Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

On January 17, 2018, Google announced that page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile searches, effective July 2018. Couple that announcement with the mobile-first search index that began rolling out late in 2017 — a rollout that will cause Google to favor mobile versions of websites in its search engine results pages — and it quickly becomes clear that businesses of all sizes need to optimize the mobile experience they’re offering to prospects and customers. Here are six steps for SMBs to take to stay competitive online.

Step One: Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Google offers a simple way to check: their Mobile Friendly Test. If your site passes the test, that’s great. If not — and if you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Blogger and the like — you can find CMS-specific guides to optimizing your site for mobile. If you don’t use a CMS, Google offers this Mobile SEO Guide.

Step Two: Evaluate Your Page Speed

A fast and easy way to check the speed is through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but there’s a catch: only sites with enough traffic (exact number unspecified, but the bar is still pretty high) will receive ratings. If your site gets enough traffic to qualify, you’ll receive an overall rating for mobile: fast, normal or slow. You will also receive a page load distribution chart that will allow you to see what percentage of your site’s pages are considered fast; how many as normal; and how many as slow.

There will be two bars in this chart, one for FCP and one for DCL. FCP is short for First Contentful Paint and measures how quickly a visitor to your site would see a visual response. Amazon, for example, has an FCP rating of 1.3s. DCL stands for DOM Content Loaded and measures the speed at which HTML was loaded and parsed. For Amazon, that number is 1.5s.

If data is not provided for your site at PageSpeed Insights, you can estimate your page speed via a synthetic performance audit using an open-source tool called Lighthouse. As another option, you can determine how quickly your site loads for visitors with a 3G connection at TestMySite. Yet another site with free page speed tests:

Don’t stress out if you don’t have a perfect score. Most websites don’t. What is important: comparing your page speeds scores with your competitors and making continual improvements to stay ahead of them.

Step Three: Analyze Problem Areas

At PageSpeed Insights, even if you can’t get mobile speed ratings for your site, you will still receive information about page elements that are preventing your site from rendering as quickly as desired. If you test your speed at TestMySite, you can download a free report that offers recommendations to address problems.

Review your site’s search console, looking for crawl errors that might be slowing you down. Carefully sift through the Mobility Usability report, as well.

Step Four: Determine if AMP is For You

Webmasters have the option to “AMP” their pages by using Accelerated Mobile Page technology. With AMP, you are stripping down code to its basics and, because the pages are pared down to their bare minimum, they are lightning fast when loading. There are advantages and disadvantages to AMP-ing pages, and you should note that you can create fast-loading pages without using AMP technology. But, it can’t be argued that this technology is succeeding in creating streamlined pages that render quickly, indeed.

Step Five: Optimize, Compress, Minify and Remove

Google offers advice on the following areas:

Now is the time to create a plan to prioritize and fix problem areas. Developer tools are available from Google here.

Step Six: In-House Versus Outsourcing

If your SMB has an inhouse IT department, you may have all the resources you need to tackle these fixes. But note that some areas may be outside the scope and/or expertise of your team and, in that case, it’s important to outsource any work you decide to take on to the right developer. Google provides tips on how to choose a developer to make your site mobile friendly and it never hurts to ask for recommendations from professionals you trust.

More about the Speed Update

Page speed has been a ranking factor for nearly eight years with desktop searches so, if you’ve been focusing on speed for desktop and have created a responsive mobile site, you may already be in pretty good shape. Google has said that this update will only affect a small percentage of queries, those with the slowest loading experiences.

Benefits of faster-loading pages will go beyond the ranking issue, though, as site visitors also prefer fast loads. According to data:

  • 47% of them expect a web page to load in two seconds or less
  • 40% abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load
  • 79% of shoppers who have a dissatisfying experience because of website performance are less likely buy from that site in the future
  • 52% of shoppers say that quick page load is important to site loyalty
  • A one second delay (or three seconds of waiting time) decreases satisfaction by customers by about 16%
  • 44% of shoppers will tell friends about bad online experiences
  • A one second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversions

How much work you need to do to remain competitive depends upon two main factors: how much you’ve already done, and how much your competitors have done and are currently doing. As a final tip, regularly check your site in site speed tools to see what recommendations remain and continue to prioritize the most important.

Tools and Tricks of the Video Marketing Trade

Tools and Tricks of the Video Marketing Trade

For the past two weeks, we’ve covered a lot of info about how and why to use video marketing to grow your business in 2018. Most likely you’re excited to capitalize on this hot trend. But you’re likely also feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering where to start, and if you even have the time and money to jump on the video bandwagon. This week, we’ll cover tools and tricks to get you saying “Action!”

Trick: Engaging Content
Whatever your video strategy, make sure the content you’re creating has a purpose and a point. Make sure your video content approach makes sense for your company/industry. Tutorials and explainer videos might make sense for a construction company or an art supply store. Maybe a restaurant would do video reviews from customers or a landscaper might do a 360-degree tour of a backyard they just landscaped. The bottom line is to create content that feels natural and organic. That content will be shared and engaged with much more than stuffy, staged, unnatural videos.

Tool: Smartphone
The best news in your quest to be a video marketing master? These days, it doesn’t take a degree in video production and thousands of dollars in equipment to connect with customers on this medium. You’re most likely carrying all you need in your back pocket. Video recording and even editing tools come standard on virtually every smartphone these days. Just point, shoot, and post. Platforms such as Facebook make it easy to post and share video content quickly—and it’s even easier when you’re posting from your phone!

Trick: Live Video
This could be a tool or a trick, but let’s call it a trick. Leverage live video! We mentioned last week that customers will spend 3X longer watching live video than pre-recorded videos. That’s great news for your business. Live videos are cheaper and easier to produce and distribute than recorded video and require less time and money while still boasting great engagement! Simply hop on a social platform like Facebook and you’re in business.

Tool: Use a 3rd Party
In actuality, this is both a tool and a trick. There are lots of marketing solutions out there that include tools or services for creating video for your business. The trick is to find one that produces quality, custom videos for a budget that’s attainable within your budget. They are out there. Look for a company that is focused on serving local businesses such as yours. Their tools, packages and pricing will be tailored for your budget and serving your audience—a win-win for you. Plus, companies with solutions like these will be able to save you time by providing their expertise—which saves you money in the long run.

So, what’s the bottom line of this three-part series? An evolution of personal digital technology and an increasing demand from consumers for quality, custom but natural content has combined to make video a powerful marketing tool that’s not only attainable but affordable for businesses of all types.

The Many Faces of Video Marketing

The Many Faces of Video Marketing

In the early years of video marketing, we were talking primarily about video advertisements distributed online. It was pretty straightforward—create an ad, much the same as you would for television, but distribute it across video ad networks as a “commercial” before (pre-roll) or during (interstitial or mid-roll) video content. Not a bad strategy, but consumer distaste for these video ads soon became apparent.

As the dawn of content marketing began, suddenly, there was a shift in perspective regarding video marketing as well. Now, we were no longer tied down to creating “advertisements” in video form—we could create and distribute useful content in a much richer and more engaging format. We can inform and entice consumers with tutorials, testimonials, entertainment and more via video.

So, now that we know video is so much more than creating a 30-second ad to run before relevant content on YouTube, what are some of the new, exciting ways video is being used for marketing in 2018?

Live Video

Consumers don’t need fancy, polished videos all the time. What they want is meaningful content, helpful information and a chance to feel engaged and valued by the brands they love. Live video—produced and distributed primarily through and on social media platforms such as Facebook offer an amazing opportunity to connect meaningfully with your current and potential customers.

Got an auto repair business? Do a quick live shoot of your staff changing oil—make it a simple tutorial. The bonus of doing it live is that your customers can ask questions and really help direct the content of your video. The possibilities are endless. The point though, is that it’s quick, simple, raw and extremely cost effective. Add to that the fact that your customers will spend 3X longer watching live video than pre-recorded video, and you’ve got a winning tool!

360-Degree Video

Bursting onto the scene (or at least making its presence more widely known) in 2017, 360-degree video does just what it promises—gives the consumer the ability to control their point of view while watching a video. While it may sound expensive and overwhelming to produce (hint: it doesn’t have to be, but we’ll talk about that next week in part 3 of this series), the benefits speak for themselves. Google recently did a comparison of 360-degree video versus standard view video and found that 360-degree video had a higher clickthrough rate, along with more shares and more subscribes. So clearly, this type of video content resonates with consumers.

The amazing thing about 360-degree video is that it can really immerse your customers into your world. Show off your backyard landscape design in more depth than with photos or standard video. Let users take a look around the inside of your B&B to get a feel for the ambiance. Think of 360-degree video taking the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” to the nth degree.

We talked last week in part one of this series about the reasons video marketing is so effective. These reasons still hold true whether you’re using standard video, live video, 360-degree video or any other type of video marketing. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the players in the video space. Just make sure you’re playing the game. That said, in part three of our series next week, we’ll talk tools and tricks of the trade that can make video marketing—in any form—attainable for any business at any budget!

Stay tuned next week for part three in this video series: Tools and Tricks of the Video Marketing Trade.

How to Turn Video Viewers Into Qualified Leads on Facebook

How to Turn Video Viewers Into Qualified Leads on Facebook

Data proves overwhelmingly that video works to capture and hold the attention of potential customers. By the end of 2017, video content will represent 74% of all internet traffic(MaryMeeker2017). Cisco projects that global internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all internet traffic by 2019 (SmallBizTrends 2016). 55% of people consume videos thoroughly — the highest amount all types of content (HubSpot, 2016). And 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers in the future (HubSpot, 2016).

Device usage and audience behavior clearly demonstrate a demand for video marketing communication. The problem with posting video content or creating live videos, particularly in social media, has been that people will watch, but rarely engage beyond the view. Many brands and marketers find it frustrating to succeed in holding audience attention and not getting any further follow-through.

Facebook custom audience options based on video engagement behavior can help your marketing team turn a passive video audience into qualified leads. A little savvy about creating remarketing audiences in Google AdWords also helps.

Facebook Engagement Custom Audience

As the name implies, Facebook has given advertisers the ability to create custom audiences based on engagement with content published to a Facebook page. In particular, you can target Facebook users based on how they watch your videos.

When you select this option to build a new custom audience, the top option is for video engagement. You are now able to “create a list of people who have spent time watching your videos on Facebook” and target them with related content.

You can refine that audience based on how long they spent watching your Facebook videos.

Once you’ve created that audience, you can mash it up with other Facebook behaviors and filter by actions they may or may not have already taken on your website.

For example, if you did a Facebook live video demonstration of a new product for the holidays, you could use the audience that viewed the first 25% of the live video. Filter out any of them that may have already purchased the item by excluding site visitors to your shopping cart confirmation page. And serve that super focused audience with the new item’s product page on your website.

Google Remarketing to YouTube Viewers

For businesses that have their AdWords account linked to their YouTube channel, there is an option known as video remarketing. You can create campaigns that target people who have watched, liked and/or commented on your videos, visited and/or subscribed to your channel, or any number of combinations of those factors. Marketing teams are not limited to only showing more videos to this audience. A video remarketing audience can also be used for display ads.

Time for an example:

While video is great for introducing consumers to a new brand or product, it’s also an excellent medium for explaining a service offered or a complicated concept.

Let’s consider a hypothetical yet practical B2B example.

A big factor in deciding to hire an agency like Gruen is the expertise and experience that our team brings to every project. We often need to demonstrate that expertise. In an effort to introduce more decision makers to our brand, we might consider doing live “Ask Me Anything” style videos on Facebook or YouTube.

Since we are also very practical marketers that need a high return on time investment, we need to get more than video views out of the exercise. We need to secure qualified leads.

That’s where remarketing to viewers plays a huge role. Once someone watches an “Ask Me Anything” about social media advertising, for example, we can then retarget that audience with blog posts, case studies and webinars about social media advertising in Facebook, in the Google Display Network, and in Google search. We take a relatively passive but highly interested audience and draw them deeper into the customer journey.

Since their video viewing behavior creates a strong positive connection to the brand, the next time they see branded content elsewhere on the web they are going to feel comfortable clicking-through.

Facebook Advertising: How to Get Real Results with a Small Budget

Facebook Advertising: How to Get Real Results with a Small Budget

Facebook reaches almost every American on the internet.

That may sound like a bold statement, but it’s true. More than 214 million people in the US are active users of the platform and each one spends an average of 50 minutes browsing through their newsfeed every day. Safe to say Facebook is the obvious choice for any business, big or small, to reach their target audience.

And from the advertising point of view, not only are the reach and time spent on the platform impressive, but so are the possibilities Facebook offers for advertising.

First of all, unlike online listings or Google searches, Facebook allows businesses to build brand awareness and reach the passive audiences that are not necessarily looking for a specific product or service, but just casually browsing through their newsfeed. Most of all, Facebook allows a level of detail in targeting that is unprecedented. This is especially important for small businesses, who need to show their ads locally, and to a specific target audience in order to keep their ad budget under control.

And believe it or not, anyone can do it. It’s easy for small business owners to doubt their skills and the possibility to run effective Facebook advertising with small budgets, but the strength of Facebook advertising is the fact that every business will be able to create the right campaign for them. The key to obtaining real desired results is in the way the ads and the campaigns are planned for each specific business. It’s not one size fits all.

Here’s a list of six Facebook advertising tips to help you get real results on Facebook:

1. Be specific with targeting

It might seem tempting to show your ads to as many people as possible to maximize the possibility that at least someone takes notice and reacts, right? The truth is that “going big” is just a waste of money. Instead, you should make sure that only the relevant people see your ads, this way you won’t waste your budget on views or clicks that bring no value to your business. Take advantage of the detailed targeting Facebook offers to find your exact target audience:

  • Location. Target locally in the immediate surroundings of your business. You can define your target radius down to a few miles around your desired address, or target specific zip code areas. The closer the people are to your business, the easier it is for them to come and pop in, or to make a booking.
  • Demographics and interests. Choose the specific type of audience most relevant to your business, your ad or your promoted offer. Even if a sports store has a wide range of products for the whole family, a specific ad promoting men’s golf clothing targeted to men who are interested in golf, will surely hit the target and draw more attention rather than a general ad directed to a wide audience. You can define the age, sex, interests and “liked pages” among other things, when defining your audience.
  • Custom audiences. If you have a database of your existing customers, or people who have subscribed to your newsletter or have visited your website, you already have a specific audience you can choose to “retarget”. Upload the list on Facebook and reach the same people with your ads – this is a great way to make a re-sale or to inform old clients about new products and services. Remember to include an offer or another good reason for an actual store-visit or a booking in your ad, so you drive real action instead of just awareness.

2. Offer a reason to try your product or service

In order to avoid wasting your precious advertising budget, make sure you make the most of it. That means creating a specific message that resonates with a specific audience, and drives real action and a sense of urgency: a promotion, a limited offer, a free give-away or anything that best works for your business. This is the best way to make your ads noticed and gives a reason for your targeted audience to act on what they see. So to make full use of your advertising budget, instead of promoting your store, choose a specific offer or a message to focus on.

3. Pay attention to your ad copy and creative

It goes without saying that the way you present your message makes a difference, especially when your targeted audience is not searching for you, but just casually browsing through the crowded Facebook Newsfeed. Your ad needs to pop out, attract attention and be interesting enough for them to stop browsing and read through the ad. The right image and the right text make the difference. Make sure you clearly state your offer both visually and in writing. It’s good to also highlight your location to make sure that your target audience knows you’re nearby.

4. Select the right ad type for your business

Facebook offers a great variety of ad and campaign types. Simply clicking on the suggested Boost Post option Facebook automatically offers on your page may seem like the easiest way forward, but usually they don’t deliver the desired results because your posts are not optimized for your objectives.

It’s important to choose the type of ad that works best for your business and for the goal of your campaign. To make a complicated choice almost too simple, consider making a decision between these very efficient options:

  • Carousel ads: This ad format allows you to show up to 10 images or videos within your ad, and is sure to attract attention when used with a straight-to-the-point ad copy and a few selected eye-catching visuals. The multi-image option gives you the possibility to showcase specific details of the product or service you’re promoting, and to include a map with directions to your store. It is guaranteed to draw attention when done right.
  • Lead ads: If the service or product you’re promoting is expensive, complicated or otherwise requires a bit more evaluation or information before the final purchase decision, lead ads can be the right ad type to choose. These ads allow you to collect information from people interested in your business right away within the ad, so that you can then contact them yourself and continue to the next step of the sales funnel. This format works well for more expensive purchases, such as home repair & renovation, real estate and car dealerships.

There are many more ad options available of course, but these are a couple of the easy options to start with. Getting real results with your ads means identifying your business needs and the best-matching ad type to meet those needs.

5. Remember there’s always help available

If the idea or experience of managing Facebook ads still causes cold sweat on your forehead, remember that there are always effective and affordable managed options available that suit any SMB’s budget and requirements. Most business directories and local marketing partners that offer turnkey Facebook ad solutions that often include professional ad creation and campaign options, which are not directly available to small advertisers, such as frequency control or reach & lead optimization – guaranteed to deliver specific results even with smaller budgets. So whether it’s lack of time or the stress of extra work, you can always choose to outsource your advertising to professionals and focus on your core business instead.

6. Enjoy your results

Whatever you find is the best way for your business to run Facebook advertising, you can be sure that as long as you pay attention to detail and choose to be specific in your offer and targeting, your ads will definitely reach the right people with the right message and thus also deliver real results!

Measuring the results in online engagement and clicks is easy with automated reports, but when you aim for real results, like sales and bookings, you need to be more creative. To be 100% sure about your offline results, the easy tip is to make sure your offer is only advertised on Facebook. That way you can keep track of each new sale or booking that happens with the promoted offer and you can be sure that if your clients know about the offer, they must have seen your ads.

Be creative and stay specific, that’s the easy secret to real results – no matter the size of your Facebook advertising budget.

Who Are You? Make More Money with Personal Branding

Who Are You? Make More Money with Personal Branding

Company brands and personal brands don’t have to be two separate identities.

Elon Musk and Tesla are a great example of this relationship. Elon Musk is known for taking customer service inquiries on Twitter and putting them into action days later.

If you trust Elon Musk, you trust Tesla. That is the power of building a strong personal brand.

In this article I will go over how to drive revenue to your small business through your personal brand.

1) Define a bold, unique and clear message and stick with it.

Can you imagine if Hubspot called their annual conference the outbound conference? Hubspot built a brand around inbound marketing and isn’t going to change their marketing message any time soon.

Jason Fried from 37Signals has been an advocate for remote working and bootstrapping for as long as I remember. Tony Hsieh has been speaking about customer service since the first day of creating Zappos. Steve Jobs focused on simplicity in his products and presentations.

Figure out what you believe in and stick to that message. The longer you keep the same message, the bigger impact it will create.

If you are the owner of a business, your personal brand should match the values and messaging of your company. Your personal brand is the face of your company.

2) Market to your customers, not your industry colleagues.

The goal is to make money from your personal brand.

So, why do so many marketers waste their time marketing to people who don’t buy from them? It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about marketing to a customer base that needs what you’re selling.

It’s ok to build respect among your industry colleagues, but don’t lose focus on what your end goal is.

3) Embrace YouTube and LinkedIn Video – It drives results.

LinkedIn recently opened up the platform to allow for native video. If you’re a B2B service provider, then this is right down your alley.

To make the most impact, LinkedIn and YouTube users expect to see your face in front of the camera. Customers crave authentic relationships and video is a great way to embrace it.

Talk about topics that are relevant for your customers.

Also – You don’t need fancy video equipment or top of the line microphones because many smartphones have caught up in terms of quality. You would be amazed at the video and audio quality of the latest phones.

Here’s a quick tip: Do video interviews with customers or counterparts. Not only do you build a stronger relationship with your customer, but you also give an inside look into your business.

4) Make it clear what service or product you are selling.

You have a clear and memorable message for your personal brand? Great.

The next step is to make sure that people not only know who you are, but they know what your company does. You will be surprised by how many people don’t know what you do for a living or how you can help them.

When Jason Fried blogs, he blogs under his company’s blog. That drives attention to his brand plus Basecamp and other 37signals products.

Some of the best marketers have strong calls to actions in their videos and blogs. It’s ok to push your company as long as the content you are creating is valuable.

5) Focus your efforts on only one social media channel.

Here is a time management tip for you: You’re not going to master all the social channels. One is hard enough, and honestly, it’s great to start with one before you move on.

The platform you choose depends on your business. If you’re a B2B business, use LinkedIn. If you’re a fashion business, use Instagram, and so on. Master one platform at a time and interact with your customers

In conclusion, if you follow these five steps you will find yourself making consistently making more revenue.