Leaning Tree Digital Marketing

Marketing & Advertising, all that is Traditional, Digital and Social.

A Content Facelift for Your Website

content development for website, content facelift for websiteYou’re business website went live years ago.  Although your goods or services have remained pretty constant, your site is likely to need some content refresh so that search engines crawl the pages most valuable.

Search Engines Crawl Your Website

A search engine is to provide users with search engine results pages, (SERP’s), that are quick and most relevant to the search query.  The popularity, common-sensibility, and user-friendliness of your website all matter.  In order to make their results most relevant, search engines are constantly crawling sites and building indexes of that information.  They crawl your site through submitted sitemaps, previous crawl results, links and traffic.  The number of pages crawled, or how often they are crawled, is not specific.  Therefore, it’s in your best interest to sift through content to ensure you have put your best face forward.

What Pages to Address In Your Mini-Facelift

These are just a few things that you can do to improve the overall quality of your website so that search engines crawl the good stuff.  Remember, search engines only crawl a sample of your website.  (Refer to your Google Search Console and Google Analytics to find problem areas.)

  • Pages that have more HTML than content should be beefed up with more relevant content and links to deeper pages.
  • Pages no longer relevant to your business should be redirected to pages that are.
  • Pages with high bounce rates should be examined to determine if they can be modified or altered to improve.
  • Pages with duplicate content or content related too closely could be merged. (Title tags & meta-data should be unique to each page.)
  • Pages that have too many important keywords, keyword phrases, or concepts on one page make great idea-generators for new, deeper page content. (Do some additional keyword research to support these ideas.)
  • Pages should have clear hierarchy and text links for users.

 Other Content Takeaways from Leaning Tree Marketing

Quality is better than quantity. However, in saying this, it’s never a good idea to delete pages once they are live.  (Do a 301redirect instead.)  Duplicate content is a “no-no.” Keep your site interesting by continuing to post fresh content, even if this means monthly blogs.  Submit sitemaps with Google every time you add valuable pages to your website.  Never forget that your site is for people.  (Visitors/Traffic) The more people show that they like your site, and find what they are looking for….the more Google will notice.

Digital Advertising Campaign Goals

There’s a world of data collected that can be used to finely-tune and hyper-target your digital marketing campaign.  Advertising techniques that work.  This infographic is is a good visual for basic digital advertising ROI practices.
infographic-digital-advertising-strategy-flowchart-small

Tracking Performance with Digital Metrics

download (1)The role of technology in our lives, among other things, has simplified processes and improved efficiency.  The problem is that we try to squeeze in more and more without the ability to add more time to any one day.  Access to a great amount of data can easily be overwhelming.  Knowing where to go for specific data, and a basic understanding of how simple digital metrics work, may be the next necessary steps towards making your business more successful.

How your business website performs is important because you want to ensure that the searches that apply to your business are matched up to your website so that you can make a sale, retain customers, or find new clients.  It is important to meet the needs of your visitors and potential business.  Is your site too slow?  Is it user friendly?  Is it informative?  Relevant?  Useful?  How is your digital marketing performing?

To determine the answers, become familiar with the free tools available through Google.  (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Page Speed, etc.)  Everything noted below can be accessed through Google Analytics.  It’s pretty much the basics, and a good place to start without becoming too overwhelmed with the abundance of data that is available.

Digital Metrics Most Commonly Used for KPI’s 

  1. Traffic:  Not all that long ago people visiting your website were called “visitors.”  However, Google changed this group to “sessions” some time ago. This indicator is more than number of new vs returning sessions.  It’s important to analyze where your traffic is coming from.  Look at inbound link sources to ensure you have quality traffic source.  Can’t stress this enough because spammy traffic will cause high bounce rates, fewer conversions, and Google may not provide the domain authority you are going to need for SERP’s.
  2. Acquisition Source:  This ponies on traffic indicators, but general traffic numbers can’t tell you which channels are working best.  Case in point, if you are also running a PPC campaign, and have the tracking code setup correctly on your website, you will be able to differentiate paid traffic from unpaid. (Unpaid traffic is also called natural or “organic.)  Through acquisition source, you can see how well your branding campaigns are working through “direct” key in traffic.  (Business URL typed in to go directly to your website.)  There are also options to see social traffic sources and referral traffic sources.
  3. Sales:  Ultimately, this is what businesses are looking for. For e-commerce, tracking sales is more black and white than service-related businesses.  For service oriented business, track the number of phone calls, email inquiries, and forms submissions from your website as qualified leads.  However, those are only leads until a human/employee has closed or secured that lead.  Sales performance indicators are going to be different for each business.  You may look at things like revenue per sale, sales per lead source, sales by product or service, lead to sales ration, etc.  Your goal is to find the root of sales success or failure.
  4. Conversions:  In the online digital world, this word is used a lot because it’s important.  People sometimes get caught up in the traffic numbers/sessions, but the valuable information about performance is found deeper within.   How well you are converting website traffic into quality leads and bottom line sales/service revenue is the primary purpose of reviewing this metric.  Track the number of phone calls, email inquiries, or forms submissions from your website as qualified leads.  The more qualified leads in your funnel, the more you should be able to grow your business.

No longer are your investments unpredictable!  Measurement is a science.  Through better tracking and both employee and customer feedback, you’ll have the data to make those changes necessary to become more competitive and improve your bottom line.  The key is to know where to find information, and how to analyze that data to determine what is most useful.  If you don’t already have Google Analytics setup for your website start here.

Tracking business performance is hugely important, but we know that not every business owner has the time to invest in this.  Digital Consultants, SEO Experts, and Digital Strategists such as The Leaning Tree Digital Marketing, are available to help.

Obviously, how high you appear in SERP’s, (Search Engine Results Pages), can make or break your business as well.  Once you’ve mastered the analytics digital metrics most used for KPI’s, you’ll be ready to take that challenge.

 

Google Top 3 Guarantee

overallrankingsignals

Google Ranking Factors, SearchEngineLand 2016

Page one of Google’s organic results receive nearly all traffic.  Therefore, the impact of Googles latest SERP’s layout, often called Google “Snack Pack” is hugely important for local business.  (The Snack Pack contains just three of the top organic results on page one.)  Along with paid ads and the Google Map, the Snack Pack takes up nearly the entire page. (Especially when searching on mobile.)  True, there is an option to “see more,” but this action requires more time and energy…something most people aren’t willing to do if they find what they need in the top 3 results.

Placement Guarantee

The pressure to appear in the top 3 is not only on local business, but also on marketers who provide SEO services.  So much so, that some marketers go so far as to “guarantee” placement in Google’s top 3 SERP’s.  Truth be told, there are no guarantees with Google …other than more change, of course.  (With over 400 algorithm changes each year, change is a constant for Google.)

If someone makes this claim of “guaranteed Google SERPs placement,” they are not being truthful. Even if you are promised a PPC rank, it may or may not happen and it could cost you a lot of money.  Even Google warns about agencies who provide guaranteed AdWords/ PPC placement.   There are too many changing factors involved.  Be skeptical because purchasing PPC is an auction bidding system that fluctuates your placement over time.

There are no agencies or marketers that work directly with Google to guarantee a business rank position. Google provides certifications and basic support to an agency that requests it, but that’s the extent of it.

Regarding organic SEO, having a physical address and close proximity to the searcher is in itself a strong ranking factor. (This gives every local business a shot at attracting new customers from search engine results.) Every business should create and verify a Google My Business page.  Beyond that, there are a multitude of factors that go into Googles ranking factors.

So what should a business do?  If you’re going to buy PPC, ask questions and get any promises in writing. Hiring an honest, experienced and knowledgeable digital strategist and PPC powerhouse will get you far. Find more information online with reputable sources such as MOZ and SearchEngineLand.

The big picture guide to Local SEO in 2016 and 2017.

Top SEO Scams and how to avoid them.

*NOTE:  The image seen here notes ranking signals from June 2016 according to Search Engine Land.  These signals, and their weight, change constantly.

 

 

Evolution & Relevancy of CRM

profit 101Business of all shapes and size understand the concept that strong customer relations sit at the very core of a successful future.  It used to be that we could depend on our trusty rolodex to keep organized, efficient, and connected to our customers but much has changed in the past thirty years!

Here’s a quick flashback:

  1. First on the scene- The Ledger
  2. Second responder – The Rolodex
  3. Third in the crowd – Database Marketing
  4. Fourth in line – Contact Management Software
  5. High five – Sales Force Automation

Finally, there is the evolution of CRM which began in the mid 1990’s and continues to current day.  CRM is a buzz word that many still associate to big business, (bigger than your own anyway).  However, CRM is simply a strategy which uses software programs to gather information about your customers and provide business intelligence across multiple data systems such as inventory, supply, shipping, accounting, etc.  With this information, new goals can be developed to provide better customer service; hence,  build stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

The information gathered is often called “big data,” and can be collected from both online and offline sources.  As a small business owner, you may think that “big data” sounds better fit for an enterprise.  But truthfully, any small business that has a website, social networks, mobile app, legal documents, computer logs, email marketing, inventory, etc. can reap the benefits of CRM designed for the small business.

CRM does not replace a strong, experienced and well-trained sales force.  However, it can also provide some nice tools that help the sales team close more sales.  Depending upon what you need, there are even free versions of CRM available to help your small business become more profitable.

When CRM is aligned with the specific needs of your business, it should be an investment that quickly pays for itself.  At the link here, find some of the best rated CRM software of the year:  Best CRM Software 2016

Free and Open-Source CRM Options

If you decide to go with a CRM system, it could quickly become your company’s best asset.  Good luck!

Digital Marketer; SEO Updates & Links

Leaning tree w.symbolsMy how time flies in the digital world!  If you’re a digital marketer, it’s really easy to get caught up in the keeping up, and over look some of the small things.  It’s important to become very organized, and create a systematic approach to ensure goals are met and nothing falls through the cracks.  Because the digital environment changes so frequently, it is critical to constantly re-evaluate and re-prioritize when necessary.

At the bottom of this entry, I have posted Google Algorithm updates that every digital marketer should be aware of.  Behind each is a link to a reputable explanation for each.  As you are looking through the updates, and tweaking your digital strategies…there are a few things to have top of mind right now.  Site Speed.  Site Security.  Sitemaps.  If you don’t currently have a secure site that is fast…and contains a sitemap….you’re losing out on valuable optimization.

p.s. Google is placing more value on mobile sites.  Why?  Because Google wants to be where the users are, and they are more increasingly on mobile.

Google Drive Cloud and Small Business

google cloudI’m somewhat surprised to find that many people are still not familiar with Google Drive Cloud, how it works, and how it can be useful in just about any business environment.

History of Cloud Computing

When you update status on Facebook, check your bank account from your phone, or access information from another vendor who has given you password access…this is all cloud computing.

There is some disagreement surrounding who invented cloud computing, and when.  We know that cloud computing has been around since the 1960’s.  More recently, cloud computing has been used by Amazon, AT&T, and Google.  The term “the cloud” is somewhat different from “cloud computing.”  I tend to think that term “the cloud” is a brand created by Google.

The Cloud in Simple Terms

An in-house network is commonly setup for internal users to access and share the same files and documents.  The cloud is not much different than that; offering a network kind of collaboration for those who share the password to access a document on Google Drive.  Here are some really awesome takeaways:

  • Cost: Using the cloud cuts out the high cost of hardware, and software updates.  It allows small businesses to act fast and become more competitive.  It allows better collaboration and communication.  There are free versions and paid subscription versions of the cloud.
  • Flexibility: Save internal bandwidth and increase your cloud capacity by utilizing remote servers.  Anyone with a login and password to log into a shared document, from anywhere….at any time!  As long as there is an internet connection, your team can collaborate, update, analyze data, etc.  This is streamlining at its best.  Google Sheet apps are available for your phone or other electronic device.
  • Document Control: Before the cloud, businesses would rely on email to send files back and forth.  With the cloud, updates that each person has made to any document are stored.  The document then automatically updates for everyone so all can see one version, the most updated.   The level of agility of the service is wonderful!  Organize your files on Google Drive.
  • Backup & Security: The cloud has its own backup / recovery system, and all updates, including security, are done for you.  Lose your laptop?  No problem.  Data you have stored on the cloud are not going to be found on your laptop itself.  However, you can remotely wipe data if needed.
  • Templates: Google offers so many templates that can be used on the cloud. All you have to do is choose the one that best fits your needs.  Make any modifications, and invite your team members by sharing your unique login and password.  Google Document, Google Spreadsheet, Google Presentation.

 Popularity of the Cloud

The usage and popularity of cloud is growing very fast, but some small businesses have yet to try.  Using the cloud can save a lot of time and money, especially if you have business partners, contributors, consultants, etc. who reside outside of your physical office walls. Support forum for Google Drive cloud computing can be found at Google Drive User Community.

Bridge offline and online for customer acquisition

bridge online with offlineHow does your online paid and organic activity effect offline customer acquisition?  How many people purchased in store due to something they were exposed to on their mobile?  How many people were highly influenced by TV ad impressions or a billboard sign off the interstate?  We live in a cross-device, highly impressionable and competitive world.  When it comes to determining sources for new client acquisition and retention, the “full customer journey” is a major force.    

Online Customer “touch points.”  Each customer “touch point,” can be compared to online “steps” which lead to your website, a phone call, or in-store purchase, etc.  Each step or “touch point,” is influential, each building upon the last.  Most potential customers will head to your business website before making a final decision.  Therefore, your online “search-ability” and website are hugely important factors!  (We’re definitely not going to downplay them.)  But at the same time, these “last steps” of the journey are not always the most influential.

Offline Customer Influence.  If done correctly, each offline “impression” can be very influential towards gaining a new customer.  Sometimes intrusive, such as with traditional media advertising, other times delivered in a more subtle manner.  Either way, impressions at the right time, with the right message…tend to stick around and lead to something productive.  There are just as many opportunities to lose a customer as there are to gain one.  Every “impression” and every “touch point,” along the way has influence on the next and impacts the end result. This is why every branding, advertising, and PR effort a business makes must be cohesive, fluid, and impactful both online, and off.  (Cross-Platform)

Customer-Acquisition Measurement Tools.   Set aside customer retention; the “last step” of the customer acquisition journey should lead to a conversion, and ultimately a new customer.   Many measurement tools today can easily show which online “touch point,” including which device led to that conversion. (Phone, website, etc.)  However, the “cross-platform” attribution from offline influence is slightly more complicated.  While tackling data from different levels, be mindful that the combination of impressions and touchpoints are what lead to a conversion.  Although the “last step” may be clearly visible; also look for a spike in general website traffic, spike in new sessions, spike in conversions, obtaining customers from a unique demographic or geographic area, etc.  In order to track offline influence effectively you must have a clear starting point, solid history of measurement, and solid understanding of how to interpret various analytics data.

Google Analytics:  Most universal and useful source of data for website customer acquisition and conversions measurement for a business with a website.  Google currently provides a tremendous amount of free analytics data.  Google Adwords:   If your business does PPC, request the data behind how these ads are working, such as “last click” attributions to your business website.  NOTE:  The online multi “touch point” journey which spans across devices is not currently available, nor is multi-platform for offline influences.  Google Adometry:  This product offers more custom integrations for tracking cross-devices and outlets, outside of your website.  This option comes with a price tag, and possibly more appropriate for large advertising businesses.   However, more ‘real time’ insights pertaining to offline impressions is currently being tested.

The Leaning Tree Digital Marketing develops competitive internet strategies that incorporate the full customer journey.  

 

10 Free Tools to improve SERPS in 2016

Search results for small businessAvenues to encourage social interaction and communication are reaching across generations, demographics, psychographics, industries, and countries.  Social media platforms help businesses better understand their customers by monitoring the chatter.  They can interact, influence and even use the information to develop better, more insightful business strategies, services and products.  However, social media is only a small part of the big customer acquisition and relations picture and an even smaller part of improving search results.

A business must be what people want and need…this means that have to be what people are searching for at any given moment.  In order to be what people are searching for, your website or ecommerce site must also reflect this objective.  Unfortunately, Google doesn’t hand out search data on a platter.  (It’s a bit more challenging than that.)  Prepare yourself for constant monitoring and on-the-spot tweaks as the marketplace changes.  Arm yourself with knowledge and take advantage of free tools that produce insightful data.  No single tool will do.  Just as search results are due to a combination of factors, you must also use a combination of resources to improve your business search engine optimization and move up in the Google ranks.

 Tackling search optimization on your own 

If you’re brave enough to do this without a webmaster and/or digital consultant… start with your website by making sure it’s optimized for visibility on both desktop and mobile.   Be sure to have a cohesive brand and adhere to Google NAP.  Have a site audit and start monitoring Google Analytics to see how your site is performing.  Spend some time seeing where you rank currently in SERPS, do some keyword research.  Digest…and repeat!  (Don’t forget to be social and keep your web content fresh and relevant.)

Top 10 free tools to improve search engine results for your business

  1. Google: Analytics, Keyword Planner, Google Trends & Webmaster Tools
  2. GTmetrix
  3. Rank Checker
  4. Responsive Design Checker
  5. MOZ Local: Mozbar
  6. SEMrush
  7. Screaming Frog
  8. BuzzSumo
  9. Similar Web
  10. Copy Scape

(Good luck…this really does take a team to do effectively!)

Small Business Saturday Reviews

small business saturday reviews wiYears ago, American Express started this initiative called, “Small Business Saturday” to encourage shoppers to “shop local.”  As part of an incentive for small businesses to participate, the credit card company offered statement credits.  Although this particular incentive was removed this year, American Express claims to be supporting small businesses in other forms.  No worries though, true supporters of small business are the customers themselves.

Small Business Saturday® Results: Shoppers Provide Encouraging Start to the Holiday Shopping Season

Did you support a local business favorite over the weekend?

If so, did you have a good experience?  Let me tell you, leaving that business a positive review is one of the most rewarding things you can do for them!  Think of it as a little, “thank you,” and “we appreciate you being part of our community.” A little something personal can go a very long way, and don’t feel like you have to leave your full name if you don’t want to.

Best places to leave a review for a local business, restaurant, or coffee shop you love:

#1        Google.  Obviously, anything Google will be great for Local exposure and search engines.  Only drawback is that there’s no opportunity to be an anonymous reviewer here.  (Tied to personal G+ page)

#2        Yelp.  Also good for local exposure, especially now that these reviews are also syndicated to Apple Maps, Bing, and others.  Can be anonymous if you choose.  Yelp goes much further than restaurants these days…50 Amazing Yelp Statistics.

#3        WI BBB.  The Better Business Bureau is a dependable source of reference for most people, so your review can be very beneficial here.  If you have a dispute that can’t be handled directly with the business, it’s typically a good place to get things settled.

#4        Industry Specific or Local Review Sites:  If you found your business on one of these sites, it may be a relevant place to leave a nice review.

Patrons:  Please, if you have a gripe about a business, take that straight to the owner and give them a chance to make it right.  This is a much better way to handle a discerning situation, and you’re more likely to get it resolved to your benefit.  A negative online review could truly hurt a small business for years to come, and why would you want to do that? We’re talking about supporting small business here!

Business Owners: Customer reviews offer some free advertising, extended word of mouth …an avenue to build your positive brand image, and even opportunities for local search engine optimization.  As you go through your busy day of activities and responsibilities, it’s important to place a mental note in your mind to “ask for reviews.”  Don’t be shy, when a customer is saying wonderful things about your business; ask them if they would like to share!

Big Agency Digital Services

 for small business budgets 

Leaning Tree Digital Marketing

Maximize photo images for search engine optimization

Leaning Tree Marketing original photo

Fall in Wisconsin

Wisconsin entrepreneurs and Wisconsin business owners already wear many hats, are pulled in every direction, work non-stop, put out fires, pay bills, and manage payroll all in an average day of work.  The added responsibility to ensure that the business is found in local search is not just another task, but a critical one for the survival and successful longevity of the endeavor.

There are two ways to label your images:  In the context of search engine optimization, most people seem to “get” the importance of keywords and links but images are often overlooked.  I’m not just referencing images on the company website, but also those used for social media posts, content, and just about anything that can be posted and shared online.  Labeling your images can be accomplished by using “alt text,” (alternative text), and/or “image title.”  Both are considered ‘tags.’   Depending upon the browser you’re using, you’ll likely to see one or the other when ‘hoovering’ over a picture. In regards to their purpose, however, these two labeling actions are not created equal when attempting to optimize for better Google Search Results.

Picture Titles vs Alt Text for Images:  Adding an image title is a simple task, usually found through basic image display settings.  Just as it sounds, it’s basically just a label that’s relevant, short, and catchy.  An image text is meant primarily for visitors.

Alt text or alternate text is an attribute added to an image tag in HTML and is more important for crawlers.  Depending where you’re placing your image, you may need to select the “gear” logo or “advanced image settings” drop-down. After completion, your “alt text,” will show inside the image box outline when the image can’t be displayed. It helps search engines understand what your image pertains to.  Alternate text is also very helpful in case images on a page cannot be found, or if someone has chosen to disable images on their browsers.  Without it, your photo may be seen as an empty box icon.  (Not ideal.)  In addition, Google can’t see your photo, but it can see your alt text!

 Image Tagging Best Practices:  If you’re still confused about how to tag your images to provide the most results, do both! Use just a couple of keywords, keep them short and sweet.   Adding a title and alt text to your images will help search engines “read” them and add value to your efforts. It never hurts to include a title for those looking at the image, and an alt text for crawlers indexing the image.

For more information, digital strategies and services for entrepreneurs and business owners, visit The Leaning Tree Marketing website, and follow the links below.

Where to find royalty free stock images online

Google guidelines to help your site appear in search results.

Search for any image on Google

Custom vanity URL’s to track ad campaign ROI

track ad campaign ROIA long time ago businesses and marketers would use different phone numbers to track the effectiveness of their advertising.  A jump page or vanity URL is a more advanced way to do this, but does not apply equally to all ad campaigns the same.  Example:  Online Advertising such as web banners, sponsorships on other websites, and email blasts typically have their own tracking metrics, so they do not require a vanity URL.  Also, “call to action” vs “branding campaigns” are treated differently.  Since a branding campaign is about branding your business, it will get more benefit directing to your business website domain name directly.  On the other hand, a “call to action” campaign is perfect for vanity URLs.  Creating one will allow you to compare different campaigns and track how your advertising dollars are working for you.

Vanity URLs can be used for any “call to action,” or “direct response” ad campaign running offline.

  • Radio
  • TV
  • Newspaper
  • Direct Mail
  • Billboards

Want to track mobile apps?  Find instructions here.

Custom Vanity URL’s and Jump Pages for your ads.

Most people will prefer to go to your website homepage to find your advertising offer or incentive.  If you create a vanity URL or jump page outside of your homepage, make sure it redirects to your business website.  Make sure that the process of finding you is user friendly and super fool-proof.  Because it will not be printed for reference later, radio, billboard and TV ads will require a URL that is very simple, and very easy for people to remember.   Here’s an example of an easy to remember URL:  /yumyogurt/free-taste offer.  After you have chosen your short and creative vanity URL, you can purchase it using any domain registration site for a very small annual fee.  (ow.ly), (bit.ly) and others are URL shorteners used by Hootsuite and Twitter.  You can also use them, and they are free.  However, the most benefit would be to create a vanity URL specifically for your business.

Google analytics campaign parameters

So, the whole purpose of using Google analytics is to track your advertising return on investment.   If you need help with this process, there are plenty on online tutorials to get you started.  (Google URL building link here.) Once you have a URL, and are at the Google URL building tool, you’ll need to enter some basic campaign parameters such as:  Your real website URL, the source of the campaign, (campaign medium), the type of marketing it is, and that easy to remember campaign name that we spoke of in last paragraph.  Lastly, you’ll need to log back into the site where you purchased the vanity URL and ensure that the “redirect” or “forward” options are selected so you can past in the URL generated using the Google URL tool.  Once all of this is complete, test to be sure it’s been done correctly.  Hopefully your ads are working great for you, and leading to many conversions!

Free Google tools and better search engine results for business

A search engine results page, SERP, lists web pages that best match the keywords in the users search topic or query. Google obviously places a huge emphasis on providing the most relevant paid and organic results for every search.  (“Organic,” meaning “free and natural results,” with no paid advertisement or sponsored link.)  The focus on your website to improve SERP’s is called search engine optimization. Considering the fact that nearly 70% of people select something from the first page of search results, and selection drives traffic to your websiteit’s in your best business interest to ensure a solid position on page one. You’ll need to weigh the cost vs benefit of your chosen strategy.  Example:  Bidding on higher SERP position keywords using AdWords or AdSense means that you’re also going to pay a pretty penny for them, even if you have a decent Google quality score

More times than not, people prefer to click on organic results over paid ones.  Therefore, instead of emptying your bank account on paid ad campaigns, there’s often more benefit in improving your organic SERP’s first.  In the same vision, focus on “local” SEO before worrying about anything else. See where your business stands in search results today; just “Google” it! (Be sure to ‘clear your browser history and cookies first.)

When you’re ready to put some strategies in place to improve SERP’s, Google offers a wide array of free business tools, including the keyword planner tool which is essential for anyone who intends to create online content.  Take advantage of all the free Google tools, including some of my favorites noted below:

Google Places for Business: A fully populated and maintained Google Places listing is the best, and most critical starting point to position your company for local SEO.

  • Blogger: Start a free company blog using keywords that you find using the keyword planner tool!  You’ll need a gmail address and if it’s part of your goal; a good strategy to build followers.
  • Google + Dashboard: The dashboard is where you can make changes and update all of your business information.   Those updates automatically populate Google Maps, and your G+ brand page.   PPC and other performance data is also found on dashboard.
  • Google My Business: This is a newer Google product designed help local businesses promote their brand on Youtube by developing simple, short videos, which result in more search visibility and better search rankings.  Find a simple guide to create “my business” video on Youtube.
  • Google Analytics: It doesn’t get much more black and white than Google analytics.  See how much traffic your website has received, where it came from and what happened when it got there.  Small business owners can use analytics data to fine-tune strategies and plan better in the future.
  • Google Multi-Screen Resources: To remain competitive, business web pages need to be fast and user-friendly on all devices.  Try out this free analyzer tool from Google, to reveal page speed insights that measure your site performance on both mobile and desktop devices.

Final note:  If and when you do decide to run a paid ad campaign with Google, use the Adwords preview tool to check your ad links…never click on your paid ad, or well…you’ll pay for it!  Also, use the Google+ dashboard to find AdWords Express and offers campaigns, “at-a-glance.”

Website Traffic Report; Analytics and Metrics

leaning tree marketing analyticsData about your website traffic can be collected from AdWords, Webmaster Tools, AdSense and sources outside of any Google product.  However, using Google Analytics, users can modify data with configurations, specifying rules and utilize a TON of customized setting options.  (So many, that it may really benefit a small business to outsource data collecting and reporting services.)  All reporting data found in Google Analytics is based on different combinations of dimensions and metrics.  Here’s a brief breakdown…

ANALYTICS DEFINED:  Statistics and mathematics converted into useful data

Within your website analytics are trends, habits, performance indicators, lead generators and other information that can be used to plan better in the future.  By identifying patterns and trends, for example, you can gain a better understanding of customer behavior, as well as peaks and valleys driven by advertising campaigns.  Within analytics, it’s fairly easy to recognize the top players who drive conversions, through the traffic that they send to your website.

Data for Google analytics can be collected using these methods:

  1. By associating a tracking code
  2. By account linking
  3. By data importing

Ensure that your business website is connected to analytics tracking.  Follow Google instructions for collecting traffic data information at this site here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008080?hl=en


METRICS: A standard of measurement

Metrics through the eyes of business success is a very useful component of accountability and determination regarding what is working for your investment and what is not.  Formulate and measure the effectiveness of how your investments are working for you using the metrics found on Google Analytics. Savvy marketers will pay close attention to those metrics that enable them to connect activity to business results.

Metrics include, but are not limited to:

  • Activity related to the number of things you have produced, such as the number of blog posts, events, campaigns, and the associated hard and soft costs of those things.
  • Output related to the resulting traffic, mentions or event participation regarding what you have produced.
  • Operational metrics such as cost per lead, cost per click, etc.
  • Outcome metrics which include “the share” or “rate of” something.

*The Leaning Tree Marketing, LLC provides and affordable analytics reporting services to local businesses in the Metro-Milwaukee and surrounding areas.  

IT and Marketing Merge Creating a Diversified Skillset

Marketing and IT people have traditionally been located at different ends of the corporate building.  This is because they were truly focused on different aspects of business and spoke different languages.  Marketing people were seen as more creative, and IT people more ‘process-driven.’  Today, that scenario is changing, and it’s changing fast.   Only those business leaders who understand the IT and marketing merge are setting the foundation for shared objectives and long-term digital conversion success.

marketing-technology-previewCurrent Demands:  There’s no doubt about it…marketing and IT worlds have begun to merge!  It’s happening naturally and maybe even accidentally?  Current demands are that marketing professionals create effective campaigns that are dependent on customer experiences and the integration of advanced technology; constantly learning and re-inventing the wheel to meet initiatives.  CMO’s and CIO’s have to come together as leaders and communicate in order for any digital marketing process to be effective.

Digital Marketing:   Digital marketing technologies enable marketers to drive customer engagement through an evolution of online customer acquisition channels. Although they may be more difficult to quantify, these digital trends use IT components to influence potential prospects into conversions:  Content marketing, Mobile marketing, Social Media marketing, Marketing Automation and Target Marketing over online ad channels.

Search Engine & Conversion Rate:  Optimization of these two digital marketing trends have an enormous effect on success vs failure of any campaign.  Both are managed through the understanding and interpretation of analytics.

The Expectations:  Marketers have to be on top of the fast-paced data driven environment to remain relevant.  Digital marketers like myself who thrive on this skill set, have the opportunity to become far more influential and valuable than those who do not.  Graph by www.forrester.com/home

Verizon eats its supercookies: Lets users opt out of ID tracking

This was unexpected! Interesting…

Gigaom

Verizon said on Friday it will soon launch an program that will allow its customers to opt out of “supercookies,” a pervasive customer tracking tool that records all activity on the mobile web or mobile apps. Verizon customers today can already opt out of receiving advertising drawn from these supercookies – known in the industry as unique ID headers, or UIDH – but the profiles persist and will continue to collect consumer data even though Verizon says its not doing anything with it.

Changes to its opt-out program, however, will let customers remove those supercookies from their devices. Here’s the statement given to us by [company]Verizon[/company] spokeswoman Debra Lewis:

Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus.

We…

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How to keep private information from being hacked

lock and keyAs a marketing strategist who handles many passwords, I can understand the challenge involved in managing and rotating them.  Last year was a year loaded with hack headlines.  “Russian Hackers Amass over a Billion Internet Passwords.”  “Officials warn 500 million financial records hacked.”  Sony was hacked, as well as Target, Home Depot and other well-known retailers.

The Heartbeat Bug had to do with OpenSSL, which is used to encrypt traffic on more than 65% of sites on the internet.  This 2014 hack was a major security flaw, affecting nearly everyone including social media sites, company sites, commercial sites, government sites and even sites used to install software.  Scary stuff-

So what can a business do to keep their private information under lock and key?  Changing passwords regularly is a good place to start.  Everyone is thinking about online security these days, but few actually take the time to change out passwords.  By the time a hacker tries to access your information using your stolen information, a new password could block access.

Here are some simple tricks to keep private information from being hacked:

#1.  Organize a hand-written password list.  As prehistoric as anything “hand-written” sounds, it’s not advisable to store a list of logins and passwords on your computer.  To save some time in the future, create a template document with each site listed, and the login.  Leave the passwords blank.  Print out the document and hand-write in the passwords.  As passwords are rotated, you can simply cross off the old and hand-write in the new.  If you don’t like the hand-written list, there are apps available such as https://lastpass.com/.

#2.  Prioritize Password Changes.  Prioritize which accounts hold the most valuable information.  Sites with more personal information should be changed at least monthly.  A corporate network account, for example, should have a new password at least each quarter.  Social sites can be changed at your discretion; at a minimum when an employee has left the company.  Some passwords, such as for protected emails, can be kept for a year or more with little worry.  Set calendar reminders to stay on top of this task.

#3.  Avoid using Yahoo, Hotmail, or other free email services.  They are more likely to be compromised, even if they say they cater to businesses.  The only exception here may be Gmail.  Google has an app to switch between Google’s email servers and your domain email.  (Using your domain name in place of “gmail.com.”)  In addition, Gmail also offers spam filter and other security features.   WHAT TO DO IF YOUR EMAIL HAS BEEN HACKED.

#4.  Don’t take unnecessary risks.  Use longer, more complex passwords.  If you or your staff are expected to change passwords more than monthly, this can lead to the production of poor security passwords in exchange for something easy to remember.  Try to use at least one number, at least one capitol, and an arrangement of letters and symbols to total between 8 and 12 characters.  Try not to re-use passwords.  And if you suspect, or hear that passwords may have been compromised… change them!

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The Leaning Tree Marketing is a senior-level consulting in the Metro-Milwaukee marketplace specializing in both marketing and tech-savvy business solutions.

What to expect from a good marketing consultant

Call us what you may; marketing consultants, advertising experts, internet strategist, business entrepreneurs, independent firms, advertising agencies, extended team players, business partners, etc.  If you’re a small or medium sized business, you have likely thought about, or already hired one!  There are a ton of benefits to hiring outside help.  Choose carefully to find a consultant that can provide valuable benefits to your business, long-term.

genie in a bottleConsultants are not “Genies in a Bottle”

#1  Although some may claim to have magical powers, consultants do not have ESPN, (That was supposed to be funny.)  Consistent and clear communication is an absolute must!

#2  They can’t turn around your business without teamwork and clearly defined needs and restraints. 

#3  Remember, you are always the boss.  Your consultant is a team leader.   Without ‘top down’ support from you, there is no effective implementation of ideas and goals will not be met.

#4  Business owner/s must be on the same page.  (Ex:  Trust has to be mutual, and both sides have to be respectful of time, boundaries and expertise.)  

#5  Driving thousands of visitors to your website won’t fix your business if you have a product nobody wants, a low converting site, an offer that doesn’t make sense, key employees who are not vested, etc.  Try not to take it personal if your consultant provides constructive criticism… it could be the advice that changes your business for the better! 

Most Important to hire a consultant who…

#1  Represents you…they are a direct reflection of  your brand!  It’s critical to trust the ‘professionalism and ethics’ of your marketing consultant.  They will be handling confidential information that you won’t want shared with the general public, or with your competitors. 

#2  Is an expert…in 2-3 key areas that are most  important to you.  (No consultant is going to be an “expert” in everything, nor is any multi-million dollar agency who charges rates through the roof to cover operating expenses.) Shop around.  Ask for a referral!

#3  Has the ability to assess… your current marketing strategies, identify any problems or concerns and offer suitable solutions that fit within your resource limitations.

#4  Can provide fresh ideas and creative marketing strategies… that are tailored to your businesses goals, target audiences, give you an edge on competition, and can see ‘the big picture.’

#5  Works well with your key players…is able to handle problems that may arise during your marketing campaign quickly and efficiently, can collectively analyze data, and provide detailed campaign reports to benchmark goal progress.  

The Leaning Tree Marketing is a Milwaukee-based marketing strategist and consultant,  offering customized solutions since December, 2009.

Virtual Environment Options for Business of any Size

virtual businessThere is an increasing interest in the virtual world and how it may apply to the business environment.  In the virtual arena, businesses can offer a low cost, time-saving solutions to the problems associated with long-distance communication.  A home office may be the perfect startup business but if you need a professional address, meeting room or receptionist to impress clients, there are virtual offices.  REGUS VIRTUAL OFFICES.  Not every business is suited for the virtual environment; however, if you desire to operate more efficiently and move forward as a tech-savvy business, you may want to consider the possibilities.

Social Networks that Support Video Chat

  • SKYPE : Make internet calls for free with Skype.  (The most highly rated FREE service!)   Call friends and family on any phone with Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly subscriptions.  *Will need to download Skype 5.0 or higher to make group video calls.
  • Google Hangouts: Make free internet calls.  Send photos or emoji, see when people are engaged in the Hangout and message friends anytime, even if they’re not connected right now.  You’ll need to install the Google voice and video plugins to get started.
  • Facebook: Video Chat is a fairly new addition to Facebook, look for  video camera icon at the top of each Chat window. Facebook’s Video Chat is powered by Skype.
  • More FREE VIDEO CONFERENCING OPTIONS

 

Powerful Virtual Conferencing

Better than web chat.  Ease of interaction and security ensures the participants feel  fully engaged.   Previous technology may not have provided the best results, but today’s experience is much more user-friendly and reliable.  Actually, there are handfuls of choices out there, some free and others requiring small annual fee. (Depending upon the options you choose.)  Especially for business with remote locations, virtual meeting tools are excellent for training and role-playing scenarios, facility tours, and 360 views of products.  Smaller business can also benefit from virtual meetings and phone conferences, online collaboration and screen-sharing tools.  Some virtual web conferencing meetings can be recorded.  Many work with iPhones, iPads, Android Phones and 800 numbers, and there are even options for receiving audience analytics.  There are of the below services below are FREE, may offer free 30 day trials, may or may not need software… and others have a small annual fee.  But, ALL rank high in customer satisfaction! 

  • AnyMeeting.com FREE, with ads.  It allows for meetings of up to 200 people, and has essential functionality like screen sharing, VoIP and phone conferencing, meeting recording and it even has a follow-up functionality.  Free 30 day trial.
  • Gotomeeting.com  Strong  international features and several audio options that make it useful for business with clients or satellite offices in other countries. It has very high ratings and is a commonly used service.  However, there is a small annual fee.
  • Adobe Connect Based in flash, no software needed.  Great tool, similar to Go To Meeting, for video and VoIP conferencing. Can have numerous people on the call, and give control to a single presenter or transition.
  • Business Conferencing S0ftware compare & see reviews here! 

Social Media position in the Sales Funnel to your Website

Social media can be used a variety of ways depending upon your business, amount of time you can dedicate, it’s relevance to your audience, and how creative you are.  Social media is not a “one-size” fits all application;  every channel has unique strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.  One thing you can count on for sure?  Constant change!  If you’re a business who wishes to unfold the many benefits of social media and become part of the emerging trend, you must be prepared to change….and update…and monitor…and tweak….FREQUENTLY!

Social Media is Complementary:  There are plenty of myths out there regarding how to use social media for business.  In my opinion, social media should never replace what your website is designed to do.  Social media is complementary to your website, your brand, and any other major media or ad campaign that you implement.  As a matter of fact, social media can stretch out your dollar to create a much broader reach and frequency.   Don’t play copycat.  Put your creative hat on.  Those businesses that lead the way will benefit most from new ideas on how to harness the power of social.

Social Media is New Word of Mouth:  Maybe it hasn’t replaced face-to-face completely, but it is undoubtedly a BIG change from traditional networking.  Friends+Customers+Vendors+Family+Community+Brand+Products+Services+Employees = a great way to communicate!  You couldn’t possibly reach all these people as quickly in person as you can online.  It’s that simple.  In addition, social media is a great way to learn about your customers.  Unveiling the information behind it will allow you to plan better, and make adjustments to keep your business aligned with what people want and need.

Social Media is on Google Radar:  Yes, it does help your organic ranking for search results.  That ranking is dependent upon a few factors we know, and many that we don’t.  Your digital competitors, keywords, content, comments, followers, friends, links, reach, and relevance are a handful of likely influencers.  You can find out how your current social media strategy is working by doing a simple search for your business.  Be sure to ‘clear your history’ by removing ‘cookies’ from your browser prior to each trial.  Type some key search terms into a search engine and see how your business appears differently in each.  *Leaning Tree Marketing Social Success for Local Business

Social media in the Sales Funnel:  Social media platforms and the impact each has on the path to a sale will vary greatly.  (See chart.)  Convertro used multi-touch attribution technology, reviewing 500 million clicks, 15 million conversions, and three billion impressions in 1Q14 to build this report.  The middle of the sales funnel is where social media has the biggest impact. It’s an excellent influencer, a great way to deliver brand messages and build awareness in the research phase.  It’s also a great way to push out your competitors and prevent them from stealing your lead.  (That’s a big bonus!)

social media funnel position

 

Research has shown that investing money on social channels will create a significant lift in conversions to your website.  Maybe try a few creative ideas organically, before investing a bunch of money?  You really can build your business using social media.  Remember to use it as a compliment or enhancer if you will, to other strategies, set realistic goals and keep your eye on the prize!

 

 

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