Have you ever noticed that some website URLs start with HTTP while others start with HTTPS? Maybe you’ve noticed a tiny lock icon in the top left corner of your browser? What exactly does it all mean?
Websites that are HTTPS have an SSL certificate.
SS-what? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a secure protocol developed for sending sensitive information over the internet. If a website you are on has an SSL certificate, it means that the site is secure and encrypted. Any data you enter is safely shared with that website and that website only.
Let’s talk technical for a second. How does SSL actually prevent information theft?
When you start to break down what SSL is, you’ll discover it’s asymmetric (or public-key) encryption. This requires each party to generate a public and private key pair. Imagine a padlock on a gate. Anyone can go up to the lock, inspect it, and even try to open it with their key. However, only the right key can actually unlock it. In this example, the padlock is a public key, they are visible to the general public. Private keys are exactly that, private. These private keys are used to unlock public keys.
When you fill out a form on a website without an SSL certificate, the information can be intercepted by a hacker. This site would be classified as not secure.
The information you submitted could be anything from a banking transaction to your credit card information. A hacker could intercept your information in a number of ways, one of the most common is when a hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server that is hosting a website. That program ‘wakes up’ when a website visitor starts typing their information. This listening program will begin capturing the information and send it back to the hacker.
When you visit a website that has an SSL certificate, your browser will form a connection with the web server and bind to it. This connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website where you’re submitting your information can see or access it.
This connection happens instantly. There is no manual work required. You simply need to visit a website with an SSL certificate and your connection will automatically be secured.
Why is SSL so important?
You might be thinking, I’m not accepting sensitive information through my website! Regardless of if you are in the business of accepting delicate information or not, having an SSL certificate is still incredibly important.
SSL and SEO
In 2014, Google made adjustments to its ever-changing algorithm for SEO rankings. The major change? Websites using SSL certificates. Google began and still continues to flag sites without SSL certificates as untrustworthy.
Sites with an SSL certificate receive an SEO boost and will be the default result for searchers. If you want to be findable on Google, having an SSL certificate on your website is absolutely necessary.
SSL and online payments
If you are conducting online transactions through your website, it is imperative that you have an SSL certificate. As an online shop, it’s your primary responsibility to ensure that the information being exchanged over your online store is protected.
How do you prove to your customers that their usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers are not being revealed to malicious hackers? Having an SSL certificate!
SSL and consumer trust
Did you know that Google Chrome is the most popular web browser? 44.5% of internet users search the internet using it. On the Chrome browser, you are able to easily spot a site with an SSL certificate. Next to the URL is a tiny lock icon. If a site has an SSL certificate it shows it locked, however, if a site does not have an SSL certificate the lock will be open and red text will read ‘Not Secure’. The second a customer lands on a website that is labeled ‘not secure’, they are going to feel less comfortable browsing it, even if there is no sensitive information being passed across it. SSL certificates have become an absolute necessity for any business that wants to be perceived as trustworthy.
There’s no denying the confidence and trust that an SSL certificate can provide to a site. Choosing an SSL certificate to secure a website demonstrates that a business values customer trust, which is essential to financial success, customer conversion, and business growth.
Selling your products and services online rather than in-store means that you need a website with the capability to handle an online store. But while setting up an online store might seem complicated and time-consuming, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems!
Where possible, many businesses are moving some–or all–of their products and services online. Have you been investigating transitioning some of your business’ sales and operations to ecommerce?
To get started, all you need is a website that’s powered by WordPress—we’ll show you how to do the rest using WooCommerce, a free and open source plugin that allows you to easily set up a functioning web store, complete with payment and shipping options, in minutes.
What you’ll need to get started
A website powered by WordPress
Products or services to sell
30-60 minutes to set up and add products to your online store
Set up and install WooCommerce
Step 1: Find and install the WooCommerce plugin
First, you’ll need to install WooCommerce on your WordPress website. You can download it for free from the WordPress repository, or you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard.
Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Add New. Search for “woocommerce”, and click Install Now on the WooCommerce plugin (Note that the correct plugin’s author will be listed as Automattic). Wait a moment for the plugin to install, and then click Activate.
The plugin will now be active on your WordPress site.
Step 2: Follow the Setup Wizard
After installing WooCommerce, you’ll have access to the WooCommerce Setup Wizard to configure your store’s key settings like location information, payment and shipping methods, and types of products that you’ll be selling. Note that everything you choose in the setup wizard can be changed later on in your WooCommerce settings.
You’ll first enter information about your store’s address, the currency you accept, and whether you’ll be selling digital or physical products (or both).
Step 3: Choose your payment processing methods
Next, you’ll choose which payments you’ll accept using your online store. By default, you can use Stripe and/or PayPal, but you can also choose to accept offline payments like checks and cash.
Select the options you’d like to use, and WooCommerce will set them up for you. Extensions that allow you to use more payment processing methods are available, if necessary.
Step 4: Choose a shipping method
You can also configure how customers will be charged for shipping. You can set one rate for your specific business area, as well as other rates for customers outside of your business’ area.
Step 5: Choose optional add-ons
Once you’ve configured the basic settings for your online WooCommerce store, you can review optional add-ons. None of these add-ons are necessary to run your store, but some, such as Storefront, can simplify certain aspects of setting up your store.
Step 6: Finish setup
Before completing the setup process, you can choose to enable Jetpack, which is another WordPress plugin with additional features that can help in setting up and running your store. This plugin is not required, however WooCommerce recommends that if you’re in the U.S., you’ll want to enable Jetpack given recent legal changes.
Once you’ve completed the steps above, your store will now be ready for use, and you can begin adding your products to it.
Managing your WooCommerce store
After installing WooCommerce, two new tabs will be available on your dashboard’s side menu: WooCommerce–which contains your store settings, and Products, containing your product settings.
Follow the link at the end of the Setup Wizard or go to Products > Add New to begin adding products to your store.
WooCommerce has extensive documentation and tutorials on how to set up, manage, and operate your store. Here are some handy links for how to add products, sell and ship them, manage orders, and more:
We are happy to bring SEO reporting to your Executive Report through Google Search Console! In this article, you will learn why SEO is relevant to your business, what Google Search Console is, and why it’s important to connect your Google Search Console Account to your Executive Report.
You work hard to be found by your customers online. Right now, you can see your performance pay off in several individual areas, whether it be managing your reviews, listings, social media, or advertising, which is of utmost importance. With Google Search Console reporting, you can also see how all these efforts come together to improve your overall Search Engine Optimization performance. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. For a business to appear in top organic search results, you need to have a strong SEO strategy. Many components make up your website’s SEO – the number of reviews you have and your star rating, how many listings are correct and consistent across the web, how active you are on social, website speed and security, mobile responsiveness, and more.
What is Google Search Console in the Executive Report?
Google Search Console is a tool that Google provides at no charge to website owners, to measure a website’s search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.
Among its many features, one is the ability to see detailed analytics about organic ‘SERP’ (Search engine rank position) of a website, what search queries (keywords) are being typed into Google, and what pages are appearing the most via organic search. Our integration brings these features into the Business App Executive Report.
With the Google Search Console section in your Executive Report, you get metrics on your website’s SEO performance. This provides proof that all the work and resources you are putting towards being found by your customers is resulting in your business’s website appearing more often right where your customers are searching: On Google.
By connecting Google Search Console to Business App, you can see detailed automatic proof-of-performance analytics on searches happening on Google:
how many queries their website appears on page one of Google
how many clicks their website is getting
how many impressions their website is getting
which queries are getting the most clicks, and their avg. position in search results
which website pages are getting the most clicks and impressions
With this powerful no-cost feature, you can see how all the hard work you do on your business’s marketing (website content, blog, listings, reviews, social media, etc) is resulting in real-world improvements in your SEO – and helping you get more customers!
Connect now, or read on to learn more.
Understanding the importance of Google Search Results
Google search results have three primary forms of results. The first is paid media, such as Google Ads. The advertiser is paying to be at or very near the top of Google search results. The searcher knows what results are paid ads, as seen in the screenshot below.
The second section in Google Search Engine results is the local pack. This comes from owned and earned media. It showcases local businesses close to your search location. SEO always plays into the local pack ranking factors.
The third and final result are organic search results. This is where 40% of website traffic comes from, so it’s extremely important your business’s website is ranking on the first page of search results so that customers can find you.
Why connect Google Search Console?
With the addition of Search Console to the Executive Report, you have a powerful tool for SEO reporting that will help you see how all the hard work you do for your business is paying off in higher search ranking.
Our reporting also provides a unique KPI that is not available from within Google Search Console itself: “Queries on 1st page of Google Search”. This number is calculated daily, and reveals if your business is making progress in the outcome you truly want: to show up on page one of Google search, and get more website visits from more potential customers. This metric tracks exactly that, with no extra noise.
Best of all, this reporting is automated. Connect it once to deliver automatic, ongoing proof-of-performance reporting.
1. Setup Google Search Console
Ensure you have a Google Search Console connected to their website using the URL-prefix property, and fully verified. If you don’t yet have a Google Search Console account, you can set one up in a few quick steps here or reach out to your account rep.
Note: it takes 24-48 hours after a new property is connected to Google Search Console for data to start to appear on Google’s side.
2. Connect Search Console to Business App
In Business App > Connections, you’ll find a card to connect Google Search Console.
Click ( + ) to add an account. Only one connection per account is permitted at this time.
Log into your Google account that has permission to access this Search Console account.
All accounts that can be connected will appear in this list. Choose the account you want to connect.
Once connected, it will take up to just a few minutes for existing data to appear in the Executive Report. 30 days of history is pulled in when an account is first connected.
Note: If the account you want to connect does not appear here, make sure it is a ‘URL-prefix property’, and not a ‘domain property’; make sure it is fully verified; and make sure the Google account you are connecting with has sufficient permissions to view this search console account.
3. Customize the queries tracked in the Exec Report
You can completely customize the keywords that are tracked and reported on in the Executive Report, via Search Console.
When Search Console is first connected, Business App will automatically pull in the top 10 search queries for this business, by clicks for reporting
You can customize these keywords, remove, or add, up to 20 keywords to be reported on in the Executive Report.
Go to Business App > Connections > and click the kabob > click “Edit Queries”
I’ve connected Search Console to Business App, but I don’t see any data in the Executive Report?
It can take up to 5 minutes to pull in data to display in the Executive Report. The app automatically pulls in 90 days worth of data, and you should usually be able to see data in the most recent weekly Executive Report.
If there is nothing appearing, this will happen when there are no queries that have received clicks in the last 30 days. With no clicked queries, there are no performance metrics to report on, and therefore the cards do not appear. As you work at improving the SEO of your website, and it starts to receive organic clicks, data will appear in the report.
Everyone can recall a time when they’ve received excellent customer service. Whether it was the clerk who was extra helpful or the hotel staff who went above and beyond, we’ve all experienced it. Unfortunately though, the bad customer service is almost always recalled more easily.
In the pursuit of excellent customer service, several dos and don’ts should be followed:
Do: Anticipate Their Needs and Wants
Instead of merely listening to your customer’s needs, a business needs to understand their unexpressed wishes and anticipate their next move. Staying one step ahead of them—literally giving them what they didn’t know they needed—is how you will stand out from the rest. This builds exceptional rapport with your customer and makes them feel like you really, truly value their business (Forbes). They will want to come back, and what’s more, they’re going to tell their friends all about your customer service.
Do: Show Genuine Interest
If you haven’t heard it yet, here it is: customers want to feel appreciated and they value an honest-to-goodness relationship. If your customer service staff can build, nourish and manage relationships with your customers, then you’re golden! One way for you to build the relationship and make them feel special is by genuinely caring about what they’re telling you. Listen to them grumble, show sympathy, laugh when they laugh and don’t be afraid to get personal (Inc.com). Something as minute as memorizing the name of their granddaughter or asking about their last trip to Hawaii will help solidify your relationship.
Digitally speaking, doing this well means using social media to engage in a conversation and being open and transparent online! Your online customer service is as important, if not more so than the face-to-face interactions. At the root of it all, the customer wants to feel that they’re spending their hard-earned dollar on a business that cares about them!
Do: Have the Answers and Deliver
While it’s up for debate on whether customers are always right, the fact of the matter is, you are the expert and not your customer. You should always have the answers and be able to deliver. That is why product and service knowledge is the most vital skill a customer service representative can possess (Digitalist).
If you don’t have the answer, try your best to find it out or direct the customer to someone who can answer their queries. Avoid saying the phrase, “I don’t know” at all costs. Remember, you’re the expert. Having the answers and delivering them promptly and respectively will build trust and confidence in your customer.
Don’t: Restrict the Customer
Customers hate to hear the word, “no.” It’s a fact of life. Though it’s not always possible to say “yes,” best practice dictates that you should be as flexible and accommodating as possible for your customers (Customer Service Manager).
If there’s one thing a customer hates to hear more than “no,” it’s that something is “company policy.” Why? First of all, the customer likely doesn’t care what your store policy is. Second, they don’t see you as a customer service provider following policy, but rather as the company as an entity restricting them from getting what they want. Another reason this is such a big no-no is that it’s like putting a big road block in the conversation. With both you and the customer at a loss for what to say, the interaction (and possibly the relationship) is subsequently squelched.
Don’t: Make Things Overly Complicated
A good rule of thumb to follow is that getting assistance and service should not be more painful than the problem itself. Behold! The wonders of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page! If this isn’t really your style, and as a necessary fall back, the next step is to make your customer service staff incredibly accessible. You know what they say: a quickly diffused customer service issue keeps the bad reviews away. Right?
Speaking of which…
Don’t: Ignore Feedback or Complaints
Feedback, no matter its form, is always a plus. Who better to hear from than the customers who are literally the lifeblood of your business?
Embracing the good, the bad and the ego-deflating will ultimately help you to strive for better in the long run, we promise. You’ll be able to understand your customer better, identify and solve your pitfalls and grow bigger and better (MinuteHack)! So, the next time a customer wants to give you their feedback, don’t brush it off, but rather see it as an opportunity to improve.
Good customer service always will be an essential part of a business. It’s your customer’s first point of contact with your business and allows them to connect and build trust with your business or brand. In today’s world, delivering excellent customer service is sometimes more effective than any advertisement could be!
Follow these customer service dos and don’ts so people talk about you for all the right reasons.
Have you ever been at a party and caught a person or a group glancing at you while whispering covertly?
What’s up with that? Is your fly open? Does someone have a crush on you? Does someone want to throw a drink in your face?
You’d want to know, wouldn’t you?
The online universe is a lot like that party; It’s a system of digital communities in which people are gathering and discussing a wide variety of topics, including YOU. In your personal life, you may or may not care to find out what they’re saying, but in business, it’s essential to your survival that you know.
At the party, you may never get the answers you seek without shaking someone down. However, online, you can use social media monitoring to track mentions of your brand, competitors, product and any other keywords that are applicable to your business.
Monitoring your social media channels is about more than just listening.
The information you accumulate can help you make major decisions about your marketing strategy, the products and services you offer and how people regard your brand. Plus, it can help you identify leads, build relationships, stay on top of trends, learn about your competitors, protect your brand and more!
Note: This post is outlining organic social media monitoring tips, as opposed to paid social campaigns. Organic social media is more geared toward building brand awareness and connecting with your target audience. Paid social is typically centered around driving targeted actions like content downloads, webinar or appointment signups, and other specific goals.
Here’s more on why it’s so important that you monitor what people are saying about your business online.
Why Should You Use Social Media Monitoring?
1. To gauge social sentiment
What do you know about your brand’s reputation? You can get a feel by reading your reviews and speaking with customers, but you’d be missing a wealth of more informal brand or product mentions.
Plus, you need to be there to respond! In a recent survey, Sprout Social found that 89% of social messages go ignored. That’s a problem—and an even bigger missed opportunity.
People use social media to discuss the topics they care about within the communities they choose. That’s where you need to listen to truly discover how people regard your business, the issues they’re having, and the things they love.
2. To find leads & build relationships
Are people searching for your products and services? You’ve seen those calls on Facebook for recommendations, or the plaintive cries for help on Twitter: “I want pizza!” When you monitor your brand’s keywords or phrases, you can jump in and answer these requests (Just mention your current Monday 2 for 1 pizza deal!). NOT selling anything can be really effective too. Be a part of the conversations that are happening online about your industry.
3. To stay on top of trends
When you’re closely monitoring discussions in your niche, you may be able to catch new and evolving trends as they emerge. For example, when Instagram launched its “Stories” product, Snapchat growth took a major hit (growth slowed by 82%). In response to news like this, you may decide to alter your marketing strategy to be one of the first to dive into a new social channel or try a new tactic.
Why is this important? In an over-saturated market, doing the same thing as everyone else can get you lost in the crowd. Finding ways to stand out will help you get noticed and stay relevant in your industry.
4. To perform competitor research
Has your competition launched a product similar to what you offer, but at a lower price or with a few more bells and whistles? Did they just launch a marketing strategy that your customers are loving? Did they just screw up royally using a tactic you’ve been considering? Keeping your finger on the social pulse will alert you about these types of scenarios and unforeseen issues that may have huge repercussions for your business.
5. To protect your brand
Building your brand’s reputation takes a lot of time and effort, but it can all be lost in seconds.Monitoring your social channels allows you to identify any issues customers have and jump on solutions before they blow up.
Stuff happens. It’s inevitable.
It’s how you respond and how quickly you respond that matters. In fact, we’ve found that if a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return to you.
Listening, identifying the issue and showing your customers you care and are taking steps to resolve the issue is what can turn them from a brand killer into a champion for your business.
What to Do With Your Social Media Monitoring Insights
So once you’re set up with the tools you need for monitoring, tracking, measuring and analysis, what do you do with the information? This is the key moment where you determine how to act on the knowledge you’ve received.
Shift Social Strategy
Is your strategy working? Are you truly getting traction on your primary social channels? You may discover that it’s time to re-evaluate the resources and effort you put into certain channels.
For example, maybe you discover that your people are super engaged in Quora. Devoting more time and resources there would be worth pursuing, even if it’s at the expense of another social channel.
Results from monitoring your competitors on social media could also yield some interesting insights as well. You may find that a new video tactic has people in your area or industry buzzing about a close competitor. Why let them go unchallenged?
Work on Developing Relationships With Leads & Influencers
If you can jump into conversations and authentically solve problems for people, do it! This tactic can be especially relevant when it comes to people’s frustrations with your competitor’s products or services. When you do this, it’s essential that you come from a really genuine place and offer tips or advice geared around helping people. People don’t want to be spammed, and sensitive topics like plastic surgery should be off-limits.
However, in many industries you should feel free to have real conversations with people around the topics they care about (which also happen to be topics YOU care about as a business owner!).
Spotting and reaching out to influencers in your industry as outlined in this post (Salesforce) can have an amazing amplification effect for your brand as well. People look to influencers to help them make purchasing decisions all the time, and if you can develop strong relationships with key influencers you can expect better results for much less work.
Image Source: Salesforce
Develop New Products/Services
Listening to the needs of your target audience is a smart way to refine your solutions and develop new ones. If enough people are saying they hate a product, or wish they could tweak it, it’s probably worth looking into what the issue is and try to determine what could make that product better.
For example, Natalia Chrzanowska of (Brand24) notes that GoPro did exactly that when they introduced their new camera – GoPro Hero4.
“We analyzed the social media discussions regarding both releases – Hero3+ and Hero4. The insights gathered during the Hero3+ premiere included lots of suggestions for features that could improve customer experience, which then appeared later on in the succeeding model – GoPro Hero4.”
On the flip side, if your customers LOVE one of your products, there may be an opportunity to develop similar or complimentary products or services.
You can then turn around and apply all this awesome feedback as testimonials for new campaigns. Think ad campaigns, email campaigns, social campaigns and beyond!
Update Customer Service Policy/Process
Social media has led to a major shift in how customer service is carried out by many companies. People want instant answers, and are less likely to put up with call centers. Many won’t even pick up the phone when they have a problem; They’ll just tweet about it! According to a new report from Conversocial, 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS. The upcoming generation of millennials will only amplify this trend.
People are sticking to their favorite social media platforms to air out their complaints, and you need to know if this is happening in your industry (and be ready for it).
In Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters, author and consultant Dave Kerpen notes that:
“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn’t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.”
Letting complains hang out there unanswered is not acceptable to current and potential customers, and it shouldn’t be to you!
4 Easy Wins
I’ve thrown a lot of information you’re way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and put off testing these strategies for yourself. To help you get started, here are a few easy action items for you to try out.
Jot down 3 of your top goals that you’re hoping monitoring your social channels will help you with. (example: Find out if people are liking the new kombucha flavor we just released).
Contact us to get set up with the social media monitoring tools you need. Poke around and see what value you can get out of the tools.
Enter a few of your brand’s keywords and see what data the tools come up with.
Look through the initial results. Make a list of 3 things you learned and whether you should discuss with your team.
Most businesses are aware that they should monitor social media for mentions related to their brand, products, services, competitors and industry. You might actually be doing so already. But do you have a plan in place to analyze, respond and integrate results into your business’s ongoing strategy?
If you don’t, you might be missing some golden opportunities…or you could get a martini in your face!
Choosing the right digital advertising metrics to track and measure is crucial to your campaign’s success. If you aren’t tracking advertising efforts correctly, you’ll never know what’s working and what channels to focus your advertising dollars on.
Determining your core ROI goals means you’ll be able to measure data that tells the story of how your target audience interacted with your ads.
Here are a few of the key metrics to track that will help you measure success and determine ROI:
CPA – Cost Per Acquisition
How much does it cost you to acquire a new lead on any given channel?
Knowing the cost to acquire a client for your business is the basis of your marketing budget, so it’s crucial data to add to your ROI analysis. Combined with other ad data, this will determine whether your business will make a profit.
Ideally, you’ll want to get a sense for which mix of ad channels (Search, Facebook, Display) work best for your business. Then you’ll be able to better optimize your ad budget going forward.
Here’s the formula for CPA:
CPA is a simple but valuable formula. Knowing how much it costs to acquire a new lead is key to understanding your ad ROI.
However, we still don’t know the actual value of your client’s customers. The next thing we’ll discuss is LTV, which is essential for further ROI analysis.
LTV – Lifetime Value
Do you know the lifetime value of your customers? You should!
Why? Because this will give you a number that represents an approximation of the revenue a new customer brings in, with all associated costs factored in.
If you know your LTV, you’ll be able to compare it directly to the cost of acquiring a new client through your digital ad campaign.
Here’s the formula you can use to determine your LTV.
CR – Campaign Revenue
Now that we understand how to calculate and analyze the lifetime value of your customers, we’ll be able to track the revenue generated by your digital advertising campaign. As you can see below, you just need to multiply your campaign’s conversions by LTV and closing ratio (50% would be .5).
Why include closing ratio? Obviously, every new lead you generate isn’t going to become a customer, so you’ll need to factor in how often you are able to close new leads to estimate campaign revenue correctly.
ROAS – Return on Advertising Spend
ROAS is an illuminating metric to use for ad campaigns, and a lot of marketers use it interchangeably with ROI itself. However, there are significant differences between the two. What is the difference between ROI and ROAS?
“ROI measures the profit generated by ads relative to the cost of those ads. It’s a business-centric metric that is most effective at measuring how ads contribute to an organization’s bottom line. In contrast, ROAS measures gross revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising. It is an advertiser-centric metric that gauges the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns.”
So advertising ROAS is much more focused on the results from specific campaigns, while ROI incorporates the bigger picture relative to the business. This means that it’s much easier for you to be tracking and analyzing advertising efforts with ROAS! You know the cost and you can calculate the revenue.
Setting your own benchmarks and campaign goals based on past performance is the best way to proceed with your advertising efforts.
Want to skip all this confusing jargon and let the experts handle your digital advertising? Contact us today!
Businesses on page 2 of the SERP might as well not exist.
It sounds harsh but it’s simply the reality that we all need to accept.
You know the drill—you want pizza so you get on your phone and do a search. Google presents its top 3 local options in the “Snack Pack” and 10 other organic results. You pick one make a call or pop in the pizza joint.
If you’re the local pizza joint, you want and need to appear on the first page for those target keywords. So how do you get them there?
You’ll need to do a local SEO audit to find out. Here’s how to get it done.
Step 1: Audit Keywords
What keywords are you targeting? Step one of your audit should be to determine what you’re currently ranking for and identify any opportunities you might be missing.
For example, if you’re ranking well for ‘Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney’ but are nowhere to be found for ‘Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer’, you’ve identified an area to improve.
Start by making a list of services, products, or a page you’d like to drive traffic to. Once you do this you’ll be able to use tools like Keyword Finder to quickly put together a list of high volume local target keywords.
With this list in hand, you can proceed through the rest of your local SEO audit and determine how well these keywords are optimized every step of the way.
Your local SEO audit should include a snooping session to determine your competitor’s SEO status and tactics early on. If you’re located in a highly competitive area where the other top businesses are doing everything right, you need to document what you’re up against.
You don’t need to do a full diagnostic on each competitor, but take a look at the following, and compare that data against yours:
GMB ranking for top keywords
Organic rankings for top keywords
Review quantity and quality
Number of links
In most cases, you should be able to take a look through these items and develop a hypothesis on why your competitor is successful in local SERPs.
The 2017 edition of Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey ranks Google My Business (GMB) as the biggest driver of local SEO success. If you want to appear in Google’s ‘snack pack’, your GMB listing should be robust, and well-optimized with your core target keywords.
Here are some things to look for:
Do you have a GMB listing? If so, is it claimed and verified?
Is all business information present and correct?
Do you have multiple reviews and a high cumulative rating? Are you responding to reviews?
Do you have appropriate business categories listed?
Do you have images of the business?
Have you created any GMB posts?
Are you participating in the Questions & Answers section?
These are the core elements that make up a strong GMB listing.
Reviews pack a ton of clout in both the local ranking and reputation building arenas. Search engines regard them as an authentic measure of a local business’s popularity and viability. Potential customers trust reviews as an accurate gauge for that business’s quality level.
Getting an abundance of positive, glowing and wordy reviews across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and vertical-specific sites like Houzz, Tripadvisor, and Healthgrades helps you win on many levels.
Local SEO Guide notes that Google does pick up on the keywords people use in their reviews:
“At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.”
Helpful Local SEO Tools:
Get and manage reviews with Customer Voice (contact us for more info)
“Google is still leaning heavily on links as a primary measure of a business’ authority and prominence, and the local search practitioners that invest time and resources to secure quality links for their clients are reaping the ranking rewards.”
A diverse array of quality links is crucial for any local business’s link portfolio. This means that you’ll need to evaluate your links, looking for links with:
Industry or vertical topic clusters
High domain authority
Link quality will win over quantity, and quality + quantity will help you dominate the search rankings in your market. On the flip side, if you see a high volume of spammy, off-topic links, you’ll want to make a note of it as a red flag that may be damaging your ability to rank well for your target keywords.
Schema markup is code that goes on a website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. Schema tells the search engines what your data means, not just what it says.
This is a key way to tell search engines exactly what a given website is about, which will help them serve it up on SERPs for the correct search queries.
One way to check to ensure that your site is using schema markup is to enter your URL in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool You’ll be able to check to see if all the correct info about your business has been included.
To add Schema markup, if it’s a WordPress website, then “All In One Schema Rich Snippets” is a great plugin. For other websites, this is a good tool to create the code.
How frequently is your business mentioned online? Auditing your citations will determine how many online mentions exist of the name, address, and phone number for your business.
It’s important to look into both your structured and unstructured citations. For structured citations, you’ll audit your business listings across the web, looking at social platforms and directories like Yelp, Yellowpages, Facebook, Superpages, and MapQuest. You’ll also need to check to see if their correct business info is listed on the main data aggregators: Axiom, Neustar/Localeze, Factual, and Infogroup.
Next, you’ll need to check your unstructured citations. An unstructured citation can be found on random websites, blogs, event listings, job posting sites, government records or social media mentions. These are unstructured because they could be as simple as a company mention. Usually, these citations don’t include a business’s NAP data.
An audit of the main website pages is probably the most important piece of your entire audit. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you have the proper tools though. Screaming Frog is one of many excellent tools that’ll deliver a comprehensive look at your on-page SEO.
With your list of target keywords in hand, you’ll want to run through each page on your spreadsheet looking at the keywords on each page. Specifically, you’ll be looking at:
Even with just this information, you’ll be well-equipped to analyze how well your pages are optimized for local SEO. Plus, you’ll be able to determine improvements and content gaps that might be missing.
Once you’ve evaluated and recorded the weaknesses in your local SEO, you can make use of a host of top-tier SEO plugins to help you do your work.
There are two main components two image optimization for local SEO: keyword usage and how it affects page load speed. You can use ScreamingFrog’s free SEO tool to evaluate both.
Auditing image keyword optimization boils down to evaluating each image’s filename and alt text. Since Google can’t yet tell what visual content an image contains yet, site crawlers rely on things like the filename and alt text to determine what’s being displayed. These are places you should optimize with relevant target keywords.
You can get some big improvements in page load speed when images are optimized to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality. Using ScreamingFrog, you can take an inventory of all the images on your site and highlight the images that are slowing things down. (There are also image size optimization plugins that resize images automatically going forward.)
“Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.”
Google PageSpeed Insights Tool performs a near-instant audit of a given URL for both mobile and desktop searches. This will give you a quick way to tell if improvements are needed, and a list of actions to take to improve your website speed.
What visitors do when they discover your business online affects your rankings. In fact, David Mihm argues that,
“Engagement is simply a much more accurate signal of the quality of local businesses than the traditional ranking factors of links, directory citations, and even reviews.”
Metrics like organic search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate are all ranking factors. You can simply use Google Analytics to examine your engagement metrics and compare them to industry benchmarks.
The truth is that we’re not sure to what extent social signals are baked into Google’s ranking algorithm. However, there’s no doubt that a strong social media presence can significantly boost local SEO efforts.
According to Ron Dod of Search Engine Journal, the bigger and more engaged your audience is, the more they’ll boost rankings:
“The bigger your brand is and the more consumers trust you, the more likely you are to receive a larger share of clicks in Google. Social media can be a great and efficient way to help you build your brand and get in front of people who wouldn’t have otherwise found you.”
Therefore, evaluating your social platforms is an essential part of your local SEO audit:
Number of people that like your Facebook page + Facebook shares
Number of Twitter followers + tweets mentioning your brand name
Number of LinkedIn company followers and Linkedin Shares
Performing a comprehensive local SEO audit using the 12 steps I’ve outlined is going to dredge up issues. Finding and fixing any SEO optimization issues you discover along the way is also crucial, as is recording your progress to ensure you’re not missing any vital pieces to the local SEO puzzle.
A good way to get started is to use MarketGoo, which automatically scans a website and generates a step-by-step SEO plan to help you increase your website traffic and rankings.
Once you’re ready to get started optimizing your website for SEO, using Boostability’s and SEO Network‘s SEO packages are key ways to power up your local presence. Justcontact us for more info on any of these products.
Want to skip all this work and let the experts handle your local SEO? Contact us today!
So, your business has decided to take the leap into the blogosphere. Great! There’s no shortage of reasons why blogging can benefit your business. However, the world of business blogging may still feel like uncharted territory. What should your blog discuss? How many posts should get published, and how often? Just who the heck is going to read this stuff, anyway? This blog about blogging (a meta-blog?) is intended to help you hit the ground running with tips on creating timely and fresh blogs that meet the needs and engage the minds of your readership.
Lay the foundation
A great blog starts with a great plan, and the planning stage is where you first answer the big questions that will determine what you write about, who you write for, and why you’re writing in the first place. Before you fire up your typewriter, be sure to nail down answers to the following questions:
Start with buyer personas—who is going to be interested in what your business has to say? What are their pain points, and how do your products or services address and resolve them? Targeting your content to a specific readership makes it more likely to be seen (and shared).
Develop a list of keywords relevant to your buyer personas. What kinds of search terms will they use when they’re looking for solutions? Knowing your keywords and putting them into use can optimize your blog to be found, guide your writing process and keep your copy consistent.
How often will you write? The fresher and more frequent your content, the more you’ll have to offer to your readership, and the more Google’s page rankings will look favorably on your website.
Set measurable goals in both the short and the long term. Are you looking to grow your email list and cultivate new leads, or are you focused on making your brand’s voice trusted and authoritative in your field? Whatever your goals, ensure that you have reliable metrics for measuring your progress.
Pick your topics
Are you drawing a blank every time you sit down to write? It may be easy to simply write a product feature or fluff up a sales pitch, but it’s important to remember that the point of your blogs is to provide value to your audience, not to sell to them. Take a look at your buyer personas and their pain points or problems, and assemble them into categories. These categories and their relevant personas will focus your writing and guide your use of keywords to optimize the SEO boost that the post provides. From here, you can begin to address some general topics.
Another great source of blogging inspiration is your existing customer base. Think about the kinds of questions from customers that you answer on a regular basis. Many of these represent common pain points, and can easily turn into full blog posts. For every one customer who comes in or sends and email with a common question, just imagine how many there are tapping their query into Google in search of an answer!
For example, a furniture store might write a blog on the difference in durability between leather, vinyl, and fabric upholsteries, or the different types of mattresses and their levels of support. An informative post that answers common questions and gives your readers information that they can act on is going to rank higher on search engines and position your business as a source of information that readers can trust.
Content (not copy) is king
Getting the copy down is one thing, but your blog will be as dry as a bone without engaging content to supplement that copy. The content that your copy supports, more than anything, is what sets your blog apart from your competitors and drives the solution to your readership’s problem.
It’s best to make your own, but there are plenty of resources out there for those who don’t collect data or employ a design team.
Provide relevant and substantiated statistics in the form of graphs and infographics—these add credibility to your posts, and can provide shock value when used properly.
Header and Sub-header Images
Use visuals to break up the text. The text of headers and sub-headers can often be incorporated into a relevant image that draws the reader’s attention and invites them to read further. A well-chosen graphic or photograph can serve to break up the monotony of plain text as well as add a visual frame to the information the audience receives.
Screenshots/photos Finally, use screenshots or photos to demonstrate your solution in action. Remember that you’re here to provide value, not to sell.Getting to the end of a blog and feeling like you just read a really long ad means that you’re not going to come back for anything informative or authoritative. The more your readers can learn from your post, the more likely they are to return to your blog when they have another question that needs an answer.
What’s your Story?
Tell compelling stories (and write snappy titles). Narrative is a powerful tool, and we’ve known how to use it in sales and marketing for a long time. The same goes for your blogs. Framing the movement from conflict to resolution as a journey makes your audience more receptive to the information you have to share and puts it within a familiar and memorable framework.
Start with choosing a narrative voice. Anecdotes and stories about your business can use a first-person voice to draw readers in and demonstrate your unique way of overcoming challenges in ways that others can learn from and put into practice. A second-person voice (like the one used in this blog) allows readers to visualize themselves acting out your solutions as your offer them, while a third-person voice is suited to communicating stories about how your business has been part of another customer’s success.
Leverage your buyer personas and their challenges to tell stories that will engage your audience and show how your business fits into their lives. Your posts don’t have to read like a novel, but putting your info in action will help transform your blog from a lecture into a success story.
Sharing is Caring
You’ve written something you’re proud of, so be sure to put it out there! Share your new blog on your business’ other marketing channels, and put the work in to gain readers other than Googlers and regular visitors to your site. Leveraging your business’ social media following to widen your blog’s audience has the added benefit that a new post that a follower finds useful or interesting is always easy to share with their own network. The more readers that come to see your business as a trusted source of information, the better!
Your blogs can (and should) also link to one another. Where there’s an overlap in information or your blog posts address similar issues, have them link to each other! An engaged reader will always be ready to find out more, and demonstrating that you have more information to offer is never a bad thing.
Finally, and importantly, bring things home with a with a call to action. Have you ever gotten to the end of an interesting article, how-to or blog post and been filled with the inspiration to immediately test what you’ve learned? While the point of your blog isn’t to sell, it’s important to give your readers something to engage with that allows them to take action and apply their new knowledge. Whether it’s more content, a link to a product or promotion or a contact form, your readers will have a way to act on their inspiration, and you will have a way to track engagement and turn readers into leads.
Here’s hoping this blog has inspired you to start writing your own! By following these tips, you should be well on your way to inspiring your own readers with engaging stories, compelling content, and valuable information that will position your business as a reliable source of information. Write well, help others and have fun!
With the online world being dominated by images, what do you need to know as a business owner when it comes to copyright laws?
Sharing Images on Social
Visuals are huge in the social media world, particularly for businesses. Here’s a quick run-down.
On average, content with relevant images has 94% more total views than content without (Jeff Bullas)
Compared to other types of content, visual content is 40x more likely to be shared on social media (Ethos3)
Facebook posts with images can receive 2.3x more engagement than text posts (BuzzSumo)
A couple things can be seen here. First, using images in your social media communications is critical to its success, and second, social media is the driving force behind the unfathomable amount of photos being shared online every second. In fact, the world is on track to share over 2.5 trillion photos online by the end of this year!
Social Media Copyright Risks
Because online culture evolves so quickly, the laws of the land are constantly readjusting to the most recent trends in online activity. This is especially true regarding copyright online and fair use on social media, both of which have yet to become clearly defined for the digital age. Fortunately, even online, by sticking to the basic foundations of copyright law you will be protected in most cases
💡 This post focuses on copyright laws as they pertain to Canada and the United States.
What is Copyright?
Simply put, copyright is: “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Its purpose is to strike a balance between protecting the author of a work, and serving the public interest.
Copyright offers the owner exclusive rights over their work. Copyright owners can:
Reproduce the copyrighted work
Create derivative works based on the copyrighted work
Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending
Perform and/or display the copyrighted work publicly (copyright.gov)
Copyright is determined on a case-by-case basis, which makes it difficult to identify any clear-cut examples of infringement that could be applied to other cases seen in social media.
Creative Commons and Free Use
On the other end of the spectrum, “creative commons” work is always free to use. This dedication means that an author has dedicated their original work to the public domain, waiving all rights to their work worldwide under copyright law.
This work is free to “copy, modify, distribute and perform, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission” (Creative Commons). Sites like Pixabay or Flickr find photos that are released under Creative Commons! These photos require no attribution (credit to the author/source) and they are free to use.
Internet Memes and Copyright Online
There are so many kinds of memes that may or may not infringe copyright online that lumping them all into one category and stamping them with “approved” or “rejected” ink just doesn’t work. If you are curious about how the memes you might be sharing fall under copyright law, here is a quick guide.
Types of Memes
Memes can range from the popular “image macros,” to silly sentences repeated across the web. Obviously, catch phrases, hashtags and other word-based memes have no real copyright risk. It’s the visual and image macro memes that may pose a problem. Specifically, image macros that depict copyrighted characters and productions.
Pop Culture Memes
Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that most memes are fair use. I mean, no one is going to come after you for throwing a “damn, Daniel!” into one of your Facebook posts. The memes that may pose an issue are those that pull images from pop culture, like Futurama Fry or Boromir’s “one does not simply” meme. These character stills are pulled from pop culture media and turned into memes, yet the characters depicted are owned by a specific brand or company.
Could using a pop culture meme that depicts a copyrighted work or character result in a lawsuit? Yes.
Is it likely to? No.
But when it comes to commercial use of memes, it’s good to err on the side of caution, and avoid posting pop culture memes that clearly depict copyrighted works.
Memes in Social Advertising
Using memes for social advertising is the surest way to cause problems with copyright when it comes to sharing memes. Posting a meme is relatively harmless, but using it in advertising is a whole different story.
Advertising is not protected by fair use, and so any direct promotion of your company/brand with the use of memes, or using memes for profit, can get you legal heat.
If you’re thinking “that’s silly, who would punish me for selling a t-shirt with a picture of a particularly grumpy cat?” I understand where you’re coming from, but Grumpy Cat has a company that’s ready to protect its property (which is, weirdly enough, a mean looking cat).
General Rule for Copyright Online
Even though the rules of fair use and copyright online are often left up to interpretation, a good rule to follow is assuming that all images and videos found online are protected by copyright, unless explicitly expressed as being free to use by the owner. Ultimately, it’s up to the author of the work to enforce copyright law if they find that their work is being used without permission.
The next time you decide to use any content that isn’t yours, ask yourself:
Do I have permission to use this image (or is it free to use)?
If not, does my usage fall under “fair use”?
Is using this content worth the potential legal consequences?
It will be interesting to see how copyright laws and content sharing practices will change with the evolution of social media trends. For now, just remember—a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may cost you a lot more if used without permission.
Search engines strive to create the best user experience possible, providing the most relevant, useful information based on the user’s search terms. If they didn’t, users would no longer rely on them for information.
This is good news: the more relevant, informative and useful user experience you create, the better the chances that search engines will serve your pages. By practicing good search engine optimization (SEO) habits, you can continually work to increase your search engine results page (SERPs) position. Here are some top SEO practices for SERP success.
On page (your website) SEO practices:
1. Relevant keywords: Using a keyword tool can help determine which words will help attract the most visitors based on popular search terms. Pick the most relevant, popular keywords for your business and try to rank for different keywords on your web page.
2. Short, catchy and original title tags: Title tags describe what your website is all about while attracting the user’s attention enough to (hopefully) click through to your pages. Limit the title tag description to 55 characters so it will display well on SERPs. Keep title tags descriptive yet short and sweet to help crawlers and users determine the relevancy of your page.
3. Keywords at the beginning of page title tags: Google puts more weight on the start of the title tag, so try to keep the keywords at the beginning.
4. Keyword focused meta descriptions: The meta description appears under the title tag on SERPs and gives users a chance to learn more about your company before clicking into your site. Aim for a meta-description length of 150-160 characters.
5. Proper sitemap: Make sure your website’s structure is up-to-date and easy to navigate. The better the site structure, the easier search engine crawlers can find and index pages. Aim for a three-click rule—customers should find what they need on your site in three clicks.
6. Properly structured, SEO-friendly URLs: URLs help crawlers to figure out page topic and relevancy. Creating short URLs with your keyword in it, using “-” instead of “_” between words as well as static words (rather than numbers) will help users and crawlers read URLs faster and easier. Also, try to use sub-directory root domains instead of sub-domains.
7. Link internally with anchor text: Linking internally to your other web pages adds keyword-rich internal links to every page. Internal linking helps search engines crawl and index your site, provides readers with more reading options and improves ranking for some of your keywords.
8. Outbound links: Referencing and linking to reputable (authoritative) sources shows you are a helpful internet information steward that is willing to share pagerank. On the internet, helpful sharing is caring.
9. Website’s loading speed: Search engines do not like slow pages as they know that users will not wait long for a website to load. Strive for lickity-split load times.
10. Really helpful content: Create relevant content on your pages that is easy to read, unique, helpful, fresh and grammatically flawless. Your content should be so helpful and relevant that your target audience will want to stay on your page and others will want to link to it.
Off page SEO practices:
1.Search engine submission: It can take a while for search engines to find and crawl your site. You can help to speed up the process by submitting your website to popular search engines.
2. Local directory submission: Submitting your business listing information to top or niche directories creates more places where users can find you and crawlers can confirm your business information. Be sure to submit NAP (name, address, phone number). And, if possible, website and category. A high percentage of searches are by keyword rather than business name, so strive to use category information wherever possible.
3. Social media marketing: Be present on all relevant social channels and manage your online reputation. Strive to get likes, shares and links by being 80% helpful and 20% promotional.
4. Video marketing: Help users find out about your business by sharing your relevant and helpful videos on sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, etc.
5. Backlink outreach: Earn backlinks by conducting content PR to get others to read your pages and possibly link to you. The more quality backlinks your web page has, the more authority it has, and the more search engines will deem the page as relevant and useful.
6. Forums and communities: Answering questions in forums and communities can help to build your reputation as an industry expert. This can provide a possible opportunity to include your website or blog link if it is relevant to the answer.