If you haven't implemented an SEO strategy yet, it's time to start thinking about it. Here are six surefire signs your business needs to invest in SEO.

6 Signs You Should Invest In SEO

If you’re running a small business, SEO is probably not on the top of your mind every day. You have too many other things to worry about, too many other tasks and details to take care of to keep your business running. And let’s face it, SEO isn’t exactly sexy.

However, just because it’s not top of mind, doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. SEO is a crucial strategy that will help your business succeed in the long-term. If you haven’t implemented an SEO strategy yet, it’s time to start thinking about it. Here are six surefire signs your business needs to invest in SEO, pronto.

1. You’re Operating On a Budget

If your business is running on a tight budget and your ad campaigns aren’t seeing a significant ROI, it’s time to shake things up and change your approach to finding new customers.

Many small businesses are hesitant to start paying for SEO services because of the initial cost. This is an unfortunate outlook, as search engine optimization will deliver high-value traffic for less money than ad campaigns over time.

SEO is a long-term investment that pays for itself many times over.

Once your website starts dominating search results for terms specific to the products or services your company sells, you will get a virtually unlimited supply of free, targeted traffic driven to your website. It might take some effort to get to the top, but once you’re there, the traffic flows in and you are exposed to an entirely new source of potential customers.

2. You Need More Leads

Your website is your #1 sales tool (and your cheapest employee). Think about it… it is always on, it says exactly what you want, and can meet with an unlimited number of prospects at any given time. Your website is an indispensable sales tool.

If your website isn’t generating new leads and customers, there are one of two issues that need to be addressed. First, the content needs to be high-converting copy and designed to drive signups and opt-ins. Second, you need to have targeted traffic landing on your website. After all, how is your #1 sales machine supposed to sell if nobody is interacting with it?

If you’re not getting organic traffic (people find your website from search engines), you’re missing out on a valuable source of new leads.

The beauty of SEO is that when searchers find your site, they are pre-qualified as prospects based on the very fact that they were searching for your product or service.

People are trying to do business with you. Are you ready to welcome them?

3. People Can’t Find Your Website (Your Website Isn’t Ranking For Your Brand Name)

Believe it or not, ranking for your own brand name is not a sure bet in the complex world of SEO. If you search for your company name, and you don’t show up in the #1 spot, you have a problem on your hands and it needs to be fixed ASAP.

If people can’t find you online by searching for your company name, how do you expect them to find you when they are searching for the products or services your business offers?

Fortunately, SEO companies can help!

4. The Cost of Click Ads (PPC) Is Overwhelming

A lot of internet marketers like to polarize SEO and PPC (pay-per-click advertising), telling you it’s an either/or strategy. This is the wrong approach.

SEO and PPC are meant to complement each other.

PPC is great for getting immediate results, driving targeted traffic to your website. But those results come with a pretty high price tag, and over time, a PPC campaign can get costly.

If you manage an AdWords account, you’ve probably looked at your monthly invoice and thought, “I spent how much on ads last month??” on at least two occasions. It’s not a good feeling. PPC costs can get out of control, and your business in a certain sense can become addicted to paid traffic.

Fortunately, there’s a way to wean a business off the PPC habit.

An SEO campaign is a sustainable, reliable source of traffic that will in the long run deliver organic results that you don’t have to pay for.

Together, PPC and SEO make a winning combination. You’ll spend less on AdWords every month, and supplement your traffic with organic search results.

All while getting more traffic, more leads, new customers and growing your business.

5. You Need Higher Quality Traffic

Is your conversion rate stagnant in the low single digits? Or worse, is it falling from a once-healthy 15%?

Is your website traffic just not rolling in like it used to before?

Are your visitors leaving your website (bouncing) before they opt-in or sign up?

These are common issues facing many small and local business owners. If your metrics are suffering, a boost of organic search traffic can get you back on course.

A search engine optimization campaign will introduce a new level of quality traffic to your website, and ultimately increase your conversion metrics and earn you more leads.

Don’t settle for stale website performance. Get new eyes and new traffic on your site now!

6. Your Competitors Are Showing Up Ahead of You In Online Searches

I might not know you or your business personally, but I can say with 99% certainty that you face at least some level of competition in your niche or industry. If you don’t have any competitors, consider yourself blessed. For everyone else, going head to head with your competitors is a daily grind.

An easy way to get an edge on your competition is through SEO. If your website shows up behind those of your competitors for search terms related to your offerings, you’re losing the online battle. You are losing money every single day your site is behind in search rankings. Stop it!

There is no reason you can’t be #1 in search results for keywords related to your business. When you show up at the top of Google, you get a leg up on your competition and you start winning.

If you’re ready to start winning and being at the top of the search results, contact us today. Let’s do this!

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Top SEO Blogs All Small Business Owners Should Follow

Top SEO Blogs All Small Business Owners Should Follow

As a small business owner, you have to think about a thousand and one different things at any given moment. Chances are, your web presence isn’t very high on the list. If you are ready to get serious about improving your website, but don’t have the budget to hire professionals, it is possible to take a do-it-yourself approach. Here are the top SEO blogs you should be aware of to improve your online presence and increase your web traffic.

Moz Blog

Moz is one of the leading voices in the SEO industry. The writing style at the Moz Blog is accessible and engaging, almost like having a casual conversation with a friend who is (extremely) knowledgeable. The posts on Moz Blog always feature actionable steps that are easy to digest, ultimately helping you boost your traffic over time.

Moz posts about an article per day. It’s a lot to keep up with, but worth reading a post here and there when you can!

Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout offers extremely thorough articles on everything from optimizing your website to convert search traffic visitors to customers, to getting the most out of your pay per click (PPC) campaigns. The writer, Neil Patel, is a giant in the online marketing world. His writing is approachable and direct, and extremely insightful. I always learn something new when I read an article on Quick Sprout, which is why they are one of our top SEO blogs to follow!

Backlinko

Backlino is run by Brain Dean, another huge name in the online traffic and SEO world. Brian posts less frequently than the other SEO blogs we’ve mentioned so far, but his content is extremely thorough. Brian’s articles are basically mini-books, all constituting essential reading in a search engine optimization master class. Head over to Backlinko when you have an hour or two open and want to dive into the deep end of on-site optimization.

Yoast

If your website is running on WordPress, chances are you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin. The makers of this very popular plugin also happen to run a very popular SEO blog. Their regular articles feature actionable advice and insights. Although not essential reading, it’s a good one to add to your RSS in case a title catches your eye.

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land is a frequent publisher (multiple articles per day). As such, the posts cover a wider range than the other SEO blogs mentioned so far. Expect to find technical information about Google algorithm updates, posts about Google in the mainstream news, as well as tips for search engine optimization.

HubSpot

Chances are, you’ve heard about HubSpot. They are leaders in the content marketing world, and offer a variety of products and services for online lead generation and customer engagement. They also offer a lot of amazing content for free. Their SEO blog offers helpful articles that are easy to digest, and cover a range of topics. This is must-read SEO blog for companies of all sizes.

Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the founder of Quick Sprout (mentioned previously), and the content on his personal website is similar to what you would find on his other blog. Reliable, in-depth articles covering a wide range of topics having to do with online marketing and engagement. I’m a huge fan of Neil’s blog and recommend it to everyone whose company has some kind of online presence.

Conclusion

There are hundreds of resources available online dedicated to helping you improve your online presence and search traffic. If you would like to take the DIY approach and handle your web operations on your own, it’s easy to start following a handful of hte top SEO blogs and start absorbing the valuable information they publish daily. As you learn more about search engine optimization, the concepts and practices will become almost second nature to you, and optimizing your website will be a breeze. The blogs above are a great place to start as you begin the process of self-education.

What are your favorite SEO blogs? Did we miss any that you think are essential? We’d love to learn more about them—contact us to let us know!

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The Best Social Media Platforms For Local Businesses

The Best Social Media Platforms For Local Businesses

Social Media is not a new concept, but it is still underutilized by small and local businesses. There is a huge potential in social media to connect with your fans, and find new customers.

There are an overwhelming number of platforms available to brands right now, and it can be hard to figure out where to start. Our advice is simple: choose one or two, and do them well. It’s much better to do a good job on a couple social platforms, than it is to do many poorly.

With that said, here’s a look at the best social media platforms for small and local businesses:

Facebook

Using Facebook for local business

Facebook is an essential social media channel for local businesses.

Facebook is most likely the first platform that comes to your mind when someone mentions “social media.” If you fall into this category, you aren’t wrong. Globally, 1.18 billion people log onto Facebook daily (source). There isn’t any other social media network that even comes close to Facebook’s reach.

The sheer number of users is reason enough to have a brand page on Facebook. Setting up a Facebook business page is easy, and the benefits are immeasurable.

For starters, when you set up a Facebook fan page, you can add important information about your business like location, open hours, and more. Including this information allows your fans to easily

Facebook fan pages are also a great way to drive traffic back to your website. When your Facebook fans land on your site, you can convert them to leads, send follow-up email marketing messages, and eventually convert them into customers.

Having a brand page on Facebook also allows you to stay in touch with your audience, and present a more personable side of your company. Be sure that your content is solely related to sales. You want to be personable, engaging, and fun for your fans.

Instagram

Instagram for small and local businesses

Instagram helps small and local businesses engage their fans and find new customers.

Instagram is a photo and video-sharing app that is becoming increasingly valuable to businesses for marketing and engaging with their customers. With more than 500 million active monthly users, Instagram has a large and active user base.

The name of the game on Instagram is engagement. Here are some tips to maximize the number of likes and comments your posts receive:

  • Exclusive content: post images and videos that can only be seen on your Instagram account.
  • Beautiful content: Instagram users are savvy and creative, and know lackluster content when they see it. Don’t post a photo or video unless it has aesthetic appeal.
  • Personal content: post photos and videos that give your audience personal insight into the inner workings of your product or company. People want to feel like they are part of something—making them feel like an insider goes a long way!
  • Include your audience: find ways to feature your followers and promote them (with their permission of course). Including and acknowledging your fans will encourage them to continue to engage and share, and helps turn them into brand ambassadors.
  • Use hashtags: add multiple (relevant) hashtags to each of your posts to increase visibility and organic discovery of your content.

Twitter

Twitter accounts for local companies

While it doesn’t have as many users as Facebook, Twitter users are loyal and highly engaged with the brands they follow.

As of December 2015, Twitter had 320 million monthly active users, with 80% of them on mobile. Additionally, it drove 1 billion unique visits monthly to sites with embedded Tweets.

Just because it’s not the biggest social media platform, it has some serious influence. Twitter followers are loyal and highly engaged.

For instance, 60% of users made a purchase from a business because of content they saw on Twitter.

Being followed by users on Twitter is a strong signal of their affinity for your business. Your audience members are indicating an active interest in your brand, what you have to say, what you do, and are asking to hear more from you. Take advantage of that opportunity, but don’t exploit it.

A good rule of thumb to avoid being too spammy with your tweets is the “4-1-1 rule.” The 4-1-1 rule states that for every four early stage, light, and informative pieces of content you share, you can have one soft-sell offer and one hard-sell offer.

Avoid being pushy with too many sales offers, and instead, share content that is relevant to your products or services. Contribute to the Twitter community, and your fans will stay engaged!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn accounts to promote products and services

LinkedIn is a great place to promote your products and services to other professionals.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network with more than 400 million members. Because of the professional nature of LinkedIn, the social media channel is especially useful for companies that sell professional and B2B services, but can be useful for companies that sell products as well.

Once you have created a personal LinkedIn account, you can set up a company profile. People can follow your company profile to learn more about your company. Use your company profile to showcase products, services, blog posts, events, and status updates. You can also share job openings when they become available.

Another useful feature to consider is LinkedIn Groups, which allow companies to locate potential customers. To find potential groups to join, simply make a list of keywords that relate to your prospects or the industries you target, and run a search for any LinkedIn Groups related to these keywords. Once you find the right groups, participate in discussions, ask questions, and make connections. Be sure to offer valuable input, rather than just promoting your services. The more knowledgeable and generous you appear, the more likely individuals will be to reach out about your offerings!

YouTube

YouTube as a marketing channel for your brand

YouTube is an excellent marketing channel for your brand.

YouTube is a behemoth in the social media world, but not one that often comes to mind when discussing social media platforms. YouTube has over a billion users—almost one-third of all people on the internet. And according to Alexa, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world (after its parent company, Google).

Use YouTube to upload videos that are informative and entertaining in nature. Since YouTube is often used as a search platform, your video titles should be customer-centric and descriptive so that users can easily find your content. Be sure to include two to three sentences that include targeted keywords in your video description. And always take advantage of the tagging feature, which is the way that YouTube determines the relevance of your asset and groups similar videos together. 5–7 tags are optimal and will ensure your video is associated with other videos that use the same tags so they can appear as a “related video” when users are browsing.

On all your video content, be sure to include calls-to-action, asking viewers to either subscribe or visit a link. You can direct them to your website to learn more or to a landing page to download a coupon register for an event, and more.

Conclusion

There you have it – our rundown of the best social media platforms for local businesses. While it’s not necessary to be on all of the platforms above, it is a good idea to choose one or two and start building your fanbase. It’s much better to participate in a couple of social media channels well, than it is to do multiple poorly. Your audience will appreciate the connection you offer them, and you’ll get new customers!

How is your social media outreach going? Let us know in the comments below!

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How Metro News More Than Tripled Facebook Fans in 30 Days

How Metro News More Than Tripled Facebook Fans in 30 Days

Case Study Overview

Publisher Metro News (Canada) launched a campaign to promote their Facebook pages in Windsor, Hamilton, Victoria, and Kitchener, they turned to us to deliver new likes and encourage downloads for their new iPad app. Their goal was to reach 1,000 likes in each market during a four-week promotion.

The Promotion

To publicize the new iPad app, a giveaway to win a new iPad was launched on all four Facebook pages.

We encouraged app downloads in an aggressive on-line and email campaign to each entrant, emphasizing Metro News core value of local, community-based content available in the new app.

To raise awareness, we built and managed a Facebook ad campaign targeting residents of each community.

The Results

This 30-day campaign exceeded all goals for each of the four markets in less than 3 weeks. The targeted ad campaign worked in attracting entrants. From there, entrants spread the message virally through their social networks and contacts with our convenient feature that awards extra entries for sharing.

At the end of the campaign, results exceeded expectation by more than 40%!

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Leads & Customer Acquisition

Leads & Customer Acquisition

Traditional marketing is hard for your advertiser to measure. They run ads in print, radio and TV and hope business increases as a result. They know they need an active mass-media presence, but how can they know it’s effective?

Especially in the digital frontier, the fundamental measure on the effectiveness of advertising is how many new customers you are attracting and how much those customers cost.

Here’s a tool you can use to help your clients. In the process, you become much more important as you help them sort through some important challenges:

  1. What percentage of sales volume comes from repeat or referral customers? These customers are driven to by past satisfaction. Don’t read any further until you’ve decided on a percentage. Give it your best estimate.
  2. What percentage of sales volume is triggered by location and its exterior signage? These customers come to you because of visibility. Again, write down a percentage, a best estimate.
  3. Add those two percentages together, then subtract from 100. This is the percentage of new customers who come because of advertising or external forces.
  4. Now, how many unique customers have been served in the past 12 months? Write down a specific number. They will probably need to consult records.
  5. Apply the percentage of ad-driven traffic to the total number of unique customers in the past 12 months. This will show how many new customers were served because of advertising. (If ad-driven traffic was 20 percent and Unique Customer Count was 5,000, then you had 1,000 ad-driven customers.)
  6. Divide that number into the annual advertising budget. This is the Cost of Customer Acquisition by advertising. It’s how much they actually spend on advertising to gain one new customer.Note; The formula doesn’t calculate the cost of referral customers because these customers don’t have a direct cost. They are an indirect cost of customer service and relationship management.

Warning: Their cost of new customer acquisition will likely be much higher than you expected. Don’t let this scare you!

Here are the obvious questions:

Q1: With the high cost of new customer acquisition, why advertise?

A: The primary goal of advertising is to acquire new customers. Repeat and referral business depends on it. Good customers move to other towns, or die, and you never see them again. Additionally, new people move into your market and have no idea you exist. Maintaining top of mind awareness is important.

Q2: If they can’t stop advertising, how can we at least reduce the Cost of Customer Acquisition?

A: What if the advertising message were adjusted to drive response to a specific offer or promotion? A specific call-to-action that results in reaching contacts on a personal level. Wouldn’t it be easier to convince a new contact to enter a free promotion than to come into their store? And, when they’ve learned more about them through their profile and embedded survey data, added insight can lead them through the engagement cycle.

Q3: If referrals are the most efficient way to grow, how can I increase sharing?

A: By marketing directly to respondents (email, text, etc.), your investment in promotions yields recurring value. By incentivizing each entrant to share the promotion with friends and social networks, advertising is leveraged far beyond direct responses. This “snowball” effect gains momentum and future promotions and offers have more impact with less reliance on traditional (expensive) advertising.

Lead generating promotions are one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods of marketing. Combined with creative messaging in existing advertising, marketing expenses become measurable and customer acquisition costs reduced.

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Online database sales lead calculator

Sales Lead Calculator

Many businesses struggle with how to measure the value of their advertising. This tool will help you show advertisers how to evaluate campaign effectiveness based on real dollars earned!

First, let’s define what is and isn’t a “lead.” Not every entrant is a lead. Some just enter to get a prize. We define them as “contacts.” They have value, as some may become interested prospects at some point, but they’re not as valuable as someone who is ready to buy now!

Some promotions generate more leads than others. For example, there will be more entrants interested in trying a new sandwich at a chain of delis than those interested in pursuing a career at a school specializing in nursing. But the value of a new student is far more valuable than someone who wants to buy a sandwich. So how can you figure out your campaign’s success?

The formula is: (TL x CR) X APP X PM / TL

Here’s what it means

Total Number of Qualified Leads generated (TL)

Multiply by Conversion Rate (a percentage) (CR)

This produces the total number of expected sales from this campaign.

Multiply by Average Purchase Price (APP)

This produces the gross revenue generated by the campaign. But now we need to figure out how much it’s worth:

Multiply by your company’s Profit Margin (PM)

Now you know the gross profit expected to be realized. Note: if you subtract your cost of the promotion from this number, you have your net profit for the promotion.

Divide by Total Number of Leads 
(TL).

Now you know the Lead Value (LV), how much each individual lead is worth.

How it works in the real world

A furniture company ran a four week sweepstakes to win a patio furniture set that attracted over 3,000 entries (contacts). Based on the embedded survey questions, the company found:

TL (Total Leads): 689 (homeowners interested in remodeling at least one room, and were interested in meeting with the company’s interior design team)

CR (Conversion Rate): 15% (689*.15=103 expected customers)

APP (Average Purchase Price): $10,000 (103*10,000=$1,033,500)

PM (Profit Margin): 46%

GP (Gross Profit): $475,410 ($1,033,500 * .46 = $475,410)

LV (Lead Value): GP / TL (475,410 / 689) = $690

After adjusting for leads that don’t pan out, they could afford to pay nearly $700 per lead based on immediate value, but there are other considerations.

Lifetime Value: What percentage of the leads become repeat customers? For some businesses (Dentists, for example) the majority of customers return again and again.

Referrals: If new customers refer others to your business, the lead is even more valuable, as one new customer brings in more.

Latent Value: Some leads will convert into customers later, and some contacts may become leads as their interests and situation changes.

If you want to get even more detailed, you can calculate contact value by simply dividing your expected profit by the total number of entries. In this example:

$476,410 / 3000 = $158.47 per entry!

Lead generation is one of the fastest growing areas of marketing and promotion, and once you understand how it works, it’s easy to see why.

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