5 Ways to Drive More Customers with Content Marketing
Online marketers talk about driving customers more than your average Uber driver – and who can blame them? Traffic is income, or at least it is if you do your job. If you can’t get people through the virtual door of your website, they won’t buy from you. It’s as simple as that.
The trick, of course, is getting them there. Your competitors are lined up like a row of carnival barkers, each trying to out-yell the others. You’ve got to find a way to make your voice heard above the chaos. And the secret it a surprisingly simple one:
Create better content than they do.
It’s been a long time since Bill Gates famously declared, “Content is king.” That doesn’t mean that it’s not true. In fact, content is happily sitting on that throne – and it determines how highly your site is ranked by Google and whether people will visit it, subscribe to your list, and turn into paying customers.
Easier said than done? Maybe, but here are 5 methods you can try to drive more customers with content marketing.
#1: Build Social Media Profiles & Engage Your Audience Consistently
There’s no denying that social media marketing is essential for local businesses. In fact, social content accounts for a whopping 93% of all B2B content and it’s responsible for a significant amount of B2C content, as well.
The first step is building your profiles. That means creating a consistent brand image by using your logo and a dedicated brand voice so that someone who finds you on Facebook won’t have any problem recognizing you from your website or other social accounts.
The second step is engaging your audience. You should plan on creating some content that’s unique to social media. You can also share your blog posts, YouTube videos, and other content from your website.
However, you should also be curating content from other sources as long as it fits in with your brand’s message. For example, we found a craft store in Seattle that shares:
- DIY videos for craft projects from various YouTubers
- Photographs and videos from artists
- Information about local events of interest to crafters
The key is to make sure that the content you share is relevant to your followers.
#2: Contact Local Content Creators/Influencers
The next thing you can do is to pair up with local content creators and influencers both for content creation and for amplifying your brand’s reach.
Imagine that you owned a restaurant and you noticed that one of your food suppliers had a large following. You might approach them about creating content together or sharing one another’s content to help both of you. People who eat at your restaurant might like to know more about the person producing your ingredients and likewise, the people who follow your supplier might like to know where they can sample their products locally.
Of course, influencers don’t need to be directly connected to your business. Instead, they might simply have a lot of audience overlap to make cultivating a relationship with them worth your while. Use your imagination and keep an open mind for the best results.
You can find local influencers using websites like .peoplemap.co and tribegroup.co
#3: Partner with Local Businesses
You might also consider partnering with local businesses to build your brand and attract new customers. Sometimes, a partnership is the ideal way to lift both partners while at the same time providing relevant content to your followers.
For example, a local office supply store might pair up with a CPA to create content about how to organize your receipts and other information necessary for filing your taxes. Or a hair salon could pair up with a local charity that makes wigs for chemotherapy patients showing the process of how donated hair becomes a wig.
Here again the key is relevance. Any joint content you create should be relevant to your followers and give them the opportunity to learn something new – or try something new.
#4: Confirm Your Business on Mapping Platforms
Helping people find you online and in person is a key aspect of content marketing – and one you may be neglecting. Here are some examples of what you can do to make your business more visible:
- Claim your listings on Yelp and other review sites and update all relevant information
- Likewise, claim your listings on Google Maps and Apple Maps
- Check your social media accounts to make sure your information is accurate and uniform
- Enable check-ins and badges on Facebook and FourSquare
- Respond to customer reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google
Doing these things will ensure that your business listings are accurate, and that people know you are a responsive and dedicated business owner – and trust us, that matters!
#5: Event Marketing (Hosting Events and Experiences)
Finally, check out local events that you might be able to attend or sponsor. While our focus is on digital marketing, sometimes there’s no substitute for the personal touch.
If your marketing is primarily B2B, you might look for:
- Chamber of Commerce meetings and events
- Service organization meetings and events (think the Elks or the Lions)
- Trade shows in your industry or related industries
- Charitable events with corporate sponsors
B2C marketing requires a slightly different approach, but here are some suggestions:
- Local charity events
- Local festivals and holiday events, including street fairs and community celebrations
- Gift fairs
- Little league games (you could even sponsor a team)
If you don’t see any suitable events in your area, then you can always create one, either alone or by pairing up with other local business owners. The key is to increase your visibility by getting out into the community.
Remember, great content will always win out…
It might feel a bit daunting to constantly need to come up with new content, but the five strategies we’ve outlined here can help to demystify the process and ensure that your content is always stands out and gets noticed.
Can Reviews Affect Your SEO Rankings?
You already know that local SEO is the name of the game. It’s essential to send Google signals – through keyword use and other SEO techniques – that your business is local, as well as it who it serves and where it is.
What you might not know is this:
Your online reviews play a direct role in your business making the cut to appear in the Google local three-pack.
In case you don’t know, that’s the collection of businesses that appear at the top of Google’s SERP when someone searches a keyword. It turns out that one of the keys to landing a coveted spot in the three-pack is getting good reviews. Here’s what you need to know.
The Proof That Reviews Matter
How can we tell that reviews make a difference in SEO? Google’s algorithm is proprietary and the known ranking factors (keywords, links, and Google Rankbrain, to name a few) don’t include reviews.
Local SEO experts have been saying this for a years, but it’s actually fairly easy to see that reviews are important. Google any local business category and you will get a list of results with a three-pack at the top. When you look at the businesses that made it into the three-pack, you’ll most likely see the following:
- Star ratings pulled directly from online reviews of the business
- Keywords in those reviews
For example, if you searched for the keyword “Spokane hair salon,” you would see reviews that related to that keyword. That’s all the proof we need to know that reviews make a difference in determining which businesses appear at the top of the SERP.
It’s also worth noting that the Local SEO Guide found that local reviews were the second most influential factor in determining search rank in their 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study. The influence in this study did appear to be limited to reviews that specifically included the keyword searched, but customers are likely to use the most commonly searched terms naturally.
In addition, LSI keywords that are related to the search term may also play a role. Try Googling your top keyword and looking at what’s highlighted in the reviews in the three-pack. You may notice that reviews that use semantically-related words show up even if they don’t use the precise term you searched.
The Reasons Google Likes Reviews for SEO
There are some concrete reasons that Google thinks reviews matter. They’re directly related to the ways that Google’s algorithm has evolved. In the early days of the internet, it was possible to get a page to rank highly on any search engine by simply stuffing it with keywords.
That changed because it omitted any concern for the experience of a user who clicked through to a site. After all, if you could click on a site because it ranked for a keyword only to find that it was useless to your needs, you wouldn’t revisit it – and you might resent the search engine that directed you to it in the first place.
With that in mind, here are the top three reasons that Google likes reviews for SEO.
- It trusts outside sources more than it trusts you (at least when it comes to the relevance of your site.) This first reason is related to the ongoing importance that Google places on authority backlinks. It stands to reason that it would accept mentions and references from other sources as proof that your site is relevant to certain keywords and topics.
- Google uses written content as a way of determining authenticity. When customers write reviews, they describe your business. They may even include information that’s not on your website. Even if you don’t list reviews on your site, these things can help flesh out the information on your site and give Google more context for its interpretation of your site.
- Click-through rates also influence Google’s ranking algorithm. That might seem obvious, but what you need to know is that a business with lots of good reviews is, inevitably, going to get more clicks and traffic than a business with a few mediocre reviews. It’s in your best interest to encourage reviews if you want to boost your Google rank.
These three things explain why reviews matter to Google. The key takeaways here is that Google takes outside resources into account to help it determine the authenticity and usefulness of your website. Users “vote” for your site by writing reviews and describing your site. Just as web users trust peer reviews to help them make buying decisions, Google trusts them to help it make recommendations of which sites are most likely to be useful for the keyword searched.
How to Make the Most of Your Reviews
Here are some quick tips to help you make the most of your reviews:
- Claim your listings on all relevant review sites. This includes Yelp and Google My Business, as well as local review sites. You want to make sure that you use keywords in your listing, link to your site, and include relevant information that will help people find you.
- Link to your review pages directly from your website so customers can leave reviews if they want to.
- Put a reminder about reviews on your receipts or comment cards. Remember that dissatisfied customers are often motivated to leave reviews, but happy customers will do so if you make it easy for them.
- Send a note to your email list with a link to your review sites and ask them to leave a review.
- Reply promptly to negative reviews to try to resolve them and get the reviewer to update their review.
These things will help you dial up the impact of your reviews and help you get into the coveted local three-pack for your most important keywords.
You know that, and now you can do something about it. Organic traffic is increasingly difficult to come by but encouraging and highlighting your reviews can help you get the biggest possible bang for your marketing bucks.
How to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business
The social media landscape always seems to be changing. New sites don’t pop up every day, but our perception of them is always shifting. The same is true of the general public. You might feel like you need to maintain a presence on every social media site from Facebook to Instagram, but guess what?
You don’t. Not by a long shot.
In fact, it could be detrimental to your business to do that. Your target audience might be very active on Pinterest and Facebook and never give Twitter a second glance.
The trick is knowing which platforms are most likely to bear fruit – and which are better left alone. Here are some things that can help.
Understand the Key Attributes of Each Platform
Each social media platform has unique qualities. Sometimes the benefits of one platform overlap with another and sometimes, they don’t. Here’s a rundown of each platform’s marketing value as we see it.
Facebook is still the biggest social media platform. That means that you’re likely to find a significant percentage of your target audience there. In most cases, choosing just one social media site for marketing probably means choosing Facebook.
Facebook is ideal for brand-building, establishing yourself as an authority in your industry or niche, and strengthening customer loyalty. It’s easy to share an array of content, including written, visual, and video content.
Of course, arguable Facebook’s biggest strength in terms of marketing is its advertising options. You can easily segment your target audience, run ads, view detailed analytics, and adjust as needed.
Twitter is built for instant communications. It’s the perfect place to share updates with your followers, create an immediate give-and-take, and release company news without relying on the media.
Twitter’s use of hashtags also makes it easy to track your company’s mentions and trending topics. Many companies have integrated their customer service with their Twitter accounts to provide immediate support when it’s needed.
Pinterest focuses on visual content and is a great platform for driving users back to your blog or website. They also have an option that allows retailers to sell directly on Pinterest.
The ability to create micro-targeted boards and use hashtags can make it easy to ensure that people in your target audience see the content you create.
Like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual platform where you can share photographs and videos of your products or services. It has a slightly more casual feel that the other sites we’ve mentioned so far and that can be useful for some brands because it can help them connect with customers.
Instagram is also a good place for user-generated content. For example. Starbucks uses Instagram every year for its White Cup Contest, where it asks users to decorate a plain white Starbucks cup with a unique design. The contest winner’s design is manufactured each year and available as a limited-run product in stores.
LinkedIn is the best social media platform for B2B marketers. It’s where you can share relevant blog posts, connect with other leaders in your industry, and make the kinds of connections that can help your business grow.
You can target LinkedIn users by their industry and job title, as well as by using traditional keywords. Sharing information about your business is a good way to build credibility and trust.
Identify Your Target Audience’s Preferred Platforms
Now, you’ve got to take the time to clearly define your target audience and identify the social media platforms that they are most likely to use. To do that, it’s helpful to have a demographic breakdown of each site so you can narrow your options.
- Facebook’s users are most often between the ages of 25 and 45, and they’re slightly more likely to be female than male (there’s a 60/40 split)
- Twitter’s users are younger and mostly between the ages of 18 and 29. They are split evenly between men and women
- Pinterest’s users are 80% women, and most are between the ages of 18 and 35, and they also tend to be affluent
- Instagram’s users are mostly between the ages of 18 and 40, and skew slightly female with a 58%/42% split
- LinkedIn’s users are professionals between the ages of 22 and 54, with a slight edge toward men, who make up 52% of users
These details should help you narrow your choices and decide which platforms make the most sense for your business. If you sell aspirational products that photograph well and appeal to women – for example, if you own a bridal boutique – you probably can’t afford to pass up on Pinterest.
Know How Much Time You’re Willing to Spend on Social Media
Let’s say that you’ve identified Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram as the most beneficial social platforms for your business. Does that mean you should set up accounts on all three?
To be effective, a social account must be active. That means you’ve got to tend to it every day, creating or curating new content and being there to answer questions and comments as needed. Here’s a rule of thumb for posting on each platform:
- Facebook accounts should post one or two times per day
- Twitter accounts should post three to four times per day
- Pinterest accounts should post two or three times per day
- Instagram accounts should post at least once a day
- LinkedIn accounts should post two to four times per day
That would mean that if you chose the three platforms we mentioned above, you’d need to be prepared to post, at minimum, four times per day. While you can certainly overlap and post the same content in more than once place, you’ll also need to consider the platform’s strengths. For example, you won’t need hashtags on Facebook, but you will on Instagram.
Choosing the right social platforms may take a little time…
But, it’s time well spent. Your time is valuable, and it makes no sense to waste it posting on platforms that your audience is not using.
If you’re a CPA or Attorney, you probably don’t use Pinterest…
Auto repair shops probably aren’t too active on LinkedIn…
Home remodeling & roofing contactors don’t do a lot of tweeting…
You see where I’m going with this?
So we hope this article will help you make the best choice for your own business – and for your bottom line.
What’s Changing with Google (and How It Affects You)
Trying to pin down Google’s algorithm is a little like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Why would you even try? It’s just going to fall off the nail anyway.
If that’s how you feel, it’s understandable. It can be frustrating. You want your site to appear on the first page of Google’s search results. But, the algorithm isn’t public, and Google is notoriously close-mouthed about it. But guess what?
You can’t stop trying.
Ranking high on Google is a must for every local business. The businesses that appear in the top five spots on Google get the lion’s share of the traffic. If you miss the mark, you’ll be missing out on business.
With that in mind, here are the most important things you need to know about what’s changing with Google – and why you should care.
#1: Google Searches Will Be Mobile-First
This first one is a big one and you can expect to have a big impact on your business. Google has a huge advantage in mobile search.
One estimate is that while Google garners approximately 63% of desktop services, it grabs a whopping 95% of mobile search. People with smart phones really need to go out of their way to use a search engine other than Google.
Google knows that people are more likely to search local business on their mobile devices than on a desktop, and it also recognizes the importance of the “near me” search term when people are out and about.
You want to make sure that your business grabs one of those top spots in mobile search? Here are some quick tips to help you ensure that it does:
- Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing and check your other online listings for accuracy
- Make sure that your website is mobile-optimized and has a responsive format that will adjust to any device
- Produce plenty of mobile-friendly content for your site
These things will ensure that Google knows your site is useful to mobile users.
#2: SEO Is Your Key to Showing Google Your Relevance
It’s no secret that Google prioritizes the user experience over everything else. That’s why keywords have diminished in importance while things like LSI, authority backlinks, and local reviews have risen as indicators of a site’s relevance and usefulness.
Keywords may not have the impact they once had, but there are other elements of SEO that are essential to ensuring that Google knows what your site’s about and why users will care about it.
The first thing is creating optimized content that’s highly engaging and useful to your site visitors. The more recent the content the better.
If your site doesn’t have a blog, it should – and you shouldn’t wait to add one. Every blog post you write gives Google another reason to crawl your site, and users another reason to visit.
The second thing is your data. If you’re not already drilling down into your data from Google Analytics and social media, you should start. Those numbers aren’t just numbers – they’re a map that can show you the kind of content that’s most appealing to your followers.
#3: Content Still Reigns Supreme
Speaking of content, there’s simply no way to overstate its importance. While you’ll still need to optimize your site for keywords and use appropriate tags, your content is what will ultimately make a user decide to stay on your site or – alternatively – to click the dreaded back button and try again.
The truth is that posting content regularly is likely to garner you up to five times the results that you’ll get without regular content updates. That’s not a statistic you can afford to ignore – and you can be sure that Google will notice if you don’t create content that users care about.
Of course, content can take many forms. It might include:
- Blog posts on your website
- Curated content that you post on your social media pages
- Text messages you send to people who have opted in to receive them
- Videos you post on YouTube
- Tweets you send out
- The emails you send to your subscribers
Google won’t see all of these directly but that doesn’t mean they won’t have an impact on your Google search rank. If a text message prompts a mobile user to visit your site, Google will notice the traffic – and your site’s ranking may ultimately be affected by it.
#4: Video Content is Huge
Finally, there’s reason to believe that 2018 will truly be the Year of Video Marketing. We’ve been talking about the rise of video for a while now, but its importance continues to increase. Let’s start with this:
By 2021, 82% of all global IP traffic will be video traffic.
Whoa. We’re not talking about a tiny chunk of traffic here. Video traffic was already at 73% as of 2016 and its rise is ongoing.
Visitors to your site are four times more likely to watch an explainer video about your product or service than they are to read a page of text. Of course, there are exceptions – but you can’t afford to ignore the fact that preferences have changed.
The good news is that video is cheaper and easier than ever to product. You can pay big bucks for a professional videographer to make videos for your business, but you don’t need to. Even a decent smartphone camera can shoot video that’s good enough to represent your business.
Some videos – the more formal ones that appear on your site, for example – might benefit from high production values. But the videos that you post on social media can be casual and short – and don’t forget about live video as an option, too.
Now, about that Jell-O…
Yes, it’s a pain to keep up with Google’s constant changes. But ultimately, getting a nail through that Jell-O – even if you have to do it again tomorrow – is worth the time and effort. It’s the thing that will bring new visitors to your site – and help your business earn more revenue.
Growing Your Business? Here’s How to Rank for More than One Location on Google
There are few things more rewarding for a business owner than expanding to one or more new locations. Expansion means that your business is growing. Sales are probably up and the possibilities are endless.
The downside of expansion – particularly if you’re using one website for multiple locations – is figuring out how to make sure that your SEO is keeping up with your company. As Google’s algorithms grow increasingly sophisticated, it’s become essential for businesses to rank for local keywords to keep up with the competition.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make sure that your SEO doesn’t suffer when you branch out.
Create Pages for Each Location
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but let’s talk about the best practices to list multiple business locations online.
You may have noticed that huge companies often have a store finder tool on their website. Unless you’re dealing with thousands of locations like Target or Walmart, your best bet is to do the following.
- Create a “Locations” page on your website that includes a list of all your locations.
- Next, hyperlink each location listing to a dedicated page for that location. For example, you might create URLs like this: http://www.yourcompany.com/locations/service-city-state. This structure ensures that your site will be easy to map and easy to navigate.
- On each page that you create, make sure to list the location’s name, street address, and telephone number. You should also include the location’s hours and any other pertinent information. The more useful the page is, the better it will rank on Google.
The benefit of keeping one domain name is that it’s less expensive than registering multiple domains. It’s also clear and easy for potential customers to understand if they want to frequent more than one location.
For each location page, you should make sure to include your city and state in the URL, the title tags, the H1 tags, and the alt image tags. This information will help Google crawl and index your site and ensure that it gets the search juice it deserves.
Standardize Your NAP Listings
The next step is to standardize your NAP listings. NAP stands for “Name, Address, and Phone Number” and having consistent listings is an essential component of local SEO.
When Google prioritizes search results, they want to make sure that the information they are providing is accurate and useful. If the NAP listings for your company vary from one another in any way, it confuses Google’s algorithms and dilutes your online presence.
For example, imagine that you have a location with 10 NAP listings. If you have two company name variations, three address variations, and a telephone number error, you have a total of seven pieces of competing information for that one location. It’s easy to see why that would be a problem.
Each time you add a location, take the time to list the name, address, and phone number as you want it. Then review all existing NAP locations and make sure that the information matches exactly.
Optimize Google My Business for Each Location
The next step you need to take involves listing each one of your company’s locations on Google My Business and optimizing it accordingly. That means:
- Check your business name to make sure it is correct and matches what you have on your site.
- Do the same for your NAP listing for each location, and make sure that Google hasn’t abbreviated anything that you have spelled out elsewhere.
- Choose up to five relevant categories for your business.
- Upload as many as ten images, making sure they are unique to the specific location being listed.
- Write a unique introduction to your business. Here again, the content should be unique. Do not lift content from your website or other listings. You can and should list services and link to the relevant, location-specific pages on your site.
These steps will help ensure that your GMB presence is doing everything it can to help each location of your business rank in its own right.
Build Backlinks and Citations
Building links is an essential component of SEO. The best links are those that develop organically over time, but you can encourage links by:
- Connecting with people in your industry
- Connecting with other business in your area
- Claiming listings on Yelp, CitySearch, and other sites
It’s especially important to claim listings for each location because it can help you get reviews. The more reviews you have for a location, the more authoritative your web presence will be.
When you have multiple locations for your business, it’s not enough to rely on reviews for your main location to provide an SEO boost and give potential customers the social proof they need.
You may want to have the managers at each of your locations work to encourage customers to leave reviews. There are company-wide policies you can try, such as setting up a points program to incentivize customers to leave reviews. You can print links to your review pages on customer receipts, too.
Reviews help to raise your company’s online profile and make it easier for local customers to find you.
Add Fresh Content
Finally, keep in mind that Google’s algorithms prioritize fresh content. If your pages for individual locations are stagnant, they won’t get as much authority as pages that are updated on a regular basis.
For that reason, you may want to consider adding location blogs or, at the very least, making a habit of periodically adding pictures, videos, and other new content to your website on a regular basis.
The goal is to make sure that your page is always relevant, updated, and useful to your customers.
The prospect of trying to get each location of your business to rank on Google might seem like a daunting one. However, the key is to use a site structure that allows each location to shine. Then, standardize your presence across the web, build links, and add fresh content to make sure that your site is relevant. If you do that, it will be reflected in your Google rank.