How can you tell if your marketing company and you are on the same page? It can be a little tricky, but there are a few things that may raise some red flags that you should pay attention to.
First, you need to understand the basic difference between bad marketing and good marketing. Here’s some simple direction:
If you can convince an audience that they need something, odds are they’ll buy it. You should avoid marketing tactics that attempt to manipulate the consumer, especially with facts and figures that are hard to substantiate. You’ve worked hard to develop a brand reputation, and these practices dilute those efforts. If one customer feels as though they’ve been talked into something or misled, you’ve lost ground in customer service, even if you made the sale.
Think about the best customer service experiences you’ve had. They probably include friendly staff, fair pricing, no restrictions, and customer-focused solutions, just to name a few. Based on your positive experiences, statistically, you are more likely to return to that business. Why? Because someone helped you solve a problem rather than selling you something.
If you’re doing it right, customer interactions should look and feel like conversations, not sales pitches. The customer might need your help, but they can usually see right through a sales pitch. Providing helpful solutions to problems is the basis for good customer service. And good customer service makes for good marketing.
Contracted marketing services are the bane of the business world. Many of the companies who come to us have been through the ringer of marketing contracts. They’re surprised to hear that we offer monthly recurring services with no obligation to continue further.
While ROI can be tricky to calculate in digital marketing, you should always have access to tracking data. Your reach and engagement should be accessible to you. If it’s not provided with your marketing services, you have every right to question the value you’re getting.
Point of contact
Who is your person? You don’t want to be handed off to another “account manager” every time someone leaves the company. You may have to interact with a few different people in an organization based on the various services you’re paying for, but it’s totally acceptable to ask for one point of contact.
Insist on a quarterly meeting with your contact to review your results and plan for the next quarter. There should not be a charge for this meeting, and you should expect to see some reports. Be up front if they are not performing to the expectation that was agreed upon at the beginning. A little pressure is good for customer service!
Sprout strives to offer a great product with outstanding customer service. We hope you’ll see us in this blog, because it’s based on the things we do best. We’re a business just like you, and we understand your needs. Get in touch with us today!
Websites…we all have them. In fact, today’s business owners are practically expected to be internet marketers to some degree. Putting an ad in the town paper or on a placemat at the local diner just doesn’t generate a whole lot of cash flow anymore.
It’s common knowledge that people search for businesses on their smartphones. Anyone who’s looking for a local coffee roastery, bicycle repair shop, or craft brewery is going to pull out their phone and search online. Over sixty percent of searches around the world are made on portable devices, and those numbers are only going up.
We know you started your business because you had a passion for sharing your passion. But as the years bring new changes, small business owners need to adapt their online marketing game to stay competitive. If you don’t, you’re going to lose business.
As a small business, your website is an important asset. Not only is it possible for your site to bring in leads and increase revenue, but it should be doing this. You can experience the very real growth that comes from being found in searches, contacted with inquiries, and rewarded with sales. It’s not a matter of whether or not consumers are searching, because they are. And if they’re not finding your website and contacting you, it’s because they’re finding someone else.
You should start by having your current website reviewed by a digital marketing team you can trust. We offer a free website review tool that serves as a great starting point. Just type in your URL and click “review.”
Before you decide to go with one of the “big guys,” think twice. Massive online marketing companies will often rope you into expensive contracts, with absolutely no guarantee of results. You don’t need that. You need a quality website and affordable pricing that’s scaled to meet your needs.
So, what are the marks of an outstanding website? Let’s find out.
A great website design combines beauty and functionality. Your website needs to be easy for anyone to navigate and use. But it also needs to be eye-catching, with harmonious colors and quality images. There are plenty of statistics about visual content and how critical it is in keeping viewers. Without great graphic design, many visitors will often leave your site, or “bounce,” within seconds.
Your website should be a clean, unique, consistent picture of your brand. Think about small businesses you know with killer websites. They have a “feel,” don’t they? That’s called brand consistency, and it’s proven to retain viewers and compel them to action. 90% of the information we take in online is visual, and that’s why you need a graphic designer.
Our graphic designers are educated in design, and they create beautiful websites for a living. They stay on the cutting edge of industry practices. They know their programs inside and out. And best of all, they work with business owners personally to craft a custom look and feel.
A beautiful website is just a virtual paperweight if it can’t be found in online searches. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what brings your site to the first page of Google. Part of what gets it there is written content, but there are plenty of other factors as well. SEO includes both on-page content that reflects the key search terms in your industry, as well as numerous technical features that operate behind-the-scenes.
Many businesses have their website redesigned, only to discover afterwards that it is not optimized for searches. This defeats the purpose! A good web design process starts with the end in sight. What are your keyword goals? What do you want to be found for in searches?
We all know about mobile friendly, or mobile responsive websites, so we’ll go a little deeper. In many industries, mobile search makes up over sixty to seventy percent of all searches. That’s why great websites are built with three different layouts, or breaking points. There’s the desktop design, the tablet design, and the smartphone layout. Each version of the site automatically adjusts to fit the device it’s being viewed from. Not only does this make for a smoother customer experience, but it improves speed.
We build websites with dozens of customizable options, including mobile dropdown menus, Apple touch icon and favicon, large text and call-to-action buttons, animations, and more.
Reliability is part of being relevant. A relevant company responds promptly to leads they receive through their contact form. Reliability means that your site is secure from malware and hackers. Your hosting company is reputable, your pages don’t break, and your web inquiries come through consistently via email or text messages.
When a website is built to be a reliable asset, it doesn’t just sit there. It has analytics that track exactly how people are finding you in searches, which pages they visit, how long they stay, even what device they’re searching from! A reliable website is fast, functional, and compatible on any device. It works for you.
Once your website has its foot in the door with Google and people are finding it through search, it’s important that you lead them somewhere–either to a direct sale or a web form inquiry. This is another place where words get to shine.
Our writers have an important job, and that is to tell an engaging story on each page of your website. The story has rich keywords in all the right places, helping Google identify and display it in searches. Our copy writers are educated in creative writing, and they work with you to ensure that your message is delivered accurately and communicated beautifully.
All the elements of your website should combine into a consistent message that converts visitors into leads.
When it comes to the quality of small business websites, the range is astounding. Some small businesses have consistent branding and design, great visual and written content, and their sites are well optimized for mobile devices and online search. Other websites are static, poorly designed, lacking SEO, and just plain outdated.
At Sprout, each new website we create for small businesses is, simply put, outstanding. Our team of marketing strategists, designers, writers, and IT specialists come together to build a professional, custom website for your business. We include all the best practices, at a price that blows away the competition.
Experience the personal care and attention that Sprout offers, and find out what it’s like to have your website working for you. Get a free quote on a website makeover!
Many small businesses don’t get found in online searches as much as they’d like. Even fewer get consistent leads and business from their websites. This is something that can change, and it has for many of our SEO clients.
At Sprout, we offer something called an SEO Boost. The goal of this service is to increase your visibility in Google searches. The boost involves rewriting the copy on your website to be optimized for searches, and cleaning up back-end errors that are hurting your website’s search ranking with Google.
Let’s start with some hard figures. SEO services are often outrageously expensive, and nearly unaffordable for small businesses. An article by Search Engine Watch says you can expect to pay between $750-5,000 per month for effective SEO services from any number of the “big guys.”
Ready for this? Our clients at Sprout pay a one-time cost of $800 to have four major service pages boosted. After that, many choose to get on our SEO maintenance plan: $100 per landing page (product or service page), per month. On this plan, we monitor and maintain the SEO on their websites, leading to consistent improvements. The majority of these clients receive increases in traffic and inbound leads on their sites.
1.) We meet you. Either in person or on the phone, we want to get to know you and your company.
2.) We interview you. We ask about your service area, your selling points, the problems you solve for consumers, what makes you unique.
3.) We write for you. Our writers will take usable content from your current site, write new copy, and optimize it all using keyphrases, titles, meta descriptions, and other SEO elements.
4.) We send you the copy. We share these documents with the business owner or marketing manager. They read each page carefully, provide one round of edits, then give us approval to publish the pages.
5.) We publish the pages. We log into your website, create the new pages, then submit those pages to Google so they can become searchable.
6.) We test the pages. We run the new pages through an SEO report and fix any minor errors we find.
If you choose the SEO boost by itself, you’ve made a great decision, and your site will very likely begin improving in search results over the next several weeks. After a boost, many sites climb in the search rankings and achieve first page status for certain keyword searches.
However, SEO is like exercise. You can go to the gym once and do a killer workout, or you can go every day and see steady, consistent results. With the SEO boost and maintenance plan, you do both.
With SEO maintenance, we’re on your team for the long haul. We start by creating and optimizing a Google Business Account, helping you establish a presence in local search via Google Maps.
We monitor your Google Analytics reports, watching for page traffic increases and bounce rates. We perform manual searches for hundreds of varieties of keyphrases in your industry, keeping an ongoing record of where you rank in searches, and where you’re improving or slipping.
Sometimes, Google updates its search criteria in ways that affect the way websites are ranked. If you’re on our maintenance plan, we see when you slip in the rankings. If this happens, we reassess the initial work we did on your SEO and provide updates, free of charge.
It’s important to know that there’s no magic with SEO. It’s highly technical, and it involves precise interactions between your website, Google’s search robots, algorithms, and most unpredictably: consumer searches and market trends.
These 3 things can prevent leads, even with great SEO:
Without SEO, you’re missing out on local business. An SEO boost is just that–an initial leap towards a stronger web presence. SEO maintenance is the long-term relationship that only gets sweeter with time. Want to try it out? Come on board for a few months! If you’re not satisfied, there’s no obligation to continue. We don’t do contracts, we form relationships. Talk with someone at Sprout today!
Branding is the soup of the day. Every business everywhere is branded in some way, and some are doing much better than others.
Branding is the essence and flavor of your company, given off by a combination of things that we’ll get to in a minute. When a company is well branded, you hardly notice unless you’re looking for it. When a company has no branding whatsoever, they stick out like an ill-defined thumb.
Let’s talk about the 6 elements of branding and look at some examples.
Logo. Imagine that! Your company needs a logo. Actually, it needs at least two logos, including a square icon version and a wide banner version. When companies come to us without a logo, we set them up with a trusted resource called 99designs. This company produces multiple logo options for businesses to choose from, all created by professional designers. While we don’t design in-house, we help you select a professional quality logo.
Fonts. Part of your brand is the fonts you choose. Do you do high-end catering? Try an elegant script. Are you a technology company? Try a crisp, wide-set serif font. Independent coffee shop? Maybe a monospaced font (think typewriter). The bottom line is, you need to choose 2-3 separate fonts. One is for your largest, boldest headings. One is for sub-categories, and one is for paragraph copy. These 3 fonts are part of your brand, and you should not stray from them in any of your printed or digital materials. Ever.
Colors. The colors you choose can make or break your brand. When you have a website designed by Sprout, we work closely with you to establish a color palette that suits the aura of your business. For interior designers, shades of ocean blue or lilac work well. For high-tech, dark greys and brick reds are an option. Cleaning companies might prefer blues and greens. A color palette is the range of colors you can choose from for all your marketing. Palettes are made up of base colors, subdued colors, and accent colors. You will have up to ten specific shades to choose from in your final palette, all of which work well with each other. Do not stray from these…they’re the foundation of your brand! Stick with the exact HEX or RBG code or your colors. Just because green is in your brand, that doesn’t mean any green will work. Check out Lime green (#00FF00) versus office green (#008000).
Design. This is one of the broadest elements of branding. It ranges from your website design, the graphics you create for social media, printed materials, email campaigns, and more. Your designs should have a consistent layout, and should incorporate the proper use of your fonts, colors, and images. On your website, design includes things like layout, animations, and effects. Everything about the design of your site should reflect a message to your consumers about your services, products, and company personality.
Photography. Businesses are most often inconsistent with their photography. Here are a few must-haves that will steer you straight: photographs must be legally acquired through stock photography or open domain sites. They must be large (at least 2,000+ pixels wide), high resolution photos. They should be crisp, well lit, and professional. When it comes to consistency, your company should find a flavor, then stick with it. This may be suit and tie stock photos (favored by banks and insurance companies) or photos of trendy young people (coffee shops and design companies). Sprout’s designers can help you discover the style that’s right for you.
Tone of voice. This is one of the most subtle parts of branding, but it goes a long way. The tone of your written content should be the same across your web copy, your blogs, emails, and social media campaigns. If you’re a family-owned painting company, make sure you sound like a friendly and professional neighbor. If you’re a worldwide tech company whose audience is no-nonsense engineers, be clear, concise, and definitive. The way people feel when they read your materials will leave a lasting impact. Be approachable and informal whenever possible, and always strive to make a connection with your audience.
At Sprout, all the marketing we’ll do for you is within your brand. If you have no brand, we can help you develop one. We want our customers to succeed and grow, and practicing good branding is important for all the players on the team.
Having a style guide is a huge step in the right direction. This is a tidy, well-built digital portfolio that contains all the versions of your logo, your color palettes, your fonts, photography styles, and tone of voice. It also includes your company vision and mission statements, both of which we can help you create. Your company’s core values are an important part of your branding, and they should always be present in your marketing message! Ask us about style guides!
When it comes down to it, consistency is the most important part of your brand. If you send out newsletters or create graphics with bright colors and crazy fonts, you’re losing brand consistency and hurting your company’s professional reputation.
If your marketing materials seem “boring” to you (similar fonts, colors, taglines), then you’re practicing good brand consistency. Remember, it isn’t about whether or not your brand feels exciting to you. It’s about the impression it leaves on the newcomer, who’s looking for a stable company with a strong and consistent identity they can trust.
Plus, there are thousands of ways to energize and refresh your marketing materials within brand! Chat with our graphic designers and writers at Sprout. We make our living revolutionizing tired out brands!
Everyone’s talking about going mobile. You hear words tossed around all the time… Mobile-friendly, mobile-responsive, mobile optimized. You’re probably wondering, what’s the big deal with mobile?
The better question is, how mobile-friendly is my online presence?
For starters, all these terms about mobile mean the same thing: a web platform that is specifically designed for best possible viewing on a handheld device, usually a smartphone.
Seriously though, mobile friendliness is a must-have in today’s marketing. The majority of internet searches are made from smartphones, and that’s only going to increase with time. Businesses need to have a strong mobile presence to compete online.
You might have heard horror stories in the past, along the lines of “Go mobile…or else!” The fact is, the “or else” started happening over a year ago. It involves Google systematically rewarding mobile-friendly sites and punishing non-mobile websites by demoting them in search ranking.
Without a mobile-friendly site, you’re missing out on business from online searches, plain and simple. But there’s more at stake than just your website…mobile-optimization is for all your online marketing.
If you hope to generate business from your website, it must be mobile-responsive. Not only will it be easier for the user to navigate on their phone, but it will have a higher SEO ranking and be free and clear from Google’s demotion.
If you want to blog on your WordPress site, make sure you have a mobile-responsive theme. If you don’t have a blog yet, Tumblr is a great place to start. As a social media site, Tumblr loads quickly and is designed as a mobile-first platform. Even better, Tumblr can be plugged into your website to display your blogs there.
Mobile Email Marketing
Forbes reports a %500 increase in emails opened on mobile devices. This means that people are five times more likely to check their emails on their phone, not their laptop. There are all kinds of best practices for email marketing, and having a mobile-optimized email design is at the top of the list.
We’re on your team. We design all our websites with Foundation, one of the best mobile-first platforms in the industry.
When blogging for our clients, we use Tumblr exclusively (unless the company loves their WordPress site!). This allows for double exposure, through both Tumblr and an on-site plugin.
When providing email marketing services, we use Constant Contact, which now has one of the best mobile editors in the industry. Hear what our in-house email content writer Curtis has to say about it:
“I’ve been working in email marketing for a while, and I’ve used all kinds of platforms. MadMimi, MailChimp, and some wonky ones that generate emails and auto-send on you if you’re not careful! I haven’t come across one that compares to the third generation Constant Contact editor. It’s easy to use, free of bugs, very visual, and as customizable as you could hope for. The best part? Every new template is a mobile-first design.”
There you have it! At Sprout, we’d like to be your marketing department. You don’t get a service with us, you get a whole team working for you. Get in touch with us today, we can’t wait to help you grow!
We had a minor issue with a client this week that has since been resolved. I am mentioning it here because each time something doesn’t go quite right there is a lesson that we can learn from it to prevent it from happening again.
From a follow up email I sent to the staff once the issue was resolved:
Lessons from this for everyone at Sprout:
#1:Offer/schedule a service follow up meeting 6 weeks after the project is complete to review initial results and address any concerns of the client. This will help the client understand that the results are not always instantaneous. At that meeting, let the client know that you will be sending a quarterly report to them.
#2:Make sure that the client (and you) understands the benefits of monthly services (post initial project) and that some businesses choose to use other services we offer as part of their strategy. That is an opportunity for those clients who want quicker results. If they are interested, get them in the office for a consult.
#3: Learn what you need to learn about all our services that will allow you to give confident answers. You only have to know the basics of how a plane flies, but you don’t have to be the pilot.
#4: Understand that clients feel intimidated about the work we do since most do not understand it in the least. Anger is a defense mechanism used by clients in an attempt to gain control of a situation they don’t understand. So they demand answers. The best approach is to listen and learn.
#5: Everything I just wrote is an awesome blog, so I’m stealing my own material.
Great question. Keywords and key phrases are a huge part of SEO, but it takes a while to get good at the game. As a small business owner, you’ve probably done your own marketing at some point. And you’ve probably heard about keywords, the magical combination of letters that brings your business to number one in Google search results. Let’s start off by bursting the bubble… it’s not that easy, and there are no magic words.
Gone are the days of stuffing hundreds of short, irrelevant keywords into the footer of your website. Do that, and Google will drop you to page 6,000 before you can bat your eyes. Google wants to show results that are relevant to what the user is looking for. In today’s world of SEO, key phrases make all the difference.
When we ask business owners for a list of keywords or phrases, here’s how it often goes:
“So, what sort of keywords could you give us for your painting business?”
“Yellow paint, blue paint, paint, painting, painters, coveralls, interior.”
Out of all these words, only one has a whiff of search value about it. Can you spot it? Interior. Let’s start there. If people Google “interior painters,” they won’t find this company. There are just shy of 12 million search results for that phrase. However, if they Google “interior painters for homes in Boise,” this company might just have a shot at climbing their way towards page one or two. This search has only 650,000 results…still quite a few, but there’s much less competition.
See, keywords start with the user, not the business. A keyword phrase is not a business owner explaining something about their industry, it’s about what the average user is typing into Google.
Now that you know what a keyword phrase is, let’s look at the big leagues: long-tail keywords. These are the phrases that narrow down the specific products or services your company offers, and they can make all the difference in your SEO campaign.
Here are a few examples of bad key phrases and good key phrases:
Bad: “sporting goods shop.” Good: “custom made fly fishing rods in tulsa”
Bad: “homemade doughnuts.” Good: “made from scratch doughnut shop boston”
Bad: “marketing services.” Good: “digital marketing packages for small businesses”
Bad: “cleaning company.” Good: “biohazard cleaning services for crime scenes”
Each service and product you offer should have its own landing page, specifically optimized for the long-tail keyword phrases that best suit that service. The more services you pile into one page on your site, the less effective your key phrases become. They get muddled and actually compete with themselves. Because the key phrases are inconsistent with each other, Google doesn’t know which one that page is promoting, and it drops it down in search results in favor of a much cleaner page with clear key phrases.
There are so many cheaters in the online search game that it may take a while for your SEO to bring in steady results. If your site is brand new, it might take time to build trustworthiness with Google. SEO isn’t magic, it’s organic, long-term growth. The longer your website is around, the more Google acknowledges it as a legitimate. The more precise your landing page content, the better.
It takes dedication and no small level of expertise to bring your site from nowhere to page one of Google. The good news? Many of our clients experience this satisfaction every day. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see results. Contact Sprout to learn about our content writing and SEO services, and let’s get you climbing.
Last week we looked at the differences between landing pages and informational pages. One is built with SEO and designed to be found in Google searches, one is not.
Remember, people are searching for your services, not your company name. Landing pages are optimized to found for certain keyword phrases, such as “catering northwood nh.” Below is the first page Google search result for one of our clients, Cooper Hill Pizzeria.
This is the snippet displayed by Google. It contains the Browser Title in blue, the Custom URL in green, and the Meta Description in gray. Now, you’d certainly find their website if you searched for them by name. But the purpose of SEO is to beat out the competition and be found in organic searches for products and services. You want new leads–new customers–finding you from a simple search.
The value of a landing page begins when people click on a search result. If the page is built properly, they’re met with strategic content that tells a story and guides the viewer to an action. Let’s look at the anatomy of a landing page.
1.) Grab their attention above the fold. It needs to be immediately clear who you are and what you do. Viewers should be met with large, high quality images or graphics that tell a quick story. They should see your logo, colors, company name, and some descriptive text without even scrolling or swiping.
2.) Problem solving content. The copy should focus on meeting a need, not describing the technical details of your service. Large headings, bullet listings, and simple and readable paragraph copy are essential. A landing page should have just enough written content that it has strong SEO value. The copy should be broken up into sections with images and graphics, informing the reader while keeping them visually engaged. Including a map or area of service is also key.
3.) Reliability reinforced. To connect with the reader (and potential lead), it’s important to establish trust. Including a few on-page testimonials about how others have experienced success with your services is one of the best ways to do this. It shows your credibility and value. If you have reputable, well-known clients or partners, adding their logos to your landing page is also an option.
4.) Call-to-action and contact form. Once the viewer recognizes that the page is relevant to their needs, learns that your service or product solves the problem they have, and feels trust based on what they see, they must be guided to a simple action. This can be a “Buy Now” or “Get a Quote” button, a contact form, or a clickable phone number. But it needs to be clear and simple.
Lead generation is something that can and does happen organically through beautiful website design and SEO. Each website we create at Sprout contains these strategic elements. Check out our Success Stories Blog to read about some of our clients and to see their websites. We’re here to help your business grow, and the best place to start is with a lead generating website. Got questions? Give us a shout!
We get this question a lot from businesses we work with. If you’re not sure what a landing page is, that’s because you run a thriving business in your industry, and you don’t have time to worry about much else! Don’t sweat it…marketing is our industry, and we’re here to help.
Let’s jump right in. There are two basic types of pages on your website: Landing Pages and Informational Pages. Here are a few examples of each:
So, what’s the difference between the two? What makes landing pages so special?
Informational pages are great for visitors who have found your site, are interested in what you offer, and are ready to sit down and read more. Informational pages are not designed to draw in web traffic or even convert viewers into leads. These are the jobs of landing pages: the real heroes of marketing websites.
What really defines a landing page is that it is written and designed with SEO. A landing page is targeted for a specific region and a specific service. It includes valuable search phrases written into the on-page copy and the off-page code. All the wording, images, and design elements serve a specific purpose: to get the page found in searches, and to convert viewers into leads.
A browser title. This is the primary way Google identifies what the page is all about. It gets written into the code and displayed in search results.
A meta description. This is a brief description (about 160 characters long) of the page. It includes a few choice keyword phrases written in complete sentences (not stuffed), and it also gets written into the code.
A custom URL. This is the page identifier at the top of the search nav in your web browser. URLs should include the focus keyword phrase of the page, and they are also written into the code.
Page Headers. Headings are labeled in website code as H1-H6, and they help Google determine which phrases are the most important on the page. Headers that are written and tagged properly with keyword phrases will help that page rise in search rankings.
Google Indexing. This means that the landing page has been submitted to Google, and has joined the ranks of all the other searchable web pages on the internet. The page is part of a sitemap, and Google will find and display this page in relevant searches.
In essence, a landing page is written and designed around a specific, targeted service. Here are a couple examples from our clients:
Sparks Employment Group has a landing page targeted for executive recruiting in Concord, New Hampshire. They also have job listings, an “About Us” page, and a blog. These are informational pages.
Dermatology of Western Connecticut has a landing page focused on cosmetic procedures in Connecticut. They also have six informational pages, including product descriptions and an FAQ.
Hopefully this has cleared up some of your questions about landing pages. You won’t want to miss next week’s blog… we’ll be talking about how the design of a landing page converts visitors into leads. Until then, keep growing!
I hear it this time every year from clients and sales people: “No one wants to buy anything this time of year.”
Sorry, but that’s not true.
There are certain times of the year that lend themselves to sales. Most of the year, as salespeople, we chase prospects and try to get them to meet with us. Spring and fall seasons tend to be times of high activity. Especially October.
But my experience tells me that at the end of the year is when some prospects, especially those we have a good relationship with through networking, start chasing us. They finally decide it is time to get serious. And to get that last tax deduction.
The last two weeks of December is a good time to reach out to those prospects who seemed interested during the year but never committed, and let them know you have time to meet to plan for 2017. We closed four sales for clients in the last two weeks and three are people who contacted us. And this is not unusual for our company tis time of year.
Don’t write off your sales, assuming everyone is on vacation. Be open to receiving sales these last two weeks of the year and you’ll be surprised who knocks on your door.
Happy New Year from all of us at Sprout for Business!
Sprout for Business
Welcome! This is the first in a three-part series on the value that trade shows bring to a business.
We’ve probably all been to a trade show or two—aisle after aisle of tables and banners set up to catch the attention of the droves of potential customers. It might be hard to imagine that these kinds of shows really draw in customers, but they do. Hundreds of thousands of businesses set up tables at trade shows each year for one reason: they work.
Trade shows provide a very unique environment–one of the few places a customer can go to browse a vast assortment of products and services all in one place, and speak to a representative who can answer their questions and concerns. Nothing beats an actual face-to-face conversation. Many businesses will offer an incentive (e.g. giveaways or raffle items) to encourage customer interaction and gain the opportunity to share the benefits of their products and services with them. With the right mix of enthusiasm, friendliness, competence, and a touch of creativity, many businesses find ways to gain customer attraction that will provide them with sales opportunities after the trade show is over.
Conversations held at a trade show may only last for a few minutes, but are an excellent way to establish a foundation for communication and commonality between your company and the customers it could benefit. Customers appreciate knowing that you will take the time to engage with them on a personal level. Trade shows offer a perfect platform for this.
Trade shows can often prove to be a very cost-effective way to gain customers. It takes just a little pre-planning and the right mix of information and intrigue to open the potential for hundreds of new customers. And once they fall in love with your product or service, new customers often bring other new customers with them. The right trade show experience is often very affordable, and the gain in customers can be invaluable.
Trade shows are often set up around a specific purpose or theme. Those shows that exhibit products and services complimentary to your own provide terrific opportunities for you to reach a very targeted group. Finding a mass of people who are already interested in what you have to offer saves you countless hours and a lot of money in marketing.
Trade shows are a smart way for businesses to gain attention, customers, and traction. It’s a melting pot of opportunities that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else.
Many businesses offer free giveaways as an incentive for people to stop by and see what they are offering. This gives businesses the chance to get their product into the hands of potential customers, as well as a way to generate new, interested leads.
Once you decide to jump into a trade show, New Hampshire Print and Mail can provide you with the tools to help build your brand visibility. Whether you need banners, flyers, promotional giveaways, or anything else, we can help your business catch the eye of hundreds of customers. Contact us today to see how we can help you prepare for your next trade show and grow your business.
When we create new websites at Sprout, we use the RapidWeaver platform for design, and Bluehost for hosting. We’ve found both to meet and exceed the needs of our clients, with excellent security and customizability being our top priorities.
Some clients already have WordPress websites, and that’s fine, too. We just have a few recommended plugins that can help keep your WordPress website well-optimized and running smoothly. Let’s have a look…
When it comes to the security of your website, you don’t want to cut any corners. WordPress websites do have a bit of a reputation with weak security. Because WordPress is one of the most popular website platforms in the world, it’s become a popular target for hackers looking to access data and information. WordFence is a plugin that offers hefty security, real time monitoring, and it notifies you of any perceived threats.
When your website appears on the first page of Google, it’s always a great feeling. But even on the first page, there can be competition for clicks. Rich Snippets is a plugin that improves the presentation of your website or blog articles in Google search results. It includes visual features like starred reviews and up-votes to catch the viewer’s eye and make your displayed results more attractive.
Poor load speed is one major reason that viewers bounce away from your site. Caching is one way to address this. Caching involves storing the pages and databases of your website in a way that allows for quick and easy access. Think Dewey Decimal System. One reliable, time-tested plugin for this is W3 Total Cache.
Sharability is everything when it comes to spreading the word about your website or blog posts. With an easy option for social media sharing, you can add traffic and SEO value to your website. Mash Share is a plugin that lets you and others share every blog and landing page of your site through multiple social media channels.
Unfortunately, these words by Linkin’ Park have been the cry of many business owners: “I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter.” Losing your website data is a terrifying prospect, and it’s one that can be prevented. The plugin Backup Buddy offers complete storage of all your files, images, posts, and cached information.
At Sprout, we work with multiple businesses who have WordPress websites. We specialize in improving Search Engine Optimization in WordPress sites through a comprehensive and affordable SEO boost. If your site isn’t bringing in consistent leads, give us a shout! We’d love to talk about improving your SEO.
-Curtis J. Graham, Copy Writer @sproutforbusiness
Imagine that you’ve just built your dream home. The outside is beautifully constructed and decorated with top of the line exteriors and aesthetics. You have full windows, an arched entryway, and a wraparound porch. The inside of your home has beautiful framed artistic photography.
All the major systems of your house work perfectly. You’ve got central air, plumbing, and electric, and all your appliances are brand new. You’ve got everything you could want in a home. There’s just one problem…
It’s on the moon. No one can get to your house, and no one can even see it without a telescope or satellite imagery.
When you boil it down, a website contains three primary parts: design, text, and SEO. You might have a great looking site, but without proper SEO, it can’t be found in searches. And if it can’t be found, what’s the point of the investment?
When a website is built properly and completely, this formula is set in place and working to your advantage: Design + content + SEO = leads.
Businesses need a website company that delivers the full package. That includes beautiful design, killer content, and all the SEO that goes with it. Want to know the good news? Sprout delivers on all fronts. Learn more today about our affordable website creation.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Google Plus has undergone some changes in the last year.
Google’s products are always changing and expanding, and most of these updates don’t affect the average business owner too drastically. This one is important, though.
It’s about your Google+ reviews.
Your Google+ review links may not point to your reviews anymore, but we’ll get there in a bit. First, it’s important to understand how Google business profiles have evolved in just the last year:
1.) A Google Plus Business Listing (Classic Google+) was a Google-based profile that connected your company to Maps and Search. You could have followers, post content, and get reviews. It included locations, hours, and other business information.
Google Plus Classic mode still works on PC and laptops, but not on mobile devices. Pretty soon, Google will likely force the viewer to switch to G+ viewing mode.
2.) A Google Plus Account (G+) is the new interface for Google+ that does not include reviews, company location, services, or anything of the sort. It’s basically a bank of published content with a banner photo.
If your business is on G+, the purpose is now less about local search and more about building communities and collections. It’s about the personality behind the company, with the main focus on publishing and sharing (+1) content.
3.) Google My Business is a whole different animal. It’s not a profile-based community like G+. Google My Business is entirely search-based and designed around mobile, meaning a miniature “profile” appears showing your logo, contact information, hours, location, reviews, and several photos.
Google My Business connects your company information with Google Maps and Search, but it doesn’t lead to another profile. It is what it is. Here’s what Google My Business looks like on desktop (right side):
Your “Leave a Google Plus review!” links most likely do not link to your reviews anymore. Your reviews are now part of your Google My Business account, and are no longer housed in G+.
Don’t sweat it, you can still have followers leave reviews. You just need to update the links to your reviews. Once you download Google My Business for free, you can find it under the Google Apps dropdown in your Gmail account. From there, you can find the link to your reviews.
How can my customers leave a review on Google My Business?
There is another way to create a shareable link that allows customers to leave a review without searching. Here are some step by step instructions on how to provide a link to your Google My Business reviews page.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with Google, you’re not alone. Google products are getting faster and simpler for consumers, but businesses have a bit of a learning curve to keep up. But that’s what Sprout is here for.
We’re all over the technical changes that affect your business. Like that time Google reorganized search display, making first page search results much more competitive. Let us know if you have any questions about what you read. We’re here to help you keep your company fresh, relevant, and growing.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Hello, reader. This post is a renewal of one I wrote in 2014, and it’s about how my company grew through business coaching. I hope you enjoy…
“I can’t afford to hire an employee. How can I afford to pay a coach? I don’t even know if it will work! What do they do, anyway? I don’t need a cheerleader. I need cash flow!”
These were my words many years ago. I was preparing to interview a woman on my radio show and realized that she had grown her business significantly in a short period of time. I couldn’t wait to find out how she did it!
During the interview she revealed that she had hired a business coach. I felt deflated. Here we go again. Another person who claims having a coach made all the difference. Off the air, I asked her what the real deal was. It had to be something else.
“No, it really was the fact that I was using a coach. He challenged me to work smart, not hard, and I ended up cleaning out a lot of the junk in my life and business. It made room for success.”
I realized at that point that “junk” takes up space in your life and prevents success from happening, at least on a large scale.
So I called a coach. No, I did not have a lot of money and I really did not know what kind of “junk” I needed to get rid of, but I knew it had to be there because I was not succeeding the way I had envisioned.
Those few months of receiving good, solid coaching made such a difference in my business, I have never looked back. To this day I use what I learned from my coach to make decisions and plans for my business. Each quarter I am confident in my goals because my objectives are clear. When issues arise, I follow the processes I worked out with my coach to act in an efficient manner and do the right thing for the business. I still make some mistakes, but I was able to remove a lot of “junk” that was preventing me from the success I was looking for.
July 26, 2016. I have recently re-hired the same coach I worked with years ago. But things have changed for my business in the meantime. Our company is bigger, I have a business partner, and we have a staff of full-time employees. Coaches really can make a difference. Want to know the secret? Just listen to them, and follow their guidance. In my experience, it truly is that simple.
-Joanne Randall, Co-Owner @sproutforbusiness
The difference between using standard email for marketing (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) and using a platform like Constant Contact is immeasurable. We’re going to list the top 5 differences and encourage you to get some real help from our experts at a local workshop.
1. Using an email marketing platform such as Constant Contact allows you to brand your email messages with a logo, font, and color, which makes you more likely to be recognized in the inbox. The biggest criteria people use to determine whether or not to open your email is who it’s from. Branded emails make it easier for people to recognize you, and more likely to open your emails in the future.
2. Mobile friendliness is more than just a good idea; it’s essential for email success. More than 60% of emails are opened on a mobile device. Design emails for mobile, and your readers will not get frustrated trying to read a tiny font on a 4” screen. Constant Contact has hundreds of mobile friendly and mobile responsive templates to choose from, or you can have a Constant Contact Master Certified Solutions Provider, like our Sprout staff, create one for you in a jiffy.
3. Use a font that can be easily read on a screen. Your best bet is to use a Sans Serif font for your email marketing. They are the easiest to read on the web. Popular Serif fonts are Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana. Steer clear of fonts like Baskerville, Georgia, and Times New Roman. These are fine for large headings or printed material, but can be tricky on a small screen.
4. Use the proper template. Depending on the type of message, you may want to choose a template for a press release. Other times, you’ll want to use one that was built for a retail promotion. Decide if the message of your email will be more wordy or more visual, and then choose the best template from the library. Here are some different types of email templates you can search for:
5. Videos can make or break your email analytics. Seriously. Using a video in an email can increase the open and click through rates, especially when you mention the video in the subject line. Consumers are 50% more likely to read emails that include video. Just a couple pieces of advice, though: keep videos under 90 seconds. I usually recommend under 60 if you can manage it.
Create videos for product demos, testimonials, and promotions. A FAQ or troubleshooting video on a new product will keep your phone from ringing off the hook when people need help figuring out how to use it. A post-event thank you or video holiday message would also be appropriate in an email.
Welcome back to your favorite hangout. Grab a hotdog and a Mr. PiBB and scroll on down. First, thank you, readers, for the valuable feedback you gave us on our last blog about email marketing!
It is true, what good is awesome email marketing without people to send emails to? Today let’s talk about what (and who) goes into a list, and maybe a couple ideas about how to get them there.
The great thing about lists is that you can have more than one. Most email marketing platforms (we use Constant Contact, but we’re also proficient in MadMimi and MailChimp) give you the option to upload contacts to different lists. You can name the lists anything you want.
Here are a few good list examples: Staff Members, Networking Contacts, Prospects, Current Clients, General Interest.
Each of these lists should have a different template and a message suitable to the audience. What kind of email campaigns should you send to each group? Check this out…
Current Clients: advertise new services or products. Offer loyal customer discounts. Send them monthly informational newsletters to strengthen the relationship. It’s best to stick to one branded template for this list.
Staff Members: send internal updates. Share information about company parties or events. Tell Kenneth from accounting happy birthday. Use any template or design you want. It’s your crew.
Prospects: Focus on the problems you can solve for them. Invite them to events. They want to hear from you, but it has to be relevant, personal, and all about making their life easier. Have a couple different branded templates, one for promotions and one for events.
Networking Contacts: Be friendly and brief, reminding people who you are and where you ran into them. Have a quick list of the problems you solve that links back to your website. Use a clean, branded template. You can send to this list once or twice a month.
Now to the fun part. There’s no formula, but there are some list-growing tips that take some good old fashioned perseverance. Here are a few…
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you don’t have awesome content in your email campaigns, they won’t stick around. They’ll unsubscribe, and they certainly won’t share. If you’re going to do email marketing, do it great or don’t expect a whole heck of a lot.
There is often a solid ROI on email marketing. With Sprout doing the work, you’ll have a professional design and great content. Most email leads come from a strong, consistent connection based on relevance and special offers.
So you see, in order to grow a list, you need great content. You need at least one or two solid email designs. You need a sending strategy. You need to diligently reach out to get those contacts, and then don’t let them down. Email marketing can sound daunting, but it’s fun and rewarding when you’re doing it right! We do it all the time at Sprout, for all kinds of businesses.
Give us a shout and learn more!
Curtis J. Graham, Chief Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
It’s about time we started talking about email marketing again! If you don’t connect with your clients through email marketing, you’re missing out on a good time. Gone are the days of newsletters that look like newspapers. Email campaigns are vibrant, stylish, and just plain great for business.
If you’re still sending mass emails with Gmail, or *gasp* not sending at all, let’s rethink that strategy! Here are a few industry tips for great email marketing in 2016.
These tips are for both the do-it-yourself email marketers who run their business and send their own campaigns, as well as for the folks who are so slammed that they don’t even think about the fresh and funky world of email marketing.
Time for a break. If we keep giving away awesome advice like this, we’ll put ourselves out of business! So just tune in next Tuesday for some more tips on email marketing. In the meantime, chat with us during business hours at 603-227-5240 or contact us online.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Good question. Here you go.
I started noticing how some groups had special activities (like selling) going on and it made me wonder why those groups were special. You know, the ”Town of Jackson” Yard Sale Group kinds of groups.
A Facebook sale group is very much like a regular group, except while it is being set up, the administrator chooses to allow items to be created for sale and a mechanism for items to be marked as sold.
To turn on sale features in a group, you can choose “Sell Something”. You can also get more detailed instructions here. Members can also mark items as sold or available. Pretty simple.
How would you use such a group? Estate sales? Yard sales? Bake sales? Direct sales items? Let us know.
Time for some Tuesday Tips about email marketing. Email newsletter campaigns are a hot ticket marketing tool that every business should be taking advantage of. Check out this infographic from Constant Contact, then read on…
Impressive, right? So, why is email marketing such a big deal? One word…mobile. Everything is going mobile in marketing. That means speed, clear visual messages, beautiful branding, and frequent contact.
If your business isn’t a household name, it should be. Email campaigns keep you engaged and connected with your audience, and that’s valuable for any growing business. Here are some different ways that email marketing keeps your business relevant:
Want to know more? That’s great…we have a house full of certified Constant Contact marketers who have been around the block. Make things happen for your business this summer! Push out a consistent, beautiful, mobile friendly brand message with email marketing. Get started with Sprout.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Why do some Facebook pages show options for maps and check-ins and others don’t? And why I can’t leave a review on a celebrity’s official Facebook page?
Based on what Facebook thinks you need on your business page, you will have features that may slightly differ from others. An official magazine or book page doesn’t need an address or map, so the option to fill in those data fields isn’t given.
The good news is that if you are a local business, you pretty much have all the options available. Your short and long description data fields are searchable on Facebook, so fill them up. Plus you have the feature for check-ins and can show a map if you put in your full address.
Sprout for Business offers a Facebook Business Page Audit for only $49. It’s simple and quick to review and will give clear insight on some simple things a business can do to improve their online profile. Contact us if you’d like to schedule a Facebook Business Page audit.
I’ll be right here waiting for your call, 603-227-5240.
When a client orders a website from us, a whole chain of events begins. Besides all the technical aspects of web design and development, there’s a simple, fundamental process that takes place. So today, we’re going to cover the bare bones of what goes into building a website.
This process sounds simple, and it certainly can be. But as the saying goes, it take two to tango. When you order a website, we put it in our production queue and begin initial work on it almost immediately. The faster you can respond with edits and other necessary information, the more efficiently it works. Developing a strong relationship where everyone is on the same page is the key to success!
If you have questions about your current website, or if you’re interested in an affordable new website, we can help you out. Contact us, or give us a call at 603-227-5240. We’d love to chat with you.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
As we covered last week, Google remains the giant of the search world. As of February 2016, Google had 64% of the 17 billion searches that were made online that month, and Bing (which includes Yahoo) had 32.8%. That means that Bing had 5.6 billion searches…that’s no small number!
Bing has a different market from Google, but it’s still a market. Let’s take a look at some facts. Bing went from losing a billion dollars per quarter, to creating a billion dollars of Microsoft’s revenue in the first quarter of 2016.
So the question stands…if Google is the superior search engine, why do people use Bing/Yahoo?
Although Google’s search engine is superior in many ways, Bing has been improving and certainly has its strengths.
To wrap things up, here’s an illustration of one search performed on Google compared with the same search on Bing:
Google search: “U.S. Interest Rate”
Bing search: “U.S. Interest Rate”
Bing provides a relevant sidebar, compelling visual graphs, bold keywords, and all the other information that Google includes. Well played, Bing.
For more information about search engines or online advertisement, contact us online or call Sprout today at 603-227-5240.
Online advertising has experienced record growth in the past year. Google has reformatted its search results, increasing Google AdWord space to as many as four Ads at the top of a search. Ads are followed by up to three Google+ Business map listings. Beneath those are a handful of well-optimized landing pages that made the first page of a Google search. Needless to say, there is a lot of competition for first page results.
In theory, Google’s reformatting produces more accurate, convenient results for users. In practice, it means that more and more businesses will seek out paid online advertising as a way to be found in searches.
Online ads produce more expansive and consistent coverage for hundreds of keyword searches, and search engines are giving them greater preference over standard optimized web pages. Business owners and their close allies–their online marketers like Sprout–can’t control the tide of progress in the world of searches. All we can do is adapt to it.
So, we’re here to talk about online advertising. Believe it or not, Google AdWords are not the only way to advertise online. Bing Ads have their place, and have been able to hold their own against the larger reign of Google AdWords. When choosing a venue for running your online ads, it pays to know all your options. We’ll start with the big one…
Google is the predominant search engine, controlling 65% of all searches, compared to just 33% through Bing. Because of its “default” status and the fact that the vast majority of online searches are conducted through Google, it is a prime location for businesses to advertise.
This graphic from Search Engine Land depicts the popularity, Cost Per Click (CPC) and Click Through Rates (CTR) of Google AdWords vs. Bing Ads.
The big takeaway here in Google AdWords vs. Bing Ads is the cost. Small businesses who use Bing Ads can be found in online searches for a broad spectrum of targeted keywords. Many companies have gotten leads through Bing Ads, because there’s less competition and a lower cost.
Those who advertise solely on Google are missing out on nearly a third of the search market, making Bing an avenue that can complement existing Ad coverage.
On the flipside, Google is the predominant search engine by a long shot. It’s more pricey, but the potential growth from a well-managed advertising campaign can be very lucrative. It can bring loads of traffic to your website and increase your brand awareness drastically.
If you have thoughts or questions about marketing your company’s products or services through online ads, give us a shout. Call us at 603-227-5240 or fill out our short contact form. We create, design, and manage successful AdWord or Bing campaigns for our clients, and we’d love to help you too.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Many times the one thing that stands between the business owner and completed content is a perfectionist personality. They read and reread and read again everything, looking for not only grammar and spelling errors but style.
I often hear, “I just want to check it one more time before I send it out.” As long as your point has been made and you are addressing the problems or questions of your prospects and you include a gentle but firm call to action, just hit the darn send button. There really is no need to obsess over content in an email or a blog or even on your social media, especially if it’s keeping you from getting it done! It’s called paralysis by analysis.
If a business owner needs help coming up with just the right words the best thing for them to do is to talk to us at Sprout so we can couch their messages in text that easily understood by their prospects.
Ready for a Tuesday Tip on website design & development? We’re going to explain what we like and don’t like about both WordPress and RapidWeaver. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of what makes for a great web design platform, and it might just shed some light on your own website.
At Sprout, we create websites using RapidWeaver Foundation. We prefer it for lots of reasons, particularly because it gives us the ability to create completely custom website designs that are not limited by templates. RapidWeaver is the most advanced responsive web design framework in the world, providing endless design possibilities that will always format perfectly for every device.
So there’s the snapshot view. We wanted to express some of the downsides of RapidWeaver in order to remain objective, and there’s not a lot out there! At Sprout, we use RapidWeaver because we’ve done our research, and we’ve encountered every other platform out there. RapidWeaver has an outstanding reputation, and it suits the needs of nearly every business we work with.
When it comes to RapidWeaver vs. WordPress, we choose to work with the more secure, customizable option. There are situations, however, when a customer needs extensive editing capabilities on their website. They may need to add, edit, and remove pages or gallery images frequently. And let’s face it, business owners don’t have time to learn complex web editing software! In these cases, we use the web design platform SquareSpace because of its strong reputation and easy editing capabilities.
But more on that next time. For now, think about your own website needs, and send us your questions! Get in touch with us online or by phone at 603-227-5240.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Welcome to another Tuesday Tip in our series on website development. Outbound links are on the menu today. Outbound links, or external links, are the opposite of backlinks. Rather than another site having a link to your website (a backlink), outbound links are when you include a link to an external site on your blog page or website. Outbound links are not as important for your website’s SEO as backlinks, but they are important when it comes to blogging!
It’s best to include at least one or two outbound links in your blog content whenever possible. These links should point back to reliable industry resources, articles, or the websites of respected colleagues. When you research and write content, external links give readers the option to read other articles on the topic. Think back to college…outbound links are basically your in text “references.”
Be careful with outbound links, though. Make sure you don’t use them too often, and make sure they link to reliable destinations. If they link to poor quality websites or sites that contain spam and ads, they will hurt your SEO rather than improve it.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of outbound links! All that’s left is to get blogging. Look for our future blogs on website design and development. Contact Sprout today with your questions, or call us at 603-227-5240.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Welcome back to Tuesday Tips! Let’s define backlinks again: any link to your website that is found online is a backlink. Last week’s blog on backlinks can get you up to speed.
Now that you know what backlinks are, you might be wondering what the SEO value of backlinks is.
Whenever companies think they’ve found a way to cheat Google’s search ranking system, Google takes another leap ahead of the game. Once backlinks began gaining SEO value, companies started buying backlinks in order to drive more traffic to their websites. These links were from smaller websites that were irrelevant to their services, but the sheer number boosted their SEO…for a while.
The Google Penguin Algorithm was released in 2012 to screen out websites that cheated their way to high rankings with fake backlinks. Many companies were penalized and dropped in searches, costing them millions in sales! The moral of the story? Don’t buy backlinks. The other moral? Backlinks to smaller websites are not as valuable as they used to be.
Backlinks will always have SEO value, because they are integral to the search process. The main difference after the Penguin Update is that having a lot of backlinks is not the answer. Having high quality backlinks matters.
It’s important that backlinks are acquired honestly and organically, and the best way to do this is to produce quality written content on your website as often as possible. Blogging is one of the best ways to do this. The more reliable and knowledgeable you are as an industry resource, the greater your chances are of being backlinked by other companies.
Tune in next Tuesday for more great information on backlinks, outbound links, and how to improve your website’s SEO. Call Sprout for Business at 603-227-5240 to learn more, or contact us online today.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
In a nutshell, backlinks are links to your website that are found on other websites.
If another website, blog post, or piece of content has a link to your website, that’s a backlink. For example: If your business belongs to a BNI chapter or a local Chamber of Commerce, there is often an online database that includes a backlink to your website in their listings.
Backlinks are an important factor in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your website. Because of the way search ranking works, Google identifies sites with lots of backlinks as more helpful, reliable, and important than other sites with fewer backlinks.
Basically, the more links to your website that are found in other places around the internet, the more popular your website is with Google.
Google will favor a website that has thousands of backlinks, because that means that other people are putting links to your site in their content. This implies that people find your website to be helpful and reliable, and worth sharing with others. Because of this, Google will rank your site more highly in keyword search results than similarly themed sites with fewer backlinks.
Not only do backlinks help your SEO, but they also increase your web traffic. Backlinks means that your website can be found and visited from numerous different locations online.
Acquiring backlinks takes time, and it is not a guaranteed science. But there are some things you can do to increase your backlinks organically.
I hope we’ve shed some light onto backlinks and how they work. If you have more questions about backlinks and SEO in general, we’d love to chat with you. Contact us online or give us a call at 603-227-5240.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Whether or not you, as the business owner, control the content going up on your business Facebook page, it is crucial that you are listed as an admn (administrator) with full access. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I promise you I have seen many times when that has not been the case. Clients have asked us to manage content on their page and lo and behold, another Marketing firm’s employees are the admns on the page. But not the business owner.
So it becomes a tight rope of conversation asking permission to get added as an admn. Because truly, the page is “owned” or controlled by the admns. No matter who they are.
There are various levels of accessibility within the different page roles, as Facebook calls them. An editor, for example, can do pretty much everything, except modify the list of admns or change the page settings. Other choices are Moderator, Advertiser, and Analyst. The levels of authorization are described in the Facebook Help Center here.
Here are the general directions to add an admn to your page:
If you would like to get some help on your Facebook page, maybe a quick audit, we offer one for $49. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. All it takes is a quick 15 minute phone call to review.
Hope this has been helpful. Talk to you soon.
It’s true that 90% of the information our brain processes in visual. You and I will look at a photo before reading the caption, and skim a flyer for the graphics. Doing so gives our brains a chance to assess the rest of the information before we even read one word.
Take this example from Milano’s Menswear in Nashville. The writer takes a quippy saying and applies it to the product for sale; asking for the sale but without sounding salesy. They have also used a brand hashtag (very clever) and is using the Facebook page to promote traffic on other social media sites (Pinterest in this case). All that with a photo and a few words. No expensive marketing platform here. But effective nonetheless.
Use photos that will either send a clear message (as in the above example) or that will transport people away to another time and place that makes them happy. See below…
Clothes shopping is a good example. I like to spend money. I hate shopping. So if I can see what I need to buy and not have to try on clothes, I’ll be very happy. Here is an excellent example of how clothes can be portrayed online to promote sales. I can “see” myself in the clothes without having to leave the house. Ingenious. This photo isn’t even for selling clothes. It’s for selling links to sites that sell clothes. Ca-ching.
So take time to think about how a picture makes you feel. Use photos that will motivate engagement and action, not just mild interest.
Until next time,
If you would like to use your Facebook Business page to write a blog, you can do so through the NOTES app on your page. You will need to add it under the More dropdown tab and manage tabs first to add it. Then the Notes app will appear in this dropdown menu.
To write NOTES on your page, like a blog, see the first screen shot below. Use the More drop down to find the Notes and create a new note. When writing a note, give it a title (which is searchable, so use keywords when possible) and add a photo to the top. When you click to add a photo, you can choose to drag a photo into the space to upload it, choose a photo that has already been posted to your Facebook Business page, or upload from your computer.
You can add headers (H1 and H2) and links to your note, plus innumerate lists with numbers or bullets. See the second screen shot below.
When you save it, the note will post to the page. You can save a note as a draft and come back to it. You cannot create a NOTE on the Facebook Pages mobile app, only on your laptop.
Call us if you need help. 603-227-5240
Screen shot #1
Screen shot #2
Social media is about building relationships. Facebook is certainly more touchy feely than some social media platforms such as LInkedIn, and Twitter is quippy at best, but each channel has a level of relation development.
Since each channel is slightly different, it’s important to adjust the posts to reflect the culture in each.
It is perfectly acceptable to post pictures of your kid’s birthday party on Facebook, tag friends, use filters, and create ridiculous hashtags for the fun of it, and put it all in an album that you can go back to later. People expect it, and the grandmother gets offended if you don’t post the video of her teeth falling out.
Such shenanigans would be shunned on LinkedIn. Business is the rule of the day, and all posts reflect who you are during business hours. It’s a great way to make business connections and network across the globe! Posting, say, a funny cat video on LinkedIn would essentially blacklist you for the remainder of your career. Don’t even go there.
Twitter is all news and opinion about current events. On your personal account, share a link, a pic, or if something big went down and you were there, a grainy video. Then wait. You could also comment about politics. Just buckle up and put on your waders because you’ll get flooded with comments no matter what side you take.
A Twitter business account, on the other hand, should be full of fresh and cutting edge industry information. Post pics of your new workspace, share the latest trends in your field, post infographics, just post!
If you’re not sure where you should post your comments, research a little first. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Funny, Facebook. Business, LinkedIn. Opinionated, Twitter.
Happy Posting! Reach out to Sprout for Business at 603-227-5240 to learn more.
Here’s an example. Searching for “local farmers Iowa” used to bring up a page with “Google My Business” listings and pay-per-click Google Ads on the right and top, and organic search results beneath them. Now, it looks like this:
Do you notice the empty white space off to the right? Look familiar? You guessed it…desktop searches are starting to resemble mobile searches more and more!
Competition for first page search results is higher than before. Your online marketing strategy needs to be up for the challenge.
As a business owner, you’re the expert at what you do. It’s our job to be on top of digital marketing trends. Please feel free to contact us online to learn more about how this change affects you, and what we can do to bolster your online presence!
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Browser Titles (Title Tags) Make All the Difference
This is one of the most important parts of a web page when it comes to SEO. Although this title doesn’t actually show up on the website, it is what Google displays in the organic search results. The blue title below we are all so familiar with here is actually the browser title:
Beyond understanding what browser titles are and what they do, there are a few best practices to keep in mind when creating them in your website:
Hope you enjoyed this week’s Tuesday Tip from #sproutforbusiness. Call us anytime if you have any questions about SEO. Sprout is a full service Marketing firm located in Concord, NH serving clients all over the world and next door.
Every WYSIWYG website editor out there includes the Headings function, yet many fail to utilize this tool.
Think of it as an outline for every web page on your website. There should only be one H1 per page - this is the main Heading for the page. You can have many H2-H6 headings.
There are several reasons to Use Headings on all of your web pages. Here are just a few:
Improve your SEO. Headings are searchable. Web pages indexed by Google are more likely to be found when Headings include the keywords searched. Here’s a good guide for proper use of Headings: Quick Guide for Heading Tags
Web pages are easier to read with Headings for each section. People are less likely to read a page with several paragraphs of text. Breaking up the content with Headings and a paragraph of text under each makes it easier to quickly scan the page and see if this is something that they want to read.
Using Headings on your Blog posts also make them searchable in Google searches.
I used to wonder why some businesses were leery talking with me about their marketing. Come to find out many people have been burned, and usually more than once. Sometimes by the same company. I’ve heard some pretty sad stories about wasted money and wasted time. I did some research as to why this happens. I mean marketing isn’t really that difficult, it just takes time, strategy, and an understanding of your target market.
What I have found is many marketing companies don’t take the time to help their clients understand their target market, build a strategy around specific goals of the business, and then find the tools that will work best for that company. I often see cookie-cutter attempts at reaching large markets. That translates into a lot of wasted money, frustration, and a used car salesman image for marketing companies who are legit.
Do you know someone who has been burned? Feels they wasted money? Thinks marketing is a scam?
Introduce them to me and I’ll show them they have a friend who is genuinely interested in seeing them succeed.
Sprout for Business
Let’s start by elaborating on what makes for quality content.
In a nutshell, it’s all about combining readability and searchability.
Whether it’s a blog post or a new landing page for your website, content has to be readable. This means it must be well-written, engaging, accurate and concise. Written content should not be stuffed with keywords to the point where it doesn’t sound natural. Google’s algorithms (the programs that weed out poor content in the search results) will punish sites for keyword-stuffing. If your content reads like a robot wrote it, Google will make sure nobody has to see it.
This is where the balance comes into play. When writing a blog for SEO, you should keep in mind the specific topic you’re focusing on in the post. Think of different ways to approach the topic, and most importantly, think of phrases that people will search in Google to find your blog.
These phrases should be woven into the content’s title, headers, URL, and paragraph text. While keeping readability in mind, think outside the box, and incorporate search terms into your post.
The last thing to remember is that there is no formula for first page search results! You can create quality content, but there are hundreds of aspects of your website that Google looks at to determine if it’s worthy of the prestigious first page.
If you’re determined to create your own valuable SEO content and you have the time to do so, go for it! A blog is a great place to start. Curious about the quality of your website’s SEO? Reach out to us. We have a powerful diagnostics tool that can identify all the factors that are affecting your SEO. Call Sprout at 603-227-5240 or contact us online today.
-Curtis J. Graham
Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
First, check out this fantastic animation by Google. It explains in a simple and entertaining way exactly how search works.
Now that you understand the basics of what happens in the time between your Google search and the results that are displayed, you’re probably wondering how your website can beat out the millions of other search results. Trust me, it’s possible.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a huge role in online searches. Search engine ranking, or the order in which Google search results are displayed, is determined by over 200 factors. Many of these factors are things that can be controlled (or optimized) in your website.
This cutting-edge list of search ranking factors explains how a website can be optimized for search primarily through written content.
There are plenty of other technical aspects that can help a website rise through the rankings, but content is key.
In our next Tuesday Tips blog, we’ll get into the specifics of creating valuable SEO content in both your blog posts and landing pages. For now, here are some of the basics:
Content should be:
Got questions? We’ve got answers! Call us at 603-227-5240 to chat about SEO, or contact us online to learn how we can help you rise in the rankings.
-Curtis J. Graham
Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
It’s simple, really!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website through organic methods, without paying for online advertising. It involves understanding the ways that search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo choose to order search results based on what a person types in the search bar.
Basically, Google wants to provide the most accurate results for every search. This means they weed out the sites that are less relevant and less optimized for each search. On the flip side, if a website has strong SEO, they push it towards the first page.
Want to hear something cool? Practically every one of Sprout’s SEO clients is on the first page of Google for relevant searches in their industry. This visibility results in leads. How does that sound?
Sprout offers a free website diagnostics report that identifies all the areas that are affecting the quality of your website. If your website has little or no SEO value, we can identify what it will take to help you rise in searches. The best part? It’s trackable! You can watch your improvements as your site rises towards the first page of Google.
Why not get a diagnostics report? It’s free. Give us a call at 603-227-5240 or contact us online today. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Ok, in case you haven’t picked up on our theme this month, I’ll spell it out for you.
Why would a business owner write a blog, anyway? Blogging does three main things:
Blogging adds fresh, relevant content to your website. This activity is positively viewed in the Google algorithim, opening up the possibility of your blog being found in a search result. For more tips on how to get your blog found through SEO click here.
Blogging establishes you as an expert in your field because you write about solving problems and answering questions and sharing industry information that is relevant to your end customer. For more information on blogging basics, click here.
Finally, and most importantly, using helpful links and appropriate calls to action in your blogs allow for opportunities for people to visit somewhere important. Like, I don’t know, a location where they can buy something, make an appointment, call you, make a reservation…. Want to learn more, try clicking here.
There are more reasons, and quite frankly I could go on all day about how to tie a blog into your marketing strategy, but I need to leave a reason for you to call me.
Speaking of, we really would like to help you write, edit, manage, post, analyze your blog and work with you to incorporate this important marketing tool into your marketing strategy. It’s more affordable than you think and easy when you have help.
So here’s our number, 603-227-5240. Or email me directly, email@example.com. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Need Expert Advice? Ask the Person Who Knows. (pssst…that’s you)
Do you remember the TV show Leave it to Beaver? The entire show was based on the idea that no matter how bad Wally and The Beav screwed up their lives, their Dad would always be right there, teaching them the lesson in the mistake, and helping rectify the situation. If you want to know how to fix it, go ask your Dad.
Today, when we need answers, we go to Google. Does Google know best? Google’s job is to present the searcher with the most relevant information based on the criteria typed into that little search box.
Your blog is the answer to someone’s problem, or maybe a verification that you actually know what you’re talking about. When we research a customer or prospect, we look on their website and visit their blog to see if they are sharing their knowledge with the world. And you better believe people are doing that for you as well. Give them something of value to read.
Got a solid reputation? Got credibility? Reinforce it with a professional website.
In this blog, I’m going to explain why it’s so important for industry experts to have a modern, attractive website. Specifically, I’m talking to dentists, medical doctors, chiropractors, dermatologists, physical and occupational therapists, attorneys, financial Institutions, software companies and the like.
Each of the links above are websites we have either created completely or updated with graphics or SEO copywriting. More examples of professional dental sites we’ve made include Smile Masters and Dr. El-Sherif.
You should think of your website as an online resume and portfolio.
Any doctors out there? You wouldn’t put your Associate’s Degree at the top of your resume, would you? You want to display your best self, showcasing your most recent and important accomplishments. The same goes for your website.
Your site should set you apart as an industry expert.
SEO: A website is a work of technological art that should be found easily for keyword searches in your area. It should always be kept up-to-date and optimized.
Atmosphere: You should have high-quality, modern images that paint a clear and inviting picture of what you do. Your site should be easy to navigate, with a color scheme and branding that reflect your company image.
Written Content: You need to expand or decrease your content regularly to reflect your practice as accurately as possible. If you stop offering a service, update your website. Same goes for offering a new service or product.
Blogging: Did you attend a conference recently? Sponsor a charitable cause? Expand your area of practice? All these things make great blog topics.
Poor first impressions create lasting opinions.
In the end, if your website doesn’t present an attractive, clean and credible image of your company or practice, people won’t inquire further. If they have to look for more than a few seconds to find the information they want, they will leave. In the consumer’s mind, a well-built website speaks volumes to the care and dedication of the professional or organization behind it.
If your website isn’t a vital part of your marketing, it should be!
The majority of our clients receive leads each day through their websites, without paying for any form of online advertisement. Their sites are optimized, responsive, clear and beautiful. They recognize the importance of regular SEO maintenance, blogging, and visual content updates.
If you’re new to all this, give us a call at 603-227-5240. Feel free to contact us online as well. We’d be happy to chat with you!
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer at Sprout for Business
Good question. I’ll answer it with another question.
How often do you want to add relevant, keyword rich content to your website so people can find you?
When I used to go to Weight Watchers (don’t judge me) the woman running the meeting used to say, “Only track your food on the days you want to lose weight.”
Only blog as often as you want to improve your online presence.
Does that mean every day? Every week? Monthly?
You have to answer that question, and it will be influenced by the amount of resources you are willing and able to put toward it.
Sprout blogs a couple times a week. We could easily blog daily, but someone has to take care of the customers, right Curtis? Try weekly. I promise you, once you start writing, you won’t want to stop.
Call us for rates on Do It For Me services through Do It With Me level of service. It’s probably less than you think.
I am often asked by new business owners, “What is the one thing I can do now that will have the biggest impact on my business?”
My answer: Blog.
Blogging provides the business owner with content that is naturally rich in searchable keywords that are being posted directly into the company website. When structured for optimization in the blog itself, the content, including titles, headers, and photos, are all potential search results on Google.
Plus, Google likes sites that frequently add new content. The easiest way? You guessed it. Through a blog.
For more great tips on blogging, read, well, our blog.
Don’t miss these upcoming events with Joanne Randall from Sprout for Business http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Show-me-the-love–.html?soid=1106253726726&aid=5rqENjowtX4
Be clear and be heard. Get blogging.
Writing a blog is an opportunity to define your business. When I first began blogging I soon realized that if I was going to share about my business online, I’d better be 100% clear on what I am offering. It actually helped my sales because I had eliminated all ambiguity about what I was willing to do for services…and what I was not.
Start by choosing one of your products or services and describe a common problem it solves for your customers or clients. Empathize with their situation and share how easy it would be for you to relieve their painful situation with your product or service. Then, call them into action; a click to purchase, find out more information, or call you.
Find out more here.
“Blog, blog, blog…” We hear it all the time in the marketing industry.
Maybe you have a blog, maybe you don’t. Either way, I’m going to explain the very basics of blogging for small businesses. If you have a few minutes, stick around. You won’t be sorry.
Here we go. First,
Why do you want a blog for your business?
Forget all those other voices. Start by figuring out what you want the purpose of your blog to be.
Do you just want to grow a following? Explain in-depth aspects of your company and services? Display new products or updates?
Any of these (preferably all of them!) are great. Just start with a general direction!
Choose a blogging platform.
At Sprout, we use and recommend Tumblr. It’s the largest and most popular micro blogging site in the world, and it’s so easy to use. If you already have WordPress or another template-based website, that’s no big deal. Most of them come with a blogging platform built in.
The great thing about Tumblr is that it can be easily plugged into your current site as a feed, reformatting every Tumblr post to match your current fonts and colors and posting it directly to your site’s blog page.
Start blogging, and share your posts everywhere!
I told you this would be quick! Blogging doesn’t have to be super-technical. Each post should be written well and filled with great content that people will enjoy reading. The content is the most important part, and it should be written with real people in mind.
The next step is to share it with real people! After you post your blog, grab the URL and paste it into your Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter, and anywhere else you’d like. You can also set up most blog platforms to automatically post to social media.
Blogging takes creativity, time, and energy. If you’re not posting to your company’s blog regularly because you lack these things, that’s where Sprout comes in. Visit our Blog Writing page to learn about what we can do for you. Or call us at 603-227-5240.
-Curtis J. Graham, Content Writer @sproutforbusiness
Like everything else, there are trends in email marketing. And like all trendy things, there are people out there measuring and reporting on those trends. Here is what they are telling us:
Although I could go on, using these basics to keep on point will increase your open and click through rates by helping you keep to one main idea.
Contact us for more tips on email marketing and your digital marketing strategy. 603-227-5240
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone is motivated by something different. But we all have one thing in common. We like to be appreciated and respected. And with both my kids and my employees I have found the best way to address this need is by getting their input on important things.
A number of years ago our family went on our first family vacation with all three kids. We were taking a drive from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania. I knew the trip might be a little challenging, especially with a six-month-old baby, but the older kids were old enough to realize that we all had to chip in an order for it to go smoothly. So instead of laying out a bunch of rules I asked them, “OK kids what are the rules of being on vacation?”
Here is what they shouted out:
So as you can imagine, I felt like I didn’t need to add a single thing to this list because through our regular family interaction and the example set by my husband and myself, the kids knew what was expected. They were very responsible and we all had a great time because I wasn’t screaming at anyone to follow my rules of behavior while on vacation. They had complete buy-in since they had set the rules.
At Sprout, we do our very best to get input from each employee on many decisions. We are clear about what is expected through our daily activities and interactions with them, so when it comes time to hash out important items, we often ask them what they think. In almost every case, they come up with what we would have decided to do in the first place. They own it and know that their input is based on what we as a group believe to be our over arching goals as a company. They also often come up with something we have not yet considered. Just like, “Eat all your food” would not have been on my original list but it certainly applies to the vacation, “Let’s send an email to our current customers reminding them of all our services” was well received and put into practice almost immediately.
Set the culture through daily example.
Consider all suggestions.
And eat all your food.