Why You Need SEO Help for Your Unique Small Business

Why You Need SEO Help for Your Unique Small Business

You know your craft and understand your customers better than anybody. So why should you trust your future to a SEO company to promote it for you? Aren’t you better off handling all your marketing yourself?

No, you aren’t. Now, let’s look at the reasons why.

You Need Increased Visibility

The demand for handmade, unique, well-crafted items has risen steadily over the last few years. Artisanal and niche businesses are rewriting the rules when it comes to what makes a business viable for the future.

So, why isn’t it easier to find new customers and grow your business? It sounds like people should be clamoring at your doors just to get a sample of your product.

The trouble is that you may be largely invisible to any market outside of your current customer base. Traditional advertising, which is the easiest thing for someone who isn’t familiar with ins-and-outs of SEO to manage, won’t cut through all the visual noise these days — especially if your customers are mostly Millennials. Only 1% of Millennials are influenced by ads. The other 99% of that potential future market simply tunes them out.

The latest research indicates that 97% of people now shop online, even if they buy in the store.

In fact, more than 40% of Americans now do their shopping while lying in bed. To reach the online market, you have to be able to get your message out through multiple platforms:

  • A blog that provides free content related to your product
  • Videos that entertain and educate
  • Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media to help you make connections

Growth is about visibility. Today, visibility means having a strong online presence in all the right places.

You Have Limited Time

Unless you already have some mad SEO skills, it’s not something you can just pick up on the fly. The rules change constantly — which means even the best guides you can find online or in a bookstore can be outdated overnight.

For example, Google dominates the world of search engines. It also continuously updates its methods of ranking pages in order to provide users with a more streamlined experience. Since 2015, there have been four major changes to the algorithms Google uses to rank websites. In 2017, websites streamlined for mobile users suddenly found themselves higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

You can’t dedicate the amount of time it takes to master all of the intricacies of the SEO field and still maintain the same level of dedication to your own business. Nor do you have the time to generate all of the content and maintain all of the social media platforms on your own.

As an owner, you’re probably used to handling things yourself. You may even prefer it that way. However, that’s a disservice to your business and yourself if your efforts aren’t getting the word of your existence out where it needs to go.

Given the amount of work that has to be done, it’s time to delegate a little.

You Can Build Your Brand Identity

If you’re worried about trusting your baby to strangers, don’t be. Part of successful marketing is making sure that you stay in close contact with your marketers. You still retain the ultimate control over your company’s future:

  1. You set the goals. Do you want to see an increase in website traffic? Do you just need to convert more prospects into buyers after they come to your site? You identify the problem that you want the SEO company to address.
  2. You define your brand. Your brand has its own personality, and you have to convey that personality to the marketing company. It’s the marketer’s job to help you make that personality evident to the world, in order to attract your customers. A lot of artisan products have a sophisticated personality that attracts customers with refined tastes. However, if your product is earth-centric and aims to reduce the consumer’s carbon footprint, you may want to convey sincerity instead.
  3. You decide your target market. You already know the type of person who buys your product. Your marketer isn’t going to try to change that unless you want to change that. Your marketer’s goal is just to reach more of those particular people.

Frankly, your marketing company can’t really do an effective job without you. Together, you can build your brand identity and establish credibility with your potential customers. In order to do that, however, an SEO company will need you to provide a lot of guiding information.

The Takeaway

Your work with an SEO company is a collaborative effort. It has to be. You both want to succeed. In this case, the SEO company won’t succeed unless you also succeed because its goals are tied to yours.

Why Customer Service Matters for Your Online and Offline Presence

Why Customer Service Matters for Your Online and Offline Presence

In this digital age, you have to be aware of and deal with unhappy customers online and offline.

How do you handle an unhappy customer?

If you’re responsible for the unhappiness — a mixed-up order or a late arrival — you naturally want to do whatever you can to fix the problem.

But what if the problem really wasn’t your fault? What if the customer’s child was just tired and cranky while the customer tried to get her bakery order in? What if a dog owner contacts you on social because she’s still worried her dog might be sick, even after your mobile vet visit?

If you aren’t responsive, that customer is likely gone for good. Around 59% of customers will take their business elsewhere after just one instance of poor customer service and if they leave a bad review, they take even more business with them.

Are you a little confused about how you could be giving poor service when you didn’t do anything wrong?

It’s because you also didn’t do anything right.

What Is Good Customer Service?

Customer service isn’t just what you do for the customer — it’s also about what you don’t do. An unhappy customer is actually a golden opportunity.

If you own a bakery, the smart move would have been to offer the tired child a free cookie to distract him or her while the mother put in her order. If you operate a mobile vet service, respond to her comments with an offer to swing by the customer’s house and check the dog out again. Don’t forget that you need to connect your digital marketing to your real-world actions for the best customer service.

“For free?” you say.

Yes, for free. By acting at just the right moment — when it will make your customer’s experience a little better or easier — you’re turning those products, efforts on social sites, and services into a type of currency. That currency purchases customer loyalty in an era where customers have a huge range of options.

Customer retention and loyalty is the name of the game when it comes to small business survival. Studies have shown that three out of five customers will ditch their usual place of business in favor of someplace with better service — even without an unhappy experience. Plus, nine out of 10 of those customers say they’ll cheerfully spend more money at a small business that they think provides excellent customer service.

So, take an active role in responsive digital marketing and respond to every online post. Respond to your customer’s frustrations and fears — even when you’ve already done what you need to do. Doing more is what will give you a win.

Why Is the Short-Term Loss Unimportant?

Keep in mind, when you react to an unhappy customer, online or off, you aren’t just making an impression on that customer. You’re also making impressions on every customer who’s watching you in the store and especially online.

Happy customers tell an average of nine people about their experiences. However, it turns out that unhappy customers are a lot more energetic than happy ones. One angry customer will usually tell around 16 people about their lousy experience, not counting the hundreds or thousands in the wider online audience.

See what I’m getting at? The smart choice may be to take the short-term hit to your bottom line right now in order to make long-term wins.

Why Is Doing What You Don’t Have to Do So Important?

Choosing to take that short-term hit in order to get a happy customer may be particularly smart business if you feel like the customer’s unhappy experience really wasn’t your fault.

Take, for example, an experience I had at a local restaurant. The menu said that the spaghetti had Italian sausage in it, but I didn’t know to expect the sausage to be spicy. Unable to eat it, I pushed the plate aside and focused on my friends instead of the food. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.

The owner of the place, however, noticed on his rounds that I was not eating my meal. He asked me what was wrong, then immediately had me order something else. “On the house,” he said, “Please.” When the bill came, he’d actually comped both dishes.

Not only did he impress me, but he impressed my friends. He took total responsibility for my happiness. In doing so, he gained several long-term customers and organic word-of=mouth digital marketing from us for the price of two meals.

The Takeaway

Take total responsibility for your customer’s happiness — online and off — by being responsive even when you aren’t responsible for a problem. Service that goes “above and beyond” will build a loyal customer base.

Is it Time to Optimize for Voice Searches?

Is it Time to Optimize for Voice Searches?

As the Internet of Things continues to grow and change, voice technology is becoming more important. With all the internet-connected devices out there, people are typing less and talking more, whether they’re in their car, walking with a cell phone in hand or sitting in their living rooms.

The changes are happening quickly. A 2016 Google trends report showed that a whopping 20% of its mobile searches were already being performed by voice, not keyed-in commands. Experts predict that as early as 2020 half of all online searches will be done by voice and 30% will be done on devices that don’t even have a screen.

For small businesses, that means it’s time to take search engine optimization to the next level. You need to have your website optimized for voice in order to stay truly competitive. Here’s how to start:

1. Learn Everything You Can About Google’s Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets have been around for a couple of years now. They’re short, concise answers to questions Google users ask. Extracted from a web page, they occupy the top spot in SERPs, above the first actual search results. That’s the spot marketers are now calling “Position Zero.”

Being at the top of the page can increase your CTR up to 30% in searches that come back to a screen. In voice searches on devices that don’t use a screen, whatever’s in Position Zero is the only thing the end-user is going to hear.

Google generates Featured Snippets organically so the only way to land in Position Zero is to earn it. To do that, your information naturally needs to be relevant to the search terms. You can also significantly increase your odds of landing in Position Zero by adopting the following strategies:

  • Analyze keywords and develop new content with Snippets in mind.
  • Devote single pages to important questions, especially about your products or services.
  • Incorporate “frequently asked questions” into your content.
  • Break up content with subheadings, lists, tables, and graphics when possible.
  • Use images, since Snippets seem to favor them.

If you can use Snippets effectively, you can skip ahead of your competition even when you’re fourth or fifth in organic search results. In fact, 2/3 of the Featured Snippets analyzed in 2016 came from sites that are ranked 2-5 on the SERPs.

2. Think About the Questions Your Customers or Clients Ask

In particular, you need to be thinking and analyzing how people talk, especially if they are talking to a virtual assistant. Use that analysis, as well as whatever questions pop up on your social media or customer service sites, to generate new content that will help you land in Position Zero. As always, content is king, even when search results are being read to a device’s user.

As the technology surrounding artificial intelligence evolves, the way that people talk to their machines may also evolve. Right now, consider the following when you’re creating new content:

  • People are wordier in voice searches, so target long-tail keywords.
  • Think hard about what questions your target audience may have. Focus on the “How?” and “What?” questions your customers are asking. Those are the top two trigger words that are included in Snippets.
  • Try to include the answer to your target audience’s question at the top of a page.
  • Remember that voice search is highly mobile, so write with your location in mind. That means making sure that you have a page that completely answers the question where people can find you and your product or services.

It’s time to overhaul your website with voice searches in mind and the knowledge that data needs to be broken down into easily digestible chunks that hopefully turn into Snippets.

3. Help Voice Search Find You

Do you have your site optimized for local, mobile searches? If you don’t, you won’t show up in all the local voice searches people do while walking, driving, or riding in a car. At the very minimum, make sure you follow these rules:

  • Make sure each page has your name, address, and phone number on it.
  • Claim your “Google My Business” listing and complete it.

While these might seem like fairly simple steps, they’re easily overlooked. The more effort you can put into optimizing your site for mobile technology and local searches, the bigger the payoff is likely to be when it comes to voice searches as well.

The Takeaway

People are increasingly relying on voice searches and virtual assistants. When there’s no screen involved in a search, there’s no “second place” in an SERP. Because the task of updating your website for voice searches is likely to be a detailed process, your small business can’t afford to delay voice optimization. If you do, you risk being left behind.

How Online Reviews Are Impacting Your SEO

How Online Reviews Are Impacting Your SEO

You work tirelessly to create an image for your business through authoritative, insightful content. Unfortunately, this is rarely enough. Customers are more likely to believe others who say a business offers a great service than the company itself. This is why reviews are critical to your online success.

Not only do 90 percent of consumers read reviews before visiting a business (according to Dimensional Research), Google cares, too. Reviews can improve your SEO for several reasons.

  1. Fresh Content

Reviews fulfill around 9.8 percent of total ranking factors. For instance, they are unique, they are often relevant to search queries, they are useful, they provide unique value, they are easy to read on any device, and they are the kind of content others want to share.

  1. Long-Tail Keywords

The people leaving reviews for products and services share many of the same characteristics as those who are looking for your business offerings. This means they use many of the same terms to describe your company and offerings. In other words, they use the same long-tail keywords.

  1. Rich Snippets

When you adhere to schema standards, Google favors your site. In terms of reviews, schema means Google can create rich snippets. These often appear at the top of search engine results. They feature the name of the product, its star rating, the number of reviews, and a brief summary of the top pros and cons. These rich snippets are highly-clickable.

  1. Higher Rankings for Other Pages

One of the best ways to prove your authority is to be backed up by other sources. If the majority of your reviews are positive, Google will take this to mean that your brand is popular. This will boost rankings for many of the page on your site. However, for this to be effective, you need to increase both the number of reviews you receive and the percentage of positive reviews.

  1. Third-Party Star Ratings

Google looks at reviews on your own website and on third-party pages. Ideally, you should maintain a high star ranking (at least 3.5 stars) on the most important third-party site for your industry. You should to aim for at least 30 unique reviews in the last 12 months.

Creating a Review Strategy

If you just wait for reviews to pour in, you’ll definitely be disappointed. No matter how great your service is, only a small minority of customers will leave reviews without a push or incentive from you. Worse still, if customers do have a bad experience, they may feel obliged to share it with the world. This can lead to a skewed number of negative reviews, leading to a distorted picture of your business that negatively impacts SEO.

To ensure reviews have a positive effect on SEO, you need a strategy.

Ask for Reviews

Ask satisfied customers to leave you reviews whenever they have a positive experience with your company. You can send an email after a purchase or invite users on your website and social media accounts. Asking for reviews needs to be a constant campaign — it is always beneficial to have new reviews.

Clearly state where you want reviews. The most important place is usually Google My Business, as these reviews appear on Google Maps and in Google search results. You need at least five reviews on Google My Business before you will even see a star rating in the search.

Win at Yelp

Another important third-party site for many types of businesses is Yelp. Be warned: this site is smart — it knows when reviews are likely illegitimate are hides them. To make sure the reviews you ask from your customers are published, never provide direct links to your Yelp page. Instead, ask customers to Google your business name and look for it on Yelp. Also tell customers to leave descriptive reviews, as Yelp ignores those that are too short.

Social Media

Some social media platforms allow users to leave reviews on brands’ pages. You can incorporate more reviews by using them as part of your social media strategy. Among other strategies, post your best reviews to make sure they become highly-visible to prospects and to start conversations.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Responding to negative reviews is your chance to address what went wrong and apologize or justify the situation. Never be defensive — this will only make things worse. Instead, see what you can do to make things right. This demonstrates that you care to potential customers.

Reviews have the potential to boost your SEO, but there is always the risk that they ruin your company’s reputation online. With a large number of positive reviews, you can dominate the search results for long-tail keywords that relate to your offerings. To achieve this, it is critical you have a strategy to receive the right types of reviews.

Think Local Search Doesn’t Apply to Your Business? Think Again.

Think Local Search Doesn’t Apply to Your Business? Think Again.

Have you ever been traveling abroad somewhere where you don’t understand the language and are looking for a bite to eat or a quick cup of coffee? You tap into that hotel Wi-Fi you are so grateful for and Google “coffee near me.” Of the top results that come up, you struggle between the choice to try something local and new, and the comfort and familiarity of Starbucks.

Now, ignoring what your ultimate decision was and whether you got two sugars or one, this scenario poses an important question. What is Starbucks doing on your search results, miles away from their starting place in Seattle? Why is it that Starbucks comes up on your mobile device no matter where you are–in Mexico, Germany or Japan?

It’s because of local search marketing.

Many people think of local search as something only for small businesses that are operating mainly in only a couple of cities. However, local search marketing is something that all businesses need to know how to do–even national and global businesses.

Here Are the Facts

The fact is that there are over 100 billion Google searches a month. Of these Google searches, more take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. And of THOSE mobile searches, 32% are related to location!

These are all key findings in a recent infographic posted below by Boostability and Navads.

Further stats from the infographic about the effects of local search for businesses basically can be summed up with one word: Great. 50% of local searches lead to an in-store visit within one day and 28% result in an immediate purchase.

Another Look at Starbucks

Let’s go back to that Starbucks example one more time. Starbucks opened its first store in 1971. In 1987 it had grown to 17 stores. 1996 was a big year as it opened its first store outside of North America in Japan and their total store count had risen to 1,015. Fast forward ten years and their total store count was 12,440. And nowadays? Well, as of 2015 Starbucks lists the store count at a whopping 22,519.

What is Starbucks doing right locally that has helped them get big globally? A couple of things.

One thing they are doing for their local visibility is consistency. Referring to a business name online in many different ways (like “Starbucks, Inc.” vs. “Starbucks Coffee”) can really mess up local SEO. They stick to “Starbucks” and let the internet work its magic.

Starbucks also lists correct phone numbers and opening hours. You would think that is a no-brainer, but it turns out that 67% of local search results have a mistake with their phone number and 75% have errors in opening hours.

Starbucks is on the right maps and on the right business listing pages. 50% of smartphone users are using Google Maps, 30% Apple Maps and 10% use Waze. Without being on those maps, or the dozens of local listing platforms, they would be missing hundreds (at least) of potential customers.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

If you have a business with a physical location, you need to jump on board with local search marketing. Don’t ignore the trends of local searching and mobile usage. Get with it or get left behind.