Marketing in the Digital Age vs Traditional Marketing

Ah, marketing. It’s always been a confusing process. Learning how and when and where to spend your money, learning what your audience responds to and what repels them–it’s all complicated stuff once you really get down to it. And in the past, trying to reach newspapers, television stations, and writing old-fashioned press releases was time-consuming and difficult, making the entire concept seem impossible for many small businesses.

Nowadays, we keep hearing about how much easier it is to do marketing–you can do it from home because it’s all online. So you research how to write a press release online. You wonder if you could write an interesting blog. You hear about how people interview for jobs over Skype. But are these really just as effective as the marketing techniques of the past?

Let’s compare the modern equivalents of some of the older marketing strategies. You might find that they’re easier to understand than you thought–and that they’re much more approachable than they appear to be.

*Note: Of course the “old” methods can still be effective for certain industries and in smaller towns. However, we’re focusing on highlighting the differences between the traditional and the modern so that readers can appreciate the benefits of modern online marketing.

Old Way: Newspapers.

old-newspaper-ad
All the Planet of the Apes toys you could want.

Original image from PlaidStallions.com

Before, people used to pay to take out a spot in the classifieds. Depending on how much room you needed, the price could be pretty hefty. You might also have considered paying for placement in the Yellow Pages or in a local magazine. But no matter what you chose, your space was limited, and you could only rely on grayscale to represent your amazing products and services. In other words, you had to be over the top and obvious to make sure your point hit home. Thus, you ended up with a lot of cheesy ads like this one for Planet of the Apes toys. It gets its point across, but it looks dated, right?

Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are reading print newspapers. So what are people reading instead?

New Way: Blogs.

blogging-for-marketing
Who doesn’t have a blog these days?

To answer that question, people are reading blogs.

Today, many people choose to make their own space online. They want to share their original and personal experiences with readers and customers. And one great way to do this is to start a blog. Whether you want to write about the benefits of your industry in a sales-like manner, or you want to review and/or highlight new products used by industry professionals, blogs are an affordable way to do it. Plus, you can always write guest posts on other blogs and earn yourself a nice advertising spot without paying an exorbitant price. How’s that for the new Classifieds?

Old Way: Press Releases.

old-press-release
Typing up a press release by hand and getting it printed required a lot more effort than the syndicated press releases of today.

Image found at Zagato-Cars.com

Before the age of the internet, the process of writing a press release was a lot slower. First, it had to be hand-typed. Then it had to make its way to television stations, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers via mail or fax, depending on how far back we’re talking. Then it had to be approved and printed up or featured, and that could take a while. Honestly, it seems incredible, given the technology we have today, that these press releases were even featured in a timely manner.

To be clear, we still use press releases today. It’s just that you can now write them up without paper, and you can email them instead of mailing or faxing. People can then distribute them quickly using syndication software, and voila, you’re done. Much faster and much simpler.

New Way: Social Media Marketing.

social-media-marketing
So many social media networks to choose from.

If you don’t feel like writing up press releases today, there are still other ways to get the word out about your company. As mentioned above, you could blog or guest blog. You could also start a podcast or try being featured on a webcast.

But none of this really does any good if you don’t let people know about your work. So in order to effectively market your business, you must use social media. You can send your blog updates through all your social media feeds automatically so that whenever you post, your Facebook fans and Twitter followers will see it immediately. Now that’s fast. And you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get your information featured elsewhere. Not everyone needs press releases!

Old Way: Telephone Interviews and Client Dinners.

betty-dinner-party
A little corporate dinner party a la Mad Men.

And we’re not just talking about interviews on cell phones. No, we’re going back to the days of interviewing people via office telephones. Taking people out for dinner for a face-to-face discussion was common, and a lot more time had to be put aside to interview somebody. When you were finished, you had to take notes that you wrote down by hand (or just cold-recalled from memory) to write up a piece that did well. Of course, recorders could be used to gather your information, too, but then you’d have to arrange for a quiet place to meet.

Analog technology. Can you imagine going back to it now?

New Way: Skype Sessions. And Client Dinners.

skype-call
A lot easier than going into the office.

 Image found at: Memeburn.com

Of course people still do all the above-mentioned things, but the advances in technology have allowed for a lot more personal interactions via calls. For example, you can Skype with someone and see how they look and how they present themselves. You can speak via FaceTime if you’re on the go, or you could try Google Hangouts or Webinars.

And, okay, so people still love an excuse to go out and eat. Who can blame them? This one is probably going to stick around forever.

Old Way: TV Spots and Appearances.

budget-divorce
And who wouldn’t trust a budget divorce lawyer?

Before the internet, how could a company get the word out about its services? Well, TV spots and appearances were always a good way to make sure you were seen. Back before the days of cable and TiVo, TV watching was a bit different. Not as many channels to choose from, and you didn’t really have a lot of choice in skipping commercials. While we still see local adverts today, they were much more effective when the audience was roped into watching them. Or you could be featured on your local news station. Being featured assured that a lot of eyes were on you, though, so you had to make a good impression!

New Way: YouTube Channel, Instagram.

youtube-marketing
You, too, can have a YouTube channel. Now don’t get discouraged by all the cats with more subscribers than you.

Image from Mashable.com

The internet loves videos. Well, you probably already know this–did you watch any videos today? We’re betting you did. Whether you’re keeping up with world news or just mindlessly scrolling through funny Vines, you more than likely understand just how evocative and powerful video marketing can be–even if you’re not entirely familiar with the ins and outs of marketing.

So how can you utilize video marketing for your business? For those who like to-do videos or showcasing their talents, YouTube is a great way to reach your customers. For others who don’t have as much time to invest, Instagram might be a good choice (although Instagram is known for its focus on aesthetics over function). Vine is also a great way to connect–and with only six seconds to record your video, you have to be creative. It all depends on the style of your brand and how much time and energy you have to invest.

The best part about online video marketing? It’s free. No paying for television spots or expensive production. Just try your best and connect with your audience for the best results!

Old Way: Word of Mouth. New Way:…Word of Mouth.

Some things never change. 🙂 If you don’t believe us, check out this article on how word of mouth is still effective–even in the age of digital marketing. You can also check out more information on social media marketing here, or take a peek at the benefits of video content or get familiar with mobile marketing.

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.

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.

10 Ways to Rock Your Small Business Blog

1. Put social media connections in a sidebar.

Have you ever visited a blog with a sidebar—you know, the thing that loads on either the left or right hand side of the screen and usually contains links or advertisements?

Well, if you have, you probably noticed that those sidebars usually contain information about pertinent things: Other blogs, affiliate links, popular articles, and of course, social media profiles.

Make it easy for your customers and clients to connect with you across all your social media platforms by installing a sidebar on your blog. For WordPress, most themes support it. For Blogger, it’s built right in. Make good use of that real estate!

2. Offer helpful advice.

Don’t just try to sell your readers your services. No one likes a hard sales pitch, and no one wants to slog through an entire post just to see that you’re selling them something.

Instead, why don’t you offer advice to your readers? For example, if you sell and install gutters, you could put together a post detailing the proper care of gutters for all seasons. Or you could walk customers through the different kinds of gutters and which ones work best with different kinds of homes.

By offering advice, you won’t come off as pushy or desperate. You can add a soft pitch to your posts by saying that you’re available to help with any problems the reader might be having, and leave your contact information. Make sure you also have your contact information listed on the rest of your site, too–readers should be able to quickly find what they need no matter where they are.

3. Link to your own articles.

Did you know that linking to your own articles can help send more positive ranking signals to Google? If you’ve written a number of posts already, then you’ll have plenty of relevant information om your site that you can refer your readers to. Going back to our example, the gutter supplier, you might have written one post about the importance of cleaning your gutters before the snow falls, and you might have written another about maintaining your gutters throughout the winter. You could definitely find space in one article to link to the other, and vice versa. This will keep visitors on your site longer, too!

4. Include good images—not just generic stock photos.

Have you ever read a blog where the photos are just generic, boring stock images? Does it help you remember that site or feel like it really connects with you?

Probably not. The point of including images in your posts is to enhance the reader’s experience—to break up text and to create a visual guide for the content they’re taking in. If you just include boring, run-of-the-mill stock pictures, it’s not going to be very attention-grabbing. So get out there and find exciting photos to include, or, if you’re artistic (or if you employ an artistic and willing employee), you might even want to create your own one-of-a-kind graphics!

5. Get competitive.

Yes, that’s right: Contests. If you put up a blog post asking people to participate in a contest, your readers will be happy to comment and share. You can then cross-post it to social media accounts and ask your fans to share there, too. Contests can be simple to design—like asking people to caption a photo, for example—or they can be a bit more complex, such as asking people to submit a creation of their own (photo, writing, design, etc).

Then, as a reward, you’ll want to give away a prize like a coupon, “buy one get one free”, a free estimate for your services, or gift cards to your store. Whatever you think is a good incentive for your company!

6. Want feedback? Set up a poll.

If you want to get some feedback about the quality of your services, the appearance of your website, or the appeal of the sale you’re currently running, a great way to do so is to set up a poll. You can get plug-ins on WordPress to do this easily. The beauty of a poll vs asking for direct feedback is that people are much more likely to be honest when the results are anonymous. So you’ll probably have more participants, and you’ll more than likely end up with more accurate responses!

7. Make sure you have a sitemap.

If you haven’t already, you should make sure that your blog contains a clear sitemap for Google to crawl. Basically, what this means is that Google robots can find their way around your page more easily, making it more likely that your page will rank.

Every once in a while, it’s nice to submit a new sitemap to Google, especially if you’ve done a lot of rearranging on your site, or if you produce content regularly (which you should be doing!)

If you need help doing this, here’s a handy guide.

8. Update your blog frequently—even with just some quick news.

Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with regular blog post ideas. Whether the creative juice isn’t flowing or you’re just plain not interested in writing, it can be difficult to consistently come up with great blog posts for your readers. And that’s okay. All of us suffer from writer’s block from time to time, and there’s really no way around it. You just have to come up with something–anything–that you can talk about to keep the attention of your readers. You could even post a little “hello” and update everyone on your plan to unveil a new product. Whatever works!

Oh, and if you’re really struggling to come up with topics, we have an article to help you brainstorm some killer blog post ideas right here.

9. Show off your latest work.

Do you have a photo gallery that hasn’t been updated in the last year and a half? Well, it’s probably time to change that. Go in and add photos of things you’re proud of–if you’re a roofer, for example, ask customers to share photos of the work that you did. You can then put it up in a gallery for your visitors to browse. If you’re a person who provides artistic services (like web design or photography), this is a must-have. Don’t be shy–you should be proud of your hard work!

10. Reach out to others in your industry.

If you’re serious about marketing your business, a great way to get more eyes on your small business blog is to reach out to industry professionals and ask for their opinions. Ask them to share tips and tricks. Share their articles with your readers. Try doing an interview, or ask someone if you can do a guest post on their blog. There are a number of ways you can network, and just as networking in person, networking online takes effort and finesse. When you hobnob with some of the well-known names… well, you’ve just bought yourself more traffic and more credibility.

Good luck with your small business blogging endeavors!

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.

Why Social Media Will Change the Way You Do Business

During a discussion with a friend, the topic of Twitter came up. He didn’t understand why it was such a big deal–in fact, he seemed adamant that it wasn’t.

“Why would I care what anyone had for lunch?” he said. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by this, but I had an idea of where he was going with it. So I asked him to elaborate.

“Well, that’s all people ever do on Twitter. They just post stupid pictures of their food or tell you what they’re doing at that exact moment. And no one cares. At least, I don’t.”

Does this sound like you? Are you perplexed by Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest… or even social media in general? If so, you’re not alone. At first glance, social media can seem self-indulgent and pointless for businesses–it seems far too personal and maybe even banal.

But don’t judge social media too quickly. If you’re a small business owner, it’s time you learned the basics of popular social media platforms–and not because you need to know how to share a picture of that great Chinese food you just ate, but because social media will actually change the way you do business. And it’ll change it for the better, as long as you know the ropes.

One of the first things that will happen is…

You’ll realize how much more you can do online.

If there’s one thing about being online, it’s that you can go practically anywhere and do practically anything. Want to let your customers know about a new special you’re running without sending out a postcard? Now you can tell them on Facebook or Twitter, or you could opt to send them a newsletter update. Want to research new ways to get customers through your doors? You can find advice anywhere from experienced business owners–forums, other social media sites, videos on YouTube. Do you need support because you’re feeling stressed? There are tons of places you can find that. Social media is a great option for all these things.

Basically, what it boils down to is that simply being online gives you a network you don’t have access to in the physical world. By knowing where to look, you’ll realize just how much more you can do online than you ever could before.

You can work on social media even while you’re sleeping.

Yes, this is one that social media “gurus” love to trot out because it makes the job sound luxurious. The job isn’t really luxurious… more like, it’s easy to make it look that way. When you’re a small business owner and you’re looking to reach your customers during hours that your shop isn’t open, then you can take advantage of scheduling social media posts. Never before would you be able to attend to advertising and promotion at 3 am!

Another bonus to scheduling your posts is that you can reach customers who are night owls or who reside in different time zones. Obviously this is more effective for certain industries, but the point still stands: You may not physically be able to stay open 24 hours a day, but using social media for your business will allow you to always be present online.

You can interact with customers on your time–and they can interact with you on theirs.

Because your social media profiles are always available, customers can leave you feedback whenever they want. In today’s increasingly-busy world, that’s an important thing. On the flip side, you can also respond to them when you have the chance. If you like checking your social media from home at night, you can take care of the day’s questions and comments before winking out. You wouldn’t be able to do that otherwise!

It’s important to note, too, that many people prefer to contact someone via text or a quick private message than a phone call. This allows them to get important information they need while at work or when otherwise occupied, so it’s important that you take these demands into consideration when running your social media sites. Let your customers contact you in the ways they prefer!

You can put forth a different persona.

Obviously your customers are going to want to see your brand be authentic. And you’re not going to want to treat your business page as you would a personal one. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be super formal when you’re on social media! You can blog about useful topics, but you don’t have to present it like a term paper. You can update your Facebook with company news, but keep it fun and casual. When you’re using social media for your business, you’re not advertising in the traditional way. You are free to be more… well, yourself. And isn’t that a great thing to be?

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 #11: 5 Small Business Marketing Ideas Anyone Can Do

small business marketing ideas
If you’re looking for small business marketing ideas, don’t fret–there are plenty of affordable ways to go about it.

Small business marketing is a tricky thing to get the hang of: Small business owners often struggle knowing when or how often to post updates on social media; what to post about or how to gather content ideas; or even when to start blogging or how to connect with potential readers. It can be overwhelming, to be sure, especially when you are strapped for time and have a limited budget. So in this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few small business marketing ideas that anyone can do easily and cheaply—whether you’re completely new to online advertising or you’ve been trying your hand at it for a while and just aren’t seeing the results that you want.

  1. Develop a PR Strategy. As this article from Entrepreneur suggests, it’s important for all companies, particularly small businesses, to make sure that they have a PR strategy in place. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a large budget or spend a ton of time on it—in fact, small businesses can implement great PR campaigns into their social media strategies. Take the Kleenex example cited in the article: In 2011, Kleenex searched Facebook to find fifty people who posted about being sick. After getting into contact with friends and family members, they sent care packages to the ailing cold-sufferers. The recipients were so pleased that they posted happy pictures of their care packages. Great PR and usage of social media in one shot—and a very cheap maneuver.
  2. Start a podcast. Have you ever subscribed to a podcast? They’re great to listen to on the commute to work or in the morning while getting ready to head out for the day. And they’re also easy to make! As Inc.com suggests, you might want to try interviewing other business owners for their point of view on marketing or advertising. Or maybe you’d like to put together a podcast series of how-to’s—for example, plumbers or electrical contractors do very well with these types of podcasts. You can teach people how to do things they want to learn more about, while still drawing attention to your company. It’s a win-win situation!
  3. Forget advertising like the big brand names. While it’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from popular advertising campaigns, you have to remember who the big companies are marketing to. They can reach far more people than you are able to, and they have the budget to pull it off. Don’t waste your time trying to dissect everything a large company does—instead, focus on how you can connect with your local customers in the best way possible. You could try hosting a photo captioning contest on Facebook where the winner gets a coupon. You could try running a “special offer” for a day if one of your tweets gets 50 retweets. Maybe sending out a postcard to your loyal customers is a good idea. Think about these types of marketing techniques and choose one that works for you.
  4. Networking with other small business owners. Nowadays, you can easily network online through sites such as LinkedIn. But nothing will ever replace the face-to-face value of networking in person. To meet other people in your industry, attend local seminars. Offer to speak at colleges or other events. If there are conventions in your area, look into speaking on a panel—or if not speaking, attend and ask questions. You could even try going to a book club or submit a press release to your local newspaper. By connecting with other small business owners, you’ll be able to better navigate the local scene and make yourself a go-to brand name in the town.
  5. Claim your online listings. Believe it or not, your business could already be listed on places like Google and Bing. The problem is that you haven’t claimed the listings yet. By claiming your own listings, you let your customers know that you exist, and you provide consistent information so that no matter which search engine they use to find you, your information will always be correct. Furthermore, claiming listings helps with online rankings, and once you are listed consistently across the internet, you’ll see more traffic being driven to your site!

Want more information on small business marketing ideas? Subscribe to our posts via email, or you can also like us on Facebook, follow Follow @InternetListing on Twitter and Pinterest, and circle us on Google Plus! Let us know how Internet Local Listings can best assist you with your small business marketing needs!

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

local-marketing-for-small-businesses
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!

If you liked this post, find more news here.

Back to Basics #5: Blogging for Beginners

 

blogging-for-beginngers
It’s really not a question. You must blog.

If you’ve never heard the saying “Content is King” then you’d better get used to hearing it now! When you run your own website, the best way to keep your clients up to date and to keep the search engines happy is to post new blog articles. Frequently.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a professional writer. Maybe you’re worried that that you simply don’t have time to update a blog. While you may be correct about not having formal training in writing, it’s more than likely not true that you don’t have the time to do this. You do. You just have to break it down into small chunks. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how beginners can overcome the fear of putting their writing out there, and how they can find the time to keep updating regularly.

making-a-list-of-blog-topics
Creating a list of blog topics will save you time in the long run.

Blogging for Beginners Step 1: Create a List of Topics

Before you begin blogging, it’s a good idea to have a list of potential topics to write about. You may be tempted to just write about what you’re up to when you’re at work, or maybe something that’s going on with your family. While it’s important to keep that human connection in your posts, it’s also important to keep your customers informed of key topics relating to the services you offer. To help illustrate, let’s take a fictional business and talk about a few good topics they could use in their blog.

Sam’s Pest Control is a small, family-owned company in Anywhere, USA. They want to start a blog to connect with their customers and draw in new clients. They might want to write about things like:

  • What pest control can do for your home or business
  • How you’ll save money in the long run when you use a pest control service regularly
  • How to keep your home protected from pests
  • Innovations in humane pest control
  • How pest control services change with the seasons

And there are probably many more topics to choose from. But as you can see, by thinking outside the box, you can come up with a long list of blog topics that will keep you writing for months to come.

creating-a-blogging-schedule
Keeping a schedule is important to the success of your small business blog.

Blogging for Beginners Step 2: Create a Blogging Schedule

Continuing with our Sam’s Pest Control analogy, we’ll take a look at how to build a schedule that you can work with, even if you’re busy running your own business.

Sam works Monday through Friday, and often, he works overtime. He’s exhausted when he comes home and definitely doesn’t think he has hours to spare on blogging. He’s a business owner, not a writer—so how is he supposed to manage all of this?

It’s simpler than he thinks.

First of all, don’t worry about writing grammatically perfect posts. You can edit and use a spell checker and still make your point. Obviously you should try to edit your post so that it makes sense, but don’t presume you have to craft perfect prose to be a successful blogger for your small business.

Second, set aside 15 minutes a night. Write however much you can—a good goal to start with is 100 words. If you do this five days a week, you’ll have one 500-word post to put up by the end of your workweek. And keeping up the schedule of posting once a week is a very realistic, very achievable goal for small business owners. Whether you choose to do it after dinner or right when you get home is up to you. Just create that schedule and stick with it.

which-blog-platform-should-i-use
There are so many blogging platforms to choose from. Pick one you trust.

Blogging for Beginners Step 3: Create Your Blog

Now that you have a list of topics and a schedule you WILL stick to (we believe in you!), you can go ahead and create your blog. Some people prefer to just update with text on their website. While this can work, it makes it difficult for people to find posts as you start to amass a lot of articles.

The better choice for a small business is to sign up for a free blog at WordPress.com. You can also choose to go with other platforms like Blogger, but WordPress has a lot of support and is widely used. In our experience, it runs more smoothly and has more customization options as well.

For your blog name, try to choose something short and to the point. Remember that this is connected to your company, so you’ll want to choose something relevant; something that conveys the company image. Sam’s Pest Control is, thankfully, a short enough company name that he can probably choose that. (It will end up looking something like samspestcontrol.wordpress.com.) If you have a longer company name (something like Sparkle Power Wash and Window Shine Company) you’ll want to shorten it to something that reflects your business’s services, such as “sparklewashco.wordpress.com” to keep customers from getting confused.

blog-customization
From choosing custom colors to adding your own pictures, you’ll want to make your blog look professional.

Blogging for Beginners Step 4: Customize Your Blog

So you’ve claimed your blog and you’ve prepared lists for post ideas. Good! Now you have to customize your blog and get it set up for visitors to see.

One of the worst mistakes a beginning blogger can make is choosing a terrible layout. The colors are awful, music starts playing when you navigate to the page (hint: NEVER do that; at least give visitors the chance to press play if they’d like to hear the music), and the pictures don’t align correctly.

Thankfully, this is actually a very easy thing to avoid.

When you sign up with your blogging service, they’ll provide free layouts. You can choose from any one of these and make your blog look sleek and professional without having to know a word of coding. Furthermore, most allow you to customize colors, fonts, and pictures, so you can still make the blog look unique without sacrificing utility or aesthetics.

blog-promotion
If you don’t promote your blog, no one will read it. And that’s sad.

Blogging for Beginners Step 5: Promote Your Blog

Once you have everything set up and you’ve written your first post, you’ll have to promote it. You could have the best blog post in the world, but if you don’t put it out there, no one will find it! The internet is a huge place and there are lots of people vying for the attention of clients, including your competition.

So how do you make sure that the right people see your work?

Post it on all of your social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn—whatever you use, make sure you post a link to your blog. Try submitting to StumbleUpon. Reach out to local press outlets if you have an announcement to make about your company—maybe you’re rolling out a new product, or maybe you’ve hired a new employee and you want to do an employee spotlight. Whatever the news is, you can contact local journalists or blogs and see if they’d like to cover your post.

Finally, make sure your existing customers know about your social media sites and your blog. Invite them to follow you or sign up for a newsletter and you’ll be surprised at how many people will be happy to oblige!

 

Good luck with your new blog! With regular contributions and some effort to get the word out, you’ll soon be seeing new visitors and increased interest in your small business. And if you need help with the marketing aspect of this, don’t hesitate to contact Internet Local Listings. We’re social media marketing experts and would be happy to help you market your site!

5 Ways to Try New Marketing Strategies this Summer

Why not try new marketing strategies this summer!

2014 is already almost half over. We’re quickly heading into summer, and with that change come a different set of goals and priorities for business owners. Whether you own a contracting business or a salon, your summer advertising is going to have to change to better accommodate your clients and customers!

For many small businesses, the budget available for advertising and marketing purposes is scant, and that makes the prospect of shifting gears for your marketing campaigns rather frightening, to say the least. But changing your focus doesn’t mean you need to shell out tons of money. Here, we’ll look at 5 ways you can try out new marketing strategies this summer without breaking the bank and changing up everything you’ve put in place already.

  1. Shift Marketing Strategies to Include More Social Media Engagement. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again here: social media is imperative to your marketing success. If you’ve been lax on updating Facebook or sending out tweets, now is the time to brush up on it. Connect with your customers and clients in a meaningful way while they have lazier days at home over the summer months.
  2. Redesign Your Website. Is your website looking a little outdated or neglected? Now’s the time to revamp it. Invest in a little extra cash for a great designer and make sure that your site is attractive, informative, and easy to navigate. By doing this, you’ll make sure you put your best face forward for the summer, and you’ll be able to update your current events and seasonal specials while you’re at it.
  3. Hold a contest. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth or complicated endeavor. You can do a number of things easily and affordably through your own website or social media pages! For example, you can post a funny photo related to your industry, and ask people to come up with a caption for it. The best one gets a coupon or a free service. You could also have people vote on something, such as the best new product, or ask them for assistance in coming up with a new special. People love getting involved!
  4. Take a look at your keywords. Have you been ranking consistently under one keyword but just can’t seem to get a foothold on Google with any other keywords? It may be time to let them go and choose different ones. Use free tools such as the Google Keyword Planner or just do a simple search to see what kinds of results you get. Then plan accordingly.
  5. Start a blog. If you haven’t jumped on the blogging bandwagon yet, now’s a great time. Sign up for a free blog from a site such as WordPress.com and begin updating regularly. Talk about company news, plans, specials, and events. Let your clients and customers know what’s going on with you! Not only does this help keep them informed, but you’ll be noticed more by search engines when you’re continually providing your site with fresh content.

Shifting marketing strategies doesn’t have to be scary. Most of these can be done in-house for very little money. However, you should understand that it can be time consuming to blog regularly, manage keywords, update social media, and redesign your site. If you’re thinking of switching up your approach to marketing but don’t have the skills or resources to do it all on your own, just contact the internet marketing experts at Internet Local Listings. We’d be happy to walk you through the process and assist you in any way possible! Good luck with all your new marketing strategies!