5 Things You Should Know About Google in 2018
If people can’t find your website, they’re not going to buy from you.
Sounds simple, right? It’s internet marketing 101. You can’t expect people to purchase your products or try your services if you’re essentially invisible to them.
Google is the world’s top search engine. They also own YouTube, which is the second-largest search engine. That means that getting a high rank on Google can make or break your business.
So, all you need to do is focus on the things that are most important to Google and you’ll be home-free.
Google’s algorithm is proprietary. That means we don’t know exactly how Google determines rank. They’ve shared some of the bits and pieces but not the entire picture. Marketing & SEO pro’s make a living reading between the lines connecting the dots to help their clients get the highest rank possible.
Here are the 5 things you need to know to improve your site’s rank and rise to the top (or as close as possible) on Google’s SERP.
#1: Backlinks to Quality Sites Still Carry Weight
In a Q & A session from March of 2017, Google revealed their top three ranking factors. Backlinks were number one. Since Google rarely comments publicly about their algorithm, we can’t say for certain that backlinks are still number one, but it’s safe to assume they’re very close to the top.
A backlink is any link that leads from another site to yours. If you want backlinks to have a positive impact on your Google rank, they must be from authority sites. Multiple links from the same site won’t help you since Google evaluates backlinks based on domains, not volume.
Remember that spammy backlinks won’t help you. In fact, they may hurt you. When a low-quality site links to yours, Google may associate your quality site with their low-quality content or practices. Instead of buying links or engaging in other “black hat” practices, focus on organically building quality links.
#2: Content is Still King
The next most important ranking factor is your content. Google’s aim is to provide highly relevant, quality content to searchers. The better your content is, the more likely it is that your site will rise to the top of the SERP.
Not all quality is created equal. You can signal quality to Google by doing the following things:
- Use keywords properly. Keyword stuffing won’t help you, but using keywords in your URL, title tag, H1/H2 tags, alt tags, and in the first paragraph of your content will.
- Make your content long enough to be satisfying. There’s no specific word count to aim for. Instead, your goal should be providing visitors to your site with the information they’re looking for. If you do that, they’ll be satisfied – and your rank will reflect it.
- Make your content comprehensible. By that, we don’t mean making sure people can read it. Rather, it has to do with providing context for your content. The use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) words can help. In other words, remember that your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
To earn a high rank on Google, your content must be relevant and engaging. If people who find your site through Google are happy with your content, they’ll show it by staying on your page and engaging with your content. Their behavior in relation to your content – combined with the other content factors here – will tell Google what it needs to know about your site.
#3: Mobile Responsiveness is a Must
The next thing to consider is whether your site is mobile-friendly. As of 2017, more than half of all Google searches were conducted on mobile devices. That’s not something you can ignore.
If you’ve been paying any attention to developments at Google, you know that their Mobilegeddon update in 2015 penalized sites that weren’t mobile friendly. As of 2018, not being mobile friendly will have a negative impact on your Google rank.
Mobile users expect the sites they visit to be easy to use – whether they’re accessing them on a smartphone or a tablet. They’re not going to frequent your site if:
- They must wait too long for it to load
- The buttons are too small for them to use properly
- They must scroll horizontally to read your content
- They can’t access the same content they can on a computer
The takeaway here is that mobile users matter, and your site should reflect that.
#4: Slow Loading Pages Will Drive Users Away & Affect Rankings
Web users are notoriously impatient. People who visit your site will expect it load quickly. If it doesn’t, they’ll find another site, instead.
Since “quickly” is a relative word, let’s talk about what it means. One study found that 47% of web users expect a site to load in two seconds. Of those, 40% will navigate away if the site takes longer than that to load.
You can test your site’s speed with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. If it’s too slow to load, you’ll need to address the situation. Some things that may affect your loading speed are:
- Poorly optimized images
- No Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- No caching plugin (WP Rocket is an example)
Minimizing your site’s loading speed will ensure that mobile users won’t navigate away from your site out of frustration.
#5: HTTPS is a Must
You probably know that, as of 2017, Google is penalizing sites that aren’t secure. That means that if you aren’t already using HTTPS, you should be.
HTTPS provides a secure user experience for your site. Sites that use HTTPS display a webicon of a lock. Those that aren’t secure get a message stating that the site isn’t secure, instead.
Switching to HTTPS requires buying a security certificate, installing it, and rerouting traffic from your HTTP site to the new HTTPS site. Once you do, your site will display the lock icon and you may get a boost in your Google rank, too.
Google’s Algorithm is Proprietary…
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to improve your site’s rank. The five ranking factors listed here are key to moving up the SERP – and getting the search traffic you deserve.
7 Ways to Acquire New Customers
A stagnating business is more likely to fail than one that’s growing.
I mean, let’s face it. That’s just common sense. Businesses that experience new growth – in the form of new customers – have an advantage over businesses that are barely managing to hold onto their existing customers.
That’s not to say that customer retention doesn’t matter. It does! But attracting new customers is a must. And it can be expensive. In fact, research shows that attracting a new customer can be up to 10 times as costly as retaining an existing customer.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And, not all customer-attraction methods are necessarily expensive. Here are seven (relatively) low-cost ways to acquire new customers and grow your business.
#1: Update Your Audience Research
I’m always amazed when I talk to business owners and they tell me that the last time they conducted audience research was years ago.
That’s crazy. Audiences change. You’ve got to know who’s interested in your products – and why they’re interested – if you’re going to understand how to bring your audience to your site.
If it’s been a while since you conducted any audience research, it’s time to get back on the horse. For example, you can:
- Check your analytics and look for new trends
- Create a customer survey and email it to your list
- Do a social media survey
These things will help you fine-tune your targeting. You can also use them to create (or update) a customer persona or avatar to help you with your marketing.
#2: Know Your Competition
Competitor research is another key component of customer acquisition. After all, you and your competitors are vying for the same audience. Knowing what they do and how they’re doing it can help you pull ahead in the race for new business.
A couple of easy tactics to use include:
- Tracking your competitor’s backlinks and traffic
- Monitoring your competitor’s social mentions
- Doing a complete audit of their websites
- Reading their blog and other marketing materials
Ongoing competitor research will ensure that you’re not losing out to your competitors.
#3: Focus on Benefits, not Features
Another common mistake business owners make is getting too wrapped up in their product’s cool features at the expense of considering the customer’s experience.
Let’s face it. A potential customer doesn’t want to hear your brag about how awesome your product is. They want to know what it’s going to do for them.
Don’t tell them that a frying pan has a non-stick surface. Tell them that it will simplify their clean-up! That’s a simple example, but it illustrates the point.
You can list your products features briefly, but most of your marketing should focus on benefits. Think about your customer (see #1) and the problem they want solved. Then, explain how your product will solve it.
#4: Build Trust with Your Target Audience
If you know anything about marketing, then you know about the Rule of 7. It says that, on average, a customer must have seven interactions with your brand before they’ll buy from you.
The key to building trust is to use those seven “touches” wisely. You’ll need to be consistent. That means knowing your audience, having a clear vision for your brand, and using the same voice for all your online content, whether it’s on your website or social media.
And speaking of social media, it’s ideal for building trust. You can connect with your followers every day without seeing overly sales-y or obnoxious.
#6: Pair with Other Businesses
You can’t expect your direct competitors to refer business to you. That would be counterproductive for them. But that doesn’t mean that B2B referrals aren’t possible.
Try searching for businesses in your niche – or in a related niche – that aren’t in direct competition with you. Then, approach the owners about the potential for a reciprocal referral program or joint venture.
For example, if you sell dog training products and there’s a company that sells cleaning products for people with pets, you could pair up to create special offers and referrals. You might link to their site and have them link to yours, and you could even create limited time offers and specials.
The key is that you’ll get access to their customer base and they’ll get access to yours – and you probably won’t have to spend anything to do it.
#5: Create a Referral Program
It’s important not to ignore your current customers as ambassadors for your brand. After all, who’s in a better position to tell new customers about the benefits of buying from you?
The key is not to assume that your existing customers will spread the word about you and your products. They might do it without prompting, but why not make it easy for them? A strong referral program can bring you new business on a regular basis.
Many referral programs incentivize referrals. For example, you might offer customers a free product (or a free month of service) in return for a referral. Or, you might host a special event for customers who refer new business to you.
Make sure to specify the terms of any rewards and to provide customers with what they need to make referrals, whether it’s a supply of business cards or brochures or a dedicated URL on your website.
#7: Create Shareable Coupons and Offers
A referral program is one thing. But what if you could convince your existing social media followers to spread the word about your products in return for a simple coupon?
You can! The next time you’re running a promotion, encourage your followers to share it. Your call to action can say something like, “Why keep all the savings for yourself? Share this post with your friends and family so they can get a bargain, too!”
The key is not to assume that people will share your content. They may not know that it’s okay with you for them to do so – so make sure to ask in your call to action.
New customers aren’t everything…
But, if you want your business to grow, you’ll need to expand your reach. These 7 simple tips can help you attract new customers without blowing through your marketing budget. Instead, you can use them to blow past your competition!
How to Generate Local Leads with YouTube Ads
Most small business don’t have a huge marketing budget.
Sounds familiar, right? Advertising is expensive. You want the money you spend to stretch as far as possible – and that means finding advertising opportunities that are going to get you the biggest possible bang for your buck.
There’s no shortage of options. And one option that you may have overlooked is something that you’ve probably spent a lot of time on as a consumer.
I’m talking about YouTube ads.
You probably visit YouTube often – maybe you even go there more than once a day. And when you do, you’ve seen the ads that run before videos. You’ve probably also noticed ads that display with your search results.
When it comes to generating leads, those ads are CRUSHING it.
YouTube Ad Statistics
Let’s start by checking the numbers. We’re warning you – what you’re about to read may shock you, especially if you’ve been spending money on local TV ads and other high-cost ads.
- YouTube has more than one billion users – that’s almost one-third of all internet users.
- 45% of users watch more than an hour of YouTube videos per week.
- More video content is created online in 30 days than has been created by all major US television networks in 30 years.
- 46% of all users act after watching a video ad.
We could quote dozens more facts like these, but these are sufficient to illustrate the point. Video advertising is hugely popular and hugely effective.
Now, let’s talk about how you can use YouTube to generate local leads.
Know Your Ad Types
The first step is knowing what your ad options are on YouTube. There are three to consider:
- TrueView In-Stream Ads are the ads you’re probably most familiar with on YouTube. These are the ads that stream before a video. They often come with a “Skip Ad” option that displays after five seconds. One thing you may not know is that if a viewer skips your ad, you won’t pay for the view. That’s key if you have a limited ad budget.
- Discovery Ads show up in YouTube search results and look just like other videos. To get viewers to choose your ad, you’ll need an eye-catching thumbnail to grab their attention. Here again, you’ll only pay if a viewer clicks on your ad. You won’t pay to have your ad displayed in the search results.
- Bumper Ads are very short ads that can’t be skipped. They’re most often targeted to mobile users, and they’re ideal if you have a message that can be conveyed in just a few seconds.
You’ll need to decide which ad format is best suited to your company.
YouTube Advertising Best Practices
Now, let’s look at some simple things that can help you generate tons of local leads with YouTube ads.
Keep Your Ads Short
Bumper ads are necessarily short. You’ll be limited in how long they can be – usually, they’re less than 10 seconds.
In-Stream ads can vary in length, but keep in mind that viewers will be able to see how long your ad is as soon as it appears on their screen. They may be willing to sit through a 30-second ad if it interest them, but unless you really grab their attention, they’re not going to sit through a two-minute ad before watching the content they came to see.
Discovery ads can be longer – as much as two minutes – but make sure the content is engaging. That’s the only way that you’ll keep a viewer’s attention and get them to click your call to action.
Grab Users’ Attention from the Start
YouTube advertising isn’t the place to indulge in a slow build. Your ad must grab viewers’ attention immediately if you want them to stick around.
There are a few ways to accomplish this. One is to start with a provocative statement, one that target’s your audience’s biggest pain point.
Another option is to use storytelling in your video. If you tell a compelling story, people will keep watching to find out how it ends.
But with this option, you will need a killer script for your video. If you can’t write one yourself, hire a pro to do it for you. It will be money well spent.
Don’t Wait to Display Your Call to Action
Keeping in mind that you have limited time to capture your audience’s attention, it makes sense not to wait for the end of your video to display your call to action.
Remember, your goal is to get people to click your CTA. By displaying it on the screen early in your video – and then again at the end – you can maximize conversions.
You may even want to include several calls to action – especially if your video is long. Place them when the content in your video is likely to spur action. You don’t want to overdo it but it’s important to make it very easy for viewers to take the next step.
Optimize Your Landing Page for Video Viewers
Where will the people who view your ad end up if they click your call to action? If you want to use YouTube advertising to generate leads, you’ve got to make sure that your landing page is optimized for the people who see your video.
First, make sure that the content on your page matches what’s in the video. You don’t want people who visit to be confused.
Next, link viewers to a page that’s intended for lead generation. That means that you should have an opt-in form or appointment link on the page. Nobody who lands there should have to guess what the next step is. It should be clear.
Lead Generation on YouTube Doesn’t Have to be Expensive…
Provided you choose the right place to run your ads and follow these simple guidelines, you should start seeing high-quality leads from your ads quickly. And from there, you can nurture those leads and turn them into loyal, paying customers.
Are You Ignoring 35% of All Web Users?
If you tend to keep up with SEO and search trends, then you know that almost everything focuses on Google. And why not? Google is by far the largest search engine, snagging about two-thirds of all searchers.
Two-thirds is a lot, but do you notice what’s missing there? If you remember what you learned about fractions, it’s not that hard.
That’s right! One-third of all searches aren’t using Google.
And yet, amazingly, most businesses aren’t thinking about other search engines at all! They remain laser-focused on Google.
That’s good news for you, because it means that by taking other options into account, you can get a leg up on your competition. Sounds pretty good, right? So, let’s talk about it.
What Search Engine Are the Missing 35% Using?
If not Google, who?
That’s probably what you’re wondering. You might think that that elusive 35% is split among several search engines. That’s right – but it’s also wrong.
You see, as of 2015, Yahoo made a deal with Bing. Approximately 51% of all Yahoo searches use Bing. And, since Bing and Yahoo are responsible for about 35% of all search traffic, that means that optimizing for Bing can help you capture people you might miss by thinking only about Google.
Bing and Google have a lot in common. But, if you search one of your keywords and compare the SERP, you’ll notice some differences. Addressing those differences can help you stand out from your competitors.
The key is to do it without messing with your Google rank.
Advantages of Optimizing for Bing
Before we walk through how you can optimize for Bing searches without affecting your Google rank, let’s talk about the main advantages of optimizing for Bing.
- You’ll face less competition than on Google. Remember, most businesses aren’t thinking about their Bing rank. That means if you take the time to optimize for Bing, you can outrank your competition and grab the lion’s share of traffic from Bing searches.
- Traffic from Bing has, on average, a higher conversion rate than traffic from Google. It’s hard to quantify the reasons for the difference, but it may be that Bing users tend to be older and more affluent than Google users.
- Bing is much more open about their ranking factors than Google. Instead of guessing about what will help your site to rank, you can simply refer to what Bing has said about it and optimize your site accordingly. In other words, they’re pro-SEO.
These things point to a clear opportunity for business owners who want to find a low-cost but effective way to attract more traffic.
How to Improve Your Bing Rank
Now, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your rank on Bing. Many of the things that work for you on Google will also work on Bing. The trick is to tweak your SEO just a bit, so your site maintains its Google rank and moves up on Bing.
Make Sure Your Site is Indexed on Bing
The first step is to make sure your site is properly indexed on Bing. If it’s been around for a while it probably is, but if your site is new, it may not be.
Start by doing a search for site:www.yoursite.com on Bing. That will show you how many of your site’s pages have been indexed.
If they’re indexed, you can move on to the next step. If they’re not, you should go ahead and submit your site here.
Tell Bing How Often to Crawl Your Site
Next, tell Bing how frequently to crawl your site. If you look at Bing’s Webmaster Tools, you’ll notice that the default setting is standard. That’s fine if your site is static; but, if it’s large or you update it frequently, you should dial up the crawl rate for the best results.
Submit a Clean Sitemap
Bing has only a 1% tolerance for dirt in your sitemap. That means if you want your rank to improve, you’ve got to clean it up and submit it. You can do it on your Webmaster Tools page.
Another option is to include a link to your sitemap in your Robots.txt. However, the benefit of doing it through Bing is that you’ll get error messages if there are problems with your sitemap. That means you’ll be able to clean them up as you go.
Use Straightforward Keywords
If you know anything about Google, you know that LSI and context are nearly as important as keyword use. That’s not the case on Bing. They put a higher premium on exact keyword matches than Google does.
Fortunately, this is a change you can make without hurting your Google rank. You’ll want to increase your keyword density a bit, but not so much that it affects the quality of your content.
Using those same keywords in tags – the title tag is hugely important on Bing – is essential, too.
Improve Your Click-Through Rate
Bing pays a lot of attention to user behavior. If users click your site and then hit the back button, it will affect your Bing rank.
You can check your CTR and bounce rate on Bing from your Webmaster Tools dashboard.
Build More Backlinks
Google tends to place more emphasis on the quality of backlinks than the number of them. Bing does the reverse.
You can’t disregard the quality of your backlinks without negatively impacting your Google rank. But, by adding additional backlinks, you can positively impact your Bing rank.
It’s also a good idea to do what you can to improve the quality of your anchor text in your backlinks. Don’t overdo it – that can hurt you with Google – but contacting a few webmasters to ask them to use keywords in the anchor text can help you with Bing.
Use Social Signals to Your Advantage
Unlike Google, Bing comes right out and says that social signals have an impact on the SERP. That means anything you do to boost your social media impact will help you with Bing.
The best way to capitalize on this is to monitor your social signals, attract new followers, and do whatever you can to amplify your reach on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Ignoring Bing users is a bad idea…
By taking a few simple steps to boost your Bing ranking, you can out-maneuver your competition. When you think about it, it makes no sense to simply ignore a third of all searches – so stop doing it and give Bing the attention it deserves!
Has Your Business Hit a Plateau? Here’s How to Get Things Moving Again
Your marketing is ticking along, delivering results and earning a solid ROI.
Then, suddenly, it isn’t.
What went wrong? How can you get back on track?
The simple explanation is that you’ve hit a plateau. You were climbing, and now you’re on the flat. If you want your business to grow, you must find a new path to follow.
The good news is that once you identify where your business has plateaued, you can take simple steps to correct the situation.
Mapping Your Plateau
You know your business isn’t growing, but do you know why? That’s the first step to determining the way forward (and off that plateau.)
Businesses can plateau in several ways. Here are some of the most common:
- Audience Engagement
- Web Traffic
- New Customer Acquisition
- Lead Generation
- Overall Marketing
If you’re already tracking your marketing results you probably know where your performance is falling short. If you’re not, now is the time to start.
You may want to use a marketing platform to set up tracked links. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics and some social tracking, like a Facebook pixel, to evaluate your current marketing efforts.
Try to narrow down the results and home in on your problem areas. If your website traffic is strong but social engagement is down, you can focus your attention on that area to improve your results.
If you’re getting fewer blog comments, social media shares, and phone calls, then your audience engagement could use a boost. Here are some suggestions.
- Make use of your email list by sending a monthly newsletter or a new series of emails. By sharing valuable information and tips with your audience, you can increase engagement and establish yourself as an authority.
- Share content regularly on social media. For example, you might share your blog posts, curate relevant articles from industry publications, and post special offers for your followers.
- Always include relevant hashtags and a call to action to encourage audience participation. It might sound obvious, but your followers won’t know what you want them to do unless you ask them to do it.
Regular posting is the key to increasing engagement. You can’t ignore your social media and expect people to click, comment, and share.
Your evaluation of your marketing stats reveals that traffic to your website has taken a dip. What can you do to get things moving again?
- Do a full audit of your website and identify areas for improvement. For example, you might want to do an SEO refresh and make sure that each page is optimized for one keyword.
- Speaking of keywords, make sure to use them in your page titles, headlines, and subheadings, as well as in image tags for the best results.
- Increase your blogging frequency and promote your blog posts on social media.
- Double check your information for accuracy and relevancy.
Your website can do a lot to attract traffic, but you’ll need to update it periodically to maintain a high level of visibility.
New Customer Acquisition
Perhaps the issue you’ve identified is that your new customer acquisition has slowed down. If that’s the case, try doing these things to attract new customers:
- Review your online listings and make sure they’re identical. Many local businesses have more listings than they realize and if they’re not standardized, it can dilute your online profile.
- Add your location to your Facebook profile to help customers search for you.
- Start a customer referral program to incentivize your current customers to bring in their friends and family.
- Partner with other local businesses to host local events – and create unique local hashtags to use on social media to promote it.
Each one of these things can help new people find your website and social media pages, as well as coming into your store.
Does your business rely on having a steady stream of qualified leads? If so, then having your lead generation hit a plateau can be a real problem. Here are some suggestions to help you counter the slowdown:
- Create an irresistible lead magnet to entice people to give you their email addresses. For example, you might create a cheat sheet, a template, or a short eBook to give away to new leads. Make sure to create a dedicated landing page for your offer.
- Use targeted campaigns and personal interaction to engage people on social media. The more targeted you are with your social media marketing, the more leads you will be able to attract.
- Put a call to action on every page of your website – not just on the pages that you use to promote offers. You should always ask visitors to fill out a contact form or sign up for a mailing list.
The key here is to attract leads who are interested in what you have to offer. Once they’re on your mailing list, you can work your magic to convert them into paying customers.
Maybe you have plenty of leads and clicks, but the traffic you attract isn’t converting. How can you fix it? Here are some tips.
- Add customer testimonials (video testimonials are especially effective) to your website.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook – and make sure to be responsive to positive and negative reviews.
- Update the wording, images, and calls to action on your ads and landing pages.
- If you haven’t already done so, create special landing pages for each of your offers.
These suggestions can help you overcome potential objections and increase your conversion rate.
Don’t Let Your Plateau Stop You…
Even professional marketers get it wrong sometimes. That’s to be expected – so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you hit a plateau. Take a step back, evaluate your results, and then take practical steps like the ones suggested here to get your business moving again.