What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Mobile-first indexing is Google’s current approach to SEO. It acknowledges the number of Google users searching on mobile devices and it ensures that sites that are mobile-friendly are given top priority when it comes to search results. Though the plan is rolling out slowly – giving online marketers time to adjust – it is important to get out in front of the changes and make sure your site features responsive design, is conversion rate optimized, and that overall, you are presenting a mobile-friendly site to Google.

Having a mobile-friendly site is great, but it is not enough. Your site needs to be fully crawlable and indexable, which means it needs to be built with responsible design. This means it is capable of looking great no matter what device is used to access it.

Another important feature is dynamic serving. This improves the mobile user’s experience by varying the way your site shares its content depending on the device being used.

In some ways, improving your site for mobile-first indexing is about returning to the basics of SEO. However, you will also need to focus on a few more comprehensive issues.

Continue to make sure your content is high-quality and optimized for SEO. Know your customer’s needs and understand how they search – it will help you be their go-to source for information.

Make sure you have clean, structured data with easy to read code. It needs to be crawlable so Google understands your message and is willing to make sure others see it.

Include metadata that provides more crawlable information to Google. It should be schema mark-up for text content and a description of the size, color, resolution, and date for images and videos. This allows the web crawlers to see and interpret the information.

Update your mobile-dot websites. These were the original versions of websites for mobile devices and some businesses are still using them. Double check that your canonical and alternate tags are properly set up to avoid any problems.

Make sure you are prepared for an increase in mobile visitors. You site needs to be able to handle the changes on the horizon, and if it gets bogged down when a lot of people visit on mobile devices you are in trouble. Set aside some time to view your files and note how long they take to upload on a mobile device. You might need to make some changes but the time and effort invested now will be worth it as mobile use increases in the coming years.

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Too Much of a Good Thing? How to Keep Your Social Media Marketing Under Control

Social media is an affordable and effective way to spread the message about your business and interact with customers, but it can get overwhelming. Businesses that make the mistake of jumping on all of the latest social media platforms and trends will soon find it is just too much.

Your goal, if you choose to use social media marketing, should be to build a strong following on one or two platforms. Customers will know where to find you and how to interact with you. If you would like to grow beyond that once you have established a presence on two sites, you can grow slowly one by one.

For instance, you might start with a Facebook page for your business and then add a Twitter account. Once those are established and consistent, you can add a YouTube page – and so on.

Why should you be so careful not to overexpose your business on social media?

You do not want customers to be over saturated with your content. In addition to limiting the number of platforms you use, it is also important to limit the number of posts you put on those platforms. Make sure what you are posting has value and that you are not just spamming someone’s social media feed.

If you choose to work with influencers, make sure you work with people who can also provide value. You do not want endless posts about your products or services that are just the same things repeated over and over. The goal is to make your brand on social media as interesting as you would want to be in real life.

It is also important to have some structure and planning behind your social media marketing. Though it can help to comment on the occasional current event, you need to be sure you are thinking through everything that posted.

Does the content match the overall message of your brand? Does it add to your reputation as an industry leader? Are you proud of the message you are conveying on social media? Is it smart or fun or appealing to your target audience? Does the message show compassion or understanding, when appropriate? These are the questions you need to ask before every post.

Social media is a balancing act for businesses and to do it well, they need to have a well-regulated system. With a bit of planning and know-how, social media can be your strongest marketing tool, allowing you to connect with current customers and appeal to new ones on a daily basis.

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Do not Go Broke! Three Ideas for Affordable Small Business Marketing

Marketing a small business can be a challenge, especially when you do not have a great deal of money to invest in marketing campaigns.

The good news is there are a few things you can do that work really well and do not cost a great deal of money. It does not matter how small your marketing team might be – or if you, the owner of the owner of the business, is the marketing team: these tips will help you build a strong presence.

Starting a Blog

Blogging will cost you very little money but will have a significant impact on your small business’s online presence. It helps improve your SEO, driving traffic to your website that can easily convert into paying customers. The majority of companies with a blog – about 60 percent – report that their blog has brought customers to their business. More than 80 percent consider their blogs a crucial part of doing business.

Blogs do more than boost SEO. They also help you improve your relationship with customers and establish you an as expert in your industry. Best of all? You can get started blogging in just a few minutes.

Launch a Social Media Campaign

Most people are familiar with social media in one way or another, but not that many people realize how effective it can be for helping businesses with marketing. Starting a social media account, or multiple accounts, for your business allows you to connect on a personal level with customers.

In addition to using social for communicating with existing customers who like or follow your business, you can also utilize social media marketing campaigns to find new customers. These campaigns are an affordable way to get the word out to millions about your business. You are even able to target specific people who you know would love your service or product.

Try Livestreaming

Looking for one more way to get personal and real with your customers? Live streaming allows you to incorporate video into your marketing plans, but has the added benefit of airing live. It is a great way to reach customers real-time without investing a ton of money. People find live streaming engaging and interesting, and they want to be a part of your real-time activities.

Despite the “on-the-fly” feel of a live stream, it is important to make sure you plan your videos and that they stay on brand. They’ll have a causal but professional feel customers will really enjoy.

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Five Strategies to Help You Improve Online Review

Having strong online reviews can do a great deal to help a business, but you need to make sure any strategies you use to get those reviews are within the guidelines of the review sites. Luckily, there are plenty of actions you can take without concern for being unethical. Here are five:

Before you even concern yourself with reviews and review sites, make sure you are offering your customers a great experience. Doing good business should always be your number one priority and without it, you would not benefit much from marketing – online or otherwise.

The most important thing you can do to improve your reviews is make sure you are doing the most important thing well is to please your customers. Give customers a good experience and they will be more likely to talk about it online. If you need to improve on anything, make sure you take care of it before moving onto the next step.

You will also want to make sure you are taking to heart anything customers are telling you about your business. If you receive negative feedback, use it to improve your business. And if you hear anything positive, that can help you too.

Now you can begin to focus on the third-party review sites. Make sure your customers know you are on these sites and that reviewing your business is even an option. Some people are happy to give reviews, but they do not know how to go about doing it or that you are interested in getting them. If possible, add the third-party review site logos to your business cards, marketing materials, and your storefront. This alerts everyone to the fact that you were featured on these sites.

Do not be shy about asking for reviews. Sometimes the best way to get a review is to ask a happy customer. Asking in person is also a great chance to get a feel for what is making customers happy and what you need to work on. If you get positive feedback, encourage the customer to post a review. If the feedback is negative, use it as a learning experience. This is a great way to preview your reviews before they are shared with the public.

Finally, do your best to be active and engaging in the online community. People are more likely to go online and talk about your business if they know you are already there. You can work on social media presence and make sure you have an active, useful website for customers. The more comprehensive the online marketing plan the better off you will be – and the more reviews you will enjoy.

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Email Marketing: Here is What to Avoid If You are Just Getting Started

Email marketing is a great way to connect with your audience, but the entire process can seem overwhelming if you have never used it before.  What do you need to know to make your email marketing campaigns a success?

How Many Emails to Send

The key to successful email marketing is a little like Goldilocks and her trip into the bears’ home: the number of emails cannot be too many and cannot be too few.  It needs to be just right.

Experts have studied the difference between too many and too few and came up with this magic formula: two emails per month is probably just right.

But that is not the case for everyone, and not the case for every business.  It all depends on the content in your emails and how receptive your audience is to that content.

Chances are if you aim for two per month, you can adjust to the right number eventually based on the feedback and data you collect.  At least you have a good starting point!

Customization Works in Your Favor… Most of the Time

Studies have shown that customized emails get opened more frequently than general ones, so it is a good idea to address customers on an individual basis.  Customization can be especially helpful in email marketing campaigns when:

  • You are welcoming new customers to your email list
  • You are reaching out to those who have left items in their shopping carts
  • You are sending requests for reviews or satisfaction surveys
  • You are sharing special gifts or promotions for a client’s birthday or other special occasion

Do not Overload Your Emails with Content

Content is an important part of an email, but cramming emails with too much can end up working against you.  You do not want people to be forced to scroll down, especially when they are viewing your email in preview format.

Another reason is it is just a bad idea to overload emails with content.  It would not hold the readers’ attention.

Personalize on Your End Too

In addition to personalizing emails for the recipient, also make sure you are personalizing them for you.  The recipient should know who is sending the email, including the business name and the name of the individual sending them.  Sending an email from a no reply email address does you no good.  People want to feel as if they are getting an email from a person with whom they can interact and respond to, if needed.

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Managing SEO In-house or Outsourced: Which is Right for You?

If you have already established you need support with SEO, you are ahead of the game.  Many companies are lost when it comes to getting noticed online and managing where they appear in search engine results.

Understanding the importance of strong SEO is essential to your success, and finding someone to help you handle it – while you focus on all the other things on your plate as a business owner – puts you in front of your competition.

But should you hire someone to be part of your in-house team or does it make more sense to outsource your SEO?

Here is what you need to consider:

Hiring an Employee

Having someone in-house working as an employee gives you a lot of control.  It also allows you to collaborate easily.

You will also end up with someone focused entirely on your business’s SEO.  As an employee of your company, your company is their only priority.

It is also easy for in-house SEO managers to stay on top of industry trends and how they affect your business specifically.

Of course, all of these benefits come at a cost.  But it is not always as bad as you think.

Instead of hiring someone without decades of experience, you can hire someone with a lot of potential and groom them specifically for your business.   Everything they currently know and they learn along the way will be tailored to your industry and your company.

Outsourcing to an Agency

Using an agency also offers a number of benefits.  You will get experience, SEO expertise, and possibly, the benefit of working with an entire team instead of just one person.

Agencies also give you diversity.  If projects pop up that are not specific to your “usual” way of doing things, an agency will likely have the experience to offer guidance.

Working with an agency also means you get the benefit of third-party support that’s on a different schedule than you.  For instance, your busy season might not be their busy season.  Whereas with an employee, you’re all in it together and will be swamped at exactly the same time.

Blending the Two

It is also important to realize that some companies are going to fare better with a blend of in-house and outsourced SEO.  If you usually benefit from in-house SEO, but you want a little additional support, your employee could manage an outsourced team for special projects.

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SEO Trends Headed Our Way in 2018           

The latest list of trends in SEO is out and it can help you make online marketing decisions for your business in 2018.  What do you need to know?

Improvements are on the Way for Video and Image Search

Over the years, the things we do online have become more image-oriented and visual.  And thanks to faster internet speeds and social media platforms that are image-friendly (think Instagram as opposed to how Twitter once was…), Google and other search engines have had to adjust.  Search engines need to offer video and image results for users to be happy with results, and even if we were not sure exactly how, those improvements are on the way.

Knowledge Graph

As usual, Google is at the forefront of trends, and the Knowledge Graph is a great example of how they lead the way.  The search engine has been honing its ability to give concise answer to user queries, and doing away with featured snippets in favor of the Knowledge Graph boxes is likely the next big thing in search engine results.

Smart Speakers are Changing the Face of SEO

If you do not have an Echo, Alexa, or Google Home device, chances are you know a few people who do.  These devices also mean users are more comfortable having “conversations” with their search engines – something that will likely result in drastic changes to how businesses thing about their SERPs and how search engines are used in general.  Take away the visual component of search engine results and you have got a whole different ball game.

Personalization

Google is working harder and harder at developing personalized search engine results, and this trend is expected to continue into 2018.  Now, more than ever, search engines have information about specific users, and Google is constantly looking for ways to harness its knowledge and provide the best possible results based on the specific user.

Google is not the Only Player in the Game

It is still dominates the field by miles, but we are seeing others throw their hat in the game.  For instance, Yelp, and Amazon, and Pinterest are used as search engines more so than they were in the past.  For instance, if you are looking for a restaurant in your area, you are more likely to search via Yelp than Google nowadays.  Businesses are going to have to adjust and think outside of Google as things change.

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2018 Trends in Social Media Marketing

It is a new year, which means new trends in social media are on the horizon.  What can you expect in 2018?

Transparency

One of the biggest changes coming has to do with how transparent paid ads and brand sponsorship’s will be from here on out.  The Federal Trade Commission has laid out new requirements for brands, influences, and celebrities, and will be cracking down on those who are advertising but being a little less than transparent about it.

Gone are the days where someone can say “I love this product!” in social media without giving a disclaimer they’re being paid (or compensated in any manner) to say it.

Video Stays Strong

Video was a big part of social media marketing in 2017 and that trend will continue.  Whether it is on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or anywhere else, both raw and produced video content is king right now.  Most industry experts believe video content will make up about 80 percent of all internet content by the end of the year.

Artificial Intelligence

In a similar vein as video, AI is moving forward at a breakneck pace and will be a big part of social media marketing in the coming year.

AI can be as simple as being able to answer consumer questions in real-time or offering an interactive experience on your website.  If you have not explored the world of AI as it pertains to your marketing plans, now is the time.

Organic Reach Has Died…?

Maybe not entirely, but it is different now than it was even a year ago.  Some industry experts are predicting it is over, but we will see.

The main reason there are doubts about it is that it is so tough to compete organically.  There is just SO MUCH content, it is a challenge to generate traffic organically.

Companies are spending fortunes on PPC campaigns and regardless of how you feel about upcoming trends,  you should be exploring your opportunities and be willing to branch out.

Storytellers

Brands need to be telling stories.  Think about it: the latest developments on Instagram and Facebook are literally called Instagram Story and Facebook Story.  These features are expected to be huge in 2018 and businesses not using them already are missing out.

Having stories to tell on a regular basis about your brand is a great way to make personal contact with your audience.  If you have not already delved into these features, now is the time.

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What You Need to Know about Online Reviews

People use the internet for an unprecedented number of decisions.  Where to eat, what products to buy, what clothes to wear… you name it.  And once they have had their experience or made their purchase, they go back online to report their feelings and opinions.

Businesses are able to use this new consumerism to their advantage, but it can also come back to hurt them.  The key is to know how to manage your reviews and make the most of the opportunities the internet is providing – to both consumers and businesses.

What should you be doing to master the world of online reviews?

Aim High – But Not Too High

You should be doing all you can to make your customers happy.  But when it comes to attracting attention to your business online, having a few things that need correcting generates the most attention.

Some studies have found that a little under a five star review is the best case scenario when it comes to influencing buying decisions.   All perfect reviews just seems too good to be true.  Every now and then you need to hear from the critics if you want to present a well-rounded picture of your business.

Keep in mind, a less than perfect review collection also helps you build trust with the audience.  People want to know the reviews they are seeing – positive and negative – are genuine, and they want to see how you handle problems when they arise.  The occasional negative review helps you in many ways, including building trust with your client base.

Join the Convo

The last thing you want to do is hide from your reviews.  Whether they are negative or positive, you should be interacting with those leaving you reviews.

The key to a good response is to be sincere and respectful toward anyone who leaves you a review.  If there is truly a problem that needs fixing, fix it.  And if you are dealing with someone who is just looking for trouble, thank them for their review, be professional, and acknowledge your products or services might not be a good fit for them.

More is More… Unless It is Not

Having a lot of reviews is great, but it is better to have a lot of quality reviews.  Balance is important when it comes to online reviews.

If you have not already, create a system that allows you to collect reviews from customers as easily as possible.

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What Affects Your Local SEO Rank More than Anything?

If you are looking for the one thing you can do to improve your local SEO rank, even if you do nothing else, look to your reviews.  Reviews are the single most powerful tool you have for boosting local SEO results.

This means that even if you have low-quality links or you are working on building your collection of links, your site can still rank well if you have reviews.

This is based on information from a yearly study of local SEO ranking factors that is conducted by the Local SEO Guide.  Most recently, it looked at more than 200 factors over 100,000 local businesses to determine what was similar among those that ranked well in Google’s local pack.  Even those with poor link profiles ranked high in organic search if it had a high Google local pack ranking.

The study even found that businesses with a strong Google local pack ranking did well even if it lacked traditional SEO, including a website.  That is right – even without a website, a business was noticed by Google and included on local rankings if people had reviewed the business.

It should be noted, it is not only the quantity of reviews that matter – it is what is said in the reviews.  Google notices when keywords are mentioned, like the name of the city where the business is located.  The same is true for traditional keywords, especially if they are linked to a city.  So, for instance, “bread baker in Boise”, would be a good phrase to include in a review if you are a baker that offers bread and you are located in Boise, ID.

Should You Even Bother with Links Anymore?

When it comes to ranking in local search, links do not seem to be of that much importance.  Of course, that does not mean you should not still be trying to build a link profile.  Even though your business can rank in local search without links, doing so is not going to hurt your local results – and it will still help your overall SEO.

And about ranking in local search without a website? Even though it is possible, it is highly discouraged.  Small businesses need websites to rank in organic search.  Investing in a business website is still one of the most powerful things you can do and should be one of your main – if not your primary – marketing investments.

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