SEO for Reluctant Small Business Owners

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Common Sense SEO
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re reluctant to spend $500+ a month to hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency.

Reputable SEO firms provide a host of useful services that can benefit your business, but unless you’re relying on web traffic to woo customers, you probably don’t need to hire an expert to get found on the web.

Here are three “common sense” SEO practices that you can do on your own.

1. Be Local

“Local search” plays an increasingly important role in SEO, especially on mobile devices. If you’re in Somerville, Mass. and do a web search for wedding caterers, you’re likely to be shown a list of wedding caterers near you, even if you didn’t ask for local listings.

Sample "of a "Google 3-pack"Search engines like Google assume that local listings are more likely to be relevant to web searchers. Google frequently features three local businesses at the top of the search engine results (below the ads) in a “3-Pack.” (See the 3-Pack sample displayed here.)

Even if you’re the closest business, however, you may not make it into the Google 3-Pack. According to Google, their local search results are largely based on relevance, distance, and prominence. So if another business is further away, but much better known, they may get featured instead of you.

Getting listed in local online business directories, especially Google My Business, can increase your chances of making it into the Google 3-Pack. Search engines place a high value on reputable business directories, ratings, and social media sites, so it’s worth your time to participate.

Make sure your listings are consistent from site to site, down to the last period and comma. Including photos, having reviews, and providing complete and detailed business information is also important. Here are some tips on how to use online directories to drive website traffic.

Examples of Influential Sites for Wedding Caterers

 

2. Be Relevant

In general, bigger and more established websites have a better chance of showing up at the top of search results than small businesses with smaller, newer sites. This is because they have more relevant content, get lots of traffic, and have hundreds of “authoritative” sites linking to them.

If you want your site to compete, make your content as specific and relevant to your target customers as possible. Create separate pages on your website for each of your major services, products, or areas of expertise.

EXAMPLE: If you own an artisanal cookie business and you’re trying to sell gift packages, create at least one page around giving cookies as gifts. The Dancing Deer Baking Company includes nearly two dozen gift pages on their site, from “Gifts for Fall” to “Gifts Under $35” to “Business Gifts.”

Image of Dancing Deer Baking Company home menu

The advantage to having separate pages for each topic is that you can incorporate very specific key words or phrases that people are likely to enter into search engines when they want to buy that type of product. In addition to images, each page should ideally include at least 300 words.

Creating pages about one or more of the communities where you’re seeking customers is another way to provide relevant information that’s also local. The products or services you offer in each community may be identical. It can be hard to come up with something unique to say about what you do in each town. Try writing about what it’s like to do business in that specific community, your local business partners, annual events, or anything that could interest residents or visitors.

Chances are, bigger, more established websites already dominate rankings for keywords like “artisanal cookies business gifts.” In that case, dig deeper to come with a more unique angle on the topic. Your subject might not get as much traffic as the bigger sites, but it could still be of great interest to your target customers.

For example, a Google search for “handmade rugelach,” turned up 155,000 results, while a search for “rugelach vs. biscotti,” turned up no exact matches. If you wrote an article about the difference between the two cookies, your page could be at the top of the search results.

Sometimes, no one’s written about a specific topic because not many people are interested in it. You can use free “keyword research” and SEO tools to see how many monthly searches are being conducted for that topic. Here’s a list of my favorite free SEO tools for small business.

3) Get Linked To

Along with being local and relevant, having “backlinks” can help get you a higher search engine ranking. A backlink is a link from an external website to your site.

Sometimes the easiest way to get links to your site is to post links to other sites, especially if you have a relationship with those sites. When you’re launching or updating your site, think about whether there are any appropriate pages where you could link to your vendors, colleagues or clients. Many people will automatically reciprocate if you’ve linked to them; others will do so if you ask.

Backlinks from mainstream news outlets tend to carry a lot of authority because they’re well established, have lots of readers, and are considered “objective” third parties. Lots of news coverage is cyclical; the same types of stories get Image of yearly apple picking articlescovered every year, such as a list of places to go apple picking. If you contact media outlets well enough in advance, they might be willing to include you this time.

Don’t discount blogs and social media. If a blogger has a small readership, but the people who follow that blogger are in your target market, a link to your site could have a lot of impact on your traffic over time. While Facebook posts may not directly help to increase your search engine rankings, they can drive traffic to your website.

Chances are that your competitors have some sites linking to them that might be willing to link to you, too. One way to find potential sites is to look at your competitors’ backlinks. Google a competitor and go through at least a few pages of search results to see what sites are linking to them. (This is also a good way to find online business directories that you may want to be listed in.) You can also use an SEO tool, to get a list of your competitors’ backlinks.

After you’ve identified some sites that you’d like to link to you, think about what knowledge or content you could offer them that might interest their website visitors. Would they review your products or services? Is there any chance they’d interview you for their podcast? Could you write a guest blog post?

Once you’ve settled on something to ask or suggest, check LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who’s connected with that site. If not, send a cold email or call. If you ask enough people, some of the sites are bound to give you a link.

One caveat: When it comes to backlinks, quality is much more important than quantity. It’s great to have as many backlinks as you can, but only if they’re “good backlinks.” A “bad backlink” is a link from a spammy site that’s trying to make money from doing something fake or wrong. Don’t ever pay for someone to link to your site.

If you suspect that there’s a “bad site: linking to yours, use the SEO tools to investigate. Experts recommend that you contact the webmaster for any undesirable sites and politely ask them to remove the link. If you don’t get a response, you can “disavow” those links.

Final Thoughts

Unless you pay to advertise, you can’t grow a tiny seed into a magic beanstalk overnight. For most small business owners, getting top search engine rankings takes time. As more people find your site and learn about your wonderful business, your site will also rank higher in the search engines .

Monitor whether your search rankings are going up or down by visiting search engines in “incognito” mode, but, if possible, use one of the free SEO tools to monitor your results automatically.

And do keep in mind that while the basic principles of SEO don’t change, the search engine algorithms do.  Minor SEO rules get updated all the time, so try to pay attention to search engine news.

Finally, this article doesn’t address the technical, or non-content, aspects of SEO. While you can get pretty far following the three principles described above, there are lots of best practices, tools and techniques that are worth following if you—or someone you hire—is willing and able to take the time. Here’s a great article if you want to learn more.

Google Analytics: Get MORE From Your Website

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Every small business and organization should have at least a basic website. Even if you mostly talk to your customers on social media, you need a digital location where you can control how you present your business and where you store your digital content. (Don’t have a site yet? Here are some tips about using “Do-It-Yourself” website builders.)

Just having a website, however, isn’t good enough; your site should help you achieve your goals. Whether your primary goal is to attract customers, get newsletter subscribers, or let people know about your sales or daily specials, you need to know if your website is delivering for you.

In addition, you should be able to assess how well your site is working. Are online searches driving traffic to your site? Once visitors get to your site, are they spending time exploring your content? Is your site as easy to use on a cellphone as it is on a desktop?

So how do you know if you have an effective website? Enter Google Analytics.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (GA) is a Google Analytics Logofree program that enables you to track and measure whether your website is achieving your goals. It provides you with information that will help you tweak your site to grow your business. If you’re not using GA (or a comparable program), you’re missing out on an incredibly valuable tool.

Unfortunately, many small businesses and nonprofits aren’t taking advantage of GA because they think it’s too complicated. While GA does have sophisticated capabilities that take time to learn, the basic tools are helpful and relatively easy to use. This is the first article in a short series that will help you take advantage of GA.

Let’s start from the very beginning: the Google Analytics Home Page. Google recently rolled out a new landing page that provides helpful data that anyone can use, even if you know nothing about the program.

If you have GA already installed, open it up so you can follow along as I review the features of the new home page. (If you need to install it, here are instructions. You’ll have to install a snippet of code on your website, so if you’re not comfortable with that, you may need help for this piece. I promise–this is the only technical bit in this article.)

A Guide to the New Google Analytics Homepage

When you open your Google Analytics page, 10 Basic Reports will automatically upload with the latest data. These Basic Reports are designed to help you give you quick insights to help you understand your business. While you can customize them a little, you’ll want to look at the Full Reports that GA offers if you want to dig deeper,

There’s a link on the bottom right of each chart is to go to the full Google Analytics report. If you want to know more about that topic, click on that link. Take a look! You can get a lot more information from looking at the full report, even if you don’t do any customizing. To go back to the landing page, just click Home in the left hand navigation menu.

Key terms for using google analytics- Good Egg Marketing

Customizing the Date Range in Basic Charts

In the bottom left of most charts, there’s a drop down menu that lets you change the time period for the data. The default is 7 days, but you can choose from time ranges on the list—such as the last 90 days or last year—or set your own custom range.
How to change date range in Google Analytics
The rest of the data can’t be customized directly in this Home Page view. You will have to visit the Full Report in order to adjust other types of data you want to view.

Key Analytics Concepts

Google has a precise way of calculating each metric, but most of us don’t need to know the details. Here’s a simplified explanation of the terms used in Basic Reports.

Key analytics concepts by Good Egg Marketing

The Top 3 Charts for New GA Users

Audience Overview

Audience Overview is one of the most valuable of the Basic reports. In addition to providing you with the total number of Users and Sessions during your chosen time period, it tells you the bounce rate and average session duration.  An arrow with a percentage below each number tells you whether the number has increase or decreased over the time period.

At the bottom of this chart is a graph that maps the number of website visitors who used the site each day.

In the example to the rImage of Audience Overview on Google Analyticsight, a dark blue line shows how the daily website traffic to Good Egg Marketing varied over the past 30 days.  The light blue dotted line shows the daily traffic over the previous 30 days. There’s no obvious pattern in either month, but if I were comparing year-over-year visits, for example, I’d be able to tell whether visits typically go down or up during the summer.

This default chart shows the graph for Users.  If you click on one of the other data choices at the top of the chart (Users, Sessions, Bounce Rate, or Session Duration), a blue line will appear over that word to indicate that you are in that tab. The chart will shift to show a graphic of the daily statistics for that data during the current and previous time period.

Sessions by Device

I really like the “Sessions by device chart,” because I like Image of Google Analytics "Sessions by Device" chartknowing how many of my visitors are viewing the site from a cell phone. Although the majority are still desktop users, that number is going down, so I must make sure my site is easy to navigate on mobile devices. Some business should put more emphasis on mobile views than others. For example, if you’re a casual restaurant in an area with a lot of tourist traffic, mobile views are more important for your business than if you offer a gardening service that someone is more likely to research on their desktop than on their phone.

Customer Acquisition Report

This report packs a lot of information. Like the Audience Overview Chart, it has three tabs, so be sure to visit all of them.

Google Analytics User Aquisition Report

1. Traffic Channel: A traffic channel refers to the source or means by which you’re attracting people to your website.  GA has four default channels in this Basic Report: Direct, Organic, Referral and Other.

The Chart above is set for a 7 day period.  The dark blue color gives me a visual idea of how much traffic came from organic search each day.  As you can see, it fluctuated quite a bit. (I may want to drill down later to see if I can figure out why.) The Direct Traffic (slightly lighter blue) also varied, but not quite as much.

Traffic terms for google analytics by Good Egg Marketing

2. Source/Medium: The first term (Source) in Source/Medium refers to the channel that the traffic is coming from; the second term (Medium) refers to the type of category that the channel belongs to. For example, your source/medium could be google/organic (unpaid) or google/paid. If you’re running paid ads, you’d want to know how much traffic is coming from the paid ads versus the free listings.

The reason why this chart is useful is that instead of just telling you how much of your traffic (the Source) is organic, it can show you how much of that organic traffic is coming from Google vs. Bing (the Medium). If you notice that your traffic from Bing is increasing, for example, you may start paying more attention to Bing.

3. Referrals: This tab will show you which sites generated the most referrals during the designated  time period. If you notice that a particular website seems to have provided a lot of referrals, find out whether it’s a positive referral or potentially a spam site. If you go to that URL and like how they’re listing you, you may want to contact them and build a relationship.

You Can Do It!

Now, even if you do nothing more than look at your Google Analytics home page once a month, you’ll be able to get some interesting information. For those of you just starting out with Google Analytics, this will hopefully whet your appetite for doing more.

How to Get More from Twitter

How to Get More from twitter title image

Facebook is the undisputed social media king and Instagram is the new queen, but Twitter is a quick, easy-to-master marketing tool for many small businesses, nonprofits, and consultants. It can help you increase your visibility, drive web traffic, build relationships with customers and prospects, position yourself as a thought leader, or just keep up with trends.

This article is written for existing Twitter users, but if you can text, you can Tweet. Here’s a guide to get started on Twitter. (And even advanced users might find this Hootsuite Guide to Twitter Marketing helpful.)

Stupid Twitter Twicks

Want to get more from Twitter? Aside from the most obvious things (use popular hashtags); include a photo in your profile; and promote your Twitter page from your email signature, website and other social media), here are the tactics I’ve found most successful.

LiveTweet
Tweeting while you’re attending an event (using the conference or event hashtag) is a surefire way to attract new followers and gain attention. (screen shot of you live tweeting magnified to circle the hashtags and user handles)

  • Announce that you’re attending the event and will be live tweeting, listen for pithy quotes from the speakers, summarize or comment on what’s going on, and share any useful or fun tidbits you can.
  • Quote the speakers by name, Twitter handle, and/or hashtag if you can, and they’re likely to retweet you.

Example of Myrna Greenfield live tweeting

  • Research the conference hashtag and the speakers’ Twitter handles in advance, so you don’t have to waste time during the event.
  • Follow the conference hashtag to see who else is tweeting and retweet as much as you can.
  • DM other people tweeting from the conference and meet them for coffee. I’ve met some great people and even gotten some business from connecting with other Tweeters at events.

Tweet Smarter

  • Check your analytics to see Screen shot of tweet deckwhich days/times you posted your most successful Tweets. The best times to Tweet differ for everyone –it depends on your followers.
  • Tweet frequently to increase the chance that your followers will see (and engage with) your Tweets. The most important thing to know is that the average life of a Tweet is about 18-24 minutes. After about three hours, your followers are unlikely to see your latest Tweet.
  • Write Twitter posts at night and schedule them to go up at your chosen time, if you find it hard to Tweet while you’re busy doing other things. You can schedule Tweets using social media engagement tool, like Hootsuite or TweetDeck. You can also schedule Tweets using Twitter. (screen show of tweet deck or just the image with a link)
  • Check Twitter several times a day so you can engage and respond to commenters and new followers. Take a few minutes to scan your feed and look for interesting Tweets you can like, retweet, mention, or comment on.

Use Lists

Hardly anyone seems to bother with Twitter lists, but they’re a useful way to keep track of the people you’re following and can help you attract followers and influencers.

  • Set up a list for each category of Example of Myrna Greenfield's twitter listspeople you follow. You can make your lists public or private (I keep most of mine public). Every time you follow someone new, add them to a relevant list. The people you add get a notification, which may motivate them to check you out and follow you.
  • Utilize lists to find relevant content. If you’re short on time or focused on a particular topic, you can just click on a list to just see Tweets from the people in that group. It’s also a good way to keep track of what your clients, your competitors, and influencers are saying.
    • Speaking of competitors, if you don’t want them to know you’re following them, you can add them to a private list without officially “following” them.
  • Subscribe to other people’s Twitter lists. This is a great way to find new people worth following.

By the way, if your Twitter lists are public, anyone can subscribe to them. So if you own an ice cream shop, you could create a list titled “Best Ice Cream in Boston” and include your business! Twitter lists show up in search engines, so if someone Googles “best ice cream boston twitter,” they will see your list in the search results and may check you out.

Include Images and Videos in your posts

  • Communicate with visual symbols whenever you can. Visual symbols are one of the most effective tools you can use to convey a message in a limited space. Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without images. So use images with your Tweets whenever you can. You can include up to 4 photos in a Tweet.
  • Add some emotion or humor to your Tweets with Twitter’s animated GIFs Tap the icon to compose a Tweet and then tap the GIF logo at the bottom of the screen to look for the right GIF. (You can also include your own GIFs by clicking the photo icon.)
    • What’s better than a photo or GIF? A video!
  • Go live! Don’t have any premade videos? You can create a live video on Twitter. Give your followers a behind the scenes look at your business or offer tips.

Use Twitter Analytics (screen shot analytics)

  • Use the insights to figure out what topics (and style of posts) are most appealing to your followers and use that to plan your content. For example, I assumed that most of my followers would be foodies, but they’re even more obsessed with politics and current events.
    • To access your analytics, click on your image icon in the top right (Profile and Settings). Click on Profile & Settings and click on Analytics from the drop down menu.
    • Click each of the tabs in the top navigation menu for fascinating tidbits about your top Tweets, your followers and their interests, your profile visits, and more. Be sure to check out the submenus; for example, under the Audiences menu, click on Demographics to find out the region, age, sex, income level, and other info.
  • Screen shot of twitter analyticsShape content around Events. Click on the Events tab in Analytics, then check out the hashtags for upcoming events and recurrent trends (like #WellnessWednesday or #TB (Throwback Thursday)

Harness the Power of LinkedIn: Simple Tips to Get More from Your Profile

Power of Linkedin

“I don’t know what to do with LinkedIn,” my clients and colleagues say when I suggest it. Although LinkedIn’s always been a useful way for me to keep up with and expand my network, I admit that up until now, it hasn’t offered much to users who aren’t actively job hunting, recruiting, or seeking new clients.

LinkedIn is about to launch a promising redesign, however, with an improved news feed and some snazzy messaging and meeting scheduling capabilities. With over 130+ million users in the United States (and at least 25 percent of them logging in regularly), LinkedIn deserves to be part of your marketing toolkit.

Here are my suggestions about what to do with LinkedIn.

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How to Increase Your Email Open Rates

Illustration of declining email open ratesEmail is still the most trusted, popular and effective marketing tool available: that’s why our inboxes are stuffed with it. So what’s a good open rate for your marketing emails? Overall, average open rates hover around 21%, but open rates range from 11-27%, depending on the industry, Constant Contact reports.

The only statistics that matter are your own: Is the percentage of people who open your emails increasing or declining? Here are some tips to help you improve your open rates.

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Lazy Guide to Marketing Resources

Person in hammockHaving trouble keeping up with all the
latest marketing tools (or even getting started)? Fortunately, there are lots of places—most of them free–to find great articles, videos, and resources to help you up your marketing game. So if, like me, you’d rather spend your vacation time gardening than sitting at your computer, here’s my lazy guide to marketing resources.

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Using Focus Groups to Avoid Mistakes

Illustration of a focus groupIn 2015, Bud Light printed beer cans with the slogan, “The perfect beer for removing ’no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” The marketers who came up with the phrase probably intended to create a fun, lighthearted message, but after protesters pointed out it looked like the company was condoning rape, drunk driving, and other unacceptable behavior, Budweiser quickly apologized and withdrew the cans.

If only they’d run the slogan past a focus group, they could have spared their reputation—and their budget. Chances are that someone in the focus group would have pointed out that the slogan was offensive and Budweiser wouldn’t have printed the cans.

Want to know what people really think about your idea before you launch it? Run it past a focus group first.

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How to Use Online Directories to Drive Website Traffic

cover photo listings articleOne of the easiest ways to drive traffic to your website is to get your business or nonprofit listed on web-based directories and listings services. There are thousands of online directories out there. The most important ones are published by search engine companies and social media sites, but pay attention to the local and industry-specific directories too. In most cases, the only thing it will cost is a little of your time.

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Should You Should Advertise on Facebook?

facebook logo-01It use to be easy to answer the question, “Should I advertise my business on Facebook?” When Business/Organization Pages started in 2007, promoting your business or organization was free and easy. Anything you posted had a good chance in showing up on the news feeds of your fans and followers. Today, the likelihood that your post will show up in a Fan’s feed (your organic, or unpaid, “reach”) is pretty small, unless you advertise.

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How to Use Marketing Stunts to Stand Out

Marketing Stunt by Rob Greenfield
Rob Greenfield gets himself into some cold water. (Photo by Brent Martin.)

My nephew, Rob Greenfield, is a born marketer and a prodigy when it comes to marketing stunts. His degree is in aquatic science, chemistry, and biology, but at the age of 29, he owns his own marketing company (The Greenfield Group), has a large social media following, and has been featured in dozens of media outlets.

Rob’s primary goal is to inspire social change, not to sell toothpaste or even solar panels, but he’s also developed an impressive ability to promote himself as a brand. The key to Rob’s marketing success is his use of storytelling and stunts to grab our attention. While most of us are unlikely to take up dumpster diving, we can learn a lot from his techniques.

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