How to Use Twitter if You Are a Small Business

As a small business owner, you probably don’t have a lot of money to pour into advertising or time to spend on social marketing. You may try your hand at SEO or may have even hired a company to help out, but if you are like most small businesses, you rely on word of mouth to build your customer base.   Today’s modern “word of mouth” is social media outlets like linkedin, manta, Facebook and Twitter.

Over the next few months, we will be presenting you with a series of articles that will help you leverage the power of social media, search and business listings to promote your business.  These articles will be in plain language that every small business owner will understand and will help you make the most of your time and money with surprisingly great results!  We start with Twitter.

Twitter can help you spread the word about your business without a large investment of time or money.

The first step in using Twitter for your small business is creating an account and profile. Make sure that your screen name, known as your Twitter handle, matches up with your business. Avoid writing an overly clever profile. Keep it simple and describe exactly what you do in plain language.

Twitter is a network of followers. You want to follow individuals and companies that add value to your Twitter experience. It’s a good idea to follow other small businesses rather than Fortune 500 companies. In turn, you want followers who are either current customers or potential customers.

When you’ve built a solid following of customers or potential customers, offer some Twitter-only specials. This will make your followers feel more valued and engaged. You always want followers to pay attention to your tweets.

Be sure to include your twitter account on stationary, business cards, menus and your website.  Encourage people to follow you and provide incentive in the way of a discount, free service or another promotion.

When used appropriately, Twitter can be a useful tool for small businesses. Be cautious about over-Tweeting. You have 140 characters to work with per tweet. Make them count, and you’ll see your efforts pay dividends.

In the next blog in the twitter series, we will go over short cut keys and how to create meaningful messages that help you promote and grow your business.

Happy Tweeting!

 

 

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Common LinkedIn Mistakes

LinkedIn is the number one social media platform for professionals with an estimated participation of as high as 83% of US professionals! While most professionals use LinkedIn, many make common mistakes.

Below is a list of LinkedIn Tips for what not to do.

You are not Active in LinkedIn on a Consistent Basis

You sign up for LinkedIn, but are only active when looking for a job. Well, first of all this could be a bit obvious to your current employer. But more importantly, your profile should be updated on a regular basis as you connect with other professionals that will help you in your current and future endeavors.

Your LinkedIn Profile is Incomplete

It is important that your profile is complete; this means an image (and not the one with the Hawaiian shirt and fruit drink with an umbrella), complete employment history, a description of what you do on a regular basis, details about your company, the types of networks you belong to, blogs and more.

You Don’t Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Think of LinkedIn as a professional Search Engine and optimize it with keywords that will help both you and your company be found for relative terms, jobs and connections.

You Don’t Belong to the Right LinkedIn Groups

There are thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of groups on LinkedIn. Join the ones that are most relevant to you and be active. Sure, join the ones that might include alumni groups and other interest groups, but don’t forget to join the ones that are pertinent to your market segments.

You’re Not Sharing Content

Oh no, this one hits home. I write two to three blogs a week and I never share them. When you write a blog post or your company creates a valuable white paper, share it on your LinkedIn feed! Don’t just share content you have written, but share content you think others would love to read.

You’re Not Building Connections

Constantly add and accept connections from people you know both professionally and personally.

You’re Not Using LinkedIn Answers

You are not alone on this one. According to industry experts, LinkedIn Answers is one of the most underutilized sections of LinkedIn. In this section people ask questions and if you know the answers or can point them to an article or source for the answer, you can answer in a forum. LinkedIn Answers sections get visited by people with similar questions over time, so the staying power means you have a wide and lasting reach.

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How Small Businesses Can Use Press Releases to Grow Their Business

Stop the Presses …. If you are a small business you should be thinking … Start the Presses because Press Releases are a great way and often FREE way to promote your business online!

Most small businesses are not aware of the power of an online Press Release or how to use Press Releases to help promote their business. But Press Releases are a vital aspect of your online marketing efforts.  Press Releases improve your business’ online visibility, are often picked up by local media groups and create valuable back links to your site.

Use the following tips and let us know the results:

1) Select a Topic for your Press Release - Press Releases can be written about new products or services you are offering, new employees, new locations and trends in your industry.  You can also write a Press Release about anniversaries, participation in charitable events, grand openings or other events.

2) Press Release Etiquette – Press Releases should include the following:

  • Title and Subtitles
  • Date and City of Publication
  • Three Paragraphs or More
  • About Us Section
  • Contact Information
  • Links (see #5)

3) Keyword Research – Do keyword research on your industry and be certain to use them in your Title, Subtitle, Release and About Us portions.  You can do your keyword research using Google’s FREE adwords tools.

4) Press Release Content – Write in the third person and include quotes from company management.  Include factual information; if you are including details of an event such as a grand opening, new location or charitable event, be sure to include the date and the actual location. This will help with geo-targeting.  Be certain to proof read your Press Release for grammatical and spelling errors.  The Release should be at least three paragraphs.

5) Promote Your Business – Be certain to include your products and services in your Press Release.  Include the number of years you have been in business, the business location and the business category in either the Content or the About Us sections.

5) Links - Include links back to your own website and to any product or services pages on your site that are relevant to your Press Release.  The best way to build links is to include the link on the text that you are writing about.  For example, if you are talking about a new product or service, link the text back to a page on your site that promotes those products/services.

Link back to your Social Marketing pages. If you have built an events page, link back to it.  Link back to other sites as well. Once your Press Release is published, be certain to link to it from your Social Marketing pages as well as your website.

If you are writing about a charity, link to that charity.  If you are writing about a new product, link back to an authoritative site such as the manufacturer.

Don’t over-do it!  As a general rule you should not have more than three links in the Content and one link in the About Us section.

6) Submit Your Release – Submit your Release to a number of FREE sites such as PRLog.org, PressAbout.com, PressMethod.com or PRBuzz.com to name just a few.  These FREE sites often distribute your press release to various search engines, RSS feeds and Google and Yahoo news sites.  There are a number of affordable Press Release sites as well.  Google has a Google News Submit Site and PRWeb.com is still one of the most popular Press Release submission sites.

Local Newspapers often accept free submissions of Press Releases, so notify your local paper when you create a Press Release.

7) Check Your Success – After you have been notified that your Press Release has been accepted, be certain to check its success.  You can do this by searching for your keywords, business name and title.

Press Releases are an easy and affordable way to promote your business. While it might seem complicated at first, once you get the hang of it you will find this to become a vital part of your online marketing strategy.

Want more information or help on writing Press Releases? Contact one of our SEO experts at MyLocally.com by emailing us at info@mylocally.com

 

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How to Set Up your Business in Google Plus

Considering today’s announcement that Google is doing away with Google Places and replacing it with  new feature that combines its Google Plus social site and renowned restaurant reviewers Zagat.  For those of you who don’t remember, Google purchased Zagat in September 2011, check out our article on elocalrocks.com about the acquisition.

For those of you who weren’t old enough to carry a little Zagat’s book when you went on vacation or to select a restaurant (yes, Virginia there was a time before Yelp), Zagat was formed in 1979 by a couple in New York who felt that diners and travelers needed a way to review restaurants and hotels prior to actually going to them.  The little purple book was a main stay for people of my generation and the first of its kind to offer reviews by actual customers in order to help others make decisions.

That all being said, it seems that Google is finally going to put Zagat to good use and to make yet another push at taking the Social Networking dominance from Facebook (good luck there).  So really despite all of the shock and dismay being expressed on line about the demise of Google Places, it really should have been read in the proverbial tea leafs.

With the announcement, it seems timely that not only do I add MyLocally to Google Plus, but that we let our readers know that it is definitely time to embrace Google Plus as a business network.  We will keep you posted on any future developments or the impact this change will have on small businesses and Local Search, but in the mean time, we are advising that advising that you add a business account to Google Plus and am including a link on how to do so from the Social Examiner.

 

 

 

 

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Get More Customers with Local Search Marketing

Online Local Search Marketing is equivalent to placing your business on a billboard on a super busy highway with just the right passerbys for your business.

Here are ten tips to help you get found on Local Search.

1)     Check out your business on Local Directories

There are literally thousands of local or niche directories with your business information.  Perform a search query of your business name and different variations of your address and phone #.  Many of these local directories offer great free services and provide information to help  you get more customers.

I recommend you keep a record of the link in a spreadsheet with the link, business name, address, and phone #.

2)     Consistency is Key

It is very important (as we have posted before) to keep your business name consistent across the Internet.  This will help with ranking as Search Engines use these citations as one way to determine the accuracy and relevancy of your business’ data.  So help out the Search Engines and make sure that the data is exactly the same.  Remember even minor details can make a difference.  For example, Suite vs. Ste, Road vs. Rd.

3)     Be Submissive

Sorry, couldn’t resist that tag line – But the bottom line is that you should submit your information to as many directories as you can.  Create a plan so that you spend at least 15 minutes a week checking and submitting.  You can use great services like UBL (Universal Business Listing), but their submission service only includes a small fraction of the directories available on line.  Submitting to these directories has great SEO benefits, such as link building and citation creation, it also establishes a wide presence across the Internet helping potential customers find you.

4)     Google Places

Create and maintain your Google Places listing, but only after you have submitted your business to FREE directories like SuperPages, YellowBook, Yelp, MyLocally.

 Why?  You will be seen as an authority off the bat if your business is listed and updated in other directories.

If you have already created your business in Google Places, submit your business in other directories and then update your listing by adding a picture, a link, or adding a new business category.  Google will scrape the Internet upon resubmission to determine relevancy and authority.

5)     Build Links

I find myself writing about link building more and more these days.  Links are an important, but often misunderstood and misused SEO tactic.  Links should be natural and should include geo-specific keywords for the anchor text.  Be certain to include joining local chambers of commerce and other local networking sites that provide links back to your site(s).

6)     Optimize Your Site for Geo-Specific Keywords

Optimize your site with geo-specific keywords, but don’t over optimize.  Be certain that you include keywords on every page.  Also include your business, address and phone # on every page as well.

7)     Multi-Location Optimization

If you have several locations, create either a separate web site or separate pages for these locations.  Local Search on Google makes up 20% of all Searches and mobile is making geo-optimizing even more important than ever.  It will help your customers find you at the location nearest to them and will let Search Engines know that you have separate locations.  Be certain to submit to directory listings for these different locations.

8)     Be Social

Add a facebook fan page for each location, don’t just create it and expect it to grow.  Include your facebook link on all of your sites.  Encourage others to Like or Follow you and participate on a consistent basis.  Be certain to guide consumers back to your site and include promotional messages to your audience.  Offer them deals and reasons to promote and do business with you.

9)     Blogging

If you are not blogging yet, you should be.  Blog posts should contain geo-specific anchor texts.  Be sure not to overdo it, make sure it seems natural or you will be penalized by the major Search Engines.

10) Solicit Opinions, Comments, Reviews and Interaction

If you are writing a blog or participating in forums, ask your readers to participate with comments, opinions, etc.  On your web site and directories encourage people to write a review by asking for their Feedback.

By following these ten basic steps, you can improve your online visibility and  help your business get more customers.

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Consumer Reviews Under Attack in Orlando Lawsuit

Online rating sites can be a great tool for consumers to research the experiences that others have had with a business’ services or products; but for small business owners, customer review sites can have a major impact on their business, both positive and negative.  If you think that online reviews don’t make a difference, think again. 

According to the results of a recent Neilson survey on Global Trust in Advertising, online reviews and personal recommendations are the most trusted form of “advertising”.   Personal recommendations from someone you know (90%), consumer opinions online (70%), branded websites (58%) and emails that you have signed up for (50%).

On the other hand review sites also bring risks, for not only the business owner and the site for which they are listed (although the Communications Decency Act of 1996 should protect most sites), but also for the author of the comments.

In a recent law suit, an Orlando plastic surgeon is suing one of his former patients for defaming him online.  According to the suit, thedisgruntled patient posted not-so-flattering comments on the medical site RateMDs.com.

A lot of people assume posting online is protected under the first amendment right of freedom of speech—but that is not always the case.

Poster, beware: you can’t say just anything you want on social networking and review sites. 

Your opinion is fine, but post an out and out lie, even on a review site, and it could cross the line into libel and slander or in this case defamation of character. 

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, “The defendant in this case has a vendetta, and my client has to use the court system to remedy that.”

The surgeon believes that the patient has posed as other patients and posted multiple comments on the site. He’s seeking $49,000 in damages and wants the posts removed.

The unnamed patient’s lawyer says if this lawsuit is successful, it’ll put a freeze on the usefulness of such rating sites like RateMDs.com, Yelp, Angie’s List and others that review services.

And so the centuries old debate over freedom of speech rages on and the Internet, Social networking sites and review sites only add fuel to the fire.

The best advice for those who would like to post a review about a business is to be honest, fair, and state that it is YOUR opinion or YOUR experience.  Be specific and factual and do not post under a fictitious name or multiple posts.  If you have a problem with a business’ services or products, writing about them on review sites is a great tool, however also consider reaching out to the business and providing them with an opportunity to correct the situation.

Regardless of the outcome of this suit, it will put reviewers, businesses and review sites on alert and certainly will result in changes.

Do you think the suit has merit?

 

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Are Citations an Important Part of Your Local SEO Strategy?

Local Search SEO Checklist

With all the talk about links; too many links, not enough links, good links, bad links, natural links, unnatural links, links as Penguin food … it is easy for people to forget that good Local SEO should include citation management.

What are Citations?

Citations are “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages, usually directories.  Citations are also known as web references.  Citations are not necessarily links and citations are not necessarily a direct result of your efforts.  There are thousands of directories that include your business information without your knowledge and if the data is inaccurate it can lead to confusion among potential customers and could potentially harm your ranking.

Citations are a key component of ranking algorithms used by the major Search Engines.  If all other factors were equal, businesses with a greater number of citations with an exact (or close) match, will probably rank higher than a business with fewer citations.

The Best Citations

Citations from well-indexed directories such as Yelp, Superpages.com, MerchantCircle.com, MyLocally.com and YellowPages.com can improve your Local Search Engine rankings.   Don’t forget to add and claim your business in Google Places, Yahoo! Local Listings and Bing Local Listings.

Citations are a great way for both customers and Search Engines to authenticate your validity.  Membership in associations, chambers of commerce, groups, business directories, and local newspapers or popular blogs are great citations.

Citations are important for ALL industries, but have a greater impact for industries where business owners are less SEO savvy and often don’t have a website for themselves.  Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find and citations are a great source.

Managing Citations

You don’t often get to decide what online properties your business will show up in or how accurate the information is.  But that doesn’t mean as a business owner you should just throw your hands up in frustration, you should make it part of your (or whoever is managing your online presence) Local SEO check list.

One suggestion for managing your on line citations is to periodically search your business name.  Check how and where your business is listed and make certain it is accurate.  Don’t forget to also search your business address and phone number, you might be surprised with what you discover.

Claim and update it as many places as you can.  Be certain to take a few minutes to analyze the features of these directories and create a strategy for which ones provide value and warrant your attention.

Now search your competitors listing and determine if they show up in industry directories and whether you should add your business.

Don’t forget to search for directories using a local search query for your industry, ie. Plumber in Temecula, CA.

Conclusion

The latest changes to Google’s algorithm reinforces good old fashioned network building, but in addition to old fashioned hand shaking in the community, today’s business owners need to make sure that their name is consistent and ever present on the Internet through careful management of business citations.

 

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Are Postcards an Effective Way to Reach Out to Local Customers?

At MyLocally, we are always looking for ways to help our customers grow their business.  We know that MyLocally helps businesses owners promote their company online through Search and Social, but we also know that a successful marketing strategy is diversified.  As a result, we have written this article on the value of more traditional postcards as part of your marketing plan to reach out to local customers.

Postcards can be an extremely effective way of getting your message across to your business’s local customers if they’re done in the right way. You want to make sure that when your postcards roll off the presses at the printing company, you’re getting powerful, effective cards that communicate your message perfectly. The tips below can help make your next postcard campaign a great one.

* Hire a graphic designer or use one of the many online services that produce marketing materials, such as Postcards. Postcards allow you a split second to make the first impression you’re aiming for. Customers respond to well-placed visuals and text, and graphic designers are trained to make the most important information pop in an ad. If your resources are limited, check out local design schools for access to talented designers.

* Your postcard messaging must include a Call to Action. A “call to action” is what you want your consumers to do once they’ve received your messaging. For example, you might want them to call you right away or visit your business or even go to your website or like your business on Facebook. The only way the consumer is going to respond to a call to action is if your messaging is compelling enough. A general rule is to highlight your call to action and repeat it more than once.

* Get your cards printed through custom printing. Make sure that the printing company or online service publishes color copies of your postcards using digital printing on high-quality products. Customers will respond positively to professionally printed cards, while postcards run through a color copier and printed on cheap paper could seem amateurish. That look could kill your messaging before it has a chance to convince potential customers to get in touch.

*Use graphics and keep the message simple.  Using colorful graphics are a great way to portray your message.  Remember that you only have a few minutes to grab the customer’s attention.  Keep your message simple, you may have a lot to say, but a postcard needs to be simple and send a clear and concise message.

*Provide a reason to act upon your postcard.  Provide a discount, a special or promotion.  One approach it to give them a time period to act or a “special offer” to the first 50 customers.  The chances are, if they put down the Postcard, they won’t pick it up again.  Give them reason to call or visit your business.

*Be realistic about your expectations and measure the results.  Traditional wisdom says that any mailing will have a success rate of 1% – 10%.   While this seems low, it is still a cost efficient way of reaching customers.  Be certain that you measure the success of each Postcard by recording its success.  One way to do it is to include a promotion code or wording that will help you determine where the sale came from.

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5 Tips for Using Facebook to Increase Your Business

Many businesses do not use social networking and social media to their advantage. For example, Facebook can be an effective way of increasing business.

If you want to increase business through Facebook, there are a few tips you can use to ensure you get the most from social media.

1. Offer customers something for liking your Facebook page. For example, make certain promotions exclusive to Facebook users. Give your customers a reason to go to your Facebook page by offering discounts on products or services.

2. Don’t make your Facebook difficult to read. Make getting information from your Facebook page easy for customers. Don’t use confusing jargon, and keep it straight to the point.

3. Give customers information about the company, as well as trivia facts. You want to build a trusting relationship with customers by offering honest information.

4. Place a share button on the Facebook page. With a share button, customers who visit the page can share information you post with other people.

5. Keep the Facebook page updated on a regular basis. An important aspect of maintaining and increasing business is keeping your customers updated on new happenings with the company.

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How to Build Natural Links to Your Website

After you have built a website, one of your most important tasks is draw traffic to it. One way to do this is to get other blogs and websites to link to yours. This draws people who click on the links to your site and can increase your search engine rankings. There are services on the web that guarantee you hundreds or even thousands of links for a price. Unfortunately, many of those links are low quality and could actually hurt your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts.

It is far better to grow your links naturally. The first thing to do is join the discussion on similar blogs and websites without spamming them. Comment on blog posts or bulletin board discussions and become a part of the community. This may lead to the webmaster or blogger happily linking to your site. It also builds your reputation among your peers, which increases your likelihood of getting more links later.

Try using videos and tutorials on your site. People love content that teaches them something new or how to solve a problem. They will link to your site if they know your content is useful and well prepared. Great content will also draw natural traffic to your site and build your search engine ranking.

Many websites are filled with useful content, so trying something a little different may set you apart from the pack. Humor is one way to distinguish your content. If your articles or tutorials get people to laugh, they will not only remember your website but recommend it to others as well. The more popular your site becomes, the more links you are likely to get.

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