to tell their story and provide an optimal customer experience that builds customer trust.

Statistics prove that a mobile-friendly, fast website is worth the effort. A study in Search Engine Land found that nearly 60 percent of all searches are done on a mobile device. According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.

In addition to these important parts of the customer experience, captivating images, website content, and an easy-to-navigate website all play a significant part in converting visitors to customers.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics IF executed correctly. Email marketing starts with a list of recipients interested in the business services or products. If the recipients are not interested, the email is going to go to the trash; this is a key reason why buying email lists is not an effective way to build an email list.

Instead, businesses should ask for e-mail addresses with incentives or during interactions with customers. Businesses can ask for email addresses on the website, during the buying process, or at meetings. To continue to grow the list and maintain interest, all emails should be drafted with a subject line that gets noticed, content that is valuable to the customer, and high-quality media that connects with the recipient. For best results, email content should be coordinated with other marketing tactics in a coordinated marketing calendar.

worried businessman because website is bad

6 Ways Your Small Business Website is Missing the Mark

The saying, “the devil is in the details” definitely applies to small business websites. The truth is that many small business websites aren’t reaching local customers. The websites that do get found online are not converting visitors into paying customers.

In both instances, small businesses are leaving money on the proverbial table.

This is why those devilish details need to become a top priority for small businesses looking to market online. Since a small business website is the core of a solid online marketing plan, this is the place for businesses to start investing their efforts and tracking the results.

Website isn’t secure

Following search engine recommendations should be a top priority for small businesses. Search engines can be the source of a majority of website traffic, especially from local visitors. These recommendations are based off of the search engine’s goal of delivering lists of websites relevant to the search and that deliver a full customer experience.

The customer experience starts with a secure website. In 2015, Google admitted to giving a preference to HTTPS websites during the ranking process and promoting the widespread use. Recently, the search engine king started throwing up warning pages about sites that it didn’t feel were secure. The warning page strongly warns visitors about proceeding to these websites; essentially, these warning pages block new website visits and significantly lower website traffic.

Not mobile-friendly

A secure website is just the tip of the iceberg. Google also includes mobile-friendly as one of its more than 200 ranking signals. This preference is based off of statistics that show insight into consumer behavior. In 2016, Google reported that more than half of all online searches were done on a mobile device.

The use of mobile devices has exploded since then, making a mobile-friendly website an absolute top priority—and one that, surprisingly, many small businesses have not embraced in their website design. That choice can be a major turn-off for customers; Google has reported that “52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.” 

Slow Website Loading

A slow website can sabotage the customer experience just as much as the lack of a mobile-friendly site. According to Google, forty-six percent of online users put “waiting for a website page to load” on their mobile devices at the top of their dislike list. The news—and the statistics—get worse for slow websites.

As the loading time of a webpage increases, the chance an online user moves on also increases. Google reports that when a website loading time increases from one to three seconds, the risk of an online user leaving increases by 32%. If the loading time goes from one to five seconds, the bounce rate increases to 90%. That number sky rockets to 106% when the loading time goes from one to ten seconds.

Poor customer experience

All of these factors are part of a strong customer experience. A well-structured website optimized for search engines and built with optimized content written for search engines and the target audience are also key elements in attracting the attention of search engines and visitors.

A website’s metadata and structure play an important role in what terms websites are ranked for, and how high the website is ranked. These optimization elements also determine what information is displayed in search engine rankings, which is a significant part of getting online users to choose the website. Website page headlines, content, and strategic call-to-actions are the last piece of the website optimization effort.

Lack of website promotion

Building a solid website is not enough. Website traffic only grows with solid website promotion tactics included in a solidly built marketing plan. The effort should be continual, which can be done by in-house or outsourced to experienced marketing professionals.

Website promotion should be strategic and include the tactics that reach the target audience. For local businesses, this plan should be aimed at local users that fit within the business’ target demographic. Website promotion ideas include regular social media posts, a complete Google My Business listing, and a complete online directory and review site monitoring strategy.

Irregular (or no) website content

Adding regular, optimized content to a website is an important part of earning search engine rankings and online users’ trust. The effort should be based off keyword research and optimized with topics relevant to target audience searches. Content should be added regularly to the website with minimal breaks in the content publishing calendar (which can be maintained in-house or via an experienced online marketing firm).

In addition to optimized text, a content publishing calendar should also include quality images and video. These images and videos should be carefully produced and strategically chosen as part of marketing efforts. The end result is a variety of marketing topics and pieces crafted for search engines and local visitors searching for the small business’ products and services.

two businessman looking at well promote website content on smartphones

BIG Ways You’re Not Promoting Your Website Content

By now, businesses should know that adding regular and relevant content to a website is a proven way to get found online. Unfortunately, what many businesses don’t realize is that creating and adding content is only half of the equation. Promoting website content is just as vital for online marketing success.

Content promotion is all about getting the most bang for a business’ buck. It’s about using the content to reach the maximum amount of members in the business’ target audience and attracts search engines’ attention.

Unfortunately, many businesses take the outdated stance that website content can be found without promotion. While the old, “if we build it, they will come” content strategy worked years ago, today the amount of data added to the internet is in the quintillions (no, that’s not a misprint). It’s time for businesses to not only add quality content but to reap the rewards of a well-executed website content promotion strategy.

Types of Website Content

Before getting into proven promotion tactics (that many businesses are not using), these types of website content can be produced (in-house or via content marketing experts) as part of an online marketing schedule:

  • Blog post
  • Graphics
  • Video
  • E-books, docs, and whitepapers

To be clear, website content that gets results is not necessarily filled with “buy, buy, buy!” messages. Instead, content should be produced with a clear goal to provide value to customers. This can be accomplished with valuable information and quality call-to-actions.

Ways to Promote Content

Email

A connection with a customer is an invaluable part of a marketing strategy. When an e-mail owner chooses to receive marketing e-mails, they show an interest in the business; this sets e-mail marketing apart from “cold calling” tactics. There are several ways to build an e-mail list with users interested in receiving communications from a business.

In an e-mail, businesses can promote many pieces of website content or focus on a particular piece of content. Businesses can choose the option that is relevant to its promotion strategy. The topics included in the e-mail should resonate with the customer and can even including offers and discounts. For example, a business selling ski products should produce content and include them in e-mails prior to the slope season.

Almost as important as the content is the subject line. The subject line is a business’ chance to pique e-mail owner’s interest. Effective call-to-actions in the e-mail drive a customer to act. Both elements should be a key part of every marketing e-mail.

In addition to the topic, businesses need to set an e-mail schedule that appeals to customers without annoying them. Too many e-mails are going to drive customers to immediate hit delete and drive down click rates. On the opposite side, businesses that don’t take advantage of this tactic are missing out on marketing results.

Social Media

There are multiple ways businesses can promote website content on social media. The first step is to choose the social media site(s) that the target audience uses. The next step is to look for opportunities to promote website content on the social media site (or outsource the effort to marketing pros).

Typically, there are three different ways to promote website content. All three tactics are dependent on social media monitoring. Businesses should invest in social media monitoring software to find out what followers are talking about—and what they are saying about the business.

The first social media promotion tactic is to maintain a solid social media profile with regular posts. If not done correctly, this can feel like a shout in a tunnel with only an echo of acknowledgement. A social media profile should be maintained with posts relevant to the audience and in line with other marketing materials.

The second website content promotion tactic is a paid option: social media ads. This tactic involves drafting an attention-grabbing ad targeted at the audience demographic interested in the business. The crux of this strategy is to choose content that is relevant to the audience and that they want to click on.

If social media monitoring is done correctly, the last tactic is to use content to help users solving a problem relevant to the business. This can be done by adding share buttons to content, so other readers can share the content or respond to comments with helpful information. Businesses can also monitor groups centered around relevant topics (or create a group) and respond to users who are asking for information.

QR Codes

QR codes are an effective way to direct users to content from a printed marketing piece. This marketing tactic can be included on mail pieces, event marketing materials, in programs, and even in packages sent to customers. QR codes may seem traditional, but customers need a smartphone to scan the code and be directed to the content or business app.