Why Email Marketing?

Why Email Marketing

Why Email MarketingPerhaps the real question for this article should be: Why not email marketing? Many businesses and organizations have diversified their marketing strategies by heavily engaging in the latest social media phenoms, allowing their email marketing campaigns to fall by the wayside a bit. If this describes your company, then read on for a refresher about why email marketing should remain a core part of every marketing strategy.

Why Email Marketing Works

Consumer Needs

Email marketing works because people love to stay informed, and use smartphones and other mobile devices to remain connected 24/7/365. This level of connectivity has created a compulsion for many people to constantly check their devices for the latest and greatest news, events and happenings with their friends and family and the world around them.

Inboxes are Frequented

Your customers may be using social media on a very regular basis to keep up with current events and other forms of entertainment, but email is where they go for the important, mission-critical information in their lives. This includes paperless delivery of monthly bills and other private communication that keeps their lives organized and moving forward smoothly.

Permission Based

One of the best reasons why email marketing works is because they have invited you into their private, inner circle by signing up for your email marketing campaigns. This offers significant advantages over social media, where there are no guarantees that your message will make it to their newsfeed. The average Facebook user could see between 1,500 to 10,000 posts in their newsfeed every day IF the magical algorithm the site uses allowed that to happen. Instead, it gives priority to certain posts and filters out others altogether. Since you have been given access directly to your customers inbox, you are guaranteed that your message will be delivered.

Why Email Marketing is Effective

Flexibility

Email marketing is a format that is flexible and provides more space for the content that you want to communicate to your customers. This helps you establish and show your brand’s voice and create resonance with your targeted demographics. Consumers support and identify with brands that share their interests and values. Email marketing keeps you connected to your target audience in this way.

Personalization

Personalization is another important reason why email marketing is effective. Your email subscriber list can be segmented in an endless number of ways such as by age, gender, zip code or purchase history. If you wanted, you could even craft a unique message especially for just one specific, valuable customer.

Action-Oriented

Sometimes the email marketing message to your audience is intended to educate them or share other valuable information, but most of the time you will also want to include a specific call to action. What do you want them to do next? It could be to click a link to a landing page to sign up for an informational event or to enter a contest. Do not miss an opportunity while you have their attention to get them to take the next step or to purchase goods/services from your company.

Measurable

Another reason email marketing is effective is because it is measurable. Not only will you know how many people received your message, but you will also see detailed analytics on when the message was opened and which links they decided were interesting enough to click. Pay careful attention to this valuable information as it will allow you to to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing, by giving your audience more of what they are interested in and less of what they are not.

Long-Term

Email marketing is effective over an extended period of time if you take the right approach and consistently deliver value to their inbox. You do not want people to only receive a few messages and unsubscribe. Ideally this is a long-term relationship that will allow you to nurture potential customers and convert them to paying customers for years to come.

Why Use Email Marketing

Reliability

How many times have you moved in the last 20 years? Did you ever have a problem with your emails finding you in your new home? The same cannot be said for snail mail, but email is extremely reliable and stable. Some of your customers have gone completely paperless, and might even be a bit annoyed if you were sending things printed on a piece of paper they would have to deal with.

Cost Effectiveness

Email marketing is also cost effective. Automated email platforms allow you to reach thousands of customers with a just a few clicks. Compare this to the time and expense of creating, printing, and mailing traditional marketing pieces.

Strategic Capabilities

Email marketing also allows your organization great flexibility as to the type of message you send, as well as the intended outcome of that message. You may choose to send a comprehensive monthly newsletter that has a variety of content. It could include new product information, a valuable coupon, customer success stories or other content interesting and valuable to your recipients.

Outside of the monthly newsletter you could decide to strategically send an invitation for a special event or promotion taking place at your business. This allows this single message to stand out and not get overlooked amongst the other content in a newsletter.

Hopefully this overview makes it clear as to why email marketing should be a central part of every business’s overall marketing strategy. Enhance and grow relationships with your customers and prospects. Send them a well crafted, email marketing message today!

10 Essentials for a Successful Facebook Business Page

Essentials of a Successful Facebook Business Page

Essentials of a Successful Facebook Business PageAny business can get on Facebook, and social media is an essential marketing tool, but simply creating a Facebook business page does not secure immediate benefits for your business. To get Facebook to facilitate your marketing goals, you need a strong business page that represents your brand and engages your target audience. Here are ten essential elements of a successful Facebook business page that will allow you to reap the benefits of social media for your business.

1: Impressionable Cover Photo

Your cover photo will be the first thing that visitors notice when coming to your page. Make sure that you use a photo that captures the essence of your organization and leaves no doubt they are in the right place. Choose a high quality photo that has a clear focal point and will not appear pixelated. The photo should also be sized appropriately or Facebook will automatically stretch the photo to fit and skew the proportions of the image. An ideal cover photo size for your business page is 828 x 315 pixels.

You can also add your logo or other text to the image. Less is more, so be careful not to make the image too busy by adding too many elements. Keep it simple and also be sure to put a link to your business website in the description of the photo. This could be your homepage or anywhere else on your website you are trying to direct traffic.

2: Simple Profile Photo

Your profile photo should be considered a design element of your cover photo. Instead of adding your logo to the cover photo, you may instead use your logo as the profile photo. Again, you want the image to be recognizable and to immediately reassure your visitors they have found the correct page. Be sure to place a link to your website in the description of this photo as well.

3: Concise About Section

Pay attention to the details when completing the “About” section of your Facebook business page. Just like with any business listing, your information needs to be complete, accurate, and consistent with other listings. Check (and double-check) for accuracy, especially as it pertains to your phone number and website link. Some businesses change their hours seasonally. Be sure to update this part of the about section as needed. Also, be concise with your descriptions about your company and its offerings. Don’t tell visitors everything about your company on your Facebook business page. Tell them what they need to know, what benefit you bring, and how they can learn more.

4: Call to Action Button

At the top of your page just underneath your Cover Photo is a where you will be able to select the type of button you would like to use for your call to action. The choices are:

•  Buy Now
•  Shop Now
•  Sign Up
•  Call Now
•  Contact Us
•  Send Message
•  Send Email

You will then be able to link these buttons to any web page you want to direct potential customers to view. This could be a product page, landing page, or homepage to name a few. You would be surprised how many Facebook business pages do not have a call to action button enabled. Make it easy for your customers to take that important next step with just one click!

5: Engaging Timeline

A successful Facebook business page doesn’t just attract visitors. It keeps them there and gets them to come back again. The key to retaining visitors is an engaging timeline. To build an engaging timeline, be sure to regularly post content that is interesting, useful, and easily digestible.

6. Integration with Instagram

If your business uses Instagram, make sure you link your Instagram feed to your Facebook page. By doing this, any photos you post to Instagram will automatically post to your Facebook timeline as well. This is essential for adding visual elements to your timeline and cross promoting your social media channels. Facebook owns Instagram, so the linking process is fairly easy.

7. Meaningful Milestones

Creating milestones on your Facebook business pages is another essential yet underutilized feature that you should put into action. Milestones showcase the important achievements, anniversaries, and awards of your business. Not are these important to your reputation, they tell the story of your business and equip users to paint a more complete picture of your brand.

8: User Likes

When someone likes a Facebook business page, they will by default be following it unless they change their settings. Encourage your customers to “like” your page so that you can keep them informed about special events, sales, changes in hours or new products and services you are offering. The more people who like your page, the more brand awareness you can create. Also, likes provide social proof that will encourage additional users to like your page.

9. See First

Even if someone is following your Facebook page, they still might not see all of your posts. This is because just like search engines, Facebook uses an algorithm to prioritize the information that shows up on a users’ feed. This might seem unfair, but without the algorithm, the average user would get between 1,500-10,000 posts on their newsfeed, and your posts would get buried anyway!

There is however a “see first” feature on Facebook whereby users can choose particular accounts to show up first in their News Feed. Inform and remind your followers that if they add your business to their “see first” list, they won’t miss out on important events, promotions, and announcements.

10: Pinned Posts

This is a fantastic way to give new life to great content that you have previously posted on your Facebook business page. With pinned posts, you can keep a specific post at the top of your timeline for seven days. After that, it returns back to its original position on your timeline. If you have content that you know resonates with your audience, or previous posts that generate engagement and shares, try pinning it to the top of your timeline.

Follow these ten tips when you design your Facebook business page and you can take your social media game to the next level!

A Facebook business page can only become a marketing tool if you put in the time and effort required. Build your page with these ten essentials in mind and you’ll be on track with getting Facebook to facilitate your success.

15 Benefits of Email Marketing

benefits of email marketing

benefits of email marketing FIThough it’s been around a while, email is by no means an outdated marketing strategy for business. Even with the rise of social media platforms and business blogging, email is still the number one way to communicate with your audience. If you are not yet taking advantage of this tried and true marketing strategy, these 15 benefits of email marketing just may be the impetus to get you started.

1. Email Integrates Easily

The first benefit of email marketing is that email integrates easily with other marketing channels. For example, you can repurpose content from your email marketing campaigns into quick and effective social media posts to multiply your reach, without having to reinvent the wheel again and again. Data collection, sharing, and other features are also typically maintained with email, which makes for accurate and uninterrupted tracking and measuring.

2. No Character Limits

Email provides the benefit of unlimited space for content. Unlike many social media platforms, you are not limited by character limits or the types of media that you can share with your recipients. Attention spans are short, so it is an email marketing best practice keep the message to the point, but the choice is yours as to how long or short the message might be for each email. Make content easy to scan at a glance and get the main message, but also give readers the option for more information if they want.

3. Stay Top of Mind

One of the basic purposes of email marketing is to maintain regular communication with past, potential, and current customers. This helps to reinforce the positive feelings they have about your organization, and ensures that they will remember your business even when they are most distracted. During the rush of the holidays you can make sure that your customers think of you first to spend their dollars with your company. In the slow season for your industry it can provide a boost to sales and make sure people do not forget about all you have to offer.

4. Email Fosters Long-Term Relationships

Another way email benefits your business is by facilitating the development of strong customer relationships. Delivering consistent, interesting messages that add value to your customers will help you earn their trust and respect over time. It will also ensure that they look forward to and pay attention to your organization’s email messages. Think about the long-term value of the customers on your email list, not just what they might buy from you today.

5. Personalize Your Messaging

The benefits of personalizing your marketing messages are too great to ignore. Email marketing campaigns allow you to address your customers by name, speak directly to them, and show the human side of your company and team. With email, you can present the personality of your business and better resonate with your audience.

6. Optimize Your Content

Email marketing benefits your business by allowing you to optimize your content and messaging for the greatest effect. With list segmentation, demographic targeting, and testing, your can identify the best strategy, tone, and content for your target audience or even and niche markets within it. Pay attention to the results of your email campaigns and use this data to create an even better campaign next time.

7. Email Supports Variety and Versatility

With email marketing, you are not limited to one format, content type, or frequency. You can send a monthly newsletter, sprinkle coupon sends in between, or provide updates on a major event you are planning. When you mix things up and freshen up the layouts on a periodic basis, you keep things interesting and eliminate the risk of your messages becoming background noise.

8. Email Drives Conversions

Well written and designed emails with call to action buttons encourage readers to follow links to landing pages or other web-based assets. With careful attention to the outcome you want, you can use email marketing to drive various goals involved with creating sales and increasing revenue.

9. Improve Your Social Media Reach

For your followers who have email notifications set up, they will be notified via email every time you post something to your social media channels. In some cases, they can view the post directly in the email window. This helps to increase the number of people who see and engage with your social media posts.

10. People Prefer Email

While the proliferation of ads on social media is seen as a nuisance, 91% of people actually like to receive promotional emails from brands they support. Combine this with the fact that email is 40x as effective as Facebook and Twitter combined makes this a no-brainer.

11. Ensured Delivery

Social media platforms and search engines have algorithms that filter out content according to particular metrics. Email, on the other hand, is a freely flowing platform. People on your email list subscribed to your content and want to receive your information, so there are no algorithms or filters to obey. With email, you know that your message will get delivered and that you will enjoy the benefits of regular communication with your audience.

12. Reach Your Customers 24/7

More than two-thirds of all email is opened on a mobile device. This means that customers can see, read, and engage with your emails throughout the day, no matter where they are or what time it is. To reap this benefit, make sure your emails are responsive or optimized for mobile.

13. It’s Quick and Easy

With the various tools and platforms available, creating professional email marketing communications has never been more simple. Plan carefully and craft a finely-tuned message or blast out a deal-of-the-day that gets immediate results.

14. Create a Dialogue with Your Audience

Your marketing emails don’t have to be one way messages to your target audience. You can also use email to open up interactive engagement with your audience. Just be sure to respond promptly!

15. Email Builds Credibility

The last benefit of email marketing is that it provides endless opportunities to show your expertise, credibility, and brand voice. This allows you to earn trust from your audience and build your business reputation.

There are many more benefits to list, but hopefully these first 15 have been enough to convince you that email marketing is still going strong. Get started with email marketing today, and watch your business grow.

8 Major Benefits of Online Business Directories

benefits of online business directories

benefits of online business directoriesMany small business owners know about online business directories, but aren’t quite clear on how advantageous they are to their business. Online directories are not just a digital version of the Yellow Pages, where you have to fish through information and flip through pages to find what you’re looking for. They are comprehensive platforms that enable users to instantly identify, learn about, and contact businesses relevant to them. Online business directory listings can work wonders for your small business. This post will familiarize you with online business directories and the specific ways they benefit small businesses.

Types of Online Business Directories

An online business directory refers to any online database that connects users with relevant businesses. Directories contain a diverse range of information on each business, however some may have a primary focus. Some of the more specific focuses of an online directory might be to:

•  Provide accurate customer reviews
•  Enable side-by-side comparisons
•  Use GPS and social media data to provide real-time results
•  Focus on a specific niche or industry

Online business directories can take the form of a website, app, and/or other platform. They exist on the web, social media platforms, smart phones, and even on specific devices.

The Cost of Business Directories

There are many online directories for which listing your business is free. Some are free but require additional payment for special features, such as multiple locations or categories, including a website link or call to action, removing ads from your listing, or adding photos and video.

Benefits of Online Business Directories

Some small business owners mistake online directories as massive databases where their listing will just get lost in the shuffle. The truth is, these platforms have significant benefits for small businesses. Here are eight:

1. Amplify Your Online Presence

If you search for your business name on the internet, you will likely see your business show up in directories for which you never submitted a listing. This is because many business directories today pull from other larger directories and automatically create listings.

This means that getting listed in one directed usually means getting listed in several more, allowing you to kill two (or more) birds with one stone. On the flip side, sometimes the information doesn’t transfer over properly. It’s very important to check, claim, and update your listings frequently and regularly.

2. Improve Your Local Visibility

Though they are massive, online business directories have advanced filtering and suggesting capabilities, and serve to connect you with your target audience. As a local business, directories are beneficial because they make your business visible to your local community.

3. Get Discovered More

The typical online business directory allows users to search by specific criteria, such as service, location, and category. By simply entering complete and accurate information in your listing, the directory will then connect your business to the people searching for it, even if they don’t search your business name explicitly. This is highly beneficial because oftentimes, people don’t know to search a specific business name or the specific service they need.

4. Use Word of Mouth

Most online business directories have a customer review component, as word of mouth has always been a trusted source for consumers. With real time and sharing capabilities of mobile devices, customers can now publish reviews more quickly—even during their experience. People seek out and trust online customer reviews today more than ever, so get listed in online business directories and you’ll be placed in a direct channel to your target audience.

5. Strengthen Your Business Reputation

The fear of negative reviews prevents many businesses from getting listed online, but this shuts them off from getting positive reviews too, which are essential for a good reputation. As long as you know how to properly handle one, the cost of one negative review is outweighed by the benefit of many positive reviews. Plus, a mix of reviews can even strengthen your reputation, as it shows that you are a genuine and healthy company that has nothing to hide.

6. Increase Brand Awareness

When a user performs a search in an online business directory, it will display a list of relevant results, each with a brief snapshot so that you can decide which one to click on to learn more. This means that even if a user doesn’t click on your listing, they still see your business. Every encounter a person has with your business increases their awareness and familiarity with your brand, which warms them up for further engagement.

7. Boost Your SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of providing your web content in such a way that search engines will favor it and rank it higher in results for applicable searches. A search engine wants to be trusted by its users, so the more information it can obtain about your website, and the more consistent that information is, the better you will rank. Online business listings are a great way to support and supplement your already existing information to give it that extra validation.

8. Show Up on Google

It is possible to get on the first page of Google through SEO practices, but it can take a few months to start seeing results. Online business directory sites, on the other hand, have been around for a while, have high amounts of traffic, and are for the most part trusted by search engines. Since Google likes these characteristics, its first page of search results regularly contain pages from online directories. If you get listed in an online business directory, you have a chance of benefitting from their well-established SEO and showing up on the first page of Google.

Online business directories have immense benefits, and neglecting them can actually hurt your business. So get started today with creating, claiming, and updating your listings online.

14 Email Marketing Campaign Best Practices

email marketing campaign best practices

email marketing campaign best practicesEmail Marketing continues to evolve with the times and remains the workhorse of digital marketing. As one of the most direct routes to your target audience, email provides ample opportunity to enhance their experience with and opinion of your business. Harness the power of email to reach and retain your customers with these 14 email marketing campaign best practices.

Best Practices for Email Marketing Success

Have a Purpose…

Today, people are connecting more and more to brands by subscribing to newsletters and opting in to receive the latest information and offers. As such, their inbox is becoming more crowded than ever. It is important to have a purpose for your email marketing campaigns to ensure you retain subscribers and move your business forward.

…That is, a Specific Purpose

Having a specific purpose for your email marketing campaigns has two benefits. First, it ensures that your efforts are directly related to one or more of your business or marketing goals. Second, it provides your subscribers with a clear message. The more clear your message, the more successful your campaign (and most likely your open rate) will be.

Deliver Value

The best way to achieve the purpose of your email marketing campaigns is through offering something of value to your recipients. Capturing their attention and getting them to open an email that doesn’t offer any benefit to them will generate unsubscribes, not leads.

Measure Success

What gets measured gets done as the saying goes. You need a way of measuring the specific objectives and desired outcomes for your email marketing campaigns. Maybe you are trying to drive more traffic to your company website or generate more engagement and followers on your Facebook page. Perhaps you want to increase awareness and sell more widgets made by a new brand you carry. These are specific purposes with tangible goals that can easily be measured.

Best Practices for the Email Recipient Experience

Optimize Emails for Mobile

Mobile-first optimization of your email campaign messages is critical as there are over 2 billion mobile devices in use compared to just under 1.7 billion desktops/laptops. This is a trend that will only continue to accelerate. Most email marketing platforms offer a wide range of templates optimized for smartphones and tablets. Always preview your messages on each type of device your recipients could be opening your email message.

Don’t Email Without Permission

Always make sure you have permission to email someone. Never add someone to your distribution lists who did not opt in or explicitly give you permission. It is extremely important to comply with all CAN-SPAM rules regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. You can quickly damage your reputation if you fail to follow these imperatives.

Get to the Point…Fast

Get to the point of your offer quickly and make it painfully obvious and simple what steps they should take to move forward. Attention spans are short (like, 8 seconds short), so provide the content that will help readers to quickly assess their interest and stay engaged.

Best Practices for Email Campaign Conversion

Call Readers to Action

Don’t forget that opening your email is only the first action you want your recipients to take. The email itself should prompt your recipient to perform one or more additional actions, such as to share a link from your Facebook page to be entered into a drawing, or to go to a landing page that provides more detail about the offer. Whatever those actions are, they should be made clear by a call to action button or phrase.

Limit The Options

Less is more. Do not give your recipients too many options and actions in your emails. If they get stuck deciding, they may abandon the email altogether. Or, in their attempt to complete all of the actions, they may end up not following through with any of them. Consider your audience and their interests and craft offers that will resonate with them and compel them to act.

Determine the Proper Frequency

It may take some time and experimentation, but it’s important to determine how often to send emails and how many emails to send per campaign. If your overdo it and show up in their inbox too often you run the risk of your messages becoming white noise, or worse—they unsubscribe. If you go off the radar for too long, you risk disrupting the momentum of your campaign and letting warm leads go cold.

Distribute Evenly

Take some time and plan a content calendar for the month. Start by sorting out the monthly sends, like newsletters, and then overlay your other communications. This will help you to diversify your content to keep your email marketing fresh, and to spread things out in a fashion that will not overwhelm your recipients.

Best Practices for Email Optimization

Segment Your Audience

Segment your email distribution list by demographics and other parameters, so that you can send different offers to different parts of your customer base. You can even divide those segments and test out messaging through A/B testing.

Pick the Right Day

There are many opinions out there regarding the best time to send your marketing emails to your customers. There is no one specific time that is the hands-down answer to this question. This can vary widely depending on the type of content or the offer you are utilizing for your campaign, the industry you operate in, the targeted demographics and other variables. In general though, a comprehensive look at 10 significant studies found that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were the best days (in that order) to send marketing emails to customers.

Pick the Right Time

Just as with social media posting, the time your email message is delivered still makes a difference as well. According to the same study mentioned above, the most popular time to send emails is at 10am, 2pm, and 8pm. However, 50% of people start their day by checking email in bed. Think about when your target audience members are most likely to check their email. You may also want to experiment and compare metrics to identify optimal times.

Advances in technology like artificial intelligence and big data are making seismic changes in the effectiveness and impact of email marketing and continue to make it relevant and effective, but you do not have to be a genius at MIT like Roy to harness these email marketing best practices to take your business to the next level.

Email Marketing 101 for Small Business

email marketing 101 small business

email marketing 101 small business Effectively running a small business requires executing certain fundamentals to insure that you not only survive, but thrive and grow. Taking care of your accounting functions, tax compliance and payroll are all examples of the X’s and O’s that can make or break you. Marketing your business is another one of those fundamentals that can mean the difference between just getting by or creating long term success. If your business is not engaged in consistent email marketing efforts, read on for an overview about why to get started today.

What is Email Marketing?

Think about all the emails you see in your own inbox when you check email for the first time each morning. What catches your attention? Which emails do you read every time and which ones do you delete without every reading? The inbox is ground zero in the battle for customer’s time and attention. If your small business is not engaged in email marketing on some level, you are probably missing out on some significant opportunities to grow your company—opportunities that may be getting scooped up by your competitors.

Why Email Marketing?

Worldwide there are over 4.92 billion email accounts that generate over 206 billion emails every day. How many different times during a day do you have to use your email address to login to a website or application? Email is a necessity to function in today’s digital society. Depending on your targeted demographics, your customers may or may not also be engaged on various social media platforms, but it is safe to say that 99% of your customers have and use an email address daily.

Email marketing also offers you the ability to measure the specific results of each campaign. If you send traditional marketing materials in the mail you have no way of knowing if they even make to the mailbox, let alone if the targeted customer spent any time looking at it. With email marketing you can get detailed reporting on how many of your emails were delivered and opened. These analytics can even provide specific details about how many times links in your email were clicked and by whom. By using analytics and paying attention to what is effective over time, you can continue to improve your messages and keep the attention of your audience.

The Purpose of Email Marketing

There are a wide range of specific purposes for an email marketing campaign. Each time an email from your business lands in your customer’s inbox, this is an opportunity to remind them about the value they receive from maintaining a relationship with your business. Do not abuse the privilege of access to their inbox or you might see your unsubscribe rates increase and have your messages become white noise. Here are some specific purposes that will be a part of a successful email marketing strategy for a small business:

Generate Leads

Every business needs a steady source of new potential customers. A primary function of an email marketing campaign is to generate leads and turn prospects into valuable customers.

Warm Up Your Leads

It can take time to build interest with a potential new customer and get them to take action and actually buy goods or services from your business. Use periodic emails to keep your products or services top of mind.

Inform Your Customers

Whether you are emailing prospects or loyal customers, each time you reach out to them it is an opportunity to educate and inform them about your products and services. Be careful not to be too pushy or salesy all the time, as this will annoy users and likely hurt your business reputation. Share information with them that will resonate with them and have value.

Types of Email Marketing

The formats for the various emails you send your customers can also vary depending upon what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some examples that are commonly used in email marketing campaigns.

Events

Send customers and prospects invitations to events hosted by or taking place at your business. This could be a product demonstration by a vendor, an educational talk by a subject matter expert or any other type of event where you want your customers to attend.

Products/Services

Email marketing is an effective way to communicate with customers about new products you are selling or to highlight a service offering they may not know that you provide.

Newsletters

A periodic newsletter is a way to share many different types of information in one email. Be sure to provide a healthy mix of information that is interesting to your audience and marketing of your specific products and services. Keep the first level of the articles brief and easy to digest by the reader, but also provide them an opportunity to follow a link to your website for further details.

Promotions

Using email marketing for a promotions should be designed with a compelling call to action for the reader. What are you offering and how can they take advantage of the offer? Keep things simple and easy for your customer to take action is as few steps as possible.

Hopefully this overview will give you some encouragement to start or improve your email marketing efforts for your small business. Just like making sure you balance your books each month, planning and executing an effective email marketing campaign on a consistent basis is vital to a small business.

Where (and How) to List Your Business Online

list your business online

list your business onlineOnline directories are a key player in your small business growth. They help to develop your business reputation, increase your online visibility, and place you in local search results. There are a number of websites and mobile apps available today that provide business listings based on industry, location, niche, and more. This post will get you started on where and how to list your business online, to increase your online presence and get found by more customers.

Google My Business

Google My Business is perhaps the most important place to list your business. Google is a world-wide platform, but not at the expense of its local capabilities. In fact, part of what makes Google so popular world-wide is its local capabilities.

Get listed on GMB to increase your visibility on the the world’s most popular and trusted search engine, and elsewhere on the web. Many other listing sites and business directories pull their data from GMB.

To list your business on GMB, go to google.com/business. There you will be instructed to add your name, address, contact information, business website, and photos.

Google Maps

Google Maps pulls its data from Google My Business, so if you create a GMB account, you will automatically get listed on Google Maps. However, it’s important to check and make sure all information transferred over properly, and to update your Google listing frequently.

In addition to getting listed on Google Maps, you can also strive to rank on Google maps, so that your business shows up first in maps searches as well as in the local section on typical Google searches.

You can optimize your Google Maps listing by embedding your Google Map listing into your contact page, getting positive reviews on your map listing, and adding photos through your GMB account.

To check your Google Maps listing, go to Google.com/maps and search for your business. If it shows up,
If it doesn’t show up, you will be given the option to add a business name. You can submit the business name and information, but i order to claim it, you will be directed to the page for creating a GMB account.

Facebook

Facebook is a social media platform, but can also function as both a general and local business directory. There are a few ways to list your business on Facebook.

Facebook Business Page

Creating a Facebook Business account is your first step in getting listed on Facebook. Just as with a GMB account, you can add your contact information, website, and photos. However, with a GMB account you don’t actually have a page that users can see. Rather, your information shows up in Google Maps and the local results of search engine results pages.

With a Facebook business account, you get a page that paints a coherent and chronological picture of your business, and which users can see and interact with. You can also look at insights on your page and include a call to action for visitors.

To create a Facebook business page, go to Facebook.com/business. You’ll need a Facebook profile to create your listing.

Facebook Places

When you perform a search in Facebook, you’ll notice that results are separated into posts, pages, and places. The difference between pages and places is that you can checkin to places. Therefore, if you have a brick and mortar location, you should also get listed on Facebook Places. The easiest way to do this is to change the category in your Facebook page to local business or place. This will automatically add your business to Facebook Places.

Another way to list your business as a Facebook Place is by attempting to check in to your location. If you are not listed as a Facebook Place, you (or any user) will be given the option of adding it to Places.

Claiming Your Business

As you just learned, anyone can add your business to Facebook Places. However, if you want control over your Facebook Place, you must then claim it as well. To claim your Facebook Places listing, type your business name into the Facebook search bar, and locate it in the Places result. There you will have options and instructions for claiming it. When you claim your Facebook Place listing, it will then merge with your Facebook Business Page and you will have control over it.

Yelp

Given the power of online reviews, Yelp is another important place for your business to get listed. Yelp is a popular business directory that has both a website and mobile app. In fact, it sees 65 million web users per month alone (not counting desktop and mobile app users).

It’s important to note that just like with Google Maps and Facebook Places, adding a listing is different from claiming a listing. Anyone can add your business to Yelp, but not anyone can manage your listing. To be able to manage your Yelp listing, you must also claim it. To create or claim your Yelp listing, go to
https://biz.yelp.com/support/claiming.

Other Places to List Your Business

Google My Business, Google Maps, Facebook, and Yelp are four among many important places to list your business. Some additional places include:

•  Linkedin
•  Bing Local
•  Yahoo Local
•  Superpages
•  Whitepages
•  MerchantCircle
•  Angie’s List
•  Yellowbot
•  CitySearch
•  Better Business Bureau

Listing your business on search engines, maps, social media, and directories can significantly impact your online visibility and overall growth. Just be sure to maintain these listings so that the platforms can successfully point people to your business.

Six Helpful Tidbits for Understanding SEO

understanding SEO

understanding SEOMany small business owners think that SEO (search engine optimization) is simply not applicable to them. Search engines are huge entities and their inner workings are complex. Therefore, SEO only applies to huge businesses and tech whizzes, right? Wrong. Search engines may have world-class status, but they are more approachable than you think, and are incredibly helpful for small and local businesses. This post is designed to help you in understanding SEO, so that you can move forward in either implementing your own strategy or hiring an outside service.

1. Search Engines Are On Your Side

SEO is commonly misunderstood as a way of “defeating” search engines. The truth is, search engines are companies too, looking to gain and retain users through the best possible experience. They also have massive audiences, and therefore massive data to understand their users’ needs. SEO practices center around  aligning your business website with the correct, data-backed standards for a positive user experience.

2. You Don’t “SEO a Website“ as One Entity

While the term “SEO” is commonly used with websites, it’s important to note that search engines look at every web page individually. So, when you “SEO your website“, you are not actually optimizing your entire website for search at once. Rather, you are optimizing each page in your website for search.  Each page should therefore rank for something different, so that they don’t compete with one another.

3. Keywords Aren’t Always One Word

SEO involves inserting keywords into your business website, such as in your homepage, product page, and blog posts. However, one thing that people often don’t realize right off the bat is that a keyword isn’t necessarily one word. The term “keyword” refers to whatever gets typed into the search engine’s search bar. Therefore keywords refer to both individual words (such as “catering”) or longer phrases (such as “how to choose a caterer”).

4. Keywords Are Meant to be Simple

Keywords are not search engine language, they are user language. Therefore, good keywords for your business are not necessarily expert terms or industry-specific jargon (unless you are targeting experts on a topic). They are the words that your average target audience member uses when searching online.

5. Search Engines Don’t Crawl the Web for Every Search

When you perform a query on a search engine, that search engine does not crawl the entire web in the fraction of a second it takes to yield results. Rather, it searches its index, which it builds over time by crawling the web constantly. Google collects information on websites so it can categorize them in its index for easy retrieval. Therefore, SEO should be understood as helping Google to index your page quickly and correctly.

6. You Cannot Trick Search Engines

In the past, stuffing keywords into paragraphs and inserting them into secret places was a way of “tricking” search engines into showing a page on your business website. However, search engines now incorporate user behavior into their ranking factors. Its computers might select a page because of its keyword content, but if users are clicking on that page and leaving quickly because it is low quality or not relevant to their needs, the search engine will detect that and lower that page’s rankings.

SEO can be complex, but simplifying the basic elements can help you to get a better grasp on it. Hopefully these six tidbits have helped to improve your understanding of SEO, so you can leverage the power of search engines to grow your business.

5 Ways To SEO Your Business Website

5 quick tips for improving your website's SEO

 5 quick tips for improving your website's SEOHow do you get your website to show up on the first page for an organic search? Through search engine optimization, or SEO. The answer is simple, but the process, unfortunately, is not. Search engines take several factors into account when indexing and ranking web pages, including its users’ engagement with that page over time. As a result, a proper SEO strategy requires multiple concurrent efforts, over time. SEO is a long term and ongoing process, but there are some things you can do right now to impact your efforts. Below are five quick steps you can take to improve your business website’s SEO today.

1. Optimize Title Tags

What is the Title Tag?

The title tag is one of the key components that search engines use to learn about, categorize, and list your web page. Search engines also use the title tag as the title of your listing in its results pages.

Why are Title Tags important

By putting keywords in your title tags that reflect the page’s content, you are helping search engines to more quickly identify what the page is about, so it can determine which searches it should show up for. Search engines prefer pages that have title tags, because it helps them to do their job easier and faster.

Title tags are also important because they are the first thing that users look at when scanning through a results page, to see which result to click. A title tag that makes clear what the page is about will influence a user searching for that information to click on your page.

How to Optimize Title Tags

In addition to putting keywords into your title tags, pay attention to their length. Search engines only use the first 65-75 characters of your title tag as it’s title in results listings, so make sure that your title doesn’t exceed this limit, or that the most important and informative terms of your title are in the first 65-75 characters.

2. Customize Meta Descriptions

What Does Meta Mean?

Meta data is simply the information about your website that search engines show in your listing. It’s like a mini snapshot of your webs page. Since your title tag is also the title in the search engine result listing, it is also known as the meta title.

What is the Meta Description

Another important piece of meta data is the meta description. This is the brief snippet about your web page that shows up beneath the meta title in results pages. The meta description is important because it is what users will look at when deciding whether to click on your page.

How to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions

If you don’t create a meta description, search engines will just pull the first sentence from the page, which isn’t usually an accurate summary of that page. Create meta descriptions for each of your pages that briefly describe what the page is about and what readers will get out of it. Using relevant keywords will help users to quickly decide whether this page is worth clicking or not.

SEO Blog Image_cropborder.jpg

3. Assign Alt Text to Images

What is Alt Text?

Alt text refers to the text alternative of an image. When you upload an image to a web page, you will be asked to provide a title, description, and alt text for that image. Users viewing your page don’t see the alt text, but search engines do.

Why Alt Text?

Search engines gather information on a page through text, so you need to create a text alternative of your images so that search engines can detect those as well. When search engines can detect images, they can gather further evidence of your page’s relevancy, as well as index it for image-only searches.

How to Optimize Alt Text

Just as with title tags and meta descriptions, alt text should contain keywords relevant to that page, that users are searching.

4. Create Internal Links

What is Internal Linking?

Internal linking is the practice of putting links in pages of your website to other pages of your business website (like we just did). You commonly see this in blog posts, but you can also create internal links in your other pages of your website such as product, contact, and about us pages.

Why Internal Linking?

Search engines like websites whose pages are internally linked because this creates a coherent network that it can crawl more easily. They also like internal linking because it creates a better experience for its users. When you have internal links, users  can navigate around your site with ease, and as a result spend more time on there consuming information rather than searching for it.

5. Start a Business Blog

Why Blogging?

There are a number of reasons why you should blog for your business, and SEO is one of them.

Placing keywords in your website is crucial for getting search engines to find you and connect you with searchers. However, you don’t want to overload your website pages with text, and you don’t want to stuff keywords into the limited space you have.

Blog posts, on the other hand, are pages on your website that are meant for longer pieces of content. They provide more space and more opportunities to insert and go into depth on specific keywords. In addition, users expect blog posts to be more text-heavy, so they facilitate a positive user experience for your website—which search engines look for when ranking.

How to Use Your Blog for SEO

Write blog posts that center around specific keywords, related to your business location, products, services, and specialties. Remember, blog posts are web pages in and of themselves, so be sure to include the keywords you are targeting in your meta description, title tag, and alt text for images.

Search engine optimization may be a rather complex and long term process. However, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to get started with improving your website’s rankings. These five actions are great first steps to getting search engines to find the pages of your business website and show them to the people looking for them.

The Two Key Features of a Snapchat Marketing Strategy

 snapchat marketing strategyFor most business owners, the idea of Snapchat marketing is pretty foreign, and maybe even a little silly. Isn’t that the photo app that high schoolers use to talk to each other? Snapchat may have gained popularity through these users and this function, however it is now used by all ages and for a number of different functions: connecting with friends, following accounts of interest, and even staying on top of local and global information. The time-limited and location-based features of Snapchat makes it conducive to a targeted and real time marketing strategy. While there are many ways to use Snapchat for business, this post will cover the two main features of Snapchat that apply to a marketing strategy: My Story and Geofilters.

Snapchat Marketing with My Story

For some social media platforms, increasing engagement involves commenting and direct messaging with followers. However, most businesses aren’t using Snapchat to exchange individual snaps with their followers. Rather, they are using My Story, which is an album that your followers can follow and view throughout the day.

What is My Story

My Story is an album where the photos and videos you add stay public for one day only. As soon as you add your first photo to your Story, the countdown begins. After 24 hours, any photos or videos in your Story will erase and the Story will reset.

Marketing Benefits of Snapchat Stories

My Story is like an album or slideshow that contains picture and video. This makes it a great place to present diverse content for your fans and followers. My Story albums erase themselves every 24 hours, so you can also use it to put some urgency into your offers. In addition, since the content is short-lived, you can worry less about posting professional high quality images, and focus more on quick and real media. Consistent and transparent engagement with your audience can help to strengthen your reputation and your brand messaging.

Snapchat Story Marketing Strategies

There are a number of ways to leverage your Story in your Snapchat marketing strategy. Here are some ideas:

•  A holistic view of your business: Use a mix of photo and video to show a mix of products, services, deals, information, and culture.

•  Daily customer interactions: If you have a brick and mortar location and you interact with clients daily, such as with a hair salon, your daily story can consist of snaps of each of your clients. With this strategy, content is getting created as quickly as the day goes by.

•  Team-focused: Concentrate your Snapchat Stories on office culture. Follow daily routines, funny moments, common activities, and other aspects of your business that show its human side.

•  Pick a central theme: Pick one specific aspect of your business to focus on using Snapchat Stories. You might only run promotions through Snapchat, or post photo and video only of customers using your product or service.

•  Choose a new theme each day: Use national holidays and fun observances for your themes, or create your own custom daily themes, related to your business, offers, or culture.

Related: 2017 Marketing Calendar

•  Diversify: Assign a new team member to the Snapchat account each day, to offer diverse perspectives and angles.

All access: Give everyone access to your business’s Snapchat account, so that they can post content to your Story daily.

Snapchat Marketing with Geofilters

Geofilters is a feature offered by Snapchat that distinguishes it from other social media platforms. Geofilters are a unique way to communicate time and location through your brand voice.

What are Geofilters

A geofilter is called such because it incorporates location and decoration. The “filter” refers to the illustrations or text that get placed over an image. The “geo” refers to its automatic placement over the snaps when in a specific location during a specified period of time.

Marketing Benefits of Geofilters

The text and illustration capabilities of Geofilters allow you to make eye catching content for your followers. While you create the filter, it can also be used by others, making for user generated content that is easy for the user to generate! Geofilters take some time to create, and require approval by Snapchat according to specific parameters. However, they are great for boosting engagement as well as increasing your visibility in your area and utilizing location based marketing. With a Geofilter, you can even get your employees posting to their accounts with your Geofilter, further promoting your business to their networks.

Geofilter Marketing Strategies

Geofilters make for great real time and location based marketing tools. For example,

• Include your logo, business name, and/or location in your Geofilter.

• Create On-Demand Geofilters for specific locations (like a certain radius around your store) or events (location and time frame).

• Run a Geofilter contest, where entrants send you snaps using your product or service with the filter applied.

Snapchat may not be the most widely used social media marketing tool right now, but its general usage is growing. In fact, it has already surpassed Twitter in monthly active users. Start getting familiar with these Snapchat marketing strategies so that as the platform grows, your business can too.