iPage Blog

How To Use Google+ for Your Small Businesses

Before discussing why Google + is a useful platform for your business, we need to address the elephant in the room: Why use Google+ at all?   Google+ has about 2.2 billion profiles so it is in the big leagues of social media platforms, but the number of profiles doesn't tell the whole story. Research has shown that as few as 0.2% of those users create regular, meaningful posts.   You can also look at anecdotal evidence. You probably hear phrases like this regularly from people in your work and social circles:   I saw on Facebook yesterday... On Twitter I read that... Send me a Snapchat... I watched a video on YouTube that... I saw that picture you posted on Instagram...   Have you ever heard anyone say: "I saw this great post on Google+ the other day"? Probably not, so what is the point of setting up your business on Google+?   The answer is simple - it helps with SEO (read our explanation of SEO here). You will get social media marketing benefits too. But the real benefit to businesses is that Google+ helps with SEO.   Here’s how to use Google+ for your small business:   Set Up a Personal Gmail Account   Before you can set up your business on Google+ you must have a personal Gmail account. The best approach is to use your own Gmail and then add other people in your organization as an administrator of the page, rather than setting up a new email account for everyone to use.   If you don't have a personal Gmail account you will need to create one.   Once you have a Gmail account you can sign into Google+.   Create Your Business Page   In the top right of your personal Google+ page there is a Home icon. When you hover over this a menu drops down and one of the options on that menu is Pages. Clicking on this will bring you to the pages that you own or manage. If this is the first time you have set up a page you won't have any pages to manage.   To create a new business page click Get Your Page. You now have to select from one of three business types. The business types help Google give users better results in search. Here are the three categories you can choose from:   Storefront - this is for retail businesses, restaurants, hotels or other types of business that customers visit Service area - this is for fast food delivery business, taxi companies, plumbers, and electricians. In other words, businesses that serve a particular area, but do not necessarily have a location that customers visit. Brand - this catches all other types of business   The next stage depends on the selection you make:   Storefront and service area - you will need to find your address on a map Brand - you have to enter the page name, website address, and the type of page   Select Create page.   Then Complete Your Profile   This is the most important step in the process as Google potentially uses the information you enter when determining search rankings. At the top of the page there is a progress bar that walks you through the required steps:   Profile picture - minimum of 250x250 pixels. You can use your company logo, or a head and shoulders photo. Cover photo - this is the main photo that visitors will see on your Google+ page. The best size is 1,080x608 pixels, but the minimum size is 480x270 pixels. Contact info - add as much contact information as you can, including your phone number, email address, and physical address. You can set this information as public, private, or restricted to people within your circles. Introduction - now write a brief description of the page. It should include what your business does and information on key products or services. Tagline - now summarize your business with a tagline in 10 words or less Verify your website - this will connect your website to your Google+ page which will help you in search results.   Share And Engage   The final steps are to share content and connect with other people:   Make the content that you share useful and engaging, and keep marketing messages to a minimum Search for the Google+ pages of individuals and businesses that you know and follow them Put Google+ buttons on your website and links in your email signatures   The key to making Google+ work is ensuring that your profile information is engaging and accurate - and that you update your page regularly.  

How To Get the Most Out Of Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual social network that’s all about sharing images (and sometimes videos). The main goal of this social media platform is to give its users a way to discover new things. To get the most of out of Pinterest as a small business, first consider whether it’s right for you. Pinterest is particularly useful for your business if you sell directly to the consumer. But it won’t help you if you cannot create (or curate) beautiful images of your own.    While Pinterest is suitable for a broad range of industries and types of businesses, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not joining Pinterest because of “shiny object syndrome.” Hone in on your business needs and if Pinterest can play a part in your creatively growing your business - perfect! If not, it’s ok. Just know where you and your business stand.   If you want to reach people with a high level of income and education, Pinterest is your place. And while men do use Pinterest, the majority is women - the key decision makers in most household financial decisions.   So, let's get started using Pinterest:   Set Up An Account   You have two options to set up a business account. The first is to convert a personal account to a business account, and the second is to set up a new business account.   Converting your personal account is a simple process that requires you to log into Pinterest, click on Pinterest for Business, and select Convert Now.   To create a new account go to the Pinterest business page section and complete the required information:   Business type Your name and email address Description Website link Profile image   You will have to verify your website. This is a technical process that requires you to upload a small verification file to the server that hosts your website. You may need to get help from your website designers to complete this part of the process, although Pinterest does offer a detailed step-by-step guide.   When setting up your account remember that Pinterest is a visual platform. Text has a place, but don't write too much in your bio. Look at this example on the Nordstrom Pinterest page. They keep it simple by describing what they’re about in less than 25 words.     Boards And Pins   It is now time to get into the fun part and what Pinterest is all about - boards and pins. Pins are the content that you share on Pinterest. This could be images that you upload to Pinterest directly, or it could be an image or a video on a website that you link to. Boards are places where you group pins together.   Let's look at some examples on Lowe's Pinterest page.     Here we see five boards: Patio Paradise It's Grill Time How You How-To Savor Summer! Gardening Tips   Within each of these boards there are pins - Patio Paradise has 160 pins:     For your business, think about the type of content that you want to share on Pinterest. Make it engaging and helpful to your audience, and focus on the visual. Then think about the boards that you can categorize this content into.   To set up a board click Create Board and fill out the required information. This includes a name, category and description for the board. You also have the option to allow other individual Pinterest users to add pins to the board.   Once you have your boards in place you can start adding pins. You have three main options:   Upload content from your computer Pin a link to a website page - you will be able to choose one of the images on the page Repinning content from other Pinterest users   For each pin you are asked to enter a description and allocate it to a board.   Rich Pins   Rich Pins are a powerful feature on Pinterest. But there is a downside - they are quite technical to set up so you will probably need to get the help of your web developer again. This is different to other social media platforms where you can use the vast majority of features without any technical expertise at all. But there is a benefit to the Pinterest approach - there is less spam on the platform. Plus the authority of Rich Pins is maintained.   But what are Rich Pins? Rich pins include extra information on the pin, so offer an enhanced experience for your audience; i.e. they get more information without having to click elsewhere. Five types of Rich Pin are available:   Movie Recipe Article Product Place   The process of adding Rich Pins requires adding code to your website, and then going through a validation process with Pinterest. If you use WordPress there are plugins that can help, and you can follow the step-by-step guide, but you might need to get additional assistance.   Promote Your Pinterest Page   Now you need to get followers to your Pinterest page. You should notify your customers, email subscribers, and fans of other social media platforms and tell them that you’re on Pinterest. The key is to make them want to follow you on Pinterest. Try to avoid begging for followers - it’s not a good look. You should also include the link on your marketing materials and your email signature. And remember to include “Pinterest Pin It” buttons on your website.     Like other social media networks the key to success on Pinterest is posting good quality content regularly. So, figure out what your audience likes, and then start pinning.    

How To Use LinkedIn As A Small Business

LinkedIn is a social media platform that focuses on the professional lives of its users. It’s where individuals and brands can showcase their skills and network. It’s the place where you can find leads, build relationships with others in your industry, and even recruit staff. But how do you effectively use LinkedIn as a small business?   Our guide will walk you through setting up your company on LinkedIn. Here’s where to start:   Start Your Company Page   Here’s something super important: You’ll need a personal LinkedIn profile before you can set up a company page. If you don't have one yet you will need to register. Make sure you use your real name and your main business email address. This will ensure you adhere to LinkedIn's policies. But it also makes it easier for people to find and connect with you. Once you have your account registered fill out as much of the information as possible, including your current employment details.   When logged into your personal LinkedIn account you should click on Interests at the top of the page, and then Companies. You will then see an option to Create a Company Page - click on Create.   You then have some information to fill out:   Company name Your email address at the company - you will have to verify this email Company description - keep this to about two paragraphs and include details of what your company does, your products and services Company type Company size Company website URL Main company industry Company operating status Year founded Company locations - you can include up to five Company page admins - this gives permission to other people to update your LinkedIn page   Images   The next step is to upload images to your page. Three main images are required:   Banner image - 646 x 200 pixels Standard logo - 100 x 60 pixels Square logo - 50 x 50 pixels   The square logo appears in all status updates you make on LinkedIn. Your banner image is the main image that appears at the top of your page. This should showcase your company in the best possible way.   Showcase Pages   Next you should create a showcase page so that you can give more detailed information of what you offer. To add a Showcase Page hover over the blue Edit button and select Create a Showcase Page.   Here is an example of a Showcase Page from Dell that features its cloud products.     Post Updates   Now you need to make your company page come alive by posting updates. If you’re like most business owners, you’re probably tempted to promote your products or services, or give out company news - whether it’s new recruits or awards won. Do not give into this temptation. There is a place for this sort of content but LinkedIn is a place for discussion rather than broadcasting.   Instead, engage with your audience, rather than telling people about what you have to offer.   You can establish credentials as a thought leader in your field by posting your thoughts and ideas around your industry. When you post helpful information, tips, resources, or how-to guides you are indirectly helping your customers.   This example from the Virgin LinkedIn page is a perfect example. Its business is air travel, but the posts on LinkedIn are about business startups, business funding issues, and general business advice.     Promote Your Page   Once you have completed your profile and posted updates to your page you can start to promote it. This includes following people who you know through your personal profile on LinkedIn. This allows friends to take note of your company page. Other options include:   Getting colleagues in your office (as well as your friends and family) to add your company page to their personal profiles, or follow the page Add links to your website, your email signature, and your printed marketing materials Promote your LinkedIn page on your other social media accounts Purchase LinkedIn ads to boost your following   The key to making a success out of LinkedIn is consistency. When you consistently grow your personal profile, and post high-quality, useful content to your professional page, LinkedIn becomes a huge asset to your business.  

iFeature of the Month: Kathy’s Kritter Korner

It is truly our pleasure to announce this month's iFeature of the Month! Kathy Arnold of Lockhart, Texas, has taken a passion of hers and turned it into a profitable small business. Kathy's Kritter Korner is primarily an online store selling accessories for one of the most important family members in life -- our dogs! Check out her iPage website here: http://www.kathyskritterkorner.net/index.html   From reversible coats, collars and bows, to tasty treats, Kathy is ready to make your dog's day. She uses her website to sell her product and share her brand online. It is people like Kathy who inspire us to be a better web host, and it is stories like hers that motivate us to follow our own dreams in life. We had a chance to talk with Kathy about her experience with iPage and her life as a small business owner. Here's what she had to say!   (Pictured above: Two happy customers of Kathy's Kritter Corner)   Hi Kathy, Thanks for being a customer of iPage! How did you hear about us and why did you ultimately end up choosing iPage as your web host? How has your experience been so far since you set up your account with us?   Well at first, and unfortunately, I listened to friends who recommended another top-named website builder. It was a horrible experience from the first day of trying to build it and our relationship ended after one week of frustration. Then I did research online and was impressed with your site and promises of success! I immediately went to you! You are much more user-friendly and your tech support is actually helpful, especially by comparison. And your phone support agents are all very knowledgeable and supportive!   We're so happy we've been able to help you get set up online. Before we talk about your website. We want to know more about your business! What was your motivation for Kathy's Kritter Korner? How did the business come about?   My career was in business management and accounting, but I wanted to return to my passion, so I did pet grooming for the last seven years....But due to the physical stress of that job, I looked for my next chapter. Over many years of having pets, I have found it difficult to find certain items, like safe, humane and attractive collars, coats that actually cover the dog’s entire body for warmth, dog treats that aren’t packed with artificial extras. So it felt like natural path to follow to make those things readily available to other pet owners.   That's incredible. It's so inspiring to hear of people who followed their passion even after years working in a different area. As for your website, we love it! Did you design it yourself?    Thank you! Yes, I designed it myself using Weebly and E-commerce. It was fairly easy to understand and correct when I made mistakes. The icons are pretty straight-forward and easy to drag and drop.               Wonderful! It's good to know Weebly is easy to use! How much time do you dedicate to managing the site? And are there any other iPage tools you use to keep your website up and running?                It’s amazingly easy to keep the products for sale updated which is great. It’s wonderful that I didn’t need to take a course to understand your offerings. I spend about 4 hours per week on the site upkeep, but would have no problem increasing that time, with more business! Like I said, it is easy and simple.  I can’t say if there are better, but I can say there are much worse...iPage is perfect for me and my company’s needs!   Oh, good! And are there any areas of the site you're still looking to improve?   Well, love the fact that I can add a page and change/update the products so fast and easily! But I still need to improve the marketing and exposure. I’d also like to improve how people can search for my site. At this point, my company Facebook page comes up first, and that seems to confuse things.   That definitely makes sense. Marketing can be one of the more difficult aspects of site management. What else has been a biggest challenge in getting online and creating a website? How have you overcome it?       In terms of creating my website, the biggest challenge is my own ignorance about what I need and how to build it! Once I figure out what I need, I can call your Tech Support and get walked through the execution of it. They also recommend alternative ideas. As far as starting my own business, the biggest challenge has been starting off with limited funds and getting nationwide exposure. I’m still trying to overcome that.   Well, we think you've done a fantastic job so far. And we're happy to hear you're able to get help when you need it. Speaking of being a small business owner, what advice can you give to others like you about creating and managing a website and online presence?                                          I strongly recommend iPage for creating and managing your business, especially if it constantly changes, or if you’re not a professional website builder. It has organized and grouped my products so that anyone can to go to that section and see everything. And it’s easy for me to check my inventory and update it, as needed. I have not yet achieved all of my goals with it, but have hope that, with exposure and marketing funds, I will be successful.   One of my goals is to be an online store, nationwide and my website is definitely a helpful stepping stone.   Thank you so much for the recommendation, Kathy. We really appreciate it! Now before we let you go, is there anything else you'd like others to know about your business? What would you like to tell potential customers about you and your work through Kathy's Kritter Korner?    Our goal is to offer high quality products, individually made, to pet owners who want that extra “something” for their pet.  We will strive for your satisfaction and can customize, as needed.  You are dealing with a small, local business, rather than a corporation using mass-production with the “one size fits all” mentality. Everything is made in Texas but can be made for your pets and delivered via USPS nationwide.    Our products are as unique as your pets! We offer unique, handmade items.  They are always made with the comfort and safety of your dog in mind.  Currently we offer reversible coats, Martingale collars, healthy natural treats, elastic neck bling and bows.  New items are added frequently.  We will soon introduce “nap/travel mats" and throws to our product line, as well as walking harnesses.  As the owner of Kathy's Kritter Korner, I have studied, lived with, worked with and loved dogs for more than 60 years. And those dogs have shared lots of insights into what they need and want.   Awesome! We want to thank you for your time and wish you nothing but the best with your business. As a lover of all animals here at iPage, we are so happy to see you putting smiley faces and waggly tails on our dogs across the nation with your product!  Good luck to you!                                                                                                                                                                                                             

How To Use Twitter As A Small Business

Twitter is an effective marketing tool for small businesses and it can make an impact when used right. It helps you engage in conversations with your customers, increases the reach of your brand, and promotes your products. Our guide will show you how to use Twitter as a small business.   Set Up Your Account   The first step is to sign up for an account, which you can do at twitter.com. You have to create a password and verify your email at this stage, but the most important part is choosing your username.   Your username is also known as your Twitter handle, and it is usually written as @username. The Twitter handle for iPage is therefore @ipage. This also becomes the link to your page on Twitter, e.g. twitter.com/ipage.   Make your username relevant to your business, and ensure it is easy to remember. It must be 15 characters or less.   At this stage Twitter will prompt you to start following people, but it is best to skip this until you have content on your page.   You should update the rest of your profile though. You will need five things:   Bio - you have 160 characters to describe your business, and what people can expect from your Twitter page Profile photo - this is the most important image on your page because it is shown with all of your Tweets. It must be square, ideally 400 by 400 pixels, and it should represent you (a photo) or your brand (your logo). URL - include a link to your website Header image - this is the image that appears at the top of your Twitter page. It is a large image so there is plenty of space to make an impact. It should be 1,500 by 500 pixels. Make sure the image you use is high enough quality so that it doesn't look blurry or pixelated.   Here is an example of a profile photo:     Here is an example of a header image:     Start Posting   Once your page is set up you can start developing a content strategy that will include your first posts. Spend some time looking at what other people post before jumping in. Try to spot the types of post and the style of content that works, and think about how you can factor that into your page.   Twitter limits messages to 140 characters and there are five types of messages you can send:   Tweet - standard message posted on your timeline Reply - when you respond to a tweet from someone else Mention - this is a tweet that includes the Twitter handle of another user Retweet - a message created by another user that you share on your timeline Direct message - a private message to another user that follows you on Twitter   Here are some examples:   Tweet   Reply   Mention   Your content strategy should include a variety of different types of post, including standard text tweets, tweets with links to other content, images, and video. Make sure you let your personality shine through, and remember the 90/10 rule - make sure 90 percent of your posts have no marketing message.   Build Your Following   Now that you have content on your page you can start building your following. This involves telling your friends, family and colleagues about your Twitter account and asking them to follow you. You should also include a link to your Twitter page on your email signature, your website, and on any other social media platforms that you use.   You should also build your following by following other people and businesses. Twitter is about connections, and part of making it successful is reaching out and participating. Remember that the people who you follow will show up in your feed, so restrict this to people and organizations in your industry, your customers, and others related to your business.   Other Things You Should Know   Hashtags are a key part of Twitter. They are a way to identify the topic of your tweet to make it easier for people to find you. Here is an example with the hashtags #ppc, #advertising, #tutorial, and #smallbusiness:     Lists are another useful tool in Twitter. Every Tweet from the people that you follow appears in your feed, making it hard to keep track of those that you are interested in. Lists allow you to group the people that you follow so you can get the information you need faster. Lists can be either public or private.   Twitter has a high learning curve. But if you invest the time to educate yourself, you can deliver substantial returns for your business when you use it right.      

The Small Business Guide to Facebook

Everyone seems to have a Facebook account so you may assume that it’s easy to run a Facebook business page. Not so fast. Even though it’s one of the most accessible social media platforms today, there’s still quite a lot to learn. In previous posts explaining the benefits of social media for small businesses we used a fictional gourmet food store to help with the explanation. We’ll keep this example going for this small business guide to Facebook.   Create The Page   The starting point is to log into Facebook using your personal account. Make sure that you do this rather than getting one of your employees or a contractor to do it. You should be the one who controls your page. You can give your employees administration access later so they can post content. But make sure that you set up the page initially.     Once logged in, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php.   You have six options: Local Business or Place Company, Organization, or Institution Brand or Product Artist, Band, or Public Figure Entertainment Cause or Community   Pick the one that best suits your organization. For our fictional gourmet food store, we’ll select "Local Business or Place".   We are then asked to enter a number of other details: category, business name, and contact details. We select Food/Groceries, enter our business name, and fill out our contact details, including the telephone number.   Add Basic Information   Now add some basic information about your page. This includes a short description which will be visible to users, so make it as descriptive and helpful as possible. You should also include a link to your website.   Here is an example:   "J's Gourmet Food, specializing in the world's finest coffee, smoked fish, caviar, cheese, deli meats, condiments, spices, herbs, and more."   And here is what the basic information looks like on a real Facebook page:     You will also have to pick a unique name for your page. Take time deciding on this name. It is difficult to change later.   Facebook will also prompt you to upload a profile image. This is an important image because it features on your main Facebook page, every post you make, and every action you take on Facebook - when you like, share or comment on a post.     This is a profile image:       Your profile image must be square, with a recommended size of 180 by 180 pixels.   Facebook will also prompt you at this stage to like your page, and create an ad. It’s best if you do neither at the moment as your new page doesn't have anything on it.   But you can add the page to your favorites. This puts it in the left column of your personal page, which makes it easy to access.   Start Adding Content   Start by uploading a cover image. This is a cover image:     It has to be 851 by 315 pixels, but remember the profile image covers up part of it in the lower left corner. Also, your cover photo cannot contain more than 20 percent text.   You can check out this guide to ideal image sizes if you want more information on image sizing.    Now you should start adding posts. Facebook offers six different options:   Plain text status Photo with caption Link with caption Video with caption Event page Location check-in   Here are some tips for creating Facebook posts:   Use a variety of types  (don't just post photos) Posts with images or video are usually more engaging As a general rule, keep them short, but don't artificially restrict the length - use both short and slightly longer posts Ideally upload your videos directly to Facebook, rather than posting a link to a video located elsewhere (such as YouTube) Make your posts engaging and relevant to your audience Keep up to speed on the endlessly evolving Facebook algorithms (it changes a lot!)   Spread The Word   Once you have content on the page you can start telling people about it. Get your employees, colleagues, family and friends to like your page (but try not to be annoying about it). After that you can start reaching out to other folks who may be interested. You may also want to consider running Facebook ads to promote the page to an even wider audience.   Getting started with Facebook is pretty straightforward when you post consistently creative, engaging content. Grow your audience by getting started today.    

The Best Social Media Platforms to Use

You’ve decided to take the leap into social media, and now need to know where you should focus your efforts. You’re certain that you can’t do everything. As a small business owner, you’re aware that there are certain places you should be - and other places you should avoid. Large companies even concentrate their efforts on particular channels, and you need to learn which social media platforms make the most sense to your industry and business.   In a previous post that looked at the benefits of social media to small business, we introduced a fictional gourmet food store. Let’s use that example again for businesses with a business-to-consumer offering.   But we’ll also use a second example - a small accountancy firm - to show how social media can benefit companies with a business-to-business offering as well.   Here we go:   Facebook   With 1.3 billion users, Facebook is easily the biggest social media platform in the world. Users log on to the site regularly, and they spend a lot of time with it, so it has tremendous potential.   Gourmet food store - their customers are probably on Facebook so this is an ideal platform Accountant - Facebook is better known as a B2C marketing tool, so an accountant will have to work hard to generate a return. It is possible, though, if they adopt B2C-style postings - like Intel does on its Facebook page.     Twitter Like Facebook, Twitter also has a large and active userbase, with about 650 million members. It has a more immediate feel than Facebook, which makes it ideal for customer service applications and sending out messages with strong, urgent calls to action.   Gourmet food store - use Twitter as a customer service tool so that customers can make contact easily and quickly Accountant - use Twitter to post tips, and link to articles that will be helpful to their customers. This will build up their reputation as leaders in their field.   LinkedIn   Where Facebook and Twitter are about consumers and entertainment, LinkedIn is about business. When people use LinkedIn, they’re thinking about their careers, their business, and their professional goals.   Gourmet food store - has limited use for LinkedIn Accountant – use LinkedIn to establish a reputation as an expert, and to give information on what the business offers. It can do this through group participation, and posting helpful non-sales content to their page   Google+   When you look purely at the number of users, Google+ ranks highly, but it doesn’t have the same rate of engagement as the other social media platforms. It does have one major benefit though - its connection with the Google search engine. Many search professionals think that good Google+ profiles help with search engine rankings. For that reason, Google+ can help the accountant and the gourmet food store.   With the latest addition of Google Alphabet, it’s important for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries to stay up on the latest happenings.    Best Of The Rest   Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are the biggest social media platforms, but what others might you consider?   YouTube – YouTube is a niche platform. But it is huge. The gourmet food store could use this platform successfully by creating recipe videos using the products they sell. This takes time and effort so it’s not ideal. But it’s worth considering if you want to challenge yourself and grow an audience.   Instagram - Instagram's niche is in sharing attractive photos that represent a brand’s personality. It’s a perfect platform for the gourmet food store, which can use it to share mouth-watering images of the food that it sells. It’s important that the images are high-quality. Invest in a professional camera or use filters to make each photo pop.   Pinterest - Pinterest is about images too, but it’s more focused on users "pinning" content. Think of a pin as a “vote” for the content, which means it has SEO benefits. Both types of business can benefit from Pinterest but it’s much more of a B2C platform. Unless the accountant is super creative with its use of Pinterest, the platform is more geared towards the gourmet food store.   The best approach is to decide what you want to achieve from social media. Whether you’re looking to improve your customer service, increase brand awareness, or become an expert in your field, look at the platforms that speak to these objectives - and then select the ones that are the easiest (and most fun!) to use.    

Why is Social Media Important for Small Business?

If you’re like many business owners, everyday conversations often include expressions like "I saw it on Facebook.”  Brands and businesses are constantly asking you to like, share, tweet and follow them - which makes social media seem like a whole lot of noise for one human to handle. You’re not alone if you’re wondering if social media is truly helpful or if it’s full of hype. If you’re asking yourself if it’s worth the investment in time and money, you’re being super savvy about your small business.   Here are some ideas to ponder:   What Is Social Media And How Should You Use It?   Social media allows users to create and share content. It’s the collective of online communications channels dedicated to interaction and collaboration. This means that social media can be used for just about anything today, from posting food images, to letting friends know about new a new job, and even distributing articles (such as this article or others).   The most common social media platforms include:   Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn Pinterest YouTube   Think of social media on these platforms as more of a networking tool than a “broadcasting” tool. Think “conversations” over “selling.”   Let’s look at an example using a fictional gourmet food store. This is the wrong way to use social media:   "10% off this weekend" "New Danish blue cheese just arrived in store!" "Open from 8am this Saturday!"   If you’re using social media to broadcast your message like this example, take a deep breathe. You’re not alone. But this doesn’t mean that you should join the majority of other business owners who are doing it this way. The good news is that you’re getting informed on how to improve your social media skills. So here are some better ways to start conversations:   Be helpful: “It’s International Watermelon Day! Here’s an amazing watermelon and feta cheese to celebrate the occasion: {link to article on blog}” Be engaging: “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?” Be inspiring: “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life.” - Anthony Bourdain (it’s ok to quote other leaders in your industry - especially foodies like Anthony Bourdain!)   Social media should be used to start conversations that engage the minds and hearts of your customers. Here are 12 reasons that explain why social media is important for the fictional gourmet food store:   1. Customers Use Social Media   Surprise, surprise! Customers are active on social media (just like you). When you get your message right, social media can turn into a powerful marketing tool.   2. Stand Out From The Competition   Other gourmet food stores in the local area don't know how to use social media the right way (but now you do!) It’s a great way to distribute unique, engaging content to your customers.   3. Improve Conversation   Rather than the gourmet store talking at their customers to tell them what to buy, they can now use social media to talk with their customers. The difference makes a huge impact on customer perception. It’s the difference between walking into the store and having the owner bombard you with: “Buy this!” vs. the owner simply asking you “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?” The first approach shuts down conversation immediately (and makes the customer feel awkward) whereas the latter approach opens up the conversation (and can make the customer feel more understood).   4. Learn More About Customers   If the store uses the second approach in the above example, the store can then use those conversations to learn more about their customers’ likes and dislikes. Asking one simple question to learn more about your customers can improve your overall business strategy.   5. Reach New Customers and Increase Brand Awareness It gets better: the store can even use the information to create posts that get shared, garnering attention from new food lovers. Whether it’s a new recipe or a gorgeous image of a recent meal, your customers will want to share what they discovered. The marketing term for this is earned media. This increases your brand awareness and builds trust.   6. Improve Brand Loyalty   Consumers have many choices today, including different options for buying gourmet food products. Trust and brand loyalty is everything. When the gourmet food store appears on a customer's Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, trust is built. This consequently improves brand loyalty.   7. Improve Customer Service   The store can also use social media as a customer service tool, encouraging customers to make contact via social media, and responding to those queries quickly. The immediacy of social media can mean the difference between a customer buying from you or from your competitor.   8. Nurture Brand Advocates   Social media gives the store an opportunity to regularly engage with their best customers. Those customers will naturally increase the reach of the store, and will deliver a marketing message (called earned media). Earned media is always more credible than advertisements (paid media).   9. Enhance Credentials as an Expert   The store can also use its social media posts to establish itself as the leading expert on gourmet food. This means that more customers will want to be associated with your business. When you make a name and become the best at something (even if it’s a gourmet food store) people will want to buy from you. And when more people buy from you, you become a leader.   10. Get Website Traffic   Social media can drive traffic to your website. This means that if you also sell products on your website (in addition to your store) you’ll have more of an opportunity to be seen by happy customers. Social media can make getting website traffic easy.   11. Improve Search Engine Rankings   When your content generates engagement on social media and builds up a following, you will also likely see an improvement in its rankings in search results. This is because Google and other search engines look at social media shares as one of the factors for deciding where to position a website in search.   12. Increase Conversions Used strategically and rarely, the gourmet food store can include posts with a clear call to action. When its social media posts are positively received, the store can increase conversations and win new customers.   Using social media, our fictitious gourmet food store can build their brand, find new customers, and engage with them - ultimately increasing sales. Now you can do the same and get more organic reach using social media for your business (no organic food required).

How To Sell Products Online

Online marketing has become increasingly important for all businesses, from international corporations to small, local firms. You might already be involved in marketing online through your website and social media accounts. But how do you take the next step? How do you actually sell products online?   To explain your options let's use a fictional example of a small jewelry maker working from home and selling items like bracelets, necklaces and rings. They are stunning and unique designs that sell well in local stores. This businesswoman knows she has products that people want. All she needs now is to get the range in front of more people.   Getting A Website   The first step is usually to get a website with an online store, or add an online store to your existing website. This is what you’ll need:   SSL certificates - this sounds technical, but it is basically about security. An SSL certificate protects your customer's data as it whizzes over the internet between their computer and your online store. iPage offers easy to set up SSL certificate solutions. Merchant services - if you have purchased things online before you will probably have used some of the more popular services like PayPal or Authorize.net. These are services that users trust and that you can rely on to securely and efficiently process payments. Shopping cart - shopping carts display your products and handle all transactions, including getting delivery information.   In our example the jewelry producer already had a website. She added an SSL certificate and the ShopSite shopping cart from iPage, and she set up PayPal as her merchant service.   Selling On Other Websites   Selling online does not just mean selling on your own website. You can also setup profiles and stores on other platforms. This includes major websites like Amazon and eBay. The benefit of this approach is that customers are already familiar with those brands, they trust them, and, crucially, they use them.   Our jewelry producer therefore sets up an Amazon store and a store on eBay. Both are cost effective, and listing products on both websites is easy.   Other options are also available that work in a similar way to Amazon and eBay, but target different markets. These are niche and specialist platforms that differ depending on your industry. Let’s say that the jewelry producer chooses Etsy. She uses this to showcase her newest and highest priced products knowing that the Etsy audience is more targeted than the audience on Amazon or eBay.   What Next   Our jewelry producer now has four places that her products are available so why aren't the sales rolling in? If you want to sell online, you’ll need to set up your store. Once that is done you have to market and promote it. Here are three key methods that will help you sell your product online:   SEO - SEO is important for each of our jewelry producer's four stores. Good SEO on her website will help her appear high in Google searches, while good SEO on her product listings on Amazon, eBay and Etsy will help her stand out from the competition and appear in search. Read our detailed explanation of SEO if you want to find out more.   PPC - PPC is a form of pay-on-results advertising on Google and other search engines (read more about it here). It works because it brings highly targeted traffic to your website immediately, whereas SEO can take time. It can be expensive though, so you need to learn how it works before starting.   Social media - social media platforms are a great way of building up brand awareness and loyalty with your customers.   In our example, our jewelry entrepreneur optimizes the product listings on each of her stores, starts a small PPC campaign for some of the highest priced items, and starts building up a following on Facebook and Pinterest. As you can see, the jewelry maker did not need a ton of money to start selling her products online. But it does take time to do right. As long as you commit to learning and evolving your strategy as you grow, you can start selling your products online in an efficient, fun way. When are you going to start selling your products online? Leave a comment or post a question below.   Tags Marketing selling online marketing

What is Better PPC or SEO?

What is better: PPC or SEO? Both require investment in time, money or both, so the decision is an important one, but what is the answer? Well, it depends.   Almost everything is explained better with wine. But before we indulge, if you need a better understanding of the basics you can read our guide to SEO or our guide to PPC.   Now, back to the wine. If your friend asked you whether red or white wine was better, what would you say? You may respond that it depends on a number of factors like the food that you’re eating, your mood, and your general taste wines. There’s no right or wrong answer to red versus white wine just as there’s no right or wrong answer to PPC versus SEO.   Okay, But Which Should You Choose?   PPC is good at:   Getting traffic to your website immediately (SEO takes time) Gaining more control of how customers find you (with SEO you are at the mercy of search engines, and their policies change often) Getting to the absolute top position (even if you get to number one in an organic search by SEO, a competitor could appear above you with a PPC ad) Targeting the right audience (with SEO you can get lots of traffic, but they are not always ready to buy)   Now, here is what SEO is good at:   Increasing your credibility (people are now much more aware of the location of advertisements, and give preference to organic results) Increased exposure (with PPC the best strategy is to tightly target keywords so you don't waste money on clicks that don't convert, but this means you can miss potential customers – SEO brings you traffic from a broad range of search terms that are three words or more. This is known as long tail keywords) Giving you a good return on investment over time (PPC gets instant results, but as soon as you stop spending money on the clicks, the traffic stops) Covering all search engines (with PPC you have to choose a platform to advertise on, and you don't get any exposure anywhere else)   Making Your Selection   If you have the budget (and depending on your industry) you may want to use both SEO and PPC. SEO can build awareness of your brand and generate consistent traffic to your website over the long-term. Meanwhile you can use PPC for specific campaigns like launching a new product, promoting a sale, or capitalizing on a seasonal event.   All of your decisions should come down to ROI though, particularly when looking at PPC. In previous posts we used an example of a bicycle shop to show how PPC works.   Let's use that example again to do some simple math: Clicks on the cycling shop's PPC ad cost $3 They convert one in 10 so it costs them $30 in PPC for every sale The average sale is a $500 bicycle that as a 100 percent markup Profit is $250 minus $30 PPC cost = $220   In this scenario the numbers add up, but what if the shop tried a PPC campaign to sell $30 cycling shorts:   We’ll assume this is a less competitive market, so will set the cost per click at $1 Let's assume the same average conversion rate of one in 10, so the PPC cost for each sale is $10 The markup on the cycling shorts is again 100 percent Profit is $15 minus $10 PPC cost = $5   In this scenario, the margins are much tighter, making it much riskier. If the cost per click goes up, or the conversion rate falls, the bicycle shop could easily lose money on each sale.   When you choose between SEO and PPC, look at your business and the products that you want to promote. Then work out the potential ROI. Look at the list of differences in PPC and SEO (that we listed for you above) to make sure that the strategy is making you a profit. Remember to not overanalyze your approach. You most likely have the liberty of making quick decisions - so take action. And then iterate on your strategy to win more business. Your new customers will thank you.  

Does PPC Work If My Site Is Not SEO Friendly?

Does SEO have anything to do with PPC? What about the other way around - can PPC help with your SEO? And will your PPC campaigns work if your website is not SEO friendly?   If these concepts make as much sense as a six-year-old trying to spell words using their alphabet spaghetti, read through our introductions to SEO and PPC first. Then come back to this article.   But if you already have a good understanding of PPC and SEO, keep reading. We’ll explain how PPC and SEO are two sides of the same coin.   Do PPC and SEO Work Together?   Let's go back to the title of this post: does PPC work if your site is not SEO friendly? The short answer is yes - you could put zero effort into an SEO strategy for your website and still get a result from PPC. Similarly, you don't need to run a PPC campaign in order to make your SEO effective.   Google decides on your PPC position based on the Quality Score of your ad and the amount of your bid. When it looks at your SEO to determine your organic search ranking, it looks at hundreds of signals to arrive at a position.   Despite this, you shouldn't look at the two strategies as being completely separate.   Complementary   The most efficient way of looking at SEO and PPC is in the ways that one benefits the other. They are not direct benefits - as implied by the original question - but they are still significant.   Having both PPC and SEO will increase your visibility in search more than either of the strategies could achieve on their own. This is particularly true on mobile devices where PPC ads dominate the top results. This is because for most commercial search terms, users have to scroll before they see an organic search result.   So, PPC and SEO are complementary and, according to this graphic from MarketingProfs, they get similar results.       Help With Keywords   You can also use SEO and PPC to improve your overall keyword targeting. For a start, a website that has good SEO will pick up long tail keywords that you might not have thought to use in your PPC campaigns.   It works the other way as well, primarily because PPC offers better analysis. In 2013 Google moved to secure search. This reduced the amount of keyword data you can now access when looking at organic search, simplifying the information in your PPC campaign. Today you can check click through rates and track conversions more effectively.   With this information you can make better decisions on the keywords that you should target in SEO. Let's say you sell watches and you see that your best converting keyword (the one with the highest click through and conversion rate) on your PPC campaign is "breitling submariner". Because you know that this is something that people search for, and that they are making purchases on your website, you can review your content and improve your optimization so that you pick up more organic search traffic for this keyword.   Increased Number Of Landing Pages For SEO   You can also use the landing pages you create for your PPC campaigns as landing pages for organic search. Think about it - if you created a PPC landing page for the "breitling submariner" keyword mentioned earlier, and it is converting, why not use that landing page to also convert organic search visitors?   Just remember to think how the landing page fits in with your overall website though: does it have duplicate content, for example (not a problem for PPC, but it is an issue in SEO).   PPC Helps With Testing Web Page Effectiveness   Finally, PPC campaigns can help you improve the effectiveness of your web pages. You can easily split test different pages to see which designs, copy, calls to action, buttons, or colors give you the best conversion rates. You will obviously use this information to improve your PPC landing pages, but you can also use it to improve other action pages on your site.   In a technical sense, PPC and SEO work independently. But if you are savvy and practical, you can use PPC and SEO together to improve the other.    

How To Setup A PPC Ad

Do you want to set up a PPC ad but not sure where to start? Maybe you read our post explaining what PPC advertising is and think your business could benefit, but you’ve never done it before. Here is an explanation of how you can set up a campaign.   In the last post we made up a company called Jay's Bikes to show how PPC advertising can benefit businesses. We’ll use the Jay’s Bikes example in this post. But don’t worry – PPC advertising is useful for much more than selling bicycles.   Planning Your Campaign   To set up a PPC campaign in Google you will need an Adwords account. But you have some work to do before you get to that stage. In our fictional example, Jay wants to broaden the reach of his business to find customers outside of his current geographical area. He believes he can offer better deals on certain types of bikes than the local competition, and offer better service.   Before setting up Adwords, he needs to do three things:   Decide on the objectives of the campaign Prepare the website landing page Prepare a list of keywords   Let's take each one in order. First, you need an objective for the campaign. You can have multiple objectives as long as they’re clear. In the case of Jay he is going to target customers looking to buy mountain bikes. Second, he needs to decide on the landing page. This is the page on Jay's website that the visitor first sees right after they click on the ad. Remember that once the click happens, Jay is charged. Make sure your landing pages encourage users to take an action.   In Jay's case this means prominently highlighting the discount offer. He should also feature the mountain bikes included in the deal, shipping information, the customer service benefits, and Buy Now buttons.   Third, Jay needs to prepare a list of keywords for his campaign. The best place to start with this is by looking at his website and noting down the keywords. His keywords may look something like:   mountain bikes mountain bikes for sale <brand> mountain bike   He will need about 20 keywords. The key with these words (pun intended) is to try to think like your customer - what would they search for? You can also go to Google to get other ideas: type in your search and then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the "Searches related to..." section. Include any of the suggestions that are applicable.   Setting Up Adwords   Now Jay can now go to Adwords to set up his campaign. Here’s how to do that:   Click the red "Campaign" button Click "Search Network only"   The search network displays your ad on Google's search pages. The Display Network is for advertisements on third-party websites who display Google Adsense ads. These ads usually don't work on a PPC basis, though. Instead they work on something called CPM which basically means you pay for every 1,000 times your ad is displayed, whether it is clicked on or not.   Here is an example of a Display Network ad:     Here are some examples of search network ads:       Now we can continue setting up the campaign:  Select "All features" Give your campaign a name - e.g. Mountain Bike Campaign Uncheck "Include search partners" to ensure your ads only show on Google websites Enter the target area for your add. For Jay this could mean a radius of 200 miles from his shop. On "Bid Strategy", select "I'll manually set my bids for clicks" so you can exercise more control Enter your budget Click "Save and continue" In "Ad Group" give your ad group a name - e.g. 20% off mountain bike offer Choose "Text ad" Write your ad   You have limits to the number of words you can include in your ad, but it should include your main target keyword. It should also clearly outline why someone should click, and it should create a sense of urgency. For example:   Headline: 20% Off Mountain Bikes Description line 1: Free shipping and full warranties Description line 2: Huge discounts this month only   No you can continue setting up your ad:   Enter the list of keywords you prepared earlier Click "Save ad group"   That's it – you’ve set up a PPC advertising campaign.   Most importantly, don't forget about your ad. Devote time each week to looking at the stats and making refinements so that you can get the best possible results.  

iFeature of the Month: Scott Kalmus Photography

This past month, we’ve been searching high and low for an iPage customer worthy of being our very first iFeature of the Month. We received a bunch of great candidates, but when we saw Scott Kalmus’ photography site (www.scottkalmusphotography.com) we felt it was perfect for the debut.   Scott Kalmus is a creative portrait and wedding photographer based out of Long Island, New York. He uses his iPage website to display his portfolio and find new clients. We took some time to ask Scott about his business and his website, and as expected, he had some really great insight. Check out our with him interview below!   (Pictured above: Scott Kalmus and his family)   Hi, Scott! Thanks for being a customer of iPage. First, can you explain how you heard about us and why you ultimately chose iPage as your web host?   Absolutely. When I was finally committed to starting my own photography business I knew I needed a website, and I knew I needed to find someone to host it. My first approach was to search on Google. And iPage was one of the many that hosts I saw available. I decided to go with iPage for the support, the price, the included domain name and the positive reviews. Setting up my account was fast and simple which was something I was really looking for.     We love your website! Did you design it yourself? And what tool did you use to create it?   Thanks! Originally I was going to use Wordpress which was included in my iPage account, but when I realized how many blogging and CMS tools iPage is compatible with, I ultimately decided to go with Zenfolio for the design process because it’s made for photographers like me.   That’s great! We’re glad you found a tool that works great for you and integrates seamlessly with your iPage account. What's your favorite aspect or design feature of your site? And are there any areas of the site you're still looking to improve?   I think what I like most about my site is its simplicity. For example, I like that when someone first arrives, they’re shown some highlight images in a slide show. The blog is also a great feature (although I am behind on it) – It’s a great way to show existing and potentially new clients my work. Even though I do love my site, I am always trying to improve it and come up with new ideas.   (Pictured above: Scott's simple homepage)   We agree! So what's been your biggest challenge in getting online and creating a website?   I think the biggest challenge for me was just pushing myself to get it done. I thought the hardest thing about it would be trying to find a host and domain, but iPage really made everything so easy. Having the ability to use their "live chat" feature is superb.  Wonderful. We’re happy to hear it’s been an easy experience. What about being a small business owner? What's been your biggest challenge in getting that started?   I think the biggest challenge was contending with the competition. There are so many "photographers" out there, especially in NY, which made it hard to book clients at first. But persistence is key. So is publicizing your work through social media and striving for word of mouth referrals. Once that’s underway, the clients start to come to you.    That makes a lot of sense. What other advice can you give to fellow small business owners about creating and managing a website and online presence?   I think the best advice I can give is to ask questions. Reach out to iPage and use their "live chat" option. The agents are so willing to answer any questions and help you through the process. They have so many tools that come with your account and free extras that you will not be disappointed once you get going. Just jump in!   Great advice! Thanks. So is it safe to say that having a website has benefited you and your small business?   Yes, it's been great! Prior to being online, I was operating mainly through email and social media. And doing those things is still good, but having a professional looking website really helps a lot. In addition to booking new business, I use my site for sharing my clients’ photos. Each client has their own private password-protected viewing gallery. I use this to manage the photos they would like for print or possible album creations. So that’s been really helpful to me as well.   Awesome! So it sounds like you’re managing everything pretty independently which is great. But do you ever need to lean on iPage for help and support?   Yes! iPage has helped me whenever I needed a question answered. Plus, to this day, iPage has never been down, therefore allowing my site to always be up and very quick for those navigating it.   Good. That’s what we like to hear! It’s our goal to be a helping hand however you need it in your online journey. Before we wrap up, is there anything you would like others to know about your website or your small business?   Hmm, well I am mainly a portrait photographer. I shoot everything from new born pictures, to weddings and engagements, corporate events and everything in between. I’ve even done some destination weddings! So if you know of anyone looking for a photographer, have them visit my site and get in touch!   We’ll be sure to do that. Thanks again, Scott. We really appreciate your time and have loved hearing about your experience with us so far. Good luck in the future and we wish you nothing but success!   Thank you! I am so happy I went with iPage and I know I will be a long term customer. We’ll talk soon!   Have any questions or advice for Scott Kalmus? Feel free to leave a comment for him on our Facebook or Google+ posts! And be sure to keep an eye out for next month's iFeature of the Month!

Is PPC a Smart Choice for Today's Small Business Owners

When it comes to online advertising, you have more options available to you now than ever before. You can either advertise on platforms like Facebook and use various other strategies. Or you can use Pay Per Click. Is Pay Per Click still a modern strategy? And can you make it work?   Pay Per Click (PPC) is a form of advertising on search engines. As the name suggests, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. You can read our explanation here.   PPC is still a widely used method of advertising because you can immediately target a wider group of potential customers and increase your sales.   So what is the problem then? Why are we even asking if PPC is a modern strategy?   Over recent months and years PPC has received some bad press. The biggest focus is that small and medium-sized businesses and startups find it hard to make PPC work. The main reason for this is cost.   When you run a PPC campaign you are potentially competing for space with huge corporations and large brands. These companies have deep pockets and they usually have different objectives than you as an SME. This means they can afford to bid high for their PPC campaigns, which puts the cost up for you.   So what is the solution? First you need to understand how PPC advertising works so that you can optimize your campaigns. This will keep the costs as low as possible.   How PPC Works   Here are the basic steps to setting up a PPC campaign:   Write your headline and your ad content Select the keywords (see below) that you want to target Enter the amount of money you are willing to pay - this is your bid But Google doesn't simply look at the bid amount and use that to determine the placing of ads. Instead they use a calculation:   Your bid x Your Quality Score = The position of your ad (ad rank)   Quality Score is therefore as important to the success of your PPC campaign as your bid. By improving your quality score you can get better results, without spending any additional money.   Improving Your Quality Score   You can improve your quality score by looking at the relevance of your ad, the keywords, and the landing page.   The relevance of your ad takes into account everything including the keywords, landing page, and the text that you use in the ad.   Keywords are the list of phrases that you want to target. Let's say you are a BMW dealership. Good keywords would include things like used BMW, BMW 3 Series, BMW cars, etc. Choosing keywords like this will improve your quality score.   But what about if you want to target people who are searching for Mercedes or Infinity cars? That might be a strategy that a BMW dealership might think could yield results – by showing these people a suitable alternative. You can do this with a PPC campaign but Google is unlikely to regard those keywords as being as relevant as BMW-related words. This will mean a lower quality score and therefore a higher cost to get the same result.   If you want to keep your costs down, put together a tight and properly targeted list of keywords.   You then have to look at your landing page. This is the page that a user arrives at after they click on your ad. Make the content on that page relevant to the ad, and it should have clear calls to action. Let's look at the example again:   An ad for used BMWs that links to a page that is all about used BMWs will get a high Quality Score An ad that mentions used Mercedes cars but then brings you to a page about used BMWs (because you are a BMW dealership) will get a lower quality score   So, back to the question of whether PPC is a modern strategy that you can use? The answer is yes. But you must devote time to optimizing your campaigns in order to get a good return on investment.    

What does Pay Per Click Really Mean?

Pay Per Click is an advertising tool that is now well into its second decade of use. But for many small and medium-sized businesses it is misunderstood, or not used at all. So, what does Pay Per Click really mean?   Pay Per Click (also known as PPC) is a form of advertising on search engines. You pay the search engine to ensure a high result when potential customers do a search.   It Helps You Sell Bikes - And Anything Else   Let's use an imaginary bicycle shop as an example: Jay's Bikes. Jay's Bikes has a website which shows up at the top of Google when someone searches for "jay's bikes". It also shows up at the top when someone in the same city as Jay’s Bikes searches for bikes. These results are known as organic search results, and they don't cost Jay anything - except for the cost of getting his website built and optimized.   But Jay wants to expand the mail order section of his business, which means targeting customers across the state. Those people are unlikely to see Jay's Bikes in Google because they don't know the shop exists, and they are not searching specifically in Jay's area. To overcome this Jay starts a PPC campaign to get his message across to a wider target market.   But unlike traditional forms of advertising where you pay for space (an ad on a billboard, radio, newspaper, etc.) with PPC Jay only has to pay when someone actually clicks on the ad to visit his website.   Why Is PPC Good?   PPC helps businesses to expand the reach of their search engine marketing, and get faster results. It is possible to do this organically through search engine optimization (see our explanation of SEO here), but that takes longer and the results are not guaranteed.   PPC also offers benefits to internet users and search engines, as they have intertwined objectives. A searcher is looking for a solution to a problem (in our example, they want to buy a new bicycle) and search engines want to help them find that solution.   Let's look at our example again where a person outside of Jay's geographical area is searching in Google to buy a bike. Jay's Bikes might offer better after sales care, lower prices, or a model that this person is looking for but can't find locally.   The result is that the PPC campaign was beneficial to:   Jay's Bikes - they got a new customer in their new target market The customer - she got a better deal than she could find locally The search engine - the searcher got what she was looking for making her more likely to return to the search engine in the future   Okay, so what's the downside? Two main downsides exist: First, it doesn't scale. In other words, you pay for every click. The more traffic you get, the more you pay.   Second, it is easy to pay lots of money on a PPC campaign but not get a return on your investment. This happens for two main reasons:   The PPC campaign is not optimized so you pay too much per click You don't convert the clicks into sales   When you start a PPC campaign, Google works out the position of your ad in relation to other ads with a calculation based on Quality Score and the amount of money you are willing to pay.   Many businesses try to improve their position by increasing their budget. This is how they end up spending too much. This is why improving the Quality Score is critical. You’ll need to ensure that you are targeting the best possible list of relevant keywords, that the wording of your ad is good, and that you have an optimized landing page containing relevant content and a clear call to action. Your landing page is the page on your website that a user arrives at when they click on your ad. The keywords are the phrases that you list in your PPC campaign that you want to target - such as “bikes for sale”, “bikes in Chicago”, etc.   So, depending on your business and online marketing objectives, Pay Per Click advertising does have a place, and can help you get more sales.    

How To Understand Search Engines

From the outside looking in, it can seem like search engines are a maze of technical weirdness, only to be understood by the top geeks. But when you dive in a bit more, you’ll realize that search engines are as simple (and sometimes as awkward) as the dating scene. Yes, understanding how search engines work is analogous to finding your soul mate. It can be a life-long journey filled with frustration and hope. But when you settle into the idea that search engines are meant to find you and your business, getting new prospects comes with ease.   Here is some information on how search engines work so that you can build your business and be seen online (anything that appears as dating advice is entirely accidental):   Find the Best Match   There’s something called a web crawler that browses websites to index them. For Google and the other search engines to find you, you’ll need crawling websites (this does not mean that you should crawl on your hands and knees to greet your date. That would be awkward). When a search engine knows that your website exists, it will send a bot to scan all of the information on your pages and bring that information back to its index. The search bot will also follow all the links on your page.   The next step in the process is indexing your website (similar to deciding on who you might date). Google examines what it finds on your website, and indexes it. Just like a discerning individual in the dating scene who doesn't date every potential candidate (especially the weirdos who crawl to greet you), Google does not index every page that it crawls.   Narrow Your Options   After you “crawl” the options of the web, the next stage is to actually decide who matters. In the world of search engines, narrowing down your options is known as links. Google can't (yet) ask its friends whether a web page is high-quality or not. But it can look at the websites that link to it, which represents whether or not it’s a high-quality website. Google looks at the number of links of a particular web page, and the quality of the websites that are linking.   Narrowing your options and deciding which websites matter is about finding the perfect match. Search engines scour the internet for the best possible pages on the internet for the question that gets asked into the search.   When Things Go Wrong   When things go wrong on the internet, it’s called “spam.” Google tries to fight spam through a combination of computer algorithms and manual review. Unfortunately many website owners don’t realize that gaming the system to get good rankings only hurts them in the long-term. When you use integrity and follow the best practices to help Google find, index, and rank your website, you’ll have a better chance of being more visible in search.   The bad news is that even if you’re not involved in illicit practices, they still affect you. This is why search engines have implemented a whole raft of measures to weed out the weak pages, cheats and liars. Make sure that you follow the rules to make sure that you’re not wrongly indexed.   Find a “Search Mate”   Putting this all together in search means making sure that:   Your website is visible to search engines so they can crawl it You have great content on the website that users want You construct your pages properly with metadata, appropriate use of keywords, and other basic SEO standards You promote your pages to get links   Understand how search engines work to get better rankings for your website. Make sure that your website is crawlable, narrow your options, and address any issues that arise so that search engines can find you and your business. And remember this: the search process is only as awkward as you make it. Happy searching!  

10 Ways to Optimize Your Content For Search

If one of the purposes of your content is being visible in search, you must optimize it for search. Learning how to optimize your content for search allows your website to be seen online. The good news is that it’s not as hard as it sounds.     Think of optimizing your content like swimming laps in a beautiful pool on a hot summer day. You can get a good workout and have fun by swimming in the lap lane. But if you swim during family hour, you’ll experience a lot of frustration. To minimize frustration, create content so that you can glide through the waters of the web with ease.     Here’s how to optimize your content for search so that you can “lap” your competitors:   1. Site Speed   The first tip on our list is one that is not directly related to content, but that only shows how important it is. Slow loading websites annoy both users and search engines, so make yours as fast as possible.   2. Carry Out Keyword Research   Before you create content you should also carry out keyword research. You shouldn't make absolute decisions based on keyword research. But you’ll want to get an understanding of what people search for, and how they search. This will help you write content that is relevant. It is also helpful to have a main keyword in mind.   3. Write For Humans   Always, always, always write for humans. It is impossible to overstate this - when you start tapping the words onto your keyboard, forget about search engines. Write with the intention that a real human will engage (and hopefully want to share!) your content.   4. Make It Long   You’ll want to craft the perfect recipe for your content length. Longer posts are usually better for SEO but always remember: quality over quantity. A longer post that doesn’t engage in a fun, entertaining way can send your readers away. Remember to “write for humans” if you’re going to write a lengthy article.    5. Headline - Title Tag   Spend some time writing your headline so that it includes your main keyword, and encourages the user to click. The best way to do this by including a number in the headline, or asking a question that references the reader. Here are some examples: 10 Reasons Why Swimming Is The Best Exercise Is Your Local Pool Hazardous To Your Health?   6. Sprinkle Keywords Into Your Content Now go back to your keyword research and pick out three or four keywords that are relevant to your content and try to integrate them. Make sure that your sentences aren’t awkward. And remember to use long-tail keywords as much as possible.   7. Add Some LSI Keywords LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing, which is a complicated way of describing the way that Google looks for synonyms. When you write in a natural way, you’ll use synonyms. Machines cannot use synonyms in writing, so when Google notices them (or LSI keywords) it distinguishes good writing from bad.   Let's look at the keyword “swimming exercise.” Synonyms that Google understands as being related to this keyword are "benefits of swimming" and "swimming workout". You can find these by using the Google Keyword Planner, or by doing a search for your keyword and scrolling to the bottom of the results – look for the "Searches related to..." section.   8. Use Heading Tags Heading tags are HTML elements which make the sub headings on your page stand out from the rest of your text. This makes your content easier to read, but they also help search engines understand what the page is about. Try to use keywords as much as possible in your heading tags.   9. Write A Good Meta Description You should also add your keyword to your meta description. But make sure that it’s well-written,  persuasive, and is the correct length - 150 to 160 characters.   10. Add Links Finally, add a mixture of inbound and outbound links to your content. Some should link to other content on your website (which helps to reduce bounce rate) and others should link to relevant content on other websites.   Test the waters of the web by easing these tips into your content strategy. When you optimize your content with these 10 tips, you allow your website to be seen. You’ll simultaneously build loyal fans and bring in more business. And what could be better than that?      

Is SEO Content Different from Regular Content?

Is SEO content different from regular content? Here is the short answer - yes, but no. Hopefully that is not too frustrating an answer - as the poet Marianne Moore once said: "It is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing."   Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with the middle. With SEO in particular, you don’t want to think of content as being dramatically different from regular content. Here’s why:   SEO Is Content, Content Is SEO   Let's tease that out: If you want your content to generate relevant website traffic from Google it needs SEO. At the same time, your SEO strategy needs content. Does that mean you should treat a product page on your website, or the contact page, the same as you treat a blog post? Of course not, as the pages of content on your website perform different functions.   But there are principles that you should apply to all the content on your website, although how you apply those principles is a question of priority.   The answer "yes, but no" is hopefully now a little less frustrating.   Getting The Priorities Right   Every page and piece of content that you produce will broadly fit into one of these two categories:   Action Content - designed to prompt an action - make a phone call, make a purchase, or sign up for a newsletter Shareable Content - designed to be shared   There’s a lot of crossover between the two so it’s not surprising that the same fundamental principles apply when creating each type:   Well written Good metadata Keyword orientated   A page that you regard as "SEO content" might have highly optimized metadata for a specific keyword, but it should be written well and be relevant to the user. Similarly, you might spend considerable time crafting a blog post that provides valuable information on a topic that’s better than anything else written on the topic, but you should still think about keywords and you should carefully write your metadata.   Well Written   Everything starts from creating well written, relevant content. Old SEO practices (like keyword stuffing or producing shallow content) no longer work. Whether you are writing your About Us page, or you’re creating a blog post, make sure to focus on quality.   Quality content encourages your visitors to take the desired action and it encourages them to share your content (especially if it has unique insights or a different perspective).   Good MetaData   Metadata helps search engines understand what your page is about. Your metadata is also displayed to Google's users in the search results pages, so it plays a crucial role in encouraging clicks to your website.   If you want people to find your content in search, metadata is important whether you are creating action content or shareable content.   Keyword Orientated   Keywords are important in all your pages because they help Google match your page with people conducting search queries.   But there is a crucial difference in the keywords of action content and shareable content. The difference is keyword intent. Here's an example of two keywords to illustrate two different intents:   yoga tips for beginners yoga classes in Chicago   Both keywords could conceivably have a place on a website about yoga, but the intention of the searcher in each example is quite different. The intention of the first term is to find out information, while the second term is more likely for someone who is ready to join a class.   Conduct keyword research when you’re writing content, but also think about the intention of the searcher in order to craft your content correctly.   When you’re writing content for the web, head down the center lane of the SEO highway. You might lean slightly to the left or the right depending on the type of content you are producing, but the fundamental principles remain the same.  

How to Make Your SEO Content Friendly

When you make your SEO content friendly, the content on your website is more enjoyable for your website visitors. It simultaneously improves search engine rankings and it allows your business to have a strong foundation on the web.   But what’s the ultimate goal for making your SEO content friendly? And how do you do this?   It starts with a solid user experience. User experience is a person’s behavior, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. But it’s challenging to create a solid user experience if users aren't visiting your website in the first place - this is where SEO is crucial. Content that’s “friendly is more likely to get links and is more likely to be shared on social media. It’s also less likely to send people away from your page without interacting (the industry term for this is bounce rate).   Think of it like a painter who gets invited to display a painting at an exhibition for landscapes. If the painter creates an abstract painting (instead of a landscape), the gallery most likely won’t use it. It doesn’t fit the “user experience” of what their audience is expecting to see.     In SEO you are the painter and the gallery is Google. The Google gallery is expecting you to create content on your website that’s user-friendly. When you do this, you have a better chance of getting seen.   Here are a few ideas to make your content friendly:   Think About The Audience   Before creating any content, spend time thinking about your audience. The first step in doing this is to stop thinking about your audience as an “audience.” You should also stop thinking about them as customers, potential customers, and especially leads. Instead think about them as real people - another human being, just like you.   These humans have problems they’re trying to resolve. To learn more about them, find out what motivates the people who visit your website. You can do this by learning how to translate audience data to improve your content strategy. This makes your content relevant, engaging and fun.    Use Keywords Properly   SEO content has to have keywords. Without keywords, the content has nothing to do with SEO. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to use keywords.   The wrong way is to stuff your page with them and to use them in sentences even if they don't make sense.   The right way to use keywords is to sprinkle them naturally throughout the article. Always write for humans first, but include keywords as appropriate.   Don't Be Afraid Of Length   The length of your content matters if you want it shared on social media. The optimal length for every social media update varies by platform. As this infographic reveals, the ideal word count for a blog post is 1600 words. But if you’re going to have a 1600-word article, make sure that the quality of the article remains intact. More words in an article should never make the quality suffer.   Similar research shows longer posts also get better rankings in Google. This graph is from serpIQ.   serpIQ looked at over 20,000 keywords and found that, on average, the top 10 positions in Google are pages that have at least 2,000 words.     Finally this graph from the Quicksprout blog shows that posts longer than 1,500 words get more engagement on Facebook and Twitter.       Make Sure The Content Is Relevant   When your content is relevant, real and engaging, you’ll generate more organic traffic. You can do this by creating content that guides readers to better understand your product or service, or that helps them throughout their decision-making journey. For each piece of content, make sure that you continue to focus on the needs of your customer.   It’s helpful to inject personality into your content but make sure that what you create is valuable and entertaining. Find a way to work a bit of humor into your content (if appropriate) so that your readers stay engaged. Creating content that has humor and information may be a challenge at first, but with practice you can get it right.   Make It Informative   The most important thing to remember is to not mistake informative content for sales pitches. They are completely different types of content. While it’s okay to sell your products and services, make sure that you also have other content that’s indirectly related to what you sell. When you get this right, you improve your SEO and make the experience of your readers more enjoyable.   Just like the painter invited to display his or her painting, making your SEO friendly gives you a good position at Google’s “exhibition” while increasing your chances of a real human buying what you sell.    

Why SEO Today Means Writing for Humans

As a small business owner, navigating through the mire that is SEO is not easy. You have to do SEO so that you appear in Google, but how and what you should do are the hard questions. Luckily there is an easy answer - write content on your website for humans.   "Write content on your website for humans" - that phrase in itself demonstrates how disconnected SEO often is from the reality of doing business. On reading those words you are probably thinking "Who else would I flipping write for - the man on the moon?"   The problem is the SEO industry. Here is a basic step-by-step example that explains how internet search works:   1. Company creates a website page about car servicing   2. Google reads that page and tries to figure out what it is about. It uses lots of things to help with this but two of the main factors are keywords and links. They help Google understand that your page is about "booking a service for your car" and not "getting to a church service in your car" (notice the similar words that have completely different meanings).   3. Google then shows this web page when someone searches for car servicing, but doesn't show it for searches related to church services.   So, keywords and links are important to the position of your pages in Google.     The SEO Expert   Step forward the SEO industry who, based on this keyword and link situation, often offer SMEs a solution to SEO that looks something like this:   Page stuffed with keywords + lots of links (even fake ones) = good ranking in Google.   This results in web pages that are not written for humans - hence the importance of the phrase above. Instead they have awkward sentence structures to wrangle keywords into submission. In addition they lack ideas and detail.   In the modern internet this presents two main problems:   1. It will probably damage your ranking in search because Google is getting much better at identifying things whose primary purpose is to get a good rank. This includes content and links.   2. More importantly, conversions with this sort of content suck.     Forget About Increasing Traffic Through SEO   Even though you might be new to SEO, it is time for a rethink. (Don't worry. It’s not as exhausting as it initially sounds.)   You should stop thinking about SEO as a tool to increase the numbers of people visiting your website. And start thinking about SEO as a tool to get the right people visiting your website, so that you can increase conversions.   How do you do that? You write content on your website with people in mind, not keywords. This includes things that will genuinely help the people visiting your website - how-to-guides, opinion articles, articles that explore topics in detail.   Here is where the magic happens: by forgetting about increasing traffic to your website you will increase traffic to your website. People will share your content on social media which will increase the number of people visiting your website, but it goes further. This is also the sort of content that gets links - real, high quality and lasting links.   Those links will increase traffic to your website too, and they will help your ranking in Google.   Balance to be a “Hero”   As a business owner, you probably like to talk about your business, educate your customers, and help people with your products. SEO writing means doing all of this on your website.   This chart from Schaefer Marketing Solutions sums up the relationship between SEO and content:       Think about it in chunks:   Write basic content on your website that has top-notch SEO, such as the product and service pages Other content on your website can have a less strict focus on SEO - but with one eye on search engines (regular blog posts are an example) Write content which completely disregards search engines and is just created for humans   Find the right balance by combining top-notch SEO writing with simple storytelling. You’ll make the most impact this way and you’ll win the hearts of the humans who read your words on the web.          


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