Holiday Local SEO To Do List – Get Found Fast This Season

It’s that time of year when everything is centered around your holiday plans.  That includes how to best market your business to local customers looking to spend vast amounts of money not only to give gifts but to make any part of the hectic season easier, faster and more pleasant.  If your business can meet the needs and solve the problems of holiday shoppers, you need to get seen in local search results. Make sure you’re getting found first with this Holiday Local SEO to Do List.

Your Holiday Local SEO To Do List

[  ] Check Business Listings in Local Directories

First thing on your Holiday Local SEO to do list: Make sure your business listings are live, accurate, and consistent across local business directories.  Be sure to include Google My Business, review sites, and social networks locals use to find your business. Managing and monitoring your business listings year around is essential, but especially around the holidays where traffic is high, and hours change, you don’t want any potential customer having difficulty reaching you.

Accurate Business Listings Reputation Loop

Inaccurate, duplicate, out of date, or differently spelled business listings can lead to a long list of problems for search users such as:

  • Not finding your business in search
  • Driving to a wrong address
  • Calling a disconnected number
  • Showing up when you’re closed because you didn’t update holiday hours
  • Location pins in the wrong place on navigation maps

Avoid all of these problems by updating your local listings with holiday hours and verifying that your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) are correct and the same across all networks. Don’t stop in the New Year though – make sure you are monitoring and managing your business listings throughout the year.

[  ] Update Your Holiday Hours on Local Online Listings and Your Website

Many businesses change their hours over the holidays. Look at the hours on your listing and make sure they are set for your holiday hours. Updating your hours on various days over the holidays may seem like a lot of work as you change but mobile search users are given this information when they are looking for somewhere to spend money.

This is especially important for Google My Business accounts. Navigating with Google Maps, and selecting a business that Google believes is closed or closing soon, you will be asked if you still want to go to this location even though it is closed or closing within the hour. Don’t lose customers because you have wrong hours listed. While you are at it, update your payment options if they have changed to avoid disappointing paying customers.

[  ] Calendar Google Posts to Highlight Your Specials and Events

Google My Business introduced Google Posts as a way to share fresh content with people who find your business through Google Search.  This new Google My Business feature lets you create posts with content you want to be displayed to customers when they find your business on Google.  Most businesses aren’t doing this yet, so here is just one area where the Holiday Local SEO to do list gives you massive leverage over the competition.

Google My Business doesn’t allow you to schedule out your posts, and they only stay live for a week to keep the content fresh.  You should create a calendar where you can pre-write and schedule your Google Post to make sure you always have something showing in search results for your business name. Publish your events, products, and services directly to Google Search in the Knowledge Panel and Maps to let search users know what is going on with your business right now.

HOLIDAY LOCAL SEO TO DO LIST GOOGLE POSTS

Promote your sales, holiday hours, specials and events with Google Posts.  You can learn about Google Posts and how to leverage them for your business here on the Reputation Loop blog.

[  ] Promote Your Best Reviews on Social Networks and Your Website

The social media world is fast-paced and has a very short memory. Consistency is key with your profile postings and interactions if you want to keep your audience engaged. Posting your best reviews on your social media profiles puts the information consumers really want right in front of their faces.

The reviews you post are not only part of the feed seen by your connections, friends, and followers, but they are also part of your timeline. If prospects search your social media networks for your products/services by your business name or your locality, they will see these five-star reviews.

Another SEO win is when people do online research on your business name, your social media profiles are usually part of the top results. Those prospects who discover your social media profiles can also travel back as far as they want in your posts stream and see not only the smart content you’ve posted but real reviews, by real people who think everything your business does is fantastic.

social_media_shares_reputationloop

The best way to raise your social media ROI is to automate many of the tasks associated with maintaining and growing your social media presence with software that will automatically post your five-star reviews to your social media profiles on the major networks.

[  ] Have a Review Management Plan in Place to Handle Bad Reviews and Complaints Immediately

Customer Review Management is a real thing; it is vital to the success of your business. Monitoring and responding to reviews is especially crucial during the holiday season where competition for business is high, and consumers are relying on reviews to make fast purchasing decisions. A customer’s holiday spirit can deteriorate quickly during a season many people find stressful. That could lead to bad reviews for your business.

Having a Review Management Plan in place lets you leverage good reviews and handle bad reviews with equal ease.  Read “Handling Negative Reviews by Creating a Process” when you get a chance but here’s a quick tip list on how to responding to negative reviews.

Responses to negative customer reviews should:

  • Be prompt, short, and to the point
  • Customized to address the issue specifically
  • Offer an apology for the negative experience
  • Provide a resolution or improvement when possible

The Holiday Local SEO To Do List – G.S.D.

Check off this Holiday Local SEO To Do List and get off the local optimization naughty list. Maybe this is the season you get everything you wanted.  Imagine higher ranking in local search, an increased click-through-rate to your business website, more sales, and a better search engine and purchase experience for the user all wrapped up in a pretty bow just for you.

Free Demo RepLoop

USE THESE FREE GUIDES FROM REPUTATIONLOOP.COM TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing  |  8 Low-Cost Digital Marketing Tactics  |  Local SEO Checklist: 9 Tips to Get Found Online  |

2017 Reputation Management Checklist  |  Using & Understanding Google My Business INSIGHTS  | Local SEO for Brick & Mortar Businesses Guide

 

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Holiday Local SEO To Do List – Get Found Fast This Season appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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What Were the most important Local SEO Trends In 2017?

Unlike any year in recent memory, 2017 has generated more dramatic changes for brick-and-mortar businesses seeking to manage their discoverability and engagement strategies when it comes via search.

Search consultancy Local SEO Guide looked at 200-plus search ranking factors in 150 cities covering keywords, website landing pages, reviews, citations, photos, link profiles, and more, and found that businesses are making consumer connections differently than previously.

The report, 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors, surveyed search performance, noting that reviews are becoming much more important versus traditional SEO drivers such as citations and listings. (That said, “inconsistent” citations and listings are a major issue that local businesses ignore at their peril, according to CDK Global, an integrated marketing company focused automotive dealers across 27,000 retail locations in over 100 countries.)

Overall, as businesses examine their SEO strategies for the holiday season, we’ve noted that retailers have remained challenged by search.

For example, SMBs generally have been shifting SEO and advertising towards greater spending on social media marketing, perhaps de-emphasizing search in the rush to expand efforts across Facebook/Instagram and Snapchat.

“Many of our clients still view social and search as totally separate marketing strategies,” Josh Markham, SVP of Digital Media Products at local marketing platform ReachLocal, has told GeoMarketing. “We believe local businesses should be viewing their marketing efforts comprehensively (not as silos) so they can understand which programs work best together. When businesses rely on only one marketing tactic, they are likely missing out on consumers in a different phases of their buying journey. In addition, consumers have different preferences for consuming information, so the combined effort is more effective than a singular effort.”

For the most part, the changes impacting search are determined by an obvious player, notes Andrew Shotland, founder and CEO of Local SEO Guide.

“The data suggests that Google, while attempting to shift to more engagement-based and locally relevant factors for its Local algorithm, is still susceptible to the traditional organic SEO tactics,” Shotland says. “The immaturity of the Local algorithm combined with the power of a focused SEO effort can yield outsized benefits for smart location-marketers. This study illustrates the foundational building blocks of a Local SEO campaign with the goal of helping marketers prioritize their investments in tactics that will move the needle.”

We caught up with Dan Leibson, Local SEO, VP of Search for Local SEO Guide, to get deeper look into the company’s findings and what the implications are in 2018 for local businesses and search.

GeoMarketing: What were the most important local SEO trends in 2017?

Dan Leibson: I think the most important thing we noticed in the 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study was the continued movement towards non-traditional local rankings factors. Traditionally, things like citations have played an overwhelmingly large part of ranking in Google’s local search results, though now that seems to be shifting largely to traditional organic ranking factors — like links —  and newer factors, like reviews.

In terms of whether Google has shifted away from “traditional” local signal, what kinds of new signals are emerging? And how meaningful is the shift for local businesses?

Most importantly, I think that it means that local businesses need to focus on SEO holistically. This means having a solid organic search strategy, and also working on a review strategy. Both of these will return dividends for most location based businesses.

What is “Google My Business (GMB) spam?”

I’ve actually written a bit about this. Well, most of the “spam” people talk about on GMB isn’t actually spam. Google and some local SEO’s have taken to calling Google My Business profiles that violate Google’s Guidelines as spam. I’m not a fan of this at all, spam is generally black-hat or illegal tactics, not things that are basic terms of service violations. This type of “spam” is akin to jailbreaking or unlocking a cell phone.

How important is GMB for local businesses versus offerings from Facebook and other platforms?

Google is almost exclusively the only game in town. While Yelp does have a commanding second place position in some markets (major metro) and some verticals (hospitality/retail/service) they are far from being a true competitor to Google. Facebook has a lot of potential in the space, and make starts and stops of really going after local discovery, but again don’t have the kind of across the board adoption of Google search (at least in local).

Are local search marketers embracing voice-activation via Alexa, Okay Google, Siri, Cortana, Bixby?

I think marketing technologists are embracing voice-activation because they see the potential in the future. Right now though, there really isn’t much to do.

What are you expecting (and what would you like) to see more of — or less of — in the local search space in 2018?

With the recent relaunch of Facebook’s local product, it’s setting the stage for a really interesting year. Other than that, I would expect marketers to continue to market voice search. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see some pivots & consolidation in the local tools market, as the dominance of a few key players (like Yext) will likely cause some companies with competitive products to re-evaluate their long term plans. [Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here]

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What Google Maps’ Color-Coded Makeover Means For Local Business

Google Maps has started to introduce a new look that promises to make it easier to turn general pins on a grid with a color-coded “cheat sheet” of icons that differentiate between restaurants, parks, services, entertainment, health, transportation, and more.

For example, if a user in a new neighborhood is searching for a coffee shop, they could open the map to find the nearest orange icon (which is the color for Food & Drink spots), writes Liz Hunt, product manager, Google Maps, in a blog post describing the changes.

In addition to a visual revamp, Google Maps is also getting more “real-time” by highlighting road closures and local events happening at the moment a user is looking at a section.

Over the next few weeks, Hunt adds, all Google products that incorporate Google Maps, such as Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto, will feature the changes. Over time, the new style will also appear in the apps, websites and experiences offered by companies that use Google Maps APIs as well.

Among the other recent improvements Google Maps has ushered in this year include a method that paves the way for quicker communication between businesses and prospective patrons, as Google added a question and answer  feature to Google Maps this summer. The move that also appears set to take advantage of Google’s Local Guides, which helps correct and promote businesses’ info.

Before that, in the spring, Google enhanced the connections for booking and discovering nearby spas, salons, yoga studios, and more self-care through its Reserve With Google feature. The year-old feature became available through a dedicated site, as well as through search and Google Maps.

Google Maps’ updated look and tools will have a clear influence other mapping platforms. In terms of quantifying that influence, Google and Australian/Singaporean consultancy AlphaBeta recently noted that digital maps have supported roughly $1 trillion in sales by businesses.

 

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Small Business Saturday 2017 – How to Promote My Local Business

Small Business Saturday 2107 is fast approaching, but there is still time to get your business in front of customers.

As usual, Small Business Saturday is sandwiched between the twin retail phenomenon known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) where big brands offer deep price cuts and doorbusters.

Major retailers have obvious advantages on BFCM, but on November 25th, Small Business Saturday 2017 is the day to celebrate and support small businesses and their contributions to local communities. Small business owners and local leaders across the country join together on Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to shop locally and benefit their own communities and neighborhoods.

Be Easy to Find and Contact

Customers in your community will be using search engines and online maps to find local businesses that are selling what they are shopping for.  Make sure your business shows up at the top of search engine and map results by optimizing your Google My Business Listing.  Try the new Google Posts feature to highlight your best deals and what’s happening in your store.

You want customers to easily find you on Small Business Saturday (and the other 364 days of the year), so it’s essential that your business name, physical address, and phone number are consistent and present on the dozens of directories and websites that feed search engines local information.

It can be a time-consuming task to take on – creating, checking and correcting your business listings – but not impossible and very necessary.  A more efficient way to ensure you are being found with correct information that puts you higher in search results is to use a low-cost Business Listing Management service that does it all for you.

Get Free Marketing Materials for Small Business Saturday 2017

As the official sponsor of Small Business Saturday, American Express is in its sixth year of promoting this event in thousands of communities across the country. Endorsed by the Small Business Administration (sba.gov), the “Shop Small” movement focuses on the brighter side of holiday shopping by promoting local merchants and encouraging people to shop within their communities.

WATCH THIS VIDEO: How to Use Free Shop Small Merchandise to Promote Your Business by American Express

Check Out the Shop Small Studio for Free Customized Marketing Materials and Tips

Celebrate customers and help attract new ones with customizable marketing materials from the Shop Small Studio.  It takes less than a minute to fill in your store name and specialty to get started.  Then you give them a name and email address your free material is downloaded to your device and a download link is sent to the email you provide.

Here are the two ways you will receive your download:

Print customizable material you can use right away like posters, event flyers, offer signage and save the dates.

Your free download includes:

⇒ Facebook cover photo and profile photo images customized with the business name you entered

Small Business Saturday 2017 Facebook Cover

⇒ 2 Social media images customized with your business name

Small Business Saturday 2017 Social Media Images

⇒ Email scripting and email header (below), as well as badges and logos you can use on your website.

Small Business Saturday 2017 Email Header

⇒ Tip sheets for your Social Media, Storefront, and Website

Small Business Saturday Social Store Web Tips

Using Social Media for Small Business Saturday 2017

Join the conversations happening on your networks around Small Business Saturday with #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat (the “official” hashtags of Small Business Saturday). Jump right into the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Small Business Saturday Hashtags:

#SmallBizSat

#SmallBizSaturday

#ShopSmall

#ShopLocal

These hashtags trends high leading up to Thanksgiving. Use this window to promote your local business on social media.  Repost popular Small Business Saturday posts, create eye-catching images of your business and products, and use the free customized logos and images you downloaded to entice customers to come spend some time and money with you on November 25th.

 

RELATED READING:

Local SEO Checklist: 9 Basic Tips to Get Found in Search

Holiday Local Marketing on a Small Budget

Increase Your Small Business Holiday Profits

Local SEO for Brick and Mortar Businesses – FREE GUIDE

 

Small Business Saturday is November 25, 2017

Encourage your customers to get out and support the places they love while shopping with and for the people they love on Nov 25.  This is a chance to support local economies and celebrate the communities we live in.

Images Source: AmericanExpress.com

Free Demo RepLoop

USE THESE FREE GUIDES FROM REPUTATIONLOOP.COM TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing  |  8 Low-Cost Digital Marketing Tactics  |  Local SEO Checklist: 9 Tips to Get Found Online  |  2017 Reputation Management Checklist  |  Using & Understanding Google My Business INSIGHTS  | Local SEO for Brick & Mortar Businesses Guide

 

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Small Business Saturday 2017 – How to Promote My Local Business appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Best Free Online Courses for Small Business Owners – Part 2

Make sure to read part one of this two-part series on Free Online Courses for Small Business Owners to see five more awesome free courses that will help you grow your business.

Read First… BEST FREE ONLINE COURSES FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS – Part 1

Why are these the best free online courses for small business owners?

Well, first because they are free! And you’ll find these courses offer actionable insight but only require a small investment of your time and commitment to learning the skills and activities that build better companies.  You’ll gain technical knowledge you can apply to your business today, as well as tips, resources and case studies that show you how it all works.

These expert-led courses are tailored for small businesses and teach you the essentials in short, easy to absorb lessons. If you can find 10 minutes a day to dedicate to a lesson, you could finish a handful of courses in the next month and set out a plan for a successful new year.

Note: These are truly No Cost courses you can view with free accounts on sites like SkillShare and Facebook – no need to create paid accounts for these free courses.

Free Online Courses for Small Business Owners – Pt 2

Context is Key: Social Media Strategy in a Noisy Online World

By Gary Vaynerchuk

Context is Key Gary V Best Free Online CourseDon’t just tell your brand’s story, tell it right. Learn to develop a results-driven social media strategy perfectly adapted to each major social media platform—a strategy that guarantees your brand is telling the right story in the right context. Gary will break down the right story for every relevant platform—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest—all in under 90 minutes. These are the same tactics Gary’s used to grow brands like GE, PepsiCo, and the NY Jets. Any opportunity to enter Gary’s brain is an exciting one, and this class is no exception. Don’t miss it.

Watch 23 video lessons. 

  • Winning Combinations of Jabs and Right Hooks. How to balance your knock out punches with building long-term relationships with your customers.
  • Tailoring Your Social Media Content. Techniques for customizing your content for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.
  • Learning from Case Studies. Real-world examples of social media wins and losses you can apply to your own campaigns.

Learn by doing.

Create your own platform-specific social media strategy to apply to your brand immediately. No brand? Not a problem. Create a social media strategy for your favorite brand or just follow along.

 

Introduction to SEO: Tactics and Strategy for Entrepreneurs

By Rand Fishkin

Intro to SEO Free Online Course Best Free Online CourseJoin “Wizard of Moz” Rand Fishkin for a dive into the heart of SEO. This 90-minute class shares actionable insights and tactics for optimizing your content and organically raising the online presence of your business and brand.

Bite-sized, easy-to-follow lessons cover

  • crafting an SEO strategy that “moves the needle”
  • granular fundamentals for content optimization
  • walk-through demos auditing a full site & specific posts

This class is perfect for entrepreneurs, small business owners, startups, freelancers, junior marketers, web designers, and copywriters eager to do SEO that matters! No prior experience or skills required.

How do you know this is the class for you? The best thing about SEO is that it’s not different for every type of site. The fundamentals covered in this class can be applied universally.

By the end, students are all invited to work on a project that can put all their learnings into action: sharing their SEO strategy and optimizing a piece of content based on keyword research.

 

Email 1 K – 30 Day Double Your Email List Course

By Noah Kagan

Email 1K Noah Kagan Best Free Online CourseA free 30-day course to DOUBLE YOUR EMAIL LIST. Learn from experts who’ve grown email lists to
over 10 million subscribers. Email is *still* the single most effective marketing tool. Where would your business be if you doubled your email subscribers? AppSumo is a 7-figure business with over 90% of our revenue generated by our email list. This course consolidates the exact tactics and tools we’ve used. Rather than bore you to death with theory, my expert friends and I will show you firsthand how to double your email list within 30 days.

This FREE Course includes an Email Marketing Toolkit worth over $300 of special hook-ups if you send a tweet or refer two friends.   Some of the expert lessons:

Lesson 1: Optimizing your homepage

Lesson 2: Reverse Engineering Great Content

Lesson 3: Syndication/Large Site Guest Posts

Lesson 4: Content Upgrades

Lesson 5: Conversion Optimization

Lesson 6: Giveaways

 

Quick Sprout Marketing University

By QuickSrpout.com

Quick Sprout Marketing University Best Free Online CourseIs it me or is it hard to learn online marketing? You read a few blog posts that teach you a cool new marketing tactic, but because these blog posts aren’t visual, it’s hard to take that knowledge and apply it to your site.

So, in the end, you’re left with understanding marketing strategies from a high level, but you become lost on a tactical level.

Neil Patel wanted to do something about that, so he developed a free online educational course called Quick Sprout University. With the help of Brian Dean, 107 online marketing videos were produced that will show you step by step what you need to do.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn from Quick Sprout University:

  • Search engine optimization – from optimizing your on-page code to speeding up your site and even dealing with Panda penalties, 32 videos will show you how to make your site search engine friendly.
  • Link building – 22 link building videos that will show you how to build links to your site and even recover from a Penguin penalty.
  • Content marketing – from creating infographics to writing blog posts that go viral, learn everything you need to know about content marketing through 28 videos.
  • Social media marketing – if you want more social shares and traffic, these 9 videos will show you how to become the center of attention on the social web.
  • Paid advertising – although we would all prefer free organic traffic, paid traffic is a quick way to scale. Plus, it can be profitable too. See how to set up paid advertising campaigns on AdWords and YouTube as well as how to use a few other channels for paid advertising such as remarketing inside 11 videos on paid marketing.
  • Email marketing – if you want to collect emails from your site or even set up an autoresponder sequence, you’ll be able to learn how to do so through two simple videos.
  • Reputation management – are you worried about what people are saying about you? Do you want to control the SERPs for your branded terms? Just by watching two videos, you’ll be able to learn how to control your reputation.
  • Conversion optimization – getting traffic to your site is only half the battle. The other half is converting your visitors into customers.

 

The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time

By Seth Godin

New Business Toolbox Best Free Online CourseTransform your new business by understanding the opportunities (and pitfalls) that are right around the corner. Seth Godin has learned these lessons the hard way, and in this entertaining (and useful) class, he’ll share what he knows. Save time and avoid dead ends as you organize and grow your small business.

This fast-moving class features hands-on, strategic and practical tactics every small businessperson ought to consider as she sets out to grow her business.

If you’re going to put in the time and the money and the energy to turn your project into a business that matters, it pays to get these seven things right.

Author Seth Godin doesn’t often get the chance to share this sort of nuts and bolts practical advice, and you’re invited to join in…

  • The Business Model. This isn’t a tool; it’s the entire backbone of the project. What is the process that turns your resources and your effort into value and profit?
  • Freelancing vs. Entrepreneurship. Are you trying to build something bigger than yourself?  The problem with hiring the cheapest, smartest person to work for you is that you end up with two jobs, and you won’t be good at either.
  • Funding. Is there a way to raise money for your kind of project? Explore the obvious options but emphasize effective (but rarely talked about) alternatives. Learn about equity, debt, royalties, and perhaps best of all, bootstrapping.
  • Hiring. Who to look for and how to find and retain them. For many entrepreneurs, outsourcing isn’t a way just to save money; it’s a new way to grow and thrive.
  • Naming. A simple and powerful approach to picking a name that works. Learn about domains, scalability, and trademarks.
  • Partnerships.  We’ll go into detail about how to split the pie while thinking hard about the long run.
  • Cash Flow. This is the essence of small-business security. More than just about anything else, the idea of funding your business with your customers’ support is completely transformative.
  • Positioning and Storytelling. The power of stories that stick. How your story changes your strategy, your marketing, your pricing, as well as understanding the X/Y analysis.

The theme of this class is simple but surprising: You should build your business around ideas that work, as opposed to building a business and then insisting that the universe cooperates in helping you succeed. Seven simple concepts well understood can change everything.

What You’ll Do

By the time you’re done with this class, you’ll have created a seven-part leverage plan. Not a boring business plan, this is your focused, detailed plan on how things that already work in the world will be put to work by you on your business.

This isn’t a complete MBA, and it’s not focused on art or the resistance. What it is: a ready-to-roll 7-part top-level course for smart entrepreneurs and those that aspire to be.


 READ PART 1 – Best Free Online Courses for Small Business Owners

Learning to be More Effective and Make Informed Decisions is the Greatest Investment in Your Business

I picked these courses because they allow you to learn how to do something that will make you a better business owner without spending a lot of money or dragging through business basics you’ve already mastered.  Learn how to better manage and grow your business without cutting corners because you are learning from some of the most famous experts and top instructors in the realm of small business success.

 

Free Demo RepLoop

USE THESE FREE GUIDES FROM REPUTATIONLOOP.COM TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing  |  8 Low-Cost Digital Marketing Tactics  |  Local SEO Checklist: 9 Tips to Get Found Online  |  2017 Reputation Management Checklist  |  Using & Understanding Google My Business INSIGHTS  | Local SEO for Brick & Mortar Businesses Guide

 

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Best Free Online Courses for Small Business Owners – Part 2 appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Over 75 Percent Of Consumers Are Inspired To Make Purchases By Visual Content

Over 75 percent of consumers are inspired to make purchases based on image and video content, according to new research from ViSenze — a statistic that highlights the growing importance of image-based search for marketers.

This isn’t a surprising stat in and of itself: Consumers have been inspired by visual content since the days of billboards and window shopping. But today’s technology allows them to put this preference into action by consuming more image or video-based digital content and, more importantly, making searches for products by means other than text. In fact, by 2020, an estimated 50 percent of searches will come from images and voice.

Image Inspiration On Social

So, what does this mean for marketers? First and foremost, it underscores the importance of understanding the platforms fundamental to image-based discovery — and how that subsequently leads to clicks, store visits, and purchases.

Social media marketing matters immensely in this regard: ViSenze’s report also finds that 44 percent of consumers use social media more than five times a day, and one-third of purchases begin on social platforms each month.

Pinterest and Instagram are key inspiration hubs that marketers should look to utilize, particularly in the retail and home goods spaces. This means exploring “buyable pins” and buy buttons to enable direct commerce, as well as using tools like Instagram Stories to promote sales at specific store locations.

Pinterest in particular has rolled out a number of features designed to keep pace with social media marketing offerings from Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. In February, it rolled out a new search function that aims to match discovery to images, not words. Dubbed Pinterest Lens, “it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world,” the company said at the time.

Google Image Search

Google has also recently made a series of moves designed at making image search simpler and more accessible. As we wrote earlier this year, Google’s Image Search is so expansive, it’s often hard to find right right starting point, particularly when it comes to specific fashion shopping ideas.

But with the introduction of ‘Style Ideas,’ “now while perusing fashion product images, Image Search will surface a grid of inspirational lifestyle images and outfits that showcase how the product can be worn in real life,” Google’s Julia Enthoven wrote in a blog post. “With style ideas, you can see real-life options of what bag and jeans look stellar with those red high heels you’ve been eyeing. Or if running gear is more your speed, no sweat—workout ensemble ideas are just a tap away.”

With that aspect of style ideas aimed at making consumers’ search experience a bit easier, Google is also offering a way for retailers to take advantage of the additional assistance by offering an expanded carousel for “similar items” while searching for apparel products — adding another option for marketers to explore when it comes to improving visual discovery.

In the same vein, Google recently updated its app for Android and mobile web with badges for image search as well. Now, in searches made within the app, users see a badge in the bottom lefthand corner of an image. This badge categorizes the image, as well as provides text to clarify what action(s) someone can take.

For example, if someone searches for “pies” in Image Search, they will see badges for both video and recipe results, and can then click if they would like to view this more detailed information.

Marketers already know that search is critically important — 80 percent of US internet users prefer to turn to a search engine to find or look up information about local businesses — but with Google continuing to further its commitment, image search is the next frontier. Online content should include relevant, high-quality, tagged images — ideally alongside other content like recipes or product information that Google may index for.

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Google Parent Alphabet Leads $1 Billion Funding In Lyft

Ride-hailing app Lyft has secured a $1 billion funding round from CapitalG,  the investment fund run by Google parent Alphabet, as the company seeks to capitalize on the rise of on-demand as its rival Uber works to recover from its various executive controversies and turmoil of the past year.

In a blog post on Lyft’s site, the company added that CapitalG Partner David Lawee is being added to the ride-hailing app’s board.

The deal suggests a growing shift in favor of Lyft by Google, which is also an investor in Uber. The move toward Lyft comes several months after Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary, Waymo, began partnering with Lyft on autonomous vehicles. Alphabet and Uber have been involved in a battle over intellectual property over the development of sensors for self-driving cars during the past year.

And while Uber is still the number one ride-hailing service, despite being banned from London, Lyft points out that this past year has been very successful. In its blog post, the company notes that that its service is now available to 95 percent of the U.S. population — up from 54 percent at the beginning of the year.

“While we’ve made progress towards our vision, we’re most excited about what lies ahead. The fact remains that less than 0.5 percent of miles traveled in the U.S. happen on rideshare networks,” Lyft’s statement says. “This creates a huge opportunity to best serve our cities’ economic, environmental, and social futures.”

Lyft has also been aggressively courting marketing partnerships with brands such as Taco Bell. The two collaborated on a “taco mode” campaign this past July.

Before that, General Motors’ app-based Maven program, is now in about 20 cities across the U.S. and Canada, struck a deal with Lyft in Atlanta as the auto brand seeks to expand the year-old car-sharing effort. A year ago, Lyft and Jet Blue also partnered to bring travelers service from the airport their their door.

As the role of geo-data supports the connection between online and offline, the auto industry will be at the center of the changing interactions between places of business and consumers. And that’s what underlies this funding in Lyft right now.

Carmakers’ future success will be measured in “miles traveled” as opposed to the number of cars actually sold, Adam Jonas, head of global auto research for Morgan Stanley, has opined in a study of the impact of driverless and connected cars will have on the automotive industry.

By 2030, cars will drive more than 19.6 billion miles globally — considerably higher than the 10.2 billion they traveled in 2015, Jonas has estimated. It’s worth noting that the pace of growth is much higher than the estimated production of cars and light vehicles during the same period.

“The natural solution appears to be more shared vehicles,” Jonas said. “Shared cars—taxis and cars operated by ride-sharing companies, but not car rental—in 2015 accounted for 4 percent of global miles traveled, but by 2030, Morgan Stanley estimates that number could reach 26 percent.”

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Think With Google: Consumers Are Searching For The ‘Best’ — Even For Low-Consideration Products

Mobile searches for “best” have grown over 80 percent in the past two years, but customers aren’t simply searching for the best luxury hotels or the best mortgage rates: Searches for “best” are showing higher growth among “low-consideration” products like toothpaste or umbrellas than these “high-consideration” products, according to research from Think With Google.

In fact, mobile searches for “best toothbrush” have grown over 100 percent and “best deodorant” over 60 percent — confirming that consumers are increasingly turning to mobile research not just for the big things, but for everything.

“Whether it’s value, style, or quality we care about, nowadays anything we’re considering buying — no matter the category or price — can be, and is likely to be, researched on mobile first,” TWG’s report states. “That means today’s consumer defines what’s high versus low consideration for herself, so marketers across categories have the chance to influence these curious and investigative shoppers with helpful advice.”

“Best Of” — Via Voice And Text

So, what does this mean for marketers?

First, that even when it comes to low-cost, frequently replaced goods, marketers must assume that shoppers are doing research for “best in category” on mobile. CPG marketers in particular may need to think about their strategy in this area, as reviews for toothbrushes aren’t typically found on a pharmacy’s listing or a Yelp page; it’s likely Amazon that will yield the most results here, unless these brands think specifically about how to rank in a customer’s location-specific search results.

In that vein, there is an inherent location-based quality to these requests: Searching for the “”best x” generally means that someone wants to go somewhere or buy something in the physical world. As we wrote previously, TWG’s research bears this out: Compared to just a year ago, smartphone users are reportedly significantly more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps customize information to their location.

And finally, this trend suggests that the voice-first revolution matters for an even wider range of marketers than previously expected: As Google sees increases in “best of” searches across the board, it’s important to bear in mind that over 20 percent of these searches made in the Google app are made by voice. Whether you’re selling turquoise or toothpaste, search results across across platforms matter.

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Target Adds Google Voice Assistant Shopping Nationwide

Target is the latest brick-and-mortar brand to sign on to accept requests made by owners of the Google Home through their voice-activated Google Assistant (aka “Okay, Google”) for delivery or pickup via its local online shopping marketplace Google Express.

In essence, the arrangement represents an expansion of Target’s existing use of Google Express.

Starting today, Target shoppers at most of its 1,800 stores in the United States can access items through Google Express and with the Google Assistant (except for Alaska and Hawaii). Target will offer two-day delivery, as well as free shipping for any orders over $35, Google says in a blog post.

Coming In 2018

Most of the capabilities of shopping through Google Express won’t be available until 2018. For example, after the new year, Target customers will also be able to use their Target loyalty membership through REDcard to get 5 percent off most Target purchases and free shipping when using Google Express. In addition, in 2018, Target shoppers will be able to link their Target.com and Google accounts, so the service will remember all their favorite items.

“We’re teaming up with Google to create innovative digital experiences using voice and other cutting-edge technologies to elevate Target’s strength in style areas such as home, apparel and beauty,” Target says. “Work is underway for Google and Target teams to bring this all to life.”

In August, Walmart unveiled plans to rollout a similar voice-activated shopping via Google Express and Google Home tools for its 4,700 U.S. stores and its fulfillment network “to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else,” including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country.

These partnership on voice-activation comes roughly a year after Google Home debuted as a Connected Home product to augment Google Assistant.

“Shopping isn’t always as easy as it should be,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP for Ads and Commerce, said in a blog post at the time of the Walmart deal’s announcement “When was the last time you needed to pick up something from the store but didn’t have the time to make the trip? Or you went to the store only to realize they didn’t have the brand you wanted? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get what you want, however you want, from the stores where you already shop? We launched Google Express and shopping on the Google Assistant to do just that: make it faster and easier for you to shop your stores like Costco, Target and  Walmart.”

Okay, Google, Target shoppers are ready to talk.

Target’s Many Omnichannel Steps

For Target, the expanded Google partnership follows a series of steps designed to tackle one of the primary challenges facing its omnichannel strategy by rivals like Amazon. In August, for example, Target acquired transportation tech company Grand Junction to promise same-day delivery to customers to match one of key appeals of Amazon’s discount shopping subscription program, Prime.

It’s the latest salvo store brand has taken to meet consumers’ demands in the age of Amazon and e-commerce. Those demands include personalized recommendation and satisfying customers’ purchasing preferences, such as online shopping/in-store pickup.

But as Amazon has expanded its discounts and two-day shipping with its Prime membership option, and has just heralded its Instant Pickup option, retailers have turned to one advantage they still possess — at least for the moment — in relation to Amazon: proximity to their customers and known inventory, which makes it possible to offer the ultimate convenience of letting someone click “buy” and then having it brought to them within a few hours.

The Rise Of Connected Intelligence, The Knowledge Graph

In general, the adoption of voice-activation and on-demand delivery/pickup follows the wider capabilities stemming from the rise of Connected Intelligence and the Knowledge Graph, which have propelled personalized, one-to-one connections between brands and digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby as they enter the mainstream of consumer behavior.

While Amazon’s Alexa has assumed an early position as a leading voice-activated assistant, Google has stepped up its push into the space as its aligns its services to brick-and-mortar brands such as Panera Bread, which became one of the first national restaurant chains to begin offering voice-activated ordering and payment through Google Assistant.

The voice-activated ordering is currently available in Panera’s hometown of St. Louis and at its six locations in the Silicon Valley area. A full rollout of voice ordering is expected to come to all of Panera’s 2,000-plus U.S. locations by the end of the year, the company has said.

Other national brands that have formally aligned with Google’s voice-activated virtual assistant to accept spoken orders via the delivery marketplace Google Express, including Costco, Guitar Center, Kohl’s, L’Occitane, Payless, PetSmart, Road Runner Sports, Sur La Table, Ulta, Walgreens, and Amazon’s Whole Foods.

In the case of Target, the retailer has been aggressively — and at times, fitfully — revising its omnichannel strategy. For example, earlier this year, it decided to abandon its sub rosa e-commerce program called Goldfish, which was dubbed as the “store of the future.”

Before that, in August 2015, Target started a beacon program with Estimote to round out its in-store sales assistance. It’s unclear how vital the beacon program has been — or even whether Target has continued to use it —  since the company has not discussed those efforts publicly. Along the way, Target’s experiments with interactivity has included retail pop-ups and a showcase IoT-based connected home store in San Francisco.

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Advertising Week Recap: Welcome To The Age Of Assistance — And Assistants

Advertising Week NY covered a great deal of ground last week, from Tencent’s expanded presence to the growth of Facebook Messenger as a marketing vehicle to the Weather Company’s heralding the Era of Cognition.

Retale Managing Director Nels Stromborg attended a number of events and meetings and here’s his takeaway.

Brands are taking action on transparency: Whether you’re a vendor, agency or seller, if you weren’t paying attention to the transparency debate, you are now. Brands are disappointed and upset; they’re running out of patience and taking action and it showed at the event. And to be honest, they have every right to be. The media supply chain has always been opaque. But in digital, it’s becoming more and more complicated, which has made the problem more pronounced. Spend has also exploded so advertisers want more accountability and a clearer view of ROI. The solution isn’t easy. Inventory sources need to address it by installing more third-party verification and opening up their data to partners. Agencies need to deliver on more transparent billing and measurement. While some progress is being made, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

 Alibaba versus Amazon: At Dmexco, Amazon was the belle of the ball. Their Amazon Services division had a big show. They used the event to tout their inventory, services and formats to advertisers (and retailers and CPG brands, in particular) – even if their current offerings are still very limited. I expect Amazon’s ad business to grow dramatically over the next year to support brand partners. But they were probably a bit jealous after seeing all of the attention Alibaba got at Advertising Week. GroupM announced a data partnership with them. Even Marc Pritchard spoke about their ability to disrupt the space. Their audience is almost entirely overseas, so their ad business doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to Amazon. But it’s fascinating to watch these massive e-commerce companies grow in influence among advertisers.

Google Americas’ President Allan Thygesen talks with Unilever USA CMO Keith Weed about Marketing in the Age of Assistants

The Age of Assistance: Get ready to see several hundred think pieces on “the age of assistance” over the next few weeks. Google’s Allan Thygesen used the phrase in a presentation with Unilever’s Keith Weed. It expertly captured a big technology shift in the market. It refers to the growing voice and chat bot movement in advertising. Consumers want more custom, personalized brand experiences. They like feeling like they’re the only one in the room – even if they’re online. For years, the best the industry could do was a well-targeted display ad. But bots have unlocked a more conversational and one-to-one campaign opportunity. That’s the potential brands see and love. They can deliver tailored, white glove service at scale through Facebook Messenger or your Amazon Echo. The AI needed to develop these tools has grown substantially better in the last three years, making it easier to meet the opportunity. The age of assistance is upon us and I think it’s here to stay.”

Leave content to the experts: The consensus on content during Advertising Week is that we are deep into a new golden age of “television.” This incredible programming is also increasingly being delivered free of advertising. What this dynamic does is make it almost irresistible for brands to stray from their core competency of product development and enter into the production business. During a panel hosted by FX, Joe Marchese, President of Fox’s Ad Products, relayed an interesting and recent exchange from a CPG. “They said, ‘We’re not in the paper towel business. We’re in the content business. We’re in the storytelling business.’ Which I look at and say, ‘Uh, I’m not sure you really want to do that, because you make paper towels!’ You hear (content) people talk about what it takes to break through, to make a story, make it timeless … [but] you need to sell paper towels tomorrow.” The point? Leave content to the experts – especially as the overall quality rises and the battle for attention becomes more competitive. Brands need to focus on what they do well.

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