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Improving Your Local Search Ranking With Data Aggregators

Data aggregators run the world. The world of local search, any way. Data aggregators supply information to major search engines like Google, which means that having good business listing info on data aggregators can help it get right on Google. These aggregators have built massive business databases from valuable listing sources like yellow page directories, phone directories, utility records, and various online information providers. They’ve got an unbelievable amount of business data that search engines look to when finding local listing information for businesses.

There are four major data providers: FactualAcxiomInfogroup and Localeze. Their databases contain business information that search engines seek out to display for consumers. This information is the basis of where many online citations come from. What exactly is a citation, you ask? Citations are when a business is mentioned somewhere online, and the more citations a business has generated, the more likely their business is to appear higher in search rankings.

The major data aggregators provide information that help businesses get found correctly on online resources such as:

  • Google Maps
  • Bing Local
  • Yahoo Local
  • Apple/Siri
  • Facebook
  • Yellow Pages

These online resources are only a few of the sources that receive data from the data aggregators. Obviously sites like Google Maps, Facebook and Yellow Pages are crucial places to be listed for businesses that want to be found online. Businesses need to get their information correct with these data providers, or they risk not being found by potential consumers.

Every business wants online visibility! Do you want to master SEO with all of the major data aggregators, and generate and as many business citations as possible? I thought so.

What is a citation?

As mentioned above, a citation is simply anytime a business is mentioned somewhere online. Many people believe that citations are links to websites, but this isn’t necessarily true. Although a citation can be linked, they don’t have to contain a link to be considered a citation. To break it down further, let’s look at how citations can appear online:

  • Company name (alone)
  • Phone number (alone)
  • Company name and phone number
  • Company name, phone number and address
  • Company name, phone number, address and link

Though any of these combinations is considered a citation, a citation is not considered to be complete unless it contains the company name, address and phone number (NAP). Businesses who have their NAP data correct with the major data providers have a better chance of seeing their correct information appearing all across the web.

Citations can appear in a structured or unstructured manner, here’s how you can distinguish the difference between the two:

structured citation is the most common type of citation, and usually the most detailed when consumers are looking for business information. People see structured business citations on business listing sites like Yellowpages, Yelp or TripAdvisor. In most cases, these citations contain the NAP for a business, something consumers are looking for in local search.

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.

No matter how a citation appears, it has influence on the local search ranking in some way for a particular business. Data aggregators play an important role in getting a business listed or found on many major websites.

The importance of building citations

Citations have a major influence on local search rankings. Basically, the more times a business is mentioned online, the better chance their business has to rank near the top of local search.

Google’s search ranking algorithm has many moving parts, which means that citation building isn’t the only thing a business has to do in order to rank on search engines. Online reviews, mobile compatibility, domain authority and keyword density are just a few other factors that influence local search.

This doesn’t mean that citations don’t play an important role in local search ranking, though. In fact, David Mihm’s local search study suggest that citation related factors are very important: they make up 25% of the top twenty factors the influence local search.

So what do data aggregators do?

Data aggregators provide a lot of the data to search engines when conducting a local search. The aggregators own the space known as the local search ecosystem, a place where local searches get all of their data.

There you see the four major data aggregators: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual. As you can see, many major directories and listings sites rely on these data providers for their information. Like we mentioned earlier, the data aggregators are the foundation of what builds structured citations on major sites.

Although the picture might seem like a lot to comprehend, the underlying message that you should take away from this is really simple: get business data right with the major data aggregators.

Incorrect data on any of these aggregators could mean that a business’s information online is extremely inconsistent or down right wrong on many major listings sites and directories. Inconsistent information hurts SEO, so be sure to have your business correctly listed with all the major players.

Not only does inconsistency hurt search engine ranking, but it hurts a business. Consumers don’t trust businesses with inconsistent information online—73% of consumers lose trust in brands due to inaccurate local business listings

Business citations rely on the power of data aggregators! We see that data aggregators have a major influence on the amount of reputable sources that a business is cited on because they automatically input business data into various sources for a business. This means not having to manually plug in information into each and every business-relevant site on the worldwide web.

Get it right!

There is no secret that we are keeping from you, or a fancy trick to increasing online citations. It’s as simple as getting it right with the major data aggregators. Local search is a major deal for businesses, especially for small businesses. A company could potentially force themselves into bankruptcy if their online visibility is non-existent.

Consumers rely on the internet and search engines to interact with local businesses. According to Google, “four in five consumers use search engines to find products, services or experiences nearby.” These are searches for anything, from the best pizza in town to the fastest hair salon. Local search is what drives consumers to a business’s front door, and ultimately drives top-line revenue for local business.

Make sure that your business gets it right, and isn’t missing from vital local search results. Start using data aggregator: it’s the first step in building accurate online citations and mastering local SEO.

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Blogging for Fun and Profit: How to Build your Business Blogging Skills

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.

  • Statistic Visuals

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.

Finish Strong

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!

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The Complete WordPress SEO Plugin Mastery

SEO is the key to conquering the internet, and as the digital climate becomes increasingly saturated, it is becoming more important than ever to make sure that you are making every effort to get seen on the web. One of the easiest ways to give your sites a little extra boost is by implementing the right WordPress plugins.

The Problem:

Wait… I thought that finding the right SEO plugin was my problem?

You’re close. Everyone wants the one plugin that is going to single handedly cuddle their site up against that ever-desirable Google search bar. Although this result is possible, the reality is that the SEO market is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated one. This context makes it more important than ever to have a better structured and optimized website with a search engine friendly hierarchy so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competition. Much to your dismay, that may involve a bit of a plugin stack.  

The Essential SEO Plugin Stack

Whether you’re building sites for clients, or your own business, mastering SEO will be the key to growing and sustaining a strong online presence.  Fortunately, we know how to get you there.

There are 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. To start, you NEED an overall on-site SEO plugin to cover the basics, such as: meta tags, sitemaps, robots, etc. Then, there are an additional 6 complementary sections for plugins that will offer that competitive edge that you’re looking for:

  1. On-site SEO
  2. Mobile Optimization
  3. Broken Links
  4. Speed
  5. Security
  6. Image Optimization
  7. Rich Snippet

It is true that it’s a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to plugins and website speed, being that the shear volume of plugins being used will have an impact on the website speed. However, by using the right stack to build your SEO, the benefits will outweigh the harms.

Let’s dive in.

1. On-site SEO Plugins

An on-site SEO plugin will be the foundation of your infrastructure. For your convenience, we narrowed it down to only 2 contenders, Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.

These 2 plugins have both been around for a decade already, and are still at the top of the food chain.

Yoast SEO

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Through walk-throughs and advanced settings, Yoast is the one stop shop for beginners and experts alike. Featuring sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.

With built in content and SEO analysis, Yoast can also insure that your content is always killer (in Google’s eyes as well as prospect’s eyes). By upgrading to premium, you also gain access to a local SEO extension which adds a local schema markup to your web pages.  Other premium features include video and news extensions.

Key Features:

  • Most used SEO plugin on market with 5M+ active installs
  • Thousands of daily downloads
  • Effectively combines content and SEO
  • Uses JSON_LD for local
  • 5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org

All in One SEO Pack

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

All in One SEO Pack is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with  advanced features for developers. XML sitemaps, and overridable meta descriptions/keywords allow users to to optimize their SEO efforts.

This plugin is also highly durable being that it is translated into 57 languages and works well with a variety of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users as well.

Key Features:

  • The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce sites, including WooCommerce
  • Over 3M active installs
  • 4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org

The On-site SEO Winner

Yoast SEO. Industry experts and Vendastians all agree that Yoast is essentially the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will accommodate users of all levels of expertise and ensure all of your bases are covered.

2. Mobile Website Optimization Plugins

This SEO factor earned itself a priority seat due to the fact that Google is now favoring outlets that are running on AMP code. Google announced just last month, January 2018, that it would begin prioritizing pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. What this means is that mobile optimization will now be a high ranking factor in every sites overall SEO performance on Google.

This makes it more critical than ever to have your sites optimized for mobile. Considering that the majority of browsing these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.  

AMP for WordPress

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Ever get frustrated when you’re trying to look something up on your phone and it takes 3 full days to load? We all lead pretty busy lives, and just don’t have time for that nonsense.  

By using AMP for WordPress, you can insure that your prospects never give up hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content, which Google is now factoring into SEO rankings, this plugin caters to the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.

Key Features:

  • Built by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
  • Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org
  • 200,000+ active installs (best in class)

AMP for WP

Price: Also free!

Elevator Pitch:

These guys also spared no creativity in terms of naming themselves, but I guess that there’s no harm in getting to the point either…

AMP for WP is pretty straight-forward, and simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site to improve mobile site speed through search engines (like Google!).

Key Features:

  • 100,000+ active installations
  • 4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
  • Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration

The Mobile Optimization Winner

AMP for WP (the latter—these 2 are damn confusing). The reality is that both of these plugins are going to meet your mobile optimization needs, but it just feels like AMP for WordPress (the loser) has not put as much effort into customer satisfaction. Installs are declining and 1 star ratings on WordPress.org almost pair those of the 5 stars; which might be cause for some concern, ex:

Not what you want to see…

3. Broken Link Plugins

Links are kind of like family photos—sometimes they just go bad. Pages can be deleted, a site that you link to may vanish, or someone might move a post or page without updating others.  These actions can all cause broken links.

And there is NOTHING worse than hitting a “404 Page not found” when you’re trying to find a new photographer for your family pictures.  

By managing broken links on your site, you can mitigate user frustrations, questions of credibility, lost conversions, and damage to your SEO ranking. Yes, broken links factor quite heavily into your SEO ranking.

Broken Link Checker

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Broken Link Checker scans your posts, pages, comments, blogs, and custom fields to detect links that don’t work, images that may be missing, and link redirects. This parsing can take some time as it verifies each and every link tied to your site. Once completed, it will present you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.

Key Features:

  • Has not been updated in 6 months…customer service?
  • 500,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
  • 4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
  • Offered in 30 languages

The Broken Link Winner

Only one candidate, and only one winner. Use this plugin, it will save your customers and prospects a lot of headache, and it will help optimize your overall SEO.

4. Speed Plugins

Page speed is a huge factor in search rankings because it a huge factor in user experience. Google recommends pages load in less than a half second, and that’s not always easy to achieve.

To tie into the above AMP category, this element has actually never been more important with Google recently announcing that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searching (where most searches occur).

I have offered up 2 site caching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, particularly with high volumes of traffic.

WP Fastest Cache

Price: Free, the best price.

Elevator Pitch:

With most of the functionality automated, and active page statistics, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is very user friendly. It creates a static html file so that high quantities of traffic do not produce slow render times on your site, and offers numerous options for managing cached files. It also comes with minify html and css options so that users can decrease the size of pages and css files.

Key Features:

  • Does not yet support WordPress Multisite
  • 5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
  • Offered in 17 languages

W3 Total Cache

Price: Free, always.

Elevator Pitch:

W3 Total Cache improves SEO and user experience by reducing dowload times and increasing performance. W3 comes with a host of caching options, minification features, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance to help weather those high traffic periods.  

Key Features:

  • Only 9 out of 108 issues resolved in the past 2 months
  • 4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Used by many large companies such as AT&T

The Speed Winner

This is actually a really tough one. I am going to crown W3 Total Cache as the victor for now due to the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is an excellent caching plugin, and is growing in popularity and downloads, so it would also make for a great alternative should you choose it.

5. Security Plugins

Security is a factor that owns varying degrees of concern. If you are a financial institution or a related field of business, security will likely hold a much greater precedence in your site infrastructure.  

The primary impact of a security plugin for other business demographics is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). This certificate helps your site maintain rank on search providers and is rumoured to become a requirement for google sites in the near future. An SSL certificate can also directly translate to growth in rank, while also encrypting user data – an essential component on many websites.

Besides, who wants to be hacked by some sneaky black hat spammer?

Wordfence Security

Price: Free with Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Wordfence Security was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner, as well as a Threat Defence Feed that insures that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your site safe.

Key Features:

  • 2M+ active installs (best in class)
  • 5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
  • User friendly feeds to monitor performance

The Security Winner

We decided to keep it simple on this one being that Wordfence Security is all around best in class. This plugin is a favorite by industry experts worldwide, so it will surely meet your firewall and malware needs in the free version—with the option to pay for premium as you grow.

6. Image Optimization

The images that you utilize on your site build can have a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversion rates. However, it is critical that you don’t forget to use an image optimization plugin to reduce image sizes (often up to 50%), and therefore page sizes, to boost your SEO rankings by greatly increasing page speed and user-friendliness.

There are hundreds of compressors, but really only a couple in the runnings.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Price: Free with Pro Option

Elevator Pitch:

Smush, seems like a fitting name right? This plugin does the bulk of the heavy lifting for you, so you really don’t need to stress about a steep learning curve. Smush automatically cuts the size of all of the images on your site to provide speed and quality. It also now allows for image resizing and is compatible with numerous other plugins on the market.

Key Features:

  • 5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Huge benefits for mobile speeds
  • Highest performance reserved for paying customers only

Short Pixel

Price: Free with Paid Premium

Elevator Pitch:

Short Pixel is on this list as a result of its cheaper premium option in comparison to the other image optimizers on the market. This plugin will accomplish relatively the same as Smush, but nearly all of these image optimization plugins are drastically limited in the free versions.  

Therefore, if you find yourself growing, and in need of something more than what these free versions can offer, Short Pixel has one off the most affordable paid rates on the market, and will still reach upwards of 60% optimization.

Key Features:

  • They have resolved every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months (can somebody say customer service?)
  • 4.5 star rating across nearly 300 reviews
  • Also offers huge benefits for mobile site speeds
  • One click bulk optimization (major time saver)

The Image Optimization Winner

Being that I recognized each of these plugins for different benefits, they are both winners in their own light. Smush is a near unanimous favorite for basic free image optimization, and ShortPixel is a great alternative if you are ready to take that first step into the realm of “paid plugins,” but don’t necessarily want to invest the capital that Smush or many others require.

7. Rich Snippet Plugins

What is a Rich Snippet?

Rich snippets are the fields that spice up your search result listing. You know those sites that have pictures and external ratings linked into their descriptions? There is less sorcery involved than you may have thought.

What’s special about this plugin is that you don’t have to write any code what-so-ever (and if your coding is anything like mine, this is a major blessing). Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically generates the code and tags for you.

Many website developers might not consider rich snippets an important tool in terms of SEO, but I’ll tell you why this interaction is important. Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do provide increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you approach that first page of google. This visual appeal will likely increase your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause you to rank higher in terms of SEO.

It’s as simple as that.

All In One Schema Rich Snippets

Price: Free

Elevator Pitch:

Want to add review, event, product, recipe, video, article, or other schemas to your site snippet?  All In One Schema Rich Snippets makes it possible in a highly user-friendly format so that you can make your site more interactive and improve your click through rates.

Key Features:

  • 70,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
  • 4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
  • Helps Facebook display proper information when users share your links on Facebook

The Rich Snippet Winner

I know, I did it again…to date, All in One Schema Rich Snippets has more or less monopolized the market, and is your best choice if you want to master all of the categories of SEO on your WordPress build.

Conclusion

Seven is the number of plugins you are going to need to have a world class SEO optimized site:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. AMP for WP
  3. Broken Link Checker
  4. W3 Total Cache
  5. Wordfence Security
  6. Smush or ShortPixel
  7. All In One Schema Rich Snippets

And one is the page number of Google results that you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you leverage this plugin combination.

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What Social Media Monitoring Can Teach You About Your Business

Intro to Social Media Monitoring

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.

snapchat statistics

Image source: Techcrunch

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.

salesforce built relationships

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Enter a few of your brand’s keywords and see what data the tools come up with.
  4. Look through the initial results. Make a list of 3 things you learned and whether you should discuss with your team.

Final Thoughts

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!

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The Dos and Don’ts of Customer Service

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.

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How to Engage Your Audience Through Social Media

Is your social media falling flat? Don’t sweat it; many hours have gone into perfecting the use of this not-so-secret weapon. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram strategies are outlined in detail below. Once you understand how they all work and which will suit your business best, learn how to handle them and other factors such as SEO, reviews, and more!


Facebook, Google+, & Twitter

What works: Images, videos, calls to action, industry-related content, general share-worthy content.
What doesn’t work: Lengthy content, bland content, poor business/related/share-worthy balance.

Videos and images are best used to catch the eye of social media readers, though video works a little better to hold the reader’s attention. Whether it’s redirecting consumers to your website or online store, or getting them to stop and look at an interesting piece of content titled by your business, images and videos are your anchor.

The three best ways to get traction from your readers are to:

  • Get them to go straight to your website or store
  • Get them to like/follow
  • and/or get them to share your content

Let’s say three people see your business posts about that 2 for 1 sale. These posts are not likely to be shared, so those same three people will see all your posts, and that’s it. Once people start liking and sharing your posts, you’ll start to see new eyes on your page. This is where industry related/general share-worthy content comes in.

If you’re a physical therapist, for example, get your readers excited to see and share those workout tips and you’ll have a better chance that someone who needs physical therapy will come across them. Having a good mix of these types of posts is extremely important.

Once you’ve gained the attention of your readers with a photo or video, a call to action is a great way to guide them to their next step.

“Do you like these home renovation ideas? Let’s get started with yours!”

As seen in this above example, calls to action can be used for almost every type of post. Tell your reader to check out your website for a business related post, or tell them to read the article or video you’re sharing. Though industry-related or share-worthy content may not lead your reader straight to your website, the posts are more likely to gain likes and shares.

Packaged in with the importance of shared content is the name of your business. Every time your post is shared, someone new has the chance to see you. That’s brand-recognition, baby! When the time comes for that person to need a lawyer, they’ll remember the interesting law posts you shared and seek out the name they remember seeing or hearing about.

On the other hand, lengthy content, bland posts, and a poor balance of business/industry/shareable don’t work well on these media channels. Lengthy content is an especially bad choice for Twitter’s 140 character count limit. As for Facebook and Google+, people just don’t have the attention spans to read posts that are more than a couple of lines long. Keep them short and concise! Don’t post bland, filler content like, “Happy Friday!” unless people have a reason to share it. “Happy Friday, here’s a hilarious cat meme” can improve brand recognition, but only if shared- use humor to your advantage.

Find your balance between business and shareable content. Too much boring business related posts and calls to action can lead to a stagnant viewer count, while too many share-worthy posts may lead to your readers not knowing what your business does.


Pinterest

What works: Images, videos, industry related content, general share-worthy content.
What doesn’t work: Lengthy content, bland content, and it may not suit your vertical.

Pinterest, like Instagram below, is all about the pictures. If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you know that it’s a very visual sight to behold. The hook of Pinterest is that people are looking for ideas. This will work best for you if your business provides ideas or the means with which to make ideas happen. A hardware store can benefit from Pinterest because you may share tree-house building ideas with your store’s name attached- don’t forget about brand recognition. Once people get the ideas from you, they’ll come into your store to buy the tools they need for the job! The best use of Pinterest includes non-business related content. Show people ideas that may lead them to your business, but don’t try to sell them right then and there.

However, Pinterest may not suit your vertical, and it definitely won’t prosper with too much emphasis on text. Many verticals such as plumbing just don’t have many corresponding ideas given the nature of the job. In this case, Pinterest can only be used for shareable content and brand recognition. The text attached to Pinterest posts is often ignored, so any applicable text should go into an infographic displayed as an image. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use any text. A small headline or message will suffice here.


Instagram

What works: Images, projects.
What doesn’t work: Mostly everything else.

Instagram is a strange beast. The entire point of this medium is to compel readers to follow you and talk about what you offer. This works best for verticals like restaurants because your customers can post images of your food for their friends to see. This also works great for verticals like home improvement. In this vertical, your business can post project and progress images of what you’ve been working on. Seeing these images and sharing them can work well to compel the reader to seek you out.

Instagram posts can’t include links, so just like Pinterest, the aim here is brand recognition. Can you consistently post interesting enough images for your readers to stay interested? Not every business can.


Reviews

Now that we’ve covered the main social media channels, let’s discuss other ways they can be used. Facebook, Google+, and other media channels support reviews. Aside from the engagement from posts, reviews can make or break a business. You may be thinking “I can’t control what people rate my business”, and you’d be right. However, you can control how you respond to people. You can turn around even the angriest rater by replying to their review in a quick and professional manner. See our other articles to learn about the importance of reviews!


Social Listening

Forbes discusses social listening as finding where your audience is discussing topics related to your brand. People are talking about cars somewhere, and these are great topics for your dealership. The short and sweet of this is that you need to be researching your competitors and your peers. What are people talking about, liking, and sharing, and how can you get in on it? You’ll want to shape your social media strategies around what’s getting the best traction everywhere else. Get researching!


SEO

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve read about the importance of SEO, and it definitely won’t be your last. When you search your business’s name or keywords related to your work, how high on the results page does it appear? The more you and your readers are mentioning your name and other keywords in relation to your business, the better your SEO results will be.


Measure Success

Finally, take a step back and look at what you’re doing. Naturally, you’ll want to look for what’s working and what isn’t. Whether you’re counting likes and shares by hand or using Google Analytics to track the information for you, understanding your trends may just be the most important part of the process, so what are you waiting for?

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Critical Data For Online Business Listings

Listings for local SEO

If you want to rank well in local search, you need consistent NAP data, website, hours, and more across all major listing directories. This is essential for search engines to validate you as a credible local business.

The more accurate and consistent data there is about your business across the web, the more search engines will trust the validity of the business. And the more the search engines trust the business, the higher they will rank in local SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

According to Moz in their 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, 13% of professionals list citation signals as the most important element in Local Pack Ranking factor.

local listing factors

Moz, 2017


What’s in an online business listing?

The information contained in business listings can vary across verticals and directories—but some key pieces of information hold true across them all.

NAP Data

The most crucial data held in a business listing is the NAP data—name, address, and phone number information. NAP data is critical for the online visibility of any business, and every listing source contains this information for the businesses listed. Having correct NAP data ensures that not only will consumers find your business online, but that consumers will also have accurate, up-to-date information on how to contact you.

NAP data is also important for search engines like Google to display your business in geo-targeted searches. If someone is searching “good seafood” in the Boston area, the local Boston seafood places with correct NAP data will appear. Of course Google gives search ranking priority to business with correct NAP data—how else are they supposed to tell where you are, what you do, and if you’re even a legitimate business at all?

The stats

Consumers are looking for your business! What exactly are they looking for?

  • 53% of mobile searchers are looking for directions
  • 50% are looking for business addresses

Think with Google

Despite the importance of accurate NAP data, our data shows that many businesses are failing even at this basic step into the world of listings.

  • 86% of businesses have either missing or incorrect company name information listed across all listings sources
  • 72% of businesses have either missing or incorrect address information listed across all listings sources
  • 71% of businesses have either missing or incorrect phone number information listed across all listings sources

Data taken from the 140,000+ local businesses in our system

Hours of Operation

One of the most important details about your business to include besides NAP data is the hours of operation. When a consumer is searching for their business (or their goods/services), they have a high purchase intent, and are likely searching for an immediate need.

The consumer will likely a visit a business after the business is shown as “open” on their Google search.

hours of operation

If your business has no hours listed, the consumer would have to go out of their way to find out whether you’re open or closed from their website, or a phone call. Or, worse yet, they drive to visit your business and find that you’re closed! Now they’re not only inconvenienced by not knowing your business hours, but they’re also upset for wasting their time. Let the negative reviews commence!

If your competitor has their business hours listed, they’ll likely capture that consumer. People just want their needs fulfilled—they’d be happy to spend their money at a business that has their hours correctly listed if they were coming in-store to make the purchase.

The stats

  • 73% of purchases that result from mobile searches happen within the same day, and most (63%) within a few hours
  • 76% of consumers report that they expected hours of operation information when conducting a search
  • Over 60% of consumers find that knowing the business hours helps them make their purchase decision

Localeze, 2015

Consumers are often looking to make purchases the same day that they’re searching, so make sure they know your store is open when they go looking!

Websites

Does your business have a central “hub” of information to direct users to online? Throw that website link into your business listings. Consumers will often travel from Google search into a business website to get a feel for the business, and learn more about what they’re offering. So obviously, including a link to your website is important for their online presence.

The stats

  • 93% of businesses have either missing or incorrect website information listed across all listings sources
  • Only 7% of businesses have their website information correct across all listing sources
  • Nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website (Clutch)
website accuracy

Website accuracy by industry

If a user can find your website, they’ll get a better impression of your business, and likely have a more positive experience. With nearly half of small businesses not having a website, you can make your business stand out on the SERP by including your website data in the listing information.

Other listing information to include

Depending on your business vertical, there may be other pieces of information important for you to include in their online business listings.

  • Payment methods
  • Services
  • Brands
  • Holiday hours
  • Photos
  • Social profiles
  • And more!

The more information you include across all listing sources and directories, the easier it will be for consumers to find your business and purchase your products and/or services.

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30 Digital Advertising Statistics for Businesses

While the world of online marketing has expanded far beyond paid advertising, advertising still plays a very important role in generating revenue and business. Digital advertising is the top of the “new advertising stack,” and it’s what can create brand awareness, drive sales, and create visibility across a variety of channels that are oversaturated with businesses trying to stand out.

Although there are many new players in the online marketing landscape like email, social media, and reputation, digital advertising isn’t set to slow down yet—a statement that’s underlined by the fact that ad spend is set to grow from $83 billion in 2017 to over $129 billion by 2021 (DMB Adobe).

We’ve compiled this list of top advertising stats so you can spend your advertising dollars where it matters, and get the ROI you need to thrive in the digital world.


Statistics about Digital Advertising

1. Digital ad spend is set to grow from $83 billion this year to $129+ billion by 2021

2. Google and Facebook are set to rake in 63.1% of digital ad spend in 2017

3. Google has +20% y/y advertising revenue growth, Facebook has +62% y/y growth

4. 39% of marketers list search engine marketing as their top business priority for 2017

5. Marketers that invest over 10% of their budgets on measurement are three times more likely to beat their sales targets by 25% or more

6. 56% of advertising use engagement to measure success, 21% use conversion & revenue

7. 34% of social media marketers list “tying social campaigns to business goals” as a top challenge


Video Advertising Statistics for 2018

8. 2017’s video advertising spend is $13.23 billion, and projected to reach $22.18 billion by 2021

9. 68% of consumers feel positively about watching video ads for mobile app rewards

10. 52% of marketers believe that video is effective for brand awareness

11. Online shoppers who view demo videos are 1.81x more likely to purchase than non-viewers

12. 51.9 percent of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI

13. According to retailers, video can account for a 40% increase in purchases

14. Mobile shoppers are 3x as likely to watch a video than desktop shoppers

15. 46% of users act after viewing an ad

16. 80% of consumers remember a video ad they viewed in the past 30 days

17. Combining video with full-page ads boosts engagement by 22 percent

18. Ecommerce sellers find that using product videos increases product purchases by 144%

19. Video ad completion rate for videos 15 seconds long is 93-95%, with 30 second videos seeing a completion rate of 92-93%

20. Over half of video advertising is viewed on mobile


Mobile Advertising Statistics

21. Americans spend 71% of their online time on mobile, with Canada and the UK coming in at 62% and 61% respectively

22. Average smartphone conversion rates are up by 64%

23. Mobile advertising accounts for $37 billion of the $73 billion total ad spend (51%)

24. 81% of consumers feel negatively about mobile add pop-ups

25. Mobile accounts for 60% of click share on Google Search ads, compared to desktop’s 32%

26. Search ad spending on mobile is set to rise by 25% in 2017


Social Media Advertising Statistics

27. 70% of advertisers plan to increase their mobile social advertising budget in 2017

28. 26% of Facebook Users that click ads make a purchase

29. Images account for 75-90% of Facebook advertising effectivity/performance

30. The best headline length for a Facebook ad is four words, with 15 for the description.

Sources: DMB Adobe, 2017 | Smart Insights, 2017 | KPCB, 2017 | Digital  Marketing Depot, 2017 | eMarketer, 2017 | CMS Report | WordStream, 2017 | Small Biz Trends, 2016 | WowMakers, 2016

Contact us to get started with digital advertising for your business today!

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An Introduction to Digital Advertising Metrics

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:

ROI Analysis - cost per aquisition

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.

ROI Analysis - lifetime value ROI

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.

ROI Analysis - campaign revenue ROI

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?

Tim Mayer, CMO of Trueffect explains:

“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.

ROI Analysis - return on ad spend

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!

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How to Perform a Local SEO Audit for Your Business in 12 Steps

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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 2: Audit Your Competition’s Local SEO

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
  • Site Speed
  • Social Stats

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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 3: Audit Google My Business Listing

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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 4: Audit Reviews for Quality and Quantity

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)
  • KiyOh

Step 5: Audit Links for Quality and Quantity

Links remain the bread and butter of Google’s ranking algorithm.

Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark notes that,

“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:

  • Local content
  • 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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 6: Audit Schema-Markup for Local

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.

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Step 7: Audit Local SEO Citations

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.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a great free tool to find and analyze both your structured and unstructured citations.

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Step 8: Audit SEO on Main Pages

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:

  • Page title
  • Title tags
  • Sub-headings
  • Word count
  • Meta description

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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 9: Audit Image SEO

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.)

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Step 10: Check Website Speed

Having a site that loads rapidly is crucial in today’s online business environment.

Edwin Toonen of Yoast notes that,

“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.

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Step 11: Audit Site Engagement

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.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 12: Audit Social Engagement

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

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Final Thoughts

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. Just contact 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!