• 10 Things Every Small-Business Website Needs

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:06:38    Comments: 0

    The Web is full of horrendous sites, and we're not just talking about bad design. There are many other elements besides how your website looks that go into making it customer-friendly -- not to mention something that inspires them to actually do business with you.

    From thorough contact information to customer testimonials, here are the essentials that every small business website should have for it to effectively help you do business.

    1. A clear description of who you are
    Someone who stumbles upon your website shouldn't have to do investigative work to figure out what, exactly, it is that you do. That means clearly stating your name and summing up your products or services right on the homepage, says John Zhuang, of Web-design and SEO-optimization firm Winning Interactive.

    "Tell people this is the right website that they have been searching for," he says. "[A clear description] will attract the visitor's attention immediately within 2-3 seconds, and encourage them to stay on your website longer."

    2. A simple, sensible Web address
    Don't make things complicated.

    "Your domain name is like your brand. It should be easy for a user to type it into a Web browser or an e-mail address," says Ron Wright, the founder of business Web design and online marketing firm Accentix.

    He adds: "I always recommend the .com domain as users are conditioned to type that extension when they enter a Web address. For non-profits or organizations, I usually recommend using a .org domain for branding purposes, but also recommend having a .com version of the domain in case a user accidentally types the .com address."

    Wright also suggests avoiding dashes (which can cause SEO headaches) and numbers (which can cause confusion for customers).

    3. An easily-navigated site map
    Clear links to the most important pages, and a site map, are crucial for guiding visitors to the information they're looking for.

    "Be sure your navigation is clearly laid out. I always recommend using dropdowns in the navigation menu so the visitor can see the content under every heading from virtually any page. You want to make it very easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for, or what you want them to know," Wright suggests.

    4. Easy-to-find contact information
    You wouldn't want to lose a customer to a competitor just because you made it difficult for them to get in touch with you.

    "Not every online visitor has the patience to click through every page on your website to find the contact information," says Zhuang.

    "The best place for the contact information is the top left or top right corner of the home page," he recommends. "It is also a good practice to include contact information in every page of the website in the footer or side bar or even in top right corner, which helps the visitors to find it more easily."

    You should also be sure to include several ways for them to contact you -- phone, e-mail, and a standard contact form, are all good options. Forbes also suggests including your address, and even a link to your location in Google maps.

    "One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is to force only one way to reach them," says Wright. "The point is to make it very easy for users to communicate with you on their terms."

    5. Customer testimonials
    Honest words from others help make your products or services more tangible to customers who are visiting you online.

    "They help your potential customers to build trust in you, especially if you are new," Zhuang says. "[And they] help shoppers to confirm whether the product [or] services meet their needs."

    "People love to hear stories from real people," he adds. "They help people [find out] other things you haven't said [on] your website."

    6. An obvious call to action
    "Tell the online visitors literally what you want them to do with clear tones of commend," says Zhuang. "For instance, you may want them to call you now for free quote, or sign up to your exclusively online coupons, or add products to the online shopping cart, etc."

    And, he adds, call attention to your suggestion -- by using special buttons or highlighting the text, for example.

    7. Know the basics of SEO
    Your website won't do you as much good if no one can stumble upon it. Become familiar with the SEO basics to make it more accessible by search engine.

    "You don't need to employ mysterious, ninja, black hat SEO types to rank well on the search engines. Simply make sure your website is coded correctly," Wright says.

    That means using the correct keywords throughout your text, putting in plenty of links, naming your page titles and URLs correctly, and employing the magic of images and videos.

    8. Fresh, quality content
    For many businesses, your website is your first impression on a customer. You want to give them what they're looking for, and perhaps even give them a reason to keep coming back.

    Wright says, "The user is looking for something. Make sure you give it to them.... [and be] sure your content is original, well written and valuable."

    Fresh content is a goldmine for SEO, as well. You can keep your content from getting stale (and give your company some personality, too) by incorporating a regularly-updated blog or connecting in your social media feeds.

    9. A secure hosting platform
    Having your online information hijacked is a nightmare, and, should it happen to your business, it could cost you customers.

    "It is imperative that you have a secure, trustworthy hosting company to keep the bad guys out and your content up and running," says Wright. "It is also very important to keep your content management system updated in order to stay one step ahead of the hackers."

    10. A design and style that's friendly to online readers
    As Forbes puts it, "Web surfers have the attention spans of drunken gnats."

    Zhuang describes it in more detail: "Online visitors often scan through a Web page to sample the content first when they open a new Web page. If they feel like they are on the right page, they will slow down to read the full story. To enhance user's experience on your small business website, you need to organize the content for scanning."

    He recommends three style points for online writing to keep in mind:

    • Break things down into short paragraphs, with headers if necessary
    • Use bullet points
    • Highlight important words or phrases.

    Wright adds, "In the end, simplicity and basic colors are the best bet. Again, the content is the focus, not dancing clowns at the top of the page."

    Source : www.entrepreneur.com

  • 5 Reasons You Need to Invest in an SEO Campaign Right Now

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:06:17    Comments: 0

    SEO: You’ve heard about it. You know what it is (search engine optimization), at least on some level. And you’ve probably been advised at some point to pursue it as a marketing strategy. But for some reason, you haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

    Related: Companies Will Spend $65 Billion on SEO in 2016, Much of it Will Be Wasted

    Maybe you aren’t sure about SEO's effectiveness, or perhaps you think there'll be a better time to get started with it. But it’s likely that you’re either procrastinating or have just written it off altogether.

    I’m here to tell you that you need to start investing in an SEO campaign, and right away. I’m more than a little biased, having been an active member of the SEO community for the last 10 years. But if you can't take my advice at face value, at least take these five important considerations into account:

    1. The ROI takes time to manifest.

    When executed effectively, SEO is a popular strategy: In a recent survey I conducted, of 357 online marketers, 94 percent of respondentssaid they planned to increase their SEO budgets or keep them the same. However, it takes some up-front costs to get going, and thethousands of dollars a month most professional agencies charge may seem intimidating.

    But don’t let these “expenses” fool you. Instead, consider the benefits you’ll get from SEO, from search traffic, to referral traffic, to increased brand visibility and reputation -- and then consider the fact that all of these values multiply over time (a principle I’ll get into in a moment).

    The longer you invest in SEO, the higher returns you'll see, and those higher returns will translate into direct revenue for your business. The only hiccup here is that your execution has to be effective -- which demands experience and knowledge.

    2. We’re in a ‘golden age’ of SEO.

    Some people might consider the “golden age” of SEO to be the era before the Panda and Penguin algorithms launched -- when "black hat" tactics and strategies bordering on manipulation were still possible and quite effective.

    Honestly, though, I love what the modern SEO era has to offer: tons ofpotential search visibility, approachability and the elimination of dirty techniques that competitors might have used in the past to displace you. Search engines are only going to get more effective at evaluating things like content quality and user experience. But potential search visibility may also soon start to experience a decline, as immediate answers and digital assistants move in on traditional search engine territory. Getting involved now gives you tons of resources and tons of potential -- so don’t miss out.

    Related: Decoding SEO: Understand What Your Consultant is Telling You

    3. Compounding returns means higher eventual ROI than other tactics.

    I alluded to this earlier, but keep in mind that SEO offers compounding returns over time. Why? Because every piece of content you create, every link you build and every action you take is permanent. Your domain authority and search visibility will continue to increase, your social followings will grow and you’ll continue reaping more referral traffic and conversions the longer your content strategy goes on.

    Additionally, you’ll eventually develop enough of a a reputation that you'll earn certain benefits as a result (like inbound links and mentions) just by having one. Because this compound interest growth escalates over time, the sooner you start, the more you stand to reap.

    4. Your competitors are pulling away.

    There’s a significant opportunity cost in waiting to get involved in SEO, especially if your competitors are already pursuing an SEO strategy. They’re doing two things of special importance: First, they’re cementing their ranking positions on highly lucrative keywords; so, the longer you wait, the more time they have to build defenses for their position.

    Second, they’re targeting new keywords and establishing that territory. The longer you wait, therefore, the more of these new keyword opportunities you’ll miss out on. Getting involved sooner opens you up to more potential opportunities for visibility before they’re captured by your competitors.

    5. You can’t go wrong, even if you just dip your toes in.

    Finally, there's no reason to be intimidated here. Some SEO agencies may attempt to contract with you for six months, or a year or longer, because seeing results takes time. However, you’ll have other options. For instance, I don’t require any time commitments from my clients, and you can always increase or decrease your investment according to your comfort level. With SEO, your options are limitless, and it’s pretty much impossible to paint yourself into a corner.

    The point is that if you’re going to do SEO, the sooner you start, the better. You’ll get to a positive ROI faster, you’ll earn more money over the long haul, you’ll claim opportunities as they come up and you’ll prevent your competition from beating you to the punch.

    Related: SEO Is Now 'Search Experience Optimization'

    The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to break into the game, and you’ll stand to lose a lot if you put off SEO indefinitely.

     

  • The Internet of Things Is Changing the Way We Look

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:05:58    Comments: 0

    The traditional product value chain has been shaken up with the unstoppable spread of globalization and the universal commodification of goods and services. Globalization has forced companies to adjust and respond.

    Related: 4 Reasons to Be Excited by the 'Internet of Things'

    In fact, Internet of Things (IoT) products are playing a pivotal role in the alteration of B2C relationships, delivery channels and product pricing, and their continued proliferation is shaping the very nature of how we look at the product value chain.

    The "Internet of things" refers to objects that can communicate among one other through a network. IoT is becoming prolific and commonplace in everyday objects. And, with experts predicting that the IoT network will consist of some 50 billion devices by 2020, those devices will only become more and more ubiquitous. The IoT revolution is truly just beginning, and it will most certainly will be televised!

    Here are four changes coming:

    1. IoT allows for unprecedented interactions between manufacturers and consumers.

    Credit the interconnectedness of IoT products, letting them, in turn, connect the buyer with the seller. By opening new channels for B2C communication, IoT products are providing manufacturers an invaluable opportunity to reshape a dusty and outdated product value chain. Interacting directly with consumers gives us valuable insights on products; and consumer feedback will help us mold future business and product strategies.

    Coffee giant Starbucks put this idea to action when it launched My Starbucks Idea. "Idea" is an outreach website where customers can submit ideas on how to improve the overall Starbucks experience. To date, the site has received more than 200,000 suggestions, and the company has implemented several, from energy-saving LED bulbs to convenient lunch wraps.

    While this idea is a bit grandiose and presumably difficult to scale, the intent (and resulting customer satisfaction) is certainly worth consideration, and with help from the IoT's proliferation, it can be more effectively implemented.

    2. Improved B2C communications won't benefit just manufacturers. 

    Improving and prioritizing B2C communications is also a critical component to boosting loyalty and repeat business from consumers.According to IBM, 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they felt that brands didn't know them as individuals.

    That statistic suggests that considerable opportunity exists to capitalize on increased communication -- and that brands that succeed in this regard will enjoy a considerable advantage over those who don't.

    Related: 8 Ways the 'Internet of Things' Will Impact Your Everyday Life

    3. IoT products allow for a unique and modern approach to both cross-selling and upselling.

    At our IoT product development company, TikTeck, for example, we sell LED smart bulbs for $9.99 apiece. A smart bulb is just one component in the IoT-populated landscape of automated homes, and it's a fantastic first step to drawing in curious consumers interested in IoT products because of their low-cost barrier.

    Once those cosumers have tried (and hopefully enjoyed) our bulb, they're much more likely to come back and try our other IoT offerings, and they're much more likely to create a fully functioning and streamlined "smart" environment in their homes. Meanwhile, we can gather data on usage metrics and consumer behavior, to predict what kind of products people may need; and we can offer them directly through the cloud or our IoT apps.

    That's a fantastic cross-selling opportunity, and it's considerably simpler, thanks to the new IoT product value chain.

    Also, there's more than just cross-selling possible here: There's also plenty of simplified upselling possible with IoT products. We can sell a fully functioning, feature-heavy product for a very affordable amount, but we can also offer premium features that are restricted behind a pay wall or subscription requirement. That way, consumers can try our products at a low upfront cost, and if they like what we're offering, they'll pay more to access more.

    This consumer-direct relationship isn't possible without a low-cost barrier and direct communication tools through apps or cloud computing.

    4. Upselling and IoT proliferation can lead to a 'free-mium' business model.

    Given this promise of recouping capital through alternative revenues, manufacturers will be able to deliver their product directly to consumers at a very low (potentially zero) cost. This "free-mium" model means that value isn't inherently attached only to the product itself, but to the actual, real-world use of the product. Monetization will come in the form of upgrades, subscriptions, product services or native (in-app) advertising. This will allow manufacturers to innovate by focusing on intangible features, products and applications.

    Conclusion

    Challenges will arise as the product value chain shifts toward the future. Product differentiation will be crucial for manufacturers, and they will need cost-effective and proven development capabilities, with fast turnaround.

    Consumers, remember, are impatient: They want instant gratification, and that patience is only going to grow thinner as processing, handling and shipping becomes automated and streamlined. Manufacturers will need a supply chain that can handle both big and small orders. Those who can't handle these things will be replaced by those who can.

    Overall, a revamped product value chain will not eliminate the importance of digital and social media marketing. In fact, it will most likely increase it. It's one thing to develop a good product. But getting consumers to take notice is a whole other beast.

    Related: Out of the Loop on the Internet of Things? Here's a Brief Guide.

    The future is exciting, and as connectivity and IoT spreads like wildfire, businesses and manufacturers that wish to succeed on a global scale will need to be at the frontline of the product-value chain.

    Source: www.enterpreneur.com

    By: Rex Chen

  • Using Online Reviews to Win New Customers

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:05:38    Comments: 0

    At a recent trade show, I spoke to an audience of home service business owners about crisis management and the importance of reputation monitoring. At the conclusion of the presentation, the number one question contractors asked was "Should my business respond to our online reviews or comments?" My answer -- always.

    Online comments can help consumers get to know your business and its policies. They'll learn positive aspects of the business and maybe some negative ones as well. Consider the comments you read online -- both positive and negative -- as an opportunity to fill in the gaps for existing and potential customers.

    Thanking a consumer for leaving a nice review online is a great place to start. Most people appreciate a short, to-the-point thank you. When you are confronted with a negative review, however, don't rush into a defensive mode. Think about the comment before responding. It might hurt, but does the reviewer have a valid point? 

    Related: How to Spin a Bad Online Review

    Respond by thanking the consumer for bringing the information to your attention, and address it with maturity and professionalism. Take the opportunity to forge a relationship with the reviewer, and suggest they call you on a direct line to have a private conversation. When they call, offer to make it right. If the customer has a change of heart, ask them to revise their review or add another comment mentioning the situation has been resolved to their satisfaction.

    It takes a lot of maturity to admit when your business did something wrong, and consumers will appreciate your company’s effort to rectify the situation and take ownership of the mistake. Consumers are usually willing to give a business another chance when they see or read about extreme effort on the part of the business. Be careful not to take too long to construct your answer. Responding in a timely fashion gives a better impression than answering two weeks later. Plus, that means there was a two-week period where your business had an opportunity to address a problem and it did not.

    Ignoring negative comments can leave a bad impression too. A potential customer doing research on your company is sure to see reviews at some point during their online search. Many people will type in your business name and the word "reviews" into the Google (or other search engine) search bar to see what comes up. You should do this for your business -- and yourself -- at least once a week.

    Related: 6 Better Responses to a Bad Review Than Yelling or Sulking

    You will see results for the most common review sites like Google+, Yahoo, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List. You'll see some sites you have never even heard of before. As part of your business routine, create a process that either a vendor or staff member follows each week. Have them look at each of the sites mentioned, and any others you identify, to stay current on the status of your online reviews. 

    If you have limited staff and resources, try creating a Google alert for your business name. This is a free tool that Google provides as a way for individuals and businesses to stay current in regards to how they appear on Google. You will get an alert if content has been created using the specific words you put in your alert. The alert can be sent directly to your email inbox. This is not a foolproof method for tracking your business reviews. Manually checking the review sites is always a good idea. 

    When checking reviews on your business, you may be surprised to see a wonderful compliment, a minor complaint or a comment that spurs you to make a change in how you do business. Consider reviews as a part of doing business and embrace them rather than try to hide from them. Remember, these reviews do not go away, and very rarely will a review site take the negative comments down. Each review site has its own rules of conduct and while you may not agree with them, there is not much you can do.

    Related: 5 Ways to Take the High Road When Haters Attack Your Reputation

    Some marketers will advise businesses to bury bad reviews by incentivizing friends, family or others to write glowing reviews after the negative one. But this can backfire and generally, consumers can tell when a review seems too good to be true.

    Using the bad review as an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a customer who is a true believer is all up to you. Remain confident in your business, and offer to rectify negative situations in a professional and business-like manner, staying true to your company values.

     

    Source: www.enterpreneur.com

    By: Heather Ripley

  • The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start an Ecommerce Business

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:05:19    Comments: 0

    Whether you're a bootstrapper or an investor with a bit of extra money to start a new enterprise, ecommerce is a great field to get into, especially today. Even as a beginner in ecommerce, the tools and resources are all laid out for you. All you need is a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed.

    Here are five reasons to start an ecommerce business now.

    1. Worldwide, ecommerce is expected to grow by as much as 13 to 25 percent.

    Projections from eMarketer are showing rapid worldwide ecommerce growth through 2018. This year is expected to peak at nearly $1.6 trillion and by the end of 2018, almost $2.5 trillion. In the U.S. alone, ecommerce growth is anticipated to be somewhere between 11.6 and 16.5 percent from 2013 to 2018.

    Related: You Asked for It: The Details of How I Built a Seven-Figure Business Without Employees

    In choosing a business model, it's always important to examine trends and to move into growth markets whenever possible. The stats back up the notion that the ecommerce model is a good choice for entrepreneurs that are looking to start a new company, or those that are interested in diversifying and expanding.

    If you want to get into ecommerce, there has scarcely been a better time. The opportunities are growing by the day.

    2. The ability to earn as you sleep.

    For brick-and-mortar businesses, location is of primary importance. It can make a huge difference in terms of visibility and sales. In ecommerce, you can set up a storefront at your own domain name and sell your products globally. You don't need multiple storefronts to be seen across the entire world.

    This seems obvious enough, but the implications are more far-reaching than you might even know. The trend of "pop-up" shops are on the rise, as some merchants are choosing to meet their customers in-person with little more than a tablet, a card reader and a few sample products in hand. This means proactive ecommerce merchants can build awareness for their businesses at parks, subway stations and high visibility street corners -- without violating any regulations or laws, of course.

    Ecommerce has a certain "passive" appeal to it, and while it is certainly possible to earn while you sleep, business owners should be looking to leverage technology at every turn to expand their businesses.

    3. It's easy to get up and running.

    Not only have the tools for ecommerce gotten a lot better over time, there are more of them than there ever were in the past. From selling platforms to marketing automation and SEO tools, even bootstrappers can get up and running without breaking the bank.

    The most challenging aspect of getting set up is product, but if you are passionate about a specific line of products -- especially if they have helped you personally -- it makes it much easier to walk through the process of building relationships with distributors or product sourcing. Additionally, it's that passion that's going to drive you to do the work you need to do to build a successful business.

    Related: Selling Products Online? How to Build a Perfect Checkout Page. (Infographic)

    4. Eighty percent of the web population has made a purchase online.

    As you can imagine, that 80 percent is only going to grow. The key as an ecommerce business owner is to establish trust and credibility with leads and customers. From developing an attractive and easily navigable website to creating content that helps your customers, there are many different aspects to earning their trust, but if you commit to constant improvement, in time, you'll build a loyal following.

    It isn't too much of a stretch to say that trust is one of the most important aspects of running an ecommerce business. People clearly trust etailers more than they did in the past, but security and privacy concerns are still foremost in many people's minds.

    5. You can sell more to customers down the line.

    Practically every ecommerce business finds that reduced friction is extremely important for making more sales. Abandoned shopping carts are a prevalent problem, and you have to have a willingness to tweak and optimize your funnel to ensure maximum conversion.

    Fortunately, there are some great retargeting apps and tools, such as CartHook, that can help with capturing customers before they're gone for good.

    Content marketing is another effective way to sell down the line. You can create relevant, value-adding content pieces for your readers, capture them as email subscribers, and then let them know about sales, discounts and promotions as you run them.

    Conclusion

    Most entrepreneurs have other business ideas they would one day love to explore. Once you've built up a successful ecommerce business, selling it may provide you with the capital you need to move onto greener pastures.

    There are many great reasons to start an ecommerce business. If you're interested in being your own boss and selling products you are passionate about, it's something worth considering. If you want to speed up the process, you could even buy an established business instead.

  • 2 Steps to Gain 32,000 Visitors in, Yes, 1 Day

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:05:00    Comments: 0

    I specialize in getting people to click on content. Whether that content is a blog post, an interactive resource or even an infographic, my aim is to get as many people as possible to click on the content, engage with it and share it.

    Related: How to Create Compelling Online Content That Gets Traffic

    My main message here is that, generally, when you place a piece of content in strategic places online (forums/communities/social media), you increase the chance that it will be picked up by other websites. And, therefore, you increase the number of people clicking on it.

    In this context, I'm going to share how I gained 32,000 visitors to a website in one day using two very simple steps.

    Certainly, awesome infographics can get massive exposure for your website and lots of strong links for SEO purpose. But, first, let’s talk about how to strategically post your content to guarantee you the huge level of exposure I'm talking about.

    The content. For a client in the supplement industry, I recently created an infographic which, using a minimalist style, digs into the world’s most popular diets. Here’s a snippet:

    How to Use Social Media to Find Customers (Infographic)

    Related: More Online Publishers Ought to Try A/B Testing

    I wanted to demonstrate the hard facts about content promotion, and prove the process, so I placed the infographic on a seeder site to which I could gain easy analytics access. I say "easy" because I own the site, Mr-Tea.co.uk.

    Pro Tip: When promoting content with the intention of making it "viral," avoid making it looking too promotional. That's why I avoided promoting this content directly on the client’s site. Instead, I used Mr-Tea.co.uk. 

    The two-step process

    Step 1: The first stage of any content promotion process should include identifying a reasonably large online community likely to be interested in the piece. Reddit is an awesome place to start. If you’re unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s a free-to-use link-sharing platform built on thousands of smaller "Subreddits" dedicated to niche interests.

    There’s a Subreddit for everything from cycling to Game of Thrones. On the occasion I'm referencing, I posted to /r/food, as it had the highest number of active subscribers in a relevant Subreddit.

    Step 2: The next consideration was how to drive the right traffic to the page directly.

    One of the best tools for this is StumbleUpon’s Paid Discoveryplatform, which allows you to essentially buy relevant traffic by the thousands -- and very inexpensively.

    The upshot

    I already knew the content was strong, and relevant to the community, so it was no surprise when it began gaining traction almost immediately. In fact, within a few hours, with the two steps outlined above as a starting point, I watched the post become top of the /r/food subreddit and pull in large numbers of interested people from other channels.

    sessions2

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    Image Credit: Google Analytics

    With correct email-subscription tools and sharing tools, I was able to make the most of this content and make the most of the increase in traffic.

    As I emphasized above, the post on Mr-Tea.co.uk was merely a test to demonstrate the power of seeding content in the right places. One instance of heavy traffic won’t rank you No. 1 in Google, or get you millions in investment. There needs to be a sustained focus on SEO and content marketing both on your site, and off it.

    Also, be wary of posting self-promotional things to Reddit too often. Reddit is an organic community, and if the users and moderators think they’re being marketed to, they will ban you.

    But in my case, the strategy worked. And, as a bonus, the infographic was also picked up by British newspaper the Daily Mail.

    The Daily Mail is the most visited news website in the world, so I’d call that a decent result for a few hours of strategic content promotion, right?

    Source: www.enterpreneur.com

    By: Joe Shervell

  • 4 Ways to Boost Ranking For Your Own Branded Terms

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:03:42    Comments: 0

    You're likely already familiar with optimizing your site for specific keywords. You may have a list of specific keywords and phrases you're targeting, or you may be more in the "add amazing content and see what happens," camp.

    However, the idea of optimizing for branded keywords may not have crossed your radar. Branded terms are words or phrases that are specific to your company. They often include your business name, but also may include certain trademarked product names or your website name. For Apple, some examples of branded terms might be:

    • Apple
    • Apple Computers
    • Applecom
    • Apple dot com
    • Aple (a misspelled version)
    • Apple Phone

    We want to rank for these branded terms because there are three main types of search queries: informational (e.g., looking for answers to a question), transactional (e.g., looking to make a purchase), and navigational (e.g., looking for a specific company).

    People who fall into the third category are specifically looking for your business or website. If your site doesn't show up in the first few spots in the SERPs, your competitors will be benefiting from these branded searches.

     

    Fortunately, ranking for branded keywords isn't fundamentally different than ranking for more generic keywords. Here are four tips for ranking for your own branded terms.

    1. Build up citations.

    While it's obviously important to build up high-quality links to your site, non-linked mentions ("citations") can be just as important, particularly for locally-based businesses. When Google sees a website with many citations, it recognizes your website is an ongoing concern, active and current, and therefore worth being in the search results.

    One of the best ways to build up these citations is to register your business with big data aggregators like Factual and Acxiom. Local search engines (including Google) license data from these aggregators to populate their own index with business-related data. So, if the data they have is inaccurate, your local search listings will also be inaccurate.

    Other ways to gather citations include:

    • Getting your business listed in local directories
    • Getting mentions in local blogs
    • Getting listed in Yelp, Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local

    If you're currently being outranked for your own branded keywords by other local businesses, try a tool like the Local Citation Finder. After plugging in your keywords, the tool will return a list of all the citation site listings for the top-ranking pages.

    2. Keep your Google My Business listing up to date.

    Considering the entire right-hand site of the SERPs is often dominated by Google maps and business listings, you'll definitely want to make sure your business name is listed here. You can enter or update your Google My Business listing here.

    When adding or reviewing your listing, make sure the following elements are in place:

    • Your business is properly categorized.
    • Ensure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are consistent with your other listings and citations.
    • Add relevant photos to jazz up your listing.
    • Include business hours and methods of payment.
    • Encourage customers or clients to leave reviews on your listing.

    3. Optimize your social profiles for your brand name.

    To dominate the first page of the SERPs for your brand name requires a number of different properties ranking for those phrases. Rather than focusing all your efforts on optimizing your consulting business, share the love with your social media pages and profiles as well.

    Make sure you've built up some solid citations in Yelp and other local directories. However, you'll also want your social media properties to rank (preferably below your main company website).

    The most important thing you can do to get your social media profiles and pages ranking for your branded keywords is to make sure your usernames and page names explicitly state the name of your business (no abbreviations or clever word plays). You can also include your branded keywords within your social media bios and page descriptions.

    Google+ was the social networking site of choice for SEO but I find Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest are far more valuable these days. While links from these sites may not carry value in terms of "link juice," getting these profiles and pages to rank on the first page of the SERPs means more valuable search real estate for your brand.

    4. Do on-site optimization of your branded keywords.

    There's no substitute for using your branded keywords in strategic locations around your site. This will mean using your business name, website name and trademarked product names in:

    • Your title tags. Use the first few words of your tags to describe your business (using your generic keywords), and include your brand name at the end of the tag.
    • Where relevant, use your brand name in your header tags, meta descriptions, alt image tags and URLs
    • Reference your business name in your website and blog content, where it fits naturally

    Your blog is key to improving your organic branded keyword rankings. For example, our company is known online as the "Payments Blog," which we optimize for. We are consistently adding useful, topical content that's of interest to our audience. Create blog posts and other types of content dedicated to discussing what it is your company does and who you are. We are constantly putting up information relating to the keywords we're going after.

    Within this content, include mentions of your brand name or other branded keywords. Due to semantic search, Google will begin to associate those branded keywords with the services and products you provide -- even if you don't explicitly make that connection within your content.

    If you're not ranking for your branded keywords, you could be losing all that valuable traffic to your competitors. Using the four strategies above, you stand the best chance of ranking for your business or website name, and other branded keywords.

    Source: www.enterpreneur.com

    By: John Rampton

  • 5 Strategies to Optimize Email Marketing Targeting Millennials

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:03:19    Comments: 0

    Think fast: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Stretch and yawn? Hit the snooze button? Go to the bathroom? Brush your teeth?

    If you’re a millennial, the answer is most likely “check my smartphone.” According to a recent report from IDC Research, 80 percent of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning, and 79 percent of adult smartphone users have their devices with them for 22 hours a day. What does that tell marketers? Smartphones and tablets can’t be ignored.

    So, when it comes to the millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, it’s important to know that this demographic views technology very differently than other age groups; and understanding the way they approach email is key to ensuring outbound marketing success. Here are five strategies to keep top of mind before you press "send."

    Technological change and generational change go hand in hand. The Generation Y consumers of today tend to intertwine social media and email usage. According to a recent study by Pew Research, 90 percent of millennials use the web to send and receive emails. However, they also like to tweet, update their online profiles and send text messages multiple times throughout the day.

    It’s therefore important to incorporate social media into your email marketing by allowing subscribers to easily share information with their friends and followers via their social media accounts. If you can get just a few millennials to open and read your email, they are more likely than any other age group to share it on social networks and expand your brand’s outreach.

    2. Stay relevant.

    Millennials are more than willing to opt into email campaigns as long as the information you’re providing them is relevant to what they want to receive. But since they have an endless supply of information available to them online, there has to be a compelling offer to induce them to share their email addresses or cell phone numbers to begin with.

    It’s important, then, to make sure you content is not only relatable and relevant, but also short, with embedded social sharing icons included with the content to raise your engagement metrics. 

    3. Contact and control.

    Test to find out your opt-in users’ preferred form of contact (such as email or text), and use that information to correspond with them in the manner they desireAccording to a study from Pace University, millennials welcome direct brand interactions through email, but want more ability to control, organize and manage the interactions. With about 80 percent of millennials sleeping with their smartphones by their bedside, all email marketing campaigns have to be responsive across every screen size to encourage millennials to interact with your brand.

    If you can get your call-to-action across quickly and clearly, you can then collect data and better understand how to interact with this “always connected” generation.

    4. Mobile matters.

    Smartphones have changed the way we interact with email and one other. Millennials are more likely than all other age groups to have a cell phone. According to BlueHornet’s 2014 Consumer Views of Email Marketing report, 47.5 percent of consumers have used their mobile devices to sort through their email before reading them elsewhere. As such, you need to optimize your email for use on smartphones. Make sure your email campaigns have responsive design, where the design responds to the screen size used to display the message.

    5. Conversation counts.

    Millennials outpace older generations in virtually all types of Internet and cell phone usage. Sending messaging and content doesn’t have to be a challenge when it comes to millennials. Adept at recognizing and blocking spam and valuing conversation, millenials prefer to do the research on their own to make decisions rather than being "sold." By segmenting your contacts into lists based on demographics, desires and behavior, you can more effectively target your emails to the right audience and experience greater returns as a result. 

    This year, more than ever, marketers are starting to see the importance of mobile email. Whether it’s checking their email first thing in the morning, getting an endless stream of updates on social media throughout the day or having access to limitless amounts of information through mobile search: millennials’ online habits are evolving. So should yours!

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Eric Krattenstein

  • SEO Is Now 'Search Experience Optimization'

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:03:07    Comments: 0

    The last few years, search engines such as Google, Bing, and even Apple, have been upgrading their algorithms and machine learning processes to account for the end-user’s experience. But, since their algorithms are built upon the work completed by automated crawling bots (pieces of software that manually scour the internet), it has always been difficult for them to truly simulate the actions of a flesh and blood user. And it’s not feasible for them to create an algorithm that’s based on the anecdotal feedback of an army of individual users that submit their findings.

    Instead the search engines have started to write logic that, to their best estimation, is what a user experience should be on a website. Some of the criteria they are now measuring are site speed, mobile optimization, site structure, content, and dozens of other signals that should give the algorithm an idea of whether or not search engine users are getting what they expect from a website.

    So, what does this mean for companies, marketers, and website owners when it comes to their SEO?

    Basically what I, and dozens of other SEO industry experts, have been writing about for years has now come to fruition. We’ve exited the era of search engine optimization (SEO), and have now entered the new age of search experience optimization (also… SEO).

    And this is great news for anyone that performs digital marketing correctly. It means that “gaming” the system has become less and less viable, and that groups who rely on black hat techniques are seeing their efforts become less effective.

    So, how should websites be optimized for the search engines now that user experience plays such a big role?

    Ask questions, provide answers.

    Previously, marketers used to obsess over ideas like keyword density, meta descriptions, and link profiles. They had everything down to percentages and numbers and it all made sense when it was placed into an excel sheet. But how on earth was a website that was built from data on an excel sheet supposed to appeal to a human being?

    That’s the problem the search engines set out to fix. And you need to accommodate the changes they’ve made.

    Specifically, you need to think about your website visitors at every stage of your web design and marketing process. And this can be done easily with a series of question and answer audits you can ask yourself as you’re creating your marketing campaign.

    For instance, if you’re designing a web page and you’re wondering how to make it appear in the Google search results, you should start by asking what your customers are typing into the search engine. This sounds rudimentary, but think it through for a moment. Previously marketers would optimize for terms such as “snow tires” or “weight loss products”. But search habits have become more semantic and people are no longer typing in general terms, but rather they’re asking questions.

    Thus, the search term “snow tires” has evolved into, “what are the best snow tires for a 2008 Ford F150?”

    And it’s the companies that are answering the questions for their customers that are starting to win in the search engine rankings. So, stop fretting over how many times you mention the keyword in the content you’re writing on the page, and instead start asking yourself what your customers need help with.

    Embrace mobile.

    If you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you may be shocked to hear that most people use smart phones and that smart phone searches now account for a more search volume than desktop searches. However, if you’ve been living in the world with the rest of us, this isn’t too surprising. So, if everyone is using mobile devices to browse the web, shouldn’t you likewise be optimizing your site for mobile traffic?

    Last year, Google made waves in the SEO community by releasing a major algorithm update that specifically improved the search engine visibility of mobile optimized sites over their less optimized competitors. It was lovingly termed “mobilegeddon” by marketers. And while it wasn’t the end of the world, it did cause quite a stir with digital marketers.

    Across the board, mobilegeddon caused the search results to shuffle about and it didn’t just impact small businesses. In fact, over 40% of Fortune 500 websites weren’t mobile optimized at the time of the update. Which is staggering when you think that this all just happened less than a year ago. So, some major brands took hits to their online presence.

    And what this taught everyone, painfully in some cases, was that we needed to start prioritizing the needs of mobile internet users. You see, mobile users don’t have the same bandwidth as desktop users. They have data limits and often the speed of their internet is much lower than a desktop computer. So, if they’re trying to interact with a page that has a lot of data and animations to load, it’s going to take forever for them to actually see something on their mobile device. Which, as we’ve been discussing, is not ideal for user experience.

    So, instead of building a website that is dramatic from a visual standpoint, but requires the equivalent effort of a million hamsters running on wheels to power up a switchboard to manage all of the data and bytes your site is throwing at the visitor, you should probably go with a more “minimalist” approach.

    I recently sat down with Mitul Gandhi, an SEO expert and the co-founder ofSEOClarity, a next-generation enterprise-level SEO platform.

    “The search engines are no longer kidding around when it comes to mobile optimization,” says Mitul. “Google has released AMP Pages, their tool to allow web designers to quickly optimize their pages for mobile devices, and Apple is building their entire algorithm based on the actions of mobile users, based on their massive mobile phone market share.”

    As Mitul mentioned, Google has recently released a product called AMP pages, which stands for accelerated mobile pages. This product is a great solution for website owners and marketers that don’t have web design degrees but understand they need to make significant changes to their website in order to accommodate mobile users.

    Pay Attention To Your User Experience Metrics

    Once you’ve optimized your website content and the mobile experience, the next steps are heavily data driven. You should now begin understanding what is happening when visitors are coming to your site and how they are interacting with it. To do this, you can utilize robust tools like the one Mitul’s group offers, or for those that don’t have the budget, you can analyze yourGoogle Analytics data, which is free to use.

    What you’ll want to look for are signals that tell you if you’re providing a positive user experience past mobile speed and onsite content. To do this, look at metrics like time on site, bounce rate, pages per visit, return visitor rates, and conversions. This data will give you insights as to whether your visitors are enjoying themselves once they are browsing your site. Once you identify problem pages or sections, work on optimizing those through A/B testing.

    The reason you want to do this is the search engines are now leveraging the data that is mined from people using their internet browsers. Wait… Google, Bing, and Apple are tracking what you’re doing on your browser? Um, yes. Why else would they sink millions of dollars into a piece of software they give away for free. Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge(previously Internet Explorer), and Apple Safari are all spying on you and reporting data points back to their creators.

    Now, I can’t pretend to know whether they’re using this data for nefarious reasons (I can almost bet they are), but we do know that they use this data to understand whether users are having a positive user experience on a website. And the metrics I just told you to measure, are the same ones these browsers are reporting back to the search engines.

    Don’t Forget Social Media

    Finally, you’ll want to ensure that you are not just giving lip service to the idea of social media. Regardless of how dry and boring your industry is, you need to be engaging on social media. We have dozens of B2B clients in some pretty dull industries that still actively participate on Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

    And they’re not using us because they think they’re going to get a bunch of customers from Facebook. But they understand that the search engines are taking major cues from social media signals as to whether a site offers a positive user experience or not.

    After all, if you enjoy something online, what do you usually do? You talk about it. And where do a lot of people talk about things? On social media. So, it’s only logical that if you’re trying to measure whether a site is providing a great user experience, that there would also be a social footprint signaling this.

    So, make sure that you’re sending links back to pages on your site when you are posting on social media. And don’t just link back to your homepage, but link to product pages, your company information page, and your location pages. These are all places that should be getting signals from the social networks.

    And this is also why you should be blogging, as I’ve talked about ad nauseam in previous articles. Not only do blogs provide great content to your visitors (read: user experience) they also encourage social media sharing and interaction, which leads to social signals, which is what I’ve been talking about for the last few paragraphs!

    So, if you’ve been wondering how to get your website to rank well in the search engines and have been wondering what the secret sauce is, you can forget about some mystical equation that perfectly balances links, keyword density, and unicorn dust. It doesn’t exist. And that’s a good thing. Because search experience optimization is a much more common sense endeavor and anyone can figure it out with a little bit of time and effort.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Mike Templeman

  • Local SEO Tips to Sustain Your Business

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:02:49    Comments: 0

    One thing sustains startups and existing businesses. With business, sustainability is everything. Massive sales are awesome, but they have to be sustainable. New growth is great, but it has to be sustainable. Come up with another business/startup maxim and you can couple the word sustainable to it as well. If you want long term success, you have to create something that is sustainable. Local SEO is one of the best ways to do this. It levels the organic traffic playing field and keeps you front and center in local search results. Look at these top local SEO tactics from experts at Auctus Marketing and put them to work for your business.

    To begin with, let's think of it like this, in a world dominated by keywords, you want to make sure you have a seat at the table. True, the big boys spend a lot of dollars ranking for top industry keywords. It can be hard to compete with that. But you can compete in a different space, local SEO. In fact, change the "can compete" to "must compete" and you have a more apt statement. Local SEO is not forgiving though. You have to set it up right in the beginning. Here is how you do it.

    Get listed on Google

    Get your business listed locally on Google as soon as possible. Prepare to be amazed when you behold the power of Google for your business. Contrary to what you might think, they really want your business to be discovered. They do not exist solely for huge corporations. They will walk you through the steps to get your business listed locally on Google; just make sure you choose the right category during setup.

    Choose appropriate title tags

    This is one of the easiest things you can do to make a big impact on your search rankings. When filling out titles on your web pages, makes sure you include localized SEO information. This piece of code is important. Remember, Google does not rank sites, they rank individual pages. This makes it imperative for you to localize each page to impact organic search results. According to Moz, the best format to use is Primary Keyword -Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

    The nutshell version of this is.... go to Moz local. They have a lot of great resources. The reason to go there first? You want to get listed in good, high quality online directories used by your industry. These directories help with your search ranking. Also, consider applying to Yahoo and Bing. The Yahoo business directory costs money, but is money well spent.

    Take advantage of Google+

    Make sure you set up a Google+ business page and maintain an active presence. Activity on Google+ pages are weighted differently than activity from other social media platforms. This probably has to a lot to do with the fact that Google+ is owned by Google. When you own your own universe, you can make your own rules, right? Maybe. Either way, the reason Google+ works so well for rankings is because it was designed specifically for SEO. Post similarly to how you would on Facebook and encourage customers to give reviews as well. Reviews on your Google+ business page are a powerful local SEO one-two combo punch.

    Location pages

    Be sure to build geo-targeted location pages that target the top locations your business serves. Doing this will increase your rank for specific locations over time. On these pages be sure to add the actual location in the URL, in the title tag and be sure to use the city/town name a few times on the page itself. (e.g. www.BobsPlumbing.com/Boston , Boston, MA Plumbing Services | Bob's Plumbing). You can add as many location pages as you want, but it's really best to build ones for your main target areas and focus solely on those.

    Be mindful of NAP

    NAP stands for name, address and phone number. Put this information somewhere on your homepage in a highly visible area (menu, header or footer). Check your mobile page; you will definitely want NAP there. Also, if you have just one location, make sure NAP is on every one of your pages. This will keep you right in front of your customer while they check out your online presence. They can reach out with a phone call at any time. Also, place a Google map on your page that allows people to navigate to your business from their location. Besides boosting your search rank, it is a helpful service to the user.

    Now you have an SEO strategy to compete with major industries and corporations. When you think about it, every great company started off by first reigning as king or queen over their local space. Use these tips and do the same. They will do more than keep you viable and sustainable. They will position you for long-term success.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Brett Relander

  • 4 Ways Mobile Payments Can Help Your Business Grow

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:02:30    Comments: 0

    Mobile payments make it easy for your customers to pay, and can optimize your point-of-sale processes. But the benefits don’t stop there. Here are some of the simple but impactful ways you can leverage mobile payments to grow your business.

    1. Reduce purchase hesitancy. 

    Mobile payments systems empower your staff to meet customers at the moment they're ready to buy. Not only can the added convenience help you convert more prospects into customers, it reduces the purchase hesitancy customers often experience when they come upon a traditional checkout line. In fact, The New York Times cites scientific evidence that supports the point-of-sale value mobile payments can offer. According to the research, consumers turn to their personal perception of the wait time a point-of-sale line presents when deciding to buy — regardless of whether their expectation reflects reality. Mobile payments allow small businesses to cater to customers before they can second-guess their purchase, while giving them an ideal checkout experience. They can purchase anywhere in your store -- or at remote locations such as festivals and events -- in the moment they’re ready to buy.

    2. Dangle the marketing offers customers are most likely to want. 

    Many mobile payment providers include the ability to incorporate customer purchase patterns into marketing campaigns. With such insights, small business owners design and deploy cost-effective marketing offers via email or text message that dangle the proverbial carrot customers are most likely to respond to, given their past purchases. 

    When you market relevant products, price points and promotional offers based on the customer’s unique purchase history, you optimize the time and energy you invest into your marketing campaigns. 

    3. Get more out of your loyalty programs.

    Data recently compiled by SCORE revealed that it costs a small business nearly seven times more money to attract a new customer compared to the cost of cultivating a relationship with an existing one. Though 82 percent of small business respondents to SCORE's survey said establishing loyalty is critical to their growth, loyalty rewards programs are no longer a point of differentiation -- or guaranteed to build loyalty.

    Consider Media Planet’s data as an example of how fierce the competition for customer loyalty has become: While the average customer belongs to about 13 loyalty programs, they are active users of fewer than half of them. That’s a challenge mobile payments can help small businesses overcome. Media Planet’s study revealed that from the customer’s perspective, ease of use is one of the most important aspects of a loyalty program. Mobile payment providers can empower merchants to integrate loyalty programs with their mobile payments: Customers use a digital loyalty card to earn rewards when they use mobile payment, and can redeem what they’ve earned automatically at the mobile point of sale.

    4. Build a world-class brand on a small budget. 

    SCORE’s data reveals that how the customer is made to feel during their interaction with a merchant accounts for about 70 percent of what the customer considers a positive buying experience. Mobile payments demonstrate that you understand the world in which your customer lives, and want to be a part of it. 

    Not only do more than half of Americans own a smartphone, they reportedly spend about three hours a day on mobile devices. As consumers become increasingly reliant on the convenience their mobile devices offer, merchants must follow suit. Mobile payment transactions allow a swift transaction; electronic copies of receipts delivered via email or text message simplify the customer’s purchase experience and make it easy to return merchandise, when needed. These small features contribute to a service experience that makes your customer feel appreciated. In fact, one study reveals that customers have an increased perception of value, and what they’re willing to pay for products and services when they feel a business delivers top-notch service.

    Whether you’re competing with other small businesses or larger retailers, mobile payments are more than just a point-of-sale tool. In fact, mobile payments can deliver a competitive advantage that has a significant impact on how your customers perceive your brand, your business and their purchase experience.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Kristen Gramigna

  • 3 Fatal Ecommerce Mistakes You Must Not Make

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:02:12    Comments: 0

    When you own or help run a company that sells products or services online, you'll need to do a lot to help it grow. Marketing, customer service, and even speedy load times are all important.

    With ecommerce businesses on track to generate over $490 billion in U.S. sales by 2018, now is a good time to establish a foothold in the arena. However, if you really want to

    grow your ecommerce business over the coming years, you must stay up-to-date on trends and statistics that will impact the industry. Here are some key online numbers that will help you plan.

    Don't surprise customers with shipping fees.

    According to the 2014 eCommerce Survey conducted by Visual Website Optimizer (VWO), 28 percent of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if they are presented with unexpected shipping costs at checkout. If shipping costs were clearly specified, cart abandonment didn’t occur as much. Other top issues included confusing store navigation and security concerns.

    The lesson here is to be upfront and explicit about your company’s shipping fees. It’s OK to charge for shipping, but you have to make it clear that you do before shoppers get very far down the sales funnel.

    If you have a flat-rate charge, for instance, list it directly on your home page or each product page. Alternatively, if you calculate shipping for each individual order, then consider making a note about that fact in the shopping cart -- at the very first stage of the process, not the last. A clear and concise way to do this is to incorporate a "calculate shipping" feature directly within the cart that people can use early on in the checkout process to determine the additional cost.

    Don't insist customers create an account.

    The same VWO survey also identified another common cause of cart abandonment: having to create a new user account. In fact, 23 percent of consumers said they would abandon their shopping cart if they’re forced to become a member and must spend time inputting a bunch of additional personal information apart from their address and contact details.

    It’s important to remember that many shoppers don’t want to spend more time than necessary completing their purchase, and are simply focused on getting their items, not on joining a club. To many buyers, being suddenly forced to become a member when they’re checking out creates hassles and leaves a bad impression.

    To avoid losing almost a quarter of your potential customers because of membership signups, make sure that you have a guest checkout option in your website’s checkout design. It’s still fine to have a member checkout as an option for those people who are keen to sign up, but don’t force the decision on shoppers.

    Don't underestimate the influence of online reviews.

    The VWO survey found that a whopping 55 percent of shoppers said online reviews influence their purchase decisions. Indeed, seeing top reviews from satisfied previous customers makes other shoppers much more likely to get out their wallet for a product or service.

    Online reviews are so powerful because customers know that they are typically genuine, not curated and hand-picked by a company. Think about how influential the reviews on Amazon can be for book sales, for instance.

    To help your conversion rate soar, it pays to encourage shoppers to write reviews. I’ve seen companies offer a free additional product if the customer logs a review on Amazon. You should also consider asking customers to upload their thoughts about your product or customer service directly on your site or on third-party spots, such as social media pages.

    Ultimately, it takes clarity, communication, and respect for the customer's time if you want to build a foundation for a successful e-commerce business.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: John Boitnott

     

  • 3 Online Marketing Strategies to Kick-Start Stagnant Sales

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 02:01:53    Comments: 0

    “Our sales are stagnant and we need SEO -- please help!” This is something that I hear often. While search-engine optimization (SEO) can provide amazing results, they don’t happen overnight. And, oftentimes, a business can’t wait; it needs sales, and fast. Here are three simple online marketing strategies you can start on today that can help you kick-start your stagnant online sales.

    1. Hit social media hard with paid ads.

    Your website is always going to be your most important online marketing asset, but there’s an entire audience that lives exclusively on social media that’s waiting to engage with your brand. 

    I highly suggest that every brand get acquainted with Instagram and Snapchat. Those two social networks are where the majority of the engagement can be found. Facebook remains solid, especially if you are targeting an older demographic, as more parents and grandparents are becoming comfortable with social media, and this is their network of choice. Twitter is currently hit or miss, but I still feel it’s an important social media presence to maintain. Twitter just passed the 10-year mark and needs to make some significant changes to spark growth very soon -- it has no choice; it still isn't making money.

    Organic social media engagement is great, but like SEO, it takes time. If your sales are slow, use paid social ads to create instant brand awareness and drive wallet-out buyers to your website. Facebook’s targeting options are excellent, and Instagram lets you to take advantage of those same options, allowing you to place your offer directly in front of consumers who are likely to be interested in whatever you are offering.

    2. Implement an irresistible exit-offer on your website.

    Not all pop-ups are created equal. Some are triggered after visitors have been on a website page for a specific period of time, and yes, this can be intrusive and really irritate them. But, an exit-offer pop-up can greatly improve your conversion rates and sales.

    Set it to trigger only when your visitor is about to leave your website. That way, you won’t risk interrupting a potential conversion. Actually, just the opposite will occur, as you will have a 50 percent chance of turning that visitor into a lead or sale. Also, don’t be afraid of upsetting a visitor leaving your website -- it’s estimated that 70 to 90 percent of website visitors never return.

    Split-test multiple exit offers -- exclusive discounts that require an email opt-in and instant coupon codes that offer a discount or additional value like free shipping -- perform very well. Even the slightest increase in conversion rates can equal increased revenue for your business.

    3. Aggressively grow your email list and reward your subscribers with special offers.

    Growing your email list provides your business with several benefits. You are building a marketing asset that allows you to constantly engage with consumers whot have expressed an interest in whatever it is that your business offers. Once you capture an email, there is no additional cost to market to that prospect, aside from your email and CRM software.

    If you’re running a pay-per-click campaign, for example, you are paying for every single visitor that clicks through and lands on your website. You could build a highly engaged email list of 10,000 subscribers, and even at a 3 percent click-through rate, a single email would send 300 visitors back to your website.

    In order to maintain a responsive list, make sure you are sending out offers that can’t be refused. Exclusive offers, big discounts and giveaway promotions are all click magnets. Split-test multiple delivery times, different templates and layouts -- and experiment a lot with your subject lines. I’ve seen open rates shoot through the roof for some campaigns simply when an emoji is included in the subject line. Don’t be afraid to test!

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Jonathan Long

  • Local SEO Tips to Sustain Your Business

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:58:17    Comments: 0

    One thing sustains startups and existing businesses. With business, sustainability is everything. Massive sales are awesome, but they have to be sustainable. New growth is great, but it has to be sustainable. Come up with another business/startup maxim and you can couple the word sustainable to it as well. If you want long term success, you have to create something that is sustainable. Local SEO is one of the best ways to do this. It levels the organic traffic playing field and keeps you front and center in local search results. Look at these top local SEO tactics from experts at Auctus Marketing and put them to work for your business.

    To begin with, let's think of it like this, in a world dominated by keywords, you want to make sure you have a seat at the table. True, the big boys spend a lot of dollars ranking for top industry keywords. It can be hard to compete with that. But you can compete in a different space, local SEO. In fact, change the "can compete" to "must compete" and you have a more apt statement. Local SEO is not forgiving though. You have to set it up right in the beginning. Here is how you do it.

    Get listed on Google

    Get your business listed locally on Google as soon as possible. Prepare to be amazed when you behold the power of Google for your business. Contrary to what you might think, they really want your business to be discovered. They do not exist solely for huge corporations. They will walk you through the steps to get your business listed locally on Google; just make sure you choose the right category during setup.

    Choose appropriate title tags

    This is one of the easiest things you can do to make a big impact on your search rankings. When filling out titles on your web pages, makes sure you include localized SEO information. This piece of code is important. Remember, Google does not rank sites, they rank individual pages. This makes it imperative for you to localize each page to impact organic search results. According to Moz, the best format to use is Primary Keyword -Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

    Get listed in the right directory

    The nutshell version of this is.... go to Moz local. They have a lot of great resources. The reason to go there first? You want to get listed in good, high quality online directories used by your industry. These directories help with your search ranking. Also, consider applying to Yahoo and Bing. The Yahoo business directory costs money, but is money well spent.

    Take advantage of Google+

    Make sure you set up a Google+ business page and maintain an active presence. Activity on Google+ pages are weighted differently than activity from other social media platforms. This probably has to a lot to do with the fact that Google+ is owned by Google. When you own your own universe, you can make your own rules, right? Maybe. Either way, the reason Google+ works so well for rankings is because it was designed specifically for SEO. Post similarly to how you would on Facebook and encourage customers to give reviews as well. Reviews on your Google+ business page are a powerful local SEO one-two combo punch.

    Location pages

    Be sure to build geo-targeted location pages that target the top locations your business serves. Doing this will increase your rank for specific locations over time. On these pages be sure to add the actual location in the URL, in the title tag and be sure to use the city/town name a few times on the page itself. (e.g. www.BobsPlumbing.com/Boston , Boston, MA Plumbing Services | Bob's Plumbing). You can add as many location pages as you want, but it's really best to build ones for your main target areas and focus solely on those.

    Be mindful of NAP

    NAP stands for name, address and phone number. Put this information somewhere on your homepage in a highly visible area (menu, header or footer). Check your mobile page; you will definitely want NAP there. Also, if you have just one location, make sure NAP is on every one of your pages. This will keep you right in front of your customer while they check out your online presence. They can reach out with a phone call at any time. Also, place a Google map on your page that allows people to navigate to your business from their location. Besides boosting your search rank, it is a helpful service to the user.

    Now you have an SEO strategy to compete with major industries and corporations. When you think about it, every great company started off by first reigning as king or queen over their local space. Use these tips and do the same. They will do more than keep you viable and sustainable. They will position you for long term success.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Brett Relander

  • 50 Must-Have Features for Small-Business Websites (Infographic)

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:57:54    Comments: 0

    Websites are a necessity for businesses of all sizes today -- though, surprisingly almost half of small businesses don’t have websites. Still, there are so many design options to choose from and so many websites that it can be tough to know how to stand out.

    Beyond layout and color scheme, there are a lot of features that are paramount to successful small-business websites. Some are obvious -- such as an easy-to-remember domain name, a logo and contact information -- and others are more subtle, like an online chat button or specific pattern for the content on the site’s inner pages. Thankfully, website design and marketing firm 99MediaLab offers pointers for an effective page from top to bottom, inside and out.

    Check out the infographic below to learn the best features to have, as well as SEO tips and the technical aspects to consider. See if your site measures up.

    50 Features Website Must Have (Infographic)

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    By: Carly Okyle

  • Building a Keyword-Driven Content-Marketing Strategy Is Key

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:57:34    Comments: 0

    It’s a common misconception that SEO and content marketing are two mutually exclusive business strategies. They’re not. In a way, it used to be true -- keyword-stuffing once helped pages get ranked well, even if the content wasn’t valuable. 

    Now, that’s not the case. Search algorithms have succeeded at offering the valuable content that people are looking for -- which is the main goal of content marketing. That’s why it’s now possible, and even fairly simple, to build a keyword-driven content strategy.

    1. Identify the keywords that matter most.

    Determining the relevant keywords for your business still starts in the same place: the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

    The difference when building a keyword-driven content strategy is where you should focus. Brainstorming should go beyond wondering what your audience is searching for and into considering the reasons behind their searches.

    What are their specific needs and concerns? This is something you’re going to target with your content, but it should be an element of your keyword planning as well. Instead of focusing on general search queries related to your business, dig deeper into the long-tail keywords that better correspond to what people are actually typing into search.

    2. Consider the human element.

    Google wants search results to be relevant, and as a content marketer, so do you. There’s no value in using keywords to bring the wrong audience to your site -- they’re likely to just head back to the search engine.

    That’s why it’s important to consider your audience’s intentions when searching for certain keywords. Google’s already getting really good at it, thanks to RankBrain. For example, if I search “cars 2015,” Google decides that I’m probably interested in buying a new car and offers these results:

    But look what happens when I search for “cars 2006”:

    Google made a different choice about my intentions here. In 2006, the movie Cars came out, so which is more likely:

    1. I want to buy a used car from 2006 specifically?

    2. Or I want information about the film?

    Obviously, Google went with option number two. Understanding the

    intention behind searches is important for all types of topics and businesses. And your keyword-driven content strategy can help Google make these distinctions.

    3. Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.

    Google uses a system called Latent Semantic Indexing to identify the relationships between different words. It uses these relationships to determine searcher intent, so it can offer the most relevant results possible.

    As a content marketer, you can incorporate LSI keywords -- essentially keywords related to your keywords -- into your content to make it easy for Google to understand your purpose and value to searchers.

    Once you have a base of keywords for your business, coming up with LSI keywords is pretty simple. You can use LSI Graph’s LSI Keyword Generator, to start. Type in one of your keywords and see the related terms.

    Or type your keyword into Google, scroll to the bottom of search, and see the searches related to your term:

    4. Make keywords a part of your editorial planning.

    Once you have a bank of main relevant keywords and LSI keywords for all of them, it can seem like you have a lot of ground to cover. So it’s a good thing you also have a lot of content to create.

    Make your target keywords an integrated component of your editorial planning. Keywords can easily help you brainstorm content ideas, since they’re based on the same questions:

    • What are people searching for?

    • What are their intentions?

    • What do they care about?

    • What are their needs?

    • How do they feel?

    Make your editorial calendar with keywords in mind, so there’s no need to prioritize one over the other.

    5. Optimize with people in mind.

    When it comes to on-page optimization, there are several areas where keywords traditionally should appear:

    • Title tags

    • Meta descriptions

    • Alt attributes

    • Body content

    These are definitely areas you should still optimize, but as a content marketer, you need to prioritize user experience over keyword placement. You and Google have the same goal -- providing valuable and relevant content to searchers.

    Some strategic keyword placement will help you do this, but only to a certain extent. Even if you show up in a search, it's the individual person you have to convince to click, stay and read your content.

    The best way to do that is not by stuffing your on-page elements with keywords, but by filling them with the content most relevant to your audience’s needs.

    As search algorithms continue to improve, the line between SEO and content-marketing strategies become more blurred. As a content marketer, your primary goal is to offer value and relevance to your audience. Luckily, keywords are -- and will continue to be -- a big part of achieving that.

    Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/

    By: Aaron Agius

     

  • 3 Reasons Your Small Business Should Use Email Marketing

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:57:12    Comments: 0

    Marketing has changed significantly in the last several decades. Technological advancements in the field have given birth to platforms like social media and search engine marketing, leaving marketers with no shortage of channels to leverage.

    Just last year, the Direct Marketing Association reported that over half of all marketers they surveyed  planned to increase marketing budgets allocated to email as a result of their previous success.

    So what is it then, in this era of demand-driven social marketing, that continues to make email marketing a core component of successful small business marketing strategies?

    1. Insights you can count on

    One of the strongest assets email marketing brings to the table is the detailed reporting and analysis at your fingertips.

    Contrary to more traditional marketing channels like print or television, email marketing reports provide valuable insights into the overall success of your marketing campaigns.

    While most email marketing apps provide basic metrics, like clicks or opens, the good ones allow you to dig deeper into the details.  Taking a look at metrics like how long your recipients spend reading your emails, as well as the devices or email services they use to access them, tells the marketer a lot about what is working and what isn’t with their email campaigns.

    2. It doesn’t take up too much time

    Most good things take time.  For small businesses that often operate without the resources of a large marketing department, every task must be weighed against everything else that can be done with that same amount of time.

    Typically, we find it takes the average user only about 30 minutes to complete their first campaign. This includes the time it takes to import contacts, design a template, test it, and feel the adrenaline pump of pressing “send.”

    3. Keeps your bottom line healthy

    When it comes to a small business, the reality is that everything boils down to return on investment and how long it takes to get there.  Small businesses must be able to justify each and every dollar of marketing, and that’s what draws them to email.

    According to the DMA, each dollar spent on email marketing generates roughly $44 in revenue. While this statistic may be somewhat inflated, it is hard to argue against email marketing’s proven ability to consistently deliver outstanding results.

    In order to re-engage previous customers, move new leads through the sales funnel, and cross-sell to current clients, email targets the low hanging fruit  - your contact database. When you create email campaigns focused on existing relationships (no matter the level), you create a non-invasive method for staying relevant that will surely pay off in the future.

    Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/

    By: PR NEWSWIRE`S SMALL BUSINESS PR TOOLKIT

  • 3 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Impact

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:56:55    Comments: 0

    Despite your best efforts to keep customers up-to-date with the latest brand news and offers, you’re seeing flat lined open or click-through rates, an unsubscribe mass exodus, and -- worst of all -- emails tagged to funnel directly to your customers’ spam folders (yikes). These are all sure signs that your email campaigns have stopped resonating with your audience and are, instead, starting to offend them. That’s because, while frequency of interaction can build loyalty and brand advocacy, there's such a thing as being too attentive. 

    And if you’re being too attentive with the wrong kind of attention? That’s a relationship deal breaker on every level.

    Too much of the wrong content delivered to the wrong people at the wrong time is better known in email marketing speak as list fatigue. The good news is your problem is fairly easy to diagnose. Even better: it’s fairly easy to fix, too. And fixing it should definitely be a priority -- according to Econsultancy’s latest census, email marketing continues to be the leading channel for delivering ROI, ranking above SEO, PPC, content marketing, and social media.

    Here are three major reasons your customers have lost interest in your emails, and what you can do to make it right again.

    1. It’s like you don’t even know me.

    The most integral part to any strategy -- be that business plan or marketing plan -- is doing the legwork to define and identify exactly who it is you’re trying to reach, what kinds of content they love, and when/where/how is the best time to capture their attention and deliver value. If you haven’t, there’s your first (and probably biggest) mistake. And because a whopping 60 percent of marketers admit that their biggest barrier to effective email marketing is the quality of their email database, it’s likely that many are skipping or skimping on this critical step. Unfortunately, your customers will notice immediately if you haven’t taken the time to do this; receiving content that’s canned or is irrelevant is an obvious indication of just how much you don’t care about their individual experiences -- and they’ll show their displeasure by ending the relationship.

    • Map your customer’s journey. Defining all the important touchpoints along your sales funnel will help you suss out the nuances and influences that drive your customer’s decision-making, which in turn will help you develop the most effective messaging and timing. And since it’s likely that your lists of customers (both existing and potential) aren’t presorted by where they are in the sales cycle, this will help you to begin the next most important process…
    • Segment your lists. While your customers might all be interested in your product or service, that’s likely where their similarities end; your messaging, strategy, and cadence needs to be aligned to where your customers are along their journey so that every interaction with you is relevant and valuable to each of them. Segmenting your lists enables you to further refine your content and ensure that the right stuff is going out to the right people at the right time, which makes your outreach more effective in capturing and retaining their attention as your relationship evolves.
    • Test. Retest. Optimize. Defining and identifying your customer’s journey is essential for establishing a solid foundation to strategize campaigns, but sometimes no matter how much you learn, you just can’t predict what customers will engage with most. The best part about messaging, email length, cadence—and everything else about email marketing -- is that it’s all easily testable. Create different versions of subject lines and test them against each other; create one long and one short email newsletter and see which resonates the best. Testing will help you focus your strategies on what you know works best for your target audience, so you can optimize your campaigns and deliver higher quality content at every touchpoint.

    2. I just need some space.

    While almost 70 percent of consumers want to communicate with brands via email rather than direct mail or text, frequency of interaction is a key consideration; bombarding your customers is just as bad as forgetting about them. Unfortunately, getting the cadence right can be tricky. According to MarketingSherpa research, 86 percent of U.S. adults would like to receive promo emails at least monthly, but 15 percent would like to receive promotional emails every day. 

    That’s a pretty big difference.

    Mapping your customer’s journey and segmenting your lists will help you define an appropriate email frequency based on specific customer needs or expectations. From there, you can test to see what works best and identify your email frequency sweet-spot, per segment.

    • Start with best practices. You’ll be well-served to tap into the wisdom and tactics of those who’ve blazed the trail before you, especially if you have no idea where to begin. Look into case studies, research, and insight from industry experts like Hubspot and Buffer. When it comes to email marketing, small things can make a big difference—we’re talking as small as a few characters’ worth of elements, like how subject line length, day of the week sent, and formatting can and will affect clicks and conversions. Find out what’s tried and true so you have a foundation for developing your own strategies.
    • Define a schedule (and stick with it). When customers sign up to receive email news and updates about your brand, use that initial welcome email (you’ve created one of those, right?) to tell them just what they’ll be receiving and how often. If customers know what they’re getting from the outset, they’ll not only expect to see you in their inboxes on a regular basis, they’ll also be less likely to feel smothered or exploited by your agreed-upon cadence. You can also use your welcome email to ask them specifically about their contact preferences, and save yourself from guesswork.
    • Don’t rely solely on automation. Email marketing automation is an incredible tool that helps marketers automate many of the tedious processes involved with identifying and nurturing sales leads. That said, it’s not like a Crock-Pot -- you can’t just set it and forget it. If you’ve defined your customer journey touchpoints, make sure you’re consistently using them to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of your campaigns. And be prepared to make quick adjustments to messaging or email frequency as soon as click rates drop -- something you can’t do by depending on automation alone.
    • Suggest a break rather than a breakup. An increase in the number of customers opting out (or unsubscribing) from marketing emails can be an indication that they’re put off by the frequency of content filling their inboxes. However, hitting unsubscribe doesn’t have to be their only recourse. According to a recent BlueHornet survey, 47.1 percent of customers would rather “opt-down” and receive fewer emails than unsubscribe. Not only will giving your customers a similar option help keep them engaged by allowing them to customize their interaction with your brand, it will also help you further refine the optimal frequency for your specific audience.

    3. The thrill is gone.

    If the first reason for customers hitting the unsubscribe button is frequency, the second is almost always bad or irrelevant content. By now you should have already made several passes through thecustomer journey map to define Moments of Value for your customers, and used that data to start developing content that delivers on them. Remember: you’re vying for the attention of a customer who may be accustomed to receiving more promotional emails a month than personal emails (nearly 54 percent of their total monthly emails received!) -- you better make sure that your emails are the ones they open.

    • Get personal. Customers don’t want to just buy from companies, they want to connect with the people and personalities behind the brands -- and they expect the same sort of consideration. Personalized content helps to show that you know, understand, and care about the people whose inboxes you’re occupying. Whether that means providing exclusive downloadable content based on their needs in the sales funnel or sending out personalized birthday promotions, that effort to keep the content personal and relevant will go a long way. In fact, Experian research finds that birthday emails have a 481 percent higher transaction rate than promotional emails! Try thinking of ways to harness and deliver that level of customization to delight your customers all year round.
    • Make a killer first impression. The truth is, it won’t matter how amazing and lovingly crafted your content is if nobody will open your email to see it. Since your subject line is typically the first thing customers see (and judge), you’ll need to be able to win them over quickly -- preferably in 50 characters or less. It’s also important to be straightforward and not mislead your audience with “clickbait”-style subject lines. If your customer clicks to open an email and feels misled by the subject line related to the content inside, you may just lose their trust for good.
    • Optimize for mobile. BlueHornet research indicates that 67.2 percent of consumers now use a smartphone to check their email. Why is this important? Because of this: 42 percent of subscribers delete emails that don’t display correctly on mobile phones. Again, it won’t matter how awesome your content is if nobody will (or can) open your email to see it; if you’re not taking into account where and when your customers might be accessing your emails, and optimizing that content accordingly, you’re missing a vital component to your overall email campaign success.

    Your customers want to stay connected through email. In fact, Forrester research finds that U.S. adults are twice as likely to sign up for emails to stay in touch with your brand than to interact with you on Facebook. Don’t let something as easily reversible—and preventable—as list fatigue spoil a perfectly good relationship. Staying in tune with your customers’ wants and needs, providing them with options, and customizing their experience whenever possible are all things that will help maximize their delight and reinforce their long-term devotion to your brand.

    Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/

    By: Zubin Mowlavi

  • What Entrepreneurs Must Know Before Entering New Markets

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:56:37    Comments: 0

    Conventional wisdom says location plays a critical role in whether enterprises succeed. But, choosing where to grow a company is only half the battle, because expanding into new markets is a tricky affair: Entrepreneurs must simultaneously cultivate their niche and adapt to a new consumer base (or bases).

    Fast-paced globalization and rapidly evolving markets, moreover, are factors that demand greater agility from entrepreneurs than they’ve needed to create in the past. With growing opportunities in emerging and frontier economies -- and countries like Iran and Cuba -- a current news headline, given President Obama's visit there -- opening up for business, adapting to diverse locations will prove key in the global business landscape.

    Entrepreneurs should take the following steps to ensure success in these new markets:

    1. Optimize the digital dividend.

    The proliferation of cell phones and ecommerce has disrupted traditional delivery services in markets around the world, particularly in emerging and frontier economies. Across the world, more than half of global consumers say they would use the Internet to buy groceries. And this trend is taking root: In Uruguay, 70 percent of Internet users surveyed said they already purchase goods online.

    These numbers illustrate the opportunities created by the fusion between throbbing consumerism and fast-paced technological trends.

    Indeed, the digital dividend creates a favorable platform through which businesses can expand their reach to potential consumers. The disruption caused by Uber and other companies in markets such as Kenya and South Africa demonstrates this point: The digital dividend can be a potent force when companies harness it correctly.

    We’ve only begun to see the possibilities inherent in big data manipulation, and businesses should act now to avoid missing the action. The coming decade holds opportunities we haven’t even envisioned for aggregating, analyzing and deploying consumer intelligence in established and emerging markets.

    2. Understand the competition.

    Overlooking the competition -- in both formal and, more importantly, informal economic sectors -- is a chief reason why ventures fail in new locations. Business leaders must identify direct and indirect competitors and assess the market for gaps they can fill.

    When considering frontier markets, businesses should never underestimate the competition from these economies’ informal sectors. So, make an incisive SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) assessment of key competitors; this will put the landscape you face into perspective and enable your business to evaluate its position.

    In fact, SWOT assessments provide value for businesses in any market, from smaller companies, such as finance blogs or tech consultants, to the top of the Fortune 100. Formalizing these discussions can provide a road map for maneuvering past the competition in key areas before entering a foreign market.

    Many enterprises also make the mistake of competing on price points instead of building a consumer-centric culture. The latter strategy, however, allows a business to develop a strong bond with its clients and leverage that relationship as a marketing tool.

    3. Build resourceful networks.

    Business communities thrive on resourceful, mutually beneficial exchanges of information. Entrepreneurs starting out in new locations should unearth potential networks as early as possible; these connections will help them identify the best service providers, budding market opportunities and partnerships that will enhance their competitiveness.

    In-country contacts can provide valuable information about compliance issues, local markets and other essential details for a successful expansion. Waygo founder Ryan Rogowski learned this while expanding his business into Beijing: He began a correspondence with business leaders in the area before his actual move, to ensure that he had a support system in place for navigating uncharted territory.

    Building business ecosystems in places such as China actually creates a buffer against cultural and infrastructure challenges that hamper entrepreneurs. Opportunities may abound, but ventures will still fail without the right connections.

    Overall, enterprise mobility will accelerate in the next decade as globalization tears down geographical barriers. Agility and preparedness will be essential attributes as entrepreneurs scout for opportunities in nontraditional settings.

    Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/

    By: Konstantin Makarov

  • 5 Vital Considerations When Choosing Your Web Hosting Service

    Date Posted: 2016-12-27 01:56:19    Comments: 0

    Let’s say your small business has an amazing product, your sales and

    customer service teams are exemplary, and you have powerful marketing that drives customers to your website. Despite all that, without a reliable web host to deliver a stellar online retail experience, people are just a click away from supporting your competitors. Even major corporations aren’t immune to challenging website issues. As CNBC reports, during Cyber Monday in 2015, Target’s website crashed, resulting in not only loss of sales, but in negative sentiment spread through social media.

    In 2018, worldwide retail sales will reach more than $28 trillion so it’s vital your business has a strong web strategy. It all begins with a website that functions correctly, which requires a stable Web host to guarantee very little downtime and a pleasurable user experience. Whether you’re launching a brand-new site or sprucing up an existing one, here are five features to keep in mind when searching for a Web host for your small business.

    1. Backup.

    You can’t have security without stable backup solutions. If your website does get attacked, you’ll want to make sure all your site content is backed up and easily accessible so you can get back up and running again quickly.

    Pro-tip: Try one-click off-site backup because it allows your data to get back online immediately. This should apply to both backup of data you input, as well as the backup of your Web host’s data in case something happens to its server.

    2. Security.

    Security should be at top of your mind when searching for a Web host since cyberattacks and malware threats can cause your site to crash, or put your customers’ private information at risk.

    When choosing a Web host, search for one that uses encryption technology between the user and the server, or between the Web host server and your business server. This ensures communications are encrypted and protected from hackers looking to obtain data.

    Pro-tip: Inquire about password storage — you’ll generally want your Web host to avoid storing passwords in plain text format.

    3. Analytics.

    When you’re searching for a Web host, learn about the built-in analytics it offers. Analytics can help drive your marketing and content strategy. It should also be updated in real time and easily accessible.

    You’ll also want to work with a Web host that makes it easy for you to integrate changes to your website. Search for one that allows for simple and straightforward login capabilities, both to make updates to content and to access features such as email.

    Pro-tip: Look for a Web host that features an easy-to-use control panel that allows you to not only access and edit any aspect of your website, but one that allows you to use search engine optimization tools.

    4. Customer support.

    The Web never sleeps, and neither should your Web host customer support team. Around the clock support is essential, especially for businesses with Web visitors from around the globe. Pick a company with qualified customer service agents available to answer your questions at any time, in the language you speak.

    Pro-tip: Ask about typical wait times when calling support on the phone, and about chat and email support capabilities.

    5. Scalability

    If you’re hoping your website leads to more business, you’ll want a Web host that can grow along with you and not crash as you grow. Ask a potential Web host what their uptime guarantee is. The closer you get to 99.9 percent uptime, the better.

    Pro-tip: A substantial uptime guarantee comes from reliable server capability and support, so look for a host that’s heavily endorsed by reputable customers.

    Also, be wary of shared hosting, which means your website will be on a server with many other sites. It can negatively affect your site if another website on the shared host is troubled in some way. It can also impact your website speed, which affects customer satisfaction. If you do go with a shared host, make sure the host has the ability to grow with you. Also evaluate any potential cost increases based on growth.

    Putting a website online can be simple, but it will only be successful if your Web host provides the relationship your small business deserves. Get to know your host and how they can benefit your business before locking down a partnership.