,

The Top 7 Mobile Marketing Must-Knows

Whether we like it or not, our mobile devices are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives. Some studies have even predicted that by 2018 there will be about one billion people on the planet using smartphones.

Marketers should see this as a great opportunity to come up with unique, personalized, and real-time ways to connect and engage with customers.

But what exactly are the must know things about mobile marketing?

Here we’ll highlight some of the most important ones to keep in mind for 2016:

1. There’s More to Mobile Than Phones

Mobile marketing doesn’t just mean reaching people on their smartphones, it encompasses a myriad of different devices and technologies that you should

consider. You need to think about the size of the device, operating system and what kinds of activities people are actually doing on various phones or tablets. For example, according to a recent Forrester study, 66% of smartphone users utilize their devices while in a store, compared to only 9% of tablet users.

2. Basic Marketing Principles Still Apply

Regardless of whether you’re engaging in radio, print, or mobile advertising, the time-held truths of marketing still apply. In the end, it’s all about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time. Operate under the assumption that mobile is the first way that customers experience your brand, and use tools like Google Analytics to learn as much as possible about their location, device, and behavior.

3. Change Is Constant in Mobile Marketing

While it’s always great to have a plan, one of the must-knows of mobile marketing is that your marketing plan should reflect the rate of change in the industry. New devices, apps, and operating systems will come and go, all impacting your mobile marketing efforts in one way or another. Building periodic reviews into your mobile marketing plan will help you assess what changes are taking place and make the appropriate adjustments.

4. Focus on Responsive Design

Having a responsive website means that your web content is always optimized for viewing on a multitude of devices. Aside from ensuring a positive user experience regardless of the device visitors are using, responsive design is important because Google’s latest algorithm change ranks pages by their mobile-friendliness. Those who haven’t made the effort to optimize will be penalized with a lower search ranking.

5. Don’t Rush Into App Development

Developing your own app is often time-consuming and costly, and might not even be necessary depending upon your business. If you can achieve the functionality you’re looking for with your website, why spend the time and effort of app development? The key to this working is to understand what your visitors most need from your business (hours, location, phone number, promotions, etc.) and deliver that to them on your recently optimized, responsive website.

6. Video Is Trending

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have seamlessly integrated easy to watch video content into their mobile experience. Using video to advertise on mobile is still in it’s infancy, but it’s one of the fastest growing areas. A recent Google study suggests that people who view videos on their phones are 1.4 times as likely to watch ads as those who view videos on desktop computers or televisions. Smartphone viewers are also 1.8 times more likely to share videos than those on personal computers.

7. Listen to Your Customers

While you may be eager to get the word out to your subscribers via mobile, keep in mind that mobile is a very personal form of communication. A “batch and blast” approach is likely to yield negative results, so it’s important to listen to your customers and read their “digital body language” in order to communicate the right message at the right time. A recent PWC survey found that most users indicate that they approve of a more conversational approach to mobile advertising, rather than one that is impersonal.

By keeping these must-know mobile marketing trends in mind when formulating your mobile strategy, you’ll be able to attract more customers and engage them long-term. Mobile marketing is constantly evolving, and by staying abreast of new techniques and technologies, you’ll be able to successfully leverage mobile as a key part of building your brand.

Can you think of any other mobile marketing must-knows? If so, feel free to share them below in the comments.

,

Houston Small Business Marketing Tips and Tricks…from the Pros!

As a Houston small business owner, you’re always looking for ways to get the word out about your products or services. Marketing budgets are tighter than ever these days, and you need as much bang from your marketing buck as possible.

Odds are that you’re not alone. Many Houston small businesses are now striving to get an edge over the competition and adjust to the city’s growing population and changing demographics. The effectiveness of marketing and brand recognition can often make or break an entire business.

So what exactly can you do to stay ahead of the marketing curve? Here are six small business marketing tips from the pros that you can start using today to make a significant impact both now and into the future:

1. Use Automation & Technology

Automation is great because it takes a lot of the manual work out of your marketing efforts. Many platforms now allow you to create emails and marketing that are sent out once triggered by a specific action from a prospect. Also make sure to leverage analytic tools to monitor web visitors and social media automation services, like SocialSync, to autonomously post updates. In fact, many experts believe that the future of small business lies in automation, not just for marketing but HR, payroll, and inventory management. By having a solid technology strategy and automating as much as possible, you’ll be able to focus only on the most important aspects of your business.

2. Understand Your Audience

Marketing is a conversation, and before you start talking to someone you should know everything you can about them. As a business owner, do you know who exactly you’re targeting with your marketing? Have you done any market research or surveying to determine not just who your market is, but what their motivations are? You can leverage some of the following strategies to better understand and define your target audience: online analytic tools, database marketing, and product analysis.

3. Utilize Traditional Networking

There’s still nothing like face-to-face interaction when it comes to making a lasting impression. Networking with other Houston small businesses can pay dividends in the long run, as referrals and respect in the business community are great forms of marketing themselves. In addition, by networking with other business owners you’ll be able to learn from one another, swap ideas and figure out what’s working and what’s not as it relates to your marketing. Here are some astounding statistics that illustrate the power of face-to-face networking:

  • 84% of business people said they actually prefer face-to-face meetings
  • 74% said they were influenced by looks and a handshake
  • 77% said they prefer in-person conferences because they can read body language
  • 95% said face-to-face was essential for long-term relationships

4. Leverage Real-Time and Social Media

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, new stories and topics are trending every day and can sometimes change dramatically by the hour or minute. If the topic makes sense as it relates to your business, go ahead and inject yourself into the conversation. You can build on this to use social media as a brand-building tool for your business. Answering questions, providing customer service, and engaging individual customers will make a huge difference in your social media marketing efforts. One caveat: be careful which topics or events you choose, as you don’t want to come across as insensitive. You’ll want to shelve any potentially risque humor, or anything that could be deemed offensive or inappropriate.

5. Target Your Marketing

As a small business owner, not targeting your marketing is something that you can’t afford. By understanding your audience and specifically targeting different segments, your marketing efforts will deliver a much higher ROI. You’ll also be targeting individuals that will be much more responsive to what you have to say, and therefore receive better feedback. If you’re unclear about your target market, you can start by identifying and analyzing your existing customer base. First, start with general traits such as gender and age, then drill down to find more specific commonalities and motivations.

6. Optimize Your Website for Mobile Users

Not just some, but all business need to be thinking about the mobile user. Google’s latest algorithm update now penalizes websites that are not optimized for mobile use, making it something you literally can’t afford not to do. In case you don’t believe us, check out these statistics from Smart Insights:

  • More than 20% of Google searches are performed on a mobile device.
  • In the United States, 25% of internet users only access the internet on a mobile device.
  • 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a positive mobile experience.
  • 25.85% of all emails are opened on mobile phones, and 10.16% are opened on tablets.

If you feel like your marketing efforts are stuck in the stone age, use a few of these small business marketing tips from the pros. Small businesses are constantly evolving and by putting some of these tools and tips into action you’ll be able to realize both short and long term results.

Do you have any marketing tips to share that might help other Houston small businesses? Make sure to let everyone know in the comments!

,

How to Attract New Customers When Marketing in Houston

Are you wondering how to attract new customers to your business in Houston? Maybe there’s a secret that other businesses know about that you don’t?

Don’t worry, marketing to Houstonians isn’t necessarily rocket science. All it takes is the ability to assess what you’re doing now, and make the changes that are necessary.

When you’re done reading this blog, you’ll have some ideas for how to attract new customers to your business in a few easy steps. Let’s get started:

1. Start by Understanding Your Targets

Developing accurate personas of your target audience will give you a good start as to who you should be marketing to. This should go hand-in-hand with specific big-picture, strategic goals for attracting new customers. Some good examples of goals are: increasing membership signups, raising overall revenue, or developing a greater presence on social media. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based (SMART).

2. Understand Your Customer’s Journey

Determine the steps your consumers requires that you take time to find the answers to their questions, and make that fit seamlessly with how you market to them. Ask yourself – at which stages different aspects of your marketing plan will ultimately reach them?

A visual map can be very helpful in this process, allowing you to see what different avenues customers often take towards making a purchase. The benefit is that you’ll be able to determine which pathways are potentially most profitable, and fill in any gaps you might have along various legs of the journey.

3. Hire Experienced Staff Members

As a Houston business owner, the reality is that you just can’t handle everything yourself. You’ll need to hire experienced staff members and leverage the expertise of these trained professionals. Ideally you’ll want to identify them as early in the process as possible, even if they have to do more than one job to begin with. Here are some of the skills that you should probably consider must-haves if you want to attract a significant amount of new customers with your new team:

  • Strong written skills
  • Graphic design
  • A basic understand of web development
  • Lead generation
  • Social media management
  • Email marketing.
  • Digital marketing (Heads up – three of the hottest skills in demand for 2015 have been SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), and content management.)

4. Evaluate Your Web Presence

Do you exactly how well your website is performing?

Have you recently updated your site to something responsive or, at the very least, mobile-friendly?

How does your site appear to viewers?

Is it dated, unattractive, or hard to navigate?

Determine the functionality of your website. How easy is it for visitors to find the information they’re looking for?

Are you looking at page views to see which content is being looked at most? By doing this, you can position that information better on your site to serve the viewers needs. It’s also a good idea to take a look at your competitor’s websites for ideas and inspiration. Think about what they’re doing right, or better yet, what they’re doing wrong, and use this as a means of improvement.

5. Utilize Marketing Automation & Email Workflows

Today’s marketing automation and email tools enable you to create content that targets specific points in your customer’s path to purchase. This keeps customers engaged and allows marketers to personalize their messages, further strengthening the bond between customers.

More importantly, it allows you to scale your marketing efforts by reaching more people at once without your email blasts seeming like spam. Outline the different steps in the path of your buyer’s journey, and automate each step with the appropriate materials and responses.

6. Create Content for Your Audience

The goal here is to be useful and provide value to your target audience. Blogs, white papers and case studies tailored to their common needs can be very powerful in terms of connecting with potential customers.

Creating content with a strong keyword strategy also has the benefit of improving your ranking in search results. Identify some key areas of interest for your audience and develop different types of content that speaks to them and that they would find useful.

Remember, people like to get their information in a number of different ways. Utilize eBooks, case studies, video content, and infographics to serve your prospect’s needs. In fact only 30% of companies say they are effective at content marketing, so this would make a great way to get a leg up on the competition.

So –  you’ve learned some basics of how to attract new customers in Houston to your business. Sometimes success starts with small, basic steps. With a bit of persistence and ingenuity you’ll be attracting more customers than you can handle.

,

How to Turn Your Houston Marketing Frown Upside Down!

Are the results of your marketing efforts getting you down? The world of marketing is always in flux, and in Houston it isn’t any different. In this post, we’ll give you four tips to get you to the top of your Houston marketing game in no time flat. Let’s begin!

Ensure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

When Mobilegeddon rolled out in April 2015, a lot of businesses weren’t ready for it, especially the small ones. However, it took some time for the effects to really be visible. After six months, there was some solid data to consider, and for the non-mobile-friendly, the numbers weren’t good.

On average, they fell five ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), which would be painful enough for businesses already ranking well. For businesses that barely made the first page, it’s disastrous. In fact, 77% of mobile searches occur where desktops are likely available, such as home and work.

People prefer to use their mobile devices, and when nearly 70% of clicks go to the top three returns and more than 50% of searches are performed from a mobile device, you can’t afford to not be mobile-friendly. We mean that quite literally — you could be losing thousands of dollars monthly.

How to Do It:

The task of re-designing your site may seem daunting, but ultimately it’s worth your trouble. Google recognizes three different mobile formats: responsive, dynamic (sometimes called adaptive), and mobile-specific redirect sites (e.g., m.YourWebsite.com).

While a separate mobile site seems like the quick and easy path, it isn’t going to be a long term solution. Why? Because more and more devices are coming in a wide variety of sizes. A dynamic design will offer the same content on the same URL, but use different HTML sets based on what meta data it reads from the browser you’re using. It’s effective, but harder to index by Google-bots; it also requires you to spend more time and money individually designing an appropriate number of HTML options.

We strongly recommend the responsive design — it has the ability, within one set of HTML to adjust to any screen or browser size as it’s encountered (i.e., respond to device parameters). That makes it very easy to index, and much cheaper to pay for.

How do you know if you’re mobile-friendly? And if you’re not, how do you fix it? There’s a few aspects you should be looking at.

  • First, use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test and Mobile Usability Tool to see what changes Google says need to be made.
  • Next, check the options provided by your content managing system (e.g., WordPress, Joomla, SquareSpace); Google has tips about some of these as well.
  • Then make sure you don’t use Flash, mismatched fonts, or non-optimized images (i.e., extremely large file size).
  • If you already have a mobile site, ensure all of your redirects go to the proper URL’s or you could inadvertently downrank yourself.

However, in most cases, you’ll probably be coordinating with a web designer to redevelop your site or make any needed changes. However, if you are handling your own website, here’s a few tools to help you on your way:

Ensure Your Team Is Thinking Mobile First

Unfortunately, even when your site is mobile friendly, your marketing creative may not be. Whether you’re the one that handles marketing or if you have a team that develops it, you need to ensure that your marketing is designed with mobile in mind first and foremost. Here’s a few reasons why:

How to Do It:

Marketing that isn’t targeting mobile audiences first is missing out on a larger and larger chunk of your audience. So what does creative need to concern itself with?

First and foremost, how easy is the marketing to absorb on a mobile device? Marketing also needs to be designed to work within a responsive platform and adhere to some of the same guidelines (e.g., image file sizes) that your website does.

Secondly, you need to determine what kind of marketing is going to be most effective for reaching your audience. Banner ads must be effective and native advertising is not only on the rise, it’s successful.

Most importantly, you need to have your marketing in the right place at the right time.

Ensure You’re Effectively Targeting Your Audience

Unfortunately, this seems to remain a difficult thing for marketers. According to one study, more than half of the respondents found it difficult to determine proper target personas. You may think it’s unnecessary, considering Nielsen reports roughly 59% of ad impressions reach their audience.

There’s a key problem there though — it’s measuring ad impressions instead of what’s actually important: conversions. Personalizing calls-to-action will boost conversions by 42%, while personalizing the shopping experience across all marketing and media channels boosts conversions by 40%.

How to Do It:

Reevaluate your audience by examining what your products and services fulfill in terms of customer needs. Use this to focus your segmentation.

Really break down your data, all of your data across all channels, and filter that to determine which segments are reached most effectively, on what channels, for what budget.

Take full advantage of listening tools and targeting software, especially if you can make targeting in real time.

Lastly, you should always validate your targeting and retargeting. It ensures you really are hitting your targeted segment.

Ensure You’re A/B Testing for Effectiveness

The fact is, A/B testing can take time, but that time is offset by the advantages it offers you. This tool helps you sharpen the focus and personalization of your targeting. Why? Because you’re constantly testing variations for success. This will allow you to determine something as simple as whether or not one layout reaches one segment better than another, while it fails with a different segment entirely. Similarly, you can test channels, and how successful one choice is for reaching a targeted segment per channel. Marketing isn’t one size fits all, and there’s only one way to figure out what’s going to work for your needs.

How to Do It:

First, make sure you’re evaluating the right things the right way. Don’t stick to a format because it’s the way your company has always done it. It may be time to overhaul everything, whether it’s your website or your marketing.

If you’re working on your marketing, take advantage of the Google Website Optimizer. In fact, Google AdSense has a great method for A/B testing.

Furthermore, review the offerings from Optimizely and VWO. Be sure you select an A/B testing method that suits your business needs most effectively. Also, review case studies from businesses that are similar to yours, and from businesses that are just as successful.

Create a plan for A/B testing content and marketing, and apply it either immediately or on future projects. The results will help shape your efforts toward higher success.

If you put these four aspects into motion, you should see an uptick in the success of your marketing efforts. Of course, at Cox Media Group Houston, we’ve got the experts and tools you need to take your marketing to the next level. Whether you need a hand putting these steps into place or you’re looking for more advanced advice, we’re ready to help.

Responsive Website

 

,

Houston Online Marketing Trends to Plan for in 2016

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s not enough to follow the herd. Amidst fierce competition, brands, now more than ever, must really stay on the cutting edge of marketing techniques in order to maintain relevance with their audiences. In this post we’ll take a look at some online marketing trends to plan for in 2016 to help your business’ marketing soar into the new year.

More and More Focus on Mobile!

Mobile devices have been an important target to marketers and that trend shows no sign of slowing down in 2016. At present, 64% of all adults in the US own a smartphone, and by 2016, worldwide smartphone ownership is expected to exceed two billion people. That’s over a quarter of everyone on earth! Can your marketing afford to lose such a massive audience?

In addition to smartphones continuing to dominate in 2016, expect to see increased ownership of other mobile devices. By the end of next year, 1 in 10 people in the US will be tablet owners, and wearable tech ownership — like smart watches — will have tripled. Brands that want to thrive would be well served to capitalize on the popularity of these devices by tailoring their marketing campaigns to accommodate a variety of mobile screens and platforms.

Focus on New and Niche Social Platforms

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may have the market cornered when it comes to social media, but as a marketer you ultimately need to be where your audience is. With these “old-guard” networking sites mostly saturated — over a quarter of teens have recently left Facebook, for example — 2016 is the time for brands to broaden their social horizons by reaching out to their audiences on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope.

While Instagram is owned by Facebook, and Periscope by Twitter, these sites boast an entirely different experience than their parent sites. Fresh and fun, sites like Instagram and Periscope offer instant, real-time connections. And their emphasis on photos and videos makes them great for brands too! Just take a look at how users are engaging with brands through Snapchat’s new, innovative “Discover” section.

Predictive Analytics

Think of predictive analytics like market segmentation on steroids. Predictive analytics looks at the past behavior of consumers and analyzes it for patterns that can predict future actions. Not only can it let marketers nurture their audience with personalized messages, it can help to predict the outcomes of proposed marketing campaigns, letting brands minimize risks and maximize ROI.

Video Ads Will Dominate

Whether it’s pre-roll, post-roll, or native, advertising in digital video will continue to grow this year,  doubling in ad spends compared to three years ago ($2.8 billion in 2013 vs. $5 billion in 2016). While impressive, these numbers are hardly surprising, given how popular streaming video is for consumers and what a powerfully engaging medium it is for marketers.

App Indexing Will Lead to an Explosion of Apps

Recent moves by Google to enable better indexing of Android apps in its Play store is as important for businesses looking to get their apps noticed as SEO is for content marketers. Rather than apps being organized very generally (games, utilities, etc.) new indexing algorithms let users search for just the right app to suit their needs, in much the same way they would a website.

If your business has an app, or is considering releasing one, it’s easy to get it indexed, and doing so can provide a helpful push in getting your app noticed.

Digital Assistants Will Lead to a New Kind of Optimization

Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana have changed the way users interact with the web. Businesses need to optimize their web presence in order make their information easily accessible to digital assistants so that when a user says something like “Siri, show me hardware stores in Houston,” your store comes up.

When predicting trends, it’s hard not to feel like some of them are more science fiction than reality. But while things like wearable tech, and complex algorithms might seem “far-out” right now, it’s important to remember how far technology has advanced in the past decade. As tech advances, it’s important for digital marketers to keep up. In the vastness of the world wide web, failing to do so is the quickest route to obsolescence.

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!

,

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.

Step by Step: Planning Your 2016 Advertising Budget

With 2015 drawing to a close, many businesses are entering the planning stages for their 2016 budgets. Frequently, smaller businesses and agencies struggle with how to come up with theirs. Luckily we’re here to help! Keep reading for a step by step guide on planning your 2016 advertising budget.

1. Determine How Much You Need to Spend

Picking a number for your advertising budget can be daunting if done in a vacuum. Many people look at last years budget and think, “did I really need to spend that much?” without considering their return on investment. Or maybe you really did spend too much on advertising last year, and you should cut back this year. Luckily there are some easy ways to figure it out. I’ll start with an easy, common budgeting technique. First, you must consider your sales cycle and the sales goals for your business. Next, combine that with total revenue figures. It’s common for businesses to spend 8% of their top-line revenue on marketing in general. However, you might want to start at 5% and then adjust your projected spending up or down based on the size of your market, the cost of media, what you can learn about how much your competitors are spending, and the speed at which you’d like to grow. You will need to earmark marketing money for new business, current customer retention, community involvement and employee training and education. Don’t just think of this budget as an advertising budget!

Here is an example: You are an ophthalmologist and the most profitable service you offer is LASIK. Your top-line revenue is $3 million per year, so 5% of this is $150,000. However, you would like to acquire 100 new patients in 2016 on top of keeping current patients. Given the sales cycle for LASIK, will take about 6 months for a new prospect to become a patient, so you will need to assume that the fruits of your labor will start to sprout 4-8 months from the start of your campaign. If each new patient is worth $10,000 to you (lifetime), you may need to spend $2,500 per patient to acquire him or her given the competition in the Houston market. That will cost you $250,000 without considering referrals or organic customer accumulation from insurance, walk-ups or drive-by prospects. Don’t expect 100 new patients to come to your practice after spending $20,000 in advertising! You will either need to lower your expectations of new patients or increase the amount you have budgeted for this effort.

2. Determine Where to Spend Your Budget

The most important part here is to create a strategy for your one, three and five year plan. Too many business owners resort to a mirage of tactics with their advertising and get frustrated when the results don’t pan out. It’s great to use a tactic to shoot sales through the roof with a big sale or coupon offer. However, if there is no overall strategy, you’ll be at the mercy of each sale to meet your objectives.

First of all, let’s look at your target customer and spend some time thinking about this person. A good advertising plan should match your sales funnel – start with big, broad reach and funnel down to make sure you have touch-points along their purchasing path. You almost guide them directly to your business from awareness and research to purchase. Don’t assume you can just walk into a bar and get a date with the first person you see. Business is just like dating: you must flirt and court them before they will agree to a first date.

Utilize radio’s massive reach to achieve name recognition, branding and action from your audience. You’ll see results from some already interested consumers, but you’ve just begun work with those who may only be in the awareness and research phase. Use targeted digital ads to get in front of consumers who might be interested or who fall into your target profile. If you want to increase engagement with your brand- not necessarily for passing information- you’ll want to explore social media. Do you want to tell an emotional story? Consider video ads that will link to your website. Do you want to be the thought-leader in your industry? Think blogs and articles written and distributed within your own digital channels. Couponing and sales are great ways to push someone into buying when they may be on the fence, but it’s not a way to earn long-term business.

3. Utilize Competitive Information

How much you’ll spend and where you’ll spend it should both be decided by your current and projected revenue, historical data, but also competitive data. You can only thrive when you have the information. While competitors differ on so many levels, it’s good business acumen to take in to consideration what your competitors are spending and where they position themselves. This is not so you can compete one-on-one with them, but so you have an idea where there might be opportunities for you take ownership. If they spend $2 million a year in TV and nothing in radio, maybe you should consider jumping into the radio world and owning some of that platform? Consumers are everywhere and there isn’t one platform that is the end-all, be-all. They work together to create lead sources for you!

There you have it! Planning your advertising budget might seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s actually quite simple. As long as you know what you want to achieve, who you need to reach to meet your goals, and a good strategy to make it happen in both the short and long-term, you’ll see the fruits of your labor for years to come!

,

Five Houston Topics that Might Affect Your Business

Houston, Texas is a great place for any business these days. A diverse economy, growing population and favorable tax rates are just a few reasons that are contributing to the success of both small and large companies in the greater Houston area.

With that being said, there are unique traits and trends in Houston that affect your business. You need to be aware of these external factors specific to Houston in order to give your company the best chance to grow and prosper.

So whether you own an established business or are new to the area, here are five trends in Houston that you should definitely take into account in the upcoming year that will likely affect your company (whether you like it or not):

1. Shifting Demographics

Houston is now considered to be one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in America. You might be thinking “that’s a wide variety of consumers, how can I appeal to different groups?” It’s important to note that Houston is one of the least integrated cities in the States, according to several sources. So if you expect to capture customers from the Hispanic demographic, for example, do your homework and make sure you have brand visibility where it reaches that specific audience. Demographic factors in Houston aren’t just limited to ethnicity, but to age as well. Houston is quickly becoming a “Millennial Magnet”, due to it’s well paying job market and reasonable cost of living. Houston is now among the top 10 cities in America with the fastest-growing Millennial population (ages 18-34), with a 25% increase in Millennials from 2000-2013. Some of the key areas for businesses seeking to tap into the Millennial market are mobile technology, social media and an individualized marketing approach. The Millennial explosion is is expected to continue and you should consider how to use this fact to benefit your business.

2. Changes in Weather

The climate in Houston can be classified as “humid subtropical,” making the weather very unpredictable at times. This can make planning for seasonal trends in Houston particularly challenging. Businesses need to be aware that Houston is prone to severe, potentially disastrous weather that includes tornadoes, tropical storms and even hurricanes. Hurricane season usually begins around the first of June and can last for months. Hurricane Ike had a lingering negative effect on the Houston-area economy after it hit in September, 2008. A particularly rainy season adversely affected outdoor-related businesses this spring. Having a contingency plans for adverse weather is recommended.

3. Football Season

The state of Texas is synonymous with football, and the city of Houston is no exception. Houston is home to the National Football League’s Houston Texans. The Texans attracted the 10th most fans in attendance for 2015, despite below average team performance. In addition, local fans avidly follow their college teams, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, University of Houston, Baylor, Texas Christian, Rice and many more throughout the region. And Friday nights are traditionally high school football’s domain in the state. Over 54,000 fans attended the 2014 Texas 6A Championship, more than most of the college football bowls attracted during the same period.

Football season in Houston provides a great opportunity for businesses in terms of marketing. Some of the ways that businesses can leverage football season to their advantage are embracing a football theme for your space, offering Game Day discounts and engaging with fans that might be potential customers on social media.

4. The Local Livestock Show & Rodeo

You might not realize it, but rodeo season is one of the major trends in Houston that affect your business. The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show is the largest rodeo in America. In 2010, the most recent for which the numbers are available, the HLS&R added approximately $320 million in economic output and $475 million in net sales for local businesses. It also generated the equivalent of 7,000 full time jobs during the three week period, making it an event that businesses in Houston shouldn’t ignore. Plan ahead and think of potential ways to use Houstonian’s rodeo experience to best benefit your business. Building a relationship with HLS&R, or smaller, more strategically located events and festivals around the area, could be a boon to your business.

5. The Super Bowl and NCAA Championships

Houston has become an epicenter for major professional and college sporting events. The city is set to host the NCAA men’s basketball championship in April of 2016, along with the NFL Super Bowl in February of 2017. In fact, Verizon has spent upwards of $173 million on a new and improved cell phone infrastructure in anticipation of the increased tourism these events are expected to bring. City officials and major corporations are extremely eager to showcase Houston during these events. What better time for local businesses to take advantage of the increased foot traffic and visibility? Major sporting events like these are expected to be one of the increasing trends in Houston, so make sure to have special marketing campaigns and promotions during these events to maximize your sales and brand exposure.

So there you have it, some of the major trends in Houston that will affect your business both in the near and longer term. By being aware of Houston’s shifting demographics, seasonal climate trends and major local events, you’ll know how best to position your business for success in one of the most beautiful, dynamic cities in the US.

,

10 Scary Digital Marketing Mistakes You DON’T Want to Make

Halloween is right around the corner, but here in Houston, it’s not ghosts and ghouls were afraid of, it’s bad marketing. So bring your tablet around the campfire and check out these 10 very scary digital marketing mistakes you most definitely DON’T want to make.

1. Failing to Understand Your Audience

Come on now, it’s 2015. With all of the different ways there are to engage with, and learn about your audience there’s no excuse for not understanding them. And even if your target audience is zombies, if your base thinks you’re out of touch you can bet they won’t be paying you any attention.

2. Not Having Defined Goals

This is one of the scariest digital marketing mistakes you can make, because having ill defined marketing goals can throw a whole campaign out of whack. If you don’t know what you want to achieve with your marketing, you risk choosing a marketing technique that is ineffective for the situation, or else not tracking the proper metrics to allow you to accurately see whether the campaign was a success or a failure. You’ll be marketing-walking dead, wandering aimlessly, arms outstretched.

3. You’re Trying Too Much

No one expects you to become a marketing superhero overnight, especially if you’re just starting out. Think of yourself as more like a marketing Karate Kid instead. Start small, and see what works. Wax on. Wax off. Learn how to A/B test your campaigns, and you’ll be able to identify what works best for you in no time.

4. You Have Unrealistic Expectations

The internet is really a wonderful thing. While you’re reading this post you could, in mere seconds, order that gorilla costume you wanted for Halloween, and have it appear at your doorstep tomorrow morning. Instant gratification at it’s finest. But (unfortunately) digital marketing doesn’t work like ordering a gorilla costume online. It takes time.

Often times advertisers get frustrated with a digital campaign when it doesn’t immediately yield results. But let’s use this as an example, the average social media campaign takes six months before it shows results. That’s a lot of tweets, but patience pays off in the end.

5. Not Budgeting Properly

Creating a digital advertising budget can seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it’s really quite simple. So simple that even the slowest of digital marketing zombies could follow it.

6. Too Much Social Media

When it comes to social media, your business doesn’t need to be everywhere. As long as you’re engaging your audience where it counts. Pick one or two social media sites that are most appropriate for your strategy and stick with them! Professional businesses seem to do best on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, while restaurants and retail stores, for example, might find a more welcoming audience on Facebook or Instagram.

Wherever you choose to get social, don’t post too much, lest you see your audience begin to tune you out, and your social pages turn into digital ghost towns.

7. You Don’t Understand the Importance of Content

Creating content and/or blogging not only helps you get found online but it helps educate your customers and position you as a leader in your industry. And even more, it works for driving conversions! In fact, inbound marketing drives 54% more leads into your marketing funnel than traditional methods.

8. You Don’t Understand Keywords

Keyword stuffing is a terrifying digital marketing mistake, and there is a lot to learn about how keywords work today. It’s more about the quality and placement of your keywords and not the quantity. Search engines algorithms have gotten smarter and are ranking your website based on how useful viewers find the content, not by how many times a keyword appears. Brush up on your SEO best practices and watch your site climb the ranks today!

9. You’re Not Thinking About Mobile

Mobilegeddon — Google’s latest algorithm update — was six months ago, and if you haven’t optimized your site for mobile yet, you are seriously harming your search engine rankings, and regardless of what updates are made to the search engines we know that mobile matters today more than any other time. With 60% of internet access mostly mobile, it might even matter more than any other format.

10. You’re Not Tracking Your Efforts

One of the biggest advantages that digital marketing has over other mediums is its enhanced ability to track the success (or failure) of your marketing efforts, so that you may improve future campaigns based on what did/didn’t work in the past. It’s what separates a banner ad from skywriting.

So there you have it. Can you identify if your business is making any of these fatal digital marketing mistakes? Heed these warnings, and begin to improve your overall digital strategy today. If you dare!