Whether you are a start-up or a business that has been running for a while, people you meet will surely ask one question:

“Are you on social media?”

There is no denying the power and influence of social media. Of the 4 Billion people who are on the Internet every day, almost 3 Billion are on social media. That’s 75% of the daily Internet users and nearly 40% of the world’s total population.

If you want to build an online presence, you should be on social media.

Or do you?

Is social media the be-all and end-all of online marketing?

Is it possible to survive in a competitive industry without the benefit of social media?

Not only will you survive a competitive industry without the benefit of social media, but you may even thrive.

Is Social Media For Everyone?

If someone wants to lose weight, one of the first things he/she will probably do is take up running.

And why not? Running is a basic skill we learn growing up. It is an activity that you can do anywhere and many people have gotten great weight loss results from running.

However, running is not for everyone. If you have weak joints, running can lead to serious injuries. Likewise, using poor running technique can lead to chronic pain in your feet, knees, and lower back.

Moreover, it is not the only way to lose weight. You can swim, bike, walk, play ball, or work out in a gym.

Of course, exercise alone will not make you lose weight. You have to follow a strict, low calorie, healthy diet. A combination of exercise, diet, and good quality sleep will lead to long-term, sustainable weight loss.

The same can be said about social media. It is not for everyone and social media is not the only way to market and promote your business.

Social media has gained prominence as an online marketing strategy because every business website that writes articles about growing your business invariably has a section devoted to social media.

In fact, we have written about social media in our articles “How to Launch a $100 Digital Marketing Campaign” and “5 Reasons Why Small Businesses Need to Invest in a Digital Marketing Strategy”.

Social media has become such a force of nature that you can easily get swept away by its power and influence.

Big companies such as Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Nike, and Walmart are active on social media. So are major influencers such as Neil Patel, Tim Ferris, Sir Richard Branson, and Warren Buffett.

Social media marketing is also inexpensive. Once you have created an account, you can reach out to people you know and work your way through their contacts list so you can grow your own followers.

From there, it is just a matter of posting content frequently.

Easier said than done.

7 Ways To Grow Your Business Online Besides Social Media

If you haven’t seen quantifiable results from your social media efforts, you are not alone. It takes time to grow your followers organically.

You need to put thought and purpose behind your content. After some time, you will have to use social media analytics to help you pinpoint the types of content that generate the highest levels of engagement.

And it doesn’t end there. The best way to validate your social media efforts is to convert interest into sales. That is an entirely different ballgame.

Just because everybody – or more accurately 3 Billion people – are doing it doesn’t mean that you should also.

It may not be for you.

There are other ways to grow your business online besides social media.

1. Mobile-Responsive Website

If you have a website – good. If you have a mobile responsive website – great!

It would be difficult for your online marketing efforts to bear fruit if your audience cannot access your website from a mobile device. 57% of online traffic comes from mobile devices, especially smartphones.

Mobile-responsiveness is also a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. If your website is not mobile-responsive, it will not lead to a pleasant experience for users. Google will penalize your website in the search rankings.

2. Optimize Web Content

Writing online is different from writing a college term paper. Yes, you have to check your work for spelling and grammatical errors and the content must be thoroughly researched.

However, when writing Internet-based content, you must always have optimization in mind. Optimizing content makes it easier to get found on the Internet. The fundamental component in content optimization is the use of keywords.

Keywords are the words and phrases used by people to launch a search query. When integrated into your content, keywords will make it easier for the search bots to find and index your page for the SERP.

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3. Content Marketing

A 2018 global survey conducted by Smart Insights showed 20% of marketers believed content marketing was the online process that would have the most significant impact on business.

It should be no surprise because people continually search for content on the Internet. No just any ordinary content. The material that you publish must have the following qualities:

  • Fresh, original
  • Relevant
  • Usable
  • Informative
  • Well-researched
  • Easy to read

By consistently posting quality content on your blog page, you will be able to build a solid base of followers organically. They will consider you a valuable resource in the industry and trust the quality of your content.

Include a blog page on your mobile-responsive website. Then pack it with optimized, keyword-rich, and high-quality content.

4. Integrate Chatbots

Customer service a key component of every business. Great customer service means having the needs, concerns, or issues of your followers and patrons addressed right away.

Chatbots are becoming the norm in how customers interact with websites. In one study, 15% of respondents reported that they have interacted with chatbots over the course of a year.

Chatbots are a convenient way of managing customer service. First, they give precise answers. Second, they are not affected by emotional outbursts or stressful situations. Third, chatbots do not get sick and can run 24/7.

However, if a chatbot gets stumped, make sure it can be programmed to transfer the inquiry to a human customer service agent.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing may not be as hip or cool as social media but it may well be a more effective online marketing process than Facebook or Twitter.

Take a look at the statistics comparing email to Facebook and Twitter:

  • Number of users – Email: 2.6 Billion, Facebook: 2 Billion. Twitter: 313 Million
  • Percentage of users who check these processes first thing in the morning – Email: 58%, Facebook: 11%, Twitter: 3%
  • Percentage of people who use these processes at least twice daily – Email: 91%, Facebook: 57%, Twitter: 14%
  • Users who made a purchase because of these processes – Email: 66%, Facebook: 20%, Twitter: 6%
  • Customer Acquisition- Email: 7%, Facebook: <1%, Twitter: 0%

Lastly, email has a higher ROI at 21% versus Facebook and Twitter combined at 15%.

6. Search Engine Directories

In the old days, when someone wanted to search up a business, he/she would use the Yellow Pages telephone directory. Today, that person would use search engine directories.

And yes, the Yellow Pages can be found online. This time, YP has other search engine directories as competition. These search engine directories include Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, and Yahoo! Local Listing.

Having your business listed in an online directory is an effective way to get found. This is especially true for retail-type businesses.

According to Google, 80% of Americans use search engine directories to track down a business. 50% of the search has resulted in a visit to the store and 18% of those visits resulted in a sale.

You can read more about search engine directories in our article, “Why Should Retail Locations Be Listed in Search Engines”.

7. Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a good strategy to use for building your brand, establishing yourself as an authority, creating natural inbound links and driving traffic to your website.

There are blog sites that allow guest writers to share content on their website. However, it is a good idea to check on the authenticity and reputation of the blog site before making your inquiry.

In the same manner that there are good guest blog networks, there are also bad guest blog networks. You will know who they are because their ground rules sound spurious.

For example, these bad guest blog networks will not allow you to edit content or remove spammy links. Also, a visit to their site will yield a “treasure trove” of poor quality content.

Conclusion

Social media is a great way to build your business online. However, it is not the only way. Also, it may not be the best way to grow your business. As you have read, there are other tools that you can use to give your business the online presence it needs.

The bottom line is, a digital marketing strategy should not be dependent on only one tool. It should utilize a good number of processes that can provide your business with different avenues to achieve its goals.

From there, you can use Analytics to determine which processes are generating good ROI and which ones aren’t. Analytics is an effective tool for fine-tuning your digital marketing campaign.

If Analytics show that your social media marketing strategy is not delivering the results, find out why. Identify the weaknesses and try to institute improvements.

If upon further analysis, the results are not to your satisfaction, do not hesitate to repurpose the resources to other processes that yield better ROI.

Hopefully, we were able to give you some level of objectivity toward social media. Yes, it is powerful and influential. However, it may not be for everyone.

The good thing is there are other tools at your disposal which can be more effective than social media.  

If you liked this article, please feel free to share it. And if you want to learn more about how digital marketing can grow your business, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

Consult with us for 30 minutes free of charge!

We hope to hear from you soon.

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Do bad guys always wear black? A popular theme in Hollywood is the classic battle between good and evil. More often than not, the good guys are in white and the bad guys are in black. Case in point is HBO’s smash hit, “Westworld”. In the TV show, visitors to a western theme park are asked to choose between a white hat and a black hat. If you choose a white hat, you’re the hero. If you choose a black hat – well, you guessed it – you’re the villain.

Does the analogy hold true for marketers? Are marketers who choose white hat SEO strategies the good guys? Conversely, are marketers who choose black hat SEO strategies the bad guys?

More importantly, should you use both strategies in your digital marketing campaign?

To have a better understanding of the two, let’s discuss White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies in detail.

What Is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO strategies use techniques and tactics that strictly adhere to Google’s guidelines. The primary objective of marketers who use White Hat SEO strategies is to enhance the website’s visibility on the Internet.

Here are a few examples of popular White Hat SEO strategies:

1. Creation of Quality Content

Google is very particular on User Experience or UX. When someone lands on your website, Google expects that visitor will find only quality content. This means content that is useful, unique, informative, and relevant. Likewise, it should not have errors in spelling and grammar.

Quality content will compel action from the reader. He/she could share your content in social media or use it as a resource link to his/her own website. If your website consistently publishes quality content, Google will reward you with higher search rankings.

2. Integration of Keywords

Keywords are the words and phrases that people frequently use to launch a search query on the Internet. Search bots or web crawlers index content that contains these keywords. Thus, integrating keywords will make it easier for your content to get found on the Internet.

There are 2 things you need to keep in mind when using keywords.

First, use the right keywords. This means keywords and phrases that are relevant in your industry. You should perform keyword research before writing your content.

Among the most popular tools are Google Keyword Planner and SEMRush. You can read more about keyword research in our article “5 Best Keyword Research Tools For 2018”.

Second, keep track of keyword density. While there are no clear-cut rules on keyword density, many SEO experts advise a ratio of 1 keyword per 200 words.

Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing, a technique whereby a page is overloaded with keywords. The purpose of keyword stuffing is to trick Google into thinking the content is relevant.

3. The Use of Relevant Backlinks

You know your content marketing strategy is on the right track when other websites are linking back to you. It means these websites find great value in your content.

For Google, backlinks are a seal of approval. The search engine giant will reward you with higher search rankings.

However, you have to make sure the websites that are linking back to your page are relevant to your industry. Consequently, these websites must also be reputable and consistently publish high-quality content.

4. The Use of Meta Descriptions

There are some SEO practitioners who believe meta descriptions are no longer significant. We are here to tell you that having well-written meta descriptions can help drive traffic to your website.

Meta descriptions consist of a few sentences that describe your website. The purpose of the meta description is to entice people to visit your website. It tells Internet searchers what your website is all about.

Thus, a meta description is not written for search engines. It is written with the potential site visitor in mind. You should not use too many keywords in your meta description.

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What Is Black Hat SEO?

In contrast, Black Hat SEO strategies employ techniques and tactics that do not conform to the guidelines of Google. Marketers who use Black Hat SEO strategies are mavericks; they operate outside the confines of the “law” and are willing to bend the rules to get the job done.

Here are a few of the most popularly-used Black Hat SEO strategies:

1. The Use of Irrelevant Keywords

We discussed the important role keywords play in getting your content found on the Internet. However, the keywords should have relevance or value to the site visitor.

For example, you are writing a blog on how a robotic vacuum cleaner can keep your home clean without any fuss. Then, within your content, you write in the following sentence:

“LeBron James can surely use a robotic vacuum cleaner to sweep the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.”

The sentence includes the keywords “robotic vacuum cleaner” but it has absolutely no relevance to the article. Instead, it uses popular search items “LeBron James” and “Golden State Warriors” to trick search engines.

2. Bot-Generated Content

Black Hat SEO practitioners will often use automatically-generated or bot generated content to capitalize on keywords and give the search rankings a boost.

No doubt you have seen examples of bot-generated content. They are usually located in the comments section of a blog. A bot-generated content is very easy to spot because they make no sense!

It reads like a random comment that has no relevance to the topic whatsoever. The only component of a bot comment that has value is the keyword.

3. Installing Doorway Pages

Let’s say you are planning to visit Italy and indulge in your passion for fine art. You want to prepare an itinerary which covers the best art galleries in Florence. You run a search query on the “best fine art galleries in Florence Italy”.

When you click on one of the URLs featured on the search results page, you don’t land on the website of an art gallery in Florence. Instead, you find yourself on a website selling herbal supplements.

This form of Black Hat SEO trickery is called installing doorway pages. Put succinctly, doorway pages are fake pages that are packed with keywords to help the website get found. You just won’t find what you are looking for.

4. Integrating Invisible Links or Text

Black Hat SEO practitioners know the value of going stealth mode. They will “plant” links on pages where you can’t see them right away.

Examples of these types of tactics include setting the font size to zero, using white text on white background, and integrating a link in a small character such as a comma or a period.

What Are The Penalties For Practicing Black Hat SEO Strategies?

If you break the law, you will get punished for it. On the Internet, Google is the law. Whenever the search engine giant announces changes on its search ranking algorithm, you should pay attention very carefully.

Google frowns upon Black Hat SEO strategies. In fact, Google institutes changes on its search algorithm to make sure these Black Hat SEO strategies get shut out. Here is an updated list of changes in Google’s search algorithms:

  • Penguin – Designed to stop inappropriate linking practices
  • Panda – Designed to slow down content farms. A content farm is usually an agency that employs a large group of writers to create high-ranking content. The purpose is to increase page views and attract more advertising revenue.
  • Florida – Designed to stop keyword stuffing tactics.

If you are caught using Black Hat SEO techniques, what penalties should you expect from Google?

1. A Drop in the Search Rankings

If you notice a sudden drop in the search rankings for your website, that is Google’s way of telling you to stop what you are doing and clean up your strategies.

You will have to comply with Google’s algorithm, implement the necessary changes on your SEO strategies, then file a reconsideration request which will ask the search engine to run another audit on your website.

2. Banned in the Search Rankings

Although it rarely happens, the possibility exists that Google can ban you from its search rankings. Google will not hesitate to pull the trigger on websites that continue to practice deceptive SEO strategies.

A ban from Google will sound the death knell for your business. No one will be able to find your website on the Internet thus, affecting lead generation, site traffic, and sales conversions.

In the event that you do get banned, you should try to appease Google by cleaning up your SEO strategies before applying for a reconsideration request.

Conclusion – Should You Use Both White Hat And Black Hat SEO Strategies?

Both White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies serve the same purpose – to enhance website visibility so you can climb up Google’s search rankings.

However, with Google constantly reviewing and changing its algorithm, it would be best to stick to White Hat SEO tactics. You cannot pull the wool over Google. The search engine will eventually see what you’re up to.

Interactions on the Internet may be driven by digital technology but they are purely emotional by nature. Black Hat SEO tactics can be annoying. No one wants to be misled. It will reflect on your reputation and affect your brand identity.

Finally, keep in mind this beautiful quote from American author, Arnold Glasow:

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

White Hat SEO strategies will require more effort because you will have to build your followers and links organically. They will keep you on the straight and narrow path. Running a business is hard enough as it is. You should minimize the risks instead of adding to it.

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How do businesses start? It all starts with an idea. That light bulb moment is triggered by a moment of inspiration. You have an idea for a product or a service that addresses the needs of a specific market. You believe that you have the experience and expertise to turn your idea into a product with a price that people are willing to pay for.

The next question is going to be a bit more tricky:

“Do you have the experience and expertise to get your product or service in front of the people who may find value in it?”

How Much Should You Spend To Market Your Business?

Marketing is an important function of every business. It helps you build your brand, bring awareness to your products and services, and enhances your reputation as a valuable resource in the industry.

However, in times of economic difficulty, marketing is quite often the first business activity to be cut. This is especially true for small business owners where capital is tight and access to funding is very limited.

According to a survey conducted by HubSpot, securing an adequate budget is the third biggest challenge in marketing.

Small businesses are hesitant to allocate more resources to fund marketing campaigns. Their focus is to keep the business afloat. This means paying off their monthly costs of operations, suppliers, and creditors. Savings are set aside to tide the business over in the event the stream of income slows down to a trickle.

The question is, “How much should you spend to market your business?”

A study conducted by Sageworks revealed that on average, a small business spends an estimated 1% of its annual gross revenues for marketing and advertising activities.

Thus, if a small business on average generates annual gross revenue of $350,000, the owner or proprietor would set aside 1% or $3,500 to take care of its marketing activities for the year.

Is $3,500 a lot of money to spend on marketing?

Alternatively, is $3,500 enough to effectively support a marketing campaign?

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, that’s not much”. Meanwhile, others may be thinking, “Wow! That’s a lot! I can’t afford that!”

The truth is marketing does not have to break the bank. There are ways, methods, and techniques that you can use to ensure your marketing campaign does not lose its stride.

Building The Foundation Of A Cost Effective Marketing Campaign

Before we discuss the best ways to market your business without breaking the bank, it is important to build a solid foundation for your marketing campaign to stand on.

Without a solid foundation, your platform will crumble and fail. The pillars of the foundation are processes that you must undertake before actively working on your marketing strategy.

1. Conduct Research

Research gives your marketing activity direction. The purpose of research is to collect information that will give you valuable insights on your target market; the demographics, likes and dislikes, demand preferences, and tastes.

You need research to help you identify trends and patterns; uncover the latest developments in the industry, potential growth areas as well as risk factors. Research helps you determine what your campaign should be about; its purpose and objectives.

2. Create a Buyer’s Profile

A buyer’s profile is simply a summary of characteristics, attributes, and behavioral patterns that define who your audience is. It will give laser-like focus to your marketing strategies; you know who your market is, their needs, interests, and concerns.

What information should be included in a buyer’s profile?

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Educational Attainment
  • Profession/ Occupation
  • Income Bracket
  • Civil Status
  • Number of Dependents
  • City
  • Preferred Social Media Network

3. Define Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Some marketers refer to the UVP as the USP or Unique Selling Proposition. Although they essentially mean the same thing, we prefer to use “Value” instead of “Selling” because the word has greater significance and meaning when it comes to brand building.

As the term implies, UVP refers to your unique offering to your target market. It should answer the question, “Why should you choose me over the competition?” There must be something about your business that will influence the decision-making ability of your target market.

4. Focus on Building Your Brand

This is the third time we have mentioned brand building in this article – and it may not be the last! We cannot simply overemphasize the importance of building your brand. By brand building, we don’t mean just logos and catchy taglines.

Your brand is how your market perceives your business. It is a gradual transition from “what you are” to “who you are”. As such, it is a process that will take time and consistent effort.

All of the tools, techniques, strategies, and processes that you plan to incorporate in your marketing campaign must be aligned with your brand.

5. Identify Your Marketing Objective

“What do I hope to accomplish with our marketing campaign?” This is the underlying question that must be answered by your marketing objective.

A marketing campaign can have different objectives:

  • Build a trustworthy reputation in the industry
  • Acquire followers
  • Promote business, products, and services
  • Generate Leads
  • Increase sales conversion rates
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Drive more inbound traffic to the website

Ideally, you should only have one objective in order to remain focused. However, you can break down your singular objective into several smaller goals.

For example:

Primary Objective – Increase search rankings

Smaller Goals:

  • Acquire followers
  • Generate Leads
  • Build a trustworthy reputation in the industry
  • Drive more inbound traffic to the website

6. Monitor, Track, and Evaluate Performance

Take advantage of the availability of online analytics such as Google Analytics and the built-in analytics in your social media pages. By monitoring, tracking, and evaluating performance, you will have a better idea if your campaign will deliver the desired outcome.

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10 Best Ways To Market Your Business Without Breaking The Bank

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing has grown to become one of the most powerful and influential processes in the marketing toolbox. The reason is simple: People are regularly searching for great content.

  • Content can be in the form of blogs, curated articles, videos, images, and other types that can effectively deliver your UVP. Focus on creating great content. This means content that is useful, informative, fresh, engaging, and relevant.
  • Writing blogs and curating articles will only cost you time. Long-form blogs or those with a word count of 2,000 up work best in getting higher search rankings. Including research and rough drafts, it will take you approximately 3-4 hours to write a 2,000-word blog.
  • Start out with two blogs per week. If your goal is to generate leads, your target should be to produce 16 blogs per month.
  • Make sure your blogs are optimized with keywords. Use a free online keyword research tool such as Google Keyword Planner.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social media is an effective channel for distributing your online content. First, it caters to a gigantic population of more than 3 Billion users every day. Second, opening a social media business page will not cost you a cent.

However, not all social media networks function in the same way. After all, these are communities.

  • Choose 2-3 platforms that best support your type of business. For example, if you are selling highly-visual merchandise such as smartphones or food, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest would work best for you.
  • Set a posting schedule. The frequency of posting is an important component in social media marketing. Once you have built up a good number of followers, make sure you are always top-of-mind. Post at least once a day. Use Buffer which is a free online social media scheduling tool.

3. Email Marketing

According to a study conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric, email marketing generates the highest ROI of all online marketing channels.

Compared to social media marketing, direct mail, and paid search which have an ROI of 28%, 27%, and 25% respectively, the ROI for email marketing has been measured at 122%.

  • Build a good-sized list of subscribers. To make this happen, come up with a good Call-to-Action (CTA) such as a free e-book or consultation.
  • Segment your mailing list. Categorize your subscribers based on need, demographics, or online behavior patterns.
  • Focus on high-value content. Newsletters are short-form content; usually, no more than 300 words. Since you have segmented your list, focus on delivering content that directly addresses their specific need.

4. Use Online Search Engine Directories

A study by Google showed that 80% of Americans prefer to use search engine directories to find local businesses. More than that, the same Google study showed that 50% of the respondents visited the local business on the day itself.

What’s in it for the local business? 18% of local businesses who were found on an online search engine directory were able to close the sale! Registering your business in an online search engine directory is a free and easy way to get discovered.

You can read more about online search engine directories and how they can benefit your business in our articles, “Why Should Retail Locations Be Listed In Search Engines?” and “How Can Retail Locations Benefit From A Strong Local Presence”.

5. Consider Paid Advertising

Paid advertising methods like PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising can give your search rankings an immediate boost because whoever clicks your ad will find themselves on your landing page. With PPC, you only pay whenever someone clicks on your ad.

Find out more about the benefits of paid advertising in our article, “SEO Vs. PPC: Which One Is Better For Your Business?”

6. Build Partnerships

The late great sales guru, Joe Girard, popularly advocated his protagonist approach when negotiating deals.

Girard believed that while parties in a negotiation have different intents, they have a common goal: to land the best arrangement. Therefore, instead of opposing one another, why not help each other?

You can apply the same ideology in marketing your business.

For example, in a food business, suppliers sell you their raw materials to produce your menu items. They want you to succeed so that you will buy more supplies from them. Ask them if they are willing to sponsor a promotional activity.

For example, ask your beverage supplier to provide you with a few cases for free to support the promo. In exchange, allow the supplier to post advertising materials in your restaurant.

7. Reach Out to Your Community

For local businesses, your immediate captive market is the community where you are located. Reach out to them. Let them know how your business can address their needs.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you own a gym business, schedule group workouts for families and friends at the local community center. Most people are intimidated by the thought of walking inside a gym. Bring the gym to them and start building relationships within the community.
  • Look for other local businesses in the area that offer products and services which are complementary to your own. Propose a cross-marketing arrangement. For example, a cake shop owner can set up a cross-marketing arrangement with a flower shop owner.

8. Attend Business Forums and Trade Shows

Business forums and trade shows are effective venues for marketing and promoting your company. Some organizers will charge you a fee in order to participate in the event.

However, these events attract potential end-users of your products and services. The fee could be worth it considering that you are given the opportunity to position your business directly in front of prospective clients or customers.

9. Attend Networking Events

Most networking events are by invitation only. You may have to become a member of an organization to be invited. Another avenue you can take is to join focus groups in your local community and even those within your social media circles.

Networking is a great way to expand your contacts list. Don’t approach the event with the 4C mindset: “Calling Card Collection Contest”. Instead, use the 4B approach: “Build the Best connections that will Benefit your Business”.

You can learn more about networking in our article, “How Can Networking Help My Business Grow”.

Conclusion

We saved the best for last.

Number 10 – Outsource Your Marketing

Why is this your best option for marketing your business?

First, by outsourcing your marketing, you free up time so you can dedicate your precious hours to managing the core functions of your business. As we mentioned earlier – creating content, posting on social media, and measuring results – all of these activities take time.

Second, you leave the implementation in the hands of experienced and well-trained experts. They will do everything – research, content optimization, website management, social media calendar, and content writing – for you. You can be assured of professional quality work every time!

Third, you save more money! If you set up an in-house marketing team, you will have to pay your personnel salaries, benefits and allocate expenses for rent, supplies, utilities, and additional bandwidth.

When you outsource, the service provider takes care of everything. You only have to pay for the services rendered. In many cases, the charges are negotiable. The best outsourcing service providers understand your needs and will render work with respect to your budget.

It is important to outsource marketing only to qualified third-party service providers like us. We know what we are talking about. In fact, we wrote about budget-friendly marketing strategies in our article “How To Set Up A Low Budget But Highly Effective Digital Marketing Campaign”.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you market your business without breaking your bank account, please feel free to give us a call. We will give you a free consultation for up to 30 minutes!

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Investing in a website is a step in the right direction. The operative word in our preceding statement is “investing”. It implies that you expect your investment to pay dividends in the future. Indeed, the website has come a long way.

Before broadband, businesses set up websites to function primarily as online marketing brochures. The website has evolved since then.

Today, the website is a facility that can provide amazing user experience with the power to convert simple interest into a stream of revenues for your business. Properly managed, a website can help you achieve your business goals.

You can use the website to generate leads, streamline business costs, acquire followers, expand your market base, improve the efficiency of business operations, provide top-notch customer service, enhance your business reputation, or increase sales.

In contrast, improperly managed, your website can drive away customers, tarnish your business reputation, and affect its ability to generate revenues.

Do you feel that your website has not contributed to the growth of your business? Are you under the impression that your website has not performed according to expectations? Do you think your website has not delivered quantifiable results? Are you starting to think that starting the website was not a good investment?

Is your website costing you business?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, read on! We will discuss the possible reasons why your website could be costing you business and what could be done to fix these issues.

Don’t give up on your website! It remains a good investment and a viable tool to help you take your business to the next level. We will show you how to maximize its strengths so you can turn it into a money-making machine!

8 Reasons Why Your Website is Costing You Business

The factors we listed as possible reasons why your website is under-performing are basic, fundamental requirements for an effective, fully-functioning website.

If you have a webmaster, he/she knows that these factors should not only be in place. They have to be routinely checked, evaluated, and updated.

A website should be dynamic. It must be allowed to evolve and change with the times. If your website remains stagnant, it will be left behind and ignored on the Internet. The beneficiaries will be your competitors.

1. Your Website is Not Mobile Responsive

Mobile responsiveness has been a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm since 2015. If your website is not mobile responsive, get your webmaster on the line this very second. Google could well be punishing you in the search rankings for it.

If you can confirm that your website was mobile responsive when the webmaster turned it over to you, can you confidently say that it remains highly responsive to mobile devices today?

Mobile technology continues to evolve. Screen sizes and resolutions change to give mobile users better experience. There is also a great demand for the latest mobile devices. Consumers will pay top dollar for the latest iPhone or Android smartphone with the most innovative features.

Your webmaster has to constantly test the responsiveness of your website. It should be able to set up effortlessly in different screen sizes. Keep in mind that when mobile devices evolve and become more advanced, they will require more information.

You can read up more on why you should update mobile responsive design in our article “What Does My Website Look Like To Mobile Users?”

2. Web Page Loading Speed is Very Slow

According to a study conducted by Akamai, slow loading web pages are bad for business:

  • 47% of mobile device users expect a web page to load in under 2 seconds.
  • 40% of mobile device users will discontinue the search if a web page does not load in under 2 seconds.
  • For every second that your web page is delayed in loading, you lose 7% in conversions.

Again, your website design and its features have to be updated. It has to conform to the demands of today’s mobile community.

Your webmaster should check which of its features are no longer be supported by mobile devices particularly the images you use. You may also have files that are uncompressed.

3. Customers Perceive Your Website is Not Safe

All you need to do is read today’s news headlines to learn all about the latest hacking attempt. 2017 was a banner year for hackers and it doesn’t seem like these cyber-criminals will be slowing down their nefarious activities any time soon.

Consumers are becoming more cautious about their online activities. A survey done by Blumberg Capital showed that hacking has affected the online shopping behavior of American consumers. It will not keep consumers from shopping at their favorite e-Commerce retailer, but they will be more selective of the sites they visit.

Google has seen this. For the reason that the biggest search engine on the Internet is big on User Experience (UX), Google has required all websites – not just e-Commerce websites – to get SSL Certificates.

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a program that encrypts data that is transmitted from browser to server. You can read more about SSL in our article, “SSL: What Is It And Why Your Business Needs It”.

If your website does not have SSL certificates, Google will mark it as “Not Secure”. Those two words can have an impact on the decision of a site user to explore your website. Ask yourself, “Would you proceed your search with a website that Google has marked ‘Not Secure’?”

In view of this, consider getting SSL certificates for your website. The cost of having your website covered by SSL certificates is negligible considering the size of the business that you might lose.

4. Design Looks Old; Outdated

Do you have a favorite neighborhood bar? It may have been there before you were born. And yes, age does add character.

However, what would you do if another bar opened right beside it and it had 60” HDTVs mounted in key locations so you can watch the latest sports events wherever you are seated? And what if it had wi-fi, comfortable modern-designed furniture, and 18 barrels of self-serve craft beer?

Goodbye to the old and hello to the new!

Maybe the classics are timeless but when you are engaged in the digital age, your design must conform to the times. Your customers will appreciate a newer and better experience. Often that includes your website’s design and functionality.

Always keep in mind that your audience’s online behavioral patterns can change. They can be influenced by other websites. The changes in the functionality of their mobile devices will likewise have an effect on how they interact with websites.

Make it a point to have your webmaster audit your website. Come up with ways to update its look and functionality. The website may be for your business but its value is to your customers.

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5. Poor Quality Content

Search is the number one online activity. People are constantly looking for content that provides the information they are looking for. In your industry, there could be thousands of businesses publishing content on their websites. The one that publishes great content on a consistent basis will be patronized the most.

If your website offers content that is not relevant, useful, or informative to your audience, they will not find value in it. Worse, your brand can take a hit. Prospective customers may view your website as “incompetent”, “outdated”, “poorly managed”, “unqualified” or “uncaring”.

Content must always be kept current. In order to get the best results from your content marketing strategy, you should blog at least 16 times a month. Studies show that businesses that blog at least 16 times per month generate 3.5 times more leads than businesses that blog fewer times per month.

And it’s not just the quantity that matters. You must assure your audience of high-quality blogs every time. This means blogs that are:

  • Well-researched with links to reputable references.
  • Easy to read; short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • No spelling and grammatical errors.

Here’s a valuable tip: When writing blogs and other forms of content, always keep in mind you are writing for an audience that needs your expertise. You are the expert. They are on your website to learn from you. Do not make the learning experience difficult by using technical terms.

6. Absence of Testimonials or Product Reviews

Do you remember those weight-loss supplement ads that showed users lose weight after using the product for only a few weeks? It created a huge demand for those weight-loss products. Consumers thought they could experience the same results and lose weight by taking the supplement.

In an expose years later, it was shown that instead of “Before” and “After”, those pictures were really taken “After” and “Before”. By this we mean, the supplement companies got models who were already lean and fit, to begin with. The models were described as “actual users”.

Then by having the models eat potato chips and other processed foods, they got their bodies to fill out and look heavy and bloated.

It was a scam but it worked. The “fake ads” were a huge success and made those companies millions of dollars.

Our point in mentioning this is not to encourage you to scam customers. Rather, we want to emphasize the power of testimonials and product reviews. This is called the power of social proof.

Social proof is a type of behavior whereby the decisions or actions of one person are influenced by the decisions or actions of another. You can read more about social proof in our article, “Social Proof: The Natural Way To Build Trust And Reputation For Your Website”.

In our previous example, consumers were influenced by the decisions of supplement users to give the product a try in order to lose weight.

Testimonies and product reviews have that kind of influential power. When you go to Amazon and are faced with hundreds of selections for the latest fitness tracker, how would you arrive at your decision?

Chances are you would check out the product reviews section. You will probably click on a few of the four and five-star reviews. For purposes of establishing a check and balance, you should click on a few one and two-star reviews as well.

If your website does not have social proof from your customers, you will be undermining its opportunities for success.

Invite customers to share their experiences with your products and ask them if you could publish them as testimonies on your website.

Conclusion

The website is your office on the Internet. This is the place where your customers go to find your products and services. The biggest advantage a website has over a traditional brick- and- mortar office is that it is open 24/7. Anyone, anyone on the Internet can visit your website at any time of the day.

Unlike a brick- and- mortar office, you don’t have to place a manager on 24-hour duty. Therefore, you have to be 100% sure and confident that your website can accommodate anyone who visits a page and is interested to learn more about your products and services.

Your webmaster knows this. Rather, your webmaster should know this.

Managing a website is a big responsibility. However, it is doable and with proper planning, it can be done effectively without inconvenience and issue to the website owner.

Failure to manage a website effectively is a sign of irresponsibility that will cost your business customers and potential revenue.

Managing your website is the job of your webmaster. If you don’t have one, find one that can do the job properly.

Or you can sign up with us. Allow us the opportunity to manage your website.

We have managed hundreds of websites and our customers are very happy with the results so far. Do you own a WordPress website? Sign up for our Extreme WordPress Care Plans. Clients who have signed up are glad they did!

We are managing their WordPress websites for them so they can focus on the day-to-day demands of their business.

Our clients no longer spend time checking on their websites. They no longer have sleepless nights thinking if their website is being hacked or infiltrated by cyber-criminals.

We have amazing people on our team. Our content has been cited multiple times by the digital marketing community website UpCity as among the top 25 marketing- based articles on the Internet.

Do you have 30 minutes? Consult with us for free! We will let you know how we can help you get the most out of your website.

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Maybe clothes do not make the man, but mobile will certainly make your website. If your website does not set up well or look good in mobile devices, you might be leaving money on the table.

Mobile devices account for 57% of online traffic compared to 43% for desktop. Globally, smartphones alone account for 52.2% of online traffic.

Consumers will depend on their mobile devices, particularly the smartphone, to account for their daily needs. Whether they are searching for products or services, they will use their mobile device to find the information they need.

Why Your Website Should Look Good For Mobile Users

How would you feel if you clicked on a website from your mobile phone and realized you had to zoom in so you can read the content? Not only will you have to zoom in, but you will also have to move the screen around in order to navigate the page.

It is certainly an inconvenience and will not contribute to a great user experience. What will be your course of action? Chances are you will click out of the website and search for another one that will set up better on your mobile phone.

Now, imagine that was your website. What would your site visitors do? Probably follow the same course of action as you did: Click out and look for another website.

Your competitor’s website.

First impressions last. If discomfort and inconvenience were the impressions created by the site visitor’s first experience with your website, it is possible you will never see him/her again.

It is not enough for your website to look good on a desktop, a laptop or a tablet. Likewise, or rather, more importantly, your website should look good while viewed on a smartphone.

Investing in a website is a step in the right direction. It will help market and promote your business; its products and services. However, unless it is mobile responsive, you will not be able to stay ahead, much less, keep up with competitors that have mobile responsive websites.

A mobile responsive website is one that sets up clearly and seamlessly on the screen of various mobile devices. Keep in mind that not all screen sizes of mobile devices have the same dimensions. The screen size will have an effect on how your web page appears on the mobile device.

A good example is your Facebook home page. On a PC desktop, the layout covers a wider area. Your contacts list in Messenger sets up on the right side of the screen, the news feed is in the middle, while on the far left of the home page, you will find the different icons to access your settings, groups, and features.

Facebook will appear differently on your smartphone. The home page sets up vertically. Your Messenger contacts are located on top of your news feed. The icons do not appear and can only be accessed by clicking on the button with the 3 horizontal lines located on the top right corner,

If you open Facebook on a tablet or a laptop, it will set up differently depending on the size of your screen.

Mobile responsiveness is no longer an option. It is a must. Google has made mobile responsiveness a prerequisite in the quest for higher search rankings. The search engine giant has included it as a ranking factor in its algorithm as far back as 2014.

The reason, of course, is User Experience (UX). Google is big on UX. Its ranking algorithm has periodically undergone changes in order to drive home the point to website owners that they should prioritize UX.

We discussed the benefits of having a mobile responsive website in our article, “Why Your Website Needs Responsive Design”. However, it is worth emphasizing the value of having a mobile responsive website from the perspective of consumers.

First, mobile consumers behave differently. They are more impatient and compared to PC desktop users, tend to react on impulse. The following key statistics support our observation:

Second, mobile consumers respond more favorably to brands that have a mobile responsive website. Mobile consumers tend to multi-task. If they can do everything from the palm of their hand they would.

Mobile responsive websites make multitasking easier. Thus, it creates trust and fosters a stronger relationship with the consumer.

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3 Reasons Why Your Website Does Not Look Good On Mobile Devices

Even if you have a mobile responsive website, you still have to check if it sets up or looks good on various mobile devices.

It is possible that the resolution of your website’s text and images will not come out clear. Some of the content that is available on the desktop or laptop versions may not appear on smartphones or tablets.

How did this happen?

Your website designer assured you that your website was mobile responsive. In fact, you were present when the website designer ran some tests before turning over the website to you.

The first thing that you need to do is to breathe and relax! There are perfectly good explanations on why a supposedly mobile responsive website does not set up properly on a mobile device.

1. New Technology Demands New Information

Every few months a technology company will bring out its latest version of its smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Each company will try to outdo each other by developing mobile devices that have the best cameras, most-advanced features, and most compact designs.

Cases in point are the latest versions of the iPhone from Apple and the Galaxy from Android. The built-in cameras of both smartphones capture images in amazing quality. You would think the pictures were taken by a professional photographer’s digital SLR camera.

As these smartphones continue to press forward with higher and more intricate resolution, consequently, these mobile devices will demand more information from your website. Your website designer can fix this by rewriting your site’s programming code.

2. Content is Not Optimized

Even if your website structure and its text look good on your smartphone, your logo and the images used may appear hazy or blurry. It is possible that these images were not optimized to accommodate screens of mobile devices.

If you are familiar with iPhone version 8 and the iPhone X, these models use a retina display. The screens on these phones look gloriously sharp. To do this, Apple jam packs at least 4 pixels in an area that would only accommodate 1 pixel in a normal desktop.

Then Apple would proceed to double the resolution for text and graphics so that it would not look small onscreen. If your graphic is smaller compared to how it is shown on the screen, it will look “stretched out” and blurry.

A quick-fix solution would be to use images that were designed to accommodate mobile phones with retina displays.

3. Type of Media is Not Supported by Mobile Browser

Assuming your website loads successfully on a mobile device but some of your content is missing, it could be that the type of media you are using is not supported by the mobile browser.

A good example is Flash which is often used for animations and video-based content. Flash is not supported by a number of smartphones.

If your website designer incorporated Javascript and JQuery components for the desktop version of your website so that it would become more interactive, these elements would not display on mobile devices.

Conclusion

If you want to find out how your website looks like for mobile users, run a series of tests yourself.

Visit your website using your smartphone. Give an honest assessment of your experience. Go to the different pages of your website and evaluate how fast the images and text loads.

Ask yourself if the quality of the images; its overall resolution is good enough to impress the site visitors. Check if all the features and content that are available in the desktop version can be found in your smartphone.

From your smartphone, run the same tests on a tablet. Don’t stop there! Borrow a friend’s smartphone. Make sure it is different from your smartphone. Apply the same tests and evaluate your website’s performance.

If you are not satisfied with how your mobile responsive website sets up or looks on mobile devices, give us a call or drop us an email.

We will give you a free 30-minute consultation. We will take a look at your website and see what can be done to improve its performance on mobile devices.

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Google is the largest and most popularly used search engine on the Internet. When consumers want to find information for specific products and services, they launch a search on Google. In fact, Google has grown so big, it has become a verb. How many times have you told someone to “Google it”?

Everyone knows it. Businesses sign up for Google’s services to get the best results for their online marketing efforts. Marketers will focus their strategies to conform to Google’s ever-changing algorithm. Thus, it can be a very competitive marketplace.

You will need a competitive advantage and this is where having Google reviews come in.

If you’ve heard about Google reviews, we’re here to tell you more about it. We will tell you everything you need to know about Google reviews: why your business needs it and how to get them.

Are you worried about getting bad reviews? Don’t worry! We will show you how to deal with them. Just read on!

What Is A Google Review?

Google Review is a feature that allows consumers to share their experiences with a product or service by writing a review on a business’ Google page or search map listing.

Why did Google decide to introduce a review feature?

The search engine giant has always been big on User Experience (UX). Google wants to provide its users with the best options to address their wants, needs, and concerns.

Reviews are powerful influencers. They have the same effect as client/ customer testimonies. The reason reviews are so powerful is that they are organic. They are perceived as honest and sincere assessments of a business’ product and services. Unlike paid endorsements, the customer has nothing to gain by posting a review.

That is why product views are part of a customer’s research process. They trust consumer reviews. When you look for a specific item at Amazon, it is standard procedure to go through the reviews of the products shown on the search results page.

You tend to gravitate toward the items with the highest number of 5-star reviews and ignore those with low review ratings.

Strong Google reviews will have the same effect on your business.

Let us assume you own a restaurant that serves authentic Thai food in the area of Cherry Creek, Denver, Colorado. Like other smart business owners in the area, you had your restaurant listed in Google My Business and Google Maps.

Over the years, your restaurant has catered to many customers. You may not know it, but some of your customers may have given your restaurant a review.

When someone who is interested in dining at an authentic Thai restaurant in the Cherry Creek area, he/she would patronize the establishment with the highest ratings and best reviews.

If your restaurant is fortunate enough to get the best reviews and highest ratings, it should attract the most number of diners in your area.

Why Are Google Reviews Important For Your Business?

In the previous section, we showed you how Google Reviews benefit the customer and how favorable ones can translate to better business for you.

Now we will discuss the benefits of having Google Reviews for your business. Specifically, why you should encourage more customers to post reviews about their experience with your establishment.

Let us go back to our earlier example.

Put yourself in the position of the customer. Which of these reviews would have the most powerful influence on your decision?

  • “Best Pla Rad Prik I have ever tried! Better than the one I had in Thailand a year ago! The Pad Thai is to die for!” – 5 stars.
  • “The Gaeng Mussaman was too rich. The Pad Kra Prao made the visit worthwhile.” – 3 stars.
  • “Don’t bother! You get a better deal with the microwave stuff they sell in the supermarket.” – 1 star.

Definitely, you would go for the restaurant with the 5-star review. You may decide to dig in deeper and compare other reviews.

The bottom line is, the product reviews got your restaurant noticed. The high ratings and positive reviews immediately increased your visibility.

Aside from enhanced visibility, what are the other benefits of having Google Reviews for your business?

1. Google Reviews Will Improve Your Trust and Credibility Standings

We touched on this benefit earlier in this article. Customer reviews are perceived as honest and sincere. In ways, customer reviews are similar to word-of-mouth advertising.

If you ask a friend for his/her recommendation for the best Thai restaurant in Cherry Creek, you could take him/her up on the suggestion. In fact, 84% of consumers trust reviews as they would the opinions of their friends.

In the case of Google reviews, you can read through a larger volume of recommendations and opinions. And of course, Google is a trusted source of information. The search engine has always placed UX front and center whenever it decides to change its ranking algorithm.

Therefore, by generating consistently good Google reviews, you can effectively improve the trust and credibility standing of your business.

2. Google Reviews Will Influence the Decision-Making Process

The Internet has created a more discerning generation of consumers. They have more access to information and many will go to great lengths to justify their decision to choose one brand over another.

Again, going back to our example, in the event that there are other 5-star rated Thai restaurants in the area, the users will use the posted comments and factors such as location, parking, and seating availability as deciding factors.

However, the reviews and ratings have already pushed your restaurant ahead of the rest of the competition. It has made the decision-making process easier for them and more advantageous for you.

3. Google Reviews Will Increase Your Local Search Ranking

As we mentioned earlier, it is natural for consumers to give more focus on products and services that have been thoroughly reviewed. The more reviews you get, the greater the probability of potential customers searching for your business.

Positive and glowing reviews are indicative of how well your business is managed as well as the quality of its products and services. They will help your business stand out from the rest of the competitors and lend support to your brand-building strategy.

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How To Get More Google Reviews

Hopefully, by now, you have come to a great understanding of why Google Reviews are important for your business. The question is, “How can I get more Google Reviews on my listing?”

We are assuming that you have already listed your business in a search engine directory. Definitely, Google My Business should be on the top of your list. If you want to learn more about search directory listings, you can read our article, “Why Should Retail Locations Be Listed In Search Engines”.

Once you have listed your business in a search engine directory, it is time to shift your focus to getting more Google Reviews:

1. Make Sure Your Listing is Updated, Complete, and Looks Good

Image-based content will attract attention faster than text-based content. This is why it is important that your Google page looks good and visually appealing. Use high-resolution pictures of your products and retail outlet. If you have the budget for it, hire a professional photographer to take the pictures.

It is also important to make sure the information posted on your Google page is updated and complete. Always check the details on your business address, contact numbers, and email address.

2. Invite Your Customers to Write Reviews

Ask and you shall receive.

If you want more Google Reviews, then ask your customers to write them. This might place your business in a dichotomous situation because not all reviews will be positive.

You should expect to receive negative reviews.

Why? For the reason that people’s tastes and preferences are unique and individual, it is not realistic to expect that 100% of reviews will be positive despite your best efforts.

According to a survey conducted by Street Fight, negative experiences result in more reviews than positive experiences. In fact, 95% of people who had a bad experience with a business shared it with others compared to only 87% of consumers.

Given these statistical data, would it still be wise to invite your customers to write reviews? Yes!

Encouraging your customers to write reviews shows that you are genuinely concerned about their happiness, satisfaction, and overall experience with your business.

The best way to extend your invitation is to simply tell them what the Google Review is for. You want feedback from your customers so you can find ways to improve your products and services.

By inviting customers to write reviews, you are creating a personality for your business. It adds a welcome degree of humanity to an entity that consumers know was established for the purpose of earning a profit.

3. Engage Customers Who Have Posted Reviews

As the popular saying goes, “Any review is a good review”.

Even a negative review is a positive development for your business. It means someone took the time to express his/her dissatisfaction or poor experience with your establishment.

The key is how to engage customers who have posted negative reviews.

Here are a few helpful tips for you to consider:

  • First, don’t panic. Breathe. Relax. A negative review is not the end of the world.
  • Look into the review and see if it has merit. If possible, run a Google search or due diligence work on the person who wrote the review. Check your customer records. There is always the possibility of getting a bogus review.
  • Once you have verified the review, tell the customer that you are thankful for their review; specifically, for taking the time to write and post it on your Google page.
  • If the complaint is legitimate, apologize and request that you be allowed to give private messages or to respond via email. Inform the customer that your purpose is to present a resolution to the issue.

Of course, you should likewise respond to positive reviews. State your appreciation for the review and give them real assurances that you will continue to improve your offerings and services.

4. Promote Your Google Page in Social Media

Social media is a great way to reach out and connect to a wide audience. People spend more time on social media than any other website. Make sure you promote your Google Page in your social media business and personal pages.

If you have a website, include the button to your Google Page and encourage your site visitors to write a Google Review. Include a Call-to-Action which states the purpose of the review.

Conclusion

Google reviews are a great way to enhance your online presence. Likewise, it can be an effective tool for building long-term relationships with your customers that are based on trust, transparency, and a commitment to provide excellent user experience.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, use it to encourage your customers to write reviews. Entice them with discounts or special promos for every review they post on your Google Page. Make sure they can present proof of the review.

Does it matter if the review is favorable or not? No. If the review posted is negative, getting together face-to-face with your customer is an ideal situation for you to address the problem directly.

If you’re interested in getting more Google reviews for your business, leave it to us! We have helped our clients get reviews for their business. At the same time, we have expertly managed, moderated, and turned around negative reviews.

Give us a call or drop an email. We will get back to you right away!

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At Mountaintop we provide solutions for all business regardless of their size and niche. We excel in SEO, branding, and web design and we do that at a fraction of the cost, ensuring the best value for money.

Our mission is to build brands that are dynamic, empowering, and memorable. In order to be successful, we measure every business initiative we take, looking to optimize the strategies and enable our clients to conquer the online market.

We dedicate ourselves to every client and work hard until we get them where they want to be. Therefore, we couldn’t be more proud to announce that SEO Tribunal has recognized our passion and the quality of our work and ranked Mountaintop Web Design among the best SEO companies in Denver.

SEO Tribunal Ranking

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What makes SEO Tribunal special is their process-oriented methodology which incorporates ten processes, specifically designed to evaluate an SEO company and give a complete picture of their work ethic, quality, customer satisfaction, pricing, project management style, communication with customers, and more.

We are proud to say that Mountaintop has ticked all these boxes and now ranks as one of the best SEO companies in Denver.

We’re looking forward to future successes. Help us boost our ranking by leaving a review on SEO Tribunal.

Yes. Google is punishing websites without SSL certificates. Not only will not having SSL certificates mark you down in the search rankings. Google’s approach will negatively impact your trust rating with Internet users. Therefore, if your website does not have SSL certificates, take the necessary steps to get them as soon as you can.

The question is “Why?”

What Are SSL Certificates?

SSL is the acronym for Secure Sockets Layer. This is a program that encrypts data that is transmitted between a browser and a web server. When you submit information on a website, it will pass through different networks and servers before arriving at its destination point.

While your data is being transferred through the Internet, it can be intercepted by unscrupulous third parties. Having SSL certificates will let the recipient of the data know that the sender is a verified party.

Websites that have SSL Certificates will have the acronym HTTPS before their URL. HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Security. For Internet users, the “S” in “HTTPS” will tell them the website is secure.

In contrast, the standard URL that does not have SSL Certificates will be accommodated by the acronym HTTP.

We have written extensively about SSL in our articles “SSL: What It Is And Why Your Business Needs It” and “SSL Basics: Why You Need It To Protect Your Business From Hackers”. If you want to learn more about SSL, please take some time to read those highly-informative articles.

It used to be that SSL Certificates were recommended only for e-commerce sites and other websites which collected sensitive information from its users.

These types of sensitive information included numbers of credit cards, social security, driver’s license, bank accounts, and personal information such as birth dates, residential and email addresses.

With data theft and other cyber-criminal acts rising, Google wanted proprietors of e-commerce to prioritize getting SSL certificates for their websites.

In 2014, Google even tried to incentivize Web Masters to get SSL Certificates by including it as a ranking factor in its search algorithm. However, that did not seem to encourage enough websites to secure their data. Now, they have forced Google’s mighty hand.

Effective last July 2018, all websites that do not have SSL Certificates will be marked “Not Secure” by Google.

All websites. This means even websites that are not engaged in e-commerce or collect sensitive data are required to get SSL Certificates.

Why Google Demands SSL Certificates For Websites In Its Search Rankings

It is no secret that Google has always been big on User Experience (UX). From 2015’s “Mobilegeddon”, where Google required websites to become mobile-responsive to its guidelines on producing high-quality content, it is clear the search engine giant wants its users to have an amazing search experience.

Therefore, Google’s demand that all websites obtain SSL Certificates is an obvious next step to further improving UX.

Google has always clamored that the Internet should be a safe place for people to use. Especially in view of 2017 becoming a banner year for cyber-crime, Google wants all data traveling on the Internet to be secured. One of the best ways to secure data is through encryption.

Prior to the directive, websites that only had HTTP were identified with an icon of a white page. Web pages which obtained SSL Certificates had an icon of a padlock with a green lock to inform visitors that the site is secure. If there is something wrong with the HTTPS page, the visitor will see an icon of a padlock with a red letter “X” over it.

In its security blog dated 8 September 2016, Google shared its opinion that the current classification system did not reflect the actual risks of visiting HTTP websites. For this reason, Google decided to take its security campaign to the next level by having websites without SSL Certificates marked “Not Secure”.

According to Google, labeling websites without SSL Certificates as “Not Secure” is just the first step in its campaign to raise awareness of the importance of data security.

Newer versions of Chrome will mark websites as “Not Secure” even when you are browsing in “Incognito Mode”. Eventually, Google will identify all HTTP-only websites with an icon of a red triangle, the universally-recognized sign for “warning”.

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Should You Get SSL Certificates For Your Website?

As the famous saying goes, “When Google sneezes, everyone catches a cold.” If Google requires all websites to get SSL Certificates, then yes, you should get them for your website.

The big question you might be asking is “Will not having SSL Certificates lower my website’s search rankings?”

The best way to answer this question is to simply state that as far back as 2014, Google mentioned that having SSL Certificates will be a ranking factor.

Given the fact that Google’s present directive is all-encompassing in that all websites should have SSL Certificates, it only signifies that transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS has become a priority factor in its search ranking algorithm.

Another reason why you should consider obtaining SSL Certificates is that it helps foster trust with your customers/ users.

Even if your website does not collect sensitive data, the idea of dealing with a site that is “Not Secure” will be unsettling with the visitor. For sure, he/she will have second thoughts. The probability of visitors abandoning your website will be much greater if it is labeled “Not Secure”.

If you’re still on the fence about getting SSL Certificates for your website, you should know that shifting from HTTP to HTTPS will improve your page loading speed.  

According to the page loading speed test, HTTPS pages load 334% faster than HTTP pages. Keep in mind that page loading speed is a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm.

For the reasons that obtaining SSL Certificates for your website will present the following benefits:

  • Adds another layer of protection through encryption of data
  • Higher search rankings
  • Higher trust ratings from users
  • Builds your business brand
  • Improves website speed

Then you should take the necessary steps to shift from HTTP to HTTPS as soon as you can.

Conclusion

Google estimates that 50% of websites that load via desktop have SSL Certificates which is an all-time high. Many of the top ranking sites on Google such as Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, and Twitter are using HTTPS.

When Google first announced its decision to penalize websites without SSL Certificates in 2017, high-ranking, high-traffic websites like eBay, Microsoft, and CNN maintained their HTTP status.

As of the latest Google Transparency Report, these websites along with many others have complied and have shifted to HTTPS.

If you are thinking of getting SSL Certificates for your website, let us know. We can get this done for you. To be sure, drop us an email or better yet, give us a call. We’ll take you through the entire process of acquiring SSL Certificates.

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Digital technology and the Internet have made it easier for retail locations to be found by customers. Before broadband technology made the Internet accessible to everyone on the planet, it was hard for consumers to find businesses that had what they needed. Your fingers would get tired walking through the Yellow Pages. You would have to waste precious time burning the telephone lines calling one retailer after another. With the Internet, it became much easier to build a strong local presence.

The Value Of Having A Strong Local Presence: Does Convenience Trump Branding?

If you forgot your wife’s birthday in 2003, you would be in trouble. Today, you can easily search for the nearest retailer that has her favorite perfume in stock. Likewise, today’s retailers can thank the advances in digital marketing for making it easier for customers to find their businesses.

Unfortunately, very few retailers have taken steps to harness the power of the Internet. According to a survey conducted by SurePayroll, only 26% of small businesses have a website.

There are business-owners who still believe that their digital marketing efforts can achieve results even without a website. They believe running social media and email marketing campaigns will be enough to bring their businesses to the forefront of the consumers’ consciousness.

While social media and email marketing strategies do generate positive results, they are more effective when used as part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

Instead of using these processes as independent sources of traffic, you would be in a better position to optimize their full power if both social media and email marketing were utilized as channels to drive inbound traffic to a website.

In our previous example, if you did forget your wife’s birthday, what would be the first thing you do? You would probably do a quick Google search. If your wife’s favorite perfume is Chance by Chanel, you can run a Google search query for “stores with chance by chanel near me”.

The search results page will feature a list of websites belonging to physical retailers within your area that currently have Chance by Channel in stock. You click on the website that appears first on the search results page.

If the website has chat support, you can engage the agent and find out the perfume’s availability, price, and ask for discounts or promotions. If not, you could simply look for the store number on the website and contact it from your mobile phone.

A website is an important component of your local marketing strategy because the first thing the consumer would do is run a search query. The user may try to find your business on Facebook or Twitter but that would be more time- consuming.

The same can be said for email marketing. Your newsletter could be lost in the pile of emails consumers receive.

Put simply, these processes would make it difficult for you to be top-of-mind. However, as part of a digital marketing strategy, both social media and email marketing can give your website a boost in Google’s search ranking.

According to a study by Google, 76% of consumers who run a search query from their mobile phones will visit the retail location within 24 hours. The best part is 28% of those visits have resulted in a purchase.

If they run a search query and find your website at or near the top of the results page, they will click on your URL. It does not matter if the consumer has not heard of your brand or store. It is all about convenience: “Who can help me find my need in the fastest possible time?”

Let’s go back to our example one more time. If the results page shows a website of a giant retailer, it will take time for the husband to find a store locator that will show the list of locations within his area. Then, he will have to find out which of these locations have Chance by Channel in stock.

Can these tasks be done from the convenience of a smartphone? Yes, but it is time-consuming. In contrast, if your URL comes out on the results page as one of the retail locations in the area, it would make the husband’s search much easier.  

Social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, paid ads, and blogging are great ways to build your brand. However, as far as consumers are concerned, their decisions would be more motivated or influenced by convenience. If you want to fortify your local presence, make sure your business can easily be found online.

How To Develop A Strategy That Will Ensure A Strong Local Presence

In the days before broadband technology, retailers would resort to local area marketing to get their businesses found. Local area marketing strategies included traditional marketing methods such as flyer distributions, installation of posters and streamers, and setting up POP or Point-of-Purchase materials at the cashier area.

The idea was to target consumers within a radius of 5km from the location of the store. Generally, this was referred to as “within walking distance” of the location. For retailers with larger budgets, local area marketing would likewise include publishing ads in community newsletters, running cross-marketing promotions with related businesses, and getting listed in the Yellow Pages.

Traditional marketing methods were quite expensive. They were also not sustainable. Once the ad had run its course, it was discarded. Given the tools available with digital technology, are traditional marketing methods useless for developing local marketing strategies?

Not quite! The reason is some of these methods have evolved and adapted to conform to the requirements of digital technology and the Internet. In combination with digital marketing techniques, these methods can help your retail location develop a strong local presence.

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1. Set Up a Mobile-Responsive Website

Before anything else, you should set up a mobile-responsive website. As we discussed earlier, consumers looking for information will always run an online search first. You should establish your online presence by having an active, mobile-responsive website on the Internet.

If you already have a mobile-responsive website, ask your web developer to run periodic audits. How responsive is it? Your website should be able to accommodate various screen sizes and browsers.

Technology is evolving at light speed. Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops are consistently improving to meet the demands of the consumers.

Your web developer should also check for site speed. Consumers are not very patient. If your website takes time to download, they may abandon the search and go to your competitor.

2. Set Up Your Social Media Business Pages

Social media marketing will help bring you closer to your customers. You can post more information about your products and services, its benefits, and other useful tips.

You don’t have to set up a business page on every social media network. Choose the ones that can support your digital marketing objectives and highlights the strong points of your business.

For example, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube are best suited for highly-visual products such as cosmetics, perfumes, fashion apparel, and technology devices.

Make sure your social media business pages have the same information published on your website.

3. Get Listed In Search Engines

Think of Search Engine directories like the Yellow Pages on the Internet. As a matter of fact, the Yellow Pages are on the Internet!

Getting listed in search engine directories will make the consumer’s search activity much easier. All the information they need about your business can be found in the search engine directory.

You can find our recommendations on the best search engine directories to list your business in our article, “Why Should Retail Locations Be Listed In Search Engines?” Google My Business should be at the top of your list as Google is the biggest search engine on the Internet.

We also recommend adding high-resolution images of your store and its products to your listing. Also, try to generate positive reviews from Yelp. Google’s ever-evolving search algorithm has included favorable reviews from influential sites such as Yelp as a ranking factor.

4. Set Aside a Budget for Paid Ads

Paid ads are a good way to give your website an immediate boost in the search rankings. Anyone who clicks on your ad will land on your website. You can read more about paid ads in our article, “SEO vs PPC: Which One Is Better For Your Business”.

The great thing about paid ads is that it will appear in search results which are relevant to your industry or type of business. You can be assured that the people who see your ads will have some interest in your products and services.

5. Get Into Cross-Promotional Arrangements

Cross-promotional arrangements are traditional marketing methods that have stood the test of time. They are cost-effective and gives you the opportunity to present your business to a whole new audience. Make sure it is a non-competing business. The best arrangements are those whereby the products or services are complementary of one another.

For example, if you have a bakery, you can enter into cross-promotional arrangements with a floral shop for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas Day.

You can also run cross-promotional arrangements in Pinterest. Going back to our previous example, you can post content about the floral shop on your “Pin Board”. The floral shop will gladly return the favor and post about your cakes in their own Pin Board.

6. Get Involved with the Local Community

If you want to increase your visibility within the area, make sure your presence is felt. You can do this by getting involved with the local community. Every community strives to be active. There are always events and projects that you can be involved with.

For example, if have a Personal Training business, why not offer free exercise classes in the community every Saturday morning? You could also sponsor community events such as a “Fun Run” or a dance marathon.

By getting involved with your community, you increase awareness about your business and give people first- hand experience of what you can do.

Conclusion

While the Internet can give you avenues and channels to promote your business to wide, far-reaching areas, you can likewise localize your scope within proximity of your retail location.

The important thing is to focus on building a strong local presence. This is your captive market. People who reside or work within the area are potential customers. They may have need of your products or services. You should make it easy for them to find your business.

If you want to learn more about digital marketing and other ways to improve your local presence, please give us a call or drop us an email.

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Retail locations invest in marketing and promotional activities to get found. They will spend on traditional marketing collaterals such as press releases, print ads, and POPs or Point-of-Purchase materials. Likewise, many physical retailers will include a listing in the Yellow Pages so that people who need your particular products and services can easily find your location. However, in this age of the Internet and digital technology, if you have a physical retail location, you should consider being listed in search engines instead.

How Being Listed In Search Engines Helps Your Business Get Found

Businesses continue to use traditional marketing strategies in this age of digital marketing because there is still some benefit to be gained from them. For one thing, it is a form of high-touch marketing.

When a flyer is handed out, your representative can take the time to discuss your business with a prospect. Other traditional marketing methods such as product demonstrations and samplings work in the same manner.

However, traditional marketing is limited by its scope and reach. Flyers can only be received by people moving within its area of distribution. Press releases and print ads will only be seen by people who decide to read the publication.

The bigger, more important question is: “What will they do after they’ve come across your ad?”

The flyer can wind up in the trash bin. The press release and print ad may be ignored. If you have the money to spend on a TV or radio ad, some people may just switch channels. Your efforts may not improve recall to the point that they will search for your business in the Yellow Pages.

These forms of marketing are quite expensive and the low returns may not justify the investment.

The Internet and the continued evolution of digital technology have encouraged consumers to utilize more efficient channels to find information. Innovations in mobile technology have everything consumers need accessible within the palm of their hand.

People are using the Internet to search and find the information they need from websites, social media, and other sources of content.

According to a study by search engine giant, Google, 4 out of 5 Americans prefer to use search engines to track down local businesses.

A more significant statistic from Google’s study showed that 50% of consumers who use search engines to find a business visit the retail location on the same day. 18% of these retailers were able to convert these visits into paid sales!

The 10 Best Search Engine Listings To Register Your Business

If your business currently has a digital marketing strategy in place, you are on the right track. As we discussed in our article, “Why You Should Think About Digital Marketing When Starting Your Business”, it is a proven strategy for effectively promoting your business; its products and services.

A good digital marketing strategy includes SEO or Search Engine Optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing. Collectively, these processes will help you achieve your online marketing goals.

Maximize the return on your digital marketing efforts by having your business listed in a few search engine directories. Getting listed in a search engine directory will make it easier for people to find and contact your business.

Here are 10 of the best search engine listings to register your business:

1. Google My Business

Number one on your list of search engine directories to register your business at should be Google My Business (GMB). Why? Let’s start off with the fact that Google is the largest search engine in the world and basically has outperformed all other search engines on the Internet. In 2016 alone, Google generated 7.8 Billion searches every single day!

Secondly, Google My Business is free. It will not cost you a cent to list your business at GMB.

According to Google, GMB offers small, local businesses a huge edge over larger-sized competitors because it features a mobile-friendly map. Your business will be immediately visible to all smartphone users – Android and iOS phones – within a 5km radius of your physical location.

Here are a few more advantages of listing your business at GMB:

  • GMB performs extremely well in online searches
  • Listing in GMB will give your website a boost in the search engine rankings
  • Allows you to post reviews from your customers
  • Allows you to include key business information in your GMB profile
  • GMB provides Analytics which you can use to evaluate business performance

Lastly, listing in GMB is a very easy process. If you want to list on a search engine directory, prioritize GMB.

2. Bing Places For Business

Bing Places for Business currently ranks behind Google My Business in terms of online searches. Those who have Windows in their computer will probably choose Bing instead of Google. Just like GMB, Bing Places for Business is for free and will allow you to include key business information with your online profile.

You can add more details to your business location which is important for those who have multiple branches or outlets. Bing Places for Business will also let you upload videos, photos, and other forms of marketing content to generate interest and to entice people to visit the nearest location.

3. Yahoo! Local Listing

Yahoo! Local Listing generates millions of searches every day and currently sits third behind Google and Bing. You can avail of the free subscription. However, you will need to sign up for the paid subscription in order to upload photos, videos, and other business-related content with your profile.

The paid subscription will set you back $9.95/month. Meanwhile, if you avail of the $29.99/month, Yahoo! Local Listing will list you in 40 other online directories. Yahoo! may not be the force it once was, but you can still use it for a localized online marketing strategy.

4. Yelp

If you are targeting a specific demographic, Yelp could be the best choice for listing your business. It is estimated that 42% of people who use Yelp to search belong in the 18 to 34 age demographic. 61% of Yelp’s users have a college degree and 46% have an annual income of at least $100,000.

One of the key features of Yelp is that it publishes consumer reviews. Interestingly, the most reviewed businesses are in the retail, food, and home service industries. It also has a reporting tool that can help you research and analyze business trends.

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5. Merchant Circle

Small businesses that prefer to run a localized marketing campaign whereby customers, suppliers, and other similar enterprises are within their area should use MerchantCircle. Put simply, MerchantCircle is small business-friendly!

MerchantCircle opens up a treasure trove of features to help small business owners market and promote their products and services. You can place advertisements, post your business blogs, and utilize MerchantCircle’s entire arsenal of free marketing tools.

Building a business through a search engine directory has never been easier than with MerchantCircle!

6. Yellow Pages

Yes, Yellow Pages is still alive and well and can be found online! Yellow Pages has long been associated with search. Only instead of letting your “fingers do the walking”, they’ll have to tap keyboard keys or click on a mouse.

YP is still a relevant player in the industry and generates millions of searches on a daily basis. According to the company’s latest data on website traffic, there were an estimated 70 million visitors on their site in 2016.

By virtue of earning more than $1 Billion in revenues in 2014, the people at YP believe they are the second best search engine directory in the United States.

7. Manta

Manta is another search engine directory listing service that is geared towards promoting small businesses.

The company reports that their directory continues to attract millions of unique visitors every month. One reason is that Manta maintains a highly- comprehensive database on businesses including information on industry categories, developments, and customer demographics.

In addition, users of the Manta service can also access helpful content, free marketing tools, and take advantage of features that actively promote the business and its products and services.

8. Citysearch

Do you own a restaurant or a bar? Are you in the hotel business? If so, sign up for Citysearch. This search engine listing directory is focused on providing marketing services for businesses in the hospitality industry.

Citysearch has a partner network which can help increase your visibility within your target market. Its partner network includes Urbanspoon, MerchantCircle, and Expedia.

Businesses that are frequently searched for by Citysearch’s users will appear in their “Best Of” list that covers more than 20 industries.

9. Angie’s List

Angie’s List is one of the fastest growing search engine listings on the Internet. As of 2017, the site has more than 3 Million members who use the service to conduct research. You can also use Angie’s List to find local suppliers and review other services as well.

Angie’s List is also known for publishing objective and reliable consumer reviews which cover more than 720 industries.

2017 was a banner year for Angie’s List. The search engine directory made it to the prestigious Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list. Consultancy firm Deloitte uses this list to rank the fastest growing companies in the technology, media, and telecommunications industries.

10. Trip Advisor

Who hasn’t used TripAdvisor? If you need recommendations for restaurants, hotels, and holiday destinations, TripAdvisor would be one of your go-to search engines. It has built a steady reputation as a reliable and trustworthy search directory in the entertainment and hospitality industries.

How big is TripAdvisor? The company reports that it generates 390 million searches from unique visitors every month and has published more than 430 million reviews.

Other than Citysearch, if you are in the restaurant and hotel business, make sure you register your business in TripAdvisor.

Conclusion

The Internet opens up different avenues you can take to market and promote your business so that it can be found by interested parties. Listing your business in a search engine directory is a great way to complement your digital marketing strategy.

When you are competing with other businesses in the industry, always make it easier and more convenient for your customers to find you. Think of these search engine directories as the Yellow Pages in the palm of your hand. People still rely on YP for search purposes. In fact, YP is already on the Internet!

If you want to know how to integrate a search engine directory listing with your digital marketing campaign, give us a call for a free consultation!

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