Why 2015 is The Year of Mobile Marketing

Late last year, we talked about marketing trends that would play a big role in 2015. While there were a lot of different things that looked promising, one of the most important trends we discussed was e-commerce.

What exactly can we expect from e-commerce this year? Well, simply put, more people will be shopping online. In the past, online shopping meant sitting down at home in front of your computer and ordering everything from your office. And while that’s definitely one way you can still enjoy shopping online, the rise of smart phones and tablets has made it so that you can also shop pretty much anywhere else–on the train, over your lunch break, or wherever you have a wi-fi connection. And with all that online retail space just waiting to be utilized by other devices, marketers are now beginning to plan their strategies to get the most out of mobile advertising.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why 2015 will be the year of mobile marketing, and why it’s so important for companies (even small local businesses!) to get on board with the idea of advertising for mobile users.

The Internet of Things Is a … Thing now.

As we mentioned above, it’s not just computers connected to the internet anymore. Ever heard of the “internet of things”? Well, as silly as it sounds, it’s definitely a “thing” now. The IoT includes wearable devices, tablets, and mobile phones, and it’s only going to get bigger in the years to come.

In fact, it’s expected that there will be a 30% jump in the number of internet-connected objects in use by the end of 2015. So if you’re not already reaching people via mobile, you should really consider how to approach the process. Your company can still jump in early at this point, so there’s a lot of room for trial and error before everyone starts saturating the market–particularly for small businesses.

You might be wondering, then, how you go about supporting mobile devices. Well, here’s some good news for you:

Mobile marketing isn’t about being fancy.

At the most basic level, marketers are looking to design their websites to be mobile friendly. They want users to have a positive experience when shopping on their website–and that’s probably something that sounds pretty obvious to you, right?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that there are still many sites out there that aren’t utilizing mobile-friendly designs. So one of the biggest concerns for marketers this year should be ensuring that their sites can be easily accessed and navigated by all devices–not just your standard desktop or laptop computers.

Mobile users generally don’t want any fancy graphics or auto-loading videos or songs. They want to access the site and navigate it using just a few taps or swipes. So don’t go overboard with your mobile-friendly design–just get back to basics and make it simple.

When you do this, you’re going to get people to spend more money. And that’s good, because…

Mobile users want to spend, spend spend.

Yep, it’s true: Mobile users are ready to buy things. E-commerce is exploding: Just check out these stats from the holidays in 2014. People wanted to do their holiday shopping online, and they wanted to do it on their schedule. If your customers are demanding these services, it’s your job to deliver them! As mentioned above, mobile marketing is only going to become more important in the coming years. Smart phones are going to get smarter, tablets are going to become more popular, and wearable technologies such as watches will be able to access the web, too. If you get in now, you’re going to hit the ground running. If you wait too long, the market will be saturated and you’ll have more competition.

And if you’re still not convinced about the necessity of mobile marketing, then pay attention to what’s going on in the SEO world:

When all else fails, listen to Google.

So you’ve read this far. You’ve learned that mobile users are looking to spend money, and that it really isn’t that difficult to make a mobile-friendly site.

But if you’re still on the fence about how popular mobile marketing will become, then listen to this: Google has announced a new mobile-friendly label in its search results pages on mobile devices.

“So what?” you ask.

Well, they also said that it would be a ranking factor. That means that sites that aren’t responsive for mobile devices will end up being pushed down the results by the sites that have done their research. In other words, that means sites that are slow to jump on board are really going to pay in the long run. And because Google is still the most-used search engine, can you really afford to not listen to their suggestions? (The answer is no. No, you can’t.)

So whether you’ve already looked into mobile marketing or you haven’t even considered the possibility, one thing remains clear: 2015 is the year of mobile marketing, and it’s a great time to get your feet wet. You have time for trial and error, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll be in before all the rest!

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 see how we can help you be seen online.

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The 10 Biggest Small Business SEO Blunders

1. You’re not optimizing your local search listings.

Are you listed on directory sites like Yelp, FourSquare, and Merchant Circle? If you’re not, this could be hurting your rankings. If you are listed across these sites but still aren’t seeing any boost in rakings, you will want to check to make sure you have listed all your information consistently. Check to ensure your business address, phone number, and website are all spelled correctly and don’t contain any unnecessary variation in syntax.

For example, if your address is “1234 Olive Branch Drive”, make sure every listing reads exactly like that. “1234 Olivebranch Drive” or “12 34 Olive branch dr” are both different listings!

Furthermore, if you find that you have duplicate listings, make sure you claim ONE and delete the duplicates, as this could be confusing people who are searching for your business.

2. You’re trying to rank for broad keywords.

If you’re in a small area, you might be able to rank for the keyword “plumber.” But if you’re in a bigger city, chances are that there are a lot of other plumbers working there with you. That means you have a lot of competition when people are searching locally!

So what can you do to improve this situation? Well, you might want to try linking for more specific keywords. For example, instead of “Cleveland plumber”, you might want to try “Cleveland plumber residential septic”. This way, you can rank for more specific keywords–and these are far more likely to get you ranking than something that’s too simple.

3. Using the same anchor text over and over.

You’ve probably heard something about keyword density before–something like “you must have 2-5% keyword density in your article to make it visible to search engines.” And you’ve more than likely also heard that you should use anchor text on your links so that you can target specific keywords.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

First of all, the keyword density thing is long-outdated. Google is smart–over the years, the search engine has learned to look for different variations on the same phrase. So that means that if you link to one page using the exact same anchor text over and over again, search engines (or even your visitors!) might think you’re trying something fishy. A good rule of thumb for you to remember is that if it looks spammy to you, it’s going to look spammy to your readers–and to the search engines. So regardless of what you’ve read about keyword density and repeating anchor text, following this practice is not going to help you in the long run.

So what should you do? Creating high-quality content that contains your keywords and key phrases is the best bet. Don’t stuff your keywords in or worry about using them in a bizarre way (such as our “Cleveland plumber residential septic” example–how would you fit that into a natural-sounding sentence?). Just write organically about your topic and you’ll be fine.

 4. Using subpar content.

Did you hire someone to write your content for you or did you write your content yourself? If you hired someone else to write it, did you check their credentials and make sure that their work is easy to read? Or does it come off a bit unprofessional, with misspellings or poor grammar? If you did the work yourself, do you feel confident in your ability to write good content, or do you feel a little embarrassed of the work you put up?

If something seems off about your content, we have some bad news for you: Your readers will probably notice too. If your content doesn’t read well or is perceived as untrustworthy, you’re destined to stay buried under your competitors.

So if you feel confident about your writing skills, go ahead and post fresh content on your pages; just make sure that you edit your work before you post it.

If you don’t feel confident and choose to hire a writer, make sure you select a candidate who actually has quality work in his or her portfolio! Don’t just hire the “cheapest” writer because you want to save money.

Always remember that quality is key when it comes to content. No exceptions.

5. Focusing too much on getting links vs. creating content.

Most people who are just getting into SEO learn very quickly how important backlinks are.

And before you get all up in arms, we’ll make it perfectly clear that we’re NOT saying backlinks aren’t important.

K. With that out of the way, if you focus too heavily on getting links to your site, but don’t bother creating a good site, you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot. You need a reason for your readers to want to return–a reason for them to trust you and your work. If you just get a bunch of people linking to a boring landing page, you’re not going to gain much for all your effort.

So while reaching out to other sites and building links is important, don’t forget to make your website spectacular, too!

6. Not using meta tags or descriptions.

Meta tags and descriptions help search engines categorize and cache your site. If a search engine can’t find any pertinent information, it’s not going to know how to place your site–and it won’t see it as “relevant”. That’s why you have to make sure to include meta tags and proper descriptions in every page’s header.

This probably seems like too much work or like it’s too complicated, especially if you’re an SEO beginner. But it doesn’t have to be. If you host your site on WordPress, you can get a plug-in that helps you fill in all this important information. Try Yoast or All-in-One SEO. In just a few minutes, you can easily fill in keywords and descriptions that make your site attractive to search engines–no coding required.

If you’re not on WordPress, you might have a tougher time with this, but you can read more about the usage of meta tags and descriptions here.

7. Not bothering with Google Analytics.

Have you signed up for Google Analytics? If not, you’re missing out on a lot of important data–data that can tell you just about everything you need to know about your site’s visitors.

When you use analytics, you gain access to insider knowledge: Who is visiting your site the most? Where are they from? Which pages are they visiting–and how long are they staying on each page? By learning a bit about the basics of Google Analytics, you can figure out what is and what isn’t working for your site. Once you have a basic idea of where your strengths lie, you can begin to provide more content that your visitors crave, and in turn, make a more focused plan of how you will update in the months to come.

Now that’s a good way of growing your readership, and a great way to nab some true fans.

8. Ignoring social media integration.

So let’s say you have your website set up and it looks great. You update your blog regularly. You even have a photo gallery dedicated to your company’s stellar products and services. But do you have a way for your visitors to connect with you via social media?

Social media is a huge part of marketing nowadays. If people can’t find your company on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you might be selling yourself short–think of all those fans you could be missing out on. Be sure to make it crystal clear to your visitors how they can connect with you on social media.

And if you haven’t signed up yet, we’ve got some news for you: you’d better get crackin’ on that. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with your clients and customers simply because you’re too frightened of change or because you think you don’t have enough time to learn social media. It’s well worth it, we promise.

9. Forgetting to update your blog or post new content.

How many times have you told yourself that you were going to update your blog once a week–and then you wrote one post and forgot to update for a month?

Or, have you told yourself that you don’t care about updating a blog–you put up a website a few years ago and it’s good enough, right?

Well, that’s just no good. If you want to be found by the search engines, you have to make sure you look relevant. If you were searching for, say, a local veterinarian, and the website the search engines pulled up looked like it hadn’t been updated in 12 years, would you choose to call that vet or find another one? You’d probably head to another vet, right?

That’s exactly what Google tries to avoid. It wants to create the best experience for its users, so it will devalue your site if  it doesn’t deliver fresh, relevant content. So whether you choose to blog or you just update your site’s existing content regularly, the key is to make sure you create some new data for the search engines to gobble up.

10. Thinking SEO is just a set-it-and-forget-it strategy.

So you’ve hired an SEO to go over your site and make sure it’s search-engine ready. You’ve paid them–probably a decent amount–and now you’re good to go, right?

Unfortunately, no. SEO best practices change all the time. Search engine algorithms constantly change, and what that means is what is a-okay today might not be tomorrow. Obviously, such drastic changes aren’t occurring that frequently, but every once in a while a big update will throw a wrench into rankings, sending previously-optimized sites crashing into the depths of the search engine result pages. It’s for this reason that you should keep an SEO expert available to monitor your site and make the necessary changes. After all, they keep up with the industry and it is their job to make sure their clients see results.

And hey, on that note, that’s what we do.

So if you’re looking for help with any of this, just drop us a line and let us know.

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 see how we can help you be seen online.

Back to Basics #22: Small Business Marketing for Local Storefronts

SMALL BUSINESSMARKETINGFOR LOCAL STORES

Here at Internet Local Listings, we focus on helping our small business clients with all of their online marketing needs—social media, websites, and managing local listings for a variety of business directories. This is an important part of your small business marketing plan, because being seen online is integral to your success as a business in the modern marketplace. And, as you know, it can be a bit confusing and time-consuming to handle all this on your own. Having help is a great asset in this case.

However, what we aren’t able to help with is the management of your storefront. That might sound obvious, but an important aspect of small business marketing that many people overlook is the effect that a storefront’s appearance can have on a customer. You already know that first impressions matter when you’re on a job interview or first date, and the same can be said of a customer’s first visit to your business—a store’s appearance can have tremendous influence over whether a person chooses to return or not. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how appearance can affect a customer’s decision to purchase or leave, as well as how keeping your store beautiful can help create more online interactions and engagement.

A Storefront’s Appearance Matters.

According to a study done at Retail Customer Experience, more than two-thirds of the surveyed group had avoided a store simply because the storefront was unattractive, outdated, or dirty. Although it might be a bit difficult to make a building look newer than it is (particularly if you share the building with other offices and have no control over renovations), it’s always possible to keep the inside of your store looking neat and tidy.

pretty-store
Keeping your storefront neat and clean is one great way to impress customers.

Image from I Loved New York.com

Keep the Place Smelling Fresh.

Aside from keeping your store’s appearance tidy and clean, you’re going to want to make sure it smells okay. This might seem as obvious as keeping it clean, but if you’re, say, a car mechanic and you’re used to the smell of oil, you might not realize how off-putting it can be to some people. While you obviously can’t control the smell of the vehicles you’re working on in your shop, you can control the smells in the lobby. Brew some fresh coffee. Set up snacks. Keep everything wiped down and clean; keep the doors to the shop closed to prevent extra noise and smells sneaking in. Finally, you may want to use this as an opportunity to promote some great-smelling air fresheners!

This goes for any industry, however. Even if you run a bookstore (and many people love the smell of books), make sure that everything is clean without overdoing it on the “chemical” smell.

The “First Ten Feet” Rule.

According to Rick Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies, you must offer a price-sensitive incentive for customers to continue shopping within the first 10 feet of the door. For example, this could be a special offer you’re running, a promotion for your store’s top-selling product, or even a poster board offering information on local community events. Whether you’re in the business of selling auto parts or you offer home cleaning services, you can always find some related community events or classes that would appeal to your clientele. Don’t be afraid to get creative—have some of your customers asked questions about the availability of a specific product? Have they asked where you could learn more about your business? Maybe they just simply get lost on the way to the bathroom! Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and at home in your store, and they’ll be likely to remain long enough to explore. Plus, you may just earn yourself a repeat customer!

clean-store
Clean stores with nicely-arranged displays entice customers to stay and shop!

Maintain Your Store’s Fixtures.

Sometimes your store is clean, your employees are welcoming, and the place is set up to draw the customers in—but people just aren’t staying. You’re confused and you’re wondering what could be going wrong.

  • Take a step back from your store. Walk into it again as if it were the first time you’d ever set foot in it. Now, you’re probably so used to it that this will be difficult for you, but try really hard to place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Here are some key things to look for:
  • Are your displays are neatly arranged? Do they look up-to-date? An old, faded poster or a messy stack of “clearance” products might make your store look disorganized.
  • Do the lights seem too dim or too bright? If they’re too dim, it might make your store look unwelcoming or shady—which is, naturally, off-putting to customers. If your lights are too bright, it can make customers feel uncomfortable, too, because who wants to feel like they need to wear sunglasses inside of a store?

Finally, make sure your staff is friendly and welcoming.

Make sure there’s always a manager or knowledgeable person available to answer your customer’s questions. And of course, ensure everyone looks his or her best to keep with the professional appearance you’ve worked so hard to instill in your store.

The wonderful part of keeping your storefront clean and inviting is that it will cross over into the online realm. People will be happy to leave you positive reviews. They’ll want to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to see what your new specials are. They’ll refer friends and family. Remember that this is all part of the bigger picture–getting the word out about your fantastic business!

welcoming-customers
Welcome your customers and make them feel at home! Maybe don’t dress as Dracula, though.

Small business marketing is complex. It’s a mixture of online finesse as well as a little bit of good, old-fashioned business skills. While the marketing experts at Internet Local Listings can help you with the internet marketing part of the equation, we can only offer tips for the local aspect of it! We hope you’ve found these helpful!

If you have any tips or suggestions, leave them in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe for regular updates from our small business marketing blog.

Back to Basics #20: How to Build a PR Strategy as a Local Business

how-to-build-a-pr-strategy-as-a-small-business

 

An important part of running your small business is to make sure that you have a strong PR strategy in place. PR stands for public relations, and it is an integral part of defining your target market and reaching them in a positive and effective manner. It’s impossible nowadays to run a business and a marketing campaign without considering your approach to PR as well.

If you’re new to the idea of public relations, no worries! In this post, we’ll talk about some of the basics that you can do to help improve your presence and positive image in your community.

Define Your Audience.

There’s no use in trying to market to anyone if you can’t decide who to market to. Think about it: If you own a retirement community and you’re looking to appeal to new residents, sending out advertisements to college students isn’t going to help you very much. This is why you need to define your audience before you begin. Once you have that figured out, you can move on to planning your strategy.

To get started on this, you can take a look at who is already visiting your page using a Google Analytics account. You can find the basics of how to set up an account here. Once you have determined who is interested in your site, you can easily start sorting out your marketing methods to appeal to those demographics.

doing-online-research

Get Online.

With your new audience in mind, go to where they hang out. The easiest way will be to reach them online, although depending on your audience, you may still be able to reach people by cold calling or newspaper advertisements. But for many of us, our audience is online, just waiting to be found!

Consider your brand identity when going online, too. Your company will be associated with your positive image. How will you help your customers remember you? How will you stand out in the crowd? Work this into your campaign. When you’re updating social media, keep a clear and consistent voice. Don’t talk about personal things or your opinions on the latest political argument. Keep your words professional—nothing can ever be scrubbed completely from the internet. Don’t fall into the trap of getting confrontational or controversial!

Find Opportunities to be Seen in the Community.

For local businesses, an integral part of success is being seen in the community. Whether you’re a new business or you’ve been around for 40 years, you need to be active, visible, and a positive force in your community. People love connecting with local business owners. And if you leave a positive impression on them, you can bet that they’ll remember you the next time they’re looking for someone who provides your products and services!

A great way to do this is to look for ways to volunteer. Whether you want to donate food to a shelter or donate some money to a cause you believe in, any step toward charitable giving is a positive one. You can take part in local festivals and events by offering coupons to guests, or you can even set up raffles so you can get people excited about interacting with you. Or you could simply help out the community around the holidays, whether you’re involved with a parade or a school fundraiser. There are tons of ways to get involved, so get creative!

Find Speaking Opportunities.

Almost everyone hates public speaking. But if you get over your fears long enough to do get up in front of a crowd, you can generate some great exposure for your business. Is there a trade show or conference going on in your town? Look into becoming a speaker for the event—you could be on a panel or even nominate yourself to be the keynote speaker if you feel you have the chops!

Be forewarned, however, that these endeavors take a lot of preparation. Furthermore, you’ll have to plan for these events because many are scheduled months ahead of time. But if you do your research and come prepared, you’ll find that the results you get can be fantastic.

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Pitch Your Story.

Did you know that journalists can be reached through social media? Before, you might have had to call them up, fax them, or email them. But today, journalists contribute to blogs, have social media accounts, and network with other journalists. This creates a number of free opportunities for you to reach out and contact them. Comment on their Facebook posts. Track them down on Twitter and engage them in conversation. Find blogs they contribute to so that you know and understand their work. If they’re looking for stories that you think they could use in a story, reach out and give them your ideas. It helps to have a kind of “press release” prepared beforehand so that you can give them what they need with little turnaround–you need to remember that they’re very busy and often get pitched to many times a day. Keep in contact with them and they’ll be more likely to remember you the next time they’re doing a story in a similar vein.

Decide On Your Best Approach.

Okay, maybe none of these things appealed to you. Maybe you’re more about writing things on your own. Or maybe you prefer radio to seminars. There are a number of ways that you can get in contact with the public, and the great thing is that they’re all still very effective ways of boosting your presence. You may want to try:

  • Writing your own press releases, articles, or even letters to your local newspaper editor.
  • Writing an ebook to appeal to your customers—“how to” tips tend to work well.
  • Volunteering at or sponsoring an event.
  • Signing up to speak at a seminar or convention—or you could even take part in an online webinar!
  • Do press conferences, offer to be on a radio program, or see if you can land a spot on your local evening news.
  • Put together testimonials, positive reviews, and success stories to keep on hand whenever you appear in public. People love inspiring stories and knowing that you’re reputable, too!

With these tips, you can decide how you want to approach your PR campaign and which options work the best for your vision. All of these tips are free or low-cost—it all depends on how much work you want to put into it on your own vs. hiring a PR consultant.

Do you have any other tips on how to build a PR strategy as a local business? Let us know in the comments!

Back to Basics #10: 3 Things You Need to Know About Local Marketing for Small Businesses

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What are the most important things to know about local marketing?

Welcome back to another Back to Basics post! In this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few simple things small businesses need to know about local marketing success.

When a brand is competing on a local level, it doesn’t need to focus on the same things that a national brand does. This much is probably obvious, but let’s go over an example to make sure everything is clear. So let’s say you’re an auto repair mechanic working in Wheelsville. (Hey, it could happen.) When people search for an auto mechanic, they might just type in “auto mechanic”–a simple, straight-forward query. Google is smart enough that they’ll bring up nearby results based on the searcher’s location, which could be one of a few cities in the area. But if the searcher is in a particularly small area or needs to find a service in a very specific location, they might type in “mechanic in Wheelsville,” and this time, Google will bring up all the most relevant results specific to Wheelsville.

What does this mean for you?

Simple: You need your address and listing optimized in order to get the best placement on search engine result pages. And to help you do this, here are 3 things you need to know about local marketing for small businesses—and they’re easier to get the hang of than you think!

3 Tips for Local Marketing Success!

1. Check and cross-check listings for accuracy. You won’t believe the number of business owners who are completely unaware of the status of their listings. Thousands and thousands of unclaimed listings exist on the internet—from listings on popular sites such as Google Places, to directories you’ve never even heard of (but that should still be used correctly). Use our scanner here to see if your site is listed correctly. (We promise, it won’t bite. Or lead you to a scary abyss.)

2. Local marketing is all about reviews. So get them from as many customers as possible! Offer an incentive for those who want to leave a kind review—a coupon, a complimentary treat, or a free tune-up. Whatever you feel you can offer to a customer for a review is a great way to get them to participate. Search engines derive relevancy from fresh content. For local businesses, some of the best signals you can give to the search engines are great ratings for your locally-listed business. Not to mention, when other customers stop by and read your ratings and reviews, they’ll be pleased with what they find, and of course, enticed to stop in and experience it for themselves.

3. The people who understand local marketing the best are the people who connect with customers. How can you easily (and cheaply) do this? You can pick a few social media sites to join and update regularly. By connecting with your customers via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform of your choice, you can be sure that customers will always be able to find you. This way, when people search for your business online, they’ll have a good chance of finding your social media sites as well. Basically, the more places you’re listed, the better—people will find you instead of your competitors.

What if you don’t have the time to invest in learning or implementing local marketing techniques?

Now, none of this information is particularly ground-breaking. It’s not going to shoot you to the top of the search results overnight. What it will do is give you a great head-start on local marketing for your small business. The sooner you get your business listed consistently, get your customers reviewing your business, and get started connecting with customers via social media, the better.

However, we understand that many small business owners don’t have the time to invest in local marketing strategies. If you’ve read through this article and decided it simply seems like it’s going to take too much of your valuable time, we hear you. Internet Local Listings has over 50 years of combined experience helping small businesses succeed at local marketing. If you feel that you need a helping hand, check out our affordable packages and join thousands of our other satisfied clients across the US and Canada!

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