Tag Archives: marketing

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.

 

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Blog Brainstorming Tips

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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.

 

 

The Perks Of Periscope For Marketing Your Small Business

Photo by Anthony Quintano

Photo by Anthony Quintano

Periscope, the live video streaming app for iOS and Android,  has been making waves on the social media scene since it was purchased by Twitter in March 2015. Businesses and individuals ranging from Oprah to Spotify to Red Bull to Bernie Sanders use the app to reach millions viewers with live broadcasts of events, products and services. As Periscope’s tagline states, it allows its users to “explore the world through someone else’s eyes.”

 

How Does Periscope Work?

With the Periscope mobile app, you can make live broadcasts of whatever you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. Live broadcasts can be shared through Twitter, shared with your Periscope followers or shared with their followers much like how a friend shares a post on Facebook. You can also invite select followers to a private broadcast.

Viewers can “heart” and comment on your broadcasts in real-time and you can respond to those comments immediately, creating an interactive experience.

If users miss a live broadcast, they can watch a replay of it for up to 24 hours after it has ended. Although broadcasts are removed after 24 hours, you can save them to your mobile device and post them online as often as you desire.

 

Using Periscope to Boost Business

You may be thinking, “Sounds great, but how could Periscope help my business?”

Here are a few ideas for making the most of Periscope’s marketing potential:

  • Behind the scenes tour—to give viewers a glimpse of where the magic happens and who is making it happen at your business.
  • Announcements—to launch a new product, introduce a new hire, announce new certifications or awards, etc.
  • Product demos—to introduce new products or show how your products are made.
  • Interviews with team members—to introduce new hires or showcase the expertise and skills of employees.
  • Q&A sessions—to tackle FAQs about your company and its products and services or industry issues.
  • Events—capture the action at an open house, customer appreciation day, award presentation, etc.
  • How-to sessions—to give viewers step-by-step instructions to accomplish or use something.
  • Focus groups—to capture honest input and feedback about products and services (either those that you’re considering or that you already offer).

While Periscope is still in its infancy, the key to making it work for your business is no different than for any other online social media platform:

  • Be active.
  • Be engaged.
  • Be consistent.

 

To learn more about Periscope and how to use it, check out these resources:

Can I Use that Image from the Web?

The use of images in your marketing efforts can help draw attention to and build interest in your products and services, and it can make your brand more memorable.

But unless you are a photographer, pay one to take professional photos for you, or are satisfied with solely using amateurish pictures from your smartphone, you’ll likely find yourself using images created by someone else who has shared them online.

No problem, right?

Actually, it could be a big problem if you’re not careful.

Most Online Photos Aren’t Fair Game

Just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game to use in your own online communications. Using images without permission, without attribution, or without paying for them (or some combination of the three), could land you in trouble for infringing on copyright law.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”

Photographs are protected by copyright law, and that gives creators the right to determine whether or not they can be re-used—and how they can be re-used—by others.

Creators of images don’t have to file anything legally to be protected by copyright law. While registration is needed to fully enforce rights of ownership, the creator doesn’t have to go through the process of registration to legally use the © to indicate an image is copyrighted.

And it’s important to know that if an image doesn’t have the copyright symbol associated with, it doesn’t mean it’s not protected.

 Do Your Homework Before Using A Photo That You Found Online

Before you use an image on your website, blog, social media, or in other marketing and advertising materials, it’s important to find the original source and find out if you can have license to use it. Some will allow you to use it for free with attribution (explicit credit given to the artist/owner of the work), while others might only allow use if you pay for it.

It’s well worth finding out the requirements before you download or save the image and use it for your own purposes. Penalties can be steep for copyright infringement, depending upon the particulars of a situation. They can range from $200 to $150,000.

Willful infringement typically results in higher penalties than unknowingly infringing on a copyright, but ignorance doesn’t get you off the hook.

That’s why it’s so very important to play it safe and ensure you know whether or not an image is OK to use.

Use Reputable Image Sources With Clear Guidelines

Luckily, there are a number of stock photography websites where the rules are clear about what you need to do to legally use the images available on them. Some allow you to download digital images on a transactional basis and others require you to subscribe to a plan.

Several that you may want to check out include:

Canva (Not only can you download professional images for $1 each, you can also create your own designs sized for blog graphics, various social media platforms, presentations, and posters.)

Freedigitalphotos.net (The Standard License allows you to use photos for free with attribution presented and placed according to their terms and conditions. Or you can purchase images in various sizes to use them without attribution.)

BIGSTOCK (Subscriptions for image plans start at $79 per month.)

Shutterstock (Options include “Pay As You Go” starting at $29 for two image downloads and monthly subscriptions for those with more robust needs.)

Morgue File (Provides photographs freely contributed by artists to be used in creative projects by visitors to the site. The site advises that before using images for business purposes, you should contact the photographers to ask permission and find out if and how they want attribution made.)

A Reminder

While it’s easy to download or copy images from any website or from Google Images, resist taking shortcuts. Remember, you could get slapped with a lofty fine, and even legal fees. When there are websites like those mentioned above and others, you have plenty of options to allow you to find and use images ethically and legally.

Branding Your Business

No matter how small or large your business, you need branding.

Branding, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, is “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

For any solopreneur or small business owner, creating a memorable brand stands as a cornerstone for success. Behind the exceptional services and products you offer, you need a strong brand presence in your market to attract new customers and make you top of mind.

Branding involves instilling in prospects and customers a sense of what your company is all about. Branding, through your logo, business name, taglines, signage, website, print collateral, etc., sets expectations and drives people to feel a certain way when they see and recognize your company.

What Should a Small Business Consider When Establishing A Brand?

According to SCORE Portland Maine mentor and digital marketing specialist Lauren Guite, small business owners find few things more difficult than distilling their businesses into imagery, colors, and a few words. But that exercise is important for creating awareness and building a customer following.

“My advice to folks starting this process is to start big, putting everything down on paper,” shares Guite. “Have many brainstorming sessions with your trusted network of family and friends—with the people who get you and your business. Explore how you feel about your business and how you want your customers to feel—emotion is the strongest tie to your customers.”

Do’s and Don’ts of Branding for Small Businesses

If you’re at the start of your branding process, Guite suggests that you:

  • Do research to understand how certain colors and fonts resonate with people.
  • Do test your ideas before making a final decision! What your customer base thinks matters most.
  • Don’t over-explain. Less is more! Keep branding simple to make it memorable.

Small Business Branding Help

Not all small business owners feel comfortable with or capable of making the right branding decisions. At the over 320 chapters of SCORE across the U.S., you’ll find mentors (like Guite at our SCORE Portland Maine Chapter) who have marketing and branding expertise. SCORE mentoring is free of charge, and many chapters also offer low-cost workshops and seminars that cover the topic of branding. You can also find webinars and articles relevant to small business branding via the SCORE national website.

If you would like some marketing and branding guidance for your small business, contact us!

 

More about SCORE Maine Mentor Lauren Guite

Lauren Guite is a digital marketing specialist for Environmental Defense Fund where she considers social sharing strategies and audience needs while implementing a content marketing strategy. Wanting to give back to her home state, she started volunteering for SCORE in November of 2013. After many years in Washington, D.C., she’s glad to be home and helping local businesses with their marketing challenges.