Tag Archives: marketing

3 SEO Tips to Help Your Small Business Stand Out Online

As more and more consumers look online before buying products and services, basic search engine optimization is essential for your business. If you don’t prioritize your company’s visibility in online searches, you could end up at a competitive disadvantage.

According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, “97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017.”

SEO is a complex and multifaceted discipline, but by following just a few best practices, you can help boost your business’s chances of getting found in searches on Google.

1. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, make it so.

Fifty-seven percent of all online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. Google has estimated that 9 out of 10 people will leave a website if it isn’t easy to use from their mobile device. So, even if your company has better products and services than your competitors, you could miss out on business opportunities if you don’t have a mobile-ready website.

Mobile-friendliness also affects your website’s ranking in Google searches. Beginning in April 2015, Google began giving mobile-ready websites an edge over sites without mobile support on the search engine results pages.

Adding to the importance of having a mobile-ready site is the rollout of Google’s mobile-first indexing, which began in March 2018. In Google’s own words, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”

Although mobile-first indexing has not rolled out to all websites yet, Google is encouraging webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly to perform better in mobile search results.

You can check to see if Google considers your site mobile-ready by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test. If your site has room for improvement, talk with an experienced web development resource to discuss your options.

2. Establish a business profile (or claim your business listing) on online directories and review sites.

Well-known sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch, and TripAdvisor, often rank higher than business websites in search results. If you’re listed on them, prospective customers will have an easier time finding you. Also, the links to your website from these sites (“backlinks”) can help improve your website’s ranking in search results.

The benefits of better visibility and backlinks also apply to listings on local directory sites like those provided by your chamber of commerce, tourism bureau, and other organizations.

If you operate your business from a physical location, you’ll also want to make sure you appear on Google My Business. Doing so will help your business show up higher in local search results, including on Google Maps.

Important Note: Wherever you list your business online, make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent. If you’ve moved or changed your name or phone number, you’ll want to update that information on every website that lists your company. Most SEO experts agree that search engines look for uniformity to validate that a business is legitimate. Inconsistency can result in your business information showing up incorrectly—or Google might choose to omit your business from the search engine results page altogether.

3. Have a keyword strategy that goes narrow rather than broad.

Keywords remain critical for helping Google determine what your website pages are about. However, they need context and must appear naturally in content that satisfies what your audience wants to know.

Rather than use keywords that consist of only one or two general words, focus on long-tail keywords that more closely resemble—in your customers’ words— the exact types of products and services your customers are looking for and the area where they hope to find them.

So, say you have a dog training business in Portland, Maine. Rather than using the general keywords of “dog training” or “dog trainers” (which have a tremendous amount of competition in search results), consider using wording that’s reflective of what your customers will be looking for online. For example,

  • Dog trainers in Portland Maine
  • Aggressive dog training Maine
  • Therapy dog training Portland Maine

While these don’t have the same amount of monthly search traffic coming to them as “dog training” and “dog trainers,” they have far fewer businesses competing for them and will better your chances of ranking higher in search results. Also, they will help ensure that the people who do find your website are potential customers for the services you provide.

Brainstorm on your own to determine some relevant keywords, and do some keyword research by using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, SEMRush’s Keyword Research tool, or Moz Keyword Explorer.

Bonus Tip: As you’re deciding which long-tail keywords to use, also consider the increase in voice-activated searches. Think about how people talk, not just how they type!

Where Can You Find More Information About SEO Best Practices?

If you want to learn more about ways you can improve awareness of your business online, consider following SEO and digital marketing blogs like Yoast, Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. Also, contact SCORE to talk with a mentor who can direct you to reputable SEO specialists in your area, and who can advise you on all aspects of your business’s marketing endeavors.

Advertisements

Communication Tips Part 1: Write Like You Mean Business

writing

Among the many skills small business owners need to hone, communicating like a pro is one of the most critical. Whether crafting an email to a prospective client or delivering a workshop to peers at a chamber of commerce event, your prowess in communicating affects how others perceive you.

This blog post is the first in a two-part blog series sharing practical tips to help entrepreneurs write and speak better.

 

Six Tips To Help You Write Like You Mean Business

  • Set aside dedicated time, so you don’t have to rush through it. The phrase “haste makes waste” is true when writing anything. If you try to squeeze writing in on the fly, you won’t have time to gather your thoughts properly, you’ll struggle to find the right words to get your point across, and you’ll make silly mistakes. That means you’ll need to spend extra time editing—and maybe even completely rewriting—what you originally wrote. Instead, block out some time to tackle writing projects when other priorities—and people—won’t distract you.

 

  • Organize/outline the key points you want to communicate. Never underestimate the power of planning. Before you start writing, think about your purpose and the specific details you want to share. Also, consider in what order you should write about those details, so they flow seamlessly and won’t confuse your audience. A good way to do this is to prepare an outline or simply create a list of bullet points that put your main points and key details in logical order.

 

  • Make sure you clearly state any action you need readers to take. If you need your audience to do something after reading your email, memo, letter, or other written communications piece, say so openly. Consider making calls to action more prominent by using bold font. If you have multiple action items, put them in a bulleted list. Also, make sure you share the dates/times by which you need responses or tasks completed.

 

  • Use tools to edit and proofread. After you’ve written drafts, take advantage of apps and software available (many offer free versions) to help you fine-tune them. For example, the spell check features in Word and email platforms can help you detect misspellings and some basic grammar errors. Also, take a look at Grammarly. It offers a browser extension that checks grammar in your online communications (e.g., when crafting emails and social media posts) and a downloadable version that allows you to check grammar in Word documents. Realize you should still review your writing in addition to using tools. Tools can save time and pick up on items you might otherwise miss, but they’re not 100 percent accurate all the time.

 

  • Read your writing out loud. Vocalizing what you wrote will help you ensure your writing projects the right tone. If your “voice” comes across harsh or angry, you may want to make adjustments to soften your approach. When you read your communications out loud, it also enables you to flag anything readers might misinterpret or not understand.

 

  • Ask someone else to review. This added measure of review provides valuable insight. By getting a third-party point of view, you can get impartial feedback that enables you to fine-tune your writing before you send it to your intended audience.

 

No matter what type of business you run, you’ll need to write to some degree. You don’t need the skills of Ernest Hemingway to do so, but you do need to give the task some concentrated attention. By devoting enough time, organizing your thoughts, checking your tone, and carefully reviewing your content, you can communicate professionally and successfully.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this two-part series: Tips to Help Small Business Owners Communicate More Effectively: Part 2 – Speaking

 

 

3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Logo

focusme

 

If you think logos are only important for big brands, think again. Logos provide big branding benefits for small businesses. How will a logo help your business?

  • It will provide a way for prospects and customers to more easily recognize your brand. A logo can help make your brand more memorable by giving people imagery to associate with your company. So when people are looking for products and services like those you offer, they’ll be more likely to have your company in mind.
  • It will facilitate consistency across your branding efforts. When you use a logo on your marketing and sales materials, whether printed or online, all pieces of collateral will present a unified front. That makes your brand appear more polished, professional, and consistent in how it presents itself.
  • It can boost your credibility. A logo in and of itself doesn’t make your business any better at what it does. However, it can bring more legitimacy to your company in the eyes of potential customers and clients. A logo can help show you’re a credible, bona fide business.

 

What to Consider When Having a Logo Designed

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, chances are you personally don’t have the creative chops to design your own logo, so you’ll need to outsource that work. You might seek the help of a marketing firm, independent designer, or an online service like 99designs.  We used 99designs to get a custom logo designed for FocusME,  game changing support for women entrepreneurs. We were very pleased with the results and the cost!

Regardless of whom you hire to design your logo, keep the following things in mind as you collaborate with them:

 

  • Your brand personality: How you want your business to be perceived—traditional, trendy, sophisticated, rugged, creative, high-tech, exciting, calming, etc.?

 

 

  • Adaptability: How will the design translate into different media? You’ll surely be using it in print marketing collateral of various sizes, and online, it will be seen on the screen of mobile devices and on desktop computer monitors. Also consider how it looks not only in color but also in black and white. Regardless of the size or color, you’ll want your logo to appear bold and distinctive.

 

The Lowdown on Landing an Effective Logo

Realize that before you ask someone to design your logo, you must first understand what your brand stands for. Think about your company’s core values and the traits and characteristics that define it. Communicating what you’re looking to convey through your logo is the first step in having one designed that will effectively and accurately represent your company.

If you’re thinking about having a logo created for your business and want help zeroing in on what it needs to project, contact SCORE Maine. With mentors who specialize in marketing and branding, we have volunteers who can provide you with expert guidance and feedback.

 

Five Tips to Improve Local Business Search Results

SEOFor businesses serving their local communities, ranking near the top of Google search results provides a key marketing edge. According to Google research into local search behavior, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines via mobile devices and computers to find local information such as store addresses, business hours, product availability, and directions. People choose from the first few search results rather than dig deeper in the search engine results page (SERP), so it is vital to get your business near the top of  the searches.

Here’s a checklist of simple steps to help ensure your company doesn’t get lost in the local search shuffle:

    1. Make sure your business information is accurate and complete—everywhere that it appears online. If you haven’t already, make a list of all the places your company is listed online and verify you’ve provided up-to-date and consistent information across all channels. Google My Business, industry directories, social media channels, Yellowpages.com, etc.—your name, address, phone number, website URL, and other information should be uniform and relevant.
    2. Focus on delivering ease-of-use to your website visitors—and avoid applications like Flash media. Usability of your website can play a role in how long website visitors stay on your site, which in turn plays a role in the online authority Google attributes to your company. Flash media may create some fancy visuals, but it can slow the load time of your pages and detract from the user experience.
    3. Optimize your website for search. Aside from consulting an SEO (search engine optimization) specialist to help you with this, you can take some measures on your own. Pay attention to the page title tags on your site so they provide not only your company name, but also give a brief description of your business (just be sure to stay within 50–60 characters so your title isn’t cut off in the results). Your meta descriptions, the 150–160-character long snippet that displays with your title in search results, should provide searchers with information that captures their attention. And on your website, make sure you include contact info on every page.
    4. Blog consistently, so you’re regularly adding fresh content to your website. A website that updates its content often will stand a far better chance of ranking higher in local search than one that is stagnant. Your blog posts will enable you to provide fresh content targeting local keywords and search terms related to your business. Not only does blogging provide SEO benefits, but it also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and build trust with your audience. And don’t forget to share your blog posts via your social media channels to generate more traffic to your website. Engagement on social media in combination with blogging works well in boosting your local search mojo.
    5. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Google’s research revealed that 88 percent of local searches are done via smartphones. And those local searchers tend to take action quickly when they find what they’re looking for. According to their study, 50 percent of consumers who performed a local search on their smartphone proceeded to visit a store within one day. Those statistics say it all for stressing the importance of having a mobile-friendly website!

When you sell your products and services to a customer base that’s primarily local, these small efforts can make a big difference in your success in securing business through online searches. If you need guidance in getting on the right path with your online and other marketing efforts, remember that our SCORE mentors bring a broad spectrum of expertise and experience to small business owners in all industries. Contact us about our free mentoring services.

 

Blog Brainstorming Tips

thought-1014406_1280

Ask nearly any small business owner and you’ll find that most struggle with keeping their company blog up to date. Although it may be tempting to forgo maintaining your blog in the midst of all else you need to do in running your business, research shows blogs boost business. Companies that blog regularly experience 97% more inbound links to their websites, and, according to HubSpot, marketers who have made blogging a priority are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment.

 

While writing and publishing posts requires time, half the battle of blogging consistently is finding ideas for what to write about.

 

Here are some quick tips to help you land winning blog topic ideas:

 

Tap into FAQs

What types of questions do you often field from prospects and customers? Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be a virtual goldmine of potential topics because they’re undeniably centered on services, products, and processes your audience has interest in.

Check out what’s trending on Twitter

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account or actively engage with customers on the social network, you can still use it as a resource for discovering what’s hot in your industry. Search various hashtags related to the products and services you provide to see what others are writing about. Of course, you never want to steal anyone else’s content, but you can get inspiration and ideas for what you might give a fresh perspective on.

Think about how industry-related news affects you and your customers

Whether your industry is undergoing regulatory changes, supplier difficulties, or other developments that affect your company, you have a prime opportunity to share your insight to inform, educate, and sometimes put customers’ minds at ease if they’re worried about how the changes might affect them.

Talk up technological advances

Readers love to know what’s new and cutting edge. As with other industry-related news, improvements in technology that make your products, services, or processes better serve as worthy blog post topics.

Go behind the scenes

Prospects and customers love to get the inside scoop. Consider sharing an insider view about how you create your product or deliver your services.

Get personal

Brands that connect with prospects on a personal level are generally more likely to gain customers when all things otherwise are equal with competitors. To create stronger customer relationships, allow readers an opportunity to get to know the people in your business. Consider sharing about their unique interests or hobbies (with their permission, of course!), their volunteerism efforts, or distinctive aspects of their professional credentials.

 

There’s plenty to draw from as you brainstorm topics for your blog. The key is to become more attuned to recognizing ideas when they present themselves—and taking the initiative to write them down before they escape your memory.

If you struggle with thinking of creative and relevant blog topics, we have SCORE mentors with marketing know-how and a broad range of industry experience who can help. Contact us to schedule a free mentoring appointment today.