Basics of Social Media for Small Busiesses

Here’s a real basic tour of the wonderful and complicated world of social media.

What is social media?
Social media is any website or mobile phone function that allows you to share content and ideas with other people. Just think of it as a variety of methods for getting in touch with like minded people from all over the world.

What are the main social media sites?
The main (this is by no means a complete list) social media sites that you want to know about and possibly be active on include:

Your blog
Let me be really frank about this. Your blog is still your most important social media site. Some “experts” might disagree with this but it is your blog that forms the basis of all your other social media activities. More about this later.

Facebook – 845 million users
Facebook is not just personal profiles for sharing photos of your dinner with your uninterested friends. It is actually a hugely important way to get thousands of people interacting with your business online and offline. People can use GPS to “check in” at your business, share your Page with their friends and much more.

Twitter – 300 million users
If Facebook is for contacting friends, Twitter is for following people you wish you knew. It is a wonderful way to stay up to date with real-time news straight from the fingers of news reporters, celebrities, corporations and regular people. It is also extremely good for contacting other people in your industry.

Linkedin – 135 million users
This one is pretty much like an online resume. Not so important for small businesses unless you are scouting for some other work. It is, however, a huge force for people looking to network with others in a professional sense. Lawyers meeting lawyers, for example.

Youtube – 3 billion views per day
Yep, Youtube is social media. Its all about videos and providing quality content to people who are trying to learn more about what you do.
A great way to create viral buzz or increase customer loyalty.

Google+ – 62 million users
This is Google’s reply to fears that Facebook is taking over. Its all about integrating your online social media life with your search engine. You can add people to your circle of friends and then your search results change based on what those people recommend. You can now also have a business page.

All the rest
And then there are all the hundreds of others like Foursquare (location based check ins), Pinterest (collages and images), Flickr (photos), etc.

How To Use SEO Properly: Diversify

Sometimes I think that all the information necessary for success in life is contained in the classic nursery rhymes. You’ve heard the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Well it turns out the goose’s advice reigns just as true for digital marketers as it did the gatherers of old.

When it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO as it’s more commonly known, the biggest mistake digital marketers make is focusing solely on one tactic. “Blog, blog, blog!,” “We need links,” “The website, people!” In channeling all your efforts into one of these activities, you optimize that area only at the expense of all the others.

Why not diversify your tactics and reap the benefits of many methods? In doing so you’ll reach a larger audience, build a more complete brand, and save yourself from many monotonous afternoons engaged in the same SEO activity.

Here are some areas in which you should switch things up:

1. Your Blog

The casual nature of blog format lends itself well to variety. Your blog is the one place on your site where you can let loose a bit and showcase the personality of your brand. So rather than have a single writer contributing all articles in the standard 300 word paragraph form, spice things up a bit. Feature guest bloggers whenever possible and ask all employees to contribute posts on their areas of expertise. This way the personality of your blog will vary depending on the given writer.

Another way to add variety is by trying out different formats. Podcasts are a great choice when posting a demonstration. Infographics encourage interaction and are helpful in illustrating complex topics, and bulleted or numbered lists always make for easy reading.

2. Your Traffic Sources

Google is great, and if your site is properly optimized you can generate a lot of traffic through it. But even the king of SEO can’t solidify his company’s top place in the rankings. A competitor could suddenly churn out novels of content and climb ahead or a new agency enter the industry and knock you down a few places.

So while it’s important to optimize for search engines, it’s essential to seek out other sources of traffic. Make use of e-mail marketing as a quick and easy way to reach a large number of potential clients. Spend time on social media engaging potential clients, or go back to the basics and spread your company’s charm through word of mouth.

3. Your Links:

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the number of links your company has that affects its standing with search engines but the quality of these links. So if you have 50 links but they’re all coming from the same business (which just happens to owned and operated by your brother,) you need to look elsewhere.

The more relevant to your industry the site providing you a backlink is, the higher the quality of said link. So search for businesses providing similar services and share content with them. Use your clients as well. They know you, and clearly trust your business, so they’ll more than likely be willing to credit your company on their own site.

In making efforts to diversify, make sure you don’t spread yourself to thin. Blogging, link-building, and lead generating are useless without the proper resources to maintain them. This article from SEOMOZ will help aid you in adding variety to your SEO campaign.

If you’re interested in using social media to diversify your traffic sources, get started with a free social media marketing assessment.

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Viewing

In the age of “always on” and “on-the-go,” small business owners who haven’t thought about how their websites function on a mobile phone are in danger of being left behind. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners use their phones to go online, and 57 percent wouldn’t recommend a website they had trouble accessing on their phone.

So, how can you optimize your website for mobile browsing without the hassle and cost of a developer or engineer? We’ve compiled some helpful tips and guidelines in the infographic below. Just click to enlarge!

Intuit Optimize Mobile Website

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Deep Dive into SEO Implementation [INFOGRAPHIC]

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

 

10 Things Customers Want on a Website

Want to make your small business look big? Here’s what customers are looking for when they visit

So you want your website to make you look big. But the business experts I talked to recently say small is cool with customers, too. Small businesses, they say, have a personality, flavor and sensibility that big businesses can’t match. And when it comes to what you put on your website, they urge: Don’t be afraid to tout your smallness.

“Small businesses can have more fun with their sites, more so than large corporations,” says Alice Bredin, president of Bredin Business Information, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, company that helps large business-to-business companies market themselves to small businesses. “A small-business site needs to include something that reflects the creativity and personality of its owner.”

Maybe you’re a couple working side-by-side in a spare bedroom or a fourth-generation entrepreneur working to someday hand it over to a son or daughter. Maybe you’re putting yourself through grad school. Or you operate from a remote site in the hinterlands and you use only recycled materials. Presented well on a home page and/or an “About Us” section, all of these may have unique selling points to customers.

“People want character; it has meaning,” adds Kelly Cutler, chief executive of Marcel Media, a Chicago-based Web advisory firm. “How folksy you get depends on your industry.” An attorney may not want to project an image of him or her working on a leather sofa with a dog curled up nearby. But that may work well for an artist or craftsperson, even an architect, Cutler and others say.

Whatever your industry, “Tell your story online,” Cutler says. Customers want to know who you are and, if you lead a team, who is on it and what they do. “You must talk about the team,” Bredin seconds. “When there is nothing [on your site] about who you are or who’s on your team, people wonder about whether you are a good company to buy from.”

Here are the 10 most important things these experts say customers want to know:

  1. How your business is unique
    Answer the question “Who are you?” as interestingly and compellingly (and honestly) as possible. This includes writing management bios that mention your expertise, years of experience and any unique attributes or details that may set you apart from others.You need to answer, Bredin says, “What is unique about your business? Why should I buy from you?” This is missing from many business sites because the owners haven’t done the strategic thinking necessary to figure that out, she says.

    Be concise, too, Cutler adds. “You don’t need to write a novel.”

  2. A clear sense of what your company offers
    “It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you’re not sure what the company offers,” Bredin says. Make it a priority on your home page to provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page.Many service-oriented companies, Cutler says, are concerned about divulging too much information about their offerings, for competitive reasons. Some also feel that consumers will have no reason to contact them by phone if they get all they need from the website. “There’s a balance that needs to be reached” in giving the potential customer enough info to make a buying decision, she says. More often than not, consumers will not contact a company for the missing product information–they’ll just move on to a competitor.
  3. Contact information, including a phone number and physical location
    This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are purposely vague about their location. Some prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. Others are home-based or they worry that giving a street address or hometown will somehow hinder them.”This is a must, and it’s one small way of building credibility and trust” with the consumer, says Wayne Porter, co-founder of ReveNews, an online marketing publication, and former senior director of research at FaceTime, a business security solutions provider. “A phone number, a street address and even pictures go a long way toward building credibility.”

    Showing a physical location, even one that no one will ever visit, comforts a customer that your business is real and legitimate, Bredin says. Provide a phone number that maps to that location, rather than just an 800 number, she advises.

  4. Third-party validation
    This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers indeed want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences. Such items “forge the underpinnings of trust,” Porter says.Client lists are especially important if your customers are businesses. “If you’ve got some big-name customers, people like to see that,” Cutler says. But make sure you get approval from those you list as clients, she adds.

    Porter adds that having a presence on social networking sites and blogs, especially those serving your industry, is an increasingly popular form of validation among customers. “Social networking now has strong validation,” he says.

  5. Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
    SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL if you don’t have it. If you do, let customers know that and about any other safeguards you proactively take.
  6. Ease of use and navigation
    If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Porter advises keeping sites “crisp, clean, and easy to navigate,” but also for site owners to study traffic and usage patterns to adjust their sites based on what visitors are coming for. “The ability to search a site is very important,” he says. “Businesses should study their search data to see if there are trends and what to make front and center.”
  7. Clear guidance on your processes
    Let customers know, step-by-step, important things such as how to order–and where to go and what to do should something happen out of the ordinary. Customers also want to know your shipping costs and procedures and how they can get status reports. (Don’t list your shipping costs and procedures after people enter their credit card information, Cutler urges.) Last but not least, customers want to know how you handle complaints and problems, return procedures and whether you have a money-back guarantee.Your processes can be described in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page or separate “how to order,” shipping and/or confirmation pages. Include a way customers can contact your business or fulfillment agency for more information.
  8. An ability to give feedback
    Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism–either feedback forms or e-mail links. Not every small business prefers to offer this, in some cases because of resource constraints. “You definitely want to look at how and what feedback to gather, and you should consider offering an incentive or perk [to the customer],” Porter says. “You might get some good stories to feature on your site or in your blog.”
  9. Clear calls to action
    Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information.” But many small-business sites don’t provide calls to action or they don’t present them clearly enough, Cutler says. “This is one of the biggest things that nags me,” she says. “If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!”
  10. Special offers and personalization
    By personalizing a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on their bigger counterparts, Porter says. “This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.”Having a personalized touch,” he says, “is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.”

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Why Is SEO So Expensive?

At WittyCookie, we preach that the “findability” of a website is a critical element of a successful website - you MUST factor in effort and budget to make your website “findable”. For many websites, Search Engine Optimization is one of the most effective strategies for getting visitors to a website.  But people keep asking me why it’s so expensive.  Here’s why.

Here at WittyCookie a basic SEO campaign starts at $250 per month, so our small business clients need to budget at least $1,000 to see significant results.  Some clients are shocked when they hear this (even though they are paying $1500 a month for a yellow pages ad, hmmmm…..), but most times when I explain why, they get it.  Consider these points:

1) SEO Takes Expertise.  Did you know that so far in 2012, Google has changed it’s website ranking algorithms 34 times?  And as of this writing, we still have over a month left in 2012.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this website:  http://www.seomoz.org/google-algorithm-change It truly is a full time job to stay on top of these changes, to determine what, if any impact they have on the websites we build, then to make the changes to the website if needed.  The tools needed to monitor a website’s ranking and how well it’s performing for various keyword and key phrase combinations are sophisticated and also change based on the dymanics of search engine systems.   Our search engine optimization team spends many hours a month just learning about changes in the search engine optimization world.  In addition, they have to understand the technicalities and structure of how a website is built so that can make changes to that website to enhance its “onsite factors”.

2) SEO Takes Time.  Because of the sheer number of websites that yours is competing against on the search engines, it can take months to see results.  This is especially true for a brand new website that has no search engine “equity” at all – you’re competing against websites that have longevity and traffic, both significant factors in determining a website’s ranking.  With a new website, it can easily take 6 to 12 months to see results as your website claws and climbs above others above it in the rankings. During this 6 to 12 months, you have to be actively promoting your website to the search engines and making changes based on #1 above.

3) SEO Is Competitive.  Try a Google search for “vancouver website design”.  I just did and Google told me that there are 70,300,000 pages in its index for that phrase.  I want to be on page one for that search term, and there are only 10 search results per page with Google, so you can see that there is a LOT of websites competing against me to get onto page one (WittyCookie is #1 on page 1 of Google for that phrase by the way ;-).  Keep in mind, too, that the other businesses competing for a particular search word or phrase are not sitting still with their SEO efforts either.  The really good websites are trying hard to climb above you, so you can’t just “set it and forget it” when it comes to making your site rank higher.  You have to constantly monitor and respond with changes to keep your website ranked above your competitors.  We “eat our own dogfood” in this regard – that is, we follow our own advice for marketing our own website through the search engines.  We have top rankings for virtually all the keywords that people use to find a website design company through the search engines.

4) SEO Is Geographically Oriented.  Your target geography is a significant factor in how much effort it takes for a high ranking for a particular search term.   For example, in #3 above I did a search for “colorado springs website design” that found 3,210,000 pages.  A search for “website design” (without the geographical modifier) yielded 1,100,000,000 pages (yes – that’s over one BILLION results).  The point is that if you’re trying to target a larger geography through search engines, the amount of work will be significantly greater.

As you can surmise, all of these factors combine to make SEO very time consuming and potentially very costly.  But, it can yield a significant Return OInvestment – something we watch carefully for our clients.    With SEO we can track the results and determine whether or not it’s creating a positive ROI.  Can you do that with your yellow pages advertising?  Your radio or TV advertising?  Probably not every accurately.    I used to lease space from an ad agency, and I overheard one of the ad execs say once, “half of our advertising is very effective, problem is, we’re not sure which half”.  We don’t have this problem with Search Engine Marketing – we track it all and can determine, very accurately, what’s working and what’s not.   But it takes expertise and time to see results.

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

The Most Tried and Failed Small Businesses [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

small business dashThe U.S. thrives based on the millions of jobs created by small business owners. Although these small businesses play such a vital role in our economy, a huge amount of risk surrounds new ventures that makes most prospective entrepreneurs hesitant to jump on board for just any promising idea.

Nearly 95 percent of new ventures will close within the first five years of operation. Essentially, these owners lack the business acumen that is all but required in today’s business environment for success and longevity. Having knowledge of how to successfully and efficiently market your product can take you a long way in your industry, so keep the tips provided in this infographic, like starting small and knowing your market, in mind when you hammer out your strategy for success.

Shareable Facts and Stats

  • 40% of small businesses are profitable. 
  • 95% of new ventures fail within the first 5 years. 

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.