Trends on the Horizon: What to Expect in 2018!

SEO is not easy to master.  If it was, there would be far fewer questions about it, not to mention a lot less frustration.  Understanding how it works, and how the endless changes implemented by Google affect your SEO, sometimes feels like a full-time job.

The goal is to improve the quality of results and make sure the best information is provided to the user, ensuring they return again and again for information.

Despite the changes being positive, it can be tough keeping up with the latest trends.  Your best bet is to know what is coming and figure out how you can incorporate it into your marketing plan for the upcoming year.

What is on tap for 2018?

Power of SERP Features

Things like local packs, featured snippets, and knowledge panels are all going to be popular in 2018.  These features are colorful and catch the attention of users.

To take advantage of this trend, track your rankings with these features and monitoring which ones are showing up for your keywords and taking traffic from you.  Once you figure out what is going on with SERP features, you can determine the best way to use them to your advantage.

Structured Data

Structured data allows you to format HTML with specific vocabulary that tells search engines how to interpret your content and how to display it in Google’s results.  It is not officially a way to boost your ranking, but it will increase your click-through rate, which means you will organically rise.

There are several formats available, but Schema is the most popular.  Make sure you track the changes once they  are implemented!

Speed

Here is something that has no surprise: speed still reigns supreme when it comes to ranking.  Your site needs to load within three seconds to prevent potential customers from clicking away once they have headed your way.

A good way to kick off the new year is to test your pages for speed and make the necessary improvements if you find they are loading too slow.

Make Sure Your Content is Relevant

Finally, itis imperative your content is not only relevant, but that Google knows it.  Relevance, according to Google, means your content includes terms that are important in your niche.

Look at the pages that are performing best in your niche and figure out what features they all share within their content – then make sure you have included the same on your pages.

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B2B Trend Design: Is it the Best Option for You?

The number of website design trends happening at any given moment can be overwhelming.  If you are running a B2B business and trying to keep up with all of them, there is a good chance you will feel exhausted.  The good news is just because something is trendy and clicked to the market does not mean you need to be doing it also, especially when it comes to incorporating trends into your website design.

But which of the most popular trends should you be trying?

The best trends are those that are guaranteed to boost SEO, and not all of them do.  A good example is the scrolling single page site.  It offers plenty of benefits, but if your goal is to rank well, you will need to include multiple pages on your site.  Try giving each of your services a page of its own for best results.

Another trend that can backfire are background videos.  They look cool and give a site a modern, edgy feel, but too many of them negatively impact your load time… and your SEO.

Content is one of the most highly debated topics in design and SEO circles.  Short and sweet is the name of the name when it comes to design, but too short and you are hurting your SEO.  The best content is long enough to effectively explain your point and give search engines something to sink their teeth into, but it has to be short enough  to easily  read.  A good idea is to create a place on your website where you can include long-form content for those who want it.

One of the areas where designers run into challenges is designing for mobile.  It is essential to have a mobile-friendly design, but some of the trends in mobile design actually work against your ultimate goals.  A good example is the hamburger menu.  Collapsible website menus, which are extremely advantageous – they create a clean, organized appearance – but not all site visitors know how to use them.  They might not even know they are there!

If you love the trend of hamburger menus and what they do for the look of a site, just be sure your average site visitors is tech savvy enough to know how to use them.

The good news is when it comes to design, trends are always changing.  Find a design that works for your business and at some point or another, it will be trendy.

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HTTPS: Why Your Site Needs an Update Today!

In the simplest explanation, having an HTTPS site, versus an HTTP site, means an upgrade in security.

For three years now Google has been encouraging website owners to upgrade. What do you need to know about this added layer of website safety and security?

HTTPS is an acronym for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. Both secure pieces of information that are transferred on a network. When your site transfers data between your clients and you, these layers of security help keep eavesdroppers from invading customer privacy.

If your website address starts with http, it is time to upgrade. You are putting your customers at risk otherwise.

What are the three reasons you should invest in an upgrade?

  1. Hackers are able to obtain and tamper with data as it makes its way between a server and a client. When information is entered into an unsecured form it can be stolen by criminals. Encryption prevents this and allows you to lock down the information transferred throughout all parts of a website.
  1. Sites with the added security of HTTPS are favored by Google. They rank higher in search engine results, which in and of itself should be reason enough to switch. It does not take a great deal of effort to upgrade and it is going to boost your ranking.

Keep in mind if your site is small you are not going to see an immediate huge boost. However, if there is any chance your site will grow, it is better to invest in the added security right now. It puts site visitors at ease and improves your SEO.

  1. Small things often make the greatest impact and this is the case with upgrading your site’s security. It gives visitors and costumers confidence, and it is a great way to invest in a small change that has a big impact.

Like most things related to digital marketing and having your business online, it is best to keep up with trends and make improvements sooner rather than later. You need to stay ahead of the curve – or at least grow with the curve – in order to make your investment in the online sphere worth your time and money. There has never been a better time to increase the security of your website.

If you would like to know more about security upgrades for your site, or you need to better understand HTTPS before upgrading, give us a call!

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What is the Difference between Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing? Here is What You Need to Know!

If you are running a business there is a good chance you have heard of social media marketing and digital marketing. What is the difference between the two?

Digital marketing allows you to build awareness of and promote your brand. This includes using tools like SEO, PPC, smartphones, email marketing, online banners, social media, etc.

Social media, which falls under the digital marketing umbrella, utilizes social media platforms to interact with current and potential customers. The most popular social media marketing sites include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Snapchat, but these are by no means your only options.

Using both digital marketing methods, and specifically, social media marketing, is essential to your business’s success in this day and age. It allows you to spread the word quickly about your business and rely on social proof to build a strong fan base.

Social media is also good for SEO. The more attention your business gets online the better. Active social media accounts boost other aspects of your digital marketing plans. Do not be surprised that once you start investing some time in social media you see traffic to your site jump and you notice an improvement in your search engine rankings.

Social media also lets you build personal relationships with your customers. Social media is about communities and the more active your community the better. Using social media allows you to put a personal face on your business.

One of the most important things to understand about the difference between social media and digital marketing is that one is a part of the other. Social media is one of the most important components of your digital marketing campaign. It is a great place to begin with digital marketing because there is an easy interest point and you will see a major impact – and fast.

Is One More Important than the Other?

Not necessarily, but it might be depending on your products or services. Not all businesses are conducive to social media, and others can use it but they need to be really creative. You need to consider how effective social media will be for promoting your brand.

It is also important to consider how helpful it might be to use other forms of digital marketing. In some cases, purchasing ads on social media is going to be more effective than having a traditional social media campaign.

If you would like to know more about digital marketing or social media marketing, or you are ready to launch a program and grow your business, let us know!

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Is Your Business’s Social Media Strategy Working? Here is How You Can Tell!

If you are like most business owners, you are investing a decent amount of time and effort into your social media strategy. It is important to assess the situation and make sure you are not wasting your resources.

How can you tell if your social media strategy is working?

First, you need to understand what “working” means for your business. What spells success for one business might not be the same for another. Having a clear goal for your social media efforts makes it much easier to evaluate whether or not what you are doing is working.

What are some of the key indicators related to successful social media?

  • Traffic: If your social media is driving people to your website, it is achieving its most basic function
  • Revenue: Is the traffic you are social media generating converting to paying customers? Even if your traffic is lower than you want, if that traffic has a high conversion rate, it is helping you achieve your ultimate goal
  • Visibility: Is your social media “putting you out there?” The more people who are aware of your business the better
  • Audience: Are your social media efforts helping you grow your followers?

All of these things are important, but there are a few specific indicators on which you want to focus.

Conversions are arguably the best way to measure the success of your social media efforts. After all, your end game is to grow your business and the only concrete way of doing that is getting more paying customers. Make sure you are tracking how social media is helping you reach people who are converting to paying customers. If the numbers look good, you have a successful social media campaign going on.

In addition to how many people are following you, keep track of how many of those people are engaging with your social media accounts. You want your accounts to be active, which means comments and shares are more important than the overall number of people following your account. If your social media community is “hopping,” it is a good indication that you are doing something right.

Social media marketing is an ongoing process. What works now might not work in a few weeks or months. If you are a business owner using social media, make sure you are tracking your efforts. The last thing you want is to get trapped in doing things that are not going to do you any good.

Want to know more? Give us a call!

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Do I Need to Respond to Every Review? Making the Most of Your Reviews

Most business owners understand how important it is to respond to problematic reviews. When someone leaves a negative review you need to do whatever you can to resolve the problem.

But do you really need to respond to every review?

It does not matter if you have set up your business on a review site or not, customers can write reviews. This means in order to control your online reputation, you need to take charge and be aware of the reviews you are receiving. Even if you do not want to be part of the online review world, you are going to be dragged into it by customers – you might as well make the most of it.

Online Reviews are Making an Impact

Online reviews are having a major impact on consumer behavior. A recent study revealed 92 percent of consumers rely on online reviews to help them make purchases.

Consumers are paying attention to what other people are saying about your business – and they are paying attention to how you are responding to those things.

When you receive a negative review, you must respond to it. Dealing with a negative review can be intimidating, but it is a necessity. Potential customers who see you responding to negative reviews and trying to resolve an issue will be impressed. Managing negative reviews must be an important part of your customer service program.

Positive Reviews

But what about positive reviews? Should you respond to those, too?

The answer is yes, whenever possible.

Going the extra mile and thanking customers for positive reviews really makes your business stand out. It shows you appreciate the effort and you are not just worried about oiling the squeaky wheels.

Responding to positive reviews shows you are truly interested in what your customers have to say.

It also encourages more people to write reviews – everyone wants attention and to feel appreciated. By thanking people and acknowledging the time and effort they put into writing a review of your business, you are letting people know you are interested in what customers have to say, even if they are not complaining or trying to get something fixed.

And do not forget, responding to positive reviews can help you feel better about your business. Troubleshooting problems is part of doing business, unpleasant as it is. But interacting with happy customers is one of the better parts of doing business – you might as well take advantage of it when it occurs!

If you need some assistance managing online reviews or you are ready to get started with an active review program, we can help. Give us a call!

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Fake Reviews are Damaging Consumer Confidence

Do fake reviews really hurt? The Better Business Bureau says yes.

And the problem is not fake bad reviews – it is the glowing reviews products are getting when they actually do not stand up to claims.

It has happened to us all: you order a product based on the reviews and once you have it in your hand it is a big disappointment. Why were the reviews so misleading?

Because they were fake.

It might come as a shock, but there are companies out there paying for positive reviews. They are also paying reviews to leave false negative reviews on their competitors’ sites.

Negative reviews can hurt your business directly and indirectly. You need to know how to spot fake reviews and how to deal with them.

How can you spot those fake reviews? And what can you do to make sure your business’s reviews do not come off as fake to readers?

  • Make sure reviews have plenty of details. Broad reviews that use general terms and do not seem to be from someone who has actually used a product are a red flag. When reviews focus on background info or try to set a scene, but gloss over the details of the actual product, there is a good chance it is fake.
  • Fake reviews tend to use “me” and “I” more than genuine. It is an indication the reviewer is trying too hard. Fake reviews also tend to include a lot of emotional language.
  • Reviews that come from people without a review history can also be fake. This does not mean you should not encourage less active reviewers to talk about your business, but you should realize how valuable it is to have reviews from those who are already active and established on review sites.

Many review sites, including the BBB, verifies purchases. Some reviewers even have “verified purchase” listed in their review. These are the best reviews because they give customers confidence the product or service was legitimately used before the review was written.

The BBB also ensures their reviews are reliable by:

  • Processing the reviews in an ethical, unbiased manner
  • Not allowing anonymous reviews
  • Validating email addresses of reviewers
  • Working with businesses and consumers to resolve issues related to negative reviews
  • Investigating businesses that receive negative reviews
  • Allowing businesses to provide feedback related to negative reviews

If you would like to know more about using reviews for your business or to learn how you can reduce the damage negative reviews cause your business, give us a call!

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Website Lacking Traffic? Here is Why!

You built it but they did not come.  Or they came but they are not showing up anymore.  Your website is not attracting traffic like you want it to and you need to know why.

Your website is one of your most powerful marketing tools.  It allows you to connect with customers and boost your sales.  Unfortunately, business owners often drop the ball once their website is created and they do not realize it is always going to be a work in progress.

Having a business website is not enough, you need to manage and maintain it.

What are some of the most common reasons websites fail to generate the traffic you want for your business?

Links are Broken

The internet is constantly changing, which mean something you linked to years or even weeks or months ago might no longer be available.  Some of your internal links might not even be valid any longer.  If your links are sending site visitors to a 404 error page, chances are they would not stick around to figure out the problem.  In more than three quarters of the cases, they will leave forever.

If you think broken links might be hurting your traffic, use a tool link Broken Link Checker to find out what is going on and fix the problem.  Fixing broken links can be a time consuming process, but is well worth your effort.  And once you have done a big cleanout, make sure you do link check maintenance on a weekly or monthly basis.

Not Enough Content

One of the main reasons a site fails to product traffic is because people are not finding the site.  The best way to lead people to the door of your website is with content.  It makes search engines happy and attracts attention from potential customers.

Make sure your site is filled with product descriptions, website copy, articles, press releases, and blogs.  Studies have shown that sites that publish 16 or more articles each month see a more than three times spike in traffic.

SEO Failure

Content is not enough.  Your site needs to be optimized for search engines.  This ensures Googles and other search engines are able to find you.  You can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to help you create optimized content that will get the attention you need to ensure people find your site.

Investing a little time in compiling a keyword/phrase list can go a long way in helping you get your site SEO-ready.

If you would like more information about improving your traffic or you have questions about making your site better, let us know!

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Borrowing Images Online? Here is What You Need to Know

Considering how easy it is to share information on the internet, it is no surprise that copyright law is often broken in the online world.  Now more than ever, businesses need to be careful what images and other content they use because attorneys are on the hunt for copyright infringement.  Sharing something without the right permission to do so can cost you begin, and damage your online reputation.

What do you need to know if you are using images that are not your own online?

You will want to begin by understanding the various terms associated with haring online photos.  Copyright gives you the exclusive right to use and license an image for life.  Model release pertains to a person’s image.  Property release allows an image to be featured in a stock photo.  Fair use allows you to use a photo in a way that is not demeaning.

But how do you know if you have permission to use a photo if you have not taken it or if you have not spoken to the person who did take it and receive the OK to use it? You will need to review the license agreement connected to the photo.  The details of legal protection offered by a stock photo website details the way in which you’re allowed to use the photo.  If you infringe on this, your business can be held legally responsible.

Before using a stock photo for your business, you will want to review the license agreement to be sure the picture is available for commercial (versus just personal) use.  Royalty free stock photos are those that allow you to use them in any way once you have purchased the license.  Rights managed stock photos allow usage, but have certain restrictions and might not be available for commercial use.

The best way to be a good citizen online when it comes to using photos is to understand the images online are not free for all to use.  Just because you Google a phrase and it pulls up an image in Google Images does not mean you have a right to copy it and use it for your own purposes without permission.

The best sites for finding photos that do allow for commercial use, without a fee, are Flickr (the site requires you link back to the original picture) and Pixabay, which allows for sharing and tweaking of photos.

If you are ever in doubt about whether you have permission to use a photo, at the very least make sure you attribute the photo with its title, author, source, and license information.

Need more help finding photos you can use online? Let us know!

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2018 is Right around the Corner: Here is What You Need to Know about Upcoming Social Media Trends

Social media, for all its flaws and benefits, is not going anywhere in 2018.  This is good news for businesses, even ones that are not fully taking advantage of all they can do in social media.  If you are hoping to step up your game in the new year, begin preparing now.  These predicted trends can help you put together an effective and comprehensive plan for 2018.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Social media is heading into the VR and AR realm.  The latest iPhone updates incorporate a chip that allows users to enjoy augmented reality experiences through their devices, and while the gaming world will be impacted the most by this, social media is also likely to be affected.  For instance, Instagram and Snapchat could support filters that make it possible to post selfie pictures projected via AR.  Businesses might also be able to project their products into various environments.

Speaking of Instagram, Instagram Stories will continue to make an impact in 2018.  More than 200 million people currently use the platform at the moment, and it is predicted that half of all Instagram users will be using the in-app video feature by the end of next year.  Instagram Stories is a great way to begin incorporating video into your online marketing plans.

Influencers Will Continue to Dominate

The use of influences marketing has been widely successful and its use will continue to grow in 2018.  Traditional advertising strategies struggle, but influencer marketing allows you to connect with a wider audience.

Gen Z Focus

Members of Generation Z, the oldest of whom just turned 22, will be one of the major target audiences for the first time.  These people are just entering the workforce and beginning to earn their own money, and they are open to modern forms of online advertising.  If you have not thought about ways your business can target Gen Z, now is the time.

Live Streaming

Live streaming is now a mainstream part of social media, and it is being used by both large and small businesses.  Livestreaming on Facebook and other platforms allows you to share compelling “in the moment” content and it is one of the most powerful tools available online.

Facebook is also working on a development called Spaces which is another way friends can connect through virtual reality.  And since the company owns Oculus – one of the most popular names in VR – it is no surprise theyare headed in this direction.

Want more tips to prepare for 2018? Give us a call!

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