Social media is inherently a narcissistic thing. It’s the place where people like talking about themselves, first and foremost.
This is where many small businesses fail. They don’t understand that people don’t care about brands; they care about what brands can do for them. This lack of understanding is transparent in their social media postings. They’re either promotional or boring.
If you’re a small business wanting to strengthen your brand with social media, you need to put yourself in the mind of social media users and plan your strategy accordingly. Here are 3 ways you can start today:
1. Provide Value
Always ask yourself before posting on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media channels: What’s in it for them, meaning your customers or audience? How is your content valuable?
Value can be conveyed in several ways. Your posts should be entertaining, offer some kind of a reward (through coupons, discounts, etc.), or be helpful to someone else’s business.
When you publish helpful content on a consistent basis, your audience will start associating your brand with something that provides value.
2. Start Conversations
You’d be surprised how many “one-sided” conversations are on social media. There are many businesses that only post promotional content but don’t interact with their customers. As mentioned in the beginning, social media is an inherently narcissistic concept, but businesses shouldn’t follow suit!
Respond to someone’s off-hand comment on Twitter. Encourage followers to leave comments. Lululemon Athletica, a yoga apparel company, did this brilliantly by posting “fill in the blank” questions and asking people to design their dreams.
3. Tell a Story
Now you get to be a bit narcissistic yourself, but only 1 out of 10 times or so. Tell a story about your brand, how it got started, and who works for it. Stories are interesting as long as they tap into people’s emotions.
Post something that shows appreciation to your employees if you have any, because people like to feel they’re supporting businesses that are nice to their people.
How to Pick the Right Social Media Channel
With so many time-sucking social media outlets, which one is right for your business?
If you want to build a community and your target demographic is older than teens, Facebook is right for you.
If your business is B2B and your content revolves around helping other businesses, LinkedIn is where you want to hang out.
If you’re in a visual industry (architecture, interior design, etc.), consider Pinterest and Instagram.
If you post a lot of time-sensitive information, Twitter is your answer.
If your business revolves around “showing” how things work (like auto dealership), YouTube is the way to go.
The best way to build your brand through social media is to focus on one core channel first, gain a following, and branch out. This way, you can focus on providing the best content and avoid spreading yourself too thin.
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Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
The term “inbound marketing” was thought to be a trendy buzzword soon to go away. But many years later, it has become the strategy for online marketing efforts of small businesses.
Guy Kawasaki famously said, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” It would seem that the skeptics are wrong and inbound marketing is here to stay, because it’s hard to deny its effectiveness.
That is not to say outbound marketing, or traditional marketing has no place. But it pays to take a good look at what advantages inbound has over traditional tactics.
Traditional marketing includes advertising on TV, radio, print, outdoor, tradeshoes, etc. These channels are not cheap and oftern can run in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With inbound, you may spend a portion of your marketing budget on strategy, content creation and SEO, but the costs associated are no where near that of traditional marketing.
Custom content is more relevant than ever. Inbound focuses on building relationships with customers through customized content. It feels more personal and relevant than traditional advertising, which is primarily used for awareness building and branding.
When was the last time you were excited to receive junk mail or a call from a telemarketer? Probably never. On the contrary, inbound is based on your customer giving permission, or “opting-in.”
Inbound is not intrusive because you can decide you want to visit a certain website. Social media sites like Facebook display only relevant ads related to something you searched for recently. And even if those ads don’t speak to you, they’re not “in your face” like a TV or a radio ad.
Traditional marketing through expos or trade shows can only be done once at a certain time. Then the vendors have to return again the following year. For the most part, print ads are only relevant within a day or two of their run date.
Inbound marketing through blog posts, white papers, ebooks and social media, on the other hand, can sustain itself. It only has to be written once and put up once, and people can download it over and over. The content created for inbound marketing campaigns is a durable digital asses that generate leads for years.
Again with the trade show example, traditional advertising takes longer to plan and execute. Trade shows are typically a week long and take time to transport, set up, and tear down. This requires manual labor.
While some parts of inbound like content generation can’t be automated, many parts can be automated to save time.
It’s important for businesses to know which marketing efforts give them the best ROI. Many times, inbound is the answer.
Find out why your customers can’t find you online. Request your free Local SEO and Inbound Marketing audit today!
Summary of Google’s Organic Search Algorithm Changes
Google makes changes to its search algorithm on an annual basis, approximately 500 to 600 times a year. These changes are typically minor however Google has and will make major algorithmic updates (like the Hummingbird change below) that have a significant effect on search results on an ongoing basis.
Understanding, even at a basic level, when Google algorithm changes take place, why the changes were made and how they impact rankings and website traffic will ultimately provide improvements to your overall search engine optimization process.
Although there have been many changes to search algorithms, the most popular changes (that have created the largest impact on web search engines) appear below.
Some of Google’s updates are unnamed and sometimes unconfirmed. For example, there was a suggestion related to an e-commerce-based update however this has not been confirmed by Google to date.
On April 21, 2015, Google™ made a major update to mobile search, which will reward websites that are mobile-friendly and punish those that are not.
Other updates that were confirmed by Google are listed below.
Penguin – Penalized sites with over-optimized or unnatural (spammy) links
Google Penguin was first announced in April 2012. It is an algorithm created to penalize (i.e. lower the natural/organic search rankings) of sites that have manipulative back-link profiles, such as:
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]High percentage of exact match anchor texts
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]A lot of low-quality links
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Links from article directories and rich anchor text press releases
At the time, the Penguin update shook up the industry because rich anchor text links were the primary practice for targeting and ranking keywords.
Google launched another update on October 17, 2014. This update was said to be smaller than initially expected according to the experts. It was reported that this update was likely data-only, and not a new Penguin algorithm. Just slightly more than 1% of the United States / English-based queries were affected. It was also reported that the timing of this update was uncertain, particularly on an international level. Google stated that the update was spread over a period of weeks.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Follow Google’s Disavow Backlinks Guide and remove low-quality, 3rd party links from linking to you. Don’t take the blame for someone who is participating in a link-building scheme or otherwise violating Google’s quality guidelines.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Avoid pay-for-link and other shifty link-building tactics.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Start or continue creating high-quality, educational, relevant, compelling content targeted towards your Ideal Client. When the Penguin algorithm change was announced, Google’s Matt Cutt’s had this to say:
“If you’re doing high quality content, Penguin shouldn’t be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes.”
Panda – Penalized sites with low-quality, thin content
Google Panda was initially rolled out in Feb. 2011. Unlike Penguin, the Panda algorithm was designed to detect websites that have “low-quality or thin” content and reduce their organic search rankings accordingly. Low quality refers to duplicate, auto-generated or bad content and thin means short, unhelpful pages, possibly with lots of ads.
In 2012, Google announced an over-optimization penalty to Panda. This update intended to help sites with great content rank higher than sites with average content and better SEO, thus helping to spark the content marketing craze.
Fast forward to May 20, 2014 and Panda 4.0 was released. According to Search Engine Watch, Google stated that about 7.5 percent of English queries may see an impact from this update.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]In response to Panda, Google’s Matt Cutts has this to say:
“The overriding goal is to try to make sure that you’ve got high-quality content, the sort of content that people really enjoy, that’s compelling, the sort of thing that they’ll love to read that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to…”
Hummingbird – Complete overhaul/replacement of Google’s search algorithm
Google announced the Hummingbird 1.0 in August 2013. Hummingbird was a complete overhaul/replacement of Google’s search algorithm. To use a car analogy, liken it to replacing the engine versus getting an oil change.
One of the most interesting aspects of Hummingbird is the incorporation of semantic search or the true meaning behind what is being search on. As such, Hummingbird gives more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the entire sentence or conversation or meaning is taken into account, rather than particular words.
In short, with Hummingbird, Google is trying to find the intent behind search queries and offer up more relevant solutions. The competitive landscape for search is becoming less and less about keywords and more about the searcher’s meaning behind them.
For the searcher this is a good thing, but what does it mean for businesses?
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Businesses must understand and adapt to semantic search and the knowledge graph.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Increasingly, businesses need to position themselves as the source for answers to the questions people are asking.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Become good at understanding a searcher’s intent, needs and problems. Look at queries and what they really need and then give the people behind the queries want they are looking for.
Pigeon – Impacts local SEO rankings
Google created quite a shock in the SEO world when it made its update called Pigeon, which dramatically affected local results and changed how they handled and interpreted location cues. When a search query indicated local intent (50% of all mobile searches have some sort of geographic descriptor) Google will tailor results to the searcher’s location using their device’s IP address.
Google also reported that the pigeon update created an even closer tie between core algorithms and the local algorithms. What does that mean? Since Pigeon, traditional on- and off-page ranking factors such as page titles, descriptions, meta data, content, site architecture and backlinks impact local ranking even more.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Make sure you have accurate business name, address and phone number (NAP) on the top directories that are important for your business.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Earn Links – check out 5 Local Link-Building Ideas for the Post-Penguin/Panda Era
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Get Reviews – Review signals account for about 10% of all ranking factors. More importantly, reviews are positive feedback from your actual customers that trigger clicks and ultimately more business
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Make sure you have optimized your social profiles, citations, and Google+ profiles to reflect a specific location (i.e. neighborhood of a city or region, zip code, etc.) not just the name of that city or region.
There has been many updates and changes to the Google algorithm that has been identified for years and reported as far back as 2000. More than ever, businesses should monitor sites that make this information available, so they can keep abreast of any changes that may have a direct effect on their market.
Are you getting found online locally by people looking for what you have to offer?
If not, find out why by downloading our FREE eBook Local SEO: A Guide to Increasing Your Search Presence.
If you run a business then you probably know a decent amount about the industry you’re in. How to better serve your customers, provide high quality products or services, and attracting new business are things that are constantly on your mind.
You also may have noticed that the internet has begun to affect every type of business including those that don’t even have websites. It has become increasingly common for someone to find your business online before they actually talk to you or stop in. With search engines becoming more helpful; your potential customers can learn who you are, what you do, and what others are saying in a matter of moments. This makes paying attention to your local presence online incredibly important.
What Is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a process that sets your business up, to not only look its best online, but it also makes it easier to be found by people searching for what you offer in your area. This can be an incredibly powerful tool in gathering new business, but it can also have negative effects if you leave your online presence unmanaged.
For instance, if you have an Italian restaurant and someone goes to Google and types ‘Italian food in Toledo, OH’, it would benefit you to be among the top results. People who hadn’t heard about you would give you a shot because of your location in the search. If you hadn’t worked on your local online presence then they wouldn’t see you as you probably would not come up as a relevant local search result for their query.
Click to Read 6 Quick Tips About Local SEO
Managing Your Online Reputation
You constantly try to impress your customers to keep them coming back and referring their friends. Your reputation matters in the community you serve. The online landscape can also have a reputation for your business and it is quickly becoming just as important to manage. Small things like having two different addresses listed online or bad reviews that a customer wrote without you knowing can have a huge effect on who can see your business, and what they think about you.
What You Can Do
People are searching for local businesses like yours, but you can only get the incredible benefits if they can find you. The good news is there are things that you can do to jump start your improvements.
Look Up Your Business Online
See if anyone is talking about your business or has left a review. Search for your business to see if all of the information is correct and matches.
Chances are you have some sort of social presence, like a Facebook page, but you can create a Google+ local business page to list what you do, and where you are located.
SEO can be a very confusing subject, and you may even want to get professional help with your online marketing efforts. Although just being informed will help you feel more in control and help you manage your reputation. There is a 40 question test offered here free of charge. It takes about 10 minutes and will help you see how important local SEO is and it will get you on the path to being informed
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Local SEO and Inbound Marketing audit today!
Local SEO (search engine optimization) is fundamentally different than traditional SEO. Although they have similar goals, the tactics and measurement are fundamentally different, including the sites you are optimizing for; Google and Bing for traditional, and Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo, YP, etc. for local SEO.
With 7.5 billion local searches a month and local online marketing growing at 18% year over year to over $40 billion, many Toledo SEO agencies charge big dollars. Often however their background is more in advertising, pay per click and traditional search, leading to mixed results for clients.
Here are the questions you should ask to see if your digital agency understands the difference between local search engine marketing and traditional.
1. What’s Your Long Term Strategy for Citation Building and Management?
Below are some sub-questions to ask:
What information will I be able to submit on each site?
Most services just allow you to update name, address, phone number and website. That’s better than nothing, but if you care about your brand on Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, Google+ Local, etc. you better make sure to be able to add descriptions, photos, videos and special offers. We have seen that adding rich data to listings increase conversion 5-10x and helps you to show up in more searches.
Which local directories and sites will you submit to?
Citations, listings on directories and throughout the web with your correct name, address, phone and website URL are crucial. On the basic side, you need the usual suspects, Google+ Local, Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, CitySearch, YP etc., but citations are like link building in traditional search, the more high-quality ones the better.
There are hundreds of second-tier directories if not more – and that’s for each of your locations. Continue to build out basic citations over time, especially on truly local and industry specific sites that Google+ Local cares about.
How long will it take and how quickly can I make changes?
Will I have premium, claimed or owner verified accounts at the directories?
2. What Changes Are Needed for My Website and Existing Strategy?
There are a lot of different changes that we recommend. The basics include updating metatags with location keywords, XML schema updates and individually optimized pages for each location.
Link building should include location keywords and as an advanced technique, many local agencies encourage building links to your business profiles on other sites so they rank better on local searches and you dominate the page. Make sure your agency has a complete answer and implementation game plan.
3. Do I Have to Do Anything Different on Social Media and Review Sites?
Secondly, you can’t ignore Facebook. One study pegged Facebook location pages as 11% of local searches. Facebook is definitely relevant, especially as a citation signal to Google+ Local.
Make sure all your Facebook location pages are claimed and optimized and leverage those point audiences in aggregate to increase your social media reach and growth.
4. How Will You Measure Progress and Results?
Peter Drucker famously proclaimed, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Because so many of local consumer brand interactions occur off site (on a Google+ Local or Yelp profile as an example), your existing website analytics infrastructure will not be sufficient to gauge success. Of course, you can look at referral visits from Yelp as an example, but recognize that most people directly call or go to a business from the Yelp profile rather than go to your website to get more information.
Here is a list of items that you should demand from your digital agency in order to measure and understand success from a corporate level down to a location level:
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Google+ Local rankings improvements for each location according to a set of industry keywords you define and cross referenced by zip, neighborhood (for dense urban areas) and city.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Inventory of all directory listings, citations & links to them
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Actions taken on Google+ Local (calls, directions, clicks)
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Directory performance (search impressions, profile reads, clicks to special offers)
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Location based search term referrals to your website (although Google is working hard to hide search terms from you and most brand interactions occur offsite)
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Online reputation across directory sites (# of reviews, ratings, etc.)
Local SEO by the Numbers
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]87% of people who search for a local business calls or goes within 24 hours
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]83% of local searches have Google’s map on it powered by Google+ Local
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]70% of Google+ Local pages are unclaimed
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Local is 16-20 times more cost effective than traditional
On-page search engine optimization (SEO) refers to factors that have an effect on your website’s ranking in natural or organic search results. On-page SEO factors are things on your website that are visible and controllable by you; things like page title, page URL, header tags, ALT image tags and Meta description tags.
Even though only 25% of a website’s SEO juice comes from on-page elements, it still plays a critical role in getting your website and content found when people are actively looking for what you have to offer. With digital and inbound marketing playing an increasingly important role today, it seems as if every business is on the hunt for the quickest path up that search engine ladder, with all eyes on page one, and search engine optimization is the gateway to that goal.
93 percent of all Internet traffic comes from Google and you’ll only find optimized search results on the first three pages. In fact, 90 percent of customers only view the first or second page, since consumers consider those pages provide the more successful results. Yes, even on the Web the most important element of success is location, location, location, and the only way to get there is with on-page search engine optimization.
The SEO Formula
For the brave souls who want to evolve to the next echelon, be prepared to roll-up-your-sleeves and work. If you don’t have the time or interest,consider hiring someone to do it for you. As with Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Google continues to make frequent changes to their algorithm and you want to make sure that someone is paying attention to ranking factors and making changes to your website.
The most valuable formula for SEO is making sure your site is search-engine friendly. Then, it’s just a matter of continuous on-page SEO, producing and optimizing content, and making a good site better. At-a-glance, here’s a snapshot of the required steps to glory;
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Design your site to please
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Develop enticing content
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Vary placement of your keywords
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Place your site on radar
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Maintain an updated cache of consistent content and update frequently
The Nuts and Bolts of On-Page Search Engine Optimization
There are a dozen on-page SEO tactics you can employ to boost your page ranking, but the most important process boils down to 5 steps.
5. Keywords: To achieve a high search-engine profile, first you will need to determine which keywords you want each respective page of your website to rank for. Keywords are the terms consumers use to search the web for relevant content. For example, if you searched Google for ‘home builders’ you’ll be presented with millions of results. The first few websites found on the 1st page have utilized specific keywords to maximize their advantage.
4. Alt Image Tags: One of the primary website mistakes is utilizing image and graphics without <alt> tags. ALT tags are the labels that appear when you place your cursor over a photo or graphic. While images are visually appealing, and engage the attention of customers, Google does not see photos or videos. ALT tags tell the search engines what the image is about and thus play an important part of on-page optimization.
3. Header Tags: Header tags, also called H tags, range from <h1> to <h6> and help outline the content. Headings give weight to which sections are most important by emphasizing sentences and providing structure about your topic. Google spiders look closely at these header tags to get an overview of the content and relevancy to your overall website, and will typically display the headings prominently in Google search results.
2. Meta Description Tag: Page descriptions are the blocks of text that show up under the search results; another over-looked opportunity to promote your products and services. Although Meta fields contain beneficial information to promote and rank your website, you must optimize the information properly. Both the Page Title and Description tags must work in unison and contain your keywords for Google to index your website.
1. Page Title: Page Titles are the most important component of your web page. Novice webmasters simply use the name of their site for the title tag, and then use that same tag for every page. This is a missed opportunity since Google robots crawl web pages looking for the most relevant information that fit within search patterns. Crafting a descriptive title that includes your keywords for each web page helps to propel construction websites to the top of Google.
Search Engine Optimization Mistakes to Avoid
Like many topics on search engine optimization, one of the most requested is how to obtain better search engine placement. While many people eagerly seek all the right things to do, most never pay attention to all the mistakes to avoid. Here are the top four errors to avoid;
- Flash. Flash-based sites were once considered search engine suicide. Spiders found it difficult to read Flash. This has changed however, for DIY webmasters, unless you know programming inside and out, it’s better to forget the Flash.
- Duplicate content. Search engines will not index pages with duplicate blocks of text found on other sites. Make sure content and descriptions are varied.
- Back links. Links from other relevant websites or back links are individual votes of confidence. Pre-eminent back links come from relevant well-known sites.
- Stale content. Search engines seek content that is fresh, updated continuously and relevant. The more fresh you provide, the more Google will crawl your site.
Remember, the search engine itself changes and improves, and that includes the techniques to move ahead. Far too many industry decision-makers are still under the impression that you only need to build a website and the masses will come. Undoubtedly, this is an old-school thought; the internet has evolved and on-page search engine optimization provides the fuel your website needs to boost search engine rankings.