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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Importance of Dynamic Content

Sunday morning. The perfect time to peacefully read the newspaper over a nice cup of coffee.  You settle in, open up to your favorite section and  notice the same stories and pictures that were in last Sunday’s paper! There must be some mistake right? You were expecting new information, updated articles, current stories. Well, that is the same feeling that visitors get when they log on to a favorite website only to find the same content, pictures and videos as last time they visited. As a consumer, you would probably stop getting the paper if that happened over and over. The same goes for a website.  If websites don’t update and change, consumers will not return to browse — or more importantly — buy. 

A dynamic website is one that changes frequently and engages the reader in various ways.  It lets the visitor know that your product, service and even brand is active and “keeping up” in the business world. Dynamic content can include items such as descriptions, text, blogs, announcements, pictures, animations, video or audio. This does not mean that the design of the website changes, merely the content which can be done in the back-end through separate databases. Given how often consumers log on to the internet, and the sharp rise in mobile devices, it is no wonder that dynamic content is the demand of the times.

Let’s examine some of the reasons why dynamic is the way to go for your growing business.

  1. Attract your audience – Visitors tend to return to websites that offer something they want whether it is a new product, educational information, a blog, a special offer, or even helpful videos. Make your visitors curious to come back by posting new information on a regular basis.
  2. Enhance your SEO – Components of a great SEO involve keywords connected to good content. Search engines are aware of sites with dynamic content.  Take for example a regularly posted  blog.  Hubspot reported recently that, “companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages on search engines than companies that don’t blog. That makes a tremendous difference for search engine rank.”
  3. Gain Marketing Insights – Dynamic content matched with analytic tools will quickly help your marketing team figure out what consumers are looking for and what are hot button items.
  4. Creating Revenue – Ultimately, dynamic content brings in more revenue by increasing website visitors, converting more visitors to buyers, and helping to sell more of your products and services.

Advertising on Social Media

According to Hootsuite, “Advertisers spent $5.1 billion on social media advertising in 2013 and this figure is expected to exceed $14 billion by 2018.” The numbers don’t lie.  Advertising on social media in order to drive leads and sales has become  an extremely valuable marketing tool.  With internet advertising now surpassing traditional print advertising, it is hard to ignore this platform as a location to focus your company’s marketing dollars.  As a small business, how do you decide where to advertise and how to spend that precious currency?  Let’s look at the types of advertising available on social media and how your company can get in on the action when it comes to social media marketing.

1403469584_Facebook-iconFacebook – Posting pictures and content is free but there are several ways that you can use Facebook advertising to increase the volume of people that see your content and widen your reach.

  • “Boost” Posts – Choose this option to boost a specific post, image or link that may showcase your business in a positive manner.  This method allows the business to define a budget and target an intended audience.
  • Facebook Ads – Another method is to create a Facebook Ad with a visual image and promotion.  With this type of direct ad you can choose where the ad will show up, choose a targeted audience and decide on pricing options. Targeting options include choosing geography, gender, age and behaviors.

imagesTwitter – In December 2013, Twitter updated its advertising from Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, and Promoted Accounts to better target ads to users. The product, called “tailored audiences,” uses data from browser histories to show users ads that directly relate to the sites they’ve recently visited. For each of these methods a business can choose to:  increase the number of desired followers, appear directly on the active timeline, or even be featured at the top of trending topics lists tailored by location and followers.

imagesLinkedIn – To reach active business professions on LInkedIn Advertising, choose from Direct ad or Sponsored Updates.  Direct Ads show up on the Home Page, Profile Page, Inbox, search Results Page or Groups Page.  It allows for a business to choose a target audience and places them on chosen LinkedIn pages. Sponsored Updates means that you can publish a copmany upodate and link for visitors. With each of these advertising options targeting can be done by industry, seniority, geography, groups, company size, gender or even job function.

PinterestPinterest -Pinterest introduced Promoted Pins as their advertising tool.  This means content you choose to promote that will appear high within search results. You’ll only pay for the Promoted Pins when a viewer clicks through to your site. To learn more about this new advertising tool READ MORE.

imagesGoogle+  is for businesses who want to connect with the right audience and promote their brand. Google + uses advertising called +Post Ad.  This method takes your Google content and creates a display ad shown on the Display Network.  It allows users to comment, follow your brand and “Hangout” with your business.

imagesInstagram – By Sponsoring Videos and Photos, Instagram Marketing can reach a very specific niche. The ultimate aim of these ads is to make the display look and feel natural as visitors scroll through ab Instagram Feed.

 

 

 

 

Is your site mobile ready?

Here is a little lesson in math and marketing . . .

  • the average smartphone user checks their phone up to 221 times per day
  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone
  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone
  • more than 50% of mobile phone users access their phones as their primary means of going online 
  • 74% of mobile consumers will wait only 5 seconds for a page to load before they abandon the site           (Pew Research Center)

Given these statistics on smartphone ownership, usage and buying behavior, there is one big question all website designers and marketers should ask themselves.  “Is our site mobile ready?”

Gone are the days of the singular means to access the internet at home on the desktop.  All one needs to do is take a step outside during their lunch hour to see business people, moms, teens, and everyone in between hooked on their smartphones for texting, browsing their favorite social media and, of course, researching the best deals to buy off the internet. With the rapid emergence of the mobile web has come an increasing need for mobile websites and compatibility.  Here are a few points that you may want to consider with your website design team while you are scrambling to get your site mobile ready.

Do your homework

  • Research what the experts are saying about Mobile-Friendly Websites.  Google sent notices and created a guide (Google’s Guide to becoming mobile ready) in January 2015, warning webmasters of errors in mobile capability on websites.  We may even eventually see a new algorithm for searches dependent upon the readiness of a site to handle mobile features.
  • You may also want to read The Mobile Usability Report which will explain areas where your site suffers severe mobile usability issues and provide you with steps to fix the problems. For example, the report looks at text size that can be read on smaller screens, mobile-compatable software, and spacing of lionks and buttons appropriately for easy use.
  • Check out your website on different devices. Try the mobile emulator from Google to see how your web site looks on a number of mobile devices.

Responsive Design

Mobile devices alone account for over 4000 different screen sizes. Add to this computer screens and TVs and it’s easy to wonder how a site can look good across different devices. Responsive design is the answer to this problem. This type of flexible design makes it easier to read, easier to navigate and, most importantly, keeps customers on your site. Using a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries, responsive design can adjust to the correct size and format depending upon the device.  If you are tech savvy  you may want to read the seminal article that ‘invented’ the technique, Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte from Alist Apart Magazine for web designers. With more than 1.2 billion people accessing the web via mobile devices, having a mobile content strategy is no longer optional; it is critical.

Analytics Basics

Running your own business means that you probably wear many different “hats”  throughout the day including: sales manager, stock person, customer service rep, payroll provider, and many, many more.  One area that you may be able to hand over to the experts is analyzing visitor data from your website.  If you are just starting out and don’t have a lot of capital to sink into a consulting company for their analytics package, then Google Analytics might be the solution to help you you to collect and analyze information about everything from: how the user arrived at your website, what they did while on your website, whether or not they converted, as well as offering lots of additional information about the user themselves. Small Business owners need to be able to monitor and track the efficiency of an online campaign and get the best results for current marketing efforts. Let’s look at the advantages of Google Analytics for your business needs.

In the years before the dawn of the internet and E commerce, business owners had to rely on traditional advertising methods to entice customers and had no real way of knowing how a customer found their store, product or service.  Now with today’s technology, business owners can find out some pretty basic but valuable pieces of information about consumers such as:

  • How visitors found your website – Did he/she use a search engine, via social media or an external link?
  •  Was the visitor viewing your site for the first time or were they a return customer?
  • How visitors moved through the site. For example,  did they stay a while and read? Did they click on different pages? Did they get bored and leave straight away?
  • How they accessed the website in the first place (mobile phone, tablet, desktop)
  • The success (or failure) of key conversion points on your site: i.e. the pages on your website such as ‘newsletter sign up’ or ‘contact form’ where potential customers can ‘convert’ to a lead by entering their details.
  • For E commerce sites it can track sales, ROI, average order value etc.

These are just a few of the questions that the free Google Analytics metrics can share with your business leaders.  These valuable insights into your customers behaviors can take the guess work out of what has worked on your website and what has not.  This data can lead to confident business decisions on ways to improve your website and business practices.

To get started collecting data, install Google Analytics code on to your computer (or have your tech person do it.) Getting started on Google Analytics  will help you with the start up process.  Here is also a helpful glossary list of Analytics terms. 

What is SEO?

Your roof is leaking.  Short of learning how to re-roof your home by yourself, you have no choice but to hire a contractor or roofing expert.  Seems pretty straightforward.   You sit down at your computer, fire up a search engine  and type in a search for a local roofing company.  Up pops a multitude of choices with phone numbers, maps and even testimonials.  Voila! You have just found yourself a solution to that leaky roof.  Believe it or not the company that you eventual hire just benefited from SEO.  What is SEO and how can it impact your business?  Let’s take a look at the key component to a successful SEO marketing campaign and how things have changed in this area in just the last decade. 

In short, SEO means Search Engine Optimization.  This long technical phrase makes reference to techniques that help your website rank higher in organic(meaning not paid for)  search results, thus making your website more visible and easier to find for people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like the big three: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

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When building a website, therefore it is important to please not just your visitors but also the search engines measuring your website for key elements.  Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links to name a few. Here is a quick look at what search engines are looking for and how thee requirements have changed even just within the last decade.

  • Keywords – Optimizing for keywords on your page is not just about putting the top search words for your field all over your content.  SEO’s recognize keyword stuffing when they see it and it can hurt rather than help your ranking.  Instead, the goal is not to just use keywords but also have great content and an overall theme that the search engines can recognize.  In addition, use relevant titles, descriptions, and content.
  • Links – Search engines want to see that that there are links to and from authoritative sites instead of links that were purchased.  Link building to known directories is an excellent place to start.
  • Social Media – One of the biggest changes in the last decade is the way social media plays into SEO. Search engines now take into account tweets, retweets, Google+ authorship, blogging, and social interactions.
  • User Experience – Search engines are also analyzing what your site looks like, how easy it is to navigate and how secure it looks.  It is no longer just important for users t o find your website but to interact with it and stay on the website for longer periods. If it is too hard to navigate with too many ads and a high bounce rate it will be ranked lower that the competition who keeps visitors reading content and clicking through the pages.

Make it your business practice to employ these tactics when trying to maximize your SEO.  By keeping these in mind and ultimately the needs of your targeted audience, you will find that you will rank higher with search engines.

 

 

Running a Successful Social Media Campaign

In our last blog, we examined the types of social media available and which one(s) may be a good fit for businesses like yours including: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.   Now that you have determined the best social media platform(s) for your audience, you will need to concentrate on how to run a successful campaign on that network. Everyone seems to have advice about what to post and when to post it. So we thought it might be helpful to compile a list of tips about running a successful social media campaign in this very busy and growing area of online marketing.

  • Brainstorm – One of the first things your business team should do when they begin a social media campaign is to brainstorm.  This should first and foremost include the ultimate goal of having a presence on social media. For example are you hoping to promote a product or service? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Do you have short term and long term goals?
  • Integrate – Link your social media to your main website using icons on your homepage to make a visual connection. Promote content from your website on your social media pages.  This will encourage an easy link back to important content and it will encourage people to talk about (and share) your site with their friends and acquaintances.
  • Post, Post, Post – As customers realize that you are going to regularly post, they will come to look forward to your content.  This is especially true if what you are posting has value like: advance warnings for deals and promotions, links to blog content, or even videos teaching about an area of your field of business.  As readers follow your posts you will find that you have built a great relationship with them and in turn have created a loyal customer.
  • Be active – As followers and fans begin interacting with your business online, respond to comments and most especially respond quickly and professionally to criticisms.  This will show off your customer service skills and show that your brand is reliable.
  • Hold Contests and Promotions – Contests are a fun way to spread the word about your business and give you more online exposure.  Be upfront about what you are trying to accomplish with a contest such as: get to 500 likes or add to your email list. Users are very savvy and know a marketing ploy when they see one.  Let them know why they are doing something so they can be a part of it.
  • Proofread – If you are posting daily, it might be easy to type, submit and move on to other business.  Always check your work.  Remember the internet is forever. A quick proofreading should help with typos and editing problems.
  • Have a Personality – Be aware of what your brand stands for and weave that “voice” into the personality of your online persona.  Be human.  Be real.
  • Measure your success – Whether you use Google Analytics or other online statistics, regularly review what works for your company and what does not.

What Social Media Platforms are Right for your Business?

You may be surprised to know that, although social media is a current buzz word, that this type of communication as been around since 1969, when CompuServe used technology known as dial-up to connect to the web.  It wasn’t until decades later that “friendster,” “MySpace” and the earliest social networking sites took off with the dawn of the new millennium.  Today, social media platforms have evolved from fun places to share news and photos with friends into networking spheres and effective advertising tools that are critical to the growth and success of small business.  With the growing importance of social media, businesses can not afford to ignore this critical marketing tool, but they also can not invest time and money into every social network.  So how can businesses decide which platform is the best fit for their business needs?

Here is a brief overview of the top social networking sites and details about each that may help make your decision about which platform is the best choice for your unique brand.

1403469584_Facebook-icon

Facebook- Facebook is the largest of all social media platforms which is great if you are hoping to reach a large volume of people.  Businesses can easily share relevant content, speak directly to their viewers and receive feedback from them.  Since it is such a busy marketplace you will need to monitor your page carefully and find a way to be heard over your competition. Getting Started on Facebook

  • Audience Reach – 1 billion registered users (33% of ALL internet users worldwide) and 699 million daily active users (23% of all internet users worldwide)
  • Audience Breakdown – 25 to 34 year olds take up 29.7% of the users.
    Facebook users are 53% women and 47% male.

imagesTwitter – Branded as “texting for the internet,” Twitter is a place where businesses can create brand awareness, gain followers and promote content.  Using short, 140 character text messages, Twitter allows companies to reach all of its followers something Facebook’s algorithm does not allow. Getting Started on Twitter

  • Audience Reach – 650 million users.
  • Audience Breakdown – Evenly split between the sexes, favored by college graduates, younger users (15 – 25 year olds) and those who earn $75,000+ a year.

imagesLinkedIn – Touted as the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn offers valuable opportunities for business professionals and  Business-to-Business companies  a chance to get their message in front of the right people. Credible connections are made using company and personal profiles that can be accessed by others in your field or parallel markets. Getting Started on LinkedIn

  • Audience – There are 300 million people using LinkedIn.
  • Audience Breakdown – 50/50 split by gender, tends to be business professionals

imagesGoogle + – This social platform is often compared to Twitter and Facebook.  Google Hangouts is a great place to start talking with people and many businesses use it to keep in contact with employees as well as customers. With extras such as Communities, Circles, and the increase in SEO, Google + can be a great choice for industry professionals, bloggers and photographers. Getting Started on Google+

  • Audience – 550 million active monthly users.
  • Audience Breakdown – Mostly men use Google+ and it attracts professionals such as students, technology industry professionals, bloggers and photographers.

imagesYouTube – Known as the video-sharing social media platform, YouTube allows users to upload, share and view videos. As of the Fall of 2014, YouTube is the third most popular site, behind Google and Facebook. 90% of customers of online retailers say that they find videos useful in making purchasing decisions. Getting Started on YouTube

  • Audience – 100 million unique visitors every month.
  • Audience Breakdown – 54% of people who use YouTube are male and 37% are between 18 – 34.

PinterestPinterest – Pinterest is a visual content sharing social platform. Retailers, craftspeople, and mostly women use Pinterest to create and collect content as a sort of portfolio.  Getting Started on Pinterest

  • Audience – 70 million active monthly users.  47.7% percent of shoppers say that content they’ve seen on Pinterest has inspired holiday gift purchases.
  • Audience Breakdown – 80% of Pinterest users are women. In addition, Pinterest users tend to have a higher income.

imagesInstagram – Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform that allows users to share their photos with other users. Videos can be filtered and altered depending on the style the photographer chooses. Getting Started on Instagram

  • Audience – 5 million US. Internet users access it at least once a month (and that’s with 60% of Instagram users being outside of the U.S!)
  • Audience Breakdown – 37% of all users are 18 –29 and 68% are female.

images-2Houzz – Houzz is an online community about architecture, interior design and decorating, landscape design and home improvement. Founded in 2009, Houzz is a platform and mobile app featuring interior and exterior home photos, articles written by architects, interior designers and home design experts, product recommendations, and a user forum.  Getting Started on Houzz

  • Audience – 25 Million + monthly unique visitors
  • Audience Breakdown – designers, graphic artists, architects and photographers are the main users of this social media

 

 

 

Location Based Targeting Using Google AdWords

Looking for an online marketing plan that allows you to not only grow your small business through online marketing but also target certain customers within a specific location?  Google AdWords can help specify your targeted audience through “Location Targeting”  and still allow you to have total control over your budget with the Pay-Per-Click advertising of AdWords.

The way Google AdWords works is fairly simple.  People use keywords to search for specific products and services.  If the keywords you’ve chosen matches what people search for, your paid ad appears next to or above organic Google search results. When people click on your ad, they’ll go to your website to learn more or buy.  The benefits of this cost effective program go well beyond the ease of use but also give the business owner the  ability to target using location, hours, language and mobile targeting. Paid advertising is probably the most direct and effective tool marketers can use online to capture the attention of “right” audience.

Google AdWords’ location targeting capabilities are quite sophisticated and provide advertisers various channels in which to fine-tune their campaign.  Location Targeting through Google AdWords allows you to target specific geographic locations. For each ad campaign, you can select locations where your ad can be shown. You can choose locations such as entire countries, areas within a country, cities, territories, or even a radius around a location. It also suggests locations that you might want to target and even offers you reach numbers to help you estimate the audience within your selected target location. More importantly, AdWords allows you to target people searching for or viewing pages about your targeted location, even if they may not be physically located in your target location. The more effective you are in targeting the right customers, the greater your return on investment.

As usual, the search engine giant Google sets out very precise and easy-to-follow steps to get started using Google AdWords.  Getting Started on Google AdWords allows you to create an account, design a campaign, set a budget and follow up with data to show how well the advertising is doing and determine if you are getting a good return on your advertising investment.

Retargeting Previous Website Visitors

If you have ever watched someone window shopping at the mall, then you know the behavior is enough to drive marketing specialists mad!  A window shopper may stop and visually browse, show interest in a specific product but never actually purchase anything. 

The same problem occurs with online marketing.  A visitor to a site may search your site for an item but never convert over to a paying customer.  In fact ReTargeter Online states  that only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach the 98% of users who don’t convert right away. Let’s look at how Retargeting can change your window shoppers into loyal customers.

The basic idea behind retargeting is to show ads to people who have visited your website or used your mobile app before. When people leave your website without buying anything, for example, remarketing helps you reconnect with them by showing relevant ads as they browse the web, as they use mobile apps, or as they search on Google. On the technical end, all that is needed is a code inserted in the footer of your website.  This code creates a list of people that visit your site by placing anonymous retargeting “cookies” in their browser. Using this code, marketers can display ads to potential customers as they visit others sites. Ultimately this keeps your brand in front of your “window shoppers” with the idea that they will convert over given special offers, or strategic placement of ads.

Getting Started-

  • Regardless of whether you choose a self-service platform or a managed platform, your company can benefit from the expertise of several retargeting vendors.  These include: Google AdWords Remarketing, ReTargeter, AdRoll, FetchBack, and Perfect Audience.
  • After picking a vendor, you need to set several targeting parameters. These parameters can include: audience geography, cookie duration, hours, numbers of impressions per client per day, and rotation of ads.
  • Make retargeting easier by segmenting your visitors.  To do this you may need to divide your site into interests, products, or visitor profile.

Retargeting tends to be effective as it focuses your advertising dollars on people who are already familiar with your brand, product or services and have already demonstrated an interest.

Google Tools for Business

One of the major goals of online marketing is to make your site–and by extension, your products and services–more visible to your targeted audience.  As the world’s largest search engine, Google believes that your online marketing goal should be to, “Show the world you are open for business!” Thankfully, Google has a host of tools designed to do just that.  Regardless of your budget, Google is the online giant that can literally get your business “on the map,” bring traffic to your site, and improve your SEO through key services.  Let’s take a look at some of the most valuable free and paid services offered by Google via their Business Solutions.

  • Google Places for Business – Now a part of Google My Business, this allows for your company to be found when a customer searches Google Maps using related terms.  Creating a Places page on Google Maps is free and it allows you to “beef up” your listing with important facts about your company and location.  Google My Business
  • Google AdWords – This extremely popular Pay-Per-Click (PPC) service allows businesses to set an advertising budget per month for online ads.  This type of advertising allows your business to target customers in certain countries, regions or cities – or even within a set distance from your business or store. The best part is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, with no sign up fee or minimum to spend. In addition, companies can monitor the ad’s progress using the AdWords analytic tools. Google AdWords
  • Google Analytics –  This free tool can track every visitor to your site and generate helpful reports and statistics. If you want to know where your visitors are coming from, how long they stay on your site and what they are looking at while on your site, this is the place to find out!  Google  Analytics will give you key insights into what your customers need and want from your business. Google Analytics
  • Google + – This Google version of social media has over 500 million users who can help you build your business community and customer loyalty. Google +
  • Blogging – Google’s Blogger program is one of the largest blog-hosting services. It’s easy to use, free, and can help boost your business’ online presence. Members of your staff can add value to your website by posting about new products, services, helpful “How-tos”, and industry news. Google Blogger
  • Google Drive –  This is a file storage and synchronization service created and managed by Google. It allows users to store, share and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, and more. Google Drive makes it easy to collaborate and communicate through your gmail account with colleagues and clients, as well as access those files remotely. Google Drive
  • Google Calendar – Similar to Google Drive, Google Calendar allows you to synchronize events, meetings, and deadlines with colleagues.  You can easily check Google Calendar and add, share and edit  new events from websites you visit. Google Calendar
  • Google Gmail – Email for business through Google (AKA Gmail) has many benefits including: free storage, hangouts, and the best of email through any device. Google Gmail