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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.

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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!

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Is Your Business Haunted by Poor Online Reviews?

As a small business, you know all too well how important word-of-mouth marketing can be for your reputation and bottom line. In this age of internet revolution, poor online reviews can leave a nasty mark on your online presence. But sometimes, these unfavorable reviews show up even when your business has done nothing wrong, simply because the reviewer, for whatever reason, wants to inflict unnecessary harm on the business to be spiteful.

Regardless of the reason, justified or not, business owners know that you can’t please everyone; there are some customers that will never be happy, and one bad client is worse than hundreds of happy ones.

People are relying heavily on reviews found on online review sites like Yelp, and the quality and quantity of these reviews can dramatically affect your business’s ROI. With online reviews being a critical part of your business’s reputation, it’s important to understand the best ways to deal with negative reviews.

What to Do With a Business That Already Has Poor Reviews?

It’s time to embrace managing your business’s online reputation as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you want to believe it or not, reviews can make or break a small business. BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Customer Review Survey just found that 87% of potential customers won’t even consider a business with low ratings. So, what do you do if you already have poor reviews?

First, go to the source. Look past the review for a moment and determine what your business needs to do to improve. Was the review bashing your customer service? If so, did they mention or describe who the employee was that gave them poor service? It may be worthwhile to speak with that person to get their side of the story, and take further action if necessary. Your employees need to understand that you’re running business, providing a service, or product, and they must always act in a professional and friendly manner. 

One thing you should NEVER do is pay for companies to “remove” your bad reviews. We have remove in quotation marks because once it’s out there in the Twitterverse, it can never be fully removed. Unfortunately, most people who review businesses fall into one of two extreme categories: they either loved the business or they absolutely detested it. Most people who fall in between those two sentiments don’t tend to take the time to write reviews. What this means for you is, customers that had a terrible experience see to it that everyone knows about it. If they find out you’ve “removed” their review, they may continue to post negative feedback on multiple social media and review platforms. 

Instead of trying to buy the reviewer’s silence, try to handle the situation with great customer service. Respond to the negative comment publicly, address their issues, and offer a way to remedy the problem. This will not only show the reviewer, but potential customers looking at your reviews, that you’re paying attention and care about customer satisfaction. Oftentimes the reviewer can make amendments to their review. If you respond to a negative post, it’s not uncommon for the reviewer to update their review with a better rating and a less biased opinion. Conversely, this can work the other way, where a once good review turns sour based on more recent experiences.

Paying the Price for Paying For Reviews

Positive online reviews are the crucial lifeblood of your business’s online reputation. However, going to any lengths to get a good review — like paying for it — can land you in hot water. Take for example the true and cautionary story of Catskills hotel, Union Street Guest House. This boutique hotel wanted positive reviews so badly that they went so far as to create a policy where they’d fine guests $500 for every bad review. Below is their policy:

“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.”

So you may think that this hotel has a clear reputation full of positive four and five star reviews, right? Wrong. The internet has a way of banding together in certain unethical situations like this and the backlash from their ridiculous policy has led them to mostly 1-star reviews on Yelp and tons of negative PR. So, can online reviews hurt business? Most certainly. This hotel’s determination to land great online reviews by any means necessary resulted in an epic, widely covered, backfire.

Moreover, it’s most certainly not a best practice to write fake reviews, and will only temporarily deceive your customers. They’ll find out firsthand if your business is actually worth those stars. In fact, in New York, 19 companies were forced to pay $350,000 in penalties for misleading practices.

Lastly, don’t let one bad apple spoil your bunch…of reviews. Dilute negative reviews with positive ones. Of course, we’re not suggesting you go home and write a bunch of great reviews for your business under fake Yelp accounts. Simply encourage happy customers to share their experiences with others. Be careful not to outright ask for reviews, as this may lead customers to feel like they’re being used as a promotional vehicle. Instead, encourage engagement.

Many customers are more than happy to help out local businesses that they think are great. The BrightLocal study previously mentioned found that 73% of customers form an opinion after reading 1-6 reviews, and 69% believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. So take a deep breath, that bad review will be watered down by great ones in no time.

Best Practices for Dealing with Bad Reviews

So, you’ve got a bad review. The way in which you handle it can turn the bad review into a nightmare, or hopefully, a positive exchange in which the reviewer’s complaints are mitigated. Here are a few rules for handling bad online reviews:

  • Respond in a Timely Manner: Monitoring your reviews will allow you to respond to negative posts promptly. Reply directly on the comment to make things right. Offer apologies, and encourage the customer to give your business a second chance, perhaps with an incentive to come back, like a 20% off offer.
  • NEVER Respond in Anger: We get it — this business is your baby and you may get defensive if someone has a less-than-stellar experience. Take a moment to compose yourself before you reply to a negative review. Many businesses have responded in anger, and it has cost them dearly. Often times reviewers exaggerate their experience or make things up completely to heighten the severity of the review. This can be incredibly frustrating and embarrassing, but being professional and avoiding replies out of anger or aggression is important. Replying in a defensive or belittling manner can compromise your business’s reputation and worsen an already bad review. Instead, apologize and offer to make things better with a refund or special offer.
  • Issue a Response From the Owner/Manager: This will make the reviewer feel as if their opinion was important enough to be handled by someone in charge. It’ll also show the reviewer or potential customers that you take customer service and satisfaction seriously and you want to make sure all clients leave your establishment feeling happy.
  • Encourage Engagement: While you don’t want to flatout ask for positive reviews, you can encourage interaction by subtly driving awareness that you’re on review sites like Yelp, but stopping short of asking for a review. Ways to do that include posting signs and stickers around your business that encourage people to find you on review sites and including a call-to-action on your promotional materials that lead people to these sites. As long as you aren’t specifically soliciting positive reviews, you aren’t violating any official policies. Your main goal should be to get people talking.

The Moral of the Story

You crave success. You know that your product or service is exemplary, now you just need to get it into the right hands and have the people attached to those hands write you great reviews! But, the internet can be a harsh and dark place and sometimes that’s not what happens. Don’t let one bad review define your business. Address it properly and in a timely manner to diffuse any bad feelings.

You have happy customers, and you know how they feel about your business, but for reasons unknown to you, they aren’t writing reviews. So, it’s harmless to write those reviews for them, right? Wrong! Crafting fake reviews sets you up for all sorts of backlash; there are much better ways of getting good reviews.

Instead of desperately asking for, paying for, or removing bad reviews — take a look at your digital marketing plan and how you can begin to harbor organic, positive reviews. Ultimately, the moral of the story is simple. Provide a great product or service, the best customer service you possibly can, and do it consistently. Engage with your clients, value their opinions, even when they’re negative or constructive. Take those bad reviews as opportunities for improvement. Doing these things will naturally result in great reviews. And there is nothing more satisfying than earning four or five star reviews that you didn’t pay for.

What’s Happening If You Still Don’t Have a Responsive Website

Google’s algorithm has once again changed, and it has a direct affect on your business. This time around it is all about responsive websites. The importance of having a responsive site cannot be understated: Google will punish non-responsive sites by pushing down their search result rankings.

In addition, navigation issues are driving potential customers towards those that are following Google’s rules. Understanding what is happening if you do not have a responsive site will help your business make the changes necessary to maintain your organic rankings and win over new clients.

Why You Need a Responsive Site

In April 2015, Google changed its search algorithm, or the process in which Google ranks sites to favor those websites, landing pages, and blogs which were designed to be viewed with a mobile device. The change had massive repercussions: Search Engine Land, predicts that 40% to 50% of search traffic could be affected.

Why did Google change its algorithm? Because half of all searches are now performed on mobile devices. Google will now reward sites that conform to these trends. Failure to create a responsive website can have a negative impact on your online presence. For example, if your site receives 40% of views via mobile devices, having an unresponsive site risks losing that 40% forever.

Improving the Experience

It’s not just Google. If customers do manage to find you, not having a responsive website may drive them away or take your business less seriously. Responsive designs are an adjustment of the coding and layout of your original site, allowing it to adapt to the screen size and navigation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. This makes navigation easier while enhancing the quality of your images and logos. In addition, a responsive design can help you conquer the 97% mobile shopping cart abandonment plaguing online businesses.

Brad Frost sums it up nicely when he says that sites shouldn’t transition to a responsive design just to be trendy or high-tech. Rather, a responsive site should improve the user experience. Responsive websites acknowledge that searching and viewing is not just done in one static place anymore. It requires websites to have built in flexibility, especially when moving across or interacting with pages. If you are unsure if your mobile website offers that experience, there are many resources available to test and create responsive websites.

Google Loves the Competition

According to Moz, 67.6% of all searches result in users clicking one of the first five links on the first page of results. Sites with lower rankings, even on the first page, see a steep drop off : even #6-10 on page 1 have just a 3.73% chance of being clicked on.

Google could be sending potential clients to your competition’s responsive sites without you even knowing it. For example, e-shopping via a mobile device now accounts for 40% of all purchases; yet 97% of mobile shopping carts are abandoned.

Web Performance Today explains that this is largely because mobile sites are not designed with mobile shopping in mind, and therefore, nearly 50% of users will go to a competitor’s site if it has a better user experience. Not only are your competitor’s sites getting more traffic than yours thanks to Google’s new algorithm; they are also acquiring more business than you.

Fighting Back with Responsive Websites

If you want to your website to stay on top of the game, it is essential to understand the importance of having a responsive site. Google’s algorithm changes mean that businesses lacking a responsive, mobile-adapting site will be penalized. This can result in downgrading your site on search results or driving potential customers to your competition. That’s why it is vital that your website be optimized for all mobile devices.

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SEO Tips for Your Houston Business

Search engine optimization — SEO for short — is an extremely effective method for driving organic traffic to your website. Having a solid SEO strategy for your Houston business not only helps to boost organic traffic but the traffic you attract is likely to be more qualified in the long run. When a user comes across your site through a web search you demonstrate your company’s value and authority by providing useful information on a topic they want to know about.

For those just starting out, Google has written a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that outlines the best practices for creating great web content that’s hospitable to person and algorithm alike. But while the strength of the content you post is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign in Houston, there’s some additional considerations webmasters should keep in mind to ensure their pages are achieving the rankings they should.

Have a Responsive Site

You could have the best content in the world on your website but if no one can read it, it will hardly matter. Having a clean, fast loading, and properly coded site that displays correctly on any browser or device is necessary to having a highly ranked page. This especially includes making sure your site is optimized for mobile, since Google released an updated algorithm last month that specifically penalizes sites that aren’t built with a responsive design.

Design With Pagination in Mind

Make sure to have a strategy for how you split up the content on your site into separate pages. Irving Weiss over at Moz has some great advice about the importance of designing for pagination. Sometimes splitting up an article into two pages can be beneficial, such as when different parts follow different keyword strategies. Having a large number of indexed pages with quality SEO content will ultimately improve your search rankings sitewide, while having more than a few low quality pages will put a ding in the rankings of your quality content.

Have a Keyword Strategy

Long gone are the days when ‘Googlebombing,’ and keyword stuffing could push any old web page to the top of practically any search result. Today’s complex algorithms, combined with high competition for the top spot means that nothing but the best content will suffice. On top of that, you want to find a niche. Using a keyword planner, such as the AdWords Keyword Planner, will let you find a good balance between search traffic and competing pages. The trick here is to know your customer base, and create content that targets the keywords they are searching.

Keep Your Content Fresh

It’s a myth that changing up the content of your website arbitrarily, with the hopes of attracting search engine web crawlers to your site will give a boost to your search rankings. There’s no fooling search engines by updating content. Creating new, unique content on the other hand benefits your readers and your rankings. Your readers have more opportunities to engage with your site, and having more points of entry means your site will show up in a variety of different search results.

It’s a good idea to follow a schedule when posting new content. If your readers expect new content regularly, they’ll keep coming back, share your links on social media, and maybe even link to your site from their own blog, further bolstering your rankings.

Hire a Professional

A successful SEO campaign has value that is “completely unparalleled.” But it’s a long term investment that can flop if not properly implemented. The increasing complexity of search engine algorithms means that SEO best practices are constantly changing. Hiring someone who can manage your SEO campaign will ensure that your site is targeting the right keywords, and putting your site in front of the right audience for your business.

However you choose to implement your SEO campaign, one thing’s for sure: the modern search engine has completely transformed the way people seek out information, and it’s here to stay.

The Dos and Don’ts of Back to School Advertising in Houston

back-to-schoolWith more than 300 private schools, eight public school districts, and dozens of colleges and universities in the Houston area, the market for back to school advertising is not lacking and may benefit your business. Here are some dos and don’ts for successful back to school marketing for your Houston business for the next school season and beyond.

Do: Plan your Marketing Campaign Early

Studies have shown that back to school shopping, internet searches, and planning increase the first two weeks of July. Savvy moms, dads, and college students are getting a big head start these days. Begin preparing for this time a few months early. Think about the sales and promotions your business would like to offer, and the means by which you will advertise (i.e., via social media, paper mailers, email list campaigns, and if applicable, store front displays).

Don’t: Forget the Dads

Traditionally, moms have been the target audience for back to school advertising. But more and more dads are getting involved with the school shopping/preparation process and can be great targets for your business’ marketing campaign.

In line with increasing your digital device campaign, a recent report from Microsoft Advertising cited that “50% of men are influenced by digital ads and 44% are influenced by online search results.” So, focus on your digital device ads and promotions to appeal to the men shopping for their kids.

Do: Use Social Media to Bring in Back to School Customers

According to Experian Marketing Services, 64.8% of moms are social media users and are very willing to promote businesses to their friends, if they are pleased with the service and prices. They will also let their friends know when the service and/or prices aren’t to their liking. So prepare well and outshine the competition with your outstanding customer service and promotions.

Don’t: Forget the College Students

They are a large pool of customers to pull from. Marketing to college students has some uniqueness. For example, some students attend school all year-fall, spring, summer, and winter sessions. There is your opportunity to engage beyond the typical back to schoolseason.

During the summer and winter sessions, take special care to market your business through sales and promotions targeted to college students. This is especially beneficial if your business is located in a college town, but even if you don’t, your town still likely has highschoolers departing for college at the end of summer.

Do: Increase Campaigns to Target Different Digital Devices

According to a recent Nielsen report, the average family /individual owns four different digital devices. Do your research so your business can reach each type of device. If this isn’t your cup of tea, hire a tech-savvy professional who can literally hook your business up and get your marketing campaigns seen and heard over the wire (or network).

Don’t: Ignore Opt-in Inbound Marketing

Examples of inbound marketing are SEO (search engine optimization); PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising based on keywords; social media; and blogging. This type of marketing requires constant work and sufficient resources dedicated to producing high quality marketing around the clock. There also has to be excellent communication between your inbound and outbound marketing teams. They need to be working towards the same goals and objectives and collaborate with each other often.

Do: Engage your Customers Beyond the First Day of School

Sometimes in the hoopla of trying to advertise, create sales, and bring in real customers, businesses forget to focus on keeping the back to school customers for the rest of the year and beyond. Keep in mind the students who wait to see what their friends are wearing and bringing to school then shop after the rush. And don’t forget mid-year shopping. Engage well beyond that back-to-school season.

Don’t: Ignore the Good PR You Can Earn by Donating a Percentage of Sales to Local Schools

In the recent economic downturn, schools have received less state and federal funding and many parents aren’t able to contribute financially as much as they once did. A community-involved promotion can surely help to build sales and help the community, in turn, creating lasting relationships.

Marketing for back to school goes well beyond simply lowering prices, shouting out sales, and crossing your fingers that you’ll get some customers. Start planning early; target the right audience; use social media; target various digital devices; engage beyond the rush; don’t forget dads and college students; and be vigilant when using inbound marketing.

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5 Ways SEO Helps Your Business Get Found Online

seo_image_graphicWhat is SEO? You probably already know this, but just in case… it is an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization, the practice of making content easily recognizable by search engines. In simplest terms, SEO helps webmasters, businesses, and individuals reach their online goals.

So what does this mean for you? As a business owner in Houston, SEO will bring you more customers and sales. Here are some things to know about SEO in Houston that can help your business:

1. SEO Increases Visibility, Credibility and Branding

You want to be at the top of the search engine results. However, the old phrase “build it and they will come” does NOT apply to the internet. This is where SEO plays a vital role: it allows you to the keywords you want rank for in search engines. There are plenty of SEO tools that allow you to designate keywords, and can even track the amount of times a keyword appears in content, a.k.a. keyword density.

Repeated occurrences in search results also builds familiarity, which builds credibility. It’s a simple fact of psychology that the more someone sees something, the more he or she will formulate a positive opinion of it.

The more your website shows up in search results, the more people will see it. The more it shows up, the better the branding for your company.

2. SEO Drives Traffic to Your Site

Traffic is the lifeblood of online marketing. And while traffic alone does not make sales, would you rather have your business in downtown Houston or out in the middle of nowhere? It’s the same thing online: the more people you can drive to your site, the more sales you will have. Once you get a healthy amount of traffic, you can evolve your website to help convert those visitors into customers.

3. SEO Gives Insight Into Your Customers

SEO also allows you track traffic with tools like Google Analytics. This is the bread and butter of any internet marketer in Houstonr, as it gives invaluable data and metrics that give you an inside look at your customers. Google Analytics allows you to know what languages they use, the region they live in, how they search, how they browse, and every other kind of demographic information.

4. SEO is a Long-Term Strategy

SEO can deliver results in a short period of time, but it pays dividends in the long term as well. Backlinking, blogging, and other good SEO practices will last for a very long time. Even after you stop your SEO efforts, you will still gain the benefits of links to your site, and the high ranking in search engine results.

5. SEO is an Investment, Not a Cost

SEO has one of the highest ROI’s of any marketing expense. When coupled with analytics, SEO will provide you with the information you need to improve conversion rates for your website. For instance, you may find that certain keywords convert better than other keywords, even in you rank further back in the search engine results.

The top three spots on the first page of search results get the most amount of traffic, and can provide a huge return on just a modest investment.

There’s No Time Like the Present

Now that you know what SEO can do for you, you should get started on implementing your marketing strategy to reach Houstonians online. If you are a DIY kind of person, then sign up for a Google Analytics account and start researching.

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3 Reasons Why SEO Can’t be Your Only Online Marketing Strategy

analyticsThe importance of incorporating SEO into your Houston online marketing strategy cannot be underestimated. Millions of Houston residents turn to the internet on a daily basis to find local companies that can supply products and services that they need. If your business website is not prominently listed for industry-related and localized keywords, then chances are you are missing out on reaching a lot of potential customers. However, SEO can’t be your only online marketing strategy. We’re about to explain why. But first, let’s discuss what we mean when we talk about SEO.

What is SEO and How Does it Work?

There are literally tens of thousands of websites on any given topic. When a person searches for a particular keyword (i.e. “discount appliances in Houston”), Google provides a long list of answers. However, statistics show that 90% of search engine users do not look past the answers on the first page. For this reason, it is important for a company to do everything possible (and ethical) to be on the first page of search engine results.

There are many ways in which Google determines how well a site should rank. Some factors that influence this decision are:

  • The number of inbound links a site has (that is, the number of other sites linking to yours)

  • The quality of inbound links, i.e. what type of sites are linking to your site

  • The relevancy of your site to the topic in question (this is why having content pertaining to the right topics on your site is very important)

  • Your website’s bounce rate (that is, how long people stay on your website)

  • The number of indexed pages your site has

  • Whether people are sharing your website and content on social media

If you are not familiar with how to optimize your site for search engines and all this sounds pretty foreign to you, then employing the services of a Houston SEO company can be a good idea. These types of experts can ensure that your site is properly optimized at all times so that it can earn a high position in Google and other major search engines.

However, SEO cannot be your only strategy for reaching customers via the internet. Following are three important reasons why.

1. Search engines will not buy your products.

What matters in the end is not how many people visit your website but how many of these people turn into paying customers. For this reason, your site must appeal to real people, not just search engines. SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing may temporarily boost your site’s ranking. However, they will turn away potential customers. What’s more, Google will catch on and demote your site’s standing.

2. Google is continually updating its algorithms.

Many SEO tactics that worked well yesterday do not work today, as Google continually changes the manner in which it ranks websites. However, if your website appeals to people and not just search engines, your traffic will grow as a result of referrals.

This is yet another reason why hiring experts for your SEO services is important. They should be knowledgable and up to date on the lateste agorithm changes and content marketing trends that will help you get found online, while also tying this with your other online marketing efforts.

3. Visitors’ behavior has a big bearing on your site’s ranking.

As was noted above, website bounce rate has an impact on your site’s standing in Google. If website visitors come to your site, visit various pages and are clearly engaged, this will boost your site’s standing. However, the only way to keep visitors on your web page is to provide something of value and showcase it in a customer-friendly light. Your website must have clear navigation, useful calls to action, relevant content, and be optimized for mobile.

In summary, contrary to what some experts have stated, SEO is neither dead nor a thing of the past. It can help boost your website’s standing in Google and enable you to reach customers you could not reach otherwise. However, it is important to realize that, when all is said and done, your site is for potential customers and not search engines. Make sure your content and website layout is people friendly as well as SEO friendly and you will get the results you are after.

SEO is as SEO Does: Tips for Effective Search Engine Optimization

seo_keywords_marketing_etcOne of the most important things that you should know about search engine optimization (SEO) for any market, including Houston, is that it is not easy. Google is continually updating the way it ranks websites, which means that a company will need to stay abreast of SEO developments in order to earn or retain a high search engine ranking. Plus, it’s important to remember that SEO does not usually bring instantaneous results. It takes time for on-site and off-site search engine optimization to bring in heavy organic traffic.

However, keeping all this in mind, SEO as a marketing effort for any Houston business will be time and money well spent. Recent statistics show the following:

 

  • Over 131 billion search engine queries are generated every single month
  • 70% of the traffic goes to organic results rather than the paid advertisements at the top of the page.
  • Over 95% of consumers turn to the Internet to find a local business that can meet their needs – according to Local search engine statistics

 

With these numbers in mind, the question then is, “What are you doing to ensure your business is showing up for the right terms and searches?”

A busy business owner who does not have time to take on website SEO efforts on their own may want to hire a professional SEO company, like Cox Media Group. There are a number of Houston based digital marketing agencies and media companies that have diverse experience in handling long term on-page and off-page optimization for businesses. Even if you have a Marketing Director, they may not have the time or expertise to execute an effective SEO and content marketing strategy.

However, whether you hire an expert or do it yourself, every business owner and marketer should know the basics of SEO. Knowing which tactics are effective and which are not can save you thousands of dollars in advertising and generate a significant amount of revenue.

Choose Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are keywords that are five to ten words in length. These keywords have the potential to be highly profitable because they do not get much competition; at the same time customers who are seriously interested in buying a particular product or service often use them.

For example, a local car wash company might want to show up for “Car Wash” or even “Car Wash in Houston” but these keywords might be more competitive than others and could attract a variety of people not actually searching for services but instead want tips on how to wash their own car. However, long-tail keywords such as “Car Wash Company in Downtown Houston” or “Best Car Wash Companies in Memorial Park” are going to provide you with much more qualified and targeted searchers.

Increase the Number of Indexed Pages with a Company Blog

Having a blog, and consistently publishing on it, can have many benefits to a Houston business. However, one of the top SEO benefits is the ability to greatly increase the number of indexed pages on your site while incorporating keyword-optimized posts onto your website.

Strongly written and consistently published content that answers the questions of your prospects and customers is the best kind of content to deliver on a company blog. Skip the product announcements and press releases and instead write about what people actually want to read and share. This will ensure your site is showing up for a variety of keyword terms, while also establishing your company as a thought leader in your industry and area.

Use Video in Your Online Marketing

Video content is one of the few forms of online content that has not been negatively affected by Google’s recent search engine updates. Post an interesting or informative video related to your business on YouTube, add the company URL in the description field and choose keyword-rich tags. Because Google owns YouTube, it often gives relevant videos from this site a first-page ranking.

Plus, videos and images are the most shared content online – especially with social media – so having this kind of content with your name on it can benefit your company in many ways.

Test, Optimize, and Stay Informed

What does and does not work in the realm of SEO is changing all the time. Tactics that worked well yesterday may be detrimental to your site today. Keywords that were irrelevant yesterday may be highly popular now due to trends in the marketplace. The key to successful SEO is to keep up with local developments, analyze site and buyer statistics, consistently do your research, and experiment to see which keywords work for you.

Write for Humans

Above all, continue to include website copy and content on your site that is written for humans. Follow copy writing best practices and ensure that your headlines make sense. Be descriptive, tell a story, make your website user-friendly, and be active on social media. All of these best practices will help ensure you are driving organic traffic to your site for years to come.

A company that wants to successfully drive new traffic to their site will find that SEO can be one of the most effective ways of doing so. At the same time, a company owner must realize that SEO is not a “magic wand” that can bring in instant success. It takes time, effort, and expertise to ensure that it is done right.