There are a lot of ways to compare different business web designers. You could look at their respective samples and see which ones you like. Or, you could compare fees and see who charges less. You might even sit down to have a consultation with each one to see which web designer has a philosophy that’s closest to your own.
Which of these makes the most sense? I recommend you do all of them, and then follow up by taking a step most potential clients never do: talk to someone else your web designer has worked with.
This person will be able to tell you whether they were treated fairly, what the level of service was like, and how much more (or less) profitable they’ve been as a result of the designer’s work. They’ll tell you what it’s like to deal with the company after you’ve written a deposit check, which is the real test of value.
If you want to know which web designer to use, speak to someone who has been in your shoes and made the choice. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.
As most of my readers and clients will know already, I’m a huge proponent of online reputation management. If potential customers and referrals don’t see good things written about you when they look you up on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, they’re less likely to visit your store or pick up the phone.
Recently, though, I’ve come across another more pressing reason to gather and promote online reviews: Google is using positive first-party feedback as a strong search signal. Let’s take a look at what that means, and how you can start putting customer feedback to work for your business…
The Power of First-Party Reviews
It used to be that businesses would have testimonials from their clients pasted on their websites and brochures. Now, smart marketers are using plugins and scripts to let buyers submit their feedback directly and have it indexed by Google. In other words, you can build review capability straight into your website and then encourage customers to use it. Feedback on your website is considered first-party; second-party reviews are the ones pasted to sites like Facebook or TripAdvisor.
First-party reviews work a bit differently than a traditional testimonial would. That’s because Google can identify the review as a special kind of content, and will show it next to your website preview within the search results. So, if numerous customers have left you five star feedback, for example, a prospect will see that before they actually click through to your page. At the same time, Google will bump your site up in the search rankings simply because you have those positive reviews in the first place.
Lots of marketers obsess over page titles, anchor links, local keywords, and other SEO factors. These are still important to search visibility, but Google’s artificial intelligence is getting smarter. It wants to give searchers the results they’re looking for, and factoring reviews into the equation is a good way to separate the best websites from the rest. That’s why positive feedback is being weighed more heavily into search listings.
This is especially true at the local level. Many of today’s searchers are using phrases like “best tacos near me,” or “good bakery in my neighborhood.” Google actually takes both parts of these search strings into account. In other words, it will factor location into the mix, but also star ratings left through direct reviews. If you don’t have at least four-star feedback, your website won’t appear in those searches. Or to put it another way, if you have great reviews and your competitors don’t, you can leapfrog ahead of them within the search rankings.
So, just by getting a few reviews you gain valuable, search-friendly content, a better reputation, and a good reason for potential customers to visit your website. Why wouldn’t you want to add that capability to your page for those benefits?
How to Make Reviews Work
If the value of online reviews is easy to grasp, then the formula for putting them to work isn’t necessarily so straightforward. Most small business owners either don’t realize how valuable direct feedback is, or they feel like they have to pay thousands of dollars to expense of search engine optimization consultants who will help them make the most of customer-generated content.
Luckily there is a better, more cost-effective solution. Recently, my company rolled out a new review management system that allows us to:
- Install the necessary coding on your website to accept first-party reviews and have them recognized by Google
- Import second-party reviews from Facebook, Yelp, and other platforms onto your website (while excluding reviews from sites you don’t want)
- Encourage reviews from customers through text and email so they can comment when they’re already thinking about your business (see below)
- View and manage your online review platform to see what kind of progress you’re making in your campaigns
Online reviews are becoming a bigger and bigger part of search engine optimization and the buying process as a whole. Why ignore their importance, or blow your marketing budget attracting and displaying reviews?
Contact the Web Services team in Peoria today to learn more about our review management service and see how quick and affordable it is to grow the kind of online reputation you need to get more business!
Online business directory listings were once a hot topic in the world of internet marketing and search engine optimization. By creating profiles and entering your information, you could earn valuable backlinks that would help you move to the top of Google’s listings for a given search phrase.
Many algorithm adjustments later, those backlinks don’t have SEO value any longer. But you should still be using online business directories. And, you should take the time to ensure your listings are consistent and up to date.
There are two good reasons for this. The first is that customers may actually find you on these websites. Or, they may Google your company’s name and come across one of those listings. Either way, you want them to find the right data.
The other reason is that Google uses multiple sources of information for the purposes of corroboration. So, if the contact phone number you have on each of your listings (as an example) is consistent, then Google is more likely to consider you trustworthy and display that information for customers.
Online business directories might not be as prominent as they once were, but consistent and up-to-date listings can still help you win new customers.
Although I’ve become something of an Illinois expert in the field of online reputation management, I find that lots of business owners, self-employed people, and professionals don’t really understand the term. Is it something you should care about, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time online?
It absolutely is, and I can give you a very simple explanation that shows why. At the heart of things, online reputation management is the sum of what people read and see about you on the internet. That matters because potential customers, referrals, employees, and even vendors are all going to look you up on Google and Facebook before they ever decide to work with you.
If your online reputation is sterling, then they aren’t going to have any doubts or reservations. But if they are surprised by negative reviews or inaccurate details, then it’s going to take away an opportunity that you probably didn’t even know about.
Online reputation management is all about generating positive word-of-mouth online. That’s going to affect your business and career in a big way, whether you’re aware of it or not.
If you want to start a lively discussion among a group of business owners, start talking about internet marketing statistics. Friends and strangers alike will gladly tell you where their pages rank on search engines, how many visitors they are receiving, and the number of email subscribers they’ve been able to gather.
People love these kinds of statistics, and for good reason. They are easy to see and understand. But, they also tend to miss the bigger picture.
Internet marketing isn’t about generating views, getting likes, or even convincing Google to take notice of your website. Instead, it’s about knowing who your best potential customers are, getting them to come to your website, and then turning those visits into new relationships. Everything else that happens along the way is only a step or an indicator. If you get too attached to any of them, you’re bound to lose the forest for the trees.
Almost everyone misses the point of internet marketing, but that’s only because the point is so easy to miss when you’re staring at numbers, charts, and other easy-to-read metrics. Have fun looking at the reports you get from your web analytics package. Don’t forget about your after results, though, and gear your efforts toward achieving them more consistently with each new campaign or activity.
Often, when new clients come to us for web design and internet marketing, one of their first priorities is to improve their Google search engine ranking. They may be in a hurry to add new content, generate fresh inbound links, and optimize the keywords on their pages.
All of these can be good ideas, but there is another step that should come first: auditing a website to see where it currently ranks, and to look at it through Google’s eyes.
Doing so can often yield interesting insights. It may lead us to understand that minor tweaks are needed instead of major changes, or that customers are flocking to a competitor using different keywords than a business owner expected. A client may even find that they have structural issues on their website that need to be repaired before new content can make a difference.
This is all a way of saying that gathering information is the first step toward generating a plan of action. If you want to improve your search visibility, begin with a comprehensive SEO audit from a team that knows what they are doing.
The Internet is full of “must-do” lists when it comes to web design and Internet marketing. Click through popular blogs, our own included, and you’ll find many different tips on what you have to try, use, or manage if you want to find customers over the Internet.
Knowing which mistakes to avoid is just as important as realizing which best practices you have to follow, however. For that reason, we’d like to point out five big Internet marketing mistakes that are incredibly easy to make:
- Pestering your customers. Email marketing is incredibly valuable, but lots of companies use it to simply badger their customers week after week (or even several times per week) with one offer after another. Be sure to mix up your sales pitches with some informative articles and ideas, so your customers don’t feel like you’re just contacting them when you want something.
- Sounding just like your competitors. A lot of business owners and managers are at a loss when it comes to describing or differentiating their companies, so they adopt the approach to either copy their competitors or come up with web content that is similar to what they’ve seen. The end result, though, is a set of pages that doesn’t set a business apart from the competition.
- Promoting too many sales or discounts. When you’re constantly having sales and offering discounts, you don’t just give your business a short-term revenue boost – you also teach your customers that they can get your products or services for less if they are willing to wait long enough. In other words, discounting too much or too often can make it virtually impossible for you to find customers for your normal prices.
- Not building trust. Today’s consumers have a lot of skepticism when it comes to what they read and see on the Internet. That’s why it’s up to you to do everything you can to build trust and credibility on your website. Show them that their transactions are safe, that you’ve been in business for a long time, and that other customers are willing to vouch for you. That brings us to…
- Ignoring online reviews. The online reviews your company has are your most important marketing tool, because they essentially amount to word-of-mouth advertising. Do everything you can to encourage buyers to leave good reviews for your business, and take immediate action to clean things up if the feedback you get is less than stellar.
Are you working against your own Internet marketing success by making these common mistakes? If so, the first step is realizing that they’re holding you back and deciding to be smarter in the future. The second step is to call us today and let us show you how we can make your website more effective and profitable at the same time.
Last month Becca and I took a road trip to Waukesha, WI so I could speak at a WordCamp there. For those that do not know, WordCamps are sponsored by the WordPress foundation and are educational weekends for people who want to know more about how they can use WordPress and get more out of their websites. I’ve traveled to many WordCamps this past year including Nashville and Seattle. I had a great time and my presentation has been well-received.
My topic past year has been Managing your Online Reputation. The topic fits in well with just about any industry. I’ve had a great turn out and all the WordCamps so that’s a positive for me. Here are a few pictures from Waukesha. The organizers should be congratulated for a job well done. This was their first WordCamp and there were over 100 people there. Becca and I made some new friends and learned many new things. We will continue participating in more WordCamps this year to make sure we are involved in the community and learn the latest information to share with our clients.
Here are a few pictures from the event. You can view my presentation and others on http://WordPress.tv
You don’t have to be a professional writer to come up with great blog posts week after week. You just have to follow this tried-and-true formula for content marketing success:
Start with a timely topic – If you can tie your blog to a current trend or news topic, you’ll have an easier time catching attention and piquing the interest of readers.
Create an outline – Writing is hard when you’re starting from scratch, but it gets a lot easier when you have a rough outline in place. Don’t worry about following the rules you learned in high school, just put a few ideas down as a starting point.
Do some writing – The same applies to actually writing your blog posts. Set aside a little time and just let your thoughts out. Don’t edit yourself in the beginning — just worry about listing your main points and making them is easy to understand as possible.
Clean up your blog post – Eventually, you’ll come up with something that’s starting to look like a great post. Trim redundant ideas, re-word paragraphs that seem unclear, and organize your content in a straightforward way. If you really want to make a great impression, enlist the help of someone else who can proofread your post before it goes live and point out any troublesome sentences or sections.
Give it a great title – Let readers know what they’ll learn from reading your post, and try to get them interested in your ideas. Blog post titles with “how-to” or “five tips for…” are always popular, so feel free to use those as a starting point for your own articles.
Add an image and links – You might be done writing, but your blog still needs a couple of extra touches. Consider adding an image to the words (or better yet, a bit of stock video) to help it stand out. Also, look for places in your blog where you can link back to your website or social profiles.
Keep an ongoing list of blog post ideas – The best blog ideas usually come to you when you aren’t writing. Keep a notebook or computer file with all of your ideas and inspirations so you can come back to them later.
Blogging, like most Internet marketing activities, gets a lot easier when you break things down into simple steps. So, follow this roadmap and start filling your blog with great content — it keeps readers coming back again and again.
I’m not great at predicting the future, but there is one thing I can virtually guarantee: when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, millions of Americans will have given themselves resolutions to stick to in 2016.
Sadly, numerous studies have shown that more than nine out of ten people who make New Year’s resolutions won’t stick to them for more than a few days (if that). Here’s why most resolutions fail, and what you can do about it:
Many New Year’s resolutions aren’t realistic – The classic example is a severely overweight person who resolves to run a marathon within a few months. That’s not a bad goal, but it isn’t realistic for the timeframe. It’s better to set small targets and hit them than it is to make grandiose plans and fail to even get started.
Every goal needs a plan – A New Year’s resolution can be a great thing, but it’s only valuable if you have a plan to back it up. Decide in advance how you’re going to achieve your goal, including as many specific steps as you possibly can.
To get something, you have to give something – To make time for something new, you’ll probably have to give up an existing habit. For example, learning to cook could mean forsaking some of your favorite television shows. Recognize this in advance and decide which trade-offs you can live with.
Commit to only one new resolution – Although you can change a few things in your life at the same time, it’s generally easier to adopt one new habit or skill and focus on it. If you can, give yourself one big resolution to stick to, and then put all of your energy and enthusiasm behind it.