The Importance of a Positive Online Presence for Local Businesses

Find out WHY a positive online presence is so important and HOW you can build a positive online presence for your local small business.

Many small businesses, especially those with physical locations that serve just their communities, underestimate the importance of building and maintaining a positive online presence.  The internet covers the entire world, so why is the worldwide presence of your small local business so important?

Studies have shown that over 80% of online searchers follow up via an in-store visit. That means that your local customers are using the internet to find businesses around, and your next customer is more likely to find you online than driving by your storefront or billboard advertisement.  If your business lacks an enticing web presence, you risk losing business to competitors found in the same internet search who have ensured they have a positive online presence.

local-positive-online-presence-followupWhat Does It Mean to Have a Positive Online Presence?

Even if you well aware of how important your online presence is, there may be a need for clarity around what exactly a positive online presence entails.  Your business’s online reputation is made up of everything online, including things like unsolicited reviews, web site comments, complaint forum entries, “best of” and “worst of” lists, blog post mentioning your business, social media comments, and photos tagged with your company name.

Your online presence is comprised of three main factors when looking at how future customers find you in search:

  1. Content you create such as web pages, blog posts, and social media that can show up as links in search results.
  2. User generated content that shows up on third-party sites such as Yelp or ComplaintBoards.com in the form of reviews, ratings, and complaints.
  3. Mentions of your business by third party websites such as the Yellow Pages or Chamber of Commerce (also known as citations).

Don’t assume that your online reputation is being managed by your marketing efforts. Your website and the advertisements you send out locally or online do not encompass your web presence. Internet searches, social media, review websites, and complaint forums are top of mind activities and destinations as consumers search for the best service at the best price.  Your company can provide a great product, with exceptional customer service, and at unbeatable prices but if it is not perceived as such online, and social signals show any negativity, new customers will hesitate to give their trust or money. When trying to influence new customers, it is vital to create a positive online presence and control the way you appear in these three areas.

local-positive-online-presence-use-internetWhen a customer searches for the type of service or product you provide, in your city, does your company show up in search results?  Does he see a professional provider with great reviews?  If the answer is no to either of these questions, chances are high you just lost a customer.

Why Do I Need Online Reputation Management?

Ensuring a positive web presence has many benefits for small businesses.  Online reputation management actively establishes your credibility as a reliable business and gives your company a competitive edge over others in your industry.  It helps you position your business as the first and best choice when customers are researching online before making a decision where to spend their money.

Reputation management also ensures you are controlling much of what is being said about your business online and lets you influence those conversations towards positive messaging.  Your online reputation serves as 24/7 advertising, getting the word out about your company to customers searching on the internet, specifically consumers in your community searching for your specific service.

The importance of managing your online reputation is clear considering online reviews, business social media profiles and company websites rank higher in searches and provide exposure to a wider pool of prospective customers when sound SEO practices are combined with effective reputation management techniques and tools.

local-positive-online-presence-incompleteHow Can My Local Business Build a Positive Online Reputation?

Building a positive online reputation for your small business is vital to your local success and future revenue.  While this may sound like a lot of work, a business should look at concentrating on just a few impactful activities to start.

Monitor Your Local Business’s Online Reputation

Monitoring your online reputation is no longer a “should do,” it is a “must do!”   There are online reputation monitoring services and tools that will let you know what customers see online.  You can opt to manually do this yourself, but whatever your method you need to monitor the online reputation of your business, so you always know what customers see online.  With that knowledge, you can work fast to correct or handle any negative information circulating about your business in the form of negative reviews, complaints, or inaccurate business information such as wrong phone numbers or addresses.

Get More Five Star Feedback and Manage Online Reviews

Online reviews are huge as they not only show up in many places online and rank high in internet search results but more importantly, consumers trust these more than any web content or advertisement you could create and disseminate.  Properly posted and promoted online customer reviews drive new business to your door more effectively than almost every other marketing activity. Think of how many times you have seen a one-star review and decided to purchase from that company.  I would guess close to never.  That is why you need to incorporate a system for soliciting, monitoring and responding to online reviews.

Claim your profiles on the major review and local listing sites.  These profiles also show up high on search engine results, so it is vital that you be in control of how these profiles are filled out.  Yelp, Google My Business, Angie’s List and similar sites let you claim and fill out your profile with ease.

Once you have established your profiles, you’ll need to work on getting real customer reviews posted on the sites that matter most to your customers.  You’ll want to develop a system, with a dedicated manager, that works at acquiring feedback, works with customers who are less than very satisfied and pushes five-star reviews to the review profiles you have set up.

local-positive-online-presence-review-content

Just one more thing for you to add to your business owner To Do list, right?

Luckily, review management is one of the business operations you can easily automate with effective reputation management services. With the right software, it can be as “simple as set it up and forget it” to give every customer the opportunity to give you feedback or link directly to your review site profiles with just one click to leave a review.  Honestly, you’ll wonder why something so useful as automated customer reviews management, when customer reviews are so vital to the success of your business, doesn’t come with your business license.

Manage the Business Listings For Your Local Business

Both people and search engines use your online business listings to find you (online and offline) and verify that you are a legitimate business.  Search engines use business listings to deliver accurate business information to their users.  Ensuring accurate and consistent information is contained in your business listings gives your business the edge over your competition by helping you rank higher in the local search results that attract new customers.

positive online presence accurate listings

People use business listings to get your phone number and address information to find the businesses closest to them providing the specific products and services they are looking for.  Missing, duplicate, incomplete, or inconsistent will inevitably hurt your business, and that is why it is so crucial that your business listings be monitored and managed. Read “The What, Why and How of Business Listings” to get a better understanding of what business listings are, how they work, and how you can automate the management of this crucial aspect of your online identity.

Get on Serious about Social Media

Keep it simple, and select just two or three social networks to avoid being overwhelmed in the beginning. The key is to find which platforms your prospective customers and audience prefer and establish profiles on those sites (Twitter and Facebook are general front runners).  Claim your company name, completely fill in your profile, and get a great photo to start to establish yourself.

There are three impactful reasons to claim and establish your social media profiles immediately on the social networks your customers frequent:

  1.  A healthy social media presence is a great marketing tool that lets you promote your brand and your content while creating relationships with your customers where they spend the most time online.
  2. Social media profiles rank high in specific personal name and business name search engine results. If you have little else online that you have created, you can control a lot of what page one is showing about your business.
  3. Profile names are first come, first serve with social networks. Someone could claim your name and your business name, so grab yours as soon as possible. Best case scenario they never use the profile. Worst case scenario THEY manage a profile pretending to be your business and murder your reputation.

Social media marketing is an activity that can greatly enhance your online reputation, but it can become time consuming.  First things first, establish your company’s presence and as you learn the ins and outs of your preferred networks look at starting a manageable social media marketing campaign for each.

Leverage Your Business Blog & Publish Quality Content Consistently

As part of the search engine optimized and mobile-ready website you already have, maintaining a blog does two amazing things: It shows you know your stuff and gives the web crawlers weighty information (links) to include in internet search results about your company or services in your area.

positive online presence more leadsConsistent, and properly search engine optimized, blogging ensures that content, images, and web pages you create and control occupy the valuable space at the top of search engine results for your name and your business. If you don’t love to write, don’t have the time to write, or the budget to outsource your content creation, this may be the hardest thing on the list. However, it is one of the best ways to control what is being seen and read about you online.

Managing your online reputation to create a positive online presence with regular blogging, active social media profiles, review management and marketing, and a search engine optimized website gives you substantial control over what is showing up at the top of search results. You can learn more about online reputation management and steps you can take to better position your business by subscribing to the ReputationLoop.com blog.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post The Importance of a Positive Online Presence for Local Businesses appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Google Local SEO Ranking Factors for Small Business

When you do a local search for your business, where is it ranked?  If it is not at the top of search results or not showing at all, there are steps you can take today to start to change that.  Look at the listed local SEO ranking factors for areas where you can make immediate improvements.

local SEO ranking factors

Getting the exposure for your business that comes with ranking first page in search results can be a game changer for small businesses. As Google moved to the smaller local 3-pack, getting to the top of local search results has become harder and more important.

According to Google, local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.  They rely heavily on the information in verified Google My Business listings, but also consider all the data that makes up your business’s digital footprint such as links, business listings, citations, website authority, and reviews.  Combined these factors find the best results for local searches on their search engines.

local-SEO-ranking-factors-vist-store-today

Local SEO Ranking Factors

When someone goes onto a search engine with the intent of doing a local search, it triggers a different behavior than a search such as “Siamese twin gymnastics.”  Search engines treat searches with local intent differently because they want to give you the information you need right now to make decisions.  The following local SEO ranking factors have been shown to greatly affect how high your business shows up in those local search results.

Relevance & Prominence

Relevance is how well a business listing matches what someone is searching for when they do a local search.  Prominence refers to how well-known a business is.  Being known offline helps places such as famous museums and well-known department stores show high in search when relevant.  For a local business, Google looks at information from across the web such as links and directories.  The number of reviews and ratings are also a factor in how a business’s prominence is graded.  Ranking high organically in web results is another factor, so don’t abandon your comprehensive SEO strategies.

ALSO READ: 3 Ways Customer Reviews Improve SEO

Proximity & “Near Me” Searches

Proximity is how near or far something is from another thing.  In this case how far each business in search results is from the searcher.  The “near me” search is very popular but searches with a local indicator work with proximity as well.  When the searcher does not specify their location in the search terms, Google just calculates the proximity based on what information they do have on the searcher’s location.

Optimized Google My Business Listings

The Google search engine relies on its Google My Business listings to provide the most relevant search results.  Optimizing your Google My Business listing for local search results ensures that Google has all the accurate information it needs to show your business as a highly relevant search result in the proximity of the searcher.

A business with no Google My Business listing will not appear in the local 3-pack, and it is rare that an unlisted business will rank the first page of local search results. Proximity doesn’t trump other local SEO ranking factors when search engine users do a local search.  For example, the closest dry cleaner does not automatically appear first and may not appear at all if they haven’t optimized for search.  Using Google’s current algorithms, search results could show a location further away that is more likely to have what the searcher is looking for and rank it higher in local search results than the dry cleaners down the street.

local-SEO-ranking-factors-google-my-business

Here is a Quick Google My Business Optimization Checklist:

[  ] Verify your Google My Business Listing

[  ] Verify and manually correct your business location pins on Google Maps

[  ] Completely fill in your business listing – especially categories!

[  ] Keep your hours up-to-date throughout seasons and holidays

[  ] Consistently gather positive reviews and respond to reviews

[  ] Add photos of your products and services to your listing

ALSO READ: How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

If you want a chance at showing up in local search results, you cannot neglect your Google My Business listing.  Earning enough reviews to have a five-star rating show up next to your high ranking business listing ensures your business is picked over the competition.

local-seo-ranking-factors-visit-store-nearNot Showing in Local Search Results?  Work on These Local SEO Ranking Factors

Google isn’t trying to make this hard for you.  Just like you, they want to provide the best product to their customers, and their customers are search engine users.  To rank high in search results, you need to let Google know that your business is the most relevant and prominent near their search users.

With smaller marketing and advertising budgets than larger competitors, organically ranking high and showing up as a relevant choice when customers are searching for what you are selling can be the main path of growth for a local business.  Knowing the current local SEO ranking factors lets you create an actionable SEO plan that differentiates you from the competition.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Google Local SEO Ranking Factors for Small Business appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Mobile-Friendly Email – It’s Vital, Here’s How To Do It

Creating a mobile-friendly email campaign is a major factor in raising your email open rate.

Whether you are asking customers for feedback or announcing a new promotion, you put some effort into designing and delivering an email or campaign with a specific message.  Chances are you designed and wrote your email campaign on a desktop or laptop.  However, did you make sure that your emails were optimized for your mobile-friendly readers?  If not, you’re missing the opportunity to connect with a majority of your subscribers with mobile-friendly email campaigns.

Several Sources Show High and Increasing Numbers of People Reading Emails on Mobile Devices

According to the Litmus Email Analytics Report (March 2016), 55% of emails are now opened on mobile devices, 19% on desktops, and 26% on webmail.

mobile-friendly-email-mobile-openSource: Litmus

The Kahuna “Mobile Marketing Index” for Q1 2016 has data showing 86% of emails were opened on a mobile device.

The BlueHornet “Customer Views of Email Marketing 2015” report stated 67.2% of consumers use a smartphone to check their email, 42.3% use a tablet, and 93.3% use a desktop environment.

mobile-friendly-email-sortingSource: EmailMonday.com

At the I/O Developers Conference in May 2015, Google stated that 75% of their 900 million Gmail users access their accounts on a mobile device.

B2C emails get 57.4% more opens on mobile than B2B email (42.78% mobile opens vs. 27.18% mobile opens), according to the DDMA “Nationale Email Benchmark 2015” report.

How Do You Create a Mobile-Friendly Email Campaign & Get More Email Opens?

Knowing that each time you send an email, a majority of your readers will be opening them on a mobile device changes need to be made.  You’ve got a mobile responsive website (I know you do), so now you need to create attention-grabbing emails that look good on smaller screens and function smoothly in a mobile setting.

Design for Touch Navigation in Mobile-Friendly Email Campaigns

Simple, uncluttered email designs ensure that taps and slides done with a finger and not a mouse get your reader where you want them to go.  Instead of stuffing every image and link you think is relevant, have a clear goal for each email and pick your most important offers and links.  Space any clickable images, calls to action, or links far apart enough to single out with a finger tap.

Keep Emails to a Single Column

A single column will help you keep your design simple and compatible with mobile environments.  It’s a straightforward design that works with all email clients and keeps the most important information front and center.

Write Concise Headlines

Tablets range in size and smartphones have gotten bigger in the last few years but screen real estate is still limited.  Most devices can now display 35 to 40 characters of an email subject line.  Mobile-friendly email subject lines have powerful subject lines that fit that space, or at least fit the most important information at the beginning.

ALSO READ: New Email Marketing – Higher Conversion Rates

One Clear, Stand Out Call-to-Action

Your email campaigns should have a goal.  Your call-to-action in each email should tell the reader what to do next, getting you closer to that goal.  It should be big and bold on mobile screens, but avoid using an image as your call-to-action.  Some email clients won’t show images from unverified senders and users can select to not display images on their mobile devices.

Test Emails for Mobile Devices

Most leading email marketing software have a way for you to design and test your mobile-friendly email.  Litmus has an “Instant Email Previews” feature that lets you see screenshots of your emails across 50 apps and devices to ensure your email design is compatible with all mobile and desktop environments.   MailChimp’s “Inbox Preview” feature (for paid users) is another example of a great tool for testing how your email will look on mobile devices in more than 40 different mobile clients.

If your email provider doesn’t have a mobile testing feature, you’ll just have to go old school. Build an email, send it to yourself and check it on the smartphones and tablets at your disposal (friends and family), fix what doesn’t look right, and then use it as a template.

mobile-friendly-email-mailchimp-inbox-preview

The Old “600 Pixels Wide” Rule Is Still Good

At the beginning of the millennium, Microsoft Outlook ruled the email universe and the average desktop monitor was 1024 pixels and to ensure your emails showed properly in these constraints marketers used a 600 pixels wide rule.  With responsive designs and higher resolutions, you still need to resist the urge to get too fancy or go bigger.  At widths wider than 640 pixels Gmail doesn’t show the background colors that appear in the margins.  Additionally, many email clients still use some of that larger screen for menus, navigation, and ads.

Larger Font Size and Smaller Images

No one is going to squint to read your email.  They can pinch and slide to make it larger and move it around but why would they?  Use 14- or 15-pixel font sizes to make your mobile-friendly email more readable on smaller screens.

Reduce load times and bandwidth by using smaller images.  Unless you know how some responsive-coding, the easiest thing to do is to shrink your image under 480 pixels and then compress for faster page loading.

Create Mobile-Friendly Email Campaigns by Focusing on User Experience

Have you ever scrolled from side to side, or pinched and spread on a marketing email to make sure you read every word and saw every image?  Me either! Poor email user experience leads to spam folders and unsubscribe clicks.  As more and more of your readers rely on their mobile devices for everything mobile-friendly email is a requirement.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Mobile-Friendly Email – It’s Vital, Here’s How To Do It appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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10 Free Tools to Create More Engaging Content

Growing your business is made easier when you can increase the number of visitors to your website and publishing customer engaging content is proven to drive traffic.  Engaging content is one of the pillars of a solid SEO strategy. Creating the content that customers want to see and interact with can be the most time-consuming of all your SEO activities, but I’m here to help you with these 13 free tools to create more engaging content.

Creating more engaging content is easier when you have old blog posts, photos and other marketing materials you can repurpose into other formats.

When I say “engaging content,” it means content that is useful to your customers, solves their problems and is easy to consume.  A thousand-word blog post can seem like a big time commitment to your customers and prospects but becomes more engaging content in the form of an infographic or six-minute podcast or video.  Here are the free tools that will get you to the next level with your content, improve your SEO, and let you connect with more customers.

10 Free Tools to Create More Engaging Content

PowTown – present your content as an animated branded video.

PowToon Engaging Content“Communicate with colleagues and clients in an unexpected and refreshing way by using PowToon’s Ready-Made Templates for plenty of business situations. It’s as easy as making a PowerPoint presentation and as impactful as a viral video.” – PowToon

 

Magisto – iOS and Android app that lets you add audio to your photos and videos to share with any audience.

Magisto engaging content“Magisto automatically turns your everyday videos and photos into beautifully edited movies, perfect for sharing. It’s free, quick, and easy as pie! Magisto selects the best parts of your videos and photos, adds your chosen music, themes,
and effects, and splices them into beautiful little movies.” – Magisto

 

WeVideo – video editing with cloud access, animations, voiceovers and licensed music to create videos you can share on your website, YouTube, or social media.

WeVideo engaging content“WeVideo is a powerful and easy-to-use cloud-based collaborative video editor. Advanced features with a simple interface. You don’t need to be a professional to create great videos.  You control the look of your video, including transitions, fast/slow motion, green screen, and more!” – WeVideo

 

Slideshare – convert long form posts or webinars into slide presentations with this LinkedIn owned tool.

Slideshare engaging content“Show what you know through a presentation, infographic, document or videos. Visual formats help you stand out and resonate more with your readers. When you upload to SlideShare, you reach an audience that’s interested in your content – over 80% of SlideShare’s 70 million visitors come through targeted search” – SlidesShare

 

4Screens – create interactive content such as polls, contest or live Q&A and monitor engagement with real-time tracking.

4screens engaging content“Create interactive content in a snap! Generate and profile higher quality leads. Boost your content with interactive tools and engage users. Drive traffic to your website. Use customer feedback and unique insight. Create smart quizzes, polls, and surveys in a minute – intuitive and effortless panel with unbelievable possibilities. Easily embed and share your interactive content with any network– no coding skills and additional features required.” – 4Screens

 

Audacity – open source you can download to cut, copy and mix your podcast with software that lets you record audio and add your own audio effects.

Audacity engaging content“Audacity can record live audio through a microphone or mixer, or digitize recordings from other media. With some sound cards, and on any recent version of Windows, Audacity can also capture streaming audio. Import sound files, edit them, and combine them with other files or new recordings. Export your recordings in many different file formats, including multiple files at once. Easy editing with Cut, Copy, Paste and Delete.” – Audacity

 

Podbean – iOS and Android apps with podcast hosting that let you easily create and share podcast.

PodBean engaging content“Podbean.com is an easy and powerful way to start podcasting. Everything You Need to Create, Manage & Promote Your Podcast!  Easy uploading and publishing tools, stunning templates, custom domains, social & promotional tools, embeddable podcast player, monetization tools and more.” (Free to start and then $3 a month) – PodBean

 

Piktochart – create detailed infographics with charts and interactive maps or convert long infographics into SlideShare multi-slide presentations.

Piktochart engaging content“Take your visual communication to the next level, without hiring a professional designer. Turn heads and captivate viewers with beautiful visuals. Watch your site SEO and blog traffic soar with the use of infographics. Increase brand awareness through easy-to-digest graphics.” – Piktochart

 

Canva – Thousands of templates to help you create infographics, presentations, report covers, social media images, ads, and other enhanced content you can use for link bait.

Canva engaging content“Design with millions of stock photographs, vectors, and illustrations.  You can even upload your own.  Photo filters to edit your photos or get advanced with photo editing tools. Use icons, shapes, and elements with ease.  Choose from thousands of elements for your designs.  Access a great selection of fonts perfect for every design.  The best way to understand Canva is to try it!”  – Canva

 

Playbuzz – create quizzes, video snaps, list, or countdowns and embed them on your web pages or share them on social media.

Playbuzz engaging content“Use of our platform and publishing tools is 100% FREE! You can create, embed items on your website and play as much as you like. Playbuzz’s content formats are optimized for maximum social interaction and sharing, so don’t be surprised if your audience starts to grow in numbers and engagement performance once you start publishing with us. And don’t worry – any time a user clicks on a Playbuzz-powered share button on an item embedded on your site, their social post will link back to your hosted page.” – Playbuzz

 

All of these content creation tools are free, and I want to encourage you to try them out and see what works well for you.  If you come to find that you have a knack for creating infographics or publishing podcast most of them have paid plans that let you do a whole lot more with your new found skills.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post 10 Free Tools to Create More Engaging Content appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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