Posted on January 1, 2015 by Webfor By The Webfor Team Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.” – Charles Kettering 2015 is here! Whether last year was the best year yet or an unending series of challenges (let’s get real here – probably both), today is the first day of a fresh, new slate for you and your business. Running your own company is no cake walk; it takes diligence, integrity, passion, and a strong support network. In order to help you get a leg up on the competition right from the beginning, our team has compiled our best tips yet for refreshing your online marketing strategy, everything from design ideas to Google’s content preferences to social media tips. Here’s the best of what we’ve learned over the years, all in one place, just for you. Happy 2015! 1. Find Your Social Media Voice – Sara Thompson Ready to make a splash on social media in 2015? We all want to increase our page likes and inspire people to share our content, but it’s not as easy as some brands make it look. If you’re getting a bit frustrated with social media, your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus pages might be starting to look more like a glorified RSS feed (Hey, check out this link! Here’s another link!! Please, click on this LINK!!). And if that’s that case, you could change everything by taking a step back and making a vow to keep it real. The first step in becoming more authentic on social media is to define your brand voice. Doing this will also be a huge help if you’re struggling with your website or blog content. So, what is a “brand voice?” Basically, it’s your business’s personality and the way you choose to express it. Are you innovative and inspiring like Apple? Adventuresome like Red Bull? The trick is to dig deep and find the adjectives (or any words, really) that perfectly describe your company. Whilst digging, consider your office culture, your core values, and your ideals. Also, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in your sense of humor. When it comes to being social, laughs go a long way. For more tips on finding your social media voice, check out The Best Examples, Questions, and Guides to Find Your Social Media Marketing Voice by Kevan Lee on the Fast Company Blog. Once you’ve got your brand voice nailed down, keep those words in mind every time you write a post. Instead of posting another industry-related article, maybe go with a photo that captures one of those adjectives, and tell the world a (short) story. Give your audience a glimpse into why you do what you do, not just what you do. Also – and this is a big one – make an effort to mingle! The world of social media has more than enough wall flowers, so if there are other businesses on Twitter or Facebook that you know and like, or even partner with in the real world, mention them in a post and get a conversation started. When you actually communicate with other social media users, it shows your audience that there is, in fact, a real person behind the curtain. By expressing a unique brand voice, you’re giving your followers something to relate to and connect with, which one of the best ways to inspire brand loyalty and keeping them coming back. Cheers to keeping it real in 2015! 2. Don’t Neglect Inbound Marketing – Jason Knapfel New Year’s resolutions are usually about personal development. Try something new. Why not take the opportunity to reevaluate your business practices? One business resolution you can make for 2015 is to stop neglecting your website and its power to increase your bottom line. Too many people have the mindset that they need to have a website built, and that’s the end of the story. But that’s just the beginning. Your website shouldn’t just be a pretty face. It should be a proactive force that works on your behalf, rather than the online equivalent of an elite athlete who trains to be in peak condition, yet never actually takes part in the competition. Once your website is built for success, you should continually update your site with useful content and think of other ways to utilize it. If done properly, these steps will help to increase your ROI. Don’t take my word for it, here’s what various studies have found: – A 2013 HubSpot ROI Report found that about 93 percent of companies that use inbound marketing see an increase traffic and lead generation, with blogging being considered the best method. – Customers who get email newsletters spend 82 percent more when they make purchases from the company sending the email. – Inbound marketing costs 62 percent less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. If you’re unsure about where to allocate your marketing budget, don’t forget content marketing and other inbound marketing strategies in 2015. 3. Embrace Change – Chelsea Terris Times they are (always) a’ changin’, and with change comes new opportunities, as well as the realization that tried-and-true strategies that succeeded for years no longer work. Online marketing is an industry in which change is the standard, not the exception. Every day seems to bring a new tech update, a new Google algorithm, or a new user experience standard. While these changes can feel stressful for the business owner who just wants to get it right, the best choice you can make is to ride the wave and choose to work with qualified, talented individuals who can help you upgrade in ways that will transport your business to the next level. The New Year is the a wonderful time to reassess your goals and come up with new plans. How can you stay current and keep moving in 2015? (Strongly) Consider mobile: One of the simplest ways to make your website appealing to all is to make sure everyone – on every device – can use it. An expert design company can help by creating a mobile or responsive site that looks and operates optimally on smartphones, tablets, and desktops alike. Google favors mobile-friendly sites, so if for no other reason, do it for your ranking. Review your NAP: With the local focus of Google’s recent pidgeon update, having your correct Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) featured across the web has never been more important. Changed your address? Rebranded your company with a new name? Added or altered your phone number? Any of these events can alter your NAP in ways that make it difficult for potential clients to find you – and even harder for Google to rank your site well. An experienced SEO can help you clear up any issues and develop a consistent profile across the web. Remain strategy-flexible: Marketing techniques that once worked for your business may no longer be effective. A mix of content, social media, and NAP clean-up works best for most, but the percentage of each depends largely on your business goals and needs, which can and do change over time. Evaluating old strategies for effectiveness and remaining open to new ones is essential to business growth. Identify your ideal customer: Marketing strategy does very little unless you are clear on who you are marketing to. Take an hour to imagine 2-3 individuals who would choose and benefit from your services, and jot down notes about their personality traits, socioeconomic status, and how they might encounter your services. Doing so helps to clarify how to best appeal to your most receptive potential customers, saving you time and resources. Happy user = healthy business: As any longtime business owner knows, keeping the customer happy is your number one priority. Luckily, Google’s ranking strategy fully supports this effort by boosting businesses that provide an exceptional user experience. Site load time, navigability, mobile-friendliness, and depth of content all factor into Google’s assessment of your site, and, simultaneously, affect your conversion rates. The takeaway? Investing in and maintaining a site that is usable and pleasing to your target client is good for your ranking. Happy customers truly do equal a healthy business. Finally, stay honest: Marketing is not about manipulation. Instead, it is a way to share what your business does and how it can be of value to those who are receptive to your message. Strategy is not, and has never been, synonymous with “trick” or “secretive stunt.” Good strategy, rather, includes a series of steps that, when taken, achieve a desired result. Marketing strategy channels your messaging to the right people, people who want and/or need what you have to offer. That’s a high-integrity endeavor, leaving no room for underhanded dealings. Commit to building honesty, transparency, and fairness into your business model and to working with a company that aligns with these values. Success can’t help but follow. As the saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ve get what you’ve always gotten.” This year, try something new, and get ready for the progress you and your business deserve. 4. Develop a Comprehensive Integrated Online Marketing Strategy Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are crucial to the livelihood of millions of small businesses. It’s important that you understand that these search engines are constantly changing and improving how they analyze, categorize and return search results to users. You have to constantly be on top of these changes as Google alone makes around 500-600 changes to their algorithm each year. In addition to search engines you have various social media platforms, pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, geo-fencing and the list goes on. For many business it can be challenging to keep on top of all of this, but I challenge you to make this your year. Whether you build an internal marketing team (If you’re a Fortune 1000 you’d probably go this route) or partner with an agency like ours (Most businesses fall in this category because the cost to build an integrated marketing team in-house is prohibitive), make it your goal to develop a comprehensive integrated online marketing strategy. Developing an integrated online marketing strategy addressing all the different internet marketing channels and how they will work together to help your potential customers discover you and do business with you will not only help you win more customers, but will also improve your companies revenue, profit and even your standing in the community. We know we make it happen all the time. Take action today to move in the right direction. You can download our SEO 101 White Paper or the Social Media Strategy Worksheet, or if you’re interested contact us to receive a free initial consultation. Whatever you do… do it today! 5. Make Sure Your Site Answers Your User’s “What?”, “Where?”, “Why?”, and “How?” Questions – Michael Rough The ever increasing emphasis on quality content over quantity by Google and Facebook has shifted the strategy of site content development from a blast radius approach to a defined laser focus. Gone are the days where the mere mention of phrases on a multitude of pages you want to rank for will suffice. Todays site development strategy requires a clear definition of the target audience, their content expectations, and a logical presentation that engages and satisfies. An evolved site content development plan includes the creation of user personas, keyword theme research and an overall site linking architecture that connects themes and subthemes together to create a seamless experience for users entering at varying points within the established content path. This path should help users find answers to their questions, thus creating a positive user experience that encourages users to convert. By creating an informative environment in which your user gets the answers he or she seeks, you enhance both onsite experience and, at the same time, your ranking. 6. Find Your “YES!” Jo Lynn Barnicoat Whatever your business; whether you’re selling products or services, an idea or a political perspective – your favorite answer is Yes! Salespeople LIVE for this word. Business owners LOVE the nod of agreement (from customers and employees). We ALL love to be heard and agreed with – it’s human nature! So, how do you go about getting that nod of agreement when you can’t always physically be in front of someone? Electronic communication is the next best thing! It all starts with your Website – it’s your digital curb appeal when someone is looking for information, a product or a service. All too often business owners see websites as a necessary evil – rather than the interactive tool of engagement they can truly be. How your website looks and works, or the user experience (which includes visual appeal, photos, modern site, responsiveness, load speed), will help determine in the first three seconds if someone will continue to stay on your site. Encouraging a potential client to read more now depends on quality of content, action statements and ease of contact. Do you have unique, expressive, detailed and easy-to-read information? Are you inviting them to contact you by phone or email? Are you available to your clients? Do you have a live person answering the phone? If users fill out a contact form, do you have a standard timeframe within which you promise to get back to them? At Webfor, for instance, we strive to contact our customer within fifteen minutes of receiving a request for information! How Can I Help? Once you’ve actually reached someone via phone or email, the next step is to find out what they are looking for and if you can help them. Qualifying your potential client for what you offer and making sure you and your business are a good fit for what they need takes clear communication, clarifying questions and a willingness to help. Again, moving both you and the customer closer to that “Yes” is the goal! Once there is an exchange of information, the potential client can make the decision to move forward and complete the biggest “Yes” of all – making a purchase. But don’t stop there! “Yes” is not a one-time umbrella statement. Creating a “Yes” environment involves nurturing your relationship with that client, continuing to serve in any way you can. A “Yes, I’m happy with my decision”, “Yes, your customer service is the very best”, “Yes, I will gladly refer you to anyone I know of that needs your services!” By communicating clearly and honestly with your future clients, you can make 2015 the Year of the Yes! 7. Try Out Hot Conversion Strategies for Desktop and Mobile Websites – Jason Wright Mobile, oh mobile. Where to begin!? To all ya’ll business owners out there, if you don’t have a mobile website yet, then you are already missing out on opportunities to maximize your existing site visitors. Period. Just a few years ago, SEOs were talking about how mobile was going to overtake desktop searches one day. Well guess what, that day is here! If you don’t have a mobile website, you’re missing out on business. Plain and simple. What good does 1,000,000 organic visits do you if you can’t convert? Stop thinking about how many people are getting to your site and start thinking about how much of your current traffic you’re converting. Don’t get stuck thinking that more visitors = more money. In most cases, it doesn’t. Follow these three hot tips to stay ahead of the pack: Don’t Be Complacent: Avoid getting stuck in the “one and done” mindset. Your website is a living, growing, thing. It needs tended to. It needs love. Take chances and test site changes until you’ve found solutions that work. Continue Education: Keep educating yourself on what’s new in the industry. Use Google Analytics, Google Trends and heat mapping software to understand how visitors are interacting with your site. Invest In Your Website: Continue to build out site content on a regular basis. This could be in the form of new images, text or other materials. Use ads and other strategies to build an audience. Congratulations, you made it this far without passing out, and just in time! Let’s throwdown the ten gallon bag of goodies, a conversion optimization checklist that applies to both mobile and desktop sites: Call-to-Action Your website has a clear (single) call-to-action. Action is completely visible and draws your attention (use color). Leads to exactly what the button or visual references and does not require too many steps to complete. Located in the top right (desktop) or top center (mobile). If your CTA leads to a form, the form properly sends and redirects to a thank you page or message. NOTE: Sooooo many websites have broken forms. Don’t be one of those poor souls who hasn’t received a lead in three months because, unknown to you, your form stopped working. Proper Use of Real Estate Do not clutter your home page or other pages of your website. Following this tip will better prepare your site for mobile devices. Make sure users can find what they’re looking for easily. Your website navigation should be simple and easy to use. Your desktop site shouldn’t have 900,000 different navigation items. Look at your site architecture from a high level and organize the data into logical categories. Your mobile site should use something similar to the “hamburger” menu usually seen as three lines together on the left or right of a mobile website. This object is more widely used today than before and has been adopted by some of the largest companies/brands in the world. Use website forms effectively AND efficiently. Using a website form that contains more than ten fields is a stretch. Your goal is to capture your audience and convert them by way of your internal sales process. Place more important service information or other details higher on the page. Your users may scroll through an entire page on your website, but don’t count on it. Stunning Visuals to Boost Appeal Move away from stock photography. Businesses in your industry are slowly upping their game by hiring photographers to come out and take some shots of completed projects, employees conducting services, client interactions and more. Implement visuals and a site design that’s going to work for the next few years instead of sticking to what you like or what you think works. You might be an expert surgeon, but that doesn’t make you an online marketer. It DOES, however, mean that you know your business and clients best. A digital marketing agency can fill in the gaps between what you know about your industry and what an agency knows about design, development, and site optimization. Less is more. Stick with a font style, layout and color theme throughout your website. Don’t be that business that’s highlighting text purple and red so that it stands out more. A simple bolded line on a light background can make all the difference. There’s more to say about mobile and desktop conversion rate optimization, but for now, think about the tips and information above. Put your website to the test and get it where it needs to be so you can start turning visitors into buyers. 8. OPEN YOUR EYES – Wes Button The web is going even more visual, which at times can be at odds with traditional SEO best practices. Beautiful, relevant photography (or better yet, video) are going to play an even bigger part in the web going forward. This trend lends itself to sites with more concise content that directs users exactly where they need to go. From a design standpoint, you’ll want to make your case quickly and be concise enough to avoid walls of text (in 2015, a “wall” would be a large paragraph). With this change, typography becomes even more important. However, Google doesn’t see the web that way — so coming with with creative ways to present 300-400 words of content on a page will be a design challenge this year. Flat, But Not Too Flat While flat design exploded at the end of 2013 and into 2014, we’ll expect to see semi-flat design grow into a bigger trend in 2015. Great examples of this include Apple’s iOS or Google’s Material Design guidelines. Flat, simple shapes accented with subtle highlights, texture, or gradients will be more commonplace. Mobile First (No, Really) Responsive isn’t even a question anymore. Where at one point this could have been a decision to make with a new design, with mobile traffic globally eclipsing desktop traffic we’ll start to think about how a site looks on mobile first and let that expand out to a desktop. Scrolling is the New Clicking Along that same vein, with mobile traffic now eclipsing desktop traffic, we’ll see a move more towards scrolling or swiping to see more content, rather than clicking or tapping into subpages. Again, this is another area in which UX and design are at odds with the way Google sees the web, so don’t expect new sites to be entirely one-page designs. Do expect to see more information presented in a long-page format with easy-to-identify sections or headings. Take a Card Card design will continue to evolve. Google+ and Pinterest pioneered card design, its a great way to keep things modular and very simple to see how a site can grow to expand a larger display. Your Business Is Not One Size Fits All Finally, with the rise of DIY website tools like Squarespace and Wix, it’s more important than ever to invest in custom, WordPress-based web designs that set your business apart. WordPress-driven sites can be fully modified, with additional functionality available through thousands of plugins, making them incredibly easy for non-technical users to edit and add content to. If you’ve never given much thought to the look of your website, 2015 is the year to get started! Wrapping It Up As you can see, the more you invest in the details of your online marketing plan, the better your results will be! Commit to making necessary updates this year, and you will see results. Have questions? Be bold – reach out! We would love to discuss any of the above – and more – with you! Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!