9 Ways to Provide Stellar Online Customer Service

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Customer service: It’s something that has always been a necessity. But nowadays, you have to offer more than just the basics. People don’t want to be put on hold or have to wade through tons of text on your website just to find your contact info, and they certainly don’t want to have to wait hours and hours for a response to their queries. In today’s fast-paced world, your customers will want to get a hold of you, and they will want to do it quickly and easily. So how can you make sure that you’re streamlining the process and keeping your customers as happy as you can?

Create the essential “FAQ page” first

If you create a page that specifically addresses the questions you receive the most frequently, this can cut unnecessary contact off before it begins. While this might sound a bit “cold”, people will appreciate the chance to find a solution to their problem without having to go to the trouble of calling or emailing. So take note of the questions you’re getting the most frequently and take the time to put together a clear, concise, and easy-to-find guide that can help your customers solve any simple issues on their own.

Create a customer-service schedule and strategy in line with your business model.

What do we mean by that? Well, for example, if you’re an emergency plumber, you’d better have someone available 24/7 to answer questions–if you claim you’re open 24 hours a day, you need to be able to back that claim up.

On the other hand, if you’re a dog walker who only works Tuesday through Friday, be sure you have your phone connected to your email account and check it occasionally while you’re on call. You might also want to check your social media once or twice a day to make sure you can address any of your customers’ needs or requests. This should be more than enough for someone who works part-time and interacts with clients so personally.

Finally, if you’re a larger operation, you’ll need to set up some kind of customer service department–no ifs, ands, or buts about it! (I.e., you can’t make the graphics department also do customer service in their spare time, because that’s just inefficient for everyone!) Make sure that your customers don’t have to wait for extended periods of time to talk to a representative, and perhaps most importantly, hire customer service professionals who can answer questions professionally and calmly–it’s a tough job, but there are some out there who really excel at it. Find them!

Be compassionate

Your customers will be out for blood sometimes. Sometimes they’re justified in their vitriol; other times not so much. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t all receive a quality customer service experience. As mentioned above, hire thick-skinned customer service people who can be compassionate toward your clients–especially under the most stressful of situations. So, if you have a livid customer ready to cancel with you, rather than saying something like:

“We’re sorry for the inconvenience.” (Sounds robotic and scripted)

Try this instead:

“I can certainly understand why that would be frustrating. Let me take care of this right away for you. I’ll send this case straight to a manager.”

It shows that you understand his or her urgency and can empathize with them.

Speak like a customer

This is a biggie, and one that people probably forget about a lot: Refrain from using technical jargon. It can be difficult when you’ve worked with your products for so long–it becomes like second nature to use jargon. But it just confuses and frustrates most people who want customer service. So put yourself in their shoes and think about what they need. Do they need an answer to a simple question? Answer it simply. Do they need help with troubleshooting? Be patient and describe things in detail. Thinking and speaking like your customers do is essential to providing a superior customer service experience.

Have resources readily available

No one wants to call in and hear someone say, “Let me check into that… I’ll get back to you”. While you obviously can’t be prepared for every possible situation, you can be prepared for most of them. Be sure to train your customer service representatives thoroughly and make it a requirement that they be able to walk customers through the most commonly-seen situations. For situations that are less common, make scripts and resources readily available. Knowing that the answers are at their fingertips lets your employees relax a bit, and it also sets them up for a higher chance of success in helping a customer with a more complicated case, if it becomes necessary to do so.

Be available on social media

Some businesses go on social media because everyone else is on social media. They send out periodic updates and go about their daily routine without much further thought to their social media strategy.

This is a mistake. Not only do regular updates and interactions with your fans and followers help you grow your potential customer base, they also provide a prime foundation for customer service. When your customers contact you through social media with questions or concerns, you should respond to them accordingly. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll be able to publicly demonstrate your concern for your customers’ needs.

Be timely–whether through email, social media, or by phone

No matter how you choose to address your customer service needs, there’s one thing for certain: You need to be prompt in your responses. As noted above, customers do not like waiting very long for assistance. In today’s fast-paced, technology-based world, they expect an email, phone call, or online chat system so that they can quickly get the answers they need. Check out Zendesk if you need some help streamlining the process.

Offer security

While we’ve been stressing the need for online customer assistance, there’s one big issue that you’ll have to address: Customer security (especially if you do online chat). You want to make sure that the customers understand where and when it’s appropriate to share sensitive data. For example, if they email you, they could include a brief description of the problem and a way to contact them, but they shouldn’t include sensitive data like credit card numbers.

Some more examples: If calls are recorded, of course you must let the customers know. Online chat systems must be done through secure software, and you should always let the customers know that their privacy will always be maintained. If you still want to take customer service requests through email, you could consider having a secure form that they can fill out, and that will be automatically emailed to you.

Be overly courteous

While this is true for anything said over the phone–being empathetic, offering friendly solutions, using the customer’s name–it’s especially true for anything put in writing. You and your team members might think you’re being polite, but sometimes text gets misconstrued. It’s not an uncommon thing, actually. So what’s the solution? We think it works well to be overly polite and courteous. It sounds a bit pandering, but it’s better to err on the side of being too friendly rather than cold or indifferent.

So what do you think? Are there other tips you’d suggest for stellar online customer service? Let us know in the comments!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

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11 Essential Tips for a Fantastic Facebook Page

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Are you not seeing the engagement you’d like to on your Facebook page? Well, we have 11 tips to share with you that just might inspire you to try something new!

1. Stay on topic. Your company sells specific products and services. So when people find you on Facebook, they want to find out more about your current inventory, sales that you’re running, and any other pertinent company information. And that’s exactly what you should give them. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t write about silly things every once in a while or share other sites’ content (in fact, you should be doing these things as long as they align with your brand’s voice and image, because people like lighthearted things), but be sure that most updates capture/portray the essence of your company in a professional manner.

2. Upload photos and videos. Videos actually have a larger reach than photos right now, but only if they’re shared natively. (That is, uploaded to Facebook or shared from someone else’s page who has uploaded that video–not posted from YouTube or another video sharing site.) So obviously, whenever possible, it’s good to share a video. But what are you supposed to do if you don’t have any videos? Well, at the very least, include a photo with your update. Visual media, whether video or photo, is much more effective in reaching your audience than posting a simple text update. People are visual, and their eyes immediately go to colorful or interesting pictures. So make use of that!

3. Do not respond to things unprofessionally. There’s a time and a place getting irritated with people and it’s not when you’re on Facebook–especially if you run a business. If someone leaves a nasty comment, don’t panic. Try to determine the root of the issue–is it a customer who is angry because of poor service? You can try to politely offer a deal to make up for it. Is it someone who just wants to vent? Apologize for poor service and move on. Is it someone who is deliberately being abusive? Well, don’t vent back. Instead, let’s move on to number four to solve this one…

4. Don’t ignore trolls. But don’t feed them either. If they’re disruptive and being mean or callous to others, block them. Create a space your fans feel comfortable in. This is far more important than picking fights or letting your Facebook comments go completely uncontrolled. People don’t like hostile spaces, so moderate those comments and avoid that negativity altogether.

5. Share your company news with them. People love celebrating milestones with you and getting a peek at how things work within your company. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an established company with lots of history, make it a point to include your customers in celebrating your milestones and you’ll see that you can build a more meaningful connection with them.

6. Do weekly events. People love participating in events, particularly if it involves a silly game. Things like “fill in the blank” or “caption this photo” work well (although with these, you’ll always have those unsavory comments to deal with), and some people enjoy it when you pose questions that they can answer (for example, if you shared a picture of your new product and asked people how they would use it). You can also have fans participate for a chance at being featured on your site, or you could have them leave promotional links of their own to foster sharing. There are tons of possibilities!

7. Offer giveaways. Sometimes people just want to win free things. Okay, a lot of times people just want to win free things. 😉 So when it fits into your budget, come up with a way to give your Facebook fans the chance to win something great. It keeps them coming back for more!

8. Post blog updates on Facebook. While it’s a good idea to set up your blog posts so that they’re automatically sent to your social media sites, you should always stagger the distribution. Why? Because when you send out one blog post and it hits Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and everywhere else at the same time, you’re not maximizing your reach. So when you set up your blog’s auto-posting features, just keep in mind that you might want to discover which times your social media fans are the most active, and schedule accordingly!

9. Trade likes–Don’t buy them. Some people buy “likes” so that their Facebook pages appear to be more popular than they really are. But when you really think about it, what good does this do you? You spend money to have fake fans interact with your page once and never return. You’d get more return on your investment if you took the time to cultivate a real community–even if it takes longer for your numbers to grow. One tactic that you might want to try is trading “likes”. Send out a message every once in a while asking to this. Or you could like someone else’s page and just drop them a note telling them you did so, and leave a link to your page in case they’re interested. Don’t be pushy about it–and if someone doesn’t return the like, that’s okay. You won’t always be successful in this tactic, but it can be a great way to meet some new fans!

10. Link to social media profiles. It sounds obvious, but there are too many people who forget to do this. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, then be sure to cross-link to those sites. For example, on Facebook, you should link not only to your website, but also to Twitter and LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, link to Facebook and Twitter. And so on. Sometimes people stumble upon your social media sites before your website, so it’s best to make sure that no matter where they land, they can connect with you anywhere on the web!

11. Experiment with advertising. Today, it’s almost essential that you advertise to get your Facebook page noticed. Because Facebook’s algorithm tends to favor posts with more engagement (and sponsored posts, of course), people often start paying to promote posts or ads in hopes that people will like them and click through to learn more. And that can be rough for smaller businesses that don’t have a lot of money for this kind of thing. But the good news is that you can actually set a budget as low as $5 a day to run ads, and you don’t have to run the ad every day. You could actually set aside a small budget of $100 a month and see improvements in your post engagement and clickthroughs to your site. It’s definitely worth experimenting with it!

Do you have any other tips for getting more out of your Facebook marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments!


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

How Important Are Exact Match Keywords?

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Whether you’ve been doing SEO for a while or you’re just getting into the topic, there’s a good chance that you’ve already done some research on keywords. In fact, you’ve probably received quite a bit of advice on how to best use keywords–that you should focus on long-tail keywords and phrases; that you need a specific keyword density so search engines can pick up your content; that you should be adding keywords into headers and creating anchor text.

Well, at one time, all of these tips were true. While many of these practices are now outdated, there’s a reason you’ve been hearing so much about keywords: At one time, keyword-focused strategies were at the top of any SEO’s game.

So the question remains, how important are exact-match keywords now? How do keywords translate into useful information for search engines? Read on and find out!

Back in the day

Because search is an ever-evolving practice, search engines have had to make a huge number of adjustments in how they rank sites over the years. These adjustments are referred to as “algorithm updates”. And with each of these algorithm updates, SEOs find new ways to help boost page rank. So back when the web was less sophisticated and the algorithms weren’t quite as effective as they are now, search engines looked for pages with keywords that matched the search query exactly. These were called exact-match keywords.

Keyword stuffing

Once SEOs noticed that the usage of exact-match keywords would get sites ranking higher, they began putting those keywords in all the content on the website. They’d put it in image descriptions. In headers. In footers.

It got so bad that they’d even put it in the background of the site–yes, as in the space behind the text and images–and just change the color so that it blended in with the background color. Talk about obnoxious (and shady).

Now that is something that Google strongly dislikes. In fact, they wrote a whole piece about why hidden text and keyword stuffing is bad. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long before they started penalizing sites that stuffed keywords.

Keyword density

A tactic used alongside of keyword stuffing was adhering to a specific keyword density. Many of the people who used to stuff keywords realized that the search engines had begun to penalize them for it, so they decided instead to hit a specific density of keywords per article, thinking that this made the text appear more “organic” to search engines and thus would not be flagged as spam. Their density goals usually ranged from 2-5%, and the keywords had to be an exact match.

Of course, this led to really sloppy writing. We’re talking keywords and keyphrases shoved in roughly every two sentences, leading to repetitive, grammatically- and syntactically-incorrect content. It was so obvious that it was “optimized”. And soon, Google began flagging many of those articles as spam, too.

So how do exact-match keywords work now?

As a part of the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google began taking semantic indexing into account. What does that mean? It means that the search engine is smart enough to parse sentences and pick up on keyword variations as well as topics and themes. This eliminates the need to try to stuff strangely-worded keywords into your content.

So let’s say that you run a site promoting salon services and you’re located in Atlanta, GA. Before, with exact-match keyword phrasing, you might only want your content to reference “salons in Atlanta, GA” so that you could rank locally for salon services.

With the Hummingbird update in place, however, you wouldn’t have to worry about it. If you have claimed your Google business listing and made sure that your address is correct, you’ll already have a location associated with your website. As long as your site contains content about salon services, Google will understand that when someone is searching for salons in the Atlanta area, there’s a good chance they might be looking for your page.

So if exact-match keywords aren’t as important now that Google utilizes semantic indexing, what should you focus on?

Website structure

When it comes to your website’s layout and the way the code is structured, you might think that SEO has nothing to do with it. Well, you would be wrong.

If your site is easy to navigate, then visitors will find the information they’re looking for without much trouble. Google looks at this data–how long is someone on your site? Do they click around?–which, if they stay a while and look at your content, implies your site has what they needed. But what if they just back out immediately? This would suggest they didn’t find what they were looking for, and Google will assume your site isn’t relevant to their needs.

So be sure to title your pages with descriptive words. Make your menus easy to navigate. Ensure your web designer has enabled a site map. All of these things are far, far more important than exact-match keywords.

Site speed

Something that you might not even consider to be an issue can often really make or break your SEO efforts–if your site is slow or has errors in loading, you could be damaging your ranking without even knowing it. So what can you do to make sure your website loads quickly?

  • Clean up any extra pages that you don’t use anymore (perhaps from an old design).
  • Get rid of plug-ins that are broken, outdated, or are otherwise unused.
  • Ask your web developer if there is any unneeded media or outdated code that you can get rid of.
  • SSL encryption could possibly give a ranking boost, although it’s not significant.

Other content tips

If you’re writing your own content, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  • Use proper grammar and sentence structure. Writing poorly comes off as spammy.
  • Choose a topic and stick to it. By using the topic keywords organically throughout the post, you will tell Google what the page is about.
  • Do not repeat the same words over and over again. You’ll look spammy.
  • Interlink your posts. Google loves links, including links on your own site.
  • Use images. When you use images with proper titles, you increase reader interest and you tell Google more about your topic.
  • Encourage conversation. Leave comment sections open. You can earn trackbacks to your post (other links) and make it easy for people to engage with you.

And there you have it! Exact-match keywords aren’t important today, but staying on topic and providing fresh, relevant content for your visitors is. So keep practicing your writing and let the ideas come naturally–and remember that you need to write for people, not for search engines.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

5 SEO Tactics You Should Be Working On

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1. A Great Website

So many businesses are focused on simply getting themselves online that they often forget about optimizing user experience. In fact, many small business owners aren’t really even that familiar with the concept of user experience, and instead put up a website without really considering anything beyond its mere existence in cyberspace.

So why is user experience is important? Well, for starters, someone who arrives at your webpage has a goal in mind. To better illustrate this example, let’s say you sell 100% vegan, organic, dye-free doggie beds. So when a visitor finds your website, they’re probably comparing prices for different brands of doggie beds, or are curious about yours in particular because they’re 100% vegan, organic, and dye-free. That makes sense, right?

So what happens, then, when your site is slow to load? What happens when a visitor can’t find ordering information or how to contact you with questions? Or worse, what if they encounter a bunch of broken links or images that won’t load?

They “bounce”. Bounce rate is how long it takes someone who has navigated to your page to leave. When bounce rate is high, that’s a bad thing. That means your users are having a poor experience and they want out of there as quickly as possible!

So focus on creating a website that not only looks great and is filled with valuable information about your products and services, but also is:

  • Easy to navigate–menus located in clear spots, informative labeling for links.
  • Filled out completely–no “under construction” pages or broken links.
  • Structured in a way that visitors can easily parse–i.e., no blocks of text that go on and on and on; no images that take up half the screen; no unnecessary scrolling.
  • And a quick load time–in fact, studies cite a less than 3 second load time as being optimal. Yes, it’s that important.

2. Fresh, High-Quality Content

Content is king. You’ve heard it before, and unfortunately, we’re gonna trot it out for you again. Why? Because it’s still true.

Think about it: Would you rather go to a site that has content that is a) well written, informative, and answers any questions you might have? Or content that’s b) clearly hastily thrown together, written only for search engines, and basically just takes up space on the screen? Obviously you’re going to go with option a.

So then why would you even bother putting together shoddy content? Your visitors will hate it, which in turn, means search engines will hate it. Content for the sake of content isn’t helpful. Content for the sake of your visitors is.

What does all of this mean for you? It means that you should update your site regularly with only high-quality content. Make sure that your content is helpful to your visitors. If you get negative feedback, take that into consideration to improve your future content creation efforts. If you do all of this, you’re already steps ahead of the competition.

3. Social Media Presence

You’ve probably told by many sources (least of all, us) that you need to be on social media. And while some businesses can manage to be successful without a social media presence, they’re among the few and the lucky. Many older businesses in small towns often have enough clout to simply rely on word of mouth marketing. But if you’re not one of those old, established businesses, then you need to seriously evaluate why you should be creating social media accounts for your SEO and marketing strategies.

To start, you should pick a few platforms you feel comfortable on and that will benefit your brand the most. How do you know if a social media platform will work to your advantage?

Let’s go back to our doggie bed example. Obviously, pet owners will be the most likely people to buy your products. Pet owners enjoy looking at photos of cute animals and they also like talking about their pets. This makes our hypothetical business ideal for Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. These highly visual platforms will let you show off your product in a way that pet owners will relate to, and they’ll want to talk with others about their experiences with your product.

If you’re an HVAC company, though, you probably won’t have as much luck with Pinterest or Instagram. Rather, you might want to try Quora, where you can answer questions (people have lots of DIY questions that can be answered here for free), and you might want to put together YouTube tutorials detailing minor maintenance jobs your customers can do on their own time.

As you can see, a social media presence is important for most brands. But you have to choose platforms that actually benefit your brand, as well as make sure that you have enough time to maintain your updates. Nothing will grow stale faster than a dead Facebook page or YouTube channel. By connecting with your customers and marketing your work through social media, you’ll bring more traffic to your site and you’ll probably earn shares and links back to your articles in the long run.

4. Creating visual content.

So far, we’ve talked mostly about written content. And while blogs and informative product pages are all well and good, there’s a lot more link juice to be found in visual content.

Visual content includes videos, images/memes, and infographics, all of which are highly shareable. If you think about your own sharing tendencies, which are you most likely to send to your family and friends–a long, in-depth article about why vegan dog beds are the hottest thing right now, or a video showing a cute pup enjoying his new vegan dog bed? Probably the latter. And so it goes that your own customers will be more likely to share your articles and content if it is a visually-compelling piece.

If you’re not graphically inclined, that’s no problem. There are plenty of sites out there that help you design images and infographics for free. Try the following to start:

5. Most recently–be mobile friendly.

Desktop searches are trending downward compared to mobile searches–in fact, mobile outpaces desktop in 10 countries, including the US, according to Google’s recent reports. Combine that with the mobile update that occurred April 21st of this year, and you can see why you should already be focusing on creating mobile-friendly websites. And if you aren’t focusing on mobile accessibility, then it’s time you do so.

It’s easy to make your site mobile friendly. Check out our article on preparing your site for the mobile update and see how you can ensure you’ll be in Google’s good graces. If you don’t do this, you’re going to be pushed off the search results pages for people who are using mobile devices to find what they need.

You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t think people will be finding me through any fancy kind of searches. I just use Google on my computer.” And while you might be doing that, that doesn’t mean others are. A lot of small businesses get web traffic through local mobile searches. It’s imperative that local businesses be accurately listed so that people who are looking for their products and services are able to locate them, no matter which devie they’re using. (And that’s what we specialize in, too!)

So it doesn’t matter whether you think your customers will be finding you on their desktops–because not all of them will be. Add tablets into the mix and you’ve got yourself several mobile devices to accommodate. Now you can see why it’s so important to be mobile-friendly!

Hopefully by focusing on these five SEO tactics, you can start to see some improvement in your rankings. Remember, SEO is a long-term investment, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But with perseverance and some smart strategies, you’ll soon see yourself improving your online presence.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

No, SEO Isn’t Dead.

 

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If you  haven’t heard it before, you’ll probably hear about it sometime soon: SEO is dead, and we’re all a bunch of fools to invest any more time and money into it. We might as well just accept it now: We’re never going to be able to use any kind of strategy to boost our ranking on the biggest search engines on the planet.

Except that SEO isn’t dead. We’re not wasting money or time by investing in optimization services.

And there are strategies that help you boost your online presence. There’s no magic bullet, but there are best practices that successful SEO companies follow to get their clients more exposure.

So what gives? Why do people keep saying SEO is dead?

In this post, we’ll go over a few of the top reasons people cite for the “end of SEO”. Keep in mind that Google does change its algorithm frequently, and that what works today might not work sometime in the near future. But that’s natural. Change can be dealt with; strategies can be adjusted. Just because search is an evolving thing doesn’t mean that SEO has no place in today’s business marketing strategies.

Reason #1: People are losing trust in big businesses.

It’s a reflection of economic strife and increasingly-agitated people: Trust in leaders, particularly corporate leaders, is plummeting. With security breaches, scandals at the top levels of big businesses, and news about middle- to low-rung workers being mistreated or underpaid, it’s no wonder people are beginning to raise their eyebrows at large companies.

In fact, Google itself has gotten into a number of heated legal tiffs. People are actually more likely to trust the NSA than they are Google, according to one survey.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Google is everywhere, almost omnipresent. It’s so ingrained into peoples’ lives now that there are comics and jokes about the search giant’s software being implanted in our brains sometime in the near future! “Big Brother”-type concerns used to be something that you only found in a George Orwell novel, but nowadays, they’ve become a real, legitimate concern.

All of this to say that because people are losing trust in big businesses, they’ve lost trust in Google. They fear where Google could go, given all its power. So when applying this to SEO, people assume that Google has the system rigged, and that you’ll have to pay increasingly more to be considered above other sites in the SERPs.

However, while the legal troubles have been concerning, that doesn’t mean that Google will be slowing down anytime soon. SEO is still effective in spite of all that.

Reason #2: People use apps to search, rather than Google.

Some people say that because people are searching for things using apps such as Amazon, Yelp, or Pinterest, that SEO is dead. They argue that when customers begin moving away from Google like this, optimization just doesn’t have the same kind of effect that it used to.

Except that that is wrong for two reasons:

1) People still use Google to find things, particularly small local businesses. Apps might draw some attention away from Google and the other search engines, but that doesn’t mean that people never use them. How many times have you looked for restaurants or movie tickets simply by typing it into Google? Probably a lot, right? Yelp reviews definitely have their place, but you don’t always go straight to Yelp to find a place to eat.

2) Sites/Apps like Amazon have their own internal search algorithms. And guess what? Those can be used to your advantage as well. It’s true that when people are shopping for things like Kindle books, they’re probably going straight to Amazon rather than Google. But again, this doesn’t mean that SEO is dead–you can even apply what you’ve learned to Amazon if you’re selling items there.

Reason #3: People are sharing links via social media, and that’s caused would-be Googlers to shift away from search.

Some claim that because people are always getting news and information from their friends on social media platforms, that means they don’t use Google anymore. After all, why search for “peeptoe shoes on sale” when you could just buy the exact same pair that your friend just shared with you?

If you thought you sensed some sarcasm there, you’re correct. People do take recommendations from their friends seriously, and people do click on links that their friends post to social media. But that doesn’t mean this is a 1-for-1 exchange with Google! Especially when it comes to shopping for clothes or local services, people will want recommendations, but they’re also going to want to shop around. And that means that they’re going to do some Googling before making their final decision.

Reason #4: Ad blocks and distrust of paid placement makes people avoid your paid promotions.

There is some truth to this statement. People get sick of having advertisements pop up in their feeds all the time. They want to be able to search without accidentally clicking on some spammy ad. And that’s a totally legitimate concern.

But not everyone blocks ads. And some people do still click them. It seems to depend on where you’re listing them. Facebook ads still work, and so do Google ads, although it’s getting more and more difficult to reach your audience through advertising without paying more competitive prices.

When it comes right down to it, though, people are more likely to trust a legitimate link rather than a sponsored ad. So SEO is still important in this scenario, too–you can pay to promote your site, but if you’re found organically, you have a higher chance of nabbing more clicks.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

 

How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches

How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches
If you’re a small business owner and you’re just a little bit confused on the concept of search engine optimization (otherwise known as SEO), you’re not alone. But there’s no need to feel completely lost–in fact, you might be happy to hear that to make use of SEO tactics, you don’t actually have to be a coder or master of marketing. Surprisingly, it’s pretty easy to learn the basics and implement some of the changes on your own. Below, we detail some of the ways local SEO differs from on-site SEO, and how you can start making local SEO work for your small business.

Local SEO functions differently

When working to get a website ranking, an SEO expert will generally come up with a detailed plan that covers a number of proven SEO tactics: Link building, content creation and syndication, image and on-page optimization, and more. From blogs to ecommerce sites, this works well, and it’s a tried-and-true method of working your way up the search engine result pages (SERPs).

But unlike blogs or ecommerce sites, small business websites generally represent a digital space that provides information about the actual “brick-and-mortar” store. A person who goes to a small business’s website already has a product or service in mind–they’re not mindlessly browsing for “gray pants on sale” or “blogs about healthy baby foods”. No, they’re looking for a plumber in Toiletville, and blogs or toilets for sale aren’t going to help them much.

So this goes to reason that when your company shows up in a local search, it’s because the person who is searching for you wants something locally–they’re not interested in what some blog has to say about plumbing or what Wikipedia has to say about it, either. They just want to find a plumber.

So that’s why it’s important that you focus on local SEO for your small business. It’s just not the same as trying to get an online store or blog ranking. Local SEO is its own animal.

Smart local searches will display pertinent information for your customers.

Because your local business is an actual storefront, people who are searching for you won’t just want to find your website. They’ll also want to know your business hours, how to get in contact with you, and they might even want to learn what others think about your products and services. You may have noticed that when you conduct a search for a local service, a map will display showing nearby businesses. You can then click to get information about the business, such as the business name, address, and phone number (NAP).

To get these important points of data to display properly in searches, you’re going to want to submit your business information to directories. There are a lot of online business directories, whether you’re aware of it or not: The Yellow Pages, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Google Business Places, Bing Places for Business, and more. For more information on specific directories, VR Marketing Blog has put together a helpful list of the top 20 places your local business should be listed.

Basically you’ll want to make sure that all of these listings display a correct form of your NAP. If there are duplicate listings on any directories, claim them and fix them to avoid the search engines thinking there are two locations/phone numbers/names for your business. If you find that there are inconsistencies in addresses or contact information, make sure you correct it. The search engines will pull up data based on what’s listed in directories–and you want your information to be correct so that your customers can easily find you.

The takeaway? Local SEO directories will help customers find you when conducting local searches, so you’d better make sure you’re listed in as many of them as possible.

Local reviews help you out in more ways than one.

An integral part of your local SEO campaign will be collecting business reviews. Google wants to display only the most important results to people who are searching for local businesses–so naturally, it will show those with more positive reviews first. Think of it as “social proof” that you’ve got what the people are looking for.

Of course, reviews don’t just help you show up on local searches. They’re also a great way to advertise your business on Facebook or other social media platforms. Entice your fans and followers with a coupon or special offer if they leave you a review. Sometimes, people just need a little push in the right direction before they get involved.

What you need to know: Local reviews are worth their weight in gold for your small business. The more reviews, the better you’ll appear to prospective customers, and the higher you’ll rank on the SERPs.

Connect with other local businesses for the best networking opportunities.

Local businesses are unique in that they get to establish roots in a community. Sure, there are competitors. And sure, you’ve probably never felt like promoting them before.

But if you connect with other local businesses, you create a wonderful networking opportunity for yourself. You can link to one another online, building your link portfolio to boost your presence on Google. You can run promotions and drive business that way. You could arrange interviews or work together to promote a cause and draw attention to your services. Gone are the days of trash-talking your competitors. Now it’s the age of co-promotion, and local businesses can really shine in this area–if you know how to play your cards right.

So what should you do? Figure out who the big names are in your area. Connect with successful businesses and find a way to form a positive relationship. Support one another online and watch your traffic grow.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

15 Quick Tips to Boost Blog Traffic

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1. Connect your profiles. Does your Twitter page have your website listed in the bio? Does your Facebook link to your blog? Does your blog have links to all your social media profiles clearly listed? Make it easy for people to connect with you on the platform of their choice, and make sure all platforms can clearly direct people to your blog. Voila! Easy traffic.

2. Set up a newsletter subscription. You might entice readers with a free PDF if they sign up for your email list, or you might offer a special 3-part course to help them learn more about the services you offer. You also might offer a coupon. Whatever you do, set up some kind of reward and get people to sign up for a subscription via newsletter. Of course, this means you’ll have to occasionally send out updates, but people who are willing to give you their email address are much more likely to return in the future and purchase your products, so it isn’t the same as blasting them unwarranted.

3. Offer RSS feed subscriptions or simple blog subscriptions. Not everyone wants to sign up for a newsletter. But many people will sign up to read new updates. So enable the widgets on WordPress for people to easily subscribe to your blog via email or RSS feed–if you don’t use WordPress, there are also options to do this in Blogger, as well as through your own website. (You’ll have to speak to your developer about this.)

4. Send out notifications of your updates on social media. So not only do you have to make sure your profiles connect to each other and that people can easily subscribe to your blog and social media, but you also have to make sure that you send out updates automatically about your brand new post. You can set it up in WordPress to publicize to your connected accounts as soon as a post goes live (and you can do so in Blogger as well).

5. Schedule posts ahead of time. Have a hectic life with not a lot of extra time to blog? Well, why not try scheduling posts ahead of time? If you have one day that you can dedicate to writing the next month’s posts, do it. Then schedule them to go live whenever you want. Your posts will go out reliably when you need them to, and you can focus on doing other things until you’re ready to write again.

6. Include links to your newsletter in your sidebars/widget areas. When you set up your blog, make sure sidebars, menus, and widget areas are full of great information–like how to connect with you on social media and how to sign up for your newsletter. Doing this is a great way to make sure that you stay in contact with your fans who really want to hear from you–they gave you their email, after all, so they’ll be eager to read what you send them!

7. Install Sniply and watch your clickthrough traffic grow. If you haven’t heard of Sniply, you’ll definitely want to check it out. How does it work? You can set it up so that, when a visitor clicks a link you provide (be it on your site or through social media), they’ll not only see the article you’re linking to, but they’ll also see a little bubble in the corner of their screen. This bubble includes a space to include a catchy, customizable call to action, as well as a button that links back to your blog.

So how is this beneficial to you? Well, when you link to a site other than your own (say, a blog you enjoy linking to), people who follow that link will see an opportunity to be led back to your site whenever they’re ready. So you’re promoting your work while promoting the work of others simultaneously. Pretty cool, huh?

8. Offer to do guest posts for other blogs in your niche. If you enjoy blogging (and presumably, you do!), you might want to branch out and offer your services to other bloggers. Now, this might seem counterproductive–when do you have the time to write for other sites, after all?–but it’s not. You can build relationships with other bloggers, who will then promote your work alongside their own. You can also earn links to your site by including them in your byline. All in all, guest blogging is an easy way to earn links and get clicks to your site.

9. Post comments on other blogs. If you’re not feeling up to offering a guest post, another great way to get involved with other blogs is to leave friendly comments on recent posts. Usually you’ll have to set up a profile to do so, which allows you to have a branded profile image as well as a link to your own site in one convenient spot. People can then visit you by following the links in your profile!

10. Join Google+ communities and offer blog posts where applicable. Same goes for Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter tribes. By joining communities or special groups, you can find like-minded people who are likely to be interested in your products and services. They might even share your updates for you. Social media doesn’t have to be ultra-competitive–in fact, it can really be beneficial to make friends with those you’d normally consider your competitors.

11. Install an SEO plug-in if you use WordPress. Updating your posts to be within the guidelines and recommendations of the plugin will help you get a better chance of ranking in Google/Bing/Yahoo. The best part is that you don’t have to know anything about coding or analytics–you just have to be able to fill in boxes as the plug-in suggests. The plug-ins can be free (or you can pay if you’d like more options) and they’re quick and easy to install.

12. Use CoPromote, dlvr.it, or IFTTT formulas to disperse your posts automatically and at different times. Staggering updates is key. If you dump your links everywhere all at once, you don’t reach the widest audience. For example, you might try updating Twitter first, followed by Facebook at the most heavily-trafficked times. Do what fits best with your schedule.

13. Don’t forget to check statistics. Finding that one post is performing better than the others? Don’t be afraid to reshare it. As long as you’re not spamming the same link over and over, you should be fine! And no matter what, always remember to reshare posts again a few months down the road. You’re always gaining new fans and followers–give them a chance to read your best work, too!

14. Put a link to your blog in your email signature. Make sure you’re always just a click away. You can also include links to your social media profiles or include your cell or office number. This way, whenever you send an email to a customer, they’ll have an easy way of reaching you. And if you’re sending out those guest blogging requests, it’s also a great way to encourage prospective blogging partners to visit your social media profiles, too!

15. Install a mobile-responsive theme! Now that Google is including mobile-friendliness in its ranking algorithm, you’ll need to make sure your blog can be read by mobile devices. Install a theme that’s responsive (aka mobile-friendly) and you won’t have to worry about being pushed off the top page for mobile searches. That should help with blog traffic!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

5 Ways to Reach More Fans on Facebook

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Are your Facebook marketing strategies falling a little flat? Have you noticed that your pictures and quotes don’t seem to be reaching quite as many people as they used to? If so, you might want to re-evaluate your Facebook marketing strategy… and we’re here to give you a few helpful tips that yuo can start implementing right away.

Facebook is notorious for changing its algorithms, and people often don’t understand exactly why or how it’s changed–all they know is they’re seeing less engagement and fewer numbers for people reached. It’s frustrating and it’s time-consuming to try to alter your strategies, especially when you always seem to be a step behind because you’re not a professional marketer–you’re a small business owner, and you’re busy.

But if there’s one thing marketers can tell you, it’s that times change fast. Especially when it comes to social media. So how can you boost your engagement and reach more fans on Facebook right now? We have a few suggestions for you.

Video

Up until fairly recently, the tried-and-true way to reach the most people on Facebook was to post a picture and a link. You may have noticed, however, that this seems to have changed. In fact, photos are now one of the least effective ways to make sure fans see your content.

So what do you do instead? Well, video reaches more people than any other kind of post–but not just any video. The format has to be native, meaning you must actually upload the video to Facebook. Why is this? More than likely, Facebook is trying to keep you sharing videos using Facebook–not some other site. So even if you have a YouTube channel, it’s worth it to upload the videos separately to Facebook to get the most eyes on your content.

Quotes with photos

Although photos don’t have the reach they used to, people love sharing inspiring and motivating quotes. By placing the quote on an eye-catching image, you make it far more likely that someone will press “share”. So while the initial post might not reach as many people as, say, a video, if you get more engagement, you’ll get more shares and a bigger reach in the end.

Another thing about photos is that they have the potential to live on for quite some time. Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, someone might not see your post right away, but it could pop up in their feed the next day. When they share it then, you’ll notice a spike in shares as their friends share it, and so on.

Don’t forget your CTA button

If you haven’t noticed the call-to-action button on Facebook yet, then you definitely need to take the time to check it out. It’s a new feature, but it’s a powerful one: By going into your settings, you can choose a call to action from a pre-set list (for example, “Shop Now”, “Learn More”, “Sign Up”, etc.) and direct people to the URL of your choice. Do you want to send them to a sales page? A landing page where they can sign up for a newsletter or free ebook? You can do any of that using this button.

The best part is that it appears right on your header image–it’s not hidden in some dark corner of your profile. After you have it set up, you can track clicks and change the CTA whenever you like. That way, if you find that it’s not working quite the way you had expected it to, all you have to do is change things around with a few clicks and you’re done.

Oh, and did we mention this is free? Because it is. There’s no reason NOT to use it.

Get used to reading negative feedback

It hurts us all. No one wants to go through their hard work and read bad things about themselves. Whether it’s your high school paper that your English teacher tore apart or your brand new website that cost you a pretty penny to develop, you’re going to get negative feedback on your projects, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

Now, that isn’t to say that every random complaint needs to be listened to or taken into consideration when you are planning your improvements. Some people just enjoy complaining about things no matter what. But if you notice some common themes–for example, people consistently unliking your Facebook page when you post irrelevant photos, or negative feedback on overly “salesy” posts–then you probably want to take those complaints into legitimate consideration as you plan your social media strategy.

When you listen to your fans like this, you not only give your audience what they really want, but you also grow as a businessperson. Constructive criticism might be hard to take, but if you can thicken your skin, you’re going to go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to change things up

If your marketing efforts are still falling flat, then don’t be afraid to change things up a bit! You can always do split A/B testing to see which campaigns perform better and adjust accordingly. Look at successful people in your industry and see how they garner engagement. There’s no rulebook here and there is no one magic trick that will work for everybody. But you’ll never know what works for you unless you try. So get creative, think outside the box, and change things up a bit until you come up with something that really makes your fans excited to interact with your business.

Are there any other tricks or tips that you use to get your fans more engaged on Facebook? If so, let us know in the comments!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

Facebook to Introduce 360 Degree Videos

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This Wednesday, Facebook announced that its News Feed will begin to support 36o-degree videos: you’ll be able to move your view up, down, left, and right to take a peek at your surroundings from all different directions. Currently, they are testing the technology, and they describe it as a “new kind of online video” that will allow viewers to move through it not unlike they way they would a video game.

Putting the Oculus Rift Technology to Use

Last year, Facebook acquired the creator of the Oculus Rift–a headset that was originally built for virtual reality (VR) games. Microsoft and Google have tinkered with this technology by building prototypes of their own: Microsoft with a HoloLens headset, and of course the most popular of the bunch, Google Glass eyewear (which hasn’t died yet, contrary to what people think).

Clearly, Facebook understands that the future of the internet and user experience will rely heavily on video, as well as virtual reality. Technologies will integrate with our everyday activities and “augment”, or enhance, the way we interact with technology and apply it to our lives.

An explosive new technology

Facebook has said that more than 1.3 billion people that utilize its platform view more than 3 billion videos every day. And that’s just on its platform–that doesn’t take into account videos watched on YouTube, Vimeo, Google, or any other platforms. Nope. That’s just. Facebook.

So Facebook hopes to introduce its users to using this kind of VR video. And this week during the keynote address at the company’s annual developer conference held in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is already looking into asking third-party publishers to create their own videos to share via Facebook.

How the videos will work

Spherical cameras will capture video in 360 degrees–think of it sort of like Google’s “street view” cameras. You’ll be able to virtually locate a point on a map and look around you by dragging your mouse around, or if you have a touchscreen, you can also do this by moving your finger across the screen.

Zuckerberg stressed how much like virtual reality this really was: “You’re going to be able to put on your headset and feel like you’re really there,” he said.

How to Prepare Your Site for Google’s Mobile Update

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Come April 21st, Google is integrating mobile-friendliness into its algorithm as a ranking signal.

Well, then. That sounds pretty exciting. But why is Google doing this now?

Google wants to make these changes so that users have a better experience when they search for things–whether that’s a local store that sells the hardware they need or a quick answer to “What is the capital of Canada?” (It’s Ottawa.) This is because so many people are using mobile devices now. And guess what? They get really frustrated if the top search results come from sites that can’t display properly on their tablet or smartphone. Have you ever searched on your phone and found a site that ended up just loading slowly and after you waited for so long, the text was too small to read? We all have. But this is primarily what Google is aiming to fix.

However, they also want to make money from it (of course). Because it’s not just mobile-friendly websites that’ll show up in search results–it’s also apps. As you probably know, Google Play is where Google makes money from app sales. By ranking these mobile-friendly sites alongside apps, Google can then stay in the sales game, especially when their competitors (Hulu, Amazon, etc) are still going strong.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you haven’t made sure that your site has a mobile-responsive design, it could take a hit in ratings.

So how can you make sure you’re adequately prepared for the upcoming changes? Below, we list a few suggestions that should get you on the right track.

Use meta name=”viewport” to tell the browser how to adjust the screen.

This might not be something you know how to do, but a web developer knows what this means. This code allows the same HTML code to be served on the same URL to each device (mobile, tablet, desktop), but the catch is that it will render the layout differently based on screen size of the device accessing the site. It’s the bit of code that makes the site “responsive”.

What does that mean in plain English? By adding this tag into the coding in your website, you’re telling the browser to adjust the screen based on the type of device accessing it, and you’ll be in Google’s good graces come April 21st.

Don’t block Javascript or CSS.

Check to make sure that your code isn’t blocking Javascript or CSS scripts. Why? Because these kinds of scripts are necessary for mobile devices to load pages and images properly, as well as for Google bots to crawl and index your site. If a mobile device can’t load your page, Google will see this and your site won’t count as mobile-friendly.

A quick way to do this is to use “Fetch as Google” function in Webmaster tools. Check Google’s guide here for more detailed information and a walk-through on using this tool.

If you have no idea what Webmaster tools is, talk to your developer or learn more about how it works here.

If you have WordPress, download a responsive theme.

This might sound like a chore, but trust us, it isn’t as bad as you think. You’ll actually have a much better-looking site if you make sure that everything is responsive and clean, and these changes generally are not difficult to make, and they don’t take up much of your time either.

If you’re unsure whether your current WordPress theme is mobile-friendly, first, determine which kind of WordPress site you have:

Did you sign up for a free blog on WordPress.com? If so, WordPress automatically includes mobile-friendly themes. You’re good to go.

Did you install software on your own self-hosted site? (Using WordPress.org.) If so, you’ll have to check to ensure your theme is responsive. Not all themes are.

  • First, go into your Admin panel.
  • Go to Appearance > Themes.
  • Usually you’ll see options for mobile devices here. if you don’t, check to see if you’ve updated to the most recent version of the theme. If your theme is up to date and you’re still not seeing mobile options, you may have to download a new theme. Browse themes with the “responsive layout” tag.
  • Check Google’s guide here for more detailed information, as well as links to WordPress resources.

If you use Blogger, then you don’t have to worry.

Blogger is operated by Google, so all the themes are already equipped with mobile-friendly options. If your theme isn’t mobile friendly yet, all you have to do is:

  • Go into your layout tab.
  • Select the gear icon under the “mobile” section.
  • Choose the way you want your mobile layout to look.

If you’re still having problems, Google has a tutorial with photos and more detailed instructions here.

Done all of that? Now do a final check to see if your site is mobile friendly.

After you’ve made sure your site can respond to mobile browsers and the theme is easily readable and loadable by these devices, you can check to see if your site is indeed mobile-friendly using Google’s very own tool–and it’s completely free! It only takes a few minutes of your time and it’s incredibly simple to use–just enter the URL of the site you want to check and press the “analyze” button.

If you get results that tell you your site isn’t exactly up to snuff, don’t worry. It’ll show you a mockup of how your site will appear on mobile screens so you can see just how much work needs to be done. There will also be a checklist of things you need to improve. You can then keep notes for your developer or attempt to fix them on your own, if you’re up to the challenge. (We would not recommend this if you are not familiar with coding. But if you have a WordPress or Blogger site as mentioned above, then you’ll have a much easier time with it.)

Remember, you have until April 21st, 2015 to get your site mobile-ready. Don’t wait until the last minute! Best of luck to you!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.