Playing the Great Marketing Game in 2016, finding, retaining and pleasing your targeted prospects online, means keeping your old tactics up-to-date and developing new ones to stay abreast of evolving technology.
It’s tempting to think the old ways are good enough, and I’ll be the first to admit that leaving the “comfort zone” is difficult, but leading and winning almost always requires change. If you don’t do today what your competitors are doing, you may have ample reason to regret it in the future, and in business – regret usually means lost revenue. I’m not saying that everything old should be tossed aside, I’m simply suggesting that as a responsible professional, you owe it to yourself, your team or your employer to know what deserves attention and exploration.
Here is a look at a few of the best places to spend your marketing resources in the coming year. These suggestions should help you find new customers, retain current customers, and earn more revenue from both. Before I go any further – YES – many of these things should have been looked at years ago, but let’s not worry about the past and look towards the future with great enthusiasm.
Make Way for Responsive Websites and Mobile Consumers
A responsive website is one of those things you’ve should’ve done a few years ago!
Smartphones and tablets will continue to dominate, and wearables are gaining in popularity. In fact, in 2015 Google stated that 10 countries, including the U.S., had more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop devices. That’s what brought on Mobilegeddon, the massive algorithm update that sent unresponsive websites to a place where mobile users can’t find them. This update alone has cost some businesses millions of dollars, and there’s no indication that this update will change, so it’s important that every business recognizes this and adapts to it. For years, websites and company profiles have been the first thing a consumer sees when looking into products, services and businesses. It’s important that a business’s website makes a good impression and that their online profiles are well maintained.
Don’t get me wrong, desktop traffic is still important, but if your website isn’t responsive, you need to start working towards getting it responsive now – doing anything less is irresponsible. Every consumer and search engine expects a mobile friendly website, especially when there is software available that can make almost every site somewhat mobile friendly in minutes. Use the software now, and get started on a long-term viable solution later today (or tomorrow if it’s late). Trust me, it’s not that hard (for most businesses) and it truly is worth the investment. Here’s some data for you to consider if you’re still not convinced that a responsive website is vital to the long-term success of almost every business – A recent poll conducted with Millennials concluded that 87% of them stated that their smartphone is always at hand day and night.
A responsive website is user-friendly regardless of the device you’re using. I have clients (our team didn’t build their website) that can see their website on a mobile device, so they assume it’s “responsive.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A responsive website means that your pages are easy to navigate, information is simple to find, purchasing a product or service is easy, and contacting you is something that can be done in a click. Consumes should not have to zoom in and out while viewing your website.
If Your Business is Local, or It Has Local Locations – Focus on Local SEO
Using mobile devices to search for information is driving the importance of local SEO marketing efforts. From Search Engine Land, “Local Searches Lead 50% of Mobile Visitors to Visit Stores Within One Day” (source – this article contains a great deal of relevant information) – this fact alone makes a strong argument that every business with an address (not a PO Box) should be focusing on local SEO and map optimization on major search engines. There’s quite a bit that goes into Local SEO, but a great start is claiming business profiles on major search engines and major social platforms and completing profiles as much as possible. These profiles may also be the first impression a consumer has of your business, so make sure they look professional and contain accurate information. Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP) information is believed to be the most important information within these profiles, but don’t overlook proper categorization, a business description, pictures, links to your website and other criteria.
Local SEO provides results based on where the searcher is currently located. She/He can search anywhere, whenever they need the information. That could be at their job, out running errands or at home. Google recently announced that more than 50% of their 100 billion searches each month occur on mobile devices.
The best and most important thing to remember regarding local SEO is that in many industries or areas of the country, the market is literally untapped. It’s probably because the work is very tedious, very time consuming and often confusing depending on the platform. On top of all that, it’s relatively new to the “general public” – traditional SEO is still seen by many organizations as an illegitimate source of business revenue. Take my advice, do a bit a research to determine if your industry or market area is neglecting the many benefits of local optimization, and if they are, as the old saying goes, the first to market usually wins – so be the first.
Reviews: Taking Charge of What People Are Saying About You
Reviews are ubiquitous online, from Yelp and Amazon to Angie’s List and TripAdvisor. To make decisions about whether or not to buy your product or service, consumers rely on what other people are saying about you. Surprisingly, there are millions of businesses that do not have a review generation strategy. Think of it from a referral point of view, or from a comparison point of view. If your company is up against another and pricing or service offerings are similar, reviews will be the deciding factor. People do read reviews, if you think they don’t, your wrong, and if you say you don’t, you’re probably not being truthful.
Reviews and review sites can be a boon to your business if you stay on top of a review generation system. To keep your establishment healthy and prospering, you need to know what individuals are saying about you. Deal promptly with negative reviews and turn them into a positive – make the situation right and use the opportunity to put a face to your business and prove that you care about each of your customers. Every business will eventually get a negative review, it’s part of business, if you’re actively earning positive reviews, that one negative review will only make your positive reviews seem genuine and depending on your response, it may actually help you win new business. Just make sure any response comes from an authority figure within your organization.
There are several review platforms online. Ensure you balance your efforts, so that when someone looks for your business online, they see an entire page of reviews that accurately reflect your team’s hard-work and devotion. I try to stay away from platforms that don’t have review filters in place to help ensure reviews are genuine. Most search engines and consumers distrust these services. Spend your time on Google +, Yelp, Bing, Avvo, HealthGrades etc… Platforms that matter and that take price in ensuring the reviews they display have merit.
Reputation Management: Something You Should Start Before You Need It
Reputation management is so important that you can’t simply watch as it unfolds. Reputation management is not only about review generation. It’s about promoting positive things happening in your organization. There are a multitude of platforms available to promote different aspects of your business from new products to outstanding employees. Hire a reputation management professional, or take the time to build profiles about you and your company. Ensure these profiles have true and positive information about your products, services and achievements. Take the time to fill out these profiles completely and link to them from other profiles. A proactive stance keeps you aware and in control. Set up ways to monitor your business online with software or free services like Google Alerts. Establish a system to scan reviews often and respond to good and bad reviews. Give your business a face, trust me, it will be worth your time and may save your company if something bad actually does happen. One quick tip – try to use platforms that you can control. Don’t ignore platforms you can’t control, but don’t get caught using platforms to manage your reputation that you do not control.
Concentrate Your Social Media Efforts
Over the last three years, a large number of new small social media sites have burst onto the scene. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, are some of the larger social platforms that most businesses use. In 2016, these sites will continue to flourish, and more and more users will use them for information.
For your business, find where your prospects gather, and focus your efforts there. Limit yourself to platforms you’ll be able to manage and manage well. Do not create an account, just to create an account. Nothing looks worse for a business than a neglected profile. Social media is all about building relationships with your customers and prospects. The more direct and human you come across, the more they trust you and stay loyal. We often tell clients with limited resources to focus on one platform. It’s better to be great at something than horrible at several things.
By devoting your time and efforts to just a few social media platforms, you can maximize these relationships. You don’t have more credibility, or sales, just because you have hundreds of thousands of so-so followers. What’s important is connecting with people who are actually interested in your product and will buy from you. These are the ones that reach out to friends, share your message and brand, and boost your revenue. Remember, be social, no-one likes the guy that talks about himself all day. Share great resources, local events, funny images (if appropriate) and personal messages. Here’s another tip – stay far away from services offering 10,000 fans for X amount of dollars. It’s a waste of money, and may end up making you look bad.
Pay Attention to Branding – Consistency is Key
Make your company and product easy to spot by sending out a consistent message over all your platforms. Not the exact same message, but the same tone, and similar messages. Use the same colors, logos, typefaces and formats. People online scan sites for mere seconds. When your brand is the same everywhere, you are easy to spot and more important than anything else, you are easy to remember.
Think Dropbox, with its simple blue box, Wells Fargo with its team of six horses, the panda graphic that announces the World Wildlife Fund and ZenDesk’s happy Buddha. The eye of the consumer is drawn to these graphics because they are used by theses organizations consistently, and everywhere. The color and style stays the same. The messages stay the same. The goal is to be remembered, if a consumer can recall your brand during a conversation, you’ve won the branding game.
The internet will be getting busier in 2016. Each year there is more noise and more competition, making it harder and harder for you to get found. Make it easier for your tribe to spot you by choosing a noticeable brand, and sticking with it online and in print (if you must). Get started today, so that you’re ahead or not too far behind. A great strategy can do wonders in catching up.
Great Content Is “Still King”
Giving your prospects useful information that is helpful, entertaining and easy to find will be even more essential in 2016. It builds trust and gives value and authority to your brand. This is what gets and keeps people buying from you.
It also gets the attention of the search engines, especially when you combine useful words with eye-catching graphics like photos, infographics and video. The more professional and diverse you are with your information and images, the more likely it is that visitors will dwell on your page. This dwelling factor continues to take on more importance as an overall marketing strategy. Content isn’t just articles, it’s media in general. Media is king and it’s going to stay that way, the only thing that will change is what type of media is king. And in different industries, different media is king. Know your industry and know what your consumers enjoy.
Be aware that your target market will keep growing more sophisticated in how to best use search queries. Expect shoppers to enter longer, more complex keywords in 2016 as the speech recognition software available on smartphones gets more technologically advanced.
This means keyword density continues its downward slide in importance. What’s taking its place it how relevant your content is and how useful it is. Go for quality and topicality in your content. Search engines are smart, they know that attorney is the same as lawyer and that bad is the same as terrible. Keep your content useful above all else, and share it appropriately. Optimize everything. Don’t be spammy, but optimize it and do it well. There are several ways to optimize content. Content optimization is just as important as the content itself.
Making the most of current SEO best practices will always work to your advantage. With high quality content, you are making it simple for the right shopper to find your product and service, and you will establish yourself as the authority in your market and industry. You don’t have to try to sell them or convince them. Instead, the quality of the words, images and videos on your platforms will give you authority, which in turn convinces visitors that you are the business or individual to do business with – especially if you’re an all-star in all the aforementioned topics.
Security Has it’s Place & So Does Speed
Believe it or not, Google officially likes secure sites and although I suspect it’s a small ranking factor, they say it is. Get an SSL certificate for your website. Not only will it help with rankings a tad, but it will also help consumers fell safer while on your site. Security is huge and as a responsible webmaster you should make every attempt to protect any and all of your visitor’s data. There’s something about that green bar that makes consumers feel warm and fuzzy. We’ve always thought they were a great idea, and we’ve always recommended that any eCommerce site should have one. Don’t just secure your checkout pages or your contact pages. Secure your entire site. Most sites today have contact forms on every page (and rightfully so), so keep things as safe as possible and earn more trust with search engines. Invest in an SSL certificate.
Speed matters too – a lot. Your site should load in seconds. Google loves quick sites, we love quick sites and consumers love quick sites. There is a lot that goes into making your site fast. I won’t go into everything, but I will say that we can help you get your site quick, and so can any legitimate development company. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see where you are today, and contact us our someone else if you’re interested in speeding things up. It will help with conversions, bounce rate, ranking and all that means revenue. Do the world a favor and get your site quick today. One last quick tip – don’t skimp on hosting, there are a variety of reasons why you shouldn’t skimp on hosting, which I hope to cover one-day, but when it comes to speed – cheap hosting usually equals slow load times.
2016 is shaping up as an excellent year for businesses that take a proactive approach to online marketing. Make an effort to stay on-top of trends, or pay someone to do it for you. Keep your old ways if you must – especially if they truly do work better, but please consider investing in your online presence.
2016 Digital Marketing Domination Tips Recapped
(in no particular order, except mobile, come on people)
- Get Your Website Responsive
- Focus on Local SEO
- Generate Reviews
- Control Your Reputation
- Concentrate Social Media Efforts
- Brand Consistently
- Security & Page Speed Matter