Local SEO Optimization Tips Small Business

Easy To Implement Local SEO Optimization Tips For Small Business

Every local business wants to be at the top of the Google or Bing search engine results when someone searches for a product or service like theirs.

Just think how much business you would have if every time someone searched for, “family dentist in Charlotte”, your family dental practice showed up at the top of the search engine results every time.

For every local search result in Google, there is a local business sitting at the top of the page.  These businesses usually place a high importance on Local SEO optimization and invest the time and resources to get their business at the top of the search engine results.

Wouldn't it be great if your local business could do the same?

Local Searches Lead 50% Of Mobile Visitors To Visit Stores Within One Day – Google Think Research report

Now you might be saying to yourself, “I don't have the money to hire someone to do this”.  The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help in your local SEO efforts that require no money and little to no SEO experience.  It simply requires a commitment from you to do it and a few hours a month to set aside to get it done.

Below I am going to outline some Local SEO optimization tips that can help your business show up higher in the search engine results.  More visibility in the search engines will get you more targeted traffic to your website and more opportunities to generate leads online.  Isn't that worth investing a few hours a month on for your business?

Now, not every industry is equal.  For example, if you are a lawyer, mortgage broker or a plumber in your city, the competition online is fierce.  With highly competitive industries like these where the rewards for new a customer is high, they are usually paying marketing companies with their local SEO to get to get top search engine rankings for their city.  You may eventually need to hire someone to help, but you will have a solid foundation in place and a much smaller gap to close when you do get to that point.

So if you are serious about wanting to get your business higher in the local search engine results, here are some local SEO tips to get you started.  All of these tips, when done correctly, can have a big impact on your rankings.  They work best when you use them in conjunction with each other and when you do them consistently over time.

Google My Business and Bing Places

If you do a local search in Google like, “Pizza in Denver”, you will see a map show up in the search results along with a bunch of local pizzerias nearby.  That is a local search result, sometimes called a maps result.  This type of result has two parts:

This type of search engine result has two parts:

  • The map listing, which shows local businesses on the map.
  • The organic listings, which shows a list of the top web pages for that particular search.

Sample local seo search results page in Google

When a business shows up on the local map results, it is not your website that is doing it, but your Google My Business listing, which is a free listing by Google.  Bing Places is the Bing search engine equivalent and works pretty much the same way.  We'll talk about Google My Business here as it is the dominant search engine in most markets.  When you look at a search engine result with a map listing, you will notice these local businesses are listed above the traditional search engine results, giving them a lot of visibility on the page.  This is why optimizing your Google My Business page is so important.

Setting up your Google My Business page is pretty simple.  Go to Google My Business and sing up for your free listing.  You will be asked to verify that you are the owner of the business and they will usually send you a postcard in the mail to verify your location.  The good thing is that you don't have to list your business address publicly if you don't want to, which is great for home based businesses.

Once you have signed up and accessed your listing, these are the most important things you need to do:

  • Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are correct and match what you have on your website
  • Make sure your business category is relevant. You can add multiple relevant categories for your business
  • Add lots of images.  Add multiple images for every image category
  • Fill out your listing completely. They show a progress bar, make sure it is at 100%

Now, once you have finished this for Google My Business, head over to Bing Places and do the same.

Once Google and Bing have verified your business, your listing will be live and you now have the opportunity to have it shown in the local search engine results and appear on the map.

Local SEO optimization tip: Download the Google Maps app on your phone and search for your business.  Once you find it, scroll down and look for the “Add Photos” tab.  Click on that and you can use your phone to take pictures of your business and upload them to Google as a customer of your business.  Encourage your customers to do the same.  Google loves to see customers interacting with local businesses through reviews, image upload, etc and it helps add content to your Google My Business listing and will help it rank higher in the local search engine results.


NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

This is a simple tip that can pay big dividends over time.  Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of your online web properties.  These include:

  • Your website
  • Google My Business and Bing Places
  • Social media properties
  • Review sites
  • Online directories

For every business, Google has to scan numerous websites and try and match each page to a business.  Sometimes, if the NAP is inconsistent, Google will have doubts if this is the same business, so when in doubt, they will leave it out.  So by not being consistent with your NAP, you run the risk of losing associations (and resulting links to your website) because of NAP inconsistencies.

Examples of NAP inconsistencies would be:

  • Business Name: Sam's Plumbing, Sam's Plumbing Service, Sam's Plumbing Services, Sam's Plumbing Services Inc.
  • Address: 123 Main Street, 123 Main Street, 123 Main
  • Phone Number: 704-999-9999, (704) 999-9999

Now many times Google will pick up on the inconsistencies and still give you credit for the listing, but sometimes it won't.  It's such a simple thing to do so it doesn't make sense to lose any time of SEO credit for a silly technical mistake.

Out of these three identifiers, your phone number is the most unique.  You may share an address and other people may have the same business name, but a business will rarely share their phone number with another business.

Local SEO optimization tip:  Perform your own NAP audit to check for inconsistencies with your NAP.  The easy method is to go to https://moz.com/local/search and enter your business and check the results.  From there, you can make edits to any inconsistencies you find with your NAP online.


Citations For Local SEO

A citation is a mention of your business online, regardless if it is a link or not.  There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured.

Structured Citations

These are where your business is listed in an organized and structured format.  Examples would be:

  • Google My Business and Bing listings
  • Review sites like Angie's List and Yelp
  • Online directories like the Yellow Pages and Manta

Unstructured Citations

These are mentions of your business, but not in a formal structure.  Examples would be:

  • A blog or media website mentions your business name in the body of an article
  • Someone mentions you on a social media post
  • Someone mentions your business in an online forum or Q&A site like Quora

Google understands that not all local businesses can be SEO and link building masters.  So they routinely scan the Internet for people talking about your business.  When they find these mentions and the sentiment is positive, they give you credit for that towards your local SEO, which helps to increase your rankings and visibility in the local search results.

Your goal with citations is to make sure you are listed properly (having a consistent NAP) on major 3rd party platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp, etc.  You also want to make sure you are listed in niche sites that cater to your industry.  An example would a restaurant being listed on AllMenus.

Here is a nice resource from Moz that shows you the best places for citations organized by business category.

Local SEO optimization tip: To find important websites to be listed for your business, perform several searches in Google just like a person trying to find a business like yours would.  Check the first 1-2 pages of Google to see what directories and review sites show up.  These are important to for your business and you should make sure you are listed on all of them.  Another tip is to Google your competitor's phone number and sift through the first 5 pages of results.  Here you can find websites where your competitor is listed but you may not be yet.


Online Reviews

Online reviews are super important when it comes to local SEO and getting your web properties to rank high in local search.  Google reviews on your Google My Business listing are probably the most important as they directly tied to your Google My Business account and are the first reviews people will typically see when they search on Google.

 93% of all Millennials rely on online consumer reviews, both from their social media contacts and from strangers, when they make purchasing decisions. – Adweek

Depending on your country and industry, Google also pulls in reviews from 3rd party websites as well.  This is why it is important to have positive reviews on all of the major review sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.  There are also review sites like Angie's List and Homestars (Canada) that cater more towards service businesses or specific industries.

As you can see with the example below, Google pulls in reviews from across the web all of the major review sites play a part in your local rankings, not just Google Reviews.


How many reviews you need to rank higher in the search engine depends on your competition.  If the Google My Business listings ranking at the top of the local search results are averaging 30 reviews, then you need that at a minimum in order to compete with them.  When it comes to reviews

When it comes to online reviews, having a system in place is critical to gaining reviews on a steady basis.  Timing also plays a big role in getting people to leave reviews. Have a system set up where you call or email (better, do both) your happy customer right after you have delivered your product or service.  This is usually when they are the most enthusiastic about your business and most likely to leave a review.  Do this on a steady basis and you will steadily add reviews to your online profiles over time.

Local SEO optimization tip: If leaving a review becomes a hassle for the customer, then they most likely will not do it.  Try to make their lives as easy as possible.  If a customer is using a Gmail account for email, then ask for a Google review since you know they already have a Google account and do not need to register.  Unless they are regular “Yelpers”, don't ask people to leave a Yelp review, they have a notorious filter system and one time reviewers on Yelp almost always get their reviews removed from public view.  Facebook is a generally good place to send people as most people have a Facebook account these days.


Service and Category Pages

Service pages, and category pages if you sell products are great pages to rank high in the search engines.  They are specific and focused in content and with a little tweaking, you can localize the pages for your area.  Spend some time customizing these pages to get them to rank higher in the local search results.

Let's use a local dentist in Charlotte, NC as an example.  These are the typical offerings on a dentist website:

  • Family Dentistry
  • Cosmetic Dentistry
  • Orthodontics
  • Dental Implants

You would start with localizing the titles of each page for their city:

  • Family Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Cosmetic Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Orthodontics in Charlotte
  • Dental Implants in Charlotte

Once you have done this with all of your service/category pages, you have started the process of localizing the page for your city.  You will further localize the each page and stand a better chance at ranking locally by doing the following:

Body Copy.  In the text description of each service, talk about how you serve the residents of Charlotte and talk about how long you and your staff have been doing business in Charlotte.  The important thing is not to keyword stuff, but to incorporate your city into the description naturally.  Something like, “Big Smiles Dentistry has been serving the residents of Charlotte for over 20 years…..”, or “Our dental office, located conveniently in South Charlotte,….”.  Aim for at least 500 words for each page, anything less and there probably isn't enough text for Google to view it as comprehensive enough to rank high for that topic.

Images and Video.  Bring your page to life with various media you can incorporate into the page.  Insert images of your dental practice and staff.  Add video to the page if you can.  Google loves to see multi-dimensional content, so if your competitors have Plain Jane service pages, turn yours visual eye candy for both Google and your customers.

Interlinking.  Interlinking is when you link one of your website pages to another.  It's not much of a ranking factor, but linking from high authority pages on your website to other pages can help give these pages a boost.  Your homepage is almost always your strongest page, so be sure that any service/product page (or any important page you want to rank high) has a link on the homepage pointing to it.  The easiest way to do this is with your main menu navigation.

Local SEO optimization tip: Similarly to Service/Category pages, consider creating area pages for your website to get even more hyperlocal with your marketing.  If you do not have a physical location in an area, don't pretend that you do.  But you can create pages about the various areas you service in your city.  For Charlotte, you could create “Areas We Serve” pages for Matthews, Pineville, BalHuntersvilletersvills, Concord, etc.  People will often not search for their city, but their specific neighborhood when looking for a local business.



Think of your blog as the doorway maker for your website.  If you do not have a blog or an optimized website, then your homepage is most likely the only door for your website, which is how people find your website.  With a blog, every time you create a new piece of content, you are creating a new door where potential customers can find you.  Wouldn't you like to have 500 doors to your website instead of just one?

A blog is great for what we call “Long Tail Keywords”, which are longer and more specific search queries people make in Google.  An example of a long tail keyword would be, “Dentists in Charlotte that cater to young children”  This search query may not get a ton of searches in your area each month, but if you are the only dental practice in Charlotte that has a blog post talking about how your practice caters to young children, you have a good chance of ranking very high in the search results for this query.

Below is a list of hundreds of potential topics by simply entering the term, “Dentist”, in our keyword research tool.  You can do the same by using a free service like Keywordtool.io


Local SEO optimization tip: Make a list of the top 20 questions prospective customers ask you on a regular basis.  These should be the foundation for your first 20 blog posts.  Make each one at least 500 words long and add several images to the blog post.  Don't actively promote your business in the article, but add a nice byline for your business and a call to action at the end of the article.  Be sure to add local elements to your blog post, like the city that you are in.



Most small businesses avoid video like the plague.  If you are not used to being in front of a camera, recording yourself on video is akin to public speaking, most people are terrified of it.  But like public speaking, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  If you can get over yourself and get comfortable in front of a camera, video marketing can be a gold mine for your local marketing strategy and give you a major boost in your local SEO efforts.  While the links you add in Youtube are what's called no-follow and don't directly contribute to your Local SEO, the content of your videos can and will contribute to your overall Local SEO.

When it comes to video, Youtube is the king of video marketing.  It's free, easy to use and is the second largest search engine on the planet, after Google.

Google is incorporating video into its search results more and more, and there is less competition with video than there is with traditional text-based content.  The good news is that the only thing you need is a mobile phone and some nerve to create lots of videos for your business.

Use Youtube like your blog, create lots of Q&A posts on common questions people ask you.  You can also create a brand video for your business, basically you in your business talking about what you do and who you serve.  Make the videos short, 2-5 minutes in length, and keep them upbeat in tone.  The last thing you want to do is bore people to death.  Aim for being educational and lighthearted, smile a lot.

When it comes to creating Youtube videos, follow these tips when uploading your videos to Youtube:

You can upload videos directly from your phone when you are finished recording, but be sure to go back to Youtube with your computer and finish adding all of the necessary details that help you rank high in Youtube as well as possibly in the regular Google search results.

Add a proper video description.  A good format is to use the first paragraph to describe what the video is about and what people will learn from it.  After that, add information about your business along with a call to action and a link to your website.  You can also add links to some of your social media properties.

Add Tags.  Tags are keywords you can add to a video to give Youtube a better idea what your video is about and how to associate and categorize it properly.  Spend time adding lots of relevant Tags to your video to help it get more visibility on Youtube.  Currently, you have 500 characters available to add Tags, add as many relevant ones that you can, including your industry and city.


Embed videos on your website.  While embedding a Youtube video on your website is not a ranking factor (according to Google), embedding a video on your website will help it get more views, which can translate into higher rankings for your video.  Adding multimedia like video also adds another dimension to the pages on your website and can help liven them up.

Local SEO optimization tips: If you are hesitant about getting in front of a video camera, there are lots of other types of video you can easily create without getting in front of a camera.  Take lots of pictures of your staff and location and create an awesome video using a tool like Animoto.  Create a Powerpoint slide answering a question and either add your voice narration to the PPT or just play it to music.  Powerpoint lets you easily convert slideshows into a video.  With their permission, take short (less than 20 seconds) testimonial videos of your customers.  Best of all, every video you create for Youtube, you can also upload your video to Facebook as well.


Optimizing for Local SEO isn't difficult

Yes, it takes time and patience, but it isn't rocket science.  You just need to create a plan and dedicate yourself to implementing it.  Your business will thank you for your efforts.

Google Post For Google My Business

Google My Business: Post Specials, Updates and Promotions Directly To Your Listing

Google has been testing the ability to post directly to your Google My Business listing for awhile now.  But as of June 2017, they have opened up the feature to all businesses.

Posting on Google lets you post directly to your Google My Business listing and provides a continued stream of fresh content for people searching for your business.  Google is launching this feature in response to other social media platforms, namely Facebook and Instagram, where businesses currently post timely specials and promotions.

The ability to post directly to your Google My Business listing solves Google's problem of keeping content on each listing fresh and current.  It is also a great opportunity for businesses to keep customers and potential customers up to date on their latest deals and promotions.

For many small businesses, their Google My Business listing receives just as much traffic (or more) than their website.  So the ability to post timely specials and events directly to your Google My Business listing is a great feature.

Examples of Posts For Google My Business

Why Post Directly To Your Googly My Business Listing?

  • Share daily and weekly specials with your audience and encourage people to take advantage of your offers
  • Introduce new products and arrivals to your store.  Showcase some of your top products and give them lots of free visibility
  • A fast and easy way to promote timely events and to give a heads up on upcoming events
  • The ability to add links to your posts lets people click directly from Google to your events or specials page
  • It's free and your Google My Business listing already gets lots of visibility

As far as the longevity of your posts, I did not see anything official from Google but I have heard from several sources that the life of a post will be around 30 days before it disappears.  This makes sense as you have limited room on your public Google My Business listing and the purpose of these posts is to showcase timely offers and events for your business.  Posts will show up both in the Google search results as well as the local map results.

Here is an example of how it looks:

Sample Post To Google My Business Listing


Posting To Your Google My Business Listing

When creating a post for your Google My Business listing, you can currently do the following:

  • Add an image to your post
  • Write between 100-300 words
  • Create events with start and end dates and times
  • Add the following call to action buttons with a link of your choice: Reserve, Sign Up, Buy, Get Offer
  • Posts can be created from your Google My Business listing desktop dashboard or through the Google My Business mobile app

The process of posting is super easy, just follow these steps:

1 – Log into your Google My Business account (or download the mobile app)

2 – Select the new Posts tab in the dashboard

Post Feature Now Available To Small Business in Google My Business

3 – Create your post

Sample Post To Google Editor 2

4 – Publish and enjoy!

Post To Google My Business - Mobile Editor

The whole process is very easy and was built so small businesses can post their events and promotions quickly and easily.

Check out the new posting feature on Google My Business today and start taking advantage of this great new feature.  If you know of any other business who might not know about this feature yet, you can share this article with them.

Review of Missinglettr Social Media Software

Missinglettr Review: Create Targeted & Automated Social Campaigns

I love social media.  No other marketing channel allows you to reach so many people with your content.  But it can also be a beast to try and manage several social media accounts, let alone use them effectively.

But, I also know that creating content is only a part of content marketing, promoting it effectively is just as important.

Using tools to help manage your social media accounts is a necessity, especially if you are using the platform for business.  We all know what a time suck social media can be, so when I find a good tool that saves me time and increases my productivity, I jump all over it.

I want to introduce you to a social media tool I started using, it's called MissingLettr.  Here we will review MissingLettr, going over what it is, what it's used for, and a walkthrough on how it works.

MissingLettr is a social media tool that lets you create targeted and automated social media campaigns for your content.  Now, you're probably thinking, I already have a tool that lets me schedule my content on social media.

But here is a big difference with MissingLettr.

They let you create a 12-month social media marketing campaign across several of your social media profiles for each individual blog post.  Yes, MissingLettr is much more granular than other social media tools.  You can take a great blog post of yours and create a 12-month social media campaign, then set it and forget it.  MissingLettr will then activate and run your 12-month campaign for that individual blog post.  I don't know of another social media tool that will let you create a drip marketing campaign like this for every one of your blogs posts, automatically.

The beauty of MissingLettr is that all you have to do is add you blog to their platform and they will automatically pull in your latest blog posts and have them ready for you to activate.

Wouldn't it be great to create an entire social media marketing plan for every one of your blog posts?  Even your Youtube videos, how cool is that?  Maybe you can write a guest post on another website, you can create a campaign for that too.

If you are a marketing agency or content marketer, a tool like this is like gold, it will make you look like a superstar in front of your client.  What other agency would create a year-long marketing plan for every single blog post?  You, that's who.

Social Platforms MissingLettr Supports

As of this writing, they currently support the following social media platforms but they say they are in the process of adding more

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Facebook

I spoke with Benjamin DellFounder & CEO, Missinglettr and he says that Pinterest is the next integration they are working on.  In addition, they are working on a custom campaign option where you’ll be able to tweak durations, frequencies, and auto-repeat rules

MissingLettr Pricing Plans

They currently have 3 different pricing options, Personal, Business, and a free plan to try it out.  MissingLettr has a  free plan that gives you 1 website to connect, 2 campaigns a month and 1 social media profile.  The free plan is enough to test it out and see if it's a good tool for you.

missinglettr pricing plans - personal business free plans

Here's how MissingLettr makes this so easy.

Here is your overview page when you log in.  It will show you what social media profiles you have connected, how many campaigns are active and how many you have pending for you to review and activate.

missinglettr overview page

MissingLettr automatically pulls in your latest blog posts.  You can also manually add any url you want to run a campaign for.  This is the Campaign page where you can view the content MissingLettr has ready for you to review and activate.  MissingLettr creates 9 different social media posts for you, automatically pulling quotes and creating images for each one of the 9 posts, so none of them are the same.

missinglettr campaign page



Once you choose the campaign you want to review, you will see the 9 social media posts that MissingLettr has automatically created for you. The first page is where you choose your hashtags. MinngingLettr creates some hashtags for you, but I found most of their suggestions are too general and I usually create my own hashtags.  Their hashtag tool also gives you an idea of how many times that hashtag is used on Twitter, which is cool.

missinglettr campaing review page select hashtags

Once MissingLetter creates the campaign for your blog post, you then have a chance to review each post and edit the text and images for each one before approving.  I added a blog post of mine on Facebook Ads, the screenshot below is that they came up with automatically for me.

missinglettr Campaign editor page

Some of the suggestions were good, others needed a quick edit.  For each post, MissingLettr gives you several options you can slide through for the text quotes as well as the images.  You also have the option of manually editing the text and uploading your own images.  I spent about 3 minutes fixing up a few of the posts for this campaign, below is what I ended up with minimal editing.

missinglettr campaign editor finished version

Once you are happy with the 9 posts, you then move to the last step where you finalize the campaign and select what day you want your 12-month campaign to start on for this post.

missinglettr campaign scheduler page


And that's it!

It took me a total of about 5 minutes to review and edit the social media posts and activate it.  Now I know that for the next 12 months, this piece of content will be promoted on social media, with each post being different from the others.  Now I can work on my next blog post to promote.

Check out MissingLettr Here

You can see how this tool can (and should) be a part of your regular content promotion workflow.  Aside from Buffer, my favorite social media tool, MissingLettr is now standard when it comes to promoting my content on social media.

Have questions about how I am using MissingLettr to promote my content as well as our clients?  You can contact me here with questions, and you can also visit MissingLettr to learn more and to sign up.  They are pretty open about what is on their roadmap, so check out their blog for updates.  If you are not sure, sign up for the free account so you can test it out and see how valuable a tool it is when it comes to promoting content on social media.


Disclaimer: I am a paying customer of MissingLettr, but I am also an affiliate.  This means I may get a small commission if you click on a link to visit MissingLettr.  My link will not cost you any more than if you went there directly.  Hopefully, you found this review valuable if you have any questions you can contact me here.

Laptop and Tablet on Clean Desk Ready For Work

How To Find a Hosting Service for Your Business Website

Having a presence online for your business is vital.  Don't you agree?

Whether you are an established business or just starting out, your business website will be an essential part of your business.

If you are just starting out online and not familiar with web hosting services, this article is for you.  Here I'll go over what web hosting is, what kinds of web hosting services are available, and things to look for and to avoid when looking for a hosting provider.

What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a service that provides the infrastructure to store your website and its files online and allows other people to view your website via the internet. Think of it like your home computer, where you store all of your files, pictures, and videos.  Whenever you want to view something, you just open it up on your computer and enjoy.  A web host does essentially the same thing except they store all of your website files on what's called a server, which is essentially a centralized computer (group of servers) that a web hosting provider owns that stores thousands of websites files for all of there customers.

What kind of web hosting options are there?

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is when your website is stored on a web hosting providers server along with hundreds of other websites.  It's kind of like renting an apartment in a building where you have lots of neighbors.


Very inexpensive.  You can get a lot of features for very little cost

The shared hosting market is very competitive, this helps to keep prices low and features high

Very reliable, considering how cheap it is and support is usually pretty good (depending on the provider)


Security.  Since you are hosting alongside 100's of other websites, a major security breach by one website can potentially affect your website.  Hosting providers are really good with monitoring security threats and it's usually not a problem, but the threat still does exist.

Reduced capacity. There are bandwidth and storage limits with shared hosting.  Many hosting providers advertise unlimited everything, which is not the case.  They reserve the right to shut you down or throttle your service if you are using too much bandwidth or disk space on their servers.  For a small business, this is almost never a problem so I wouldn't worry about this

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is when your website is hosted on its own dedicated server.  You are the only website on there and do not need to worry about other websites affecting yours.  Think of it like owning a nice single family home where your neighbors are far enough away as not to annoy you.  You also have managed hosting where the hosting company actively manages your website and the server to keep it running optimally and to maintain a high level of security.


Great for large businesses and websites with lots of traffic

Full control over your server settings.  You can customize your server without worrying about your neighbors, like with shared hosting


Can get expensive.  Not really feasible for a small business or if your just starting out

Requires someone to actively manage the server to keep it running smoothly

Virtual Private Hosting (VPS)

A Virtual Private Server is when your website is hosted on a server with other websites, but it's partitioned off from them and offers costs closer to shared hosting but security and performance similar to a dedicated server.  It's kind of like living in a luxury high-rise condo building, you have neighbors, but your walls are thick enough so you never hear them.


Better security features than shared hosting

Allows custom configurations even though technically you are sharing the server with other websites

Much cheaper than dedicated hosting, though more than you will pay for shared hosting


Still quite a bit more than shared hosting services

Quality of a VPS depends on each individual hosting company

Since you are still technically sharing server space, there may be some bandwidth and storage limitations, like with shared hosting

What is the best web hosting option for a small business?

It depends on your business.

If you are just starting out and will most likely not have thousands of daily website visitors in the near future, I would opt for the shared hosting plan.  It's cheap, reliable and makes it really easy to just get started……which most of the time is the most important thing.

When I would consider an alternative to shared hosting is when security is vital (storing sensitive customer information like with e-commerce) or I will be anticipating a large jump in visitor traffic right off the bat, I might then look at a VPS or maybe a dedicated server if finances allowed.  There is no set traffic number when you would make the switch, but if you are consistently hitting 20K unique visitors a month, you may want to start looking at it.


Tips on finding a good web hosting provider

Reputation.  Ask other business people with websites what service they are using.  Do some online research on a potential service provider, you'll probably find that there are lots of customer reviews and forum comments on all of the major web hosting providers.  I have had the most success in picking web hosting providers by reading reviews (and complaints) from current and past customers.  Look at their Twitter and Facebook pages to see get an idea of what customers think about them and how they communicate with their customers.

Support. Unless you are an online veteran, comfortable with programming, you'll want a hosting provider that is ready to help you out when you need it.  Just like above, search online and look out for words of praise (or scorn) from current customers.  It may even be a good idea to call the web hosting provider and see how helpful they are in answering your questions.

Scalability.  If you will be starting out on a shared hosting platform, check to see if you will be able to easily upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server if your business starts to take off.  Upgrading to a new level of service is not usually a big deal, but switching to an entire service provider can be a pain in the butt.  Make sure you have room to grow if you ever need it.

Price. Don't base your purchase on it.  You won't be high fiving yourself on the $2 a month you are saving when your website is down and your service provider is not returning your calls.

** Note: A company called EIG has purchased most of the shared hosting companies over the last few years, leaving very little competition in the shared hosting market.  Unfortunately, it has been the case that when they take over a company, the level of customer service and hosting reliability takes a major drop.  As an example, see reviews for Hostgator before 2016 and after, a stark difference in how customers feel about the company.  For shared hosting, we have been using A2 Hosting for several years, very reliable and still independent.


More Web Hosting Tips

Dedicated IP address.  With shared hosting, you share an IP address with the other websites on the server. If one of those websites is doing something they shouldn't and gets in trouble ( gambling sites, porn, etc), the search engines might punish them by restricting or banning the IP address of that user.  That could affect your website and unfortunately, you do not get to pick your neighbors with shared hosting.  For only a few bucks a month, it's still much cheaper than VPS hosting and gives you a little piece of mind.  And if you will be attempting to run e-commerce on a shared hosting plan, which some companies will allow, make sure you get a dedicated IP address as well as a SSL security certificate.

Avoid free hosting.  There are lots of web services that will host your website for free.  While this may be great for a personal blog or hobby website, it's not a good idea for your business.  Why?

  • You will most likely not get your own domain, but a sub-domain.  When you have your own domain, your website will look something like yourdomain.com , where with a sub-domain, it will look something like yourdomain.freewebhosting.com .  It's much more professional and beneficial to you and your business to have your own domain.  If you don't think such a vital part of your business (a website) is worth a few dollars a month, maybe you should rethink your business.
  • Most free web hosting providers will place ads on your site to recuperate the cost of hosting it for free.  It just looks unprofessional.
  • You have no control over your website or performance.  In exchange for getting it free, you give up any right to complain about the service.
  • Support is usually poor to non-existent

 * Some free hosting services offer you your own domain and upgraded features and service with a paid plan.



As you can see, there are lots of choices and decisions to make when choosing a web hosting provider.  It's an important decision and I would take my time and do my research before signing up for a service.  Your hosting provider is the foundation for your website, so be sure you don't jump into any old service or you might regret it later on.

If you have any questions about hosting providers, just shoot me a message and I'd be happy to help out.  You can also check out my small business resources page and see what services and tools I use for my business.

The Importance Of Title Tags And Meta Descriptions

Improve the click-through rates and the SEO of your website with optimized title tags and meta descriptions.

Title tags and meta descriptions are important elements of your website’s content. The title tag and the meta description tags should include keywords relevant to the content of the web page they describe. This helps Search Engines understand what the page is about and index your web pages accordingly for relevant keywords or keyword phrases. Learn more about title tags and meta descriptions.

What is a title tag?

The <title> tag defines the title of the document.The title element is required in all HTML/XHTML documents and is one of the key on-page SEO elements. It is a “meta” element, meaning that it gives information about the HTML/XHTML file, but does not appear on the page to users. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not seen by users; the title tag appears on the results pages just above the URL (see below) and also appears at the top of a browser. Moz.com, the largest SEO community in the world believes that it is the single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content).

Titles give users a quick insight into the content of the web page and how it might be relevant to their query. It is often the primary piece of information with the meta description (see below) that is used by potential visitors to decide which search result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality and meaningful titles when you optimize your web pages. Here are best practice guidelines for writing title tags:

  • Title tags generally should be less than 70 characters long so the whole tag fits on results pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance.
  • Every title tag on your website should be made unique with distinct, descriptive titles for every page on your site. The HTML suggestions page in Google Webmaster Tools lists missing or potentially problematic title tags.
  • Use keywords in title tags and place important keywords close to the front of the title tag. Search Engines will “bold” (or highlight) those terms in the search results when a user has performed a query with those terms.
  • Avoid keyword spamming. There is no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. Also, try to have a theme for each page so you’re not recycling the same keywords in multiple title tags (this runs the risk of cannibalization of search results – Google can be unsure of the best page to rank).
  • Google recommends titles include your brand so include your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe.

What is a meta description tag?

Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of Webspam, announced in 2009 that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for web search. However, he stresses that it is still important to write a meta description as Google will sometimes use the summary in search results snippets (located below the URL) if the Search Engine believes it is an accurate synopsis of the page.

Matt explains Google’s perspective on meta descriptions in greater detail in this video:

Accurate meta descriptions can also help improve your click-through rates along with relevant title tags. Here are best practice guidelines for writing meta descriptions.

  • Meta description tags generally should be approximately 150-160 characters long so the whole tag fits on Search Engine Results Pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance.
  • Ideally, every page on your site should have a unique meta description. Google suggests using site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else.
  • For a large site, creating unique meta descriptions may be time-consuming. Google suggests that at the least, create a summary for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages. The HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic meta descriptions.
  • The meta description tag should ideally target a unique keyword for each web page but again avoid keyword spamming and have the keyword only appear once.
  • Descriptions are like a short sales pitch or summary for the page. Write keyword-rich descriptions that engage visitors and entice them to click-through to your website.
  • The meta description does not have to be a full sentence. It can include important facts relevant to potential visitors. For example, articles can list the author, date of publication, or by line information – just keep it within the character limit.

Writing title tags and meta descriptions for click through optimization

When tackling title tags and meta descriptions, the end user is always the most important factor – not the search engine. Including keywords in your titles and descriptions is important, but SEOs can take their titles and descriptions to the next level by considering these tags in the context of motivating a user to click, similar to a PPC ad. Here are a few quick tips on improving click-through rates with title tags and meta descriptions.

  • Include action verbs that encourage the user to act – “shop now,” “read more,” “find out secrets,” “book today,” “sign up for a free trial,” and more.
  • Call out value propositions, including things like “free,” “2-minute sign-up,” “voted easiest to use,” and more.
  • Experiment with capitalization to emphasize important words.
  • Use unique characters and punctuation: “~*~FREE~*~ Call today!!!”

These tips may seem too “spammy” or pitch-oriented, but the goal is to catch the eye of the user and improve interaction rates. Studies have shown that tweaking meta titles and descriptions to include these features not only improves click-through rates, but also search engine ranking position – Google takes notice and rewards sites that get higher engagement with better positions.

5 Things Business Owners Should Know About SEO

5 Things Business Owners Should Know About SEO

Thinking about investing in SEO but not sure if you should?

SEO, also known as search engine optimization,  is one of those things that is simple in concept but difficult in practice.  SEO also means lots of things to different people.  A social media strategist will most likely have a much different definition of what SEO is compared to someone with a background in outreach and link building.  SEO encompasses so many areas that even many so-called “experts” have a hard time actually defining what makes up SEO.

SEO can also be done on your own if you're willing to take the time to learn how to do it.  It's not rocket science, but it takes a lot of time and dedication to learning all of the little technical things that, when added together, form a solid SEO strategy.

But the truth is, most businesses don't have the time to learn how to do SEO properly, at best they may learn a part of it and do that part well, which may be good enough if you are not in a competitive industry/market.  But if you are in a competitive market and you want to make SEO a core part on your marketing strategy, you'll have to either really dedicate the time to learn about it or invest the money in hiring someone who does.

Small businesses don't have a lot of extra money lying around, so they tend to search out affordable SEO solutions.  Unfortunately, the majority of affordable SEO solutions don't work, some may even be a complete ripoff.  You can watch this video to learn more about how much SEO should cost.

Good practice is to speak to similar companies investing in SEO and that are having success with it.  If their company is a similar size and market as yours and they are spending $2,000 a month on SEO, then don't expect to spend $200 a month and be an SEO rock star.

Before you decide to invest your time and money on SEO, read some of the tips below to learn more about what you are getting into.

It Won't Fix a Broken Business

If your business is struggling and paying for SEO is your last ditch effort to save your business, then you can probably kiss it goodbye.  For starters, SEO can take several months to start to show any sort of returns (see below) and it's not going to fix underlying problems going on with your business.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or have trouble closing deals, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water you need from the faucet by cranking up the water pressure, you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.

Many times businesses will approach us wanting SEO, but once we examine their business we realize that there are more serious issues that need to be addressed before starting an SEO campaign.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or can't close a deal to save your life, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water pressure you need from the faucet by cranking up the water volume.  You'll get water out of the faucet, but you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.


Don't Expect Meaningful ROI the First Few Months

If you need online leads now, then concentrate on Pay Per Click advertising or some other form of advertising where you can generate business fast.  SEO isn't a quick win, it doesn't return an immediate ROI like advertising and the results during the first several months can seem ambiguous.  But this is also the same reason most businesses never do it, or at least do it properly, they only think in the short term.

SEO can pay major dividends, just ask anyone doing it successfully, but you need to have the time, patience and money to let it develop.  It's a long term investment and will return the best ROI for you if you give it enough time.  SEO is like a Flywheel, it's really hard to move in the beginning, but as you slowly turn it, it starts to pick up momentum where eventually it's spinning like crazy even with minimal effort on your part.


SEO is Not Cheap

No, you're not going to create an online empire by paying an overseas company $300 a month to “optimize” a dozen keywords for you.  SEO, when done right, is labor intensive and requires a lot of expertise to do right.  It's not rocket science, anyone can do it if they spend enough time learning about it (think years), but there are so many factors involved in good SEO and so many things that will either waste your time or get you in trouble.  So you either need to spend the time to do it right or pay the right people to do it for you.

Factors involved in pricing SEO services:

Industry – Some industries like finance, legal and healthcare are extremely competitive online so it's harder to establish yourself with high search engine rankings.  There are much more highly competitive industries, these are just some examples.  Industries with a high potential return when acquiring a new customer (real estate, finance, etc), tend to be very competitive online, which requires more expertise and work to compete with established players.

Location – If you're in a big city like New York or Toronto, then your potential audience is much larger, which also means increased competition.  The bigger the potential payday, the more competition, the more time and energy it will usually take to get good search engine rankings.  So if you want to compete nationally, expect to pay a lot more for SEO than if you wanted to compete in just your city or a section of your city.

Competitors – How you stack up against your competition also plays a role in how much you will pay for SEO services.  If you are just starting out online and your competitors have been building their online presence for years, you will have a pretty big gap that needs to be filled in order to catch up with them.  It's like starting a marathon where you competitors had a 6-hour head start, you'll need to haul ass just to catch up with them, let alone beat them.


Understand What Metrics Really Matter

You need to know what metrics to track so you can understand what progress is.  SEO is not like advertising where you pay for an ad and then track how many leads are generated.  Pretty cut and dry.  With SEO, the work (and money you spend) now may not create results for several weeks or months down the road.  So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to

So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to localize and personalize search results.  And Google has all but removed organic keyword tracking inside Google Analytics, so it is very difficult to measure results at the keyword level even if you were ranking #1 for that search term.

Besides, ranking well for a single keyword is unlikely to get you the results you're looking for.  A better metric to track is overall organic growth traffic, measured over time.  You can also do page level tracking, where you track the metrics on individual landing pages on your site that you know you rank high in the search engines for.  You'll also want to measure non-branded search terms, general terms like, “plumbers in Austin”, vs, “Joe's plumbing in Austin”.  The idea with SEO is to attract new customers who don't know you, so you want to remove searches by people that already know you (branded search terms).


You Have To Participate For It To Succeed

If you love the idea of ranking high in the search engines and getting a steady supply of traffic and leads each month through organic search, then you need to commit to it as a marketing channel for your business.  Businesses that fail when it comes to SEO usually do so because they either had the wrong strategy or they didn't commit enough resources (time and money) for a long enough time for it to really take hold.

SEO is not like advertising, where you run a newspaper ad for 3 months and then stop if it didn't produce the kind leads you wanted.  When it comes to SEO, there is a period of time where you have to commit to it without really knowing if it is going to work.  That could be many months, depending on your industry and the resources you put towards it.  There will also be many times when you think you should pull the plug on it because you're not seeing results.  As long as you know you have the right strategy and are working with the right people, SEO is about time and effort.  Almost anyone who is successful with SEO can tell you that in the beginning, they had no idea if it was going to work and had doubts about continuing.  What they will all tell you is that they are glad they stuck to it.


Is SEO a good option for your business?

SEO is not for everyone.  Hopefully, you learned a few things here that will help you make a better decision when it comes time to invest in SEO for your business.

Have questions about SEO or looking to speak to someone about how it can help grow your business?  Contact us here to learn more.

How To Create a Highly Effective Marketing Plan For Your Business

How To Create a Highly Effective Marketing Plan For Your Business

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face – Boxing Quote

Why do military leaders spend an unbelievable amount of time planning for a battle when they know 80% of their plan will go out the window as soon as the fighting starts?

It's because the discipline of planning every detail will allow them to make smart and accurate decisions on the fly, which would not be possible if you did not take the time to plan beforehand.

Same goes with marketing.  If you don't plan out your marketing strategy, you'll always be on uneven footing as you did not take the time to really analyze your business, your competitors, and your customers.  Every hour you spend planning will save you two hours of headaches and mistakes later on.

Thorough planning gives you a deeper understanding of how your marketing will work and will make it easier to spot potential dangers and pitfalls along the way.

Most entrepreneurs want to take action, which is great, you just need a good plan to take action on.  So if you are serious about creating a rock solid marketing plan for your business, set aside some time and use the steps below to get started.


Conduct a Marketing Audit For Your Business

Before you start planning, you'll need to take an inventory of your current marketing situation and how effective it is for your business.

Make a list of where you are spending your advertising dollars and where you are spending your time marketing your business.  Once you know where your time and money is going, you want to analyze each activity and marketing channel to see what kind of impact it had on your business.

If you spot areas where you are spending a lot of time or money but is not bringing in the results you want, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions:

1 – Am I putting enough time/effort or money into this activity to make it work effectively for my business?

2 – Is this the right channel to find customers and grow my business?

3 – Should I commit to improving this marketing channel or should I focus elsewhere?

Many business owners fall into the trap of spending time on marketing activities that they are familiar with and ones that feel safe for them.  These activities are often not the best ones to grow your business, but they are “comfortable” to the business owner so they continue to spend time on it despite seeing little in the way of results.  Look at networking, go to any Meetup.com group in your area related to business and you'll see tons of people asking for referrals week after week (with little results) when they should really be spending their time doing outreach and cold calling to drum up business.  But networking is much safer than putting yourself out there with real potential clients.

Take a hard look at how you spend your time and money and cut out anything that isn't helping you grow your business in terms of leads, sales, and customers.

How effective were you in the following areas:

  • Referrals
  • Partnerships/Joint Ventures
  • Customer Retention
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Advertising
  • Offline Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You don't need to be doing all of these, you just need to analyze the effectiveness of the channels you are using and measure the results you got compared to the time/money spent on them.  As a small business owner, you can't do everything, you need to focus on the few marketing channels that will bring you the most results.

Look at where your sales are coming from.  Look at your web analytics to see where your traffic and leads are coming from (If you don't have Google Analytics setup, do it now!).  Dive into your sales data and try to connect the dots so you can trace your sales back to its origins.  If you can figure this out, then you'll have a good idea where you need to spend more of your time and money going forward.


Define Your Audience

Do you really know who your customers are?  If you say everyone is your customer, I can say with confidence that your marketing is mediocre at best.

Being able to market to people effectively starts with having a deep understanding of your customer and what their likes, fears, and concerns are and being able to address them.

Creating universal marketing messages that try and appeal to everyone rarely works.  The reason why the 35-year-old mom of four buys from you will be different from the 65 yr old retiree who has a passion for travel.  You need to segment your different buyers into “buyer personas” and then to find out as much as you can about them and why they would buy from you.

Once you have this information, then you can start crafting compelling messages that resonate with them.  That's how you create highly effective marketing campaigns, by understanding your customers, then doing your best to give them the message and offers that most resonate with them.

Yes, it's more work that creating a generic ad that you send to everyone, but you're probably reading this because you're not happy with your current marketing results.  The better you plan, the more effective you'll be.

Once you have these “buyer personas” created and have a better understanding of what's important to them, you can start reaching these personas as a group, with specific messaging.  You may do this by running multiple, targeted ad campaigns targeting each persona.  You may segment your website where each persona has its own page with its own message, the idea is to segment your potential customers and tell them what they want to hear so they will become your customer.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Now that you have a solid understanding of your current marketing situation, you can start analyzing some of your top competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come from online, then focus on your top 3 online competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come offline, then focus on the competitors you go up against offline.  Better yet, do both!

Once you have your list of competitors, ask and answer these questions:

1 – Where are they spending their marketing time and money?

2 – How visible online are they in the organic search results (Google.com, Bing.com) and are they doing online advertising?  How effective is it compared to my business?

3 – Are they using any marketing channels that I'm not?  Should I investigate these channels as well?

4 – What is their main message on their website and in their advertising, does it resonate with potential customers better than my message?

5 – Are they doing anything new that I was not aware of?

6 – Are they missing a crucial marketing channel that will give me the opportunity to exploit this gap?

7 – How can I do take what they are doing and do it even better?

There may be more questions you want to ask, but you get the point.  Compare your efforts to theirs, look for opportunities and weaknesses, and strive to beat them by doing things smarter and better.

You can read this article on finding the arbitrage in your industry and exploiting it.


Set Your Marketing Goals

At this point you should know:

1 – The state of your current marketing effectiveness, what is doing well and what is not

2 – Who your customers are, broken down into different “personas”, each with their own message that resonates most with them

3 – Who your competitors are, what they are doing marketing wise, and opportunities for you to beat them

Now you need to set your marketing goals in place, the more specific the better.  Your goals should be set on measurable KBI's (Key Business Indicators) and not outcomes.  A poor goal would be to hit 1 million in revenue by the end of the year.  Why? Because it's an outcome, the end result of many different things you do in your business to generate revenue.  You can't tell your employees to “make more revenue”, but you can set goals on activities that will ultimately produce the revenue goals you want.

Examples of specific marketing goals would be:

  • Generate 10 new leads per week. You may set this because you want to acquire 2 new clients per week and your typical conversion rate is 20%.  You achieve by determining the right, marketing mix to reach your lead goals each week, which could be advertising, cold calling, email marketing, etc.
  • Create, publish and promote 2 targeted blog posts per week.  You may set this goal as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy where you create targeted blog posts aimed at the personas you have created.
  • Create an online course to educate potential customers.  You may create this because it will become part of your lead magnet strategy to bring in more leads through your website.

So you get the point, focus your goals on things that will ultimately produce you the end result you are looking for.

Here's a tip.  Don't just set annual goals for your business, set goals throughout the year.  Break your goals down into weekly or monthly targets so they don't seem so distant or unattainable because they are so large.  Set goals for the year, for the quarter and for the month, once you hit them, create new goals.  You don't have to create goals once a year in January.    Make hitting your goals fun, have prizes for your employees for reaching goals or reward yourself with a weekend trip for hitting your goals, the point is to keep everyone positive and motivated throughout the year.

Once you have your goals in place, you can start planning your marketing with the intent of reaching the goals you have set.


Decide On Your Marketing Channels

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, you just need to decide on the best way to reach your potential customers with you message/offer.  This may be online or offline, and most likely a combination of the two split between paying with advertising or paying with your time.

Here are my favorites and what works for me as well as our clients.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & creating content on your website
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Email marketing
  • Email and cold call outreach
  • Sponsorships
  • Joint ventures with other businesses

You may also use other marketing strategies like social media or networking, I personally like to choose marketing strategies that tend to lead to a direct conversion, like a sale or contact form submission.  Strategies like social media and networking do work, they are just more difficult to quantify and the path to a conversion tends to be long and winding.  I like to take the shortest path possible.


Take Action

Now that you have everything you need to create a killer marketing strategy, it's time to put it into action.  You can read this article on putting your marketing plan in action, it includes some free download worksheets to help get you on your way.

Have questions about creating a highly effective online marketing strategy or want someone to help create it for you?  You can contact us here.

Where To Focus Your Marketing Efforts in 2017

Where To Focus Your Marketing Efforts in 2017

If you didn't like the results you had with your marketing in 2016, great news, you can change it in 2017.


As the great Jim Rohn said, “If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree. “


Great marketing is the result of constant evaluation and improvement.  Most marketing efforts suck in the beginning, the difference between poor marketers and great ones is that they learn from their mistakes.  Unfortunately, many small businesses never learn from their marketing mistakes.  They keep doing the same marketing tactics year in and year out, often at the advice of the people selling them advertising, and learn little in the process.  This lazy approach to marketing often leads to a failed business, or worse, a mediocre one survives just enough to drain the life out of the business owner.


When it comes to online marketing, business owners tend to get misguided advice from lots of different places on what they should be doing.  From social media, to SEO, to Pay Per Click advertising, business owners end up chasing their tail, going from one thing to another often with little results to show for it.


The good news is that a new year is also the opportunity for a new start.  Why not make 2017 a great one for your business?  Who cares what didn't go well the year before, the plans you had that never came to fruition or the goals that were never reached.  The only thing that matters now is that you are ready to take your marketing to the next level in 2017.


There are lots of different things to focus on when it comes to marketing and lots of different channels to pursue.  I have listed below the ones I believe are vitally important for every business owner and should be the focus of their marketing efforts in 2017.  I didn't include social media as a channel to focus on in 2017, not because I don't think it's important, I just think that for the vast majority of businesses, social media activity fails to impact the bottom line and leads to hundreds of hours of time spent that could have been used more effectively somewhere else.



“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” –  Leo Burnett

When it comes to your website, your email marketing, your print ads and when you speak to people in person, it's the words that sell.  Yet most business websites have poor copy that doesn't inspire or sell.  They have advertisements that fail to get people to take action and unclear value propositions.


While how your website looks is important, it is the words that will sell.  Yet most people focus on the look and treat the copy as secondary, sometimes even outsourcing it to the designer, who is not a copywriter.


If you want to have a big impact on your marketing in 2017, learn how to write compelling copy for your audience.  And it all starts with knowing who your target market it, who are you speaking to?  Once you understand who your audience is, write them a love letter.  Not a real love letter, but copy that has the same passion as a love letter.  Let them know why they are so important to you, why you appreciate them so much, and why they should be with you.  Let them know you will never let them down and how important they are to you.  Copy like that sells.


Understand why people buy from you.  Conduct research and surveys with your current customers or ones just like them, find out what makes them buy from a business like yours.  Once you have that information, create value propositions and calls to action that speak to this.  You want to make a connection with your audience, but you first need to understand what is important to them.


You don't have to hire a copywriter to make great copy, but you do need to learn the essentials of copywriting as well as a lot of practice.  If this sounds like too much work for you, then either hire someone to do it with you or be content with your current results.


Good blog for copywriting:



Email Marketing

Social media gets all of the attention, but smart marketers know the money is in the list.  The email list that is.


Study after study shows that email marketing produces a much better ROI than social media, yet most businesses will spend endless hours on social media and spend little time and effort on building an effective email marketing campaign.

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree.

Venture Beat 2015 Study

You only own two things online, your website and your email list.  All of those followers you have on social media belong to that social media platform, you can't download them, you can't bring them with you to another platform and you can't speak directly to each of them whenever you choose because platforms like Facebook and Instagram limit how many of your followers you can reach without paying them.


Your goal should be to get people to your website and get them on your email list.  From there, for just a few dollars a month, you can communicate with them whenever you feel like and nobody can take that away from you.


When it comes to online marketing, email marketing is usually at the heart of any serious conversion funnel.  Building your email list over time will build your revenue over time, study after study confirms this.


If you aren't using email marketing software, that's the first step.  I recommend Mailchimp for basic email marketing, and Sharpspring if you are looking to get into marketing automation with advanced email marketing features.


So if you want to improve your marketing efforts in 2017, concentrate on growing your email list and writing compelling and engaging emails that you send on a regular basis.



Conversion optimization is when you continually test. measure and improve your sales and marketing funnel.  If your current funnel is producing a 1% conversion rate (which is average for an ecommerce store), then working on improving it to 2% can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Conversion Rate Improvements Funnel

When you focus on conversions, you study each of the steps in your sales and marketing funnel to find out where the “leaks” are, meaning where and when people are dropping out and losing interest in what you are offering.  Sometimes fixing even just one “leak” can lead to a big impact to your bottom line.  Conversion optimization is sort of a science where you study every aspect of your funnel and seek to continually improve it.


For a business owner, it starts with measuring all of your marketing and advertising campaigns.  If you spend $500 on a Facebook ad, how many visits to your website did it produce and many sales were made?  Once you understand these numbers, you can work on improving them, which can be better targeting, better ad copy or a better landing page.  As you dive deeper into what is happening in each step, you will start to see areas for improvement and ways to improve your conversion rate.


Good blogs on conversion optimization:




Direct Marketing

“A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.” – Charles S. Lauer

Direct marketing is action oriented marketing where the goal is for people to take some sort of action after seeing your advertisement.  Success for a campaign is tied directly to how many people take you up on your offer, whether that's a sale, phone call or online form.  You see direct marketing all the time in the form of mailers (think ValPack), the Home Shopping Network, Infomercials, and online sales pages.


Every small business should have a direct marketing mindset when it comes to marketing their business.  It makes you much more diligent with your marketing dollars and ensures that you are earning a return on your marketing investments.  It also forces you to really think and analyze your marketing and advertising strategies, where many businesses prefer the “spray and pray” approach to marketing, where they eventually run out of money and stop marketing altogether.


Before you begin any marketing campaign, whether it's online or offline, make sure you set specific goals ofr your campaigns and ways to track and measure its success.  This is the only way you will ever improve your marketing skills.



Remarketing is an advertising method where you add a tracking code to your site that allows you to track and advertise to people after they have left your website.


Many ecommerce stores practice since the average conversion rate is about 1% for ecomm stores and remarketing allows them to bring people back some of that 99% that didn't buy.  Go to a site like Zappos.com and then search the web or go to Facebook after leaving their site.  You will begin to see ads appearing from that brand, often showing you the exact product you were looking at before you left.  What's happened is that a tracking “cookie” was placed on your computer or device and that website can now serve ads to you on Facebook or other 3rd party websites for a period of time that they determine.

Example of a Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing works great for a number of reasons.  It essentially allows you to continually market to them after they leave your website even though they never gave you an email address or other personal information.  It works great for businesses that have a longer sales cycle or a product or service where consumers spend a lot of time comparison shopping.  Remarketing allows you to stay top of mind with consumers and let's you reach them with additional messaging that may bring them back to your website.


The best part of remarketing is that it has a great ROI since you are reaching people who are already somewhat familiar with your brand and have expressed interest in the past.  Remarketing allows you to improve your overall conversion rates and lets you get more mileage out of your other marketing and advertising campaigns.


Facebook Ads

At 1.79 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (500 million), Twitter (284 million) and Instagram (200 million)—combined. (Source: CNBC)

Facebook Ads present an enormous opportunity for small businesses to do some laser targeted advertising.  There is no other advertising platforms that allow you to get so specific with your ad targeting.  Pretty much anything you can think of is a targeting option when it comes to Facebook ads.


Want to target men aged 40-50 in California who recently purchased a motorcycle and love the Beatles?  Yes, you can target them.  Looking for baby boomers who recently moved to a new home in Colorado and have a habit of making high-ticket purchases?  Yes, you can target them.  The sky is the limit when it comes to you targeting options.


So how do they do this?  First off, they know your interests and likes based on everything you do on Facebook.  Joined a breastfeeding group?  You are now in an advertising bucket for new moms, breastfeeding, etc.  Every time you join a group, like a fan page or like/share a post, you are giving Facebook valuable data on what your interests are.


They also take your email address, phone number, schools you have attended and match it up with 3rd party data providers who give them a windfall of information about you once they can confirm it is you.  Ever wonder why Facebook asks you to confirm where you went to school or takes a guess at something personal about you?  It's because they have 3rd party information about you and want to confirm it with you.  Scary stuff if you use Facebook but great for advertisers.


Like we spoke about in the copywriting section, the more you can target and focus your campaigns, the more successful you will be and Facebook gives you the best targeting options anywhere on the web.


Read: Powerful Facebook targeting options

Get focused with your marketing in 2017

Hopefully, this article gave you some news ideas and inspiration for your marketing efforts in 2017.  Most of the above are interconnected in some way, especially with the copywriting, so doing them in conjunction with each other will make each of them more effective.


If you want to really get good at marketing, be stingy with your ad dollars, scrutinize everything, and be prepared and test and measure everything you do.  This is the only way you will cut out the marketing fat, improve your marketing and really grow your business.


Cheers to a successful 2017 for your business!

Why Most Businesses Fail At Online Marketing

Why Most Businesses Fail At Online Marketing

The majority of businesses that engage in online marketing fail at it.  Despite the promises from marketing agencies, social media gurus or popular marketing blogs, most just can't seem to get it to work.  It doesn't matter if it's SEO, social media or paid advertising, they see little to no results for their time and money.

Why is this?

It comes down to not having a proper marketing strategy in place.  Online marketing has many moving pieces that need to work together, you can do one thing really well, but if the other parts are not performing, the whole system doesn't work.  Creating a rock solid marketing strategy isn't hard, it just requires you to really think about the customer journey online and what information/trust/guidance they need at each step and to provide it for them.

When it comes to online marketing, most businesses focus on tactics, not the overall strategy.  Learning how to create Facebook ads or running your own Google Adwords campaigns are tactics.  Tactics are important but can (and eventually should) be outsourced so you can focus on the overall strategy and not spend all of your time on tactics that others can probably do better.  When it comes to online marketing, businesses have a bad habit of focusing on the minutia and not the overall marketing strategy, if they have one that is.

If your only tool is a hammer, you'll tend to see all of your problems as a nail – Abraham Maslow

If the only marketing tactic you know how to do well is social media, you'll tend to try and solve your marketing problems with more social media because that's what you know and are good at.  But what if your value proposition is all wrong?  What if your offerings are not lining up with the audience you are targeting?  What if your website is failing to convert visitors into leads?

More social media won't fix any of that.

Effective online marketing involves many moving parts that all need to work together in order to turn a visitor into a lead/customer for your business.  If you only focus on one part and not see the bigger picture, you're going to continue to see poor results.


Why Your Online Marketing Strategy Isn't Working

A business owner will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building out the perfect retail location or office and then turn around and buy a $800 website to represent it.  Your website represents your business online and has a potentially much larger reach than any physical location, yet most businesses still look at their website as an expense rather than a critical marketing investment for their business.

Worse yet, most of the time businesses rely on the web designer to do the copywriting and marketing as well.  That's like having the architect who designs a house also build it and then try and sell it themselves. They are different parts of the process that require different skill sets and it very rare (unless you hire a larger agency) to have all of these skill sets in-house with a small web design company or freelancer.

Think about how the sales process looks like in real life for your business.  For most businesses, especially more complex sales like financial services and real estate, this usually involves several conversations, some education and a few weeks to a few months before a sale is made.

As you can see above, the entire process can take quite a long time and involve several communications before any deal is made.  Several of these steps may happen online before you ever get a chance to speak to this person, but most likely they are missing from your website.

A cold visitor to your website, who doesn't know you from a hole in the wall, will be met with calls to actions like, “Call now for a free consultation”, or, “Schedule your free quote today”.  Where's the education?  Where's the value?  Where's the “why” you should even stick around for another 10 seconds and see what you have to offer?

Asking a cold visitor to your website to call you or schedule some kind of free consult is a high threshold offer, meaning it is a high commitment request and people will be hesitant to do it.  Who wants to give their personal information to a stranger, let alone schedule a meeting or phone call before they feel like they can trust this person and won't get hounded until the end of time with spam emails and dinnertime phone calls.

Same goes for ecommerce, only about 1-3% of people will buy on the first visit, what plan do you have for the other 97% that come to your site but aren't ready to buy?  And if you are driving traffic with paid advertising, not having a plan for that other 97% is a surefire way to lose lots of money on your advertising campaign.


Lack Of Online Marketing Strategy

Most online marketing strategies (I use the term “strategy” lightly)  have nothing to offer people unless they are ready to contact you right away or buy from you with little information to make them feel comfortable taking the next step.  So what is that, maybe 1% percent (at best) of your visitors who are ready to commit with so little information?

What about the other 99% of people who are looking for the same thing but need more information, education, and trust before they are willing to move forward.  These people are usually left to find someone else that can show them the value and trust they are looking for.


You Can't Take Shortcuts with your Online Marketing

If you want to convert online visitors into customers, you need to recreate the sales process people normally go through in order to become a customer.  You can't take what usually a 5 step marketing and sales process and turn into 2 steps online.

You wouldn't go to a party and ask the person you've spoken to for 5 minutes to have sex or marry you, that would be violating social norms in our society.

So what do you do?

Think about that customer journey for your business, break it down step by step, and write out what does this person need to feel comfortable enough to move to the next step?

You may not be able to replicate each step right on your website, but what you can do is get people to opt-in to your email list by giving something of high perceived value and then nurture them with a drip email campaign.

The main point is to think about the marketing and sales process for all of your visitors, not just the 1% ready to buy on the spot.  You will always have your go to offer ready for the 1%, the call now or fill out this form call to actions, but think about secondary offers you can make for those people that are interested, but just not ready to buy yet.

Developing a marketing strategy that focuses on all of your visitors is more work and requires more thought and planning, but wouldn't it be better to target 100% of the visitors you work so hard to get instead of just 1% of them?

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A Local Lead Generation Strategy That Works

A Local Lead Generation Strategy That Works


Having a reliable and consistent source of leads is the lifeblood of any small business. Without new customers,  the business will decay and eventually die. Unfortunately, is the eventual fate of many small businesses.

Leads for a business is like oxygen, lots of it fills you with energy and life, not enough and you start to labor.  None at all and you die.

So we know that creating a steady stream of new leads is very important, so how do we get them without breaking the bank?

Read below and find out.

For a small business owner, the first thing is to never spend money on marketing until you have a well thought out plan and understand the medium you will be advertising on and the outcomes you expect to receive.  If a salesperson walks through your door and tries to pitch you a coupon mailer or directory listing, never (ever) buy it on the spot.  I've seen so many businesses get roped into some overpriced print ad or direct mailer because the salesperson over promised on everything just to make the sale (and commission). You'll almost always regret a purchase like that and it'll start you on a path of being weary when it comes to spending money on advertising.


“Today it's important to be present, be relevant and add value.” – Nick Besbeas


The reason I love online marketing so much is that it is transparent.  Whether you do paid advertising, SEO or social media, it is relatively easy to see what results you are getting from your efforts.  Website analytics packages like Google Analytics, can give you rich detail as to how people came to your website (Facebook, organic search, Google Adwords, etc), what they did while they were there (time on site, pages visited, etc), and if they completed any of the goals you are tracking (contact form, online purchase, email signup, etc).

So when we talk about creating a local lead generation strategy, many of the strategies we will talk about are online.  The good thing is that if you have a solid online strategy, it'll also help with any offline marketing you do as you can also direct your offline marketing efforts to your website or landing page.


Getting Started

There are a few things you need to have in place before starting your local lead generation strategy.  Once you have these things in place you'll be ready to start driving relevant local traffic to your website.  In this lead local lead generation strategy, your website becomes the hub for all of you activity, both online and offline.


“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg

#1 Target Audience

The very first thing you need to establish is who your target audience will be.  While your business may have lots of different audiences, each of them buy for different reasons and the first step is having some sort of understanding as to why because it will part of your messaging.

You may have one segment of your audience buy from you because of your pricing, value structure, or because they really want someone they can trust.  It's important to know these things because they will be the value propositions you use in your marketing.

It's like trying to sell a car to a family based on the speed and performance when they are really interested in the safety features of the car.  It makes you look tone deaf to your customer and you lose the opportunity to motivate them to take the next step with you.

The easiest way to get this information is to ask your customers.  Ask after they make a purchase and periodically survey your customers to find out why they became a customer.  Just as important is to survey people who didn't buy from you and learn where you need to make improvements.


#2 Your Value Proposition and Offer

Once you have a pretty good understanding of what motivates your customers, you can start creating your value proposition.  A value proposition is your statement as to why people should consider buying from you.  It should correlate with the information you gained as to why your current customers buy from you.  It should be customer centric, so focus on what the customer will gain.

Developing Value Proposition Graphic

Your offer is exactly that, the offer you are making to them.  It may be in the form of a discount, a free trial or some kind of consultation.  It's the bait you are using to get people to take action.  The offer should be related to the value proposition you have in place, so if your value proposition is based on the quality of your work, then you might offer a one on one consultation.  If your value proposition is based on being budget friendly, then you may create a discount coupon as your offer.

When it comes to running a local lead generation program, in many cases you will be targeting a specific audience during specific campaigns, which is why it's important to have an understanding as to why certain sub-sets of your customer base buy from you.


#3 Landing Page

Once you know why your customers buy from you and you have your value proposition and offer in place, you can create a landing page where people will “land” when they come to your site.

So what is a landing page? A landing page is a page where people start on your website.  If you are running an ad or posting to social media, it is where they are directed when they click on the ad or post.  In organic search, it is the page that shows up in the search results, which could be your homepage, a blog post or one of your service pages.

Learn more about creating effective landing pages here.

Local Business Landing Page Example

Source:Nifty Marketing. http://niftymarketing.com/optimal-local-landing-page-infographic/

For existing pages on your website, review them to make sure they have all of the necessary elements to convert a visitor into a lead.   Think of each page on your website as a standalone website, if someone only visits that page, will they have all of the necessary information they need in order to take the next step with your business?

In some cases, you will be creating a new landing page from scratch, especially when it comes to running paid ads.  Other times you will be directing people to an existing page on your website.  When it comes to organic search, I like every page on the website to have all the elements of a landing page since you don't have total control over what pages people land on like you do with paid ads.

I like to have a contact form on every page of the website, or at least a button with a call to action that links to a contact form.  Since you are a local business you should also have your phone number and address, even embed a Google Map on the page for easy directions. From running local lead generation programs for almost 10 years I've learned that the more opportunities you give people to take action, the more often they will take action.

Here are some services that help you easily build custom landing pages.


Lead Pages

Thrive Leads (WordPress)

*For WordPress, many modern themes have visual page builders that letyou create landing pages without coding knowledge


#4 Sources For Local Traffic

This is not a comprehensive source of local traffic, but these are ones that I personally use and have found great results with.  Some of the options are free and some are paid.  We aren't going to go in depth into each one but if you find some that are of interest, click through to the link and find out more.


Google Adwords

With Google Adwords, you can create local search ad campaigns that target a specific area around your business.  You can create separate campaigns for different services or products that you offer.  Google Adwords is great for local lead generation as you can setup campaigns that target a local area and have those ads triggered when someone searches for what you are offering.  It doesn't get much more targeted than that.

Google Ad Sample Formats

In Google Adwords you have the ability to create text, image and video ads that you can target to your local area.

To get the most out of the local aspect, you can connect your Google My Business page (see below) and create what's called a location extension for your ad, which shows your location info pulled from your GMB page.


Facebook Ads

Facebook has so much information on its user that it's scary.  The Facebook ad platform allows you to target users by demographics, interests, and behaviors.  You can combine all of these to create some laser-focused targeting with your ads.

Sample Facebook Ad

Image Carousel Facebook Ad

You can target users using a radius around your location or service area as well as specific local targeting options such as Proximity Ads and Offer Claims.  You can even upload your own customer email list and target them with ads on Facebook. You can read more about the powerful targeting options available to you here.



Remarketing is having the ability to advertise to a person after they have left your website.  When someone visits your website, your remarketing code drops a tracking cookie on the user's device.  Once this cookie is placed, you now have the ability to reach these individuals across the internet with your online advertising long after they have left your website.

Remarketing is a great way to get extra mileage out of your other marketing efforts as most people won't convert on the first visit.  It is also great for products/services where there is a lot of competitor comparison shopping, repeat purchases or when you have an extended sales cycle.

When To Use Remarketing

Google Adwords and Facebook Ads have the largest and best-remarketing platforms on the internet.  You can target people using text, image and video ads as well as sponsored posts when using remarketing for Facebook.  The ROI is usually very good compared to other advertising options and the costs are fairly low since you are targeting a relatively small group of people.


Print Advertising

I'm not a big fan of offline advertising compared to the online advertising options available, but they can be effective if done right and can still be incorporated into your online lead generation strategy.  Under print advertising, I am lumping together direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads.

If you have a good landing page setup that includes a strong value proposition and offer, then you can drive offline people to your landing page with offline ads.  Once they are on your landing page, they become part of your overall online lead generation strategy where you can capture their contact information, become part of your Remarketing campaign or take any other action you ask people to take when they are on your landing page.  The point is, once they are on your website you have several options available to you for converting them or getting information to reach them in the future.

Here are some great copywriting tips from a master.


Local Website Content

This falls under the category of Local SEO, where you “localize” your content to focus on your immediate trade area.  Localized content can be blog posts, you homepage as well as service/product pages on your website.  Beyond SEO, quality local content is great for targeting a local market on social media.

Local content can be talking about specific neighborhoods in your area, talking about past projects you have done that mention your local area, creating local guides, as well as mentioning your local area on your homepage and service page copy.  It's not about stuffing keywords onto your page but to incorporate local references into your copy naturally.

Local Content

As you create more and more content concentrated to your local area, the search engines understand that your website is about a specific area and will (eventually) start to give your content some preference for searches in that area.  Very specific local content also has the advantage of having much less competition.

While this tactic won't create leads for you right away, it is a solid long-term strategy that can generate leads for you month after month once it takes hold.


Google My Business

A GMB page should be your first stop when it comes to a local marketing campaign.  It's 100% free, easy to setup and will give you local visibility in Google and will drive traffic to your website.

The GMB listing is triggered when a local search is performed in Google.  You'll know it's a local search result when the Google Map appears in the search results with those little pin drops that represent local businesses on the map.

A GMB listing will show visitors where you are located (or the service area you cover), your hours of operation, a description of your business, images, as well a link to your website.

Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is accurate and that you have completed every field, including adding photos of your business.


Bing Places

Bing Places is the free Bing version of Google My Business.  While Bing only represents about 15-20% of the search market, it is still a great source of traffic and well worth the time to create a local listing with them.

The features are very similar to GMB and can give you some great visibility in the Bing search engine without spending a dime.  Same as GMB, make sure you fill out the listing fully and completely for the best chance to be seen in the local search results.


Email Marketing

Email marketing is often overlooked as social media has gained in popularity when it comes to communicating with your audience.  Yet study after study finds that email marketing produces a much better ROI than social media and just about every other marketing channel.

The challenge for small businesses is usually building an email list and then figuring out what to send people.  There are many strategies in getting people to join your email list, but adding a very obvious sign-up box (or popup notification) on your website as well as getting email addresses offline is a first step.  If you are consistent and give people a good reason for joining (coupon, discount, free guide, etc), then you should be able to build a solid email list over time.

If you are new to email marketing, you can use an email marketing platform like MailChimp, which offers a nice free account to get started.  If email marketing will be a cornerstone in your overall marketing strategy, then using marketing automation might make sense.


Get Started

Yes, that was a lot to take in but it should give you a solid start in creating a local lead generation strategy for your business.  The key is to have a plan before you get started and to know who your target customer is and what would motivate them to buy from you.

Small businesses usually don't have big marketing budgets so it's important to plan things out in advance so you don't waste your precious marketing budget.

Have questions about creating a local online lead generation strategy for your business?  Contact us here.