Monthly Archives: March 2020

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.