With the drastic increase in mobile usage, Google has been striving to deliver a friendlier mobile experience to its users. The shift from “local 7-pack” to “local 3-pack” is an attempt from the search engine giant to cater to the mobile screens.
This new focus on mobile is urging local businesses to make changes to the way they are conducting their online listing to stay on top of the search. Some small changes in SEO technique could prevent a business from taking a hit on their online visibility due to drops in their search rankings.
What is Google’s “Local 3-pack”?
Simply put, Google used to show the company information, or “cards”, for seven local companies in the search results on the first page; now they’ve trimmed that down to three.
As a result, Google changed the information that users see when they conduct searches for a specific type of business or service. For example, the local cards for the top seven results used to be prominently displayed at the top of the search results; now, the name, reviews and the type of business are displayed for the top three business on mobile. If a user wants more information, they must click on one of the businesses, which leads the user to that business’s local card. If searching from a computer, the local card for the selected business will still be shown but a map will also be displayed along with the contact information and location of 20 other similar businesses.
Why it matters?
What Factors Affect Search Results?
The proximity of the user conducting the search is the number one factor in the local three pack rankings. If a user is standing directly outside of a business and searches for what it specializes in, then it’s likely that the business will be the first to show up in the search results. Since users are often at a distant physical location when they do a search on Google where more factors are taken into consideration, we want to explore some of the other factors that affect the search rankings .
Here are 4 tips that you can easily implement to enhance your local ranking on Google:
I. Having up-to-date information about the business on the Google My Business
This means that there should be a good description, as many high-quality photos as possible, the correct telephone number, address and business hours.
Note: For businesses with multiple locations, in the Google My Business listings, the correct phone number for each location should be listed and the name of location should not be included with the name of the business.
Example: A pizza shop located in the town of Carlisle would be called “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop” as opposed to “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop-Carlisle”
Google will check these against local directories and the company’s website to make sure that everything matches. If a discrepancy is found, this could hurt the business’ position in the local rankings. Make sure that this information is correct and up-to-date.
II. Increase your reviews on Google and other directories, such as Yelp.
How to encourage customers to review your business online:
1. Don’t post fake reviews. Google and other websites do have ways to weed out fake reviews and if they find these, your company could drop in the rankings.
2. Actively encourage patrons to review your business. A little bit of tact could be helpful here. If customers feel like you are begging for good reviews, this could hurt your chance of getting a review and paint the business in a bad light in the customer’s eyes.
3. Respond to any negative reviews promptly. It’s important for the business to acknowledge the customer’s complaint and to inquire as to what may be done to fix the problem. If appropriate, the business can work with the reviewer to find a remedy to the situation (and hopefully receive a better review after retaining the relationship).
4. Don’t neglect the positive reviews! Write a quick thank-you note to show your audiences that you appreciate their support.
III. Categorize your company appropriately.
If a company find that it is not doing well in a certain category, one option is to try to specialize the category that your business is under. An example would be changing the category of a grocery store that specializes in selling natural or organic items from “grocery store” to “health food store”.
IV. Have a mobile responsive site.
Google recently started giving preferential treatment to businesses with mobile responsive sites to provide for a better experience when people are browsing the web from their phone.
Getting a top spot in the Google search results takes ongoing efforts on the part of the business. Any changes to business products and services, location, telephone number, or operating hours should be updated immediately to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available. If a company finds that it’s no longer ranking well under a certain category, experiment with different categories and track the results to find out if there is a category that receives a better response. Finally, monitor your online reviews regularly, and quickly respond to any negative reviews.
With some time and effort, businesses can increase their chances in landing one of the top three spots.
What’s your favorite local SEO tip? Please share in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This is a collaborative piece with Alexandra Vidákovics from Market Inspector.
Due to the growing amount of complex data available in the world today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been flooding the world with predictions about its potentials and promises. However, AI is often only associated with large corporations and might seem too impersonal, expensive, or out-of-reach for smaller businesses with limited data and resources.
Even though most successful startups and small businesses are ambitious when it comes to implementing new ideas and technologies, no business should rush into using or building AI softwares without having a clear business objective. In addition, there are other factors to consider in order to prepare for the future with AI. SMBs should focus on building solid data infrastructure first to make sure their data is easily retrievable using compatible formats. As a next step they can start implementing AI-integrated, easy-to-use technology products that are currently available on the market.
This infographic was originally published by Market Inspector and presents 12 AI powered tools that are simple and cost-effective. Apply these affordable tips to your business to improve workflow and grow revenue.
What kind of AI solution does your organization employ? Share in the comments below!
Social media and content marketing have dramatically changed the sales process over the past 10+ years. In the “Mad Men” days, sales people acted as the gateway to a company’s information. You know the drill: Sally needs to hire so and so for xyz. She grabs the phone book and looks up a business and gives them a call to receive more information. Depending on the industry, a meeting would be set up and a series of visits and follow up calls would proceed. The process was often long and drawn out.
Nowadays, 57-70% of B2B buyers are done researching a business by the time they contact a seller. This means that everything a business does online is a sales opportunity.
Here are some tips that businesses can use to make sure they are utilizing their online presence:
What are you doing to optimize your online presence? Please share in the comments below!
Originally published by ClickTime.
Depending on who you ask, retaining customers is either valuable — or really, really valuable.
By some estimates, a repeat customer is the equivalent of striking gold. One study found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increased a business’s profits by 25% to 95%. On the other hand, the cost of acquiring a new customer can be steep: anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than the cost of retaining an existing one.
Cut down on expenses and increase your profit, all in one marketing strategy. Customer retention doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when your business is well established. Focus less on reaching new customers, and more on increasing the frequency and spend amount of the customers you already have. Here are five ways to increase customer retention and start growing your revenue to new heights.
1. Figure out where you’re losing customers.
There are two benefits to digging into your retention rates to see where you’re losing customers. The first, obviously, is you begin to identify areas where your customer experience can begin to improve. Are people frustrated trying to navigate your online ordering process? Is your customer service failing to resolve their issue? Do they feel disconnected from your brand after being loyal customers for so many years? When a customer closes their account or decides to stop frequenting your business, send them an email to find out why. If sending a personal email feels uncomfortable, send them a survey. You can also start to pay attention to your online reviews — and follow up directly to learn more about your customer feedback. When customer experience is the root of the problem, a better time tracker can make employees more aware of their tasks and ultimately provide better service.
The second benefit? By asking these questions, you begin to build a personal relationship with your customers. Not many companies take the time to connect directly with their clients. Even if you may not convince someone to return to your business, you will start to build a reputation as someone who cares.
2. Increase customer retention by building personal relationships.
Customers — especially millennials — want the brands they shop from to be more “authentic.” What does that mean? They want transparency, great customer service, and a personal touch. Again, customers want to see that there’s a human person behind the businesses they frequent. Look to Everlane’s “Radical Transparency” or Harry’s Shave Club for inspiration on how to make transparency work for you.
To be more authentic, you need to be committed to being honest, open, and personal. If a customer doesn’t trust you, they will find a company they can trust. Look for ways to recognize your customer as an individual with personal touches: hand-written notes, small gifts and remembering birthdays are all details that can go a long way. Even when you mess up — and every company messes up at some point — be sincere about what went wrong and open about your process to fix the problem.
3. Make your customers feel they’re part of something bigger.
It’s easier for customers to switch companies if they do not perceive any differentiated value between your company and your competitors. One way to create value in your brand? Include customers in a larger social mission. Research shows that customers are likely to ignore brands that don’t “stand for anything.” Of customers who cited they had a strong relationship with a brand, 64% reported their “shared values” as the primary driver behind that relationship.
Start by identifying who your best customers are. If you’re a local business, think about what issues in the community you can support: the local animal shelter, for example, or donating to a food drive. If your company is bigger, dive into your data to get a clear picture of your customers’ goals, pain points, and desires. Then, craft a mission statement that mirrors their language and goals.
4. Use customer accounts to make it easy for repeat purchases.
Getting your customers to set up an online account can be a tricky proposition. Some customers may not want that level of commitment: they may be wary of sharing their personal data with a business. But, customer accounts make repurchasing much easier (and pre-filled shipping information can be enough incentive for a customer to sign up!).
One tactic you may take to lead customers to create accounts? Provide the option to “create account” after the first order has been placed. This does not disrupt the checkout flow or distract someone from finishing their final purchase. At the same time, once someone has an account, it becomes much easier to retain their business. Some platforms will even allow your business to send email invitations to activate their account after the purchase is complete. If your business runs on a membership model, make sure you have a membership management software to manage members, payments, events, and more.
5. Start a customer loyalty program with perks!
Everyone loves free stuff! It turns out loyalty can be bought: and surprising your loyal customers with great perks can lead to much higher lifetime value. Discounts and free rewards are the obvious extras you can offer your best customers.
Don’t be afraid to get a little more creative. If you’re running a B2B company, reward your customers by returning the favor (customer loyalty programs, anyone?) — and using their products or services when you can. Use your social media channels to do a little cross-promotion, or let a customer take over your account for the day. Some companies will tie their rewards back to their mission — REI’s Co-Op Dividend and American Express’ Small Business Saturday are a great examples of this. Show your customers you appreciate them, and they will return the favor!
So you are well on your way to master the art of blogging and social media. You have gathered a large community of followers in the 6 digits and counting, and you’ve been honored as a top contributor on sites like Twitter or Quora. That’s great! Well done! But now what? How are you capitalizing on your online presence?
Well, the first thing you could do is compile an email list and start emailing people, but don’t be too salesy on the first contact. Read on for some other dos and don’ts of email marketing.
DON’T: Email every one of your followers with one template.
DO: Segment your audiences and target the ones who will most likely benefit from your services with a well-thought-out message.
Not every one of your followers is active consumers in your market niche. Find the ones who are and craft an email that addresses the interests and needs of that group. You may want to further segment your recipients by location, gender, age, race, etc. and create different templates that cater to each segment. This is your first point of contact, make sure it makes impact.
DON’T: Skim on the subject line.
DO: Experiment with different subject lines to find your sweet spot.
The subject line is a science. People get hundreds of emails each day and many don’t get opened at all. To minimize the chance that your message gets auto-thrown into the trash (or spam) box, you need to come up with an eye-catching and appropriately formatted subject line. Return Path looked at over 2 million emails from 3000 retailers and found that, contrary to popular belief, subject lines between 61 and 70 characters had the highest open rate. This doesn’t mean that your subject line must be in that length to get opened—especially with mobile devices now only displaying 25-35 characters—but it does demonstrate a link between length and open rate. Therefore, invest some time in your subject lines and experiment around to find ones that work best for you.
DON’T: Crowd your message with lots of images.
DO: Opt for clean, mobile-friendly layouts.
Did you know that two-thirds of emails are read on mobile devices? (Marketing Land, 2015) Design accordingly to ensure that your messages look great on all platforms. You might consider adopting a single column template, follow the iOS guidelines on button sizes (at least 44px x 44px), use bigger fonts to improve readability on mobile phones and make your call-to-action link easy to access. Lastly, when it comes to pictures, less is more. Use fewer but effective images that best represent your products and intentions, and make sure your image attributes are thoughtful and descriptive.
DON’T: Address the recipient by her first name.
DO: Personalize your message with its content.
This one really depends on your level of engagement with the recipient on other platforms. In most cases, if you’re emailing them for the first time, it’s better to address them by their proper title. This is because familiarity needs to be earned. Due to the increasing concerns surrounding email phishing, identity theft, and credit fraud, consumers may be wary of informal greetings from strangers. Instead, personalize your message with its body content. For example, list recommendations based on the recipients browsing history or introducing a service that’s very specific to their needs.
DON’T: Be too salesy in your first email.
DO: Implement call-to-action naturally.
The first impression can make or break your conversion process, so craft your verbiage sensitively. Your first email shouldn’t be about selling your products. That’ll come later of you do things right. Rather, continue to offer quality contents to further engage your reader. Remember that in a consumer’s mind, the best content is free content. Bridge the gap between blogging and selling by offering a limited free-subscription or a sample of your product, then naturally make the call to action by asking for permission to continue this line of communication. My personal favorite call-to-action line is from Poncho (weather app): “this is awkward for me, but would you want to hang out outside of email?” It’s cute and inviting.
DON’T: Send schedule emails around your convenience.
DO: Monitor your open rates to establish the optimal day and time.
Marketing 101 tells us that we should reach the consumer as close to their point of decision as possible. Same goes for email marketing. If your email reaches the recipient just as she’s checking her Gmail, then it’ll have a better chance of being read. Therefore, don’t limit yourself to the 9-5 schedule. Studies have found that 8pm-12 midnight and 6am also have good open rates. Check out this CoSchedule blog for statistics on email days and times, and play around with the schedule to find the most effective times for you. As a general guideline, you want to shoot for a 10%-15% click-to-open rate (CTOR).
BONUS: Do use email marketing as your retention strategy.
Give your inactive subscribers a little nudge with a re-engagement campaign. Reach out to them to make sure that they’re still satisfied with their services and update them on new products. The sustainability of your business relies on your longtime client base. Email marketing is a wonderful way to personally thank them for their loyalty.
I hope these email marketing tips will bring you closer to your CTOR goals. Please share your best practices in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Helen Clark, an associate of Research Optimus.
Market research is pretty much mandatory in today’s business world. The landscape has seen a shift; businesses have unprecedented access to a vast amount of information. Those who learn how to utilize this information are discovering new levels of success. Even small businesses have access to this vast network of information. The problem is that while large corporations might have six-figure budgets to invest in research, small businesses have limitations. Don’t let those limitations stop you! Here are ten tips for finding ways to perform market research inexpensively.
Always Have a Questionnaire Ready
Make sure that you take the time to develop a questionnaire so that it’s crisp and objective. Then have it ready to hand out to people. Creating in-house surveys is an affordable way to gather data from real customers, so it’s important that you tap into this source of information. Almost every successful company has a system for getting their customers to fill out questionnaires. Look at your receipt next time you go shopping, and you’ll see for yourself. In order to create your questionnaire, you’ll need to define the objective, develop questions, and then find a way to convince people to fill it out. Companies normally offer discount codes to those who fill out their quick surveys.
Create an Online Marketing Survey
This is probably the most affordable option available for polling consumers who have never used your business. Polls are one form of online surveys. They are generally taken on social media or across blogs. Aside from polls though, there are websites like Survey Monkey and Easy Polls that will host your surveys for a small fee. They allow you to target specific demographics so the information will match your needs. Surveys help you discover ways to make your products better and to provide services that your competitors do not.
Develop a CRM System
Most businesses focus on gathering data from numerous outside sources but forget about the data they already have. If you don’t already have one, you need to develop a CRM system so that you are gathering real data from your current customers. This system is very cheap to install and implement, but that’s not even the best part. It gives you high-quality information about your current consumers.
Analyze the Competition
By knowing your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to make slight changes that differentiate your business. Everything you have done up to this point should provide you with a wealth of information about your competition. This step is more about analyzing that data. Try to forecast what your competition will do in the future. Determine ways to offer products/services that offset the weaknesses of your competition. For example, Apple products are wonderful, but their weakness is cost. They are expensive. Therefore, other businesses offer more affordable products to pull in customers who are unable to afford the high costs of Apple products.
News and Trade Journals
This is a secondary source of research that is used by a lot of businesses. Subscribe to magazines within your niche. Read online journals. Anytime one of your competitors makes a change, you will see it in news and trade journals. Trust me when I say that there’s always a reason behind a successful company making changes. It could be a shift in the market. Maybe they have forecast a future trend that they want to set up for? Keeping up with business news allows you to use their movement as a sign, so all you’ll have to do at that point is determine what that sign means.
Consider Hiring Interns for Research
There are several tasks that an intern can help with when it comes to research. The most obvious is that they can browse the internet, researching your niche and creating a detailed report for you. Interns can also visit places to personally deliver questionnaires to the market. Every questionnaire you get back is more data entered into the system.
Transform Events into Research Venues
Do you attend conferences and trade shows? If so, then this serves as a wonderful opportunity to get to know your target market. A little face-on-face time can go a long way. If you do not attend conferences and trade shows, then consider adding them to your schedule.
Use Social Media to CrowdSource Research
Facebook is an amazing platform to engage with your target market. You can ask simple questions and let your followers answer them. This will lead to conversations that you can read. The sheer amount of information you can get here is incredible. For example, make it a weekly thing to post a question. Then give it a few days to brew, go back in and read all of the comments and create a report.
Use Information That’s Already There
You’ll be surprised at how many studies you can find online that have already been conducted by companies in your niche. Don’t ignore these; use them to your advantage. You can either hire a virtual assistant or allow an intern to do this work for you. I don’t recommend doing this yourself because it’s a real drain on time.
Hire a Research Firm
Your final option is to hire a market research firm to take care of this for you. This is by far the easiest solution, but it does cost money. However, when you figure in the time it would take you to follow through with the nine steps in this post, that cost is justified. Plus, the information you receive will be of much higher quality.
If you do choose to hire a research firm, consider using our services at Research Optimus.
The overall goal of market research is to either confirm a hypothesis you might have about your market or to gain insight so you can predict future trends. Small businesses must be able to separate themselves from everyone else. This can only be done if you can figure out what it is that consumers want that is not being offered by your competition. Then you simply build your product/service around that idea.
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