Leaning Tree Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing in Metro-Milwaukee

Archive for the category “Wisconsin Business”

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!)

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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

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.  

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!

 

 

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

gplaces

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

ROI

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

Conversions

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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MapQuest Yext Combo Misleads Small Business

The marriage of Yext and MapQuest

A few months ago, Mapquest and Yext officially partnered.  Because they are trying to make more money, you’ll find it difficult to create or update a MapQuest listing without having to pay for it.  The tactics are misleading because you don’t have to pay if you know what you’re doing.

First-hand advice, “follow this method, and you won’t be charged.”

#1  Search to see if you have an existing listing for your business:  http://www.mapquest.com/

#2  If you find it, claim it.  You’ll need to go BACK to http://www.mapquest.com/ and ‘sign in.’

#3  ‘Sign in’ is in the upper right corner.  When you get there, you’ll see how an account can be setup using your Facebook account:

mapquest new account

Important:  If your claiming process follows the steps in the image to the lower right, then you are in the wrong place and will be asked to pay a fee.

Yext to claim MapQuest

 

Side note:   MapQuest has some really neat features.  However, I researched the results of my business Yext report and found the data to be incorrect and misleading. Yext is a computer program, not a person.  The best way to manage your online reputation is to do it yourself, (if you have an extra 10 or so hours per month).  Google, Yahoo and others have some nifty online tools.   Your online reputation is at stake…if you don’t have the time, hire a professional like The Leaning Tree Marketing.

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Business profitability and Weather Woes

14 below zeroLast week, news and authorities urged people to stay indoors to avoid life-threatening cold conditions.  Schools closed, businesses closed, and most of us went into a hibernation state of living.  The last time a city in Wisconsin was close to -18 below wind chill was 1979.

Although this extreme weather isn’t typical or frequent, there is still a legitimate concern regarding any harsh weather condition and the effect it has on business.  (Both positive and negative.) While it’s true nothing can be done to prevent the weather, the way consumers and businesses react is quite interesting.

In high demand, according to Bloomberg Blizzard Business:

  • Home Depot, Lowes
  • Energy Companies
  • Generator Companies
  • Hospitals & Care Clinics
  • Snow Removal Companies
  • Online Retail

When people postpone buying, it can be a real mess for retail.  “Bon-Ton says stores stung by bad winter; warns of possible 2013 loss…

Article from The Wall Street Journal:  The Weather Channel forecasts what consumers will buy and where advertisers should place spots.

There isn’t a good amount of research to share regarding the effect of weather on small business, but I could speculate that the experience is far more extreme.  For many businesses, the influence of weather is very real.  If the same weather doesn’t repeat the each year, sales results will fluctuate.   So much so, that it’s often built into sales forecasts along with potential economic and specific marketplace conditions.  Because weather absolutely affects the bottom line, companies big, and small, must constantly prepare and react to the changes and challenges that come along with it.

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Cloud computing on Google Chrome

google chromeGoogle Apps for Education

From Nairobi to Wisconsin, Google Apps for Education has transformed education across the globe.  Allowing more control over the students learning environment, Wisconsin Schools currently have a statewide contract with the program.  Beginning in middle-school, all students are required to purchase a chromebook.  The chromebook is affordable, light, easy to carry, and offers internet access to apps and other web resources.  Through “the cloud,” teachers, staff and students can easily collaborate and share within an internet learning environment.

Google HP Chromebook

Google has recently unveiled the HP Chromebook II.  Although this laptop is more expensive that the previous versions, it’s still reasonably priced under $300.  The cromebook is extremely fast, light-weight, supports 3G and 4G data plans, has a 6-hour battery life, beautiful screen display, and carries the Google name.  There’s no need to purchase anti-virus or malware protection programs because Google has this built-in the system.  All information is stored on “The Cloud,”  meaning that this “WiFi-only” computer is dependent upon the internet to utilize its apps.

Safe Google Cloud Computing

The simple explanation regarding how “The Cloud” works is that your data is saved on remote servers so you can access the information from any device, at any time, from anywhere. “Cloud computing,” refers to the practice of moving apps and data to these servers, which is then shared among a number of people.  All of this ‘sharing’ leads to some questions about security risk.  Below are some simple steps that you can take to protect the information you store in cyberspace.

  • Password Protect Data
  • Store passwords offline
  • Practice Safe Webbing
  • Update your web browser often
  • Don’t share personal information on the cloud

 National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  Through a series of events and initiatives across the country, public and private sector partners raise awareness and educate Americans about cyber security. Identifying challenges for the next ten years, each week this month has been dedicated to a different cyber security issue.

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.

Consultants, Contractors, Who’s on Your Team?

networking picAt least you can take comfort in the fact that your team has your back, right?  Not always.

Team Players.  Having the right people in place is critical to your business success.   Just because someone has been employed at your company for ten plus years doesn’t make them a star employee.   There should be a motivational relationship between your business success, and the rewards/success of each team player.  However, it’s impossible to be responsible for all of the motivation behind each team member.  A good employee will have a deep sense of obligation to work hard, no matter what the circumstances.  If they become too comfortable, lazy, or unmotivated, there are plenty of eager and hard-working people ready to take their place!

Consultants and Contractors. The next question is, “should you hire a new employee or contract out for services?”  There are a lot of advantages to hiring a professional contractor or consultant.

  • Reduce overhead. Reducing expenses is a real attraction to hiring an independent contractor or consultant.  Lower overhead means less stress to cover costs.  New business can go right into your wallet and ensure the future success of your company.
  • No health benefits are necessary.  According to the EBRI, employers traditionally spend just over 29 percent on employee benefits.
  • Cost control.  With more employees, your office will probably have to move to a bigger space, but more office equipment, etc.  Not so with a contractor or consultant.   Another method of cost control would include scaling back on spending during seasonal or slow periods.  Basically, you’ll have the ability to take on opportunities as they arise.
  • Highly specialized.  Many consultants and contractors come trained and highly specialized, giving your company a leading edge towards greater profitability.  No successful business works in a vacuum.  Hiring an independent consultant or contractor offers flexibility to the changing work demands of your company, as well as the changing demands of the marketplace.
  • Require less management.  As your employee numbers grow, you become less involved in practicing your trade and more involved in people management issues.  THIS IS A BIG ONE!  You have to worry about worker-related lawsuits, putting out fires and ensuring that everyone is doing what they are supposed to be.  Independents and contractors are self-employed.  Due to the fact that they are more motivated and accountable, they require far less management, if any.
  • Well-networked and well-informed. Many consultants and contractors come well-networked to freelance experts, sales reps and business professionals of all sorts.  In order to remain relevant, they have to stay on top of trends, continue training and make sure they remain well-informed.

To find a good contractor or consultant, ask around.  Some of the best referrals will be from people you already know and respect.

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The Leaning Tree Marketing is an advertising freelance professional, well-respected in the Milwaukee WI marketplace.

Psychology behind my online purchase abandonment

shopping cart purchase picrunning shoeThis is an interesting topic as I just recently abandoned an online purchase myself.  I’m a busy and admittingly impatient person when it comes to shopping for something specific.

Due to the amount jogging that I do, my running shoes have to be replaced fairly frequently.  (I’ve come to love the high end ASICS for comfort and durability.)   I tend to like to try things on and ‘experience’ the product first hand.  Call me”old-fashioned,” but I do appreciate experiencing the touch and feel of a product before purchase, I always check local stores first.   I already knew that I wanted to purchase the ASICS Women’s GEL-Kinsei 4 Running Shoe, however, these specialty shoes are not easy to find.  Sure that a running store would have these shoes, I was still unwilling to travel out off my beaten path to find such a store.  After shopping around Sports Authority and other local sporting goods store, I became somewhat desperate and frustrated after a couple of weeks.

Eager for a simple and quick solution, I resulted to search online.  The shoes were quickly found at DicksSportingGoods.com.  Excellent!  Dick’s is a local store that I recognized, and probably more convenient if there was ever need for a return or exchange.  The website displayed (3) different colors. ( I don’t buy running shoes for the appearance, but knowing that the shoe I wanted had options was enticing.)  After setting up the e-mail contact and billing information, I put the shoes in my cart only to find that the color I choose was out of stock.  To make things worse, my second choice was also out of stock.  As mentioned, I don’t purchase running shoes for appearance.  However, after learning that I had did have choices, my mind was now focused on getting the color I wanted.  After all, if I’m spending nearly $200 for a pair of shoes, why not get the color I want?  Before continuing to explore options online, my contact info/e-mail address was deleted.  (I knew my cookies were out there, but at least Dicks couldn’t contact me by e-mail.)  So I thought anyway…  The shoes were found at Zappos.com. They didn’t have the color choices I was looking for, BUT they did have a mind-changing offer; $50 savings from the price quoted on Dicks.  I will absolutely buy the ugly running shoes if it saves me $50!  And I did…

I specifically remember deleting my e-mail info, but since the Zappos purchase, Dicks has been sending me annoying e-mails anyway.  All of this had me wondering how many people react as I did, abandoning their initial cart selection for one reason or another.  I found this article from MarketingProfs.com which states that abandonment rates in the second quarter of 2013 were averaging 75%.  The study also found that if an online retailer is able to ‘capture’ contact information before a cart is abandoned because following up with an email can often times become lucrative.

More interesting Q1 2013 facts from SalesCycle.com:

  • 73.6% was the average shopping cart, basket and booking abandonment rate (up from 70.7% in Q4 2012)
  • Most abandonments happened between 8 and 9pm – with Thursday the most common day
  • 48.1% of basket abandonment emails were opened (up from 45.9% in Q4)
  • 14.9% of basket abandonment emails were clicked (up from 13.5% in Q4)
  • 33.3% of these clickers went on to purchase a product (up from 30.1% in Q4)
  • The AOV was 58% higher for purchases from basket abandonment emails compared with direct sales (up from 36% in Q4)
  • Revenue per basket abandonment email sent was $5.78  (up from $4.14 Q4) 

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