The Components of a Good Small Business Website

The Components of a Good Small Business Website

The Internet currently consists of over 1.5 billion websites. So, the question must be asked, in a sea of websites, what can you as a business owner do to make sure that yours is unique and stands out, while also serving its purpose to your target audience?

A website’s focus should always be the same: relaying necessary information to users in a quick and easy fashion. To achieve this, there are certain components that should be present. Let’s take a look at some of the features that make up a good, well-received website.

A Simple, Easy to Navigate Design

Less is more when it comes to websites, so jam packing it with flashy graphics and videos is completely unnecessary. You want your website to be visually appealing, but not overwhelming. It’s also important to make sure that it’s easy to navigate through so that users can find what they’re looking for quickly. When determining a design, formulate a plan for what you envision your site looking like and the goals you seek for it to achieve.

High-Quality Content

Your website’s main goal is to appease the user’s needs by providing them with the information that they’ve come to your site looking for. Ergo, it must be packed with content that will educate and inform consumers on your product and service offerings, as well as other relevant information, like frequently asked questions. This information should also tell your story, as it will help build trust within your brand.

Mobile Responsiveness

Users are accessing websites via mobile at a rapidly expanding pace. In 2017, mobile accounted for 50.3% of all web traffic generated worldwide. In March, Google announced the adoption of its mobile-first indexing, which rewards mobile sites that follow certain best practices. Mobile-friendly sites should feature the following:

  • Responsive designs that change depending upon the size of the screen the site is being viewed on
  • Easy to use and navigate through
  • Fast load speed

If your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity with potential customers who are more than likely accessing your site via this platform. In fact, 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site. If you’re unsure of where to start, Google offers a helpful guide for initiating this process.

Call to Action and Social Media Links

For users who come to your site without an end goal in mind, call to actions can help navigate them in the right direction. A sufficient call to action will provide website visitors to complete a specific, immediate action on your site. These actions can include, submitting a form, adding an item to your shopping cart, free trial sign-ups and more. Whatever your goal is for the users visiting your website, your CTAs should reflect that.

Social media and your website should work concurrently with one another to help promote your brand. Including relevant social media links at the top, bottom or side of your website can prove incredibly beneficial. Social channels help build credibility and they are a great way to engage with customers. When you include social share and follow buttons on your small business site, you’re allowing users to share your content, which can subsequently improve the likelihood of your website appearing in search engine results.

Google Webinar Recap: Make Your Website Work for You

Google Webinar Recap: Make Your Website Work for You

For small businesses looking to educate and engage with customers online, having a website that highlights your most important aspects, products and services and pertinent business information is crucial. According to Dave Meyer, president of Bizzy Web, a great website is: goal oriented, intuitive, organized, useful, functional and search-friendly.

In a recent MarketingBitz webinar, Dave discussed each of these components, the underlying questions and the steps that should be taken to achieve them. Here is a breakdown of each:

Goal Oriented

When creating a small business website, determining your goals is the first step. Whether you’re looking to build your brand, generate leads or re-engage customers, each of these components will help determine what your website strategy should be. Ask yourself: How will your site help achieve your business goals? Who is your target audience? How will you measure success?

Intuitive

When designing your website, it’s important to look at how all of the aesthetics will work together (content, fonts, colors, graphics, etc.). Websites should be designed with attractive, consistent graphics, simple navigation, site search, readable text and useful tools. It should also be mobile-optimized to ensure you’re reaching consumers on the go.

Organized

The information present on your site should be organized in a manner that helps you achieve your business goals. Tips for this include:

  1. Using short, descriptive names and labels
  2. Keeping your site visitors in mind — how are they looking for information?
  3. Making sure important information is visible and accessible in the main navigation

Useful

Creating content (text, images, video) that tells your businesses story while educating customers is important. Content must also be recognizable to search engines, as this is how your business will be found in online searches. Best practices for text include using important keywords and bulleted lists. With images, it’s important to make sure they are high-quality, complement the site design and you that you have permission to use them. With videos, focus on the three C’s: conversations, connections and conversions.

Functional

Functionality refers to the features that allow site visitors to take actions, such as site searches, online forms and tools. Organizing and optimizing these functions in a way that fits your target audience can provide numerous benefits.

Search-Friendly

Google’s algorithm is responsible for finding the information that a person looks for on Google. Those results are then ranked in order of relevance. In order to help Google better understand your site and increase your probability of ending up in search results, your site should have a fast load time, useful content, text links and page titles and descriptions.

Facebook’s Algorithm Change Impacts Business Pages: Here’s How to Get Around it

Facebook’s Algorithm Change Impacts Business Pages: Here’s How to Get Around it

Facebook’s latest algorithm change in January had many thinking that organic reach on the platform was officially dead. The closing of LittleThings, a brand with more than 12 million followers on Facebook, has resurrected this fear. Here’s what you should know about the change, and how to pivot your strategies to find success with the platform.

Going Back to its Roots

Mark Zuckerberg started 2018 with the lofty goal of “fixing” Facebook. It comes as no surprise, then, that Facebook announced its major algorithm update just shortly after. This is the biggest update since June 2016 when the social media giant explained that they were going to favor family and friends over brands and other publishers.

The latest “Facebookgeddon” update strives to make sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent bringing people together. Let’s breakdown what the change includes.

With the explosion of content in recent years, personal News Feeds have become more crowded than ever before. Facebook was originally built to bring people together and strengthen connections. As brands, family, and friends competed for a spot in the News Feed, Facebook moved away from this initial purpose. Now, Facebook is going back to its roots.

What this means: Facebook is gradually starting to prioritize posts from friends and posts with friend interactions. With this change, the social platform has admitted that Pages will likely see a decline in organic reach, referral traffic and total video watch time.

Authentic Paid Ads and Targeting your Followers

The algorithm update only affects the ranking of organic posts, not the ads ranking. Consequently, paid ads remain a great opportunity to reach a relevant audience with your content. The one type of paid ad that will be (slightly) effected is the boosted post, because it is a combination of organic and paid. Boosted page posts that do not generate much engagement might see a slight impact within the ads auction and achieve less visibility. However, engagement is only a small portion of the ads ranking so the impact should be small.

Aside from boosted posts, directing paid ads to your page followers is a great way around the algorithm change and can be done at a very small cost. There is great value in the page followers that you have racked up, as you can create engaging ads targeted to those following your page. In this way, you can be sure that your audience is engaged and highly interested in your company, and your product or service. You can further build lookalike audiences mirroring the followers and expand your impression share. So if you are worried that the time spent on building your pages’ followers may be all for not, there is still great value remaining.

Meaningful Interactions

While Pages are set to see a decline in organic reach, there is an exception — posts that inspire “meaningful interactions.” Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook’s News Feed, admits that this is a metric that is still evolving. The key, though, is interaction between two people.

What this means: Interactions between people, and more specifically friends, are set to be prioritized in this update. As a result, posts that inspire conversations will see higher reach than those that are consumed passively. This includes comments, shares, and reactions.

Engagement Baiting

Although posts with engagement will receive higher priority, Facebook was quick to point out that engagement baiting does not constitute a meaningful interaction.

What this means: Posts that ask audiences to comment “yes” if they like something or agree with a statement will not receive higher priority in the News Feed. Rather, these posts will actually be demoted. Brand posts should contain content that actually matters to their customers. This could include content that asks or answers relevant questions, pertains to timely topics, highlights new products, etc.

While the algorithm update is still relatively new and its effects are still being made known, there are some things you can do to avoid situations like that of LittleThings.

Quality Over Quantity

With priority being given to posts that inspire meaningful interactions, it is more important to publish content that will engage your audience than it is to post multiple times throughout the day. Posting for the sake of posting will not help you boost your organic reach. Take the time to create or curate content that will actually engage your audience.

Groups

In the announcement for the update, Mark Zuckerberg specifically stated that people can expect to see more posts from groups in their News Feeds alongside posts from friends and family. Groups can present vibrant communities filled with meaningful interactions. While it is clear that groups are an area that Facebook is looking to build out, this approach will take time and effort on the part of the brand.

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

If you’re a small business owner looking to improve your local SEO strategy, the first step on your list should be claiming and verifying your Google My Business (GMB) listing. In claiming this listing, you’ll increase your chances of being found in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), Google’s Local Pack and Google Maps. The listing is completely free to claim and holds all of your relevant business information like hours of operation, address, phone number and more.

So, after you’ve verified your listing, what should you do to make the most of this free listing? Here are a few tactics.

1.) Fill in your business information completely.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to fill out all of your business information. If you don’t, someone else can, as Google provides a “Suggest an edit” option where anyone can edit or change your listing. Monitoring and updating this information regularly is wise, as users are not notified when changes are made to their listing.

Be sure to add photos, as consumers find visuals appealing and they can subsequently lead to greater engagement. Adding relevant keywords and search phrases to your listing can prove useful as well, as Google utilizes different signals to provide user’s search results.

2.) Utilize all of the available tools.

Google has added a wealth of useful tools to the GMB platform that help small businesses succeed and highlight their best, most unique facets. Some of the available tools include:

Website Developer: The website developer creates a website for your business within minutes using the information pulled from your GMB listing. After choosing a custom domain, users can edit text, photos and other design features from any device. As information on your GMB listing is updated, the information on your site will update as well.

PostsPosts give small businesses the ability to share unique updates and offers in real time. Whether you’re having a big sale, announcing a new product or hosting a special event, use Posts to spread the word and get people excited and engaging. Be sure to use images in your Posts to make them more visually appealing.

Questions & AnswersWith this feature, businesses can post frequently asked and important questions and answers within their GMB listing.

MessagingThis tool allows businesses to communicate directly with customers from their GMB listing. Users can answer questions, provide feedback and connect with customers in real time.

InsightsInsights provide analytical data from your listing. This data can then be used to understand your customers, where they are coming from and what they are looking to find. The data displays customer interactions, including: how customers found your listing, where customers find you on Google, customer actions, direction requests, phone calls and photos.

3.) Manage and respond to customer reviews.

Online reviews can significantly benefit your business in a number of ways. According to a 2017 Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day.

First, they can help improve your ranking in SERPs, as well as click-through rates. Secondly, they help you stand out against your competitors and build trust with consumers. Responding to reviews, positive or negative, demonstrates your commitment to your customers and that you value their opinion.

The more positive, helpful reviews your GMB listing has, the better. Google encourages asking customers for reviews following a positive experience. They even provide step by step instructions on how businesses can create a direct link for customers to write reviews on your GMB listing. They also provide tips for responding to reviews.

4.) Add a variety of photos and video.

Visuals have become an essential component to digital marketing. Visuals help humanize your brand, educate consumers and gives customers a look into what goes on within your business. According to Google, almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service prior to visiting a store.

Contrary to popular belief, photos and videos don’t have to be professionally done, they can be taken in the moment with a smartphone. Google allows users to post a 30-second video about their company right on their GMB listing, here are the guidelines:

  • Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
  • File Size: Up to 100 MB
  • Resolution: 720p or higher

5.) Add a business description.

A new component to the GMB dashboard now allows users to provide a brief description of their business directly within their listing. This description is meant to educate consumers on what sets you apart, things like product and service offerings, company history and other unique facets of your business.

This particular description should be exempt of things like promotions, pricing and sales. The character limit is 750, however, only 250 of those show up in the knowledge panel, so be sure to make the most of those first few sentences. Business descriptions should not include any URLs or HTML coding. For more information on how to edit your business description, Google offers easy to follow instructions.

Google also now allows users to turn on alert notifications for when a consumer opts to receive updates when you post new information or media on your listing.

Claiming and optimizing your business’s GMB listing can provide endless opportunities for your small business. And the fact that it’s free is incentive enough to claim it. As new features are added, it’s important to stay updated and utilize them, as they will only help your rankings in SERPs and the local three-pack. It’s important for small businesses to take advantage of this free listing by creating a fully optimized page packed with high-quality content.

What to do When Your GMB Listing Contains Photographs That You’d like to Eliminate

What to do When Your GMB Listing Contains Photographs That You’d like to Eliminate

Because Google allows just about anyone to post photographs of businesses on Google My Business (GMB) listings, businesses often run into the common problem of finding unflattering, irrelevant, or inflammatory photos when Googling their own establishment.

Unfortunately, this is a common headache among business owners, as Google’s policy favors consumers to post basically whatever picture they like so long as it doesn’t violate one of Google’s acutely defined parameters.

In this fashion, there are a few approaches you as a business owner or representative can take to ensure that the featured photographs are flattering and help drive consumers to engage with your business.

Try to Report the Undesirable Photos

This can be done from within your GMB dashboard. Don’t have one? You can set up an account here.

You will have to report each photograph one by one, by opening the Photos section of the GMB dashboard, then select the picture by clicking on it. For each photo, click to open it in full screen and click the small white flag icon at the top right corner to start the process (it may alternatively be a three dot icon). Mark them as unrelated to the business or any other available option that you think will be most relevant to the concern. From what we have seen, Google takes a while to review them, and unfortunately is not often sympathetic to businesses when the photos are related to the business, but rather just a poor representation (or even inflammatory).

Post Better Pictures

If reporting the pictures does not work, another strategy is to upload pictures that are higher in quality, so as to leap-frog the undesired photographs, and effectuate your pictures to be prominent. Google values 360° photographs the highest, so hiring an individual or business with a 360° camera (not the same as panorama) to take pictures of your storefront or office is an investment that will help improve your search engine marketing and instill a good, all-valuable, first impression. If you work with an agency, ask them if they have those capabilities or if they work with a trusted partner to produce them. 360° photography businesses are popping up rapidly as businesses are learning about the value that this process can add, so if you don’t have an agency, a quick search for “360 degree photographer near me” will likely produce a convenient vendor.

We recommend this practice even if businesses don’t have undesirable photos to usurp, since the 21st century consumer likes to know what their shopping experience will be like before visiting the physical location. And it’s always best to have better photos than your competition.

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.