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Start Building Your Online Reputation Your online reputation is characterised by what shows up when someone searches for your business name online, and it is deeply connected to your brand’s image. The condition of your brand image can determine the future of your business in many ways. If you want your business to be successful in today’s world, you simply can’t ignore your online reputation. Negative write-ups found online about your business can sway a potential customer’s opinion about you extremely quickly, which is why constant monitoring and optimising your online strategies is critical. Where to Begin Starting to build your online reputation is not something that you should delay. Most of today’s consumers do their research online before deciding between brands, so if you don’t manage your online reputation, you can easily fall behind your rivals. First of all, start by analysing your business’ current online reputation. Search for your business on a variety of search engines and investigate what the first set of results on each show. The sites that you should focus on including social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), review sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews), specialist blogs, etc, to see what people are saying about you. This step will help you get a general sense of how people are responding to your business, and you will have a better understanding of how to react going forward. After analysing your own brand, take some time to investigate the reputation of other brands or businesses within your industry. Try to pick out examples of those brands whose customers show overwhelming praise for, and what specifically resulted in them receiving such positive reviews. This can help direct your own efforts and help kickstart your strategy towards building a better online reputation. While building your online reputation, you should always be alert. Monitor the sites mentioned above regularly for new feedback, and respond accordingly (more on how to do this below). You can also set Google Alerts to monitor online mentions of your brand. Listen to the Complaints The online world is given businesses the chance to partake in a two-way communication with their consumers like never before, allowing brand and consumer to interact instantaneously in many cases when feedback has been published. That is why monitoring review websites are also one of the most important tasks you can perform; your effort to solve your customer’s problems will not go unnoticed – especially if you are able to do so promptly. Replying to complaints or appreciating positive comments will improve your engagement and reinforce your brand’s glowing image. While using review websites as a tool, the way you reply to complaints especially is crucial. You should aim to communicate personally and sincerely; don’t try to defend your business or push a problem aside if you know, truthfully, that you are in the wrong.. With negative reviews especially, aim of replying to comments should be to resolve a customers’ concerns in a sympathetic manner, helping them to understood and valued, and leaving them with a more positive feeling about your business. Produce Quality Content Anything you share on your social media accounts can be searched and found via the sites themselves or external search engines. That is why you have an effect on what is going to show up on the internet about you. Producing creative, shareworthy content that generates a buzz and a positive feeling amongst fans will grow your audience and potential customer base and help to cement your positive online reputation. Your messages and posts shouldn’t always be about you and your brand; people don’t primarily use social media to be sold to Try to share helpful, funny, and relevant content to your customers; topics that reflect your brand, its culture, and your values. Ask yourself what your customers are interested in most? Why are they following you in the first place? Keeping your social media accounts active makes you more visible online. And the more visible you are, the more people will be exposed to your brand. Even if you can’t post every day, you should still check your accounts on a daily basis to stay on top of managing customer engagement – replying to comments and messages, etc.. In the meantime, regularly check your social media pages’ insights and analyse the information. When the data shows that a certain type of post or the message it relays has resonated well with your audience (lots of likes, shares, engagement, views, clicks, etc.), you can use it to help inform and shape future content; delivering more of what your audience wants. There are many important steps to building a good online reputation and it will take time and ongoing maintenance to ensure it stays at a high level. By providing top quality and friendly customer service both in store and through online channels, you will eventually help to foster a process where your customers’ positive online feedback will continue to build upon your glowing reputation for you. This blog is inspired by our friends at Erply.
How to Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs with SEO SEO (search engine optimization) helps drive organic traffic to your website. If you attract the right people, you can convert that traffic into paying customers without shelling out a fortune on ads. If you’ve recently acquired a business that has never taken SEO seriously, you’re potentially sitting on a gold mine. However, rising to the top of SERPs (search engine results pages) is a challenge when you have thousands of other businesses competing for the same spot. To beat them and stand a chance of reducing your acquisition costs, you need to understand your target market and the search engines themselves. Only then can you devise a strategy that turns you into a customer magnet. But first, what is SEO, really? SEO is ostensibly about optimizing your digital presence so it appears at or near the top of SERPs. In reality, it’s about understanding your customers’ problems and then presenting yourself as the best possible solution to those problems. It’s not about wildly stuffing keywords on your website or blog, but becoming an authority on the topics your customers care about. How Google Search algorithms work Google handles over 75 percent of Web traffic, and its search algorithm is designed to give users the best possible experience. If SEO were just about publication volume or keyword density, the Internet’s biggest search engine would fail — the algorithm would be too easy to game, leaving users exposed to unscrupulous businesses, scammers and worse. So, how do you do SEO well? An SEO strategy that reduces CAC A good SEO strategy is one that attracts traffic that converts, reducing your customer acquisition costs (CACs) and boosting revenue. The good news is that SEO is cheap. You don’t need an expert and you don’t need expensive software, just a clear strategy that you can track and refine as time goes on. Everything else — keyword tools and the like — are mostly free. It would be beyond the scope of this article to list all the things you might do to optimize your digital presence for Google Search. Google has already done this for you and better than I ever could. Instead, let’s think about your SEO strategy a little more broadly. If you’ve never undertaken SEO, it might all seem a bit overwhelming, so let’s think of SEO in two ways: passive and active. Passive SEO is following Google’s instructions above. This mainly involves creating a site map, writing meta descriptions, page titles, and so on, and ensuring that Google can compile data from your website. Think of it as creating the conditions for customers to find you. Active SEO is ongoing work that you do to stay relevant, meaningful and helpful to your customers. The better you fulfill the need behind customers’ search queries, the better you’ll rank. As a result, active SEO changes with news, buyer behavior, competitor activity and market trends. Let’s take a close look at how active SEO works. 1. Learn what your customers care about To increase your chances of ranking highly on Google, you must understand what your target customers care about. In my previous business, we interviewed our customers, surveyed them, researched the market, read reviews and testimonials until we could think and talk like our customers. With that inside knowledge, we knew how to present ourselves as the best solution to our customers’ problems and in their language too. This also helps color keyword research. You can match certain keywords to common frustrations, pain points or problems and then rewrite your existing copy to springboard to the top of search results. 2. Become an authority It’s not enough to simply write about what you do. Think of all the tangential and associated issues your customers face. My company at the time created mobile apps for small businesses and we produced content on every conceivable topic related to mobile marketing. You could say we wrote the book on it. The result was that we were consistently in the top five results on Google whenever anyone asked a question related to mobile marketing. When you add value by solving problems or giving advice in your field, your prospects come to respect you as an authority. So, too, will press and other entities that might link back to your site and increase its authority, which in turn, will drive more traffic to you. And the more you help people, the likelier they are to buy from you. 3. Create, share, distribute Active SEO is playing the long game. It can take four to six months before Google recognizes your work and you start clawing your way to the top. The trick here is to keep the momentum going. Create content to a strict schedule that spans different mediums and channels; contact press, partners and other people who have a publishing platform; and pitch guest blog posts. Appear on podcasts or start your own. Network and grow, harness social media to push your SEO agenda, and never pass up an opportunity to talk, write or stream about your business. SEO and content marketing are two sides of the same coin. SEO helps get you in front of your customers, but then you need to deliver on your promises. The Internet is saturated with dull, repackaged dross that no one wants — don’t add to that pile. Instead, think of SEO as part of a customer-centric business model where you help customers be more successful. The greater your digital presence, the higher its authority. And the more valuable you are, the less you need to spend on acquisition. Customers will come to you. This blog is inspired and written by our friends at Entrepreneur.
Turn A Negative Into A Positive: Managing Negative Online Reviews Online reviews represent a significant part of a business ‘reputation management online. Managing them can be tricky, and opinions shared by the public online require constant attention, but paying attention to them and handling them in the right way is definitely something that is worth your time. It’s worth noting that both positive and negative comments about your business can work to be an advantage or a disadvantage to your brand, depending on how you deal with them. However, in this article, we will focus on negative online reviews and how to manage them most effectively. You Can’t Stop Negative Reviews Google’s retail industry director John McAteer once said: “No one trusts all positive reviews”. Everybody knows that no product can be perfect. In fact, the absence of negative comments about a business online can appear, or nothing but glowing praise can appear as something that has been staged, making customers suspicious of a brand, and feeling like they can’t be trusted. Negative comments, meanwhile, provide people with hints about what problems do crop up during any given business operation… If a customer can’t find any information about the possible pitfalls of spending their money with a business, they can’t compare them to the good sides of your product/brand. Negative comments usually surface from a feeling of anger, and communicating with angry consumers can be challenging. Most consumers write negative comments to express their overwhelming emotion about an experience with a business. Often, they do it as a way to, spread awareness to other consumers, or as a way to get the attention of a business and ask for help or an explanation. When you do reply, the one thing that a customer is not looking for is a defensive attitude. When you reply to a negative comment, you have to be understanding and create empathy with the customer. Your positive attitude will also set the general tone of the conversation and create healthier communication between you and the disgruntled patron. This, ultimately, helps to lead to a more satisfying solution to your customer’s grievances. If there is a problem stated in a comment, you should always start by researching the incident. Offer the customer’s take on events to your employees and understand why the problem occurred. This is important to create long-term solutions to your customer’s complaints and the problems that underpin them. Best Practices for Replying Your replies should provide sympathy for the customer’s poor experience, and be personalised to each individual complaint. Customers can see right through “copy and paste” responses that fail to address the specific issue at hand, which can make them feel even angrier. If you are able to explain the causes for an issue and resolve it within your reply, leaving the customer feeling more positive about the situation (satisfied that their opinion has been read, understood, and any problems addressed as best as can be), then your brand image may not only be rescued in the eyes of that customer, but may also receive a boost when they and others see that you care enough to realise that a problem has occurred, are not too proud to own up to it, and are determined to make things right in future. On certain websites, the very act of a business replying to negative comments can shift such interactions further to the top of the list of reviews, and make your heartfelt effort at finding a resolution more visible. This is just one reason why choosing never to respond to negative online reviews is a bad idea, and can actually create more problems. What’s better? A brand who is seen to take responsibility for the upset felt by its customers (however much justified or not), or one that decides to pretend that the online opinions don’t matter, or that customers’ negative views aren’t valid, and to simply ignore what they say. It’s pretty obvious: attempting to sensitively explain why an issue occurred and what you want to do to try and make it right – whether that be inviting the customer to contact you directly to find out more information and discuss the issue personally, offering a freebie next time they visit, etc., is always the best option. Once an issue has been resolved, writing a follow-up reply underneath the original complaint stating how you solved the problem (and how happy you are that the customer is feeling positive again) can be very effective. Get Clued Up on Review Site Guidelines Keep in mind that different review sites have specific rules, many of which are important to consider in the context of replying to negative comments. For example, restrictions around sharing private information, a comment that has been posted by a competitor, etc. Being aware of these rules can save you a lot of time, not to mention trouble, if things were ever to get out of hand. Lastly, if you believe that a review is genuinely malicious, or breaks a site’s rules, you can contact the site and ask for it to be removed. This blog is inspired by our friends at Erply.
4 Super-Easy Content Marketing Ideas Creating and distributing compelling content is one of the most effective ways to market your business and increase sales. Businesses that do content marketing have conversion rates six times higher than competitors that don’t. And content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing, on average. But if you’re new to the whole thing, getting started can be daunting — especially when it comes to thinking of content marketing ideas you can easily produce. Here are four super-easy ways to rev up your content marketing program: 1. Start posting serialized content. If you’re finding you don’t have the time to go whole hog on your blog (ideally, you’d work up to posting three to five times a week), try doing a weekly, serialized post. The topic should be something that’s in your wheelhouse. That makes it as easy as possible for you to create the content — and as unique and compelling as possible for your readers. If you’re a specialty tea store, for example, try posting a “Plant of the Week” column every week, where you highlight a certain type of tea leaf and explain its flavor profile and health benefits. If you’re a clothing boutique, use recent photos of celebrity outfits along with similar items from your store. Don’t forget to promote your post on social media. With that in mind, make sure to include sharp, aesthetically pleasing visuals to accompany your content — especially when you’re posting on Instagram. 2. Publish a thought-leadership piece. If you’re viewed as a leader in your industry, more people trust you with their business. A great way to establish that expertise is to write and distribute a longer thought-leadership piece — something that gives your take on an important, trending issue. Make sure to post the piece across your social platforms, and especially on LinkedIn, which is a particularly effective venue for this type of content. It may also be worth pitching your idea to relevant press outlets as a contributed article. 3. Play up the seasons. Look to the seasons for inspiration. Holidays and changes in the weather provide natural opportunities to create fresh content around your brand. For spring cleaning, for example, a housecleaning service could write about “5 Sneaky Places Germs Are Hiding in Your Kitchen,” or a contractor might write about “Tell-Tale Signs Your House Needs Some Spring Maintenance.” Holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are some of the lowest-hanging content marketing fruit. 4. Send targeted email. Content marketing doesn’t just mean blog posts and social media (though that is a cornerstone). You should leverage your email marketing tool as well. You don’t want to spam your audience, so try sending a monthly email roundup of your best-performing blog content. (You can look to either your blog traffic or social media engagement numbers to figure this out.) Test a number of different subject lines to determine the formula that yields the best clickthrough and conversion rate. We hope these content marketing ideas get your juices flowing. But whatever strategy you decide to pursue, make sure you’re integrating touchpoints that drive sales (with call-to-action buttons like “sign up” or “order now” infused in the content) and increase brand awareness. This blog is inspired by our friends at Square.
5 Social Media Marketing Mistakes Almost Every Small Business Makes Sometimes it seems that as well as running a successful small business, entrepreneurs are also now expected to be digital marketing experts, savvy in the means and methods of attracting and engaging an audience through social media. The truth isn’t quite as harsh as described above, but when you do launch a brand on social media, being clued up enough to avoid the most commonly made and damaging mistakes is crucial. Let’s look at five of the biggest social media marketing blunders, and how to circumvent them. Generating consistent growth on social media takes a combination of time, patience, and a smart strategy. 1. Start Small and Grow Gradually So, launching out of the gate with a big budget advertising campaign might end in disaster, especially if your audience targeting is off the mark. Take time to cultivate an audience first, and if you do want to boost the reach of social media content with paid ads, start with a modest budget until you either have enough of an audience to promote to directly, or know exactly who your audience is – their desires, needs, and behaviours – and therefore who you want to target (ideally, both!) We touched on consistency in relation to social media marketing above, and it really is a point that cannot be ignored. Consistency in post frequency, branding, voice, tone, etc. builds trust and a sense of expectation amongst your online community, and ultimately a group of loyal and engaged fans whose participation you won’t need to have paid for. One of the best ways to ensure that your feed doesn’t dry up is to plan ahead with a detailed content calendar. As well as publishing content – pushing your message out there to the world – just as important for healthy growth on social media is interacting with your community through generating conversation, replying to comments, organising events, etc. People expect brands to act as they do on social media: personable, accessible and readily available – not just a faceless entity intent only on promoting its wares. Away from your own page, manually seeking out profiles with content that reflects your brand culture and message, and interacting with their posts is a time-intensive but often effective way of getting noticed. Done right, all of the above – a mixture of compelling content, community interaction, and a smattering of paid advertising – is a good foundation for building a healthy social media presence and cementing your brand’s positive online reputation. 2. Follow Your Audience and Keep an Eye on Trends Just like real life, different types of people tend to “hang out” in different places online. Where this depends on the nature of your target demographic – age, gender, location, education, etc. While Facebook is pretty much a definite go-to for most brands, the difference between the individuals who tend to frequent LinkedIn versus Snapchat, for example, is huge. The key takeaway here? Before you launch a social media strategy, take the time to educate yourself on where your audience already spends its time online, and concentrate your efforts there. Don’t waste time or money on trying to target an audience where they will be hardest to reach. And unless you have the resources to plow into multiple social channels all at once, starting with one or two sites and gradually building out if appropriate, is the way to go. Contrary to the above, if you spend all of your effort focusing on one platform entirely, you could also fall behind your rivals. The social media landscape is constantly changing and its users are, we’re sad to say, a fickle bunch. To cite one example, Facebook saw a considerable dip in the number of young people who frequent its site in recent – many jumped ship to Snapchat. And even more recently, with Instagram mirroring many of Snapchat’s top features, combined with Snapchat rolling out a much-maligned overhaul to the navigation of its app, many of those same users then ditched Snapchat for Instagram. So, keeping your ear to the ground to hear about the latest trends and developments in social media marketing will help to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve, following your customers wherever they go, and delivering the content they desire and fostering a community around it. And of course, being where your audience means that you can target them more effectively with paid ads. Fans passionate about food, fashion, and lifestyle? Chances are they’ve gravitated to Instagram or Pinterest. Got an audience of professionals? LinkedIn is where they’re at. 3. Research Rivals and Do Everything Better Spying on what the competition is up to on social media is an irresistible activity, but in actual fact, consistently monitoring their activity is a crucial strategy in bettering your own offering and growing your audience. Even if what they’re doing is great, simply transplanting what they do onto your own audience is not a flattering move, nor is it likely to be effective. Instead, pick out the parts of your rivals’ strategies that appear to be working best for them (there are lots of tools out there that will provide detailed analysis, but even a glance at a post’s likes, comments, shares, etc., is enough to give you a good inkling), and brainstorm to see how you can make something similar work for your brand, but also make it better: more irresistible and more engaging. Besides a focus on the competition, another great way to build brand awareness on social media is through a partnership with complementary businesses and brands. Let’s say you run a children’s hairdressers. How about partnering with the ice-cream parlor across the road to offer 15% off to people who visit for them for a treat after having their hair cut and tagging both businesses in a post on their profile? And working in the opposite direction, the ice-cream parlor might then give that person a voucher for