What are Infographics and Why Should Your Small Business Use them in Your Content Strategy?

What are Infographics and Why Should Your Small Business Use them in Your Content Strategy?

With so much information available on the internet, how can your small business stand out against the crowd and put out something that’s useful, informative and eye-catching? As we know, images capture a lot more attention than simple text alone. In fact, studies have shown that people can recall 65% of the visual content that they see almost three days later.

Infographics are a great piece of visual content designed to capture consumer’s attention and provide them with useful information regarding your business and the industry you’re involved in. Infographics combine design aesthetics, content and data in story-like form, allowing for consumers to interpret the information more easily and effectively.

There are many benefits to utilizing infographics within your content marketing strategy. For starters, they can be easily shared via social media and other digital channels. People share infographics 3x more than any other type of content. This helps small businesses gain exposure across multiple channels. Additionally, the human brain processes visuals 60,000x faster than text, and it’s no secret that it’s a whole lot easier to look at a photo with text than to sift through pages and pages of text and information.

Infographics help small businesses tell a story. For instance, if you’re a pizza parlor, you might consider creating an infographic that tells the story of pizza, where it originated, how it’s changed over time and other interesting statistics that revolve around pizza. In addition to information, be sure to add in your business’s logo and contact information.

In addition to the ability to be shared on social media, infographics can help your business gain useful links. If other companies see your information as useful, they may utilize it on their website or within their blogs and provide a backlink to your site as the source. These links can also help boost your SEO and improve your ranking in local SERPs (search engine results pages).

Through these visual representations, you’re helping label yourself as an expert in your field of work. In some cases, you’re also dispersing information that can be somewhat complicated and turning it into something that makes the info easier to digest and understand. This, in turn, can help increase your brand’s value, by highlighting your knowledge about your business, and building trust in your brand.

Unsurprisingly, the more knowledge and expertise you showcase about your business, the more likely that consumers will be to choose your business over a competitor. Subsequently, infographics can also help you increase your sales. Show your customers what your business is capable of and highlight your unique specialties.

Start brainstorming ideas and have a goal in mind. It may even be worth enlisting the help of a graphic designer in the beginning just to help you get your feet wet. If you don’t have access or the funds to support a design expert, there are plenty of online tools available to help.

5 Online Marketing ‘Shortcuts’ That Will Actually Sabotage Your Success

5 Online Marketing ‘Shortcuts’ That Will Actually Sabotage Your Success

When it comes to marketing your business on the Internet, cutting corners can hurt your visibility and the impression you leave on potential customers.

Here are 5 marketing ‘shortcuts’ that will actually sabotage your success.

1. Using a free, plug-and-play website service.

Your website is the foundation of your digital presence.

Like any foundation, you want your website to be strong and sturdy, built with the best materials and the best technical know-how available. Something that reflects the quality of your brand, and is optimized for search engines.

Free, plug-and-play website services are the digital equivalent of lean-tos — hastily-built structures that provide your business with the bare minimum in form and function.

Don’t go for the “economy option”—hire a professional web design agency with a history of building high-quality websites that help businesses like yours grow.

2. Trying to keyword stuff.

Keyword stuffing (if you’ve never heard of keyword stuffing, here’s how Google defines it) is the internet’s quintessential “get-rich-quick” scheme.

Build a website —> Load it up with keywords people are searching for —> Climb to the top of search engine rankings

But keyword stuffing isn’t OK and hasn’t been OK for some time.

And search engines will punish you if you do it.

Algorithm updates like Hummingbird (Google), allow search engines to focus on semantic search (the language of Internet users’ queries beyond keywords), and on picking up content cues (like synonyms and related topics) to determine whether your website should rank highly in search.

And if you artificially stuff your website with keywords? Well, search engines like Google will push your website way down in the search engine results of your potential customers.

Use keywords, but use them naturally. Most of your focus should be on the creation of high-quality content that answers questions people are asking.

3. Copying content from other websites.

“Borrowing” content from other websites seems like a fast, easy way to get new ideas and new material for your website.

But in reality it’s a terrible idea that will damage your business’ visibility in search engines — Google, Bing, and other search engines reward websites that deliver unique, original content… not repurposed (stolen) content.

The more original your content (and the more relevant it is to someone’s search query), the higher your website will rank in search engine results.

Write, record, and create your own unique, high-quality content — don’t copy or mimic the work of others — and then paste that high-quality content all over your website.

4. Trying to lie about your location.

If you want your website and your company to appear as a “local business” in search engine results, you can’t just list your address as a P.O. box in the area you want to be seen as “local.”

Google and other search engines will punish you severely if you do this.

The only way to be seen as a “local business” in multiple areas in the eyes of a search engine is to classify your business as a “service-area business” and then list the cities, neighborhoods, and zip codes that you regularly service.

This is especially important if you own a business that doesn’t serve customers at your physical location (for example, a plumber doesn’t help customers at his office…he drives to the customer’s home).

When it comes to listing your business in an online directory, always follow the guidelines — use a “service-area business” classification combined with selected zip codes, towns, etc. to rank in “local business” search results.

5. Leaving cookie-cutter responses for customers.

People can spot a canned statement from a mile away, and when they see one, it makes them feel unimportant.

Yes, prefabricated responses to questions and comments online can save your business time, but at what cost?

If you don’t take the time to personalize your engagement online on platforms like Facebook and Yelp, you’ll leave people feeling like they’re just another number — that your business doesn’t care about them — which will send them into your competitors’ waiting arms.

Take the time to read as many comments and reviews as you can (all of them, if possible).

Then write custom responses that address each comment or review posted.

Whether you’re thanking a customer for a social media shout-out, or offering a solution for a negative customer service experience, a personalized response will deliver big results for your marketing in the long-term.

How Can Small Businesses Improve Their Social Media Marketing?

How Can Small Businesses Improve Their Social Media Marketing?

It’s so important these days for small businesses to have a strong social media presence. Why? Because it’s where your customers are, and it’s where they go to learn more about your business and see how you interact with your audience.

From best practices to new platforms, social media is constantly evolving, and it can be incredibly difficult and time consuming for small business owners to keep up with. However, in order to get the most out of your social media marketing and set yourself apart from your competitors, there are a few things you should definitely be doing.

Learn About New Platforms

Many small businesses know and are already utilizing Facebook, but what about the other social media channels out there? Platforms like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube can help propel your social media marketing forward. Take the time to learn about some of the different social platforms and determine which ones make the most sense for your unique business. If a large portion of your target audience is utilizing a certain channel, then your business should be too.

Create Unique Content

There is arguably nothing more valuable than creating unique, engaging content for your audience. Do some research and think about some of the more interesting posts you’ve seen by your favorite brands or local businesses. You can also look to your competition and see the variations of content they are posting. When it comes to content, you want to think outside of the box and really tap into your target audience’s emotions and find ways to engage with them.

Ask a Professional

There’s so much to learn about social media, especially if you’re only just starting out. And there are tons of professionals out there who’ve been in the game and know what consumers are looking for. It might be wise to reach out to someone to gain some insight into your social media marketing plan. Do some research and ask those you trust if they have anyone they can recommend. Although there will likely be a cost associated with this, the value of the knowledge you’ll gain is immeasurable, and can help you grow your business tremendously.

Put a Plan Together

Once you’ve determined which social media channels you’d like to focus on, you should put together a plan for creating content and posting it. The key to social media is consistency, it more than likely won’t pay off if you’re just posting here and there whenever you have time. There needs to be a schedule in place that is consistent and thorough. If you’re hesitant on where to begin, Hootsuite offers an entire guide on how to create a social media strategy.

Research, Research, Research

If you’re planning on tackling this operation either by yourself or in-house with little to no experience, then it’s important to do your research. Although it can be time consuming, it’s important to understand all the different components of social media, and how you can put together a social media marketing plan that will help you achieve your goals. If you’re going to utilize social media, do it right, and be committed to it. Otherwise, it’s likely that you won’t gain any benefits from it and will have wasted your time.

4 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs SEO

4 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs SEO

Consumers are utilizing digital channels more often than not to conduct research about businesses prior to making a purchase or visiting a store. Mobile phones, in particular, have become an invaluable resource for consumers in their moments of need. A Google study revealed that 70% of smartphone owners who bought something in a store first turned to their devices for information relevant to that purchase. Additionally, 30% utilized a search engine specifically prior to purchasing.

When a customer conducts a search on a search engine like Google, there’s an algorithm in place that helps provide the searcher with the most relevant results. And if you want your business to fall onto the first page of those results, you must have a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place.

With 93% of online experiences beginning with a search engine, a well-organized, tactical SEO strategy has never been more important in setting yourself apart from the competition. Here are a few reasons why SEO is necessary for small businesses in 2018.

Increase Website Traffic

You want your business to rank as high as possible for keywords and phrases that fall into your niche. That way, when consumers type in those keywords and phrases, you’ll be right at the top for them to click on. For Google specifically, 18% of organic clicks go to the number 1 position, while 10% go to the second and 7% to the third, so the higher you rank, the more traffic you’ll receive. This is a great way to educate potential customers and help them with their needs, which can eventually lead to increased sales and growth of your business.

Your Competitors are Doing it

Cutting to the chase, your competitors are utilizing SEO. And, just like you, they are vying for those top spots in organic search results. Gaining one of the top spots is difficult in itself, and you must then work constantly to maintain that position. And don’t be afraid of big brand name competitors. Small, local businesses have a great shot at ending up in the top of organic search results, so long as their SEO is properly implemented using the right strategies.

It’s Here to Stay

So long as search engines and algorithms exists, SEO isn’t going anywhere. SEO’s importance will only increase as time goes on, so there’s no better time than the present to start putting together your strategy. Tactics and best practices for SEO will continue changing and evolving, so it’s important to stay well-educated and updated on these trends in order to increase your chances of falling into and remaining in a top spot.

Build Credibility, Brand Awareness

Say you’re operating a salon and someone in your local area is searching for a place to get a haircut and some highlights. If you’ve implemented your SEO correctly and filled your website with high-quality content packed with these keywords, ideally, you’ll show up in those search results. And, that potential customer just may click on your site to learn more about your business. This type of educating helps build trust and credibility with consumers. It will also increase your chances of them choosing your business over a competitor.

What’s the Difference Between Branding and Marketing?

What’s the Difference Between Branding and Marketing?

There’s no doubt that a gray area exists when discussing branding and marketing. And although the two are obviously connected, they are very different things. They are both independent components that fuel one another, and in order to get the most out of each and to execute them correctly within your marketing plan, you must understand the differences between them.

What is Branding?

To put it simply, branding is who you are, it’s your reason for existing as a company. Branding composes your unique value proposition or promise to your customers and exposes the culture of your organization. Branding is utilized to help create a lasting impression on your customers, and it helps consumers distinguish your products and services from that of your competitors.

Your brand will determine whether or not customers will remain loyal or seek out other companies to do business with. Branding is a long-term commitment that will help to create value and build loyalty both internally and externally for your business.

When determining a brand strategy, small business owners should ask themselves the following questions:

  • What are my core values?
  • What is the business’s mission statement?
  • What sets you apart from the competition and makes you unique?
  • What value are you providing to your customers through your products and services?
  • What do you want people to associate with your company’s name?
  • What is the ideal way a customer would describe your business?

Once you’ve clearly defined who you are as a company, you can then utilize your branding to drive your marketing efforts.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is your message to your customers and how you choose to deliver it. It’s how you utilize market research and analysis to get customers interested in your products and services. Your marketing strategy should constantly evolve as these components change.

Here are a few of the different channels you can use to market your business:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media
  • PPC advertising
  • Mobile advertising
  • Print campaigns

Marketing, both online and offline, is vital to all stages of the buyer’s journey. E Jerome McCarthy’s ‘4 Ps of Marketing’ concept is a great explanation of how marketing is utilized within each stage.

Product – In order to sell something, you need to understand the demand for it, and who you plan to sell it to. Ask yourself, what is my target audience? What variations of messaging will increase the sale of this product and which marketing channels should I promote them through?

Price – Looks to your competitors to gain a better understanding of what customers within your market are willing to pay for a similar product. Pricing too high or too low can have significant impacts on your business, so it’s important to research and analyze before determining a price range.

Place – Once you’ve figured out what you’re selling, you need to determine how and where to sell it. Analyze the consumers within your market to figure out what makes the most sense.

Promotion – Any online or offline strategy that encourages awareness of your product or service is considered a promotion. Things like campaigns, mobile advertising and social media are all considered promotions.

Marketing and branding are connected, as you cannot have one without the other. It’s important to understand the differences and correlations between them in order to create the most effective, impactful strategies possible.

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to find out which local business was reliable, and which wasn’t, you just walked up to your neighbor by the backyard fence and asked for a recommendation.

Today, the internet has taken the place of the backyard fence and everybody’s your neighbor. Online review sites are today’s version of “word of mouth.” Every happy (or unhappy) customer has the potential to share his or her experience at your business with hundreds — or maybe thousands — of other people.

Knowing that, do you really want to list your business with Google, Yelp, and other review sites? Do you dare open your business up to potential criticism?

Absolutely. Online reviews are far too important to avoid.

Online Reviews Make Your Business Visible and Create Trust

Reviews are another way to increase your local search engine rankings through organic means. The more people discuss your brand, the better its visibility is to Google. Each review creates unique content that’s relevant to your brand — and some review sites, like Yelp, may even come up higher in search results for keywords than your actual website.

In addition, consumers are increasingly wary and distrustful of marketing techniques. They work hard for their money — so they need reassurance that they’re going to get a certain value when they hire someone or buy a product. That’s why 90% of people check out a local business online before they actually visit it. It’s also why 89% of consumers need to read multiple reviews for your business before they’re willing to trust you.

Essentially, consumers are looking for a good reason to choose one business over all the rest. In an increasingly competitive market, that’s exactly what you need to give them. Registering your business at online review sites and working hard to get those positive reviews is the best way to do it.

The Reviews You Get Could Make or Break Your Business

A heartfelt, positive review can have a huge effect on your business. Most online review sites use a five-star ratings system — and every star a business gains is associated with increased revenues of 5%-9%. In addition, consumers tend to overlook a business that has less than four stars. They simply don’t trust them. That makes positive reviews a major driving force for foot traffic, no matter what business you are in.

However, positive reviews aren’t the only ones that consumers are reading. A single, deeply-negative review can also have tremendous consequences for your business. One negative review can cost you 22% of your potential customers. Get three negative reviews, and you’ll lose 59% of those who read them.

It quickly becomes imperative to gain as many positive reviews as you can for your business. That not only gives you more good things for consumers to read, it helps mitigate the fallout from the occasional bad review.

Start a Plan to Solicit Reviews from Happy Customers

So, how do you go about getting more positive reviews?

Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody to write fake reviews. Not only is that unethical (and possibly illegal), it can backfire on your business badly. Your goal is to build trust — fake reviews from someone paid to write them will destroy that trust in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, getting good reviews is actually pretty easy. You simply ask for them. As soon as you open your business up for reviews on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, put your plan into action:

  • Ask friends and family who have used your services or bought your product to write a review. The odds are good that they’re some of your biggest fans anyway. Ask them to be specific about what they find most compelling about your business so that their reviews have that all-so-important ring of authenticity.
  • Talk to your most loyal customers. You know who they are. Let them know what you are doing and ask them for their support. Try reaching out to the people that already support you online through your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages.

People love to be asked for their opinion, and you’ll continue to build trust by making your most loyal customers feel like they’re partners in your success.

Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews Alike

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is not responding to reviews — good or bad. Consumers want a response. Far too often — about 63% of the time — they’re disappointed.

A simple, “Thanks! We look forward to seeing you again!” can often suffice for a positive review, while negative reviews take a little more finesse. Since the world is watching, keep your tone professional and address customer complaints as openly as possible. Avoid angry, emotional responses and focus on the overall impression you want to make on others who read the exchange.

When you respond to a review, you’re telling the customer who left it that you care about his or her opinion. You’re also telling everyone else that you’re responsive to all kinds of feedback.

The Takeaway

Your customers are your neighborhood — and you need to lean over the metaphorical fence between you and engage their support.

Online reviews are a fantastic opportunity for your business. Not only do they help with local search marketing, they’re a tremendous source of information and feedback. Learn to solicit that feedback — and respond to it in earnest — and you’ll gain your customers’ trust and give prospects a reason to pick your business out of the crowd!