Last week’s blog focused on the building blocks of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We discussed some basic concepts like relevance via keywords, proper labeling using metadata, and the importance of site security, speedy load times, and good site organization. All of these topics deal with on-page SEO, and you have direct control over them. However, there are other components of SEO over which you don’t have direct control. Things like your perceived authority and trustworthiness in your industry, how much time visitors spend on your site, backlinks, and even social media activity impact your website’s search ranking. As you already know, smart marketing shouldn’t leave this much to chance. So let’s take a look at these influential items and discuss how each can be harnessed for better SEO.
My husband frequently says, “control the controllable.” I’m not sure if wiser words have ever been spoken, at least when it comes to SEO. As I’ve mentioned before, your on-page SEO has an impact on the rest of the SEO equation. A quality website goes a long way in establishing trust and authority, and is also vital to providing a good experience for your visitors, thus impacting how long they hang around. It will even help with backlinks; reputable organizations and individuals will be far more willing to link to your site if it’s high quality. But, if you want to make sure that you are doing all you can to better your search engine results, here are a few suggestions that can help you control what you can.
Establishing Trust and Authority
Trust is earned and authority is established over time. Below are some basics for building both.
Give Your Visitors a Reason to Spend Time on Your Site, and to Come Back
Getting people to click through to your site is good, keeping them there is better, and getting them to come back is best.
Use Social Media Effectively
Social media isn’t just social anymore. Your organization’s activity on social media affects your search ranking, so you want to make sure that you are using it well.
Cultivate Backlinks to Your Site
Backlinks will drive traffic to your site and will also establish trust and authority.
There are many more ways that you can boost your SEO, but these are some of the tried and true tactics for achieving better search ranking. SEO is a marathon, so unless you want to pay for advertising on Google, don’t expect quick changes. You should track your results though, just to make sure that things are going in the right direction. Google Analytics is a great tool to keep track of how well your SEO strategies are working. If you don’t have an account, get one. It’s the best way to measure results and make sure you’re on track.
Unlocking the Secrets of How Your Website Content Can Help Your Search Rankings
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important topic for any business owner who has a website. If you rely on your website for leads and sales (and who doesn’t?), good SEO is vital. At first glance, SEO might seem complicated. Terms like keywords and metadata sound like a secret language used by digital marketing gurus and website developers to confound everyone else. And although there is a science and a required skill set necessary for implementing good SEO, it isn’t as complicated as you might think. Even if you choose to contract for SEO, which in many cases is a smart business decision, you still need to understand what SEO is and why it’s important. Read on to unlock the secrets of search engine optimization.
When I was in 5th grade, I had two teachers who insisted that we as students label everything, write clearly and concisely, and above all, stay organized. Little did I know that Sr. Paul and Mrs. Butler were teaching us the basics of search engine optimization long before the Internet was even imagined. Honestly, if you have these basic skills, you are 50% of way to driving traffic to your website. SEO experts agree that good website content is one of the most important building blocks in ranking on the first page of a Google search. There are obviously many other factors that contribute to high search rankings; things like click-through-rate, time visitors spend on your site, and backlinks are all important. But, you have control over your content, and one could argue that if your content is great, the other factors will automatically trend in your favor.
So what is good content? Below is a list of things that Google uses to assess the quality of your content:
In all industries there are certain people and organizations that are experts on particular topics. They are the field leaders, the trailblazers; the ones who have done the research, put in the time, and have more knowledge about their field than others. If you’re running a business, it’s a safe bet that you have expertise that sets you apart from others in your field. But that’s only half of the equation. Along with expertise, effective communication is a key ingredient for your business’s success. But being an expert in one area leaves little time to become an authority on communicating that expertise. Below are cost effective communication tips that can greatly impact your bottom line:
Run news releases on a regular basis:
Most industry journals have a news release section. Use this section to publicize new products, new hires, or anything else noteworthy about your company. Extra Tip: Before you send anything in, call the News Section Editor to introduce yourself and find out if they have submission guidelines. Often times, a quick phone call can make the difference between your news release making it to publication instead of ending up in the trash can.
Send a monthly or quarterly newsletter to your customer base:
It costs more money to get a new customer than to keep an existing one, so make sure that you are reaching out to your current customers on a regular basis. Email them a short newsletter every few weeks to inform them about what’s new with your business and the industry as a whole. Include interesting quotes or jokes as a regular feature. Photos and videos are other ways to make sure that your newsletter gets read. Extra Tip: When collecting email addresses from customers, always make sure that you have their permission to include them in your newsletter mailings, and that there is an “opt out” for those who have given permission but then change their minds.
Be active on social media:
At a minimum, your company should be on Facebook, but being active on Facebook, Linked in, and Twitter is best. Each platform is different, so make sure that you strike the right tone on each. As with electronic newsletters, photos and videos on Facebook get the most attention, while articles, photos, and videos are appropriate for Linked in. Keep it short and clever on Twitter. Extra Tip: With all social media, keep the timing of your posts consistent.
If you don’t have time to effectively communicate all your business has to offer, consider hiring a professional writer who can guide you through a marketing communication plan specifically designed for you. McIntire Writing Service will take the time to know you and your company and make sure that your voice and message come across in all of your on-line and written marketing material.
How well does your company present itself? The appearance of your building, the way your employees interact with your customers, and even the look of your website and social media accounts are factors in determining this. Admittedly, these are all important because they are typically the first things your customers notice, and we all know how significant first impressions are. But there are other, more subtle points that speak about your organization after a first impression is made: points that can make or break the way your customers view your company in the long run.
Although the list of finer observations people have about companies is long and subjective, one that many notice is grammar. Improper grammar in email, sales material, website content, newsletters, etc. can leave a measure of doubt about your professionalism that no organization can afford. Poor grammar is a common pet peeve, and more people notice grammatical errors than you might think. This month I’ll highlight some of the grammatical errors that I see most often.
Pronoun usage as subjects and objects of sentences can be tricky. When to use I instead of me is sometimes confusing. The examples below illustrate this point:
Mary and I enjoyed seeing our friends.
Mary and me enjoyed seeing our friends.
Our friends enjoyed seeing Mary and me.
Our friends enjoyed seeing Mary and I.
Most people know that the first sentence is correct and that the second sentence is not. However, not as many will recognize that the third sentence is correct and that fourth sentence is incorrect. The pronoun I should always be used as a sentence subject (the noun or pronoun completing the action in the sentence), and the pronoun me should always be used as a sentence object (the thing that is acted upon by the subject). They are not interchangeable.
The same rules apply for she and her, he and him:
Mary and he/she enjoyed seeing their friends.
Their friends enjoyed seeing Mary and him/her.
He and she should be used as subjects, while him and her should be used as objects.
A quick way to check if you are using these pronouns correctly is to allow them to stand alone in the sentence:
I enjoyed seeing our friends.
Our friends enjoyed seeing me.
He/She enjoyed seeing their friends.
Their friends enjoyed seeing him/her.
If the pronoun works on its own, it will work with other nouns and pronouns too.
The other very tricky pronouns that confound even some of the most grammar conscious are who, whom, whoever, and whomever. Who and whoever are always used as subjects; whom and whomever are always used as objects:
Who will pass the test?
I don’t know with whom I’ll study.
Whoever studies will pass.
I will study with whomever can help me.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to check if you are using these pronouns correctly. In the first and third sentences, it is correct to use he, she, or they in place of who or whoever studies.
Will he/she/they pass the test?
He/She/They will pass the test.
Since these pronouns are always used as subjects, we know that using the words who and whoever is correct.
If we were to rewrite the second and fourth sentences, we would use him, her, or them as replacements for with whom I’ll study and whomever can help me:
I don’t know if I’ll study with him/her/them.
I will study with him/her/them.
Since we know that him, her, and them are always used as objects, we can conclude that using whom and whomever in these sentences is correct.
Matching Subjects and Verbs
A well-constructed sentence matches subjects and verbs. A singular subject must always have a singular verb and a plural subject must always have a plural verb. In a simple sentence this is pretty much automatic. However, once a dependent phrase or clause is thrown into the mix, things can get confusing:
The girl, leading her dogs, walks to school.
The girl, leading her dogs, walk to school.
The first example is correct because girl, which is singular, is the subject of the sentence. A singular subject requires a singular verb, which in this case is walks. The confusion sets in because dogs is a plural noun and it is closer to the verb than girl. However, dogs is part of a dependent phrase, so it has no power over the verb being singular or plural.
Again, an easy way to check if you should use the singular or plural form of the verb is to read the sentence without the dependent phrase.
The girl walks to school.
If the sentence works without the dependent phrase, it will work when you add it back.
The apostrophe is a confusing and often misused punctuation mark. It has more than one use, and it can be used with all nouns, singular and plural, which means it has to adapt to the many irregularities inherent to the English language. To keep things simple initially, we’ll start with its easiest function: contractions.
Almost everyone has contractions down pat. We simply add an apostrophe and take away a couple of letters and combine two words into one:
I would becomes I’d
You are becomes you’re
I am becomes I’m
She is becomes she’s
Cannot becomes can’t
… and the list goes on.
However, its and it’s sometimes cause confusion. Remember that it is becomes it’s, just like all the other contractions, and its (no apostrophe) is used to show possession.
And this brings us to the next great use of the apostrophe, which causes even more confusion, showing possession:
If the dog belongs to the girl, it’s the girl’s dog.
If the dog belongs to the girls, it’s the girls’ dog.
If the dog belongs to the child, it’s the child’s dog.
If a noun is singular, we simply add an apostrophe and an s to show possession. If a noun is plural, ending in s, we just add an apostrophe. These situations are considered to be regular, and most people handle them quite well. However, in grammar, not every situation is regular, and this is where the problems arise. For example:
If the dog belongs to the children, it’s the children’s dog.
This gets confusing because the word children is plural, and some people think that this requires the apostrophe to be placed after the s. But, because there is no s already at the end of the word, the apostrophe is placed before the s, as it would be in a singular noun not ending in an s. In other words, because it isn’t the s that makes the word plural, but the form of the word that does, the apostrophe should be placed before the s.
The same is true for the words men and mice:
Men’s clothing is on the second floor.
The dog ate the mice’s cheese.
Nouns made plural in an irregular way can also cause confusion. Please see the examples below:
If one church makes a donation to a charity, it’s the church’s contribution.
If two churches pool funds to make a donation, it’s the churches’ contribution.
If one ferry has a captain, he’s the ferry’s captain.
If two ferries share a captain, she’s the ferries’ captain.
Spelling rules always apply first, and then the rules governing the apostrophe follow.
Sometimes a singular noun ends in s. It can be made to show possession in two ways, but whichever way you choose, keep it consistent:
The ball that belongs to Kris is either Kris’ ball or Kris’s ball.
Lastly, there are a few words in the English language that have singular and plural forms that are spelled the same way. We’ll use the word glasses (meaning spectacles) as an example:
Her glasses’ frame is metal.
Their glasses’ frames are metal.
The word glasses is irregular, but the rules for showing possession hold fast. In the first sentence, glasses is singular ending in s, so the apostrophe goes after the s. In the second sentence, glasses is plural, so the apostrophe also goes after the s. Oddly enough, the same explanation applies to the word spectacles.
I hope this clears up some common misconceptions that might be causing you and your organization to not look your best in front of your customers and potential customers. If it’s time for your organization to outsource your writing or marketing tasks, or if you just need help with a project, give McIntire Writing Service a call at (603) 770-9288. Let us take care of the writing so you can take care of your business.
You already know that websites, email marketing, and social media posts are an important component of a strong marketing plan. Electronic communication is vital in building awareness of your brand, and an on-line presence is expected for almost every product. You’re likely familiar with the digital vehicles for getting your message out, but are you using them correctly? Make sure your on-line presence is a promotional boost and not a drag by following these tips.
Sell Benefits, Not Features
You know your product inside and out and you know how valuable it is, otherwise you never would have gone to the trouble of bringing it to the marketplace. You are probably quite good at explaining your product’s features, but are you letting your potential customers know how these features benefit them? Features are important, but benefits are critical. There is a lot of noise on-line, and you are always competing to be heard. You only have a small window of opportunity to capture your customers’ attention, so you better grab it before they move on to the next distraction. If you let them know immediately how your product is going to make their lives easier, or make them happy, rich, productive, comfortable, etc., they are far more likely to stick around to hear about the features your product has to offer. And, the longer you can keep someone’s attention, the more likely you are to make a sale. It can be all too easy to focus on how great your product is, but your customer is far more interested in how your product will help them. Keep your customers’ needs in mind, and your customers will keep you in mind.
Know Your Customer
Knowing who is already buying your product and who else will benefit from your product is important information for creating your digital marketing plan. What type of customer is already purchasing your product? What activities does he or she enjoy? Where and how is this customer buying your product? How did he or she find out about your product, and why did this person spend hard-earned money to make the purchase? Finally, who isn’t buying your product that you think would benefit from doing so, and why aren’t they buying? The answers to these questions are a road map to increased sales. If you can use this information to develop a profile of your ideal customer, you can figure out how to accurately speak to him or her and deliver a message that will eventually lead to a sale. Taking the time to understand your customers and potential customers as individuals can help you effectively target whom you are trying to reach and then use the right language to connect with them.
Sometimes It Isn’t What You Say, but Where You Say It
Location, location, location is a popular phrase in the real estate market, but it’s just as relevant for on-line marketing. You can come up with a well-written message that resonates perfectly with your target customer, but if you don’t put it in the right place, it’s useless. You need to know where to find your customers, and they need to know where to find you. If knowing your customer is a key to sales, knowing where that customer spends time on-line will unlock the door.
Do your customers and potential customers favor Facebook and Pinterest, or is Instagram more their style? Do they use Linked In? Are they looking for training or information that you can provide with a blog? Is an email blast the most efficient way to reach your market? Taking time to find the answers to these questions will tell you where your product should take up an on-line residence.
Chances are very good that your customers are on some type of social media, so if you can properly use this medium to advertise your product, it will be to your benefit. Post videos, graphics, photos, and ads to let everyone know what’s new with your product line, your employees, and even your industry. You can use social media to inform about product releases, new hires, retirements, and any community activity in which your organization is involved. There are varying opinions about how much posting is too much or not enough. My feeling is that you should have a consistent presence. In other words, don’t post daily the first week of the month and then drop off until mid-month, and finally pick up to twice a day at the end of the month. You should have a set plan or strategy for how often you appear on your customers’ feeds, and it should consider how frequently you have interesting and relevant information to share. Remember that social media is a casual way to promote your product, so keep it fun and light, but never sacrifice your credibility by getting too cute; always maintain your professionalism. Finally, measure your progress and then adjust your plan accordingly.
Sending out regular email blasts is another way to engage your on-line audience. This is a more formal approach to marketing, so make sure that you stick to your message, present a high level of professionalism, and always direct recipients to your website. If you’ve posted a blog or an important announcement on social media, use an email blast to publicize it.
Writing a blog is a great way to establish your company as an industry leader, and it’s an even better way to get your customers and potential customers to visit your website. A weekly or monthly blog will keep them informed about new products and the benefits those products provide, update them on trends within the industry, and let them know what’s happening inside your organization. Using your blog as an educational tool will establish trust between your organization and your target market. Circling back, remember to use social media and email to announce your blog and where it is located, and make sure you post your blog according to a consistent schedule.
Your website is the on-line face of your company, so make sure your customers know where to find it. You should constantly be directing your customers and potential customers to it with all of your marketing communication vehicles, both print and digital. This being said, it is imperative that you frequently update your site so that it remains interesting, informative, and fresh. Videos and photos from company events, community service activities, trade shows, etc. are great ways to engage your customers. A weekly or monthly spotlight on an employee or a product, or graphics and charts educating about industry trends are valuable to share. As mentioned previously, a periodic blog is also a big draw. Invite your customers to write testimonials to share on your website. As long as you keep it professional, your website can be the prime way that your customers get to know your company and product line.
In conclusion, whether your are marketing a product or a service, selling business to business or business to consumer, on-line marketing is vital. By incorporating these ideas and guidelines into your overall marketing plan, you will be well on your way to building a strong digital presence with a loyal on-line community that will help grow your business.