Integrating Local SEO Into Your Existing Marketing Plan

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it. Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it.

Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream. With local SEO, though, anything is possible. Local SEO levels the playing field, letting small businesses get ranked by leveraging their relevance to nearby customers. Thanks to local SEO, the auto shop 30 miles away can’t outmuscle the one that’s just down the street.

Most small businesses already engage in both digital and traditional marketing. Here, we’ll review how you can integrate local SEO into your existing marketing plan.

Google My Business

Before going further, we must stress the importance of Google My Business. This is Google’s business directory where business owners can list their establishments for free. After signing up, Google sends a postcard with a PIN to your business to verify its legitimacy. Once you log into GMB with your pin, then you can optimize your business page with photos, your contact information, your hours of operation and more.

Once you’ve verified and optimized your GMB page, your website will be eligible to appear in Google’s “Local 3 Pack” above all the other organic results. Businesses in this grouping are shown on a locator map along with star ratings, phone call buttons, and other useful information. These elements are highly engaging, especially for smartphone users.

But why does this matter for small businesses that already have top-ranked organic placements? Think of it this way – if you owned a cabin next to a beautiful mountain lake, would it matter if someone built a bigger cabin between yours and the shoreline? The Local 3 Pack takes up a hefty amount of prime real estate atop Google’s search results pages, requiring users to scroll down for everything else. As a result, click-through rates on organic listings have decreased by up to 40 percent.

Sorry, old-school SEOs. Top-ranked organic results are still nice, but optimized local SEO is better for small businesses that focus on local customers.

5 Things to Start Doing Right Now

Ready to make local SEO a priority? To make it as easy as possible, we’ll focus on optimizing five popular marketing tools that might already be included in your overall marketing strategy.

1. Leverage Online Citations

When your business name, address, and phone number is listed on a website, that’s called a citation. Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook are three examples of popular, highly ranked websites where any business owner can easily get citations. Building citations not only helps customers find your business, but it also increases the likelihood of your business information displaying higher up in Google’s search results, potentially giving Google users more than one listing to click on.

Additionally, some people skip Google entirely and favor sites like Yelp when seeking local goods and services. Optimizing your citations on these sites will instantly raise your profile among local shoppers.

One thing to remember — make sure all information in your citations exactly matches your Google My Business profile.

2. Flex Your Local Muscles on Your Website

Your website is your most powerful digital marketing tool. When someone clicks on a search result and lands on your site, that’s when the real sales pitch begins. However, your website is also important in a different way – it’s where you can prove your value to your community and local customers.

Infuse your website content with as much local content as possible. Include mentions of your city, your neighborhood and even your street. Start a blog and help people solve their local-specific problems. Post photographs of your business, your employees and your customers. Post locator maps, service areas, hours of operation, accurate phone and address information and anything else that establishes your place.

3. More Mileage from Local Outreach

Link-building has always been a foundational element of SEO. With local SEO, there is increased value from getting inbound links from local movers and shakers. Engaging with your local media is a great way to optimize your local link network – pitch story ideas and offer to be quoted in exchange for links on each story’s web version. You can also offer to contribute blog posts to regional websites, blogs and trade associations that carry weight in your community. Not only is this good for your link network, but you’ll also build brand awareness as more people see and recognize your business.

4. Be Local-Centric on Social Media

Most businesses are already active on social media, but too often this activity is focused upon promoting sales or new products. You should also be using social media to establish your local presence and connect with local customers. Optimize your social media pages in the same way you should your website, engaging visitors with as much local-specific content as possible.

5. Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews

Like it or not, your customers are already talking about you online — you just might not be aware of it. These online discussions can be the deciding factors in whether people give your business the time of day.

Take control of the situation and encourage your satisfied customers to leave online reviews. This is even easier once you’ve created and optimized your citations! Chances are you’re already engaging your customers on a regular basis — they’re either coming into your store, or you’re connecting with them via social media, follow-up emails, follow-up appointments or other means. To start inviting reviews, simply embed Yelp or other business directory buttons on your digital marketing materials. For the best results, simply ask your customers face-to-face, on calls, and via email whether they’d leave a quick review of your business.

Conclusion

Local SEO is a game changer for small businesses. More people are using smartphones with the goal of visiting restaurants, bookstores, clothing retailers and other establishments in their immediate vicinities.

With local SEO, even old-school mom-and-pop businesses can be seen along with big-budget companies.

This doesn’t happen automatically. Business owners and marketers must integrate local SEO with every phase of their marketing plans. Make local SEO a priority, though, and the results will be well worth the effort.

Want more SEO tips to improve your Google rankings?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

Eagles Beating Patriots in Super Bowl Social Media

Talkwalker has released its final social media trend numbers before the Super Bowl, and they say, “If hashtags were touchdowns, the Philadelphia Eagles look to win in a relative blowout.”

Talkwalker has released its final social media trend numbers before the Super Bowl, and they say, “If hashtags were touchdowns, the Philadelphia Eagles look to win in a relative blowout.”

#FlyEaglesFly has over 96,000 mentions, while #Eagles itself is over 80,691.

Meanwhile, #GoPats has over 60,000 mentions, #Patriots just over 43,000, and Patriots rallying cry #NotDone has over 32,000.

All tolled, Eagles win: 176,767 to 135,846. (So, if you’re betting, take the WAY over.)

But the teams themselves aren’t the only hashtags getting love in the run up to the Super Bowl. In fact, Talkwalker counted more than 8 million social posts related to the Super Bowl over the past month, and 113,000 of them were talking about the ads, 51,000 in the last week alone.

If you ever wonder why so many advertisers now release their Super Bowl commercials ahead of the big game, that’s why. The pre-game hype can be a bigger social boost than the game itself.

Leading the league in trending social posts so far is this Instagram from Vanessa Hudgens about Stella Artois’s partnership with Matt Damon and water.org.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeYNyRUjCrx/

The early ad wars are shaping up, too, with Amazon and Budweiser leading the way in social mentions:

  1. Amazon 10,692
  2. Budweiser 5,958
  3. Lexus 5,226
  4. M&Ms 4,275
  5. Bud Light 3,870

These aren’t idle numbers. While a social mention, share or like doesn’t lead directly to sales, it is a good indicator of brand mind share heading into and coming out of the Super Bowl. The real question is, who’ll be able to capitalize on the buzz Monday morning.

Building SEO: 4 Top Strategies for 2018

SEO is a contest, just like war and sports. Search engines are the game boards, websites are the game pieces, and marketers compete for the most rewarding spaces. You’ll need a winning strategy if you don’t want to go home empty-handed. Read on to learn more about the top strategies for building your SEO heading into the new year.

No war was ever won without a winning strategy. Good tactics might win a few skirmishes — and random, uncontrollable variables might determine a battle’s outcome — but ultimate victory requires an overarching vision and persistence to see it through.

Think of it like a football game. No coach’s game plan is to “do all the things.” Rather, a winning strategy might be using a power running game to control the clock and stunt the opponent’s momentum; or spread the field and beat the opposition with advantageous one-on-one matchups; or to lean on your defense, generating turnovers and winning the battle of field position.

SEO is a contest, just like war and sports. Search engines are the game boards, websites are the game pieces, and marketers compete for the most rewarding spaces. You’ll need a winning strategy if you don’t want to go home empty-handed. This is especially true if you’re a small business owner with limited resources. Read on to learn more about the top strategies for building your SEO heading into the new year.

1. Embrace Technology

The way people interact with the Internet is changing, and marketers who’ve been slow to react are getting left behind. If you’re in this camp, there’s no better time to make embracing technology the cornerstone of your SEO strategy.

Embracing technology goes further than having a mobile-responsive website. (Although, if your website doesn’t work on mobile browsers, then fix that now and form your SEO strategy later.) This also might mean streamlining your site to appeal to smartphone users, or optimizing your landing pages so that visitors from Google click through to your shopping cart. It means evaluating your hosting provider and optimizing images to quicken your page speeds. It might mean investing in a smartphone app to complement your website. It could mean investing in tutorial videos, interactive graphics and other website content designed for people who swipe, not type.

Keeping up with technology should be in the background of everything you do, even if you eventually shift to a completely different strategy. But if you’ve neglected your website and the shift toward mobile Internet usage, then nothing will give you larger gains from less work than a technology-based SEO strategy.

2. Get Hyper-Local

Marketing toward your local audience might not have the same reach as pushing your brand statewide, nationally or globally. However, there’s tremendous value in a localized marketing strategy, especially for small business owners who have traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Consider this: A recent study by ComScore found that 88 percent of smartphone owners search locally for goods and services. Of those, 78 percent have followed their searches with purchases from local stores. Also, ComScore found that 56 percent of all on-the-go searches had “local intent.”

Adopting a localized SEO strategy isn’t just good for your search rankings, but also for getting more customers into your store. This translates to real, face-to-face relationships with customers that are more likely to last than impersonal online relationships. And as more people visit your store, they’ll also write online reviews and talk to friends and family about their experiences — all of which cements the merits of a hyper-local SEO strategy.

Want to make this your game plan? If so, start by evaluating your website and thinking of ways to highlight its local appeal. List your full physical address, mention your district (not just your city) on your about page, and consider blogging about local issues.

Interact with customers on social media, and share your involvement in community events. Meanwhile, start a Google My Business page and also get listed on Yelp, Angie’s List and other directory sites that might attract visitors from highly ranked search results.

3. Grow via Social Media

Social media marketing is a different animal than SEO. That said, the two forms of marketing can compliment each other. Social media is unique in its ability to form more personal online relationships with customers both near and far. Furthermore, the various popular social media platforms give marketers different ways to connect with potential customers.

How to Formulate Your 2018 Content Marketing Strategy

Carolyn, a director of demand generation in the hospitality industry, shared that “It takes too much work to develop the wrong content.” In this month’s step of the revenue marketing journey, we are going to cover content marketing strategy and the steps to developing the best content editorial calendar.

Carolyn, a director of demand generation in the hospitality industry, shared that “It takes too much work to develop the wrong content.” Sadly, many organizations use a “spray and pray” methodology for content development and discover too late that much of their effort was wasted on the wrong content. Carolyn is not going that route and in this month’s article. In this month’s step of the revenue marketing journey, we cover content marketing strategy and the steps to developing the best content editorial calendar.

Step 1: Know What Content Is Valuable for Your Clients

Seems like a simple concept, right? When was the last time you surveyed your customers to find out what content topics they like, what channels they like, or their preferred content medium? In a recent interview, Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group and co-author of “The Content Formula,” shared that companies are only just now learning “how to utilize content to effectively meet the needs of their audience as opposed to meeting the needs of their business.” If the primary guide for your content decisions is the download reports from your website you are not on solid ground for planning your content calendar. So conduct a customer engagement survey, find out what content they like. Get free subscriptions to Buzzsumo and Grapevine6 and learn:

  • Which audience is interested in what topics
  • What type of content they are sharing
  • What sources of information are they using
  • Which influencers are most important

Step 2: Document Your Personas (5 to 7 Max)

Buyer personas are examples of real people who make up your customers and clients. They can also include individuals who may influence the buying decision in some way. A persona goes deeper than demographics. Personas are developed by asking questions about a buyer’s motivation and learning what holds the buyer back from making a purchasing decision. By taking the time to document and understand your customer in this way, your content team will develop content that resonates and engages, moving leads through the buyer’s journey to conversion.

Step 3: Document the Full Customer Journey Map

Marketing engages with prospect and customer not just when they are in the funnel for the first time, but throughout their lifecycle including adoption, value realization, loyalty and advocacy. This means that we need content suitable for every stage of the customer journey map.

Your customer journey map should inform your content marketing strategy.
Your customer journey map should inform your content marketing strategy.

Step 4: Audit Your Current Content

Now that you have the customer journey map and the personas, audit your content based on which personas suit what pieces of content and in which stages of the customer journey map can it be effective. Some additional criteria you might consider in the audit include content type, medium, consume-ability, centricity (product, company, or customer), level of engagement achieved, product/service served, industry, gated/ungated, purpose (reach, engagement, conversion, retention) etc. Build the audit in such a way that it can be used as an ongoing inventory of content and so new entries are added to it as they are developed. With the audit in hand, you should be able to see the gaps where more content is needed, but we’re not done yet.

How to Integrate Direct Mail With Social Media

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media?

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media? This will take considerable time and effort to plan correctly, so be ready to work hard. Is it worth it? Check out the case studies below and then decide.

Before you start, think about why you are considering integration. What are your goals? This gives you a guide post on what you need and how to create the campaign.

Let’s look at a couple of awesome examples of campaigns to give you some good ideas:

1. Chick-fil-A (Full Case study click here): They had two objectives — get a customer database and increase store traffic. The direct mail campaign gained unprecedented exposure with viral sharing. Five thousand plastic postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 14,124, a 279.8 percent response on their direct mail campaign.

2. Stein Mart (Full Case study click here): The objective was to increase store redemption through a referral program. This direct mail campaign gained national exposure with viral sharing. Twenty thousand postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 30,068, a 150.58 percent response on the direct mail campaign.

As you can see, social sharing can really give your direct mail momentum. Take the time to learn from the great ones before you start your journey. When you have a plan and strategy in place you will start off in a better position to generate great results. So how can you get started?

  • Objectives: Carefully define your objectives. The only way to get what you want is to plan for it.
  • Market: Who is your best target market? Identify and target them carefully.
  • Design: You will need to do your normal direct mail design, but then also design for the landing page and social media.
  • Offer: Your offer should be the same for both direct mail and social media. (Remember to incentivize sharing with specials for those who do)
  • Capture: What information are you going to capture in order for people to get the offer? (Remember that in order to reward those who share your offer you need to know their social media accounts)
  • Tasks: You will need to assign who is in charge of what. This will take social media monitoring software too so be aware of that.

Instead of creating the whole wheel again, use the case studies as a guide. You know it works, just tailor the plan to your needs. Your focus always needs to be on what will drive response from your target market. Will you have coupons, free giveaways or something else? Your offer is extremely important. In order to get traction not only for direct mail but also for social media you need to grab attention with and irresistible offer.

Formula for success: Take your current direct mail that is working well, create landing pages for people to visit, ask them to provide information that you want on the pages and to share it with others to get your offer. That is basically it, although there are a lot of details to fill in along the way. Do you think that these results can only be achieved by food and clothing stores? That is just not true. This formula can work for all types of businesses including nonprofits. Are you ready to get started?

8 Elements of Strong Off-Page SEO

The whole point of SEO is improving your website’s ranking in search engines. And while good SEO includes a checklist of website optimization tips, it’s the marketing that happens on other blogs, forums and websites — and even in the real world — that can really fuel a climb in the search rankings. This is called off-site SEO. It’s those aspects of marketing that raise awareness of your brand while building your reputation with your audience.

The whole point of SEO is improving your website’s ranking in search engines. And while good SEO includes a checklist of website optimization tips, it’s the marketing that happens on other blogs, forums and websites — and even in the real world — that can really fuel a climb in the search rankings.

This is called off-site SEO. It’s those aspects of marketing that raise awareness of your brand while building your reputation with your audience. Guest-writing posts for popular blogs, getting great Yelp reviews and impressing the pants off of your customers are all examples of off-site SEO. With strong off-site SEO, people will want to learn about your business before even bothering with Google. Reach that point, and SEO gets a whole lot easier.

Read on for eight elements of strong off-page SEO that you should incorporate into your marketing strategy.

1. Sell a Fantastic Product

This is ground zero for off-site SEO. Great marketing can sometimes make up for a ho-hum product, but only temporarily. Eventually, the truth comes out — and good luck getting people excited about something that’s average at best.

In addition to providing goods and services that are actually useful and valuable, you should also focus on how you can sweeten the deal with remarkable associated offers. Back your product with a lengthy warranty. Create a generous return policy. Open a tech-support line. Don’t just sell your product — convince customers that your business is the best place to buy from.

2. Seek Out Higher-Quality Inbound Links

Since the earliest days of SEO, inbound links have played important roles in establishing a website’s credibility. In recent years, though, Google started penalizing sites with larger volumes of low-quality inbound links. It’s far more important nowadays to focus on high-quality inbound links from reputable blogs and websites.

With this in mind, you should always be thinking of ways to get more links from high-quality sites. Consider writing guest blogs or informative articles for influential websites in your industry, or pitch story ideas to your local media to get inbound links from news stories. You can also build high-quality inbound links by interacting with influential industry figures on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. You might even find link-building opportunities with clients and business partners.

3. Be the Best at Customer Service

Word of mouth is extremely powerful — not just the good, but the bad. Customers who have great experiences with retailers and local businesses are much more likely to become loyal shoppers. On the flipside, customers who feel spurned, overlooked or insulted might vent to their friends or, worse, rip your business on social media.

Simply put, be the best at customer service. Treat every customer with reverence, and make sure your employees are fully prepared to answer questions about your goods, services and policies. Everyone wants to be treated with respect. Do this well, and customers will look for your website — and further cement your online authority — the next time they need help.

4. Seek Positive Reviews From Customers

Did you know 88 percent of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decisions? Or that more than half of young adults ages 18 to 34 trust online reviews more than friends and family? We could go on and on, but the point is this — businesses backed by positive online reviews are much more likely to be searched for on Google.

Top 10 Technologies Marketers Are Buying

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Click through to see the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Here are the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

This data comes from our Marketing Technology Buying Process research report. Click here to download the full report, including the complete list of technologies being bought.

In a survey about how marketers are buying technology, it’s helpful to know what they’re buying. Here are the technologies our respondents have used these techniques to purchase.

  1. Email 53%
  2. CRM 47%
  3. Social Media Marketing 39%
  4. Marketing Automation 38%
  5. Web Analytics/Web Design/Web Optimization 33%
  6. Content Marketing 32%
  7. Database Marketing/Personalization 30%
  8. Direct Mail 29%
  9. SEM/SEO 29%
  10. E-commerce Platforms 25%

As I mentioned, this question was part of the Marketing Technology Buying Process survey, and we did ask specifically what technologies marketers bought using those techniques. So this is not “tech we’re buying this year.” It’s “tech we have bought using the processes discussed in this survey.”

The most-bought technologies, perhaps not surprisingly, are email and CRM. But I did not expect to see social media marketing tech at No. 3. We know that marketers have been dramatically increasing spending on the social ad channels, and it appears that investment is going to tech as well.

At 4 we have marketing automation, which lines up with 1 and 2. Then the various web site accessories at 5 with content marketing at 6 (although, e-commerce platforms, wound up all the way down at 10).

One technology not on the list surprised me as well: Account-based marketing, despite being a top buzz word this year, has not seen heavy investment. It came in at 12 (off the bottom of this list).

How does that match up to the technologies in your tech stack? Let me know in the comments below.

Never Drink and Change Your Password

It all started when I got a new phone. The AT&T rep assured me that all my data would be transferred to my new device by just “bumping” my old Galaxy against my new one. Yeah, right.

It all started when I got a new phone. The AT&T rep assured me that all my data would be transferred to my new device by just “bumping” my old Galaxy against my new one.

Yeah, right.

Two HOURS later, I left the store with my email and phone working properly, but I needed to find my password list in order to log into all my other apps. Fair enough.

With that accomplished, I was back to my daily rituals: Posting to Facebook and Instagram, playing Words with Friends, and posting and following on Twitter. My life seemed back to normal.

But last weekend, disaster struck.

I was at a wedding and the mother-of-the-groom suggested we Snapchat as the bride had created her own geofilter … a perfect way to create memories that celebrated her special day. Unfortunately, it seems I had not tried logging into Snapchat with my new device. And, since there was no way I could remember my password, I had to click on “reset.”

You would think I was trying to reset the password to my account in the Cayman Islands!

First, a series of photos appeared and asked me to click on those where “NO” vehicles appear. Ummm … you’d think that would be easy, but after a couple of glasses of champagne, it was not so much. I looked carefully at all the images and clicked as directed. It seems I was mistaken, as another set of images appeared and asked me to use different criteria to select the images. I tried again.

The next set of images and instructions felt like Snapchat was simply mocking me. I told the mother-of-the-groom to continue her socializing at another table and swing back to mine, as I desperately tried to pick the correct images that matched the criteria.

Third time is NOT the charm, as I snorted with disgust at a new set of visual requirements.

To be honest, the rest of the process is a bit of a blur as my husband took the device out of my hand and said he’d do it … but first he had to find his cheaters to see the screen clearly.

A few more minutes pass and he’s still not able to pass the verification tests, but eventually we were able to get to a reset screen. Whew! I choose a password and the first answer I get from Snapchat is “Sorry, you can’t use a password that you’ve used before.”

So now I am wracking my brain to think of a password that:

  • Seems logical to me,
  • I haven’t used before and
  • I’ll remember the next morning.

I finally make my selection, log into my account, call over the mother-of-the-bride, find the geofilter and post our picture. But the nightmare is far from over …

You guessed it. The next day, when I try to log into my Snapchat account, I can’t remember the password … and my journey to recovery starts all over again. Call me crazy, but does the system to recover your password need to be so complex — especially on a harmless app like Snapchat? Should I be fearful that someone is going to hack in and send embarrassing pictures of themselves under my name to my kids?

I understand the need for user name and password security. And I understand these apps are trying to ensure it’s not a bot hacking the system, but there has got to be a better way. Maybe the Russians have a solution … Just sayin’!

Trade Shows and Live Events as Content Marketing

You know those folks who are super-organized about the business events they attend? The ones who research the companies who are going to be there, reach out to organize meetings in advance, have a plan for walking the floor, never eat — or even have coffee — alone? Yeah, I hate ‘em, too.

You know those folks who are super-organized about the business events they attend? The ones who research the companies who are going to be there, reach out to organize meetings in advance, have a plan for walking the floor, never eat — or even have coffee — alone? Yeah, I hate ‘em, too.

All kidding aside, even if you aren’t the model of getting the most out of trade shows, webinars and other events, they can be a great part of your content marketing — and your content marketing will help make the events themselves more productive.

One way to do this, of course, is to begin talking about the event on social media in the weeks leading up to it. Mention what it is you’re excited about, whose presentations, what topics you’re looking to explore. Yes, you’ll open yourself up to some unwanted sales pitches. But you’ll also find yourself connecting with like-minded folks who may have insights and experience that could help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

For that matter, talk about it afterwards, too. You can focus on the highlights, what you learned, who you met, and even what you missed. Again, the goal is to do so in a way that encourages interaction with others so you might make additional connections.

On a more one-to-one level, you can use email in a similar way: Ask clients and potential clients if they’re planning on attending. If so, set up a time to chat, even if only briefly. If not, ask if there’s anything of particular interest that you can look into for then.

Once you’re at the event, staying active on social media can be productive, but don’t do it to the exclusion of, you know, actually picking up your head and paying attention to the people around you or the presentation you’re sitting in. That’s the real opportunity.

And it should go without saying that you want to occupy the space between obnoxious and coy. In other words, don’t go rushing from person to person pressing your business card into their palms and immediately moving on. (I’m exaggerating, though not by much …) That’s just not going to get you any traction. Just as your content has to provide value rather than being purely promotional, your personal interactions have to be interesting to your audience. It’s about them, not you.

At the same time, there’s no reason not to be clear and direct about your networking intentions. You’ve gotta give to receive if you want to make networking work, especially at live large events which tend to be somewhat more rushed.