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  • Why Your Website Needs to Be Mobile Friendly

  • Mobile is the future of the internet. While there will always be desktops and laptops more and more people are using their mobile devices, their smartphones and their tablets, for more and more of their web browsing. To keep up with this trend you need to make sure your website is mobile friendly.

    This shift to a primarily mobile web environment creates a lot of problems for people with older websites for a very simple, very easy to understand reason- websites designed to look great on a traditional computer’s screen don’t usually work so well on a mobile device.

    Now, some mobile devices certainly display traditionally designed websites than others. For example, a  traditionally designed website is going to look better on a tablet than on a website because a tablet has a larger screen. Yet the resounding success of devices such as the iPad mini and the Kindle Fire clearly indicate that smaller screens are more popular than larger screens, which means you can’t count on your clients browsing to your website on a 10” tablet. Instead it appears the average size of a tablet screen is going to sit around 7” across, while the average size of a smartphone’s screen measures a little bigger than 4”. These are not ideal dimensions for viewing traditional website designs.

    Even if mobile devices suddenly upscale the size of their screens traditional website designs still won’t work ideally on them because a mobile interface works very different than a laptop or desktop’s interface. Users primarily operate their laptops and desktops using a mouse and a keyboard, while mobile devices are designed with their touchscreens placed front-and-center. Mobile friendly website designs need to not only look great on the smaller (vertically oriented) screen of a mobile device, they also need to take full advantage of a touchscreen-oriented interface.

    Does your website meet these standards?

    If it doesn’t then you need to upgrade to a mobile design. Don’t worry, you can have a traditional design that pops up when your clients browse to your website using a desktop or a laptop while also having a mobile design that loads when your site is accessed using a smartphone or tablet.

    Taking mobile for small business concerns seriously beyond important. Users are increasingly annoyed by websites that aren’t optimized for mobile access and a recent study found ¾ of mobile users are more likely to return to a website if it worked well on their device than if it didn’t. 67% of respondents argued they were more likely to buy a product off a website if it were mobile friendly, while a site that isn’t optimized for mobile marketing sent 61% of respondents off to find a competitor better catering to their needs. And if those statistics aren’t enough to convince you, consider the fact that 84% of small businesses who optimized their website for mobile reported an increase in revenue after making the switch.

    Jumping to mobile for small business doesn’t need to be difficult, and the qualities visitors are looking for are simple to understand. Visitors want a mobile website that loads quickly, features big buttons, minimizes the need to scroll and pinch to find content, that provides relevant information and purchasing abilities within a click or two, and a site with a clean, small and efficient design that fits their screen properly.

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  • Small Business SEO Factors that Matter

  • SEO might be the most commonly used, and abused, buzzword in the entire world of web marketing. Simply put, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to practices you can implement that help improve your rankings in the search engines. Now, when it comes to SEO most people focus on improving their rankings in Google and don’t pay a whole lot of attention to Yahoo!, Bing, or any of the other search engines. While this sounds like an oversight at first, it makes a lot of sense. Google is the most popularly used search engine in the world and its competitors use a similar algorithm when deciding which websites rank high and which get left behind. If you rank high in Google you will rank high enough in the other engines, and even if you only rank high in Google you’ll still get all of the free traffic you could ever want.

    And free traffic is the name of the game as far as SEO is concerned. If you’re able to rank well in the search engines by simply adjusting a few elements of your website then you’ll receive a steady flow of traffic without having to buy advertising, without having to create partnerships with other sites, and without having to actively pursue link building, social media sharing, and other viral strategies. These additional web marketing strategies can certainly help your site receive more and more traffic, but ultimately all web marketing strategies need to focus primarily on creating a base of solid SEO practices.

    Admittedly a number of small business owners and marketing managers aren’t entirely sold on the need for SEO, especially individuals whose business primarily operates offline. Yet even brick and mortar businesses can benefit from SEO, especially as the web and the real world merge closer and closer. An increasing number of people are using Google to find brick and mortar shops worth checking out in their own neighborhood, and if you don’t engage in local SEO then your neighbors are going to grab the lion’s share of this growing segment of customers. Whether you’re primarily offline or online you need to practice small business SEO.

    But what does small business SEO even entail? What do you need to do to improve your website’s rankings in the search engines?

    Well, to start there are plenty of technical elements of your website you need to optimize, code-level factors that speak directly to the search engines and tell them what your site’s all about. These factors include your site’s description, how you format your images, headings and tags, and your website’s URL.

    On the technical end you need to make sure you’re running analytics software on your site. This software basically accumulates a lot of data on your website’s visitors, data including where they came from, how long they stayed on your site, and what keywords brought traffic to your site. Without analytics software running on your site you won’t know which of your web marketing initiatives are working and which aren’t, a guaranteed formula for long-term failure. Analytics also provide the dual role of letting you know what works and what doesn’t on your website, allowing you to not only increase the traffic your small business SEO drives to your site but also making sure that traffic actually takes the actions you want them to.

    Small business SEO is crucial towards the success of your business, even if you run a primarily local business. Make sure you get it right!

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  • Protecting Your Online Reputation

  • Just because you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your online reputation doesn’t mean your potential customers won’t pop onto the web to find a few opinions on whether your business is worth checking out or not. These days most people look online when they’re going to make a purchase, even if they’re going to make that purchase at a small local business or a brick and mortar neighborhood store. Just as you work hard to ensure word of mouth remains positive surrounding your business, you also need to guard your reputation online.

    Online reputation management doesn’t need to be particularly complicated and it doesn’t need to take up a whole lot of your time, but it is something you need to perform regularly to make sure nothing negative gets posted online. A negative comment placed against your business on a website like Yelp or on a review blog can stay up there for years, being seen by hundreds (if not thousands) of potential customers who will choose a competitor with a better online presence.

    Staying up to date on what’s being said about your business can be as easy as creating a Google Alert for your business’ name, however you will still need to check directories like Yelp manually to make sure unfounded negative reviews don’t slip past you. Contacting individuals who write negative reviews or who post negative content about your business online is a good way to either get the content removed, to challenge it, or to find a way to bridge the gap with the content’s producer to see if you can change their opinion about your business.

    All of this might sound a little excessive, but it’s difficult to fixate too much on maintaining your reputation online. You will probably never have a totally clean and positive online reputation, there will always be negative content that slips by or which you can’t get removed. But online reputation management helps to eliminate completely baseless attacks on your business and it minimizes the number of negative hits it receives. Removing even one negative piece can create positive impact for your business’ reputation and bottom line, as you never know how many potential customers that one piece will sway.

    Of course, the best way to manage your online reputation is proactively, by ensuring as many positive mentions, reviews and hits flood the web as possible. Not only will potential customers think twice about a negative review if it’s flanked by a dozen positive reviews, but a wealth of positive mentions can push any negative mentions down in the search engines where they can’t do your online reputation any harm.

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  • “Me on the Web” A Google Tool to Help Manage Your Online Reputation

  • When it comes to your business’ online reputation offense is usually the best defense. While disarming and attempting to eliminate unfounded negative hits posted online against your business is a good idea, ultimately you won’t be able to prevent all unfavorable mentions of your business, which means you need to make sure there are enough positive mentions of your business online to make the negative appear aberrant and to push them away, down the search engine rankings and out of sight.

    However a truly effective approach to reputation management will cover both sides of the equation, remaining up-to-date on any negative mentions that pop up in addition to ensuring a steady stream of positive hits with your business’ name attached to them. This can be a time-consuming process, but Google’s “Me on the Web” feature makes it a LOT easier and more convenient.

    “Me on the Web” is a simple tool anyone can implement. In a lot of ways it works like an enhanced version of Google Alerts. While Google Alerts let you receive an email every time your business’ name was mentioned online, Me on the Web makes the whole process of setting up Google Alerts even easier and suggests various other search terms related to your business you might want to set up ancillary alerts for as well. Me on the Web goes another step further though and connects you with the resources you need to actively combat negative hits posted online about your business and to actively promote your website’s own positive image.

    Of course, you don’t need to set up these tools and processes to get a good snapshot of what your business’ online reputation may be. While it isn’t as thorough or sophisticated all you really need to do is perform a quick Google search using your business’ name to see what people are saying about you. You’ll probably receive a LOT of hits, but you only really need to look through the first page or two. Most of your potential customers will only look at the first couple of online mentions of your business and a quick search will let you know whether those mentions are positive or negative.

    Now, it’s important to note that these days the most common hits you’re going to get on your business, both positive and negative, will come from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s important to note this increasingly common reality because Google Alerts will not necessarily pick up on these mentions. In order to keep truly up to date on what’s being said about your business you will need to implement a solid social media monitoring plan in addition to your normal reputation management efforts.

    Finally, you need to remember monitoring and managing your online reputation needs to be a continuous element of your marketing and PR efforts. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or a business focusing primarily on local customers- what your business looks like online is increasingly more important than its traditional word-of-mouth reputation.

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  • Maximize Your Local Online Marketing Strategy

  • You might think online marketing is only for businesses with a large, geographically diverse client base, but you’d be wrong. A recent study found that online marketing for local businesses has been growing at a rate of $2.5 billion a year! And the reason local marketing online has ben growing so fast is simple- it works. Even though it might sound counter-intuitive, your potential customers are increasingly using the web to find business located right around the corner from them, making it clear that even brick-and-mortar businesses need to market themselves online.

    Of course, while doing any online marketing is probably better than performing no online marketing, you probably want to get the most out of the time and money you put into your local online marketing efforts, and doing so requires keeping a few core principles in mind.

    First, even though you’re marketing to a much smaller target audience than large global brands, you still need to think like them when it comes to speaking to your potential customers, and that means breaking your target market down into smaller demographic groups. Figure out who your potential customers are, figure out how many small groups you can break them into, then figure out how you can speak directly to each of those groups. Finally, create different ads for each of these groups and attach appropriately specific keywords to each ad.

    Why do all this work for local online marketing? Because one of the great strengths of online marketing is its ability to micro-niche it target audience, giving you the ability to speak in a more precise manner to smaller groups of people than you’d ever be able to offline. If you’re going to market online, and you should, make sure you take advantage of the strengths of online marketing, and niching your message is one of those strengths.

    You also want to take advantage of the many online-only channels springing up to support your efforts to succeed at local marketing online. Perhaps the best place to focus your efforts is Google Place. Through this service Google provides an explicit way for local businesses to sit at the top of relevant searches regardless of their successes or failures with SEO. With more and more people searching Google to figure out where to grab a bite to eat, where to buy furniture, where to get their hair cut and for a whole bunch of other local services, you simply can’t forget about making sure you’re aligned positively with the search giant.

    Aside from making sure you show up in the search rankings you can also use general online marketing techniques that work just as effectively when it comes to online marketing for local business. An email list is just as great for alerting local customers to sales and developing a relationship with them as it is when used for online businesses. Making sure you optimize your online customer reviews on sites like Yelp skews buying decisions in your favor just as effectively as reviews on Amazon guide purchasing choices. There are countless other examples available, but just remember this- if a tried and true online marketing technique works for online businesses, it will likely work for your local brick and mortar business.

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"83% of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services... the Internet will soon surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource."Source: The Kelsey Group