What Are Local SEO Services?If you’re a marketer or website owner in 2017, you have to care about SEO. Search engines are the first place many people go when they’re looking for, well just about anything. Being one of the websites that shows up when someone is looking for what you sell is extremely valuable. That’s no less true when you run a local business with a physical location – many people turn to Google to figure out where to go when they head out to do their shopping. Investing in SEO services is therefore necessary, but finding a reputable SEO firm can be a challenge. Bad SEO tactics can actually hurt you, since many of Google’s updates are designed to penalize spammy SEO practices. And if you’re specifically interested in reaching local customers, SEO requires a different approach for you than for national businesses. Doing it wrong can cause a lot of waste and slower results.
How Local SEO is DifferentThe best way that local SEO is different is that it’s less competitive. You can target local search terms that far fewer businesses are competing on and only have to worry about getting in front of people within a certain geographic radius, instead of everyone in the country or world. Helping your case further, for search terms that Google assumes suggest that people are looking for something nearby, the search results prioritize businesses located close to the searcher’s location. So anyone searching for “dance studio” or “restaurant” will see local results on the first page, even without putting their city or zip code into the search bar. All of this works to your advantage, but it doesn’t mean local SEO is a cakewalk. You will be competing against everyone else in your area that sells similar products or services to you and possibly some online businesses that target customers from anywhere. There’s a whole set of tactics specific to local SEO that any firm you hire needs to undertake to keep you competitive.
Checklist: What to Look for in Local SEO ConsultantsWhen you’re looking for local SEO services, there are a few things to keep an eye out for to make sure the firm or consultant you consider is the real deal. Use this list as a basic checklist to ensure they know what they’re talking about. 1. They understand the differences between local and national/international SEO. Someone who approaches local SEO in the same way as they do SEO for any other client would be doing you a disservice. Make sure they talk about the strategy they’ll use for your SEO in a way that makes it clear that they understand your focus is local and that the steps they’ll take will reflect that. 2. They have a strategy for targeting Google’s 3-pack. Possibly the most important component in local SEO is Google’s 3-pack. These are the results that show up above organic results underneath a map that includes the locations of relevant results. As valuable as showing up in that number one organic spot is in Google, for local businesses, snagging a spot in the 3-pack is even more important since it’s what searchers will see first when they start to look at the results. If an SEO firm you’re considering doesn’t mention the 3-pack, that’s a bad sign. 3. They talk about directories. One aspect of local SEO that doesn’t factor into broader SEO as much is directory listings. Anyone offering local SEO services should talk about the importance of getting your business listed in as many local directories as possible. They may talk about NAP (name, address, phone number)– the acronym local specialists use to describe the importance of including all three of those in your listings and making sure each is consistent across all sites. 4. They discuss the importance of mobile. A focus on mobile is important for all SEO, but it plays an even bigger role in local SEO. Think about it. People on the go or about to head out often whip out their phones and perform a search to decide which shops, restaurants, or other businesses to hit up while they’re out. When you think of it in that context, it’s probably not all that surprising that 70% of mobile searches lead to action. That means you definitely want to show up when people in your area are performing relevant searches on mobile. Make sure any local SEO services you consider treat mobile optimization as a top priority. 5. Content with a local focus is included in their strategy. Content marketing should be included in any good SEO strategy, including those for local businesses. The trick with using content marketing effectively for local search optimization is making sure your content includes plenty of topics with a local focus. For real estate agents, that can mean writing about the different neighborhoods of the city. Landscaping companies can include posts about native plants that grow well in your city’s climate. Whatever you sell, a good SEO agency should help you figure out topics to cover in your content marketing that have local relevance. 6. They share ideas for encouraging customer reviews. One of the trickier parts of local SEO is getting customer reviews. You can’t force reviews to happen – customers have to be willing to provide them of their own accord. But there are strategies you can implement to help encourage more reviews. Local SEO strategists understand the importance of reviews and will often have suggestions for techniques to help you get more of them. 7. They don’t promise a #1 spot. This advice isn’t specific to local SEO services, but it bears mentioning nonetheless. The biggest sign that a SEO consultant isn’t entirely trustworthy is if they promise to get you in the top spot on Google. The way Google’s algorithm works is such that no SEO expert can reasonably guarantee that – unless it’s for an irrelevant search term no one cares about. Legitimate SEO experts understand the limitations of what they can offer and don’t overpromise. They’ll give you a realistic idea of how much time SEO takes and what the challenges are to making progress. But if they know what they’re doing and you keep up with local SEO for the long haul, you will make progress over time and see more customers from it. Did you know HostGator provides local SEO services? Get your free consultation today.
Monday, October 9, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Tech News for October 2017The spookiest season of the year is upon us, but most of the tech news this month isn’t that scary (with one notable exception). For those of you too busy to stay on top of all the tech news happening each month on your own, here’s a quick rundown of some of the top stories that should be on your radar in October.
Equifax Breach Puts Much of Population at RiskQuite possibly the scariest story of the fall this year is the Equifax data breach. The credit reporting agency had access to the social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses of everyone in the country who’s ever had a credit score – which is just about every adult in the United States. The breach puts about 146 million people at risk of having their sensitive information exposed. The country’s angry and people are scared. Companies, government institutions, and individuals are all still trying to figure out exactly what this means for the future of data security.
Samsung Releases New Mixed Reality HeadsetSamsung just revealed their new mixed reality headset designed for use with Windows devices. While the VR headset market is a crowded one, Samsung is offering higher-resolution displays and a larger field of view in order to be competitive in the space. This brings us one step closer to the mainstreaming of VR technology.
Google Testing Video ReviewsMany websites and channels on the web seem committed to shifting to a greater emphasis on video over text. Google’s never one to be behind on a trend, so they’ve begun testing out providing a video option for reviews in Google Maps. Currently the option’s only available to people who are part of the company’s Local Guides program. If the videos prove popular, they may well expand access to the rest of us.
Google Joins Companies in the Crossfire for Workplace SexismLast month, three former Google employees announced a lawsuit against the company for paying its female employees less than male employees in similar roles and promoting men into higher-level positions much more often than similarly qualified women. Google’s far from the first tech company to face accusations of sexism, but it’s one that’s worked to create a reputation for being progressive. This lawsuit reveals a side of the company that’s not living up to that intention.
Google, Twitter, and Facebook Targeting Now Includes Anti-Semites and RacistsAd targeting is a valuable service for businesses and provides more relevant ads for users. But several of the biggest tech companies on the web faced recent criticism based on their targeting algorithms creating offensive categories. Users discovered and drew attention to racist categories in Facebook’s targeting options, and soon thereafter advertisers realized both Google and Twitter offered (and even sometimes recommended) targeting for racist terminology. In all three cases, the options and recommendations were technologically generated and the companies are taking steps to change how their platforms work to avoid advertisers encountering these options in the future.
iPhone X Includes New Tech and FeaturesApple has recently revealed some of the main features consumers will see in their soon-to-come iPhone, the iPhone X. While the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus hit stores last month, techies are generally more interested in the model coming early next month. The iPhone X will be much more expensive than recent models, priced at over $1,000. It includes Face ID to unlock the phone, an especially big screen, an upgrade to the phone’s camera features, and a longer battery life than other iPhones. At such a high price tag, they may only capture the most devoted Apple fans with this one, but the excitement in the tech community is palpable.
Roku Launches IPOThe video streaming technology company Roku launched an IPO late last month, valued at $2 billion. Unlike most of the giants in the streaming space, the company doesn’t bother with trying to produce its own content, they simply provide users access to the content available on a wide number of streaming sites and channels. In its first few days on the market, the company’s shares have been dropping in value, although they’re still above the original price the company launched at.
Facebook Getting into Video ChatFacebook has given video priority on the platform for some time, but they’re exploring features that would give users even more video options. Last month, they started quietly testing a mobile video chat app called Bonfire. The app allows users to chat with up to eight friends at a time on live video. So far, only users in Denmark have access and no plans to move beyond the country to other markets have been announced.
Electric Trucks About to Join Us on US StreetsElectric cars already take up a certain amount of space on our streets, but electric semi trucks are about to join them. Daimler, a company whose trucks are already on the streets of Europe, has plans to move into New York. And Elon Musk (who we can’t seem to go a month without mentioning in our regular tech roundups) has announced plans to unveil a Tesla semi truck later this month.
World Summit AI Meets in AmsterdamArtificial intelligence remains one of the biggest topics in the tech world, as many of the biggest companies in the space continue to make investments into AI research and development. This month, many of the top professionals and businesses in the AI world will meet in Amsterdam for the World Summit AI to discuss their research, learn from each other, and explore what’s to come in AI technology. With big product releases, new features being explored, and companies grappling with high-profile controversies, in some ways October’s just another month in tech. Check back next month to see what news and stories will be dominating the industry in November.
Should Your Business Offer a Refer-a-Friend Program?No matter how much you invest in marketing and how good your messaging is, nothing you say will ever be as convincing to prospective customers as hearing from happy customers themselves. An enthusiastic recommendation from someone who’s like them and has already had direct experience with your company is powerful. Word-of-mouth or referral marketing isn’t the easiest type of marketing to do. It’s not something you can simply pay for, since happy customers have to be earned. But if you can find a way to encourage your current customers to help promote your brand and products to other people in your audience – you pretty much hit the marketing jackpot.
What is a Customer Referral Program?One of the best options you have for looping your customers into your marketing and promotion efforts is with a customer referral program. Customer referral programs encourage and incentivize customers to spread the word of a product or service they already use to their friends, acquaintances and social media networks. Friends and followers trust that a person they know wouldn’t promote a product unless they believed it was worth it, so they’re more likely to give it a try – especially if their friend’s promotion includes a discount for them as well. It’s a win-win for all involved. You get a new customer, and both the referrer and person referred get a good deal.
3 Benefits of Starting a Customer Referral ProgramCustomer referral programs are powerful for a few key reasons.
1. People trust recommendations from friends.Nielsen research has found that people trust recommendations from friends more than any other source. That confirms what most of us already intuitively feel. We know our friends have no reason to lead us astray. If they say their experience with a product or company is good, we have no reason to suspect ours will be any different.
2. Referral programs are naturally targeted.Marketers spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach our target audience where they are. Chances are, a lot of the people in our target audience are hanging out with other people in our target audience. Each new customer your marketing earns you gives you a way in to reaching their contacts, which is likely to include a number of other people with similar likes and interests to them.
3.When referral marketing works, it’s exponential.This might be the best thing about customer referral programs. All that hard work you did to attract one customer with ads, SEO, and content marketing doesn’t just pay off in them buying the product. When they see that you have a referral program that rewards them for spreading the word, they tell all their friends. If even just a few of those friends decide to give you a try, love the product, and respond the same way to your referral program, then you have several new customers promoting your product to all their friends. Your reach will grow and grow.
How to Start a Customer Referral ProgramIn order to get a customer referral program going, there are a few key steps you need to take.
1. Create a plan.Before moving forward, you need to sit down and work out the basics of how you want your customer referral plan to work. In this step, consider who your audience is, what their habits are, and what drives them. For instance, you’d be best off considering a different approach to a referral program for middle aged moms who are most likely to make recommendations to friends in person than you would for teenagers that spend a lot of time on social media. Determine what reward you should offer that you're confident will incentivize your customers. If you sell the kind of product that inspires a lot of repeat customers, then a discount on a future purchase can benefit both them and you. If you sell the kind of big-ticket item a person’s not likely to buy again for a while, then something like a gift card or a discount at a partner business may make more sense. In addition to rewarding the customer that sends referrals your way, you should also plan on offering something to incentivize their friends and followers to take the step of signing up. Offer a discount, a longer trial, or something else that makes it a better value for them to sign up through their friend’s referral link.
2. Pick your software.Setting up and implementing a referral program will be much easier if you invest in the right software for doing so. Referral software can help you organize and streamline the process of promoting your referral program and providing customers with what they need to participate. Take some time to review your options and get some quotes for those that look like the best fit. How much work you have to put into the process and how good of an experience your customers have will have a lot to do with the type of software you use.
3. Develop all the marketing materials you need.Like any other marketing campaign, a customer referral campaign will require creating a variety of marketing materials. You’ll need to call in your usual team to design and write emails, landing pages, graphics for the campaign and anything else you’ll need to promote your referral program. Your program won’t get far unless your customers learn it exists and are convinced it’s worth it to them to get involved. This is the step where you make that happen.
5 Best Practices for Running a Successful Customer Referral ProgramFirst things first, this only works if you have a good product and stellar customer service. Hopefully you already have those things under control. If you’re providing your customers with the kind of experience they’ll want to share with others, then go a little bit further with these best practices.
1. Promote your referral program to all your customers.Anyone who buys a product from you has the potential to be a valued member of your referral program. Make sure you take every opportunity you can (without becoming a nuisance) to let your customers know about the program and urge them to get involved. Rover regularly emails their current sitters urging them to recommend the service to other sitters in exchange for gift cards and/or the ability to be entered into a contest. This periodic reminder, coupled with an attractive incentive, makes current sitters that much more likely to think to mention Rover when they encounter friends likely to be a good fit for the service.
2. Promote it on your website.In addition to emails, hit them with a reminder every time they come to your website. Every time a customer visits the Naturebox website, they see the promise of FREE SNACKS displayed in orange in the top menu. That menu item leads to a page touting their referral program. That means any time someone’s browsing the site hungrily, they get a reminder of how easy it is to save money by looping their friends in on the deal.
3. Make sure the reward is worth it.Your referral program isn’t likely to go far if you’re not offering something people will want – on both ends of the deal. Gift cards and credits are a pretty tried and true method – people like free money. But you can find other ways to incentivize people as well. For example, Dropbox offers free storage to people who participate in their referral program.
4. Make it easy for them to share.Many social media plug-ins exist because of one, simple truth. People are more likely to do the thing you want them to (in this case, share their referral link) if you remove all friction and make it totally painless. To that effect, Rover provides pre-filled copy for email, Twitter, and Facebook that people can use if they don’t want to bother writing their own message.
5. Make it easy for them to claim their reward.The customers that refer their friends are some of your most valuable customers. You want to keep them happy so they keep spreading the word about you. So don’t make them jump through any hoops to claim the reward they’ve earned. Make it automatic. When someone comes to you through a customer’s referral link, have it set up so your customer automatically receives the discount, credit, gift card or other reward you’ve promised as soon as possible. If it’s an easy and rewarding experience for them, there’s a good chance they’ll keep it up and send more people your way. The customers that love you are more valuable to your company than anything else. They can make and break your success. Customer referral programs give you a way to actively nurture those connections and gain new customers at the same time. When done well, they’re beneficial to all involved and can be a boon to both your customer relationships and your bottom line.
Use Google Analytics to Find the Most Visited Pages on Your WebsiteWhether you run a small website with just a few pages or practice content marketing and have 1,000 blog posts, it’s valuable to understand how people interact with your website. One piece of information any website owner should pay attention to is which of your webpages are getting the most traffic. Luckily, that’s a pretty simple metric to access.
Find Your Most Popular Pages in Google AnalyticsFirst, you need to login to your Google Analytics account. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics for your website yet, then get that done ASAP. You can find instructions on how to do so here (or here for WordPress websites). The rest of these steps will only benefit you once you have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website for a while, so if you just set it up today, bookmark this post and make a note in your calendar to revisit it in a few weeks once you have some data to work with. Once you’re in, choose Behavior in the left hand menu. Under that, select Site Content and then All Pages. And that’s it, you should now be seeing a list of the pages in your website ordered by how much traffic they receive. Google Analytics usually defaults to showing you just the last week’s worth of information, but you can expand that by changing the date range in the top right corner.
How to Use This InformationNow that you have the information, what are you supposed to do with it? Well, your most popular pages have something to tell you about what’s working best for your website. And they provide you with opportunities to do more to capture the attention of the people who navigate to your website so you can (hopefully) turn one-off visits into ongoing relationships. Here are a few steps you can take to get more out of your most popular pages.
1. Add CTAs to keep the relationship going.What happens when people land on these pages? If most of them leave again without visiting any other pages on your website or signing up for your email list or taking any of the other actions you’d ideally like them to, then you’re missing opportunities. Figure out what you’d most like people to do after they visit each popular page, and craft a call to action to help guide them in that direction.
2. Add relevant internal links to other pages on your site.Internal links both encourage your visitors to check out other pages on your website and contribute to improving the SEO of the pages you link to. Make sure the links you include fit in naturally on the page, and don’t try to force a link in there that doesn’t make sense. Be sure to include relevant anchor text for the links you create (those are the words that are linked, the ones that show up in blue). It’s one little step you can take to give those pages some extra SEO power.
3. Analyze what’s working for your most popular pages.There’s some reason that your most popular pages are outperforming the others. Try to figure out what that is. Start by looking at how people found the page. You can see this in Google Analytics under the Acquisition section. If a lot of that traffic is coming through organic search, then your SEO is working for you. If it’s coming from referral links on social media or other pages, then that tells you something about how well your promotion efforts are working. Look for things your most popular pages have in common. If most of the top pages are longform blog posts over 1,500 words and they’re handily outperforming your 500-word posts, then you know that a focus on longform is a good strategy. Maybe your popular pages are formatted differently than others, or maybe they tend to focus on particular topics your audience is especially interested. Do your best to work out what makes these pages special.
4. Revisit low-traffic pages to implement improvements.Your insights from step three will likely provide you some useful information in how to make the other pages on your site stronger. Work out a plan to re-visit your older pages and posts and make updates to them based on what you learned in your analysis.
5. Incorporate your insights into your plan for future pages.In addition to improving your current pages, use those insights to help you plan your future content. Figure out related or similar topics that you can cover on your blog. If your most popular pages tend to be tutorials, make more of those. Whatever this project has shown you is working, figure out a plan to do more of that.
6. Use A/B testing to confirm your insights.It’s possible to draw the wrong assumptions from an analysis like the one you did in step three. To avoid committing long term to a strategy based on a mistaken assumption about why your popular content is working, do some A/B testing. Create two pieces of content that are similar in every way but one – maybe they have a different CTA, different title format, or different lengths. By seeing the comparison in how they perform, you can either confirm or correct your assumptions about what made those popular posts work. Your analytics have a lot to tell you about what your website visitors like. To make use of that information, you have to get into the habit of paying attention to the metrics that matter and creating an action plan to turn those insights into improvements.