Leaning Tree Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing in Metro-Milwaukee

Archive for the category “Digital Media”

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!)


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

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.


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!



Ten reasons why your business needs a digital strategy

leaning tree digital marketingMarketing is about reaching people.  Technology aids in getting that  job done.  Technology advances have led to, and continue to mark major marketing milestones.  The printing press, radio, and TV are examples of technology breakthroughs that changed marketing forever.  At their highest points, they were cutting-edge technology that ONCE HAD the capacity to reach the largest numbers of people.

By far, however, the most impactful marketing inventions included the computer, internet, high-speed cables, and software applications.  These new developments have created a fragmented market of new choices and mobility.  The mainstream adoption of digital technology allows the connection to networks and people just about anywhere, anytime they want to use it.  Today, more than 1/3 of the global population had access to the internet, and that number continues to grow.   As technology pushes forward, the world of marketing has become far more complex, and exciting at the same time.   The most important piece of advice:  “If the audience has become digital, so must the business!”

Why you need a digital marketing strategy

#1        Only the internet has the capacity to broaden reach and narrow target at the same time.

#2        Digital marketing is less expensive, easier to track, and more productive.

#3        Nothing spreads “word of mouth” faster than the internet.

#4       Without a digital tie-in, traditional media will not work like it used to.

#5        Internet offers unmatched tools, techniques and tactics to engage with customers.

#6        A relevant website, SEO and/or SEM, is what displays your business in search results.

#7       Social Media is the best way to build, retain, and reward customer relationships.

#8        Mobile Marketing, email marketing, content marketing and display are all digital.

#9        Internet platforms builds authority, legitimacy, public relations and brand perception.

#10      Without one, you will miss opportunities, become less competitive, and lose business


leaning tree gravatarAbout The Leaning Tree Marketing, llc:  The Tree was established late 2009 to offer local business many years of advertising, marketing, sales, research and promotions experience.  Today, The Leaning Tree has become an expert in branding, bridging the gap between traditional and digital while harnessing the unlimited potential of digital marketing for business success.

*For interesting statistics and research regarding the growth of the internet: www.internetworldstats.com

Free tool for gathering info about your customer

survey monkey logoIf you’re interested in gathering information about your customers and have never heard of “Survey Monkey,” you may want to check it out.   Like many apps, Survey Monkey offers a free download and several advanced options as well.  To begin, I would stick with the free version because it’s enough to get you started.  Place your customized survey questions on your website, or social sites and responses are gathered for you…  If you like the results and see added value and benefit to your business, I’d encourage the “Select Option.” (At $26 per month, the “Select Option” is the next step up, and offers some important features, such as downloadable reports, that may be worth the small chunk of change.)  Be aware, packages can go upwards of $750 a month.  However, those options are not realistic to most small businesses.  (Go to bottom to find easy app download links.)  Here’s the skinny:

Basic free features of Survey Monkey:

  • Easy Question Creation.  15 different choices regarding types of questions, (rating scales, multiple choice, etc.)  Option to use templates and certified questions from their question bank. The free version offers 10 questions per survey and up to 100 responses.
  • Custom Landing Page URL.  This is pretty cool…you can create your own survey URL destination to use as a promotional landing page.  Get creative with the URL so that it’s picked up in search results & add it to your website and social media outlets.
  • Response Collection & Reports.  Real-time survey results are sent right to your email, social site, weblink, or embed directly on to your website or blog.  (Easy viewing from any device.)  Or, login to Survey Monkey anytime to view them.  (Can’t download though.)
  • Customer Support.  Email only.

Advanced “Pro” features include: 

  • Custom Branding.  Add your logo, company info, color choices, etc.  More options depending upon the Pro Option you choose from.
  • More Robust Reporting.   Real-time charts, graphs, and filters with cross tabs to download in a variety of export options.
  • More Legitimate Answers:  Questions and response validation, random assignment (A/B testing) and randomization.
  • Interactive Surveys & Downloads.  Use “skip logic” and question piping.  Download results in Excel or PDF format.
  • Access to Millions of Respondents.  Choose from the Survey Monkey general U.S. population audience respondents, or narrow down more closely to your desired demographic or geographic areas.
  • More Security.  Including SSL/HTTPS and HIPPA compliant features.
  • Better Customer Support & “Thank You” Page.

One more thing…here is a quick little article regarding the significance of adding photos to your surveys.  Interesting!

Download free app from reputable locations:   

Mobile or Tablet:   mobile or tablet download

Google Apps Marketplace: http://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/viewListing?productListingId=3471+5802532910979132069&category=&query=survey+monkey

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/surveymonkey/id723867634?mt=8

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All Things Google: Places for Business


Every business should make it a priority to establish a Google Business Places Account.  Use a shared business email account for setup, versus setting up under a personal G+ account.   This way, multiple users can update your business listing.  Be sure your within Google Quality Guidelines.

Verify your business.  After creating a business places page, be sure to verify your business.  Doing this will allow you to have some control over the content, and also allow your business to appear on Google.com, Google Maps, and other Google properties.   Verify your business information.  Verifying is painless, and can be done by phone or mailed postcard.

Google merges all products together.  Like Magic, Google inextricably intertwines the business places listing with the social pages.  This includes Google+ Pages, YouTube, Blogger, and a variety of other applications.

Business Dashboard.  The dashboard is where business owners can manage and make edits to their business listing.  (The business dashboard is much more user-friendly than Google+.)  You can add and remove managers, and determine what capabilities each user should have.  For the benefit of search results, it’s good practice to login at least once a month or so and “save,” even if you don’t make any changes.  You’ll find that the dashboard also has good information regarding how customers find your business, and easy access to purchasing AdWords.  However, I wouldn’t recommend investing into AdWords PPC campaigns without some training first.   There are an abundance of videos and ‘how to’ tutorials on the web.  Google offers special training and support for agencies, so you may also consider hiring out for this task.

Double Check your setup.  Search for your business and check to see that all information is setup correctly.  If edits are needed, go to your business dashboard.  Also, if you setup Pages for your business, it’s important that you see “local” in the top right corner vs. “profile.”  One more hint:  When looking to see how your business appears on search, clear your browser ‘cookies’ to get a true picture.

Are you a business owner?  For more helpful tips, follow The Leaning Tree Marketing.

Measuring your business return on investment ROI

google logoIt’s important to be sure that the money you’re spending on advertising is leading to solid profits for your business.  Use website analytics information to monitor your progress.  You can use the abundance of information to help determine ROI, and tweak campaigns that aren’t performing as well as they should. With analytics, you’ll see real data, black and white, real numbers pertaining to how traffic is getting to your websites, bounce rates, unique visitors, conversion rates, and so much more.  By far, Google analytics provides the most plentiful data so be sure to attach the Google analytics to your business website.

Cool Google Analytics Apps you can download:  https://www.google.com/analytics/apps/results?category=Reporting%20Tools


Use ROI information for future planning, so you can spend your budget according to what’s working best for your business. ROI is the ratio of your net profit to your costs.  The exact method you use to calculate ROI depends upon the goals of your campaign, but one way to define ROI is:

 (Revenue – Cost of goods sold) / Cost of goods sold


Another great way to determine the return on investment is to pay close attention to conversions. So, impressions are great for branding, but if you have a million website impressions and no sales, then how are they really working towards the growth of your business?  A conversion is basically a customer ‘action’ that you find valuable.  (In business, we like action!)  A conversion action could be a purchase a website lead, a phone call, an e-mail, a download of some sort….you get the idea.  A conversion is an action.  What actions you decide are best to measure are completely up to you.  To determine ROI from conversions:

(Revenue measured by conversion – your overall costs) / your overall costs

**If you do paid search advertising with AdWords, you’ll need to link your analytics account to your AdWords account before information will be made available.  Also, the information you receive from your website analytics may differ slightly from the analytics you receive from AdWords.  Note from Google regarding differences in data 

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Business Identity Theft and Fraud

online fraudIdentity thieves are on the rise, easily tampering with ATMs and public credit card readers with ‘skimming’ devices that the average person may not recognize.  It’s all over the news that Target and Neiman Marcus had been hit with massive credit and debit card security breaches.  The BBB is issuing warnings about “One Ring” calls because if you return the call, it may lead to big international charges.  Locally, a Beloit, WI business reported that it was a victim of a “name hijacking.”

Business name Hijacking.  The hijack in Beloit was in the form of a duplicate website being created, nearly identical to the business website.  The criminals behind fraudulent website scams use the online storefront of your business to collect data, make threats and ultimately collect money.  They will sometimes use a website like yours, but with a different suffix.  (Instead of “.com” they will use “.net”)

  • Be vigilant.  Start by monitoring your company name and address on the internet.  Do this on a regular basis because if you find fraud in early stages, you’ll be more likely to recover.  Your reputation and future business is at stake.  If you don’t have time to do this on your own, hire a professional.
  • Report cybercrime.  File a complaint with your local police department and the FBI’s cybercrime division.  They can investigate and have the scam site shut down.  In the meanwhile, put a “scam alert” on your own website.  The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is another valuable resource.

Investigate Suspicious Activity such as requests to verify orders you didn’t place, receiving phone calls to verify business details, and invoices for things such as storage and shipping charges that just doesn’t make sense.

Credit Cards. Your business credit card offers far more fraud protection than a business debit card.  With debit cards, if you wait too long to report the fraud, your bank account could be cleaned out and your bank might not reimburse you.  Credit card or debit, use caution when purchasing from an ATM, even to purchase gas “Skimming devices” are very difficult to detect!  Even after looking at the photos, I don’t think I could spot one?

  • Avoid using ATMs which are poorly lighted. 
  • Choose a bank ATM over standalones.
  • Protect your pin by covering the keypad with one hand.
  • If anything looks unusual, give it a wiggle.  (Loose parts, suspiciously placed cameras and unusual signage are all red flags.)

The best prevention is education.  Be aware and stay square!

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Google Algorithms Penguin and Hummingbird

hum bird penguinGoogle changes or updates its algorithms 500-600 times per year.  (yikes!)  For a small business, this is a lot to keep up with.  Having a webmaster that keeps up with these changes will make a big difference in your bottom line.

Had changes recently in your search results?  Knowing when the Google algorithm updates took effect may help explain those changes:  SEO MOZ list of major algorithmic changes that have had the biggest impact on search.

August 2013, Google Hummingbird

Hummingbird was created to help provide better “conversational search” results, paying more attention to every word in a query, rather than pulling from a few key words.  When you speak a search topic such as, “Place to buy Green Bay Packer jersey?”  Traditional search engine may have focused on matches for the words, “buy” and “Green Bay Packer,” for example.  Hummingbird takes the search a step further by focusing on the meaning behind the spoken search words.  If you’ve shared with Google, it will recognize your location and compare it to your search.  It may understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “Green Bay Packer jersey” is a particular brand and type of clothing carried by certain stores. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

October 2013, Google Penguin

Penguin is not a replacement for Hummingbird, but rather a part of it.  Hummingbird is like Google’s entire ranking engine, whereas Penguin is like a small part of that engine, a filter that is removed and periodically replaced with what Google considers to be a better filter to help keep out bad stuff.  Penguin is a part of Google’s overall search algorithm, designed to detect web spam and remove it from results.  If links are showing high in search results, but appear to be “Paid links” or “spammy,” Google will penalize your search results.  They just want to ensure that the results appearing in SERPs are all relevant and provide quality content pertaining to your search.

Over the years, there have been many update versions of the penguin algorithm.  (Penguin 1, 1.2, 2, 2.2, etc.)  If your site was affected by the most recent Penguin update, you would have noticed a marked drop in traffic over the past week.  How to fix the problem?  Get rid of those paid links.

Web Masters keep in mind, “Relevance and Quality”

Content on sites must be relevant and sector-related to fair well on Google search.  Web masters should double check to ensure links are relevant to their specific topics and that they have developed organically.   It is also vital that the content on your site is frequently updated and changing.

Local Marketing not just about Search

local biz marketing pictureIt’s true that “word-of-mouth” recommendations from family and friends are the top means for getting a good referral; this is precisely why social media is so important to business.  Social sites allow customers to quickly see, or ask what their social connections have to say about your business.   In addition, some of these social sites have become so sophisticated that they are soon become mini-search engines of their own.  However, to get results, it’s important to be active and interactive…the more involved you are, the better the results.

Be sure to select the social media outlets that best represent your business and potential customer base.  Not only can you gain the trust and respect of potential customers, but it will also help with retention, branding, search engine optimization, and ultimately…more sales!  Information derived from social media will also provide valuable information for planning future marketing and advertising campaigns.  When planning your next campaign blitz, don’t forget that it’s absolutely critical to connect social media to purchased advertising.  I call it “cross-platform marketing,” ensuring that your business branding or promotion is well-connected, and consistent.  This will extend the reach, frequency and ultimate success of your campaign.

Business uses for some of the top social media sites

LinkedIn:  LinkedIn is a professional social networking, and outstanding business-to-business, LEAD GENERATING marketing tool.   Your profile is essentially your business card, so make sure it’s public and search engines will index it!  New company pages allow you to update business products/services and add special offers.

Facebook: New graph search feature allows users to search for businesses according to both location and recommendations from friends.  Keep your Facebook page is categorized correctly and consistently updated with new and relevant information.

Foursquare:  Allow users to check in, find specials and rate your business.  Users can share offers with their friends, extending your message reach.   Ask for feedback from your most loyal patrons, and pay attention to which offers customers have responded best to, and keep them coming back!

Twitter:  With the new ‘anyone know” search, Twitter has become closer to a search engine tool.  Your twitter activity can boost Google search results for your business.  But, you have to do a little bit of work here; converse, respond, talk and interact!  Connect with relevant friends and industry peers to get the most out of it.

YouTube:  Did you know that the second largest search engine after Google is YouTube, yet the tool is often underutilized by businesses?  This could mean big opportunity for you!  In terms of SEO, titles, descriptions, and tags are the most important content elements.  And, of course, video…

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Online Visibility; free tools and helpful links

mouse n keyboard picYears ago, building a brand and gaining marketing share was much more simple.  Placing your brand in front of the ideal demographic was more simple because large audiences could be found in fewer places.  A single traditional media, (TV, Radio, billboards or Phone), could be utilized to generate an excellent return on investment, and guerrilla marketing worked wonders for the small business.  However, digital media and the internet changed the advertising world forever.  89% of US internet users search online before they make a purchase, even when the purchase is made at a local business.  Today, a prerequisite to traditional media or guerrilla marketing success depends upon how connected they are to the internet, and how your business is found online.  Therefore, a high level of importance should be placed on search engine results, your website, social media, inbound marketing, and other online marketing efforts.  Creating an online presence which aligns with your company goals and objectives; maintaining an online visibility, managing online activity and managing third-party directories related to your business is critical towards the effort of maximizing profit potential.   This is a big job, which is why 70% of small businesses say they don’t have the time to manage online listings on all of the sites that consumers use.  If your business is ready to compete and gain market share, opportunity knocks.  Below are some tools and tips to get you started…

See how your business is found online:

  • Start by searching for your business name on Google, Yahoo and Bing.   (Be sure to erase the ‘history’ before doing each search.)
  • Then, search for your competitor.

Review your website content and analytics:

  • Lead Sources
  • Unique Visitors
  • Bounce-rates
  • Conversions

Review your website SEO to see where you can improve.

  • Keyword density
  • Page Rank
  • Competitive Website Comparison
  • SEO Title
  • Traffic Ranking
  • Page Load Times (especially important for mobile)
  • Incoming Links

Chrome has a free Apps you can download from their store.

SEO Book has free SEO tools on their website.

The Leaning Tree Marketing  provides services such as online, (eReputation Management), to encourage reviews, create a cohesive brand and ensure that you’re utilizing all opportunities to increase online visibility through improved organic search engine results.

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Google+ Tips, Apps & Your Business

google logoOver the past couple of years Google has been positioning their listings, video channels and business applications in a way that ties them directly into Google+, forcing the user to have an active Google+ account.

Google Places Your Google Places business account used to be a stand-alone listing.  Today, Google requires a Google Places account to be linked into a Google+ account, (Google+Places), to manage or update that listing.   Google  Quality Guidelines limit a business to a single listing for each physical location.

Youtube a Google+ tie-in is required in to manage your Youtube videos information.

Google applications – handy for business 

By now, most people are familiar with Gmail and the Calendar features, below are some handy applications for business that many have not yet experimented with:

Google Drive Allows you to store files in the “cloud,” share them, and have access to them from anywhere, including a smartphone.  You get 5GB of storage for free.  Google is always good about privacy settings, so they are always available on the applications.  (public/private)  On that same could you can create:

DOCS:  Include images, tables, and links.  Within DOCS, a business can manage feedback with social commenting.  The application allows multiple people to work on the same document at the same time.  Slides can be created which support embedded videos, animations, and dynamic slide transitions. 

Google Hangouts You can actually hold meetings using a webcam, kind of like a video conference and webinar combined.  With Google Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast publically.  The broadcast can be recorded, edited and then share again online. Limited to 10 active participants, unless you sign up for Google Prime.  Download free Google video chat plugin upon your first hangout.

Team Meetings: See your team, share screenshots or a web URL with a push of a button.

Webinars:  Interactively provide Q&A sessions, create a webinar series or offer sales/customer support.                                                                                multi-color-LEANING-TREE-logo-with-rep-mgmt small for FB cover

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