Blog Archives

7 Elements of a Killer Business Blog

Blogging has become one of the most effective ways for small businesses to connect with their customers online, spread their company message, and build trust and credibility with their consumers. Blogs a great way to retain and energize your customers and they’re also an effective way to interact with customers and drive website traffic. Blogging can increase your sales, leads, and optimization online but if you want to maximize the success of your business blog. It’s important that you implement these 7 crucial elements of a killer business blog.

1. Consistency (Schedule) – Keeping up with a consistent schedule of posting will probably be the biggest challenge for most beginning bloggers. It’s important that you post on a set schedule (once a week minimum) so customers can rely on getting information from you in a consistent way. A consistent stream of articles will encourage more people to read and subscribe to your blog.

2. Design – Staying on the topic of consistency, you want to make sure that the design of your blog meshes with the color and design of you company’s logos and website. The layout doesn’t have to match your website exactly, but the color scheme should be correct and all logos and branding should match. You also want to make sure your design is professional and eye-grabbing. Remember, you’re one of millions of blogs out there and you want to do what you can to stand out while still appearing credible.

3. RSS Subscribe Button – When people want to be notified every time your blog has a new post, or if they want to include a feed from your blog in their “reader” program, they need to subscribe to your RSS feed. You want to make it as easy as possible for readers to do this so make sure that your blog has a prominent RSS feed button somewhere on the front page. If your blog is missing that orange RSS Feed button it’s not going to be as successful at gaining subscribers as it should be. This is important.

4. Social Media Info – There should be clear and easily navigated buttons that let users follow, like, bookmark or friend your company on their favorite social network site. Make these buttons appear on your front page and encourage customers to connect with you on social sites they use. This way they can stay updated with your company blog using the social network site they’re most comfortable with.

5. Social Share Buttons – One of the best ways to get more views for your blog and build an online following is by having social share buttons at the bottom or top of each post that allow the reader to share your articles on the social site of their choosing with just one click. (See the buttons at the bottom of this post marked “Tweet” and “Share”)

6. Authors – You want to put a face behind the content you’re providing. Build professional online profiles of your contributing authors (even if it’s just one) and put it on it’s own page within your blog. (The “about” page is usually the best place for this)

7. Optimize Your Posts – Another important part of business blogging is making sure that your articles are optimized for search. This means that they are full of relevant keywords and properly tagged in the “tags” section of your blogging program.

It’s Your Turn – Do you have any other key elements of a company blog that should be added to this list? Leave us a comment or contact us with your key element to a successful business blog and we’ll post it in a follow-up blog.

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Importance of Local Listings for Small Business

To build on a previous post of mine Why Local Listings are Crucial for Small Businesses, I thought I’d compile a few pertinent statistics from surveys like the Brightlocal Local Consumer Review Survey into a nifty little infographic. The numbers that grabbed my attention were:

• 7 out of 10 online consumers trust reviews that they read on sites like Yelp, Google, and Yahoo Local

• 69% of online consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

Feel free to use this infographic on your blogs and pages, I’m going to try to do more of these as I think up statistical groups that apply to small business marketing. If you have any ideas about infographics you’d like to see, leave it for me in a comment. Thanks for looking.

Importance of Local Listings Infographic - Small Business

The Art of Starting Today: How to Shun Complacency and Get Things Done

It’s common to reach a point as a small business owner where you know you have to do something to improve your marketing. You realize that your logo needs to be redone. You feel like your website looks like one of those homemade websites (because you made it at home). Your business cards have a different color scheme or design than your logo and it doesn’t even have your website address on them and don’t even start on your advertising efforts that you haven’t paid attention to in months or the thousand other things you’ve thought about but just didn’t have the motivation for.

Why aren’t I Motivated?

Maybe you don’t really “get” why these things are important. It feels like there’s always something that could be done, but hey, you’re not going out of business. So you don’t need to do those things today, right? Ab-so-frickin-lutely WRONG!

First of all, the reason you feel like you need to improve your marketing, is because you do! The problem is, for whatever reason, you don’t want to start what feels like is going to be a long process today. The major problem with that way of thinking is if you don’t start today it will get perpetually put off until tomorrow, which means it will never get done. The trick is just getting started on tasks that you don’t want to do.

A Real Trick

Well I’m here to tell you that 50% of getting those little tasks done is just starting on them. Starting is quite often the hardest part of a journey. Once you’ve gotten started on a task, such as upgrading your website, it has a way of building on itself and motivating the person doing it. Make it up in your mind that you are just going to start today. You’re not necessarily going to finish the task but at least decide that you are going to get the ball rolling today. Make a list of the things you need to do and start taking them on one at a time. Each item might break down into several smaller tasks, make another list for those and start knocking them out. The point is to make the decision that you are not going to waste another day just knowing you need to improve your marketing, you’re going to start today. 

The magic of “starting today”

The real magic trick for motivation like this is to make up your mind to take on each task one at a time. Get excited about new and fresh ideas and lay out tasks to turn those ideas into action. Know that if you don’t ever take on these seemingly small tasks, they will never get done. Try not to look at the tasks as a great big group of things, instead just make a list and take them on one thing at a time. Try not to set goals that are larger than needed. Lay out tasks for one day at a time. Remember, starting today really is the key. Once the ball gets rolling on these various goals it will become easier to motivate yourself to finish them.

Overcoming Barriers

There’s always a reason not to do something if you look for it. We are good at setting up barriers for ourselves for things we really don’t want to do. We say “that won’t really help” or “it’s not worth it” but we know it will. Solidify in your mind the idea that you will not let barriers be the reason you don’t start something. Understand that this is a natural human reaction and let those negative thoughts come and go. Do not let barriers take you out of the mind-set that you are going to start today on improving your business. If it doesn’t work, so be it, but its better to try something with a noble cause and fail than to never have tried at all.

Read material on avoiding procrastination, such as this article: 11 Practical Ways to Avoid Procrastination

Breaking out of your routine and taking on new tasks can be challenging, but for small business owners it is an absolute must. After all, if you would’ve never opened your business in the first place, where would you be now? It was the act of starting today that got your company going and it will be the art of starting today that will advance your business onto the next thing it needs to stay relevant and profitable. Shun complacency! Make a list of things you can do to improve your marketing and start today.

Is Small Business Important to the U.S. Economy?

The US economy is going through what might be the slowest recovery in its history. Unemployment rates are sky high and people want answers as to why these large companies aren’t hiring more people. News and media stories have spent plenty of time covering the shortcomings of wall street investment firms, oil companies and automobile corporations. But what about the importance of small business?

Did you know that small businesses in the United States make up 99% of the employers, yet they account for only 30% of the total annual payroll? Companies with less than 100 employees make up half of the country’s employers. Those numbers mean that helping small business owners is going to be critical to lowering unemployment and growing our economy n the coming years. Small businesses currently employ over a third of our population and if it is able to grow then employment will grow with it.

Check out this infographic with more info about how important small business is in the U.S.

Market Your Small Business Like an Octopus

It’s not uncommon for a client to ask me “What is the one thing we can do to improve our marketing right now?”  I always make sure I’ve got a good ten minutes to go into the inevitable discussion that will come from my answer to this question. Because the answer is: there is no one thing. You’re not going to shoot a commercial, put it on local cable, and your good. You’re not going to offer one or two new promotions, and you’re set. Nope, doesn’t work like that, and trying to figure out that one thing you need to do is the wrong way to think about your company’s marketing plan.

You Must Be Like An Octopus

When you look for that one big knockout punch to market your company, you’re thinking like a human being, with only two arms. But if you want to develop a successful marketing plan, you need to think more like an octopus, having many arms out into the marketplace sweeping around for food (or customers). A successful marketing campaign is not led by any single effort but is, in fact, an accumulation of many different marketing efforts all coming back to one thing, your business, or the mouth of the octopus.

Because there is no one thing that is going to make all the difference in marketing your small business, you should develop a plan that lays out multiple things that your company is going to do to market itself. A successful marketing campaign does not have a single flagship item for which all the other items play second fiddle to. A successful marketing plan lays out a group of efforts that essentially bring the octopus food back to the mouth of the octopus (or customers to your business.)

Small Business Owner Mentality

Small Business owners are entrepreneurs, and successful entrepreneurs are typically very talented jugglers. They can often be master-jugglers of the highest sort in-fact and what they juggle is the thousands of different moving parts that go into making their company operate and profit. These people are great at focusing on a single issue, making a quick decision, and moving onto the next issue with equal focus. It’s a very efficient way to be. But it can make for a lack of creativity when it comes to developing an effective marketing plan. Be sure that you’re marketing plan is a group of efforts and you’re not gambling your entire budget on any one thing. It’s a culmunation of a bunch of different things that are going to help your business generate more leads, retain more customers, and gain more new clients.

Small Business SEO Basics

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about making your website more easily found on search engines like Google, Bing and Yelp when people type in keywords related to your business. Small businesses with professionally designed, search-engine-friendly websites can compete in a real way with larger competitors because their site appears as or more favorably in search engine results pages (or SERP).

SEO encompasses many very technical elements, but just understanding some basic concepts will help you considerably when it comes time to develop your website.

Domain Name

Your domain name is the internet address that is attached to your site (http://www.yourbusiness.com) and it’s a very large part of deciding how high up on the Google results your business appears. For instance, if a person is searching for “Wichita Dry Cleaner” and somebody has a website with the domain “wichitadrycleaner.com” then they will likely appear at the top of the search engine results. So , if possible, be sure to register the most relevant keyword-rich domain name possible along with your company name.

Title Tag

The title tag is the group of words that appears at the top of the title bar of your website and in the blue link that appears on Google results. They are one of the most important factors in getting a high Google ranking for your business’ website. You should include your company name as well as relevant keywords and phrases to ensure higher results. In fact, if you fix your title tags you will likely see some instant improvements in your company search results ranking.

Meta

Meta tags are elements of your website’s design code that specifies certain information like your website description, keywords, author of the document and other info. These tags will not appear on the website itself but are identified by Google and other search engines looking for specific keywords. The meta tags are always placed in the <head> section of the website’s code and they play a very large part in your search engine results.

Keywords (research)

Keywords are words and phrases that search engines crawl the internet looking for when people type them in to the search box. While the art of implementing the right keyword strategy for your website can be a little complicated. The basic idea is that the more a word or phrase shows up on your website (in fair and relevant ways) the higher the website’s Google ranking when those keywords are searched for. You should do some research on what keywords and phrases your customers use when looking for your type of business and make sure your website is s filled with them.

Links

The links on your website also play a big part in determining your Google ranking. The words of the link itself along with the alt text contribute to the relevancy of your website on Google results pages. As much as you can, create links with keywords and phrases related to your business and its functions.

Social Networks

Social networks have become a large part of a company’s SEO. By having profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, a company is able to appear more frequently on search engine results pages through these profiles. Also, linking your profiles to each other as much as possible along with linking to your website on these pages helps increase the relevancy of your business site in Google.

Local Listings

For storefront businesses, the local listing (your company listing on sites like Google Places, Yelp, and Yahoo Local)  has become one of the most important parts of their online existence. Not only do customer reviews on these sites greatly affect people’s decisions in choosing your business, the description and link to your website on these pages play a large part in your websites SEO. Be sure to claim or create your listings on these various services. For more information read my article on Why Local Listings Are Crucial For Your Small Business.

Understanding your company’s SEO is the first step for you in the development of your company’s online strategy. Armed with this information, you should be able to take more effective steps in building your online presence so that you appear higher on Google results, get more traffic to your site and, ultimately, get more more customers.

Please leave us comments if you have any other ideas about SEO basics for small businesses.

How to Get Your Company Written About in Newspapers and Magazines

Getting a placement in a major publication can be a terrific way to drive more customers to your business. Being written about in a newspaper or magazine is a great way to get your company positive exposure through media outlets. It’s for this reason that getting your business written about should definitely be a part of your business’s overall marketing strategy. Here are specific instructions on how you can get your business written about in magazines and newspapers.

Develop Your “Story”

The first thing you need is to figure out what part of your business is “newsworthy”. Simply existing as a business isn’t typically enough to get your business written about. You need to have a story. Maybe you do something for the environment, or perhaps one of your services is innovative and unlike something that’s been done before, or maybe you’re giving away something for free. Whatever it is, figure out how to make it into a story that you can pitch to newspapers and magazines.

Build a Media Package

Your business is never too small or too young to have a media package. So develop yours and send it off to your local newspapers, TV and radio stations. A media package contains all the important material about your company including your location, the nature of your business, and names and biographical information of company officers. You can either hire a PR firm to prepare and send this off for you or you can develop the package yourself.

Use “Guerilla” Style Marketing

Sometimes we need to use some non-traditional methods to get the attention of the media. While not all of these tactics work all the time, they can be a great way to get exposure for your brand if you can manage to generate something newsworthy. Publicity stunts are one form of this style of marketing. Viral videos such as spoofs of commercials or other popular videos are another type of guerilla marketing. Think outside the box and do some research on publicity stunts because while these techniques can be very effective they can also be very risky if not handled correctly (see Kanye West’s storming of the stage of the Grammys during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech.)

Follow Up and Try Again

If you sent a media package out, perhaps you could give a friendly call or email to the person(s) that you sent it to and just check to see if they received it and if they’re planning on running a story. If not, you can ask what sort of content they’re looking for and what would make a better story the next time around.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for receiving media exposure, but with hard work and persistence it can be a very effective way of receiving the positive attention for your company that helps build your business and brand awareness.

Do you have more ideas on how to get media exposure? Leave us a comment or email me at darren.dvx[at]gmail[dot]com

4 Things You Should Do For Your Business Right Now

The world of the small business owner is vast and complex at times. Some businesses require more marketing expertise than others, some require more tech knowledge than others. But there are some very basic things that I believe every small business owner should do and I am always surprised when I find out that owners either don’t know about one (or all) of these things, think they’re a waste of time, or just feel they don’t have the time in their busy small biz schedule to take on these tasks.

Well, this is the new era of small business marketing. In this era, the right online marketing campaign can have your phone ringing more than you ever would’ve imagined. While some of you may think I’m stating the obvious on this list, you’d be surprised how many business owners haven’t taken advantage of these very easy (and FREE) marketing efforts. So if you find yourself sitting around thinking “What can I do for my business today?” refer to this list of 4 small but crucial things that you can and should do today, and do them!

1. Claim Your Business Online – If you haven’t learned about the value of local listings on sites like Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Yelp, it’s time you educated yourself! (I recommend my post on Why Local Listings are Crucial for Your Small Business.)

In today’s marketplace, consumers are looking to the internet more and more when deciding which services and products they are going to buy. It is for this reason that you must claim your business on these various sites. After you claim your business, make sure that all your business information is correct and provide as much information as possible. A well developed listing complete with your website, photos, hours of operations, and a description goes a long way in instilling confidence in your potential customers. It also improves your company’s SEO, SERP, and overall credibility.

I recommend visiting getlisted.org and use their site to list (or claim) your company on a number of these local listing sites or have your tech-person do it.

2. Make a Facebook Page – If you haven’t made a Facebook page (not a profile) for your small business you should definitely go make one and develop a strategy for making regular “status updates” for it. Research ways to utilize Facebook to connect with your customers, spread your company message, and improve your online position. There is an abundance of material on the internet on how businesses can benefit from a Facebook page.

3. Add your business to Foursquare –If you don’t know, Foursquare is essentially an online social game where people gain points, badges, and other rewards for “checking in” at various locations and there’s a few ways that small businesses can use Foursquare by rewarding folks who check in at their business. For instance, the title of “mayor” is given to users who check in at a location the most. Your business can offer special discounts directly on Foursquare for the “mayor” of your location, motivating people to compete for “mayor” by checking in at your business more.

4. Make Social Network “Signage” for your business – Now that you’ve put your business on these various social sites, tell your customers about it! One of the first things you can do is print up promotional signage to display around your business. Signs with graphics that say “Like us on Facebook” “Check In here on Foursquare!” with the site’s logo on it (Foursquare actually has a section on their site with graphics you can print out for this exact purpose.) This not only invites your customers to connect with you on social networks they’re already using, it also shows consumers that you are connected to the same networks that they are, and this helps build familiarity and customer loyalty.


8 Things Your Small Business Website MUST HAVE

These days, most businesses have a website, but I’m always surprised at how many small business websites (usually designed by the company owner or a tech-savvy family member/friend) are missing some very basic elements that help businesses increase the reach of their message, add to company credibility, and improve their website SEO and overall online position.

So I compiled this list of elements I feel no small business website should be without. Do not launch your website without the following crucial elements:

1. A “Contact Us” Page – Yes, I see that your number is featured prominently on your homepage but online consumers are creatures of habit. And when we visit websites with the intention of contacting the company we almost always look for the obligatory contact us or simple contact page. Not only should this page have every piece of pertinent contact info for your company (phone, office, mobile, fax, email, address) it should also have a google map photo showing your location and a link to give the customer directions to the business (if applicable).

2. An Opt-In Form – Your building a mailing list, right? Riiiight? Okay well one of the best ways to get people to join that mailing list is by them “opting in” using a sign-up form on your website. How you encourage folks to fill out the form depends on your business type and your overall goals and objectives. For instance, a professional service (marketing, real estate) can offer a FREE consultation if the user just fills out the form, or an online service wanting only email addresses from its customers could encourage folks to give their email addresses in exchange to a desirable link or file (such as an e-book, coupon, or white-paper). The opt-in form is a must have for any business looking to generate leads with its website.

3. An “About Us” Page – So many small companies omit this critical relationship-building tool that is the “about us” page. Quite often the highest traffic-receiving site after the homepage, the “about us” section of your website provides customers information that allows them to both learn about the company and it’s message and mission as well as gain confidence and trust as they learn about the company’s history and functions. If you’re in a business with any competition at all, the about us  page is where you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.

4. A Blog –The obvious reason is you need a blog to inform your users about your specific product or service. But there really is so much more. Blogs help tremendously with your SEO (Google SERP loves blogs), they instill trust in your client-base, they drive sales, increase leads, build brand awareness, and they make you look like an expert in your field. Do some research, don’t just dive in, but begin working on building a blog for your company ASAP.

5. A Privacy Policy – This section gets overlooked quite often by do-it-yourself web designers but is very important for any website asking people to submit their personal information. Put a link at the bottom of your opt-in form that says something like “your information is safe with us” and have it link to your privacy policy page. View some other websites policies to get an idea of what should be included in yours. It’s a basic element but it adds credibility, something that all consumers are looking for when they shop online.

6. Clear Call(s) To Action – Simply existing on the internet isn’t good enough. Know the purpose of your website and drive visitors to do what you want them to (buy a product, sign-up for a newsletter, call for a consultation) with clear and consistent calls to action. Avoid cluttering the screen with a lot of text copy and images, instead make sure that your “buy now” button is the main focal point of your site and is prominent on every page. The idea is to take away all the distractions so that they have nothing to do BUT click the buy now button.

7. Social Network Buttons – It’s the new era of the online consumer, and people are using social networks more than ever to learn about brands, products, and services of all types. When a person wants to praise (or complain about) a certain company, they quite often will do it on facebook, twitter, or another social network. It’s critical that you not only create a presence on these various networks, but that you encourage people to “follow”, “like”, “friend”, and otherwise subscribe to your brand using these social sites. Again, do some research as to how you’re going to effectively position yourself on these sites, but definitely use them, and definitely make buttons for them on your website. 


8. Links to Review Sites –
For local businesses of any type, online reviews on sites like yelp, yahoo local, and google places have become the new “word-of-mouth” arena for their customers and it is absolutely a must that you do your best to control the reviews your company receives on these sites. If you need to know more about this read my article Why Local Listings Are Crucial For Your Business. A good review can increase your sales considerably, and bad reviews can kill your whole business. Include links to these places on your website and encourage customers to go leave you reviews. The more positive reviews you get the more business you will likely get.

There are many elements that make up successful websites of all kinds, these are just the 8 things I feel get most-often overlooked in today’s marketplace. Please leave me comments with other elements you think are crucial to a successful small business website (or to just say hi.) And read my other articles on small business marketing.

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