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How Negative Reviews Help Your Business

Getting positive reviews for your business is a powerful tool to gain trust and attention from new prospects who are searching for your product or service. 

But would you believe us if we said that negative reviews can actually help your business too?

Though many business owners are upset when they get a negative review, they really aren’t as bad as you fear. Handling them isn’t scary, difficult, or pointless, but it is a critical task that you should take very seriously. 

Chances are that you have many more happy customers than unhappy ones. However, happy customers are less likely to leave a review online. When people have a bad experience, they are 21% more likely to leave a review than if the experience was a good one. 

Chalk it up to tribe mentality: humans are simply trying to protect others from having something bad happen to them too. Plus, the emotions they feel after a negative experience are usually stronger, so they’re more motivated to voice their opinion. 

In one study, researchers found that 86% of the respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Yikes!

So how can negative reviews possibly help your business? Read on to learn how to turn any negative review into a great opportunity. 

Stop Ignoring The Power Of Reviews (Including Negative Ones)

Unfortunately, too many business owners assume that online reviews don’t really matter very much. 

Perhaps they’re concerned about getting negative reviews, so they end up sticking their head in the sand and doing nothing. Perhaps they just feel like they don’t have time to worry about reviews and that they aren’t very influential anyway.

At worst, some business owners mistakenly believe that since they didn’t sign up for a Yelp account, Facebook page, or Google listing, customers can’t review them there. 

This isn’t true. 

Unclaimed business profiles exist on all of these platforms, and they continue to rack up reviews while their owners ignore them. 

Before we explore online reputation management (the practice of actively responding to reviews and collecting more), let’s first look at why reviews matter:

  • People read them. 86% of consumers across all age groups read reviews for local businesses, while 95% of millennials (people aged 18-34) do the same. A whopping 91% of millennials trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. 
  • People base their buying decisions around them. There are all sorts of studies that demonstrate the influence of online reviews. For example, 72% of consumers don’t take action before they read a few reviews; 70% of consumers need to read at least 4 reviews before they can trust a business; only 6% of consumers don’t trust online reviews at all. Let those stats sink in.
  • They have a huge impact on SEO. Your Google My Business page helps drive traffic to your website from organic searches. Gaining more online reviews is one of the top ways to improve your Google My Business listing, which can help you rank in the map view of high-value keyphrases such as ‘Fresno defense attorney’ or ‘San Francisco credit union.’

Now that you understand how important online reviews are, it’s time to look start looking at negative reviews in a different light.

The Benefits Of Negative Reviews

There’s actually a silver lining to receiving negative reviews. Here are some of the benefits:

  • They make your listing more realistic and trustworthy than only having positive reviews (believe it or not, conversion rates begin to decrease as ratings rise above 4.7 because more than two-thirds of users trust reviews more when there are a mix of negatives and positives)
  • They show how you handle conflict based on how you respond to unhappy customers
  • Your responses to both positive and negative reviews show that your business has a pulse and is managed by real people who care about customers (45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews!)

Just think of some of your own recent experiences with searching for products and services online. When you discover a business with only good reviews, you might assume that many of these are fake, were written by family and friends, or that negative reviews were censored. It can make even the most outstanding business lose credibility in the eyes of potential customers.

Most people are reasonable and understand that mistakes happen and life isn’t perfect. Your favorite restaurant probably has dozens of negative reviews from when the waitstaff was swamped, and yet it’s still your favorite restaurant despite occasionally long wait times. 

When potential clients and customers are checking out your online reviews, they don’t expect perfection. However, they will harshly judge the way that you respond to negative reviews. 

Negative reviews provide an opportunity to make a great impression on hundreds of prospects with your response. 

Tips For Handling Negative Reviews

89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, which gives you a critical opportunity to tell your side of the story. 

While some online platforms show the top review first (typically the longest and/or written by a top reviewer), many display them in reverse chronological order. 
Since 90% of people read fewer than 10 reviews to form an opinion about a business, that means that if you’ve gotten negative reviews recently, some readers won’t scroll down far enough to get to the good ones.

Responding professionally to negative reviews allows readers to form an opinion of your business that isn’t solely reliant on a few dissatisfied customers. 

In order to make a good impression on the people who read your response for weeks or months to come, follow these online reputation management tips:

  • Don’t post canned responses — make sure each response is specific and tailored to the negative review
  • Don’t come across as defensive or aggressive, even though you may feel that way
  • Don’t fail to address the issues brought up by the customer
  • Do respond within 7 business days or less
  • Do respond as the business owner, not an employee
  • Do get help writing the response from a sensitive, well-spoken employee if needed
  • Do have a system in place for making use of customer feedback (ex: track similar issues monthly or quarterly in a spreadsheet so you can find common threads and fix problems in your business)

Have you ever received an insincere apology before? They’re very obvious. The same goes for how you respond to negative reviews.

Essentially, you want to write like a human: apologize for the issue or error and address it in a way that is personalized, not robotic. 

For example, you may respond with something like:

Getting a negative review can hurt, but try to see the upside. You have an opportunity to see your business in a new light and discover issues you may not have realized were there. When something goes wrong in a customer’s experience, look at it as an opportunity to improve. 

How To Get More Positive Reviews

Reputation marketing isn’t just about responding to reviewers. It also requires that you actively collect positive reviews from your happy customers in order to balance out any negative ones. 

Being intentional and proactive about getting more positive reviews actually represents your business accurately. Remember, most people have a great experience with you, but they may not be incentivized to leave a review when they receive the great service they expect. Do right by your business and your potential customers by implementing a strategy to get more positive reviews. 

There are many simple processes you can use to get reviews, including:

  • Sending follow-up emails or text messages asking for a review (bonus points if you outline the simple process and share a direct link to your Google My Business listing)
  • Run Facebook ads to a custom audience of existing customers
  • Simply ASK customers to leave a review (your customer-facing team members should do this with every customer)
  • Add a review link to your email signature
  • Share positive reviews on your social media with a link for followers to leave their own
  • Post reviews on your website and have a button that visitors can use to leave their own
  • Put a QR code to your Google review URL on your business cards, company vehicles, or any printed marketing materials you create

One strategy we’ve used for many of our B2B clients is creating a postcard that outlines how to leave them a review on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. This postcard is then given out when the service is completed. 

While many people intend to go online and leave a review, most do not. To overcome this, we have our clients call the customers back after a few days to follow up and ask how they’re doing. Then they ask the customer to pull out the review card and walk them through leaving a review.

One of our law firm clients has used this strategy so well that they’re now the top-rated personal injury attorney in California with over 300 Google reviews!

Harness The Power Of Reviews

Handling negative online reviews might never be your favorite way to spend an afternoon, but we hope you now feel convinced that getting bad reviews is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a great way to showcase the quality of your customer service.
If you’re struggling to find time to implement consistent systems to earn more positive reviews, reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help you strategize and execute an effective process so you can start showcasing the amazing work your company is doing.


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How to Run Facebook Video Ads Without Breaking the Bank

If you’re using Facebook for your business and only posting organically, you’re missing a huge opportunity: Facebook Ads. 

A few years ago, organic social posts used to reach a wide audience, but that’s just not the case for most pages anymore. It seems that only a few industries still have a good organic reach, like restaurants, sports, fashion, and sometimes, animal causes. 

If your business isn’t in one of those categories, then only about 6% of your audience is seeing your posts. 

When you factor in all of the time and budget that goes toward creating organic posts each month to reach that tiny percentage of your fan base, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to prioritize them over ads.

Many businesses (and probably your competition) are already running ads on Facebook, so what’s the secret to managing effective ad campaigns that create new customers AND don’t break the bank? Stick around to find out!

More specifically, this post will cover why you should skip static image-based ads and upgrade to running video ads on Facebook instead.

Benefits of Video Ads

According to Statista, the average adult spends about 78 minutes per day watching video content on their digital devices.

Videos have the power to engage your audience and make them feel something, whether that’s entertained or understood or motivated to make a change (like buying your product). 

They also capture your target audience’s attention for longer than a static image. Facebook recommends keeping videos to about 15 seconds, so that’s about 14 seconds of extra attention on your brand than you’d get from a single image ad. 

And, believe it or not, whether your creative is a video ad or a still image, Facebook’s advertising platform is structured to charge the same for either type of ad. 

Because video ads often perform better than their still-image counterparts, Facebook rewards the better-performing creative by charging the advertiser less. This metric is Facebook’s Relevance Score.

So, with better performance potential and no additional charge from Facebook, the only barrier to entry is the cost of creating the video ad itself. 

This creative process is where businesses have typically hit roadblocks since producing your own video usually meant you’d have to incur the following costs:

  • Model or actor fees
  • Location or studio rentals
  • Equipment rentals
  • Videographer fee
  • Editing fee
  • Audio licensing
  • Voiceover acting fees

These costs can easily exceed $20,000, which is cost-prohibitive for many businesses, so they end up skipping video ads altogether.

While Nettra has used high-end production like this for some campaigns, the approach just doesn’t make sense for many of our clients. Instead, we can create appealing, high-quality video ads for our clients by utilizing stock videos and simple editing software. 

Why You Should Use Stock Video For Facebook Ads

You probably know all about stock photos and likely use them on your website and in social media posts, but did you know that you can affordably purchase stock videos too? 

There are thousands of free and affordable stock videos on the web. Sure, there are some cheesy stock videos out there (same goes with photos), but there are also many simple, clean, professional videos that businesses can use to grab the attention of their target audience as they’re scrolling their Facebook feed.

We recommend that small business owners first use stock videos for their ads, even if they have the budget for a custom shoot. 

Why?

Using affordable stock video allows you to test different creative concepts against each other for a very low price.

Later, you can put your budget toward creating a custom video for the winning concept. What’s most likely though is that you’ll get great ROI without a custom video and you’ll decide to keep using stock footage. 

There are so many reasons why video ads are worth trying (especially when using stock footage to save money), including:

  • Nearly 60% of marketers report that Facebook video ads drive more clicks than image ads 
  • Video ads get shared more often, meaning you’ll also get free organic reach from your ads
  • Video ads provide more effective branding and brand awareness (Facebook ads come first in our two-phase funnel so people remember your brand when they’re searching for companies like yours)

Facebook Video Ad vs. Image Ad Performance

Our SEO agency has run Facebook video ads for numerous clients. Let’s take a look at some examples and how our video ads stack up against our image ads.

Here’s a video carousel ad that we ran for ZooLights, a holiday event at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

And here’s an image ad with date and time details that we tested as well.

From the campaign performance metrics below, the video ad got much higher post engagement (9x), and it also received more clicks. 

We’ve also run Facebook video ads for several of our attorney clients.

This video shows someone being arrested for a DUI and being put in the back of a cop car.

And here’s an image ad from the same campaign that ran concurrently:

The rate of engagement with the video ad was much higher (4x) than with the static image ad. 

When looking to drive higher rates of registration, Fresno City Community College turned to us for help with their Facebook ads. 

We ran this video ad:

And this image ad:

As you can see, the video ad gained more engagement (22x) with a similar amount of reach. 

Video ads may not perform better than images 100% of the time depending on the creative concept of the ad, the audience you’re targeting, and your campaign goals. However, because video ads tend to perform better in most cases, they’re absolutely worth testing, especially when using free or affordable stock footage.

Where To Find Great Stock Videos 

If you want to use stock videos in your ads, you need to know where to look for quality footage. These are our favorite sources for stock videos:

Here are some high-quality examples of solar panel installation videos you can find on Adobe Stock:

The pricing for most of the Adobe Stock videos is $79.99 each, which is a steal when you consider the cost of filming a similar video on your own. Pexels has thousands of free videos, but they’re more creative and don’t cover all business use cases. 

How To Choose The Right Stock Videos

Now that you know where to look, you also need to know what to look for. 

It may take some time to browse and find the right video, but these sites are attractive options for most businesses because of their quality and affordability. 

Instead of choosing a video that’s only tangentially related to what your business offers, you need to find something that fits the overall concept of your ad. The video should tell an engaging story that relates well to the text that will go with it. 

Here are some ideas to get you started on your video search:

  • A potential customer experiencing the pain point you solve 
  • A satisfied customer whose problem you have solved 
  • An employee performing quality work doing the service that your company offers so your customer doesn’t have to do it themselves
  • Eye candy: focus on an image that is somewhat related to your product or service but is very interesting. Wells Fargo did this using Promo by finding the video below of a dog catching a snowball in slow motion:

How To Edit Your Video For Ads

Did you know that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound?

It’s really important that your video makes sense and engages users who watch the silent version of your ad. To do this, incorporate short text overlaid on your video or include captions. You should also make sure that the text description that goes with your video is informative enough for them to understand your offering without turning their volume up. 

For the viewers who do turn the sound on, it’s smart to include music and possibly voice overs so that the content is even more engaging. 

No matter how people choose to watch your ad, you only have about 3 seconds to capture their attention, so your text and video should get right to the point.

As you create your video content, it’s important to consider mobile design first. Since about 83% of social media browsing is done on cell phones rather than desktops, your ads need to look their best on mobile to catch your target’s attention. 

Some basic information about the ideal video file sizes, dimensions, and lengths is available from Facebook here. For the best performance and visual appeal, make sure your video conforms to the platform’s specifications. 

Our top tools for quickly, easily, and affordably editing Facebook video ads are Promo, InVideo, and WeVideo.

All of these have a lot of user-friendly editing options so you don’t need to have extensive experience in videography or video editing to use them effectively. 

Key Takeaways

  • Organic social media posts just don’t have the reach they used to
  • Using social ads along with your social posts helps you more effectively reach your target audience
  • Static image ads and video ads cost the same, but video ads have significantly better engagement, shares, and clicks, so they’re a much better use of your time and budget
  • Stock videos provide an easy, affordable, high-end alternative to expensive custom video production 
  • Design your videos for mobile viewing without sound, as that’s how the vast majority of your target audience will view them

Creating video ads may seem daunting at first, but with resources like stock videos and simple video editing tools, you’ll be amazed at what you can create and the ROI it gets you for your ad budget.
If you’re interested in using video ads but want a bit of professional guidance to outline the concept and create the assets, we’d love to help. We’ve worked with many businesses like yours and can help you reach more of your target audience through affordable, effective Facebook video ads. Get in touch with our team today to start talking about our partnership.

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What to Do When Google Ads Don’t Work

Sometimes it’s fun to reminisce about the good old days of PPC advertising. You know, back when the Google Ads platform was called Adwords, things were simpler, and everything just seemed to make more sense.

 

I was having a moment like that recently after optimizing a client’s Google Ads account. I thought back to 2013 when the majority of our Google Ad campaigns required much less work and still yielded strong results. Back then, we created a handful of ad groups with a few ads in each. Creating a great landing page wasn’t necessary since the client’s website usually did the trick. For most clients, we only needed to spend a few minutes per week optimizing ad performance.

 

Fast forward to today and we’re spending hours per week optimizing ad platforms, but that’s still not always enough to create more customers! 

 

In addition, we’re not only A/B testing landing pages with segmented messaging, images, and design, but we’re also creating complex sales funnels. These funnels tie together video production, various ad platforms, sequenced email marketing campaigns, and attribution models, all designed to inform a customer, make them feel comfortable, and eventually land the sale… all while collecting relevant data points. Whew!

 

While this digital marketing arms race has gotten more complex over the years, it’s also created an unintended consequence: the cost to acquire a customer in almost every industry has skyrocketed.

 

While Google Ads remain a very viable customer acquisition channel, only the best campaigns produce an acceptable ROI.

 

Below, I’d like to share with you one of our most successful techniques that allow our Google Ad campaigns to perform in “the top 3% in the United States” (according to our Google Ads Rep). 

 

Here’s what we’re sharing in this post:

  • The problem: why your ROI from Google ads is declining
  • The solution: an introduction to our two-phase funnel
  • Examples of our two-phase funnel in action
  • Why & how our funnel works
  • One bonus tip
  • Key takeaways

Stick around to get some actionable ideas for how to get the most out of your Google Ads.

The Problem: Why Your ROI From Google Ads Is Declining

Today’s buying process is no longer as simple as the AIDA Model (Awareness – Interest – Decision – Action) would have you believe. Consumers and B2B buyers tend to hunt for reviews and view many alternatives online instead of going with the first option they come across.

With the internet at your prospect’s fingertips. They can (and will) research products and services before buying because it’s easier than ever to do so.

At the same time, more and more companies have begun advertising on Google. From the early 2000s through the first half of the 2010s, the number of Google advertisers was far lower than today. Because of the increased competition, the cost-per-click has risen across nearly every industry. 

In addition, people have grown familiar with clicking on Google Ads over the years so it now takes more clicks to produce a good lead. 

Considering the rising costs of Google Ads and the number of clicks it takes to convert into a sale, the bottom of the sales funnel has gotten much longer over the last six years. 

By funneling your marketing budget into underperforming ads, your cost to acquire a customer could very easily outpace your customer’s lifetime value, putting you in hot water. 

The Solution: Our Thunder & Lightning Two-Phase Funnel

Is there anything you can do about the new, more challenging Google ad landscape

Well, if you’re a B2B business (where Google advertising is particularly complicated and the costs are very high), we recommend that you stop using Google as the first touchpoint with a prospect. 

Instead, create a two-phase funnel with the first phase focused on building trust, not making a sale. We call this our Thunder & Lightning Funnel! 

Here’s our Thunder & Lightning Funnel in a nutshell: 

  • Use Facebook to identify the right audience
  • Use Google to capture prospects who are actively in the market for your product or service AND already know about your business

For B2B companies, the result is significantly greater ROI than advertising on either platform separately.

Phase 1: Thunder

The Thunder phase actually begins on the Facebook Ads network rather than Google. 

Facebook and Instagram have incredibly advanced targeting criteria, so you can start by building a custom audience using Facebook’s ad network. There, you can get your ideal audience to click on your ad. This allows you to build trust, provide value, and educate your target audience, all without pushing for a sale.

Not only does Facebook have awesome targeting capabilities, but it also costs far less for each ad click. You can build up a worthwhile audience much more affordably than on Google.

Phase 2: Lightning

In the Lightning phase, you retain the audience that clicked on your Facebook or Instagram ad and you use Google remarketing. This makes sure that your Google ads ONLY show up for someone who has searched a keyphrase you’re targeting AND has previously clicked on your Facebook/Instagram ad.

Instead of marketing your product or service to a cold audience, you’ll only be spending your Google ad budget on people who recognize your company and are already warm leads.

With our Thunder & Lightning Funnel, you’ll stop wasting money on expensive Google ad clicks from people who have never heard of your business and are unlikely to actually buy from you. 

For both phases, you can of course include location targeting to match the region where your business operates. 

Examples Of The Thunder & Lightning Funnel In Action

We’ve addressed how the two-phase funnel can solve the common problems that companies face with Google ads, but what about specific, unique problems?

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Solar Subcontractor

One of our clients is a solar subcontractor with a very unique customer base. Instead of targeting homeowners, they only work with other solar contractors. Google ads don’t yield a lot of business for them because they can only target solar subcontractor-related keywords across California. 

When we implemented the Thunder & Lightning Funnel, we focused their Facebook ads on building an audience of solar contractors. 

We targeted project managers of large fortune 500 solar companies across the US with a variety of ad creative designed to position our client as the best solar subcontractor in California. Once we built up our targeted list, we used Google Ads only as a retargeting tactic.

The campaign ended up creating an incredible 550% ROI with Facebook Ads and a 478% ROI with Google Ads. 

B2B Roofing Company

With our B2B roofing company, it’s a similar story. Not every B2B buyer will include a word such as ‘industrial’ in their search query when looking for a roofing company, so we also targeted searches that could be conducted by consumers. 

We learned that by running ads for business-centric keyphrases, there was a lower search volume and also a very high cost per click. 

When building the Thunder & Lightning Funnel, we were able to protect our client from paying for consumer clicks even when targeting more generic keyphrases. 

This campaign has resulted in numerous large commercial contracts being won.

Commercial Truck Dealership

One of our clients is a commercial truck dealership that typically sells fleets of vehicles to other businesses. There are tons of B2C truck shoppers who are looking for a vehicle that can tow their RV, but that’s not actually their target. 

Initially, their Google Ads campaign was getting a lot of clicks from consumers, instead of their target audience. That meant a lot of wasted money on dead-end leads.

We set up their two-phase funnel to only show Google ads to small and medium-sized business owners who had previously clicked on their targeted Facebook ad.

They no longer waste their marketing budget on dead-end leads and their overall ROI has improved drastically. 

Why & How The Thunder & Lightning Funnel Works

It’s important to understand some of the deeper reasons why the Thunder & Lightning Funnel works. Yes, it’s about targeting, re-targeting, and being smart with your ad spend. But there’s a more important psychological factor at play: trust.

The Thunder & Lightning Funnel works because it builds trust while simultaneously lowering your Google ad spend. 

Anyone who clicks on your Google ad is already aware of your company. 

Trust is the most powerful psychological marketing tactic there is. The world’s best UX/UI doesn’t stand a chance against trust. 

Don’t believe us? Google personal injury attorney Los Angeles. The top three to four ads lead to outdated landing pages with below-average design and cookie-cutter content. So why would these attorneys spend $150+ a click only to push traffic to these landing pages? That’s right, trust. They’ve built trust within the community for months and, sometimes, years. 

So stop wasting your money by using Google Ads to ask for a sale before your customers know who you are. Use Facebook and Instagram to convey your value, tell stories, and build trust. Your Google Ads campaign will thank you for it!

Bonus Tip

In our 2-phase funnel, Facebook does the hard work by finding your potential customers. Then over time, you build up your retargeting list to serve Google Ads to them. The biggest issue you’ll run into with this strategy is that Facebook only holds your retargeting list for a maximum of 6 months, then it’s gone! 

We recommend that you save your data by using a third-party analytics platform like Mixpanel when you start your campaign. 

 

Similar to Google Analytics, these third-party analytics platforms track all of your advertising traffic, but they also have the advantage of exporting the IP addresses of your website visitors. 

 

An IP address is a data point that both Google and Facebook use to serve retargeting ads to your audience. By warehousing this IP address data yourself, it becomes your data, not Facebook’s! Over time, this will allow you to build and control an incredibly targeted marketing campaign. 

Key Takeaways

Here are some of the key takeaways from this post: 

  • Google Ads have become too expensive for many B2B companies because of increased competition, higher costs per click, and a longer buying process
  • Facebook/Instagram advertising offers great targeting at a much lower cost. When retargeting a Facebook audience on Google, you can find people who are actively searching for a business like yours (and have already been identified as an ideal customer)
  • Build a lot of trust through Facebook BEFORE heavily investing in Google Ads
  • Use Mixpanel to keep the IP addresses of your target audience

If you’re ready to get started with the Thunder & Lightning Funnel but don’t have the time or resources to implement it with your in-house team, get in touch! This strategy is our bread and butter and we’d love to help you stop wasting your budget and start increasing your Google ad ROI.

The Biggest Mistake We Made With Attorney Marketing

The Biggest Mistake We Made With Attorney Marketing

Mistakes are painful, especially when they cost you time and money. So while I?d like to say every attorney marketing campaign we’ve ever managed has been successful, there have been a few that were not. So after doing a review of each campaign, there was one issue they all had in common that was so powerful that it even overcame extremely targeted and optimized marketing:

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Attribution: The Missing Key to Credit Union Marketing

As a financial institution, it can be very difficult to attribute a return on investment (ROI) on your marketing campaigns. Sure, you can use the Google Tag Manager to track all of your digital marketing efforts on Facebook and Google, but what happens once your potential member applies for a loan? For the majority of community banks and credit unions, they push their traffic to an online banking portal to run their credit. This is where the digital trail of many marketing campaigns goes dark, because Google won’t connect the dots between the clicks from your ads to new loan applicants because this data spans across two separate datasets.

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Stop Ignoring SEO and Start Gaining Clients

You may think that customers are finding you through your website, but, unfortunately, that may not be the case if you’re ignoring SEO.

53% of all shoppers do research online before making a purchase decision. What’s more, companies whose websites rank on the 1st page of Google receive 90% of all traffic. 

Simply put: if your business is not on page one of Google’s search results, it doesn’t exist for your potential customers!

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Why Does It Matter?

Every day, people search online for the solutions your business provides. If you’re not helping them find you on Google, you’re missing out on qualified leads (and letting them fall into your competitor’s lap). 

The process of making your website visible on Google is called search engine optimization (SEO)

The goal of great SEO marketing is simply to help potential customers find your website. Since more visitors = more opportunities to convert them to paying customers, you can clearly see that SEO is a worthwhile investment. 

When you rank on page 1, you’re seen as an authority in your market, whether local, national, or global. Even if the highest-ranked company isn’t the top-rated or the highest-grossing, it can seem that way to prospects.

You may be getting great results from strategies like paid advertising or business partnerships, but that doesn’t mean you should fall asleep at the wheel and ignore SEO as an opportunity for growth. 

Younger, newer companies often outrank older, established companies because they prioritize SEO. They may partner with SEO agencies and advertising companies to make sure they’re nailing their search result ranking.

SEO increases your organic traffic (AKA your free traffic), which is a smart long-term strategy for growth. Investing in organic traffic doesn’t pay off immediately like paid ads, but it will free you from the perpetual cycle of increasing your ad spend to keep your business growing. 

How SEO Has Evolved

Some companies are hesitant to invest in SEO services because, in the past, there were scammy SEO marketing strategies. 

We recommend that you avoid the following old-school SEO tactics:

  • Keyword stuffing – You know those articles and pages that repeat the same keyword or phrase in every other sentence? Yeah, don’t do that.
  • Fictitious link building – It sure seemed like a good idea to set up fake websites and give yourself backlinks, but Google caught on and penalized the perpetrators
  • High volume, low-quality content – Back in the day, sites used to churn out dozens of blog posts per week in a strategy that was only about volume, not quality. Boy, do we feel bad for anyone who ever worked at a ‘content mill’.

Those old ways of doing SEO will actually hurt your search rankings and lower your chances of appearing at the top of page one, which means fewer potential customers.

It’s All About Google’s Algorithm

We know what Google doesn’t want, but what about what it does want?

Google has created and continually improves one of the world’s most complicated algorithms. It considers over 200 factors when ranking thousands of websites in a few milliseconds, for a single internet search.

The algorithm not only determines the rank of websites but also measures the desire and intent of the person performing the search based on their online behavior. Then it matches up all these data sets to display their search results.

In addition to how they gather data, Google is always updating its algorithm to deliver higher-quality search results. And while much has been said about the constant Google algorithm updates, only a few updates have had a big impact on best practices. 

Most updates are simply maintenance tweaks to their core algorithm and minor features such as marking HTTP sites as ‘not secure.’ (Getting an SSL certificate lets site visitors know that any information they enter on your site is protected. It’s a simple process and an easy fix if you haven’t already done it.)

There’s much hoopla and hype, but fortunately, what Google ‘wants,’ so to speak, is clear. 

Google’s algorithm prioritizes

  • Domain authority
  • User experience on-site
  • Search term relevance
  • Updated content (you should post and update your content regularly, but never prioritize speed over quality)

Now that you understand the importance of SEO, we’ll dive into the difference between on and off-page SEO and 6 actionable ways you can improve both.

On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO

On-page SEO (also called on-site SEO) is anything you do on your website to make it easier for Google to understand what your page is about. When Google understands your page, it’s easier to rank higher. On-page SEO is 100% in your hands to improve, so it’s a great place to start. 

Off-page SEO (also called off-site SEO) is any action that happens off your website that improves where you land on the search engine results page (SERP.) Off-page SEO is a little harder to control, but there are some great principles you can apply.

Both on and off-page SEO are important to focus on if you want to improve your rankings and get found by customers, so our list includes strategies for each.

6 Ways to Improve Your SEO

6 steps of a modern SEO campaign that you can start implementing today are

1. Reverse Engineer Your Top-Performing Competitors

To beat the competition on Google, you need to know their wins so you can make sure you’re playing on the same field. One way to do that is with the free tool UberSuggest. A quick search lets you see which key phrases your competition is currently ranking for. 

If any of those keywords or phrases are relevant to the product or service you offer, you can start targeting them on your own website pages. Easy ways to do this are by updating the current content on your pages, adding a new website page about the topic, or creating a blog post about it.

Don’t worry if your competitors are out-ranking you! You can also use Ubersuggest to spy on your competition to see why they’re ranked so high for their key phrases. 

In our experience, it’s often because they have other relevant websites that link to their site. These are called backlinks, and they’re a big deal in Google’s eyes (for more on backlinks, see strategy 5 below). 

2. Use Ubersuggest for Keyword Research

In addition to competitor research, you can also use Ubersuggest to research keywords you can target on your site. Type in the kind of business you run and your location, and you’ll see dozens of related search terms that you can target in your current or new web pages.

Getting a huge list of keywords can be overwhelming, so don’t overcomplicate it. Start by targeting keywords that represent your core business offerings. 

If you offer low-interest rate loans for veterans, make sure that key phrase appears on your website.  

3. Improve Your On-Page SEO

Once you’ve determined the key phrases your competitors are ranking for and which you want to rank for, you can: 

  • Target one main keyword or phrase per webpage, including related secondary key phrases
  • Write metadata that includes your target keyphrase 
  • Place your target keyphrases sparingly throughout your content
  • Include alt image tags for all images on your site that include your target keyword 
  • Publish fresh content regularly targeting keywords and phrases that are relevant to your target customers and product or service

Other ways to improve your on-page SEO that aren’t related to keywords are: 

  • Make sure your website is optimized for mobile (since 58% of Google searches are on mobile devices)
  • Add internal links between related pages on your website to increase credibility
  • Create a consistent naming convention between page names and URLs
  • Optimize your website’s speed
  • Take care of other housekeeping things like SSL certification (HTTPS), setting up a 404 page, and sharing your privacy policy

4. Manage and Update Citations

A citation is an online directory that lists your relevant company information. With over 1,000 online directories on the web, it’s important that your phone number, website, and office hours are accurate and consistent across the most relevant ones. 

The citations sites you should optimize first are:

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • BBB
  • Bing
  • Yahoo (yes, some people still use it!)

In addition to these, there are usually industry-specific citations you should consider updating. For example, if you’re a community bank, you should also optimize your citations with the ICBA. If you’re an attorney, you should also optimize your citations within Avvo and SuperLawyer.

5. Increase Domain Authority with Quality Backlinks

A backlink is a link from one website to another, and they’re often a major contributor to a successful SEO campaign. However, getting backlinks to your site means that other websites need to choose to link to you. 

How do you go about getting another website to backlink to you?

Sometimes, you just need to ask.

For example, a mortgage broker who wants to create a high-quality backlink to their site might reach out to Quicken Loans asking to write a guest blog post for Quicken’s website. The blog post would credit the mortgage broker by mentioning their name, and, more importantly, Quicken Loans would also link to the mortgage broker’s website. 

Google loves this because you’re making their job easier. 

Of the over 200 ranking factors that Google considers, backlinks are one of the top 3 factors for determining relevance and placement on the search results page. 

If Quicken Loans, one of the largest mortgage companies in the US, is linking to a mortgage broker’s website, it’s considered a high-quality backlink and helps that mortgage broker’s website rank higher. 

If you discover (after using UberSuggest) that your competitors are actively building quality backlinks, you definitely can’t skip this step, or your chance of outranking them is very low. Even if your competitors don’t have a lot of backlinks, you’ll quickly gain ground on them by establishing some of your own.

In addition to reaching out to credible websites yourself, you can use HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to acquire backlinks on your own. HARO helps journalists source experts on a variety of topics. The journalist provides some details about the article they’re writing and a few questions they’d like to ask an expert. 

Respondents email the journalist answers to their questions for a chance of being featured (and linked to) in their upcoming article. This is a free service that’s it’s very worthwhile since many regional and national publications request expertise. The result is more quality backlinks that increase your domain authority and give you a higher chance of ranking for your desired search terms. 

Backlinking is often viewed as the cornerstone of a modern SEO campaign. 

Once your website is optimized for on-page SEO (strategy 3 above), your SEO strategy must focus on gaining high-quality backlinks to outrank your competition and get discovered by your target customer.

6. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

You’ve probably noticed the Google Map at the top of some search results pages for things like ‘San Diego dentist’ or ‘Bay Area credit union.’

Almost one-third of all mobile searches are location specific. If you have a location-specific business, you must show up on that local map.

However, Google only lists three businesses. To see more business listings, you must click on the ‘More Places’ button, which very few people do. 

To increase your chances of appearing in the top three, you can optimize your Google My Business page by adding your:

  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Website domain
  • Hours of business
  • Photos of your business, employees, products, and happy customers 

In just a few minutes, you can make it much easier for your target customer to find your business.

Bonus Strategy: Get Online Reviews

91% of consumers say that positive reviews increase their chances of using a business, so you need to get online reviews. Positive reviews attract new customers and factor into your organic ranking on Google’s online directory. 

Companies that have a lot of positive reviews almost always rank at the top of Google, which means they continue to get their brand in front of more potential customers. 

Like backlinks, the best way to get more reviews is to ask! When a customer has a positive experience with your business, text or email your Google My Business listing and ask them to leave you a review. Over time, you’ll build a large library of raving reviews.

Take Your SEO to the Next Level

At the end of the day, SEO optimization is a really important part of your strategic marketing plan because it will help your business get in front of the right customers. 

However, most businesses simply don’t have time to manage their own marketing. That’s where a marketing agency or specialized SEO agency comes in handy. 

We’ve mastered SEO and can create a custom approach tailored to your business and target customers.
If you’d rather focus on the high-level strategy work that only you can do and let us bring more customers your way through SEO optimization, get in touch