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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Does Your Business Show Up in Google Maps? Here is How to Make Sure It Does!

Google Maps is a valuable tool for business owners to market their businesses, but you cannot assume your business will automatically show up in the results.  What are some of the reasons you might be missing from the results?

You Failed to Set Up Google My Business

In order to appear in Google Maps, you need to have an established and verified Google My Business account.  It needs to include the correct information, including an accurate location for your business.  The information also needs to be perfectly consistent all across the internet.  Even minor details like street abbreviations need to be consistent.

In addition to accuracy and consistency, you need to be relevant.  Make sure you choose the right business categories in Google My Business and that you provide plenty of images – of your business’s exterior and interior, your products, and anything else that could be of interest.  Never use stock photos to portray your business.

You have Failed to Optimize Your Site for Local Search

Your site needs to feature a page dedicated to contact information that has the exact same info you put into Google My Business.  If your business happens to be one with multiple locations, create a separate page on your site for each of your locations.

In addition to your contact information on your site, make sure you:

  • Embed Google Maps on the site
  • Include locations in page titles and headings
  • Use your location(s) as keywords in your content
  • Use your location(s) in anchor text
  • Use schema markup to verify your location
  • Check on speed and optimize your site for mobile users

You Have not Done Enough to Boost Off-Site Local SEO

In order to be a part of Google Maps, you need to invest time and effort in getting reviews of our business on Google and on third-party review sites.  Google checks in with Yelp and other review sites to ensure your information is correct and consistent, and that people are talking about your business.

Building positive reviews on Google and these other sites takes time, but it is well worth your effort – and not just for Google but for people looking for information about your business! Reviews make it easier to generate leads and ensure people know about your business and what you offer.

If you are ready, set up a review program that encourages customers to leave reviews on Google and other third-party sites.

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Want to Reach Out to Customers throughout the Holiday Season? Here are a Few Email Marketing Tips!

Email marketing can be an effective way to touch base with customers during the holiday season.  It can also help your bottom line because you are capitalizing on the busiest shopping season of the year.  The important thing is to design a strategy that is more than just flooding in-boxes.

What are some of the best ways to boost sales during the holiday season using email marketing?

Make the Message Appealing

The most important thing you can do when reaching out to customers during the holidays via email is to make sure you are offering a true incentive to shop with you.  Include images in your emails and list the benefits of any products or services you offer.  Make sure you are answering the most important question: “What is in it for the person receiving the email?”

Content is King – Even in Holiday Emails!

You want to sell your products or services, but you also want to still be educating and informing with quality content.  Offer advice, include video demonstrations of products, or provide holiday shopping tips make sure your emails are doing more than just selling.

Include Coupons

Nothing gets an email opened faster than the promise of a great bargain.  This is a great time to run promos and sales, especially if your goal is to boost sales.  People love getting a great bargain and are especially looking for good deals this time of year. 

Make Your Emails Targeted

It might be more effective to send certain emails to certain people.  Consider dividing your email list into segments: previous shoppers hot leads, varying demographics… whatever makes sense for your business.  Then you can send targeted emails that get the right message to the right people.

Timing is Everything!

You do not want to be a pest, but you want to make sure you stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds.  This is a delicate balance that so many business owners get wrong.  It is also important to not start your campaign too early because you’ve already become background news by the time the holiday shopping season is in full swing.

If you have been postponing setting up a holiday shopping season email marketing campaign, now is the time.  Take advantage of these last few weeks of the year and make the most of your mailing list.

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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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