All posts by KD Interactive

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.

smartphone search by local customer finding local business

What (Really) Goes into Local SEO that Works

One of the best marketing choices a local business can make is to invest time and effort in local search engine optimization (SEO). Local SEO is a powerful tool for businesses that want to get found online in searches by LOCAL users. These efforts generate website visits, e-mails, in-store visits, and phone calls.

The effort to get found online does provide value, both in online and in-store visits. Search Engine Watch reported that Google said that half of all local consumers head to the store after doing a local search online. Google also stated that more than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Other local SEO statistics also prove the value of this online marketing tactic.)

However, don’t let the term “generate” make local SEO seem like a passive marketing effort. Companies can’t sit back and wait to be found online.

Local SEO is an active and comprehensive marketing effort that never ends. This online marketing effort is a combination of one-time and ongoing tasks. While that may sound contradictory, some local SEO services, such as building a website or claiming a listing on a review site, are a one-time effort. Other items on the local SEO checklist, such as publishing optimized content and asking for online reviews, need to happen on a consistent basis for best results.

A stellar local SEO effort is complete with every item checked off the local SEO checklist. Because online marketing is also continually evolving, businesses need to stay up-to-date on the latest SEO practices that get results (or consult with local SEO pros).

But what really goes into local SEO that works? What do all those technological terms mean?

The list of off-site and website tasks breaks the local SEO process down—giving businesses the short list of what needs to happen.

Off-Site Local SEO Checklist

  • Claim, verify, and optimize a Google My Business listing. (One-time)
  • Ask customers for company reviews, which are also an integral part of local SEO. (Ongoing)
  • Update online review sites and directories with the (exact) same name, address, and website URL. (One-time)
  • Update Google My Business listing with posts. (Ongoing)
  • Engage with customer comments and reviews on Google. (Ongoing)

Website Local SEO Checklist

  • Build a well-structured and fast website with optimized content. (One-time)
  • Follow Google best-practices for a website with https. (One-time)
  • Optimize website pages with relevant keywords, headlines, and topics relevant to the target audience. (One-time)
  • Make a website mobile-friendly (important for search engine optimizations and website visitors). (One-time)
  • For businesses with multiple locations, create a separate page for each location. (Be careful not to duplicate content, which can incur a penalty). (One-time)

Locally Optimized Website Content Checklist

  • Add local, focused content to the website regularly. (Ongoing)
  • Select topics and high-volume keywords relevant to the target audience. (Ongoing)
  • Optimize content with keywords (without keyword stuffing). (Ongoing)
  • Include keywords in headline, meta tags, and URL. (Ongoing)
customers on smart phone and laptop looking for local businesses

7 Local SEO Myths to IGNORE

Local SEO can get a business more customers and sales. Local SEO myths don’t.

These online marketing statements sound black-and-white, but reality is not always that simple. As business owners try to sift through information about local search engine optimization (SEO), it’s easy to get caught up in the truths and untruths. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the latter; those outrageous local SEO myths that stand between businesses and results.

Let’s start with the worst local SEO myth.

SEO is junk.

This is an online marketing myth that has been around for a long time (and honestly needs to go away). It has its roots when black-hat search engine optimization tactics stopped working and results were not immediately obvious.

Recent search engine optimization statistics prove the opposite to be true. SEO is here to stay, and local SEO is a proven way for local businesses to be found online. These online marketing tactics utilize the latest online trends to build trust online. In local SEO, the goal of these tactics is to get a business found in online searches for local businesses and solutions.

All a company needs to attract Google’s attention is an optimized website.

A website built and created for readers and search engines is only one part of a strong optimized online presence—but only a part. In addition to a website, businesses should also utilize marketing tactics that meet their goals. A local business should also complete a Google My Business listing, maintain a strong social media presence, request and monitor reviews, and employ other online marketing tactics (use this full checklist of local SEO tactics) that target customers and search engines. (Find out more about how reviews play a HUGE part in getting a company found online.)

Adding keywords and cities throughout a website makes it rank better in local searches.

To be clear, the term “optimized” does not imply that a website should be loaded with keywords, local cities, and the business address. To the contrary, a website stuffed with keywords is actually a black-hat on-site SEO tactic that earn a Google penalty. In addition, loading every page with cities and location information can deter potential customers and make a business look like amateurs. Instead, businesses should build an optimized website utilizing the latest online trends and SEO tactics (or contact SEO professionals that can).

Google My Business listings are optional.

This local SEO myth is partially true. Google My Business (GMB) listings are completely optional. Business may even still get high rankings without a GMB listing. The key word is “may.” However, for a business serious about attracting local customers, verifying and completing a GMB listing is an essential part of a strong local SEO presence. A completed GMB listing guarantees that accurate information is used in search engine listings; to be clear, however, not all the information included may show up in listings, though customers have access to the filled-out information.

A bigger service area on Google My Business yields bigger results.

Many businesses are under the impression that if they designate a large service area in Google My Business, they get ranked in all the cities within the service area. The truth is that potential customers can see the service area and see how far a business travels, but the information does not guarantee high rankings in search results in all the cities within the service area.

Content is only for big businesses.

The one tactic that has continually proven to be an important part of a strong SEO presence is high-quality content (even through all the Google algorithm updates)—and it’s not just a tactic for large businesses. High-quality, optimized content produced on a regular basis is well within small businesses’ reach and their budget. Content marketing also comes with other benefits because content can be used for other promotional purposes. To get high-quality website content, businesses should designate the task to a marketing employee or outsource the effort to professionals with a proven track record.

There is nothing companies can do about reviews.

Negative and positive reviews are not—entirely—a random occurrence, though positive reviews on review sites are an important part of local SEO.  Though businesses cannot control when customers post, asking for and responding to reviews is an effort that can managed on a daily basis.

Because positive reviews are an important part of building trust online, businesses should evaluate their daily interactions with customers for chances to ask satisfied customers for reviews. This can be done by sales personnel at a follow-up meeting or during the checkout process. When reviews are posted, businesses should monitor social media sites and review sites to ensure that all reviews receive a response and customers are satisfied with their service.

hands on laptop sending business email as part of email marketing campaign

8 (Easy) Ways to Build a Solid Email List

When it comes to building email lists, we feel like (some) companies are missing the mark. There are so many missed opportunities and misconceptions that can stand in the way of results.

To be clear, there are a lot of results to be had. This list of email marketing benefits from Business2Community spells out the most compelling reasons, including building brand awareness and generating more website traffic and sales.

It should be noted that none of those results are reachable without building a solid email list and producing relevant emails. The basis of every solid e-mail list is a list of recipients that want to receive communications from the business and emails with information they want to receive. Here’s how to get started on the first part of the process: building an e-mail list that gets results.

 How to Build a Solid Email List

Don’t buy or rent e-mail lists.

The first, and biggest, part of gathering emails for marketing purposes is a stern “don’t.” As tempting as it may be, don’t buy or rent email lists. This unfortunately all-to-common practice can lead to wasted efforts and incredibly low results.

Put simply, if the people behind those e-mail lists don’t want to receive e-mails from a business, they’re not going to open the e-mail. This leads to a higher bounce rate and lower open and click-through rate, which can get businesses tagged as spammers without generating any (or few) sales.

Ask in sales meeting, tradeshows, and at the register.

The biggest missed opportunities for e-mail addresses come during daily interactions: in sales meetings, trade show interactions, and during in-person checkouts. This is a prime reason why every employee should be included in the effort to request e-mails (and ask for online reviews).

The exact method of asking is different for every business, which is why identifying opportunities involves an overall evaluation of all business practices. For businesses that ship products, marketing materials asking for e-mails can be included. If the sales process is online, a follow-up email can be sent thanking them for their business and asking if they would like to communicate further.

If a sales team is involved, there are several chances for these asks: during follow-up visits and interactions. Even technicians can collect e-mails and ask for reviews when the service is delivered. Both of these efforts can be useful for marketing purposes and improving a business’ local SEO. (For more information on the pros, contact local SEO experts.)  

Create a social media ad.

Social media is an essential part of every business marketing effort and another way to boost a business email list. Effective social media ads are run on social media sites that reach the target audience (more on how to choose the right social media site here) and are targeted (via interests, demographics, or location) to ensure that a relevant audience is being reached. These ads may include incentives for compliance, such as a discount for e-mail list sign-up or an offer that the viewers can’t refuse.

Make e-mail sign-up part of the check-out process.

For e-commerce websites, an e-mail sign-up is a logical part of the buying process. The exact process of the e-mail sign-up should be easy and reasonable. Long forms and indirect links can weaken the resolve of even the most dedicated user.

Directing users to the e-mail process should be just as clear-cut. The ask can be made via a box included in the purchasing process or via a follow-up e-mail after the purchase. If repeat sales or retaining customers is a campaign goal, the follow-up can include an incentive for another purchase (i.e. percentage off on next purchase, discount on certain item, etc.)

Make followers aware of the perks of e-mails in a social media post.

Social media is a great way to spread the word about the benefits of joining an e-mail list. This is a business’ chance to (occasionally) let users know what they’re missing out on (exclusive e-mail offers) and direct them to the e-mail sign-up page. Social media posts about the e-mail list should be included in a regular social media plan with relevant topics.

Add the request to promotional materials.

The request for e-mails can extend beyond social media and in-person asks. The ask for e-mails should be included on promotional materials strategically produced for the targeted audience. As with online, the request should make the process easy for the recipient. QR codes (which are easy to scan with a mobile device) and URLs to the sign-up page are both easy and effective. The preferred method can be included on brochures, post cards, materials included in shipments, and trade show packets.

Add a pop-up with the ask to the business website.

Website pop-ups can be unpopular and incredibly effective for e-mail sign-ups. The pop-ups should utilize the best online marketing practices and give viewers a reason to want to click. These incentives could include a discount for e-mail sign-up or valuable insider tips that viewers only receive for taking action.

Include the request on the business blog.

Content marketing is a great way to bolster a website’s search engine rankings, offer customers valuable and relevant tips, ask for engagement on social media, and request e-mail sign-ups. The request for e-mail sign-up can be included as a call-to-action in the content, in blog pop-ups, or in clickable images on the blog. These clickable images can include, “for more information, subscribe…” or “to get more great tips, sign-up…”

Tips for Effective Email Sign-Ups

  • Make it easy for users to sign-up (no long forms!)
  • Give users an incentive to sign-up.
  • Make the sign-up process secure.
  • Include the ask for e-mail sign-up in business standard operating procedures.
  • Ask employees to spread the word about the business email list on social media, in e-mails, and in e-mail signatures.

Ideas for Engaging E-mail Content

  • Blog posts relevant to the season or recipient (from the company or from other industry leaders)
  • Sales/discounts/offers (including exclusive offers that make the recipient feel like part of a loyal club)
  • Useful tips
  • Communications from business leaders
  • Requests for donations
  • Daily points of interest
  • Photos and videos relevant to the audience
magnifying glass on search engine rankings in Google

Local Businesses: How to Rock Rankings in Google

How do local businesses get customers to (and through) the door? Driving online and foot traffic is (or should be) the bread-and-butter of every local business marketing strategy. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including (but not limited to) email lists, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

The last item isn’t as tangible as sending out regular emails to customers or posting to social media, but it’s one of the most important ways to drive customers to your business. SEO is the process of getting to the top of search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases. For some businesses, this can be phrases like, “school backpacks for preschoolers” or “backyard grills.”

For local brick-and-mortar businesses, the focus on SEO results needs to be far more specific. After all, a person searching for flooring in Wisconsin isn’t going to contact a business in Ohio. For businesses with a specific target area (around their business or business location), local SEO is one of the top ways to ensure that local businesses are showing up in online user’s searches.

Statistics from Google, the most popular internet search engine, prove this marketing tactic to be successful:

Those statistics are based off of real online behaviors. When a person is looking for a product or service, they are going online to research products and businesses that provide the specific product or business. This could be an intensive process or an impulsive search online. Some of the research is done through voice search or typed-in keywords, phrases, and questions.

If a local business wants to be found in these searches, the business name and information needs to show up in search results. This can be in the form of tips and information, business-specific information, or lists of local businesses that provide a product or service (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “djs near me,” etc.)  There are numerous ways business can show up in searches; this list is just the start of a business’ targeted local SEO efforts (for more technical local SEO, contact local SEO experts).

Claim a Google My Business listing.

Online visitors need businesses that provide products and services. They look for them online, either by typing in or asking questions. An article on Forbes estimated that an average of one billion voice searches occur every month.

In a Google searches, the businesses listed as answers in those searches are often pulled from Google My Business (GMB). GMB is an online directory of local businesses.

To be included in GMB, business can claim a free GMB listing. To verify the listing, businesses need to enter a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add strategic content to your website.

High-quality, optimized content is a huge asset in local SEO. The content can answer questions or provide information relevant to searches about the product or service. Either way, the content must bring some value to the reader.

Years ago, this content would have to be 300 words and only text to be high in the rankings in Google. As search engines have evolved and the sheer amount of content has multiplied (exponentially), the stakes for content has skyrocketed.

Modern content needs to be optimized with keywords and topics relevant to online searches. This does NOT mean repeating keywords over and over, which is called “keyword stuffing” and is penalized by search engines. To be clear, the content not only needs to be optimized for search engines but also for the target audience. (Optimized content can be outsourced to professionals to get regular content that gets results.)

All content should contain images optimized for higher rankings in Google. These images should have relevant alt text and ideally would be a video that provides more value for the reader. While these images should be clear, they should not slow down page loading speed. Page loading speed is another Google ranking factor.

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%.

Claim directory and review site listings.

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). For this reason, business listings on review sites and online directories are a common result on search engine results pages (generated after a search).

Businesses should compile a list of online review sites and web directories relevant to their industry and claim listings on those sites. Every listing should have consistent information—even down to the abbreviations. The suite should be “Ste.” on every site, the same for “Rd.” and “Ave.”   

These sites also play an integral part in building trust with potential customers. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business. To earn those positive reviews, businesses should provide excellent customer service and make asking for reviews a standard part of the process. Every staff member should be trained to provide an excellent experience and ask satisfied customers for a positive review.

To make the process easy for the customer, businesses should look for opportunities to ask for reviews. This could include a link included in a follow-up email, a postcard included in a package, or an in-person ask from a salesman or technician.

Build a website with an optimized structure.

An optimized website is an integral part of every business’ SEO toolbox. To get high rankings on Googles, businesses must structure their website for search engines. In addition, an optimized website must load quickly, contain relevant keywords, never have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions, and contain no broken links.

Astoundingly, almost three-quarters of all Americans have a smartphone. The growing amount of smartphones should be a key part of every company’s marketing strategy. According to Google, almost half of all mobile users are frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. This trend is reflected by Google, which include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

customers shopping for products found online

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

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get more local customers is online. This isn’t a misprint; the local customers down the street from the business or the customer driving around doing errands is on their computer and smartphone right now looking for information (mobile usage statistics show the latter to be especially true).

With that being stated, don’t throw away those postcards or signs just yet. After all, local marketing is the process of using tactics to reach local customers around the business. Rather, businesses should integrate traditional marketing tactics with online strategies that drive customers into the business in-person or via phone or message. Think of the process as connecting with a person who is walking by on their phone and doesn’t look up.

Effective local marketing campaigns target many potential customers on their phones and computers and convert those visitors into customers. The key word “effective” comes with a marketing plan that integrates tactics into a seamless series of strategic online and in-person interactions with potential customers. While all that sounds like a mouthful, it basically revolves around a list of social media posts, e-mails, and other tactics that reach potential customers.

Those communications should be focused on driving local people to the business location, website, or social media messages. To be effective, most businesses should use all or most of the one-time or ongoing tactics listed below; the exact list of tactics included in the marketing plan that gets results is different for every business.

Be part of the community on social media.

If a business wants to be seen as local, the business needs to show they are local. This tactic is a great way to build awareness and loyalty within the community. Businesses can sponsor local events, host events, and promote local causes and events on social media. One note: this is an effective tactic IF the business chooses the social media site (or sites) that has users from the local community and in the business’ targeted demographic.

This effort is not just about showcasing what the business is doing. It’s also about sharing news about community events (such as holiday events) and publicizing local causes. In addition to information and company promotions, businesses should regularly share photos and videos of company volunteering days, company-sponsored events that benefit a local cause, and posts from local organizations that the business endorses. These social media efforts need to be regular to be effective; if the business cannot maintain a regular schedule of relevant posts, the effort can be outsourced for best results.

Completely fill out the Google My Business listing.

Google My Business (GMB) is an online directory that the search engine uses to answer online visitors’ questions. GMB listings show up when visitors ask to see “flooring companies near me” or “coffee shops near me.”

To show up in those search listings, businesses should claim their Google My Business listing. Claiming the listing is free, but it does require entering a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add the business information (exact information) to online review sites and directories.

Accurate information on online review sites and directories is an important part of showing up in online searches. When checking and entering information, businesses need to make sure that the listings are the same on every suite. Even road and suite abbreviations should be consistent.

When choosing online review sites and directories, businesses should start with popular sites like Yelp and Manta. Depending on the industry, businesses may want to consider listings on other sites as well.

Start asking for reviews.

According to a recent report, more than three-quarters consumers report that they research businesses before purchasing. An easy way to build trust with online visitors is to have a review or social media site full of positive reviews. The best way to get those reviews is to ask.

Businesses staff can ask customers during almost every interaction, such as at the checkout or in a follow-up communication. Signage and marketing postcards placed in packages and bags can also be an easy way to request a product or service review (a full list of ways to ask for reviews can be found here). To make the review process easier for customers, salesman and managers can also send follow-up emails with satisfied customers with links to review sites.

Build an e-mail list.

E-mails are a form of marketing with a huge return-on-investment. However, email marketing is not effective without a list of recipients interested in the product or service.

There are several ways to ask for e-mail addresses, both in-person and electronically. Salesman and checkout staff can ask customers if they would like to provide an e-mail address during the sales process or in follow-up communications. Automated e-mails sent after a completed transaction can provide a link where customers can sign up to receive electronic communications. On websites and on social media, businesses can ask customers if they would like to opt-in to their e-mail list. These ideas are just a few of many ways to build an e-mail list; there also a few tactics to avoid so customers are not driven away with unwanted e-mails.

Once a solid e-mail list is built, the “trick” that gets results is to draft an e-mail with information that the recipients want to read. The subject should get the recipients’ attention and make them want to read the contents. Businesses should include strategic call-to-actions (i.e. “for more information,” “click here for…,” etc.) that make it easy for recipients to interact and with the business. Every e-mail should include links to the website and social media sites.

10 Steps to Successful Online & Website SEO

online shopper finding business that utilized local seoKnowing the basics of search engine optimization (SEO)—and using the latest tactics—can be the difference between being lost online and generating valuable business leads. Successful local SEO gets a business found by local online visitors who are searching for information related to the business. Because search engines look for factors that cater to a better online experience for visitors, these tips can also convert visitors and give a business the edge over a competitor’s less-than-stellar web presence.

SEO can be broken down into two types: on-site and off-site. On-site SEO is the process of optimizing a website for search engines. This effort sets up a website so it checks off boxes on the list of search engine ranking signals. Off-site SEO are those checklist items that ensure a business shows up in search engine listings, such as a listing on an online directory.

While businesses have been using SEO for many years, SEO is an ever-evolving process with a changing list of ranking factors. To stay on top of those updates (and on top of the search engine results page), use these steps to get started and a professional marketing company to utilize the latest SEO practices.

On-Site SEO

Build a website with optimized structure and easy-to-use navigation.

Google has specifically stated that a HTTPS website is a top ranking signal. In addition to a secure HTTPS site, a website needs an optimized structure with an easy-to-use navigation. The latter is important for SEO and visitors. While SEO gets a website found, a website with an easy-to-use menu and conveniently positioned call-to-actions turns online visitors into buyers.

Consider website speed.

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

Make the website mobile-friendly.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of Americans have a smartphone. Google reports that more than half of online searches came from a search on a mobile device. Both of these statistics are the reason that a mobile-friendly site with fast loading time is a search engine signal.

Add optimized website content (for search engines and voice searches).

Optimized website content contains keywords that are relevant to online visitors’ searches. Basically, the website should contain information with keywords relevant to online searches—without sounding canned. This is another way that professionally-drafted website content can satisfy search engines and online visitors.

Select and optimize website images and video.

Website images are another integral part of a stellar website, both for online visitors and search engines. These images and videos should not be random media downloaded off of the internet (in fact, this is a huge online marketing mistake). Instead, the photos and video should be professional quality purchased or produced in-house. (These tips on choosing the right images for online marketing are invaluable.)

Add content on a regular basis.

New content regularly added to a website is a top search engine ranking signal. These types of content should be added on a regular basis to a website for optimal results. All content should be optimized with strategic keywords and information valuable to online visitors.

Off-Site SEO

Completely fill out a Google My Business listing.

Google My Business listings show up in searches when online users search for a local business. Businesses who claim a free listing can customize the information that shows up, such as the hours and listings. The claiming process is free, but does need to be confirmed by a postcard sent to the business address. For optimal results, take the process a step further by optimizing the GMB listing or outsource the task of creating and optimizing to trusted marketing professionals.

Claim review site listings.

Accurate listings on review sites are a valuable source of online traffic and a vital part of a business local SEO. This makes accurate and standard listings on Yelp, Manta, and the Better Business Bureau an important part of business’ efforts to get found online. Review sites should be monitored regularly (manually or with an automated system) to ensure that all negative reviews are responded to with excellent customer service.

Review company protocols to find ways to ask for reviews.

Positive online reviews build trust and earn customers. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of online visitors have reported that they factor online reviews into their purchasing decision. Businesses should make getting more reviews a top priority in daily operations; many of the asks for reviews can be integrated into daily operations.

Choose online directories.

Accurate business listings on online directories are another key to getting found in local searches. When claiming listings, businesses should make sure that the information is consistent on all sites. For example, an address with a street or suite should be written out fully or abbreviated the same on all sites. This effort can be done in-house or managed and updated by professionals as part of a comprehensive local SEO plan.

10 Tips that Get Businesses Better Social Media (and Results!)

user on phone looking at social mediaSocial media should be the source of more customer interactions and engagements—not frustrations. This list of social media tips gets business owner and managers the improved social media presence that gets the results they want.

Those results should mirror the benefits of a solid business social media presence:

  • Raising brand awareness,
  • Driving more traffic to a business location,
  • Generating more business leads,
  • Driving more traffic to a business website,
  • Increasing interactions with current and potential customers,
  • Generating more messages to the business

Tip #1: Make a clear (but flexible) social media plan.

The good news about this social media tip is that it’s never too late to draft a plan. The plan should be flexible and open to improvisation when needed, but provide a clear foundation for getting results. It should be important to note that the social media marketing plan should cater to what the target audience wants to know, not what businesses want to tell them. This post details the process that gets businesses up and selling on social media.

Step by Step: How to Get Your Business Up & Selling on Social Media

Tip #2: Choose a social media site that your target audience is actually on.

The long-and-short of the process should include documenting the target audience (who the business is trying to reach) and selecting the social media platform that the target audience is on. This part of the process is outlined in this post.

What Social Media Site Fits Your Brand?

Tip #3: Take the two R’s of social media to heart.

While there are many parts of building and maintaining a results-driven presence on social media, the basis is the same for every social media platform:

Understanding the Two R’s of Social Media Marketing

Tip #4: Build a social media following that wants to engage with the brand.

Businesses should never pass up on an opportunity to attract followers that are interested in the brand. These social media followers are not randomly bought and paid for. Instead, they are “recruited” at meetings, at check-out (in-person or online), and through off-line marketing materials.

10 Offline & Online Tips to Build Your Social Media Following

Tip #5: Never stop testing social media ideas.

The age old question, “what should be posted to social media?” is answered in this post. In addition to these lists (the second is more specific to local businesses targeting local customers), ideas can also be found by reviewing competitor pages. The exact formula for a business social media page is different for every business and should be continually tested to ensure that it fits customers’ preferences and updated social media trends.

What should I post to social media? What do people want to see?

Local Businesses: 30 Ideas for Your Next Social Media Post

Tip #6: Focus on goals.

There is no doubt that online bantering and entertainment is part of the customer experience (when appropriate). However, these social media strategies do not always achieve goals the business set out to achieve.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Sales

Tip #7: For local results, use social media to connect with local customers.

For local businesses with local social media marketing goals, world-wide recognition is nice—but it does nothing to help get local customers and sales. Local businesses need to use different tactics to showcase their part in the community and the value they can provide to anyone who stops in (or contacts them). This approach does not always mean using a “sell, sell, sell!” approach, as discussed in this post for local businesses.

How can I use social media to connect with local customers?

Tip #8: Make the WHOLE customer experience favorable—especially customer service!

Customers appreciate businesses that make their life easier. Businesses can meet (and surpass) those expectations by providing helpful information, entertaining them, and answering their questions. The latter effort is more important than ever because customers expect quick, helpful, and complete answers. This post discusses how businesses can respond to customers and earn their business.

6 Rules for Delivering Excellent Customer Service on Social Media

Tip #9: Only the best and most relevant images work on social media.

Statistics have repeatedly shown that marketing with images get better results. The exact nature of those images is different for every business, but there are some guidelines businesses can use when choosing images for social media. Depending on the social media platform, the images don’t have to be high-quality but they do have to be highly relevant to the target audience.

How to Choose the Best Online Marketing Images

Tip #10: Don’t put all those proverbial eggs in one basket.

As beneficial as social media is, a business social media presence should never be a stand-alone marketing tool. Not every customer or potential customer is going to find a business or want to interact on social media. Instead, a social media plan should be part of a bigger marketing plan that includes SEO, email, and other marketing tactics. This post details the process.

Step by step: Make SEO, Content, Social Media & Email Work Together for You

20+ Startling SEO Statistics that Get You More Business

tablet that user is using to do Google searchSEO is more than just the talk of a bunch of technological blowhards. It’s a digital necessity that generates leads and sales, but not one that has to be accepted blindly (or at the word of every digital blowhard).

Fortunately, there are hard-and-fast numbers that confirm why businesses should invest in SEO and dictate where businesses should invest their marketing dollars. If the numbers aren’t enough, business owners and managers should let personal experience do the talking. There’s scarcely a place anyone can go without encountering people on smart phones, desktop computers, and tablets looking for information on online search engine listings.

If businesses want to be at the top of those search engine listings, they need to put search engine optimization (SEO) to work for their business.  Put simply, search engine optimization is the process of convincing search engines the business should be at the top of relevant online searches. To do so, websites—and a business’ online presence—has to check off more than 200 boxes to get to the top of search engine listings in front of potential customers (or hire SEO experts to manage the task).

With customers and sales on the line, earning those key positions on search engines should be a high-priority investment catered to ever-evolving search trends. But don’t take this technological blowhard’s word for it. The proof is in these SEO statistics (all compiled into one easy list).

Why SEO is Important

  1. A recent study proved that potential customers do online research before purchasing.
  2. More than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine.
  3. Google is the most popular search engine, with almost three-quarters of the market. (HubSpot).
  4. Search engine giant Google processes more than 2 trillion searches per year. (Search Engine Land)
  5. More than a million voice searches are done every month, according to this Forbes article.
  6. More than three-quarters of all mobile searches end in an offline sale.
  7. Eighteen percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.
  8. According to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search.”(Search Engine Watch)

Why Mobile-Friendly Websites & Website Speed Matters

  1. Seventy-seven percent of all Americans have a smartphone.(Pew Research Center)
  2. According to Google, more than half of searches initiated from mobile devices.
  3. Almost half of all online users are annoyed by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. (Google)
  4. “52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.” (Google)
  5. According to Google, when the time for a websitepage to loadgoes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.
  6. Search Engine Journalrecently published shocking statistics from an Unbounce study. Almost seventy percent of consumers reported that slow page loading speed plays a role in their buying decision.
  7. Forty-six percent of online users put “waiting for a website page to load” on their mobile devices at the top of their dislike list, according to Google.
  8. More than half of all searches are done on a mobile device.

Why Getting Good Online Reviews Are a Top Priority

  1. More than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Google, 2018)
  2. On average, consumers need at least 10 reviews to trust a company. (BrightLocal)
  3. Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land).
  4. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business.
  5. More than half of all customers select companies with four stars or more. (BrightLocal)