More Key Steps to Planning Your 2016 Small Business Marketing Budget

If you follow our blog – you probably have noticed our hyper focus on building effective marketing budgets. That’s right. We’re totally into this topic because now – more than any other time of year – is the time to ensure your budget for NEXT year is planned to set your Houston business up for success.

Heads up: 2016 is quickly approaching!

Marketing trends change and previous metrics may prove outdated, so it’s always important to try and keep your marketing efforts as relevant as possible. Below we’ve developed a step by step guide to show you that creating a marketing budget for 2016 shouldn’t be that hard.

Reviewing Your Marketing Budget From 2015

Step one in creating any marketing budget is reviewing the previous year’s. Be sure to review all the marketing investments and efforts that have been made and determine if the return on investment makes the cost worth your while.

It helps to outline efforts that have proved effective in the previous year and determine how they can be improved. For your methods that didn’t prove to be as successful, determine what went wrong. Can you salvage these efforts into 2016 or are you going to scrap them and replace them with something (hopefully) more fruitful?

You may also want to revisit and refine who you are targeting with your marketing. Identify what motivators might have changed for them in their buying process, for example, an increase in mobile usage. Answering such questions about your audience will help you make changes to your marketing plan and budget.

You may be tempted to invest in the same things you did in 2015, especially if the results of your marketing efforts have been stellar. The problem is that the marketing landscape frequently changes, and the involvement of technology and the internet in our everyday lives means that these changes will take place more frequently.

Concentrating on Other Marketing Efforts for 2016

Marketing is no longer a one-way street and consumers have a wealth of information available to them to make purchasing decisions. You will need to adjust your marketing efforts to reflect the latest trends in the marketplace to remain relevant.

Here are some helpful ways to reach out to potential customers in 2016:

Content Marketing – By now you’ve probably heard that content is king. Everyone with a smartphone or a computer will look to the internet for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. If you can provide valuable and relevant content for these people, you then have the opportunity to turn them into customers. Always remember, offer advice and assistance first before selling. Shopify, for example, offers amazing content such this comprehensive guide on building, launching and growing an online store.

Social Media – Having a social media presence is expected for almost all businesses today. Facebook may be the first thing that pops into your mind, but there are many other social media sites that may be a better fit for your company and your market. If you’re in a highly visual industry like retail for example, then Pinterest and Instagram are excellent places to share photos of your latest products. If you’re a law firm or even an accounting firm, then LinkedIn would be an excellent way for you to connect to the right people interested in your services. Either way, social media is the new norm for businesses and there is a social platform that can help you reach any audience.

Marketing Automation – A significant portion of our marketing efforts are usually spent on the small stuff like sifting through data, managing content, sending emails and posting to social media. Marketing automation makes these processes much easier. You can create a system that will allow you to send appropriate emails to the right people, to schedule posts in advance for the year’s seasonal events, and to organize sales data according to different variables like customer location and items purchased. This will allow you to focus on other aspects of your marketing and it will leave you with enough breathing room to look at the big picture.

Mobile Marketing – Mobile is poised to become the center of digital marketing efforts for 2016. Google has already confirmed that mobile web searches have already overtaken that of desktop searches. The company is already making way for mobile web surfing, starting with their latest algorithm update dubbed “Mobilegeddon.” This latest algorithm change penalizes websites that haven’t been optimized for mobile; meaning that your site needs to be responsive or, at the very least, mobile-friendly.

As more marketing avenues open up, you may find yourself rearranging the budget a few times or allocating more funds to make use these new methods and techniques keep your marketing relevant. Think of these as investments rather than costs, you may eventually find that they provide fantastic return for your business. So what are you waiting for? Start creating a marketing budget for 2016 today!

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4 Steps You Can Take to Start Driving More Traffic to Your Website

The internet is an ever-changing digital landscape of best practices, search engine algorithms, and keywords. It probably feels like determining how to drive more traffic to your website isn’t as easy as it used to be, if it was ever easy at all. Fortunately, we’ve got some simple ways to drive more traffic to your website while doing more than playing by the rules. You’ll be giving your site’s visitors better, more valuable reasons to come back, and you should see conversions because of it.

Be Mobile Friendly!

You’re probably familiar with the word “Mobilegeddon” by now, and you’re probably not impressed. To many, it seemed to roll out not with a bang, but with a deflated whimper that left some scratching their heads. Unfortunately, that’s because a lot of the people that would have been looked at for impact were in the process of becoming or were actually already “mobile friendly.” In search results, this is the key identifier of Google’s algorithm update earlier this year.

If you’re still wondering “why is responsive design important?” then you should take a look at a few statistics: as many as 20% of people will be using your website from a mobile device, and some 60% of searches are made from or start with a mobile device. Couple this with the fact that people use the search options on their smartphones like we used to use the nearly-defunct phone book. And – not to mention the fact that the number of users integrating smartphones into their shopping experience or even outright shopping from their phone is steadily increasing, and you begin to see why creating a responsive website isn’t just a good idea, it’s a vital one.

What this means is that if you want steadily growing traffic, you must be mobile friendly. You will need to focus more of your attention on aspects of your business that are affected by mobile traffic and optimize them. This isn’t just to make it easier for users to browse your site, or just to appease Google. This will also enhance user experience and make them more likely to visit your site again.

By the way – making the update should be easy. Depending on the platform hosting your site, there may already be tools in place to make the switch smoothly.

Stay on Top of the Shifting SEO Landscape

SEO best practices are not static. On one hand, this is because technology and the programming behind it are always being updated and improved upon. How people build websites and use search engines are changing as well. On the other hand, this is also a constantly developing precaution against companies that want to game the system.

Abusing protocol might get a site more traffic for a short while, but invariably, that traffic won’t stick around because the site isn’t actually what users are looking for. And then, of course, Google, Yahoo, or another search engine will adjust their algorithm to downrank the site for its misguided efforts.

Even if you’re using best practices from years ago, that doesn’t mean your SEO techniques will still be effective. That may sound obvious on the surface, of course, especially with the aforementioned emphasis on change. However, it cannot be stressed enough how quickly your SEO strategy may need to be adjusted in response to algorithm changes.

You need to not only make use of SEO best practices to the best of your ability, you need to keep track of its changing requirements as well. Your site may need an SEO facelift in order to actually see more traffic flowing into your site.

What might make your SEO strategy seem more complicated is also the increasing level of nuance in optimization. It isn’t merely about keywords or about having new posts being put up every day. SEO algorithms are beginning to take quality and value into account. That means taking a fresh look at your content, which we’ll discuss in a moment, as well as making judicious use of long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords use three or more words to make a phrase, and are intended to emulate the phrases people will actually use on search engines. This not only diminishes competition for keyword ranking, increasing the odds of your page being found, but it improves the quality and type of user that finds your site. They will be more likely to want what your website has to offer, and thus be more likely to come back.

Content Is a Priority

As we just noted, SEO is much more nuanced than it used to be. This is due, in part, to last year’s Pigeon algorithm update from Google, which largely had to do with affiliate sites and deceptive ads. It also represented a shift in how Google viewed content, specifically with regard to low-quality content (ie., little or no added value), especially when it’s stuffed with keywords. Ergo, your site should regularly produce quality content that adds value to your business. If that sounds obvious, it’s only because you were probably attempting to do so from the beginning.

What you might not know is how to produce quality content, or even what kinds of content you should be producing. Of course, this will be influenced by your industry, but there’s a few basics to stay on top of.

  • Your content should be multi-platform ready. This means that the content you produce increases your search visibility as well as your social media reach. Multi-platform content can be shared and re-shared easily across a spectrum of social media platforms, all while linking back to your site, providing a digital word of mouth.
  • Blogs in particular can help your SEO ranking, especially if posts utilize different but inherently related long-tail keywords. Presented correctly and updated in a timely manner, a blog and social media outlets will also increase the perception of your site as authoritative in your industry.
  • Guest bloggers can improve your ranking and perception as well. While commerce is an inherently competitive endeavor, there’s a point at which thriving on the internet requires a certain level of intra-industry cooperation. This isn’t to say that guest bloggers are an immediate necessity, or that they’re going to be right for your site in particular. Guest blogging should go both ways, so having credible guests lends you authority while you, guest writing for another site’s blog, increases the visibility of your own site and further supports your own credibility.

Social Media Engagement Connects Customers to Your Site

Social media is literally digital word of mouth, but making an impact on social media takes more than just shouting into the void. Turning that impact into site conversions is a step further than that. The key is engagement.

Now, engagement as a term can come off as jargon, but it’s quite literal. Just as sales are more effective inside a store by interacting with a customer, your social media outlets should be engaging, letting you interact with users that will, in turn, follow your social media content back to your site. This can sometimes be as basic as customer service, but it can also be used to draw customers in with contests, pictures, and updates about your industry. Keep in mind that being engaging will also have long term payoffs, bringing in conversions that you wouldn’t have reached without it.

Much more than that, social media analytics can give you clear feedback about what is or isn’t succeeding about your site and your business overall.

In the end, the best ways to drive more traffic to your website aren’t complicated or difficult, but they do require time, effort, and above all, quality. Take these steps and you’re sure to see your traffic swell.