If our current websites are up and running – even if they’re not perfect – we put off redesigning them because we think it’s not a priority.
Spoiler alert: it should always be a priority.
Having an out-of-date website can erode trust with your existing customers and make it difficult to attract new ones.
Does your site need a facelift in 2019? Here are 10 sure-fire signs that it does.
#1: It’s Not Mobile Responsive
I know you probably think I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but mobile responsiveness is no longer an option in 2019. It’s a necessity.
Google penalizes sites that don’t adjust to the size of the device they’re being viewed on. And the truth is, this is an easy fix. There’s no excuse not to do it – and it can actively hurt you if you don’t.
#2: Your Site Is Difficult to Update
You might use the difficulty of updating as an excuse NOT to update, but in fact, it’s a clear sign that you must update – and right away. It’s the best way to be sure you can stay on top of future Google updates and technological improvements.
Updating from whatever it is you have now to a WordPress site where you can easily change your theme and add plugins as needed will make your life easier in the long run.
#3: It Looks Outdated
There are lots of little things that can make a website look out of date. For example, which version of the Twitter and Instagram logos do you have on your blog or homepage? If your Twitter logo has the old bird with the tuft of feathers on its head, your site may look like it’s from the dark ages.
Trends in web design are constantly changing. If your site looks like it was designed in the early 2000s (or even the early 2010s) then it’s time to embrace the present and update it.
#4: Your Conversion Rate is Too Low
There are lots of factors that can contribute to a low conversion rate, including your social media presence and marketing strategy. However, there’s no question that your website – its design, loading time, usability, and other factors – plays a role.
It’s an especially good sign that your site needs updating if you’ve tweaked your marketing campaigns and you’ve still got a low conversion rate. Something’s scaring potential customers away – and if it’s your website, there’s only one way to fix it.
#5: You’ve Got Autoplay on Your Website
Autoplay is dated and annoying, but there’s a more important reason that you need to ditch it in 2019 as part of your website redesign. It is very likely contributing to a slow page load time. I get that you were probably eager to have people watch your video or listen to your audio at the time of your LAST redesign, but it’s time for a change.
Honestly, I think the irritation level of autoplay far outweighs any potential benefit. You’re much better off putting your video above the fold with a killer thumbnail and a compelling pull quote than you are autoplaying it.
#6: Your Branding Isn’t Current
Have you rebranded your business since the last time you updated your website? If so, that means that your website is out of sync with your branding – and visitors aren’t getting a true picture of you and your company when they visit it.
Even if your branding changes are minor – such as an updated logo or tagline – it’s still worth redoing your website to match it.
#7: It Takes Forever to Load
You’ve probably heard the statistic that says that human beings have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. It sounds absurd, but when it comes to how quickly a site loads, it’s true.
Not only that, but Google penalizes sites that take too long to load. You can use their Page Speed tool to check your site’s loading time.
#8: Your Web Design Isn’t Consistent
Perhaps your last web redesign was ten years ago and in the interim, you had a different designer make a few tweaks to the design. Maybe you even did a bit of programming yourself. If that’s the case, you may have a Frankensite that looks like it was assembled by committee – not a good thing.
If your fonts, colors, menus, and other design elements are a hodgepodge and not consistent throughout, a redesign can help you present a cohesive design that will attract new customers instead of frightening them.
#9: Your Google Rank is Too Low
Google prioritizes well-designed, quick-loading sites with great content. If it’s been a while since your last redesign, the chances are good that your site isn’t ranked as high as it could be on Google.
It’s an especially big red flag if your ranking has slipped despite increased social media visibility and a higher-than-usual marketing budget. Don’t ignore Google’s response to your site. It’s not going to get better if you wait to update it.
#10: It Just Doesn’t Look Good
This last one might seem obvious and unnecessary, but I’m including it because a whopping 48% of consumers say that a company’s website is the most important factor in determining credibility. In other words, an ugly or poorly designed site can scare potential leads away.
If that’s not enough to scare you into updating your site, I don’t know what is!
It’s time to give your website a new look…
If any of the ten things on this list sound familiar, don’t wait. 2019 is the perfect time to update your site and take advantage of increased conversions, an improvement in your Google rank and – most importantly – more profits!
So, with that in mind, here are the biggest SEO trends of 2019 as I see them – and some tips about how to use them to your advantage.
I’m starting with a big one that many small and medium-sized companies are still ignoring. Voice search isn’t going anywhere – and in fact, it’s going to become increasingly important in 2019.
Why? Because pretty much all of us are using voice search in some way. Whether you’re starting a mobile search by saying “OK Google” or calling on Alexa, Cortana, or Siri to help you find what you need, you’re using voice search. And, estimates are that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by next year.
And guess what? That means your customers are too. One of the best ways to capitalize on this trend is to optimize your site with voice search in mind. That means incorporating common questions into your content – because your customers are asking questions and your website should answer them.
Google’s mobile-first indexing is still relatively new, but only a fool would believe that it won’t increase in importance in 2019. Right now, about 60% of all searches are mobile – and that number’s only going to go up.
How do you take advantage of this trend? First, make sure your site is mobile responsive. Honestly, at this point there’s no excuse for it not to be. Next, think about how your site’s design will impact mobile users. You want a clean design that’s easy to use. That means single column next, right-sized buttons, and other mobile features like direct dialing.
You may also want to think about accepting mobile payments in your store, if you have one. The idea is to make it easy for mobile customers to patronize your business.
SEO is in an interesting place right now. We’re still heavily mobile-dependent, but the increase in voice searches and use of artificial intelligence means that we all need to be thinking about how our websites can be easy to access as AI increases in importance.
One way to do that is to use Schema and other structures to organize your data. Things like information architecture, tags, metadata, and structured mark-up can all help ensure that your site is easy to crawl and index.
I know that all sounds very technical, but an experienced SEO can help you navigate the tech requirements while still providing a site that’s user-friendly, readable, and engaging.
Brand as a Ranking Signal
SEO is no longer just about what’s on your website. It’s also about how people are talking about you on social media sites and other places online – and those brand mentions are now having a big impact on how Google perceives your company.
If you’re not already tracking your social mentions, now is the time to start doing it. Following other brands on social media will reveal that some of them are responding when people mention them – and they’re making a big impact doing it. Even a word of encouragement or a quick joke can make a huge difference in how people think of you. Awario is a great tool for tracking your mentions.
Focus on Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
The big trio of online impact is E-A-T – Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Technically, E-A-T isn’t part of Google’s algorithm, but it is a guideline for Google’s algorithm raters. That means that you can’t afford to ignore it.
What you can do to offer E-A-T to your site’s visitors is provide content that’s:
You can demonstrate E-A-T by creating a system of internal links to help visitors to your site navigate the information that’s available and easily find content that’s related to what they’re viewing.
Speed is another topic you may think I’ve covered too much – but when I repeat myself, it’s only because I know how important it is and I want to make sure that you’re not overlooking something that can have a huge impact on your SEO.
There’s no such thing as a website that loads too quickly. All web users are impatient and mobile users are more impatient than most. Very few are going to wait longer than five or six seconds for your site to load. Anything that might be slowing your site down needs to go. That means:
Riding the Waves and Staying on Top.
What’s going to keep you riding high in 2019 is knowing which waves matter in the world of SEO. The six things I’ve identified here are the ones that are going to make the biggest impact this year – and that means they’re the things that will help you rise above the competition and make 2019 your best year ever.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some potential downsides to using AI. The most natural application of the technology for small business owners is a chatbot that can augment and improve your customer service. That means the bot would be interacting directly with your customers.
Scary? Maybe a little. But there are some serious benefits to using AI to go along with the risks. It’s important for you to understand both, so you can make an informed decision about whether AI is a worthwhile investment for your business.
The Pros of AI
Let’s start with the good news. Finding ways to have artificial intelligence interact directly with your customers can offer you some big rewards. Here’s what you need to know.
No Holidays or Time Off
The first plus of using AI for customer service is that AI isn’t human. That means it doesn’t need time off. It can be available to your customers around the clock, 365 days a year. If a customer needs help, your chatbot or virtual assistant can be there to offer it.
In the long run, you can save money on customer service because a chatbot can be programmed to handle a high volume of incoming requests and you won’t need to pay it a salary or benefits.
No Human Error
Another big benefit of incorporating AI into your customer service is that it can, if programmed properly, eliminate human error and make your customer interactions completely consistent across the board. That means no more flustered employees or inaccurate responses.
Even the best employee can be forgetful or have a bad day. A chatbot won’t have a bad day because they’re not programmed to have one. You can be sure that every customer who uses your chatbot will get the same professional, accurate information, every time.
Arguably the biggest positive associated with using artificial intelligence is that it can help you collect accurate and actionable data from your customers in real time. Since traditional customer research can take a huge amount of time, this is a huge plus and one that you can definitely use to your advantage.
You can learn which issues are causing trouble for your customers, which products they like the most, and at what times they’re most likely to buy from you. You can also use the data you collect to improve the programming of your chatbots and make your customer service even better than it already is.
What’s your brand’s personality? Whether you’re formal or casual, funny or low-key, you can program your AI solutions with the language and personality that fits your brand. Since it can be difficult to screen employees and figure out how they’ll cope in a high-pressure situation, chatbots can be a good way to even things out.
The beauty of AI programming is that you can build variety and personality in with the right scriptwriters and programmers. You might not be able to imagine a chatbot with personality, but I also think you’ll be surprised by how much can be done with good programming.
These benefits are no joke. If you properly design and program your chatbots, they can help you elevate your customer service, build loyalty, and increase sales.
The Cons of AI
The pros are undeniable, but what are the downsides of having AI interact with your customers? There are several, and not surprisingly, they correlate with the pros I’ve already mentioned.
Round the Clock Monitoring
The first potential downside is related to the 24/7 nature of chatbots. A chatbot, even a well-programmed one, can’t handle ever potential customer problem. In fact, part of proper chatbot programming is making sure that the bot knows when and how to get human assistance.
Reading between the lines, then, there’s a need to have a human agent on call to back up the chatbot. That means that you’ll still need some human support and people who are willing to be on call even after hours.
Lack of Improvisation
Chatbot programming can do a lot – but it can’t do everything. In fact, one of the biggest downsides of using AI for customer service is that AI can’t improvise. It can only do what it’s been programmed to do.
In nine out of ten cases, that’s probably going to be fine. But what happens if a customer isn’t fluent in English or asks a question in a way that’s unfamiliar to the bot? You’ve got to be prepared for the likelihood that some customers, some of the time, will find dealing with a bot to be frustrating.
I already told you that AI can collect data and that can be a huge benefit. But, of course, any time you collect data you’ve also got to store data – and that can leave you vulnerable to hacking.
This isn’t really a downside so much as it is a warning. If you are going to use chatbots for your business, make sure to take appropriate security measures and use encryption to protect your valuable data.
The final potential downside is the sort of worst-case scenario that we all think of when we think of AI. It’s that a bad actor could find a way to manipulate your chatbots or virtual agents to make them work in a way that is contrary to your interests.
Some manipulations may be relatively harmless, but the danger is that, since chatbots use machine learning to improve their performance, they may pick up bad habits from some users. You’ll need to be prepared to be on the lookout for problems and correct them immediately.
You’re not hiring HAL…
Using AI to interact with customers can do a great deal to help your business grow. The key is to put yourself in a position to reap the benefits while also protecting yourself from the potential downsides associated with AI.
And, if you’ve been ignoring all trends in favor of the tried and true, then guess what? 2019 is the year to shake things up.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to jump on every trend as soon as you become aware of it. I am saying that I’ve noticed that a lot of small businesses aren’t taking advantage of the big trends – the ones that, for better or worse, aren’t going anywhere. And with that in mind, here are 7 trends that you can no longer afford to ignore in 2019.
#1: Artificial Intelligence
I wrote about artificial intelligence last month, so you already know I think it’s important for small businesses to embrace this technology.
In marketing, the use of AI in the form of chatbots has taken root and many small businesses are adopting it. The bottom line is that a well-programmed chatbot can improve your customer service and increase sales.
AI is also becoming increasingly important in the field of marketing analytics. You can use it to make market predictions and get ahead of the curve as your audience’s preferences change and develop. And, let’s not forget that programmatic advertising – which uses AI to automate ad buying – is on the rise.
One-size-fits-all marketing is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. While there’s still some benefit to targeting ads to a large audience, the trend increasingly is toward the kind of one-to-one marketing that Amazon has done brilliantly for years.
If every visitor to your website is seeing the same content, it’s time to think about how to personalize it. You can do that using cookies that make recommendations based on a user’s previous activity on your site. Or, you can allow users to choose the type of content that they want to see. Either way, the goal is to make every customer feel that you’re speaking directly to them.
Incidentally, the same trend should be applied to email marketing. Sending emails that are triggered by a customer’s behavior is three times more effective than sending batch emails – something to keep in mind in the new year.
#3: Influencer Marketing
Ad blocking has been a challenge for marketers for years now, but the recent stats show that it’s now impacting mobile advertising as well as desktop. What can you do to get around it?
I’ve written about influencer marketing before, but it really has proven to be one of the best ways to engage with potential customers without needing to worry about ad blockers. It uses influential social media accounts that appeal to your audience.
It can take a bit of trial and error to find the right influencers but once you do, influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way of attracting new customers to your business.
#4: Video Marketing
If you’re not making marketing videos to share with your audience, it’s time to stop pretending that video is too expensive (or too technical) to be worth your while. Research shows that businesses who use video marketing grow 49% faster than businesses that don’t. How can you ignore that?
The good news is that video doesn’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to be Spike Lee to make a terrific marketing video that will attract new customers. Even a simple Facebook Live session where you take questions from your followers can help you grow your business.
#5: Social Messaging Apps
Did you know that every month, businesses exchange 2 billion (that’s with a B!) Facebook Messenger apps with their customers? That’s not just a trend – it’s a tsunami.
Using social messaging tools like Messenger or WhatsApp can help you connect with customers on a personal level. And – hearkening back to the first trend I mentioned – artificial intelligence can help you do it.
Creating a chatbot for Messenger or any other app is a relatively easy (and affordable) thing to do. A lot of companies use chatbots to suggest products or answer simple questions. That means that using messenger apps is an extremely effective way to connect with your existing audience and attract new potential buyers for your products and services.
#6: Voice Search – smart speaker
If you’ve said “Okay Google” or asked Siri, Alexa, or Cortana to find something for you online, then you know that voice search is here to stay. In fact, researchers estimate that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 – and that means that it’s time to optimize your web content for voice search now.
You can start by using the language of voice search – optimizing for the terminology that your audience is most likely to use. You may also want to start thinking about audio-only ads. It’s probable that you’ll start hearing sponsored content on Alexa before long. This is an opportunity for you to beat out your competitors who may be lagging in this area.
#7: Social Media Stories
If you’ve logged onto any social media account lately, you’ve probably noticed something: stories. Facebook may prompt you to add to your story, and other platforms – including YouTube – have jumped on the trend.
A social media story is temporary content that can be used to trigger your customers’ FOMO (that’s fear of missing out.) It’s ideal for seasonal promotions and deals, and it can be a great way to engage your audience. If you’re not already using social media stories to connect with your customers, 2019 is the year to start.
Trends aren’t all fleeting…
It’s one thing to avoid jumping on a trend bandwagon at the first opportunity. But ignoring the 7 key trends I’ve outlined here in 2019 will put you in a tricky position if your competitors are using them.
In fact, I’ll take it a step further. If you’re not opening your inbox to find new leads from your website every day, you might as well not have a website.
The good news is, you can change that. Your website might be basic or have all the bells and whistles. It might be years old or freshly designed. No matter what it looks like, you can make it better and turn it into a 24-hour marketing machine.
I’m not going to bore you with the same old advice you’ve heard a million times. You know that your site needs great content and a killer call to action. Instead, let’s dig into some of the next-level stuff you can do to kick your website’s lead-generating power into high gear.
Do a Complete Website Audit for SEO and User Experience
Audits. Nobody likes them, but they’re necessary if you want to fine-tune your website and get more leads than you are now.
A website audit should look at two things. The first thing is SEO. You want to make sure that:
The second element of your audit should focus on the user experience. You may even want to hire testers to pinpoint roadblocks on your site. If your pages take too long to load or your site is difficult to understand, user testing can help you get to the bottom of it. You can find a list of effective usability tools here, including some that will allow you to create heat maps of your site even mimic the eye movements of users.
Use Responsive Content
For many local businesses, creating one-size-fits-all content is the goal. It’s certainly easier to do that than to work on unique content based on the user’s preferences and needs. But I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s also holding you back in terms of conversions.
You have two basic options when it comes to tailoring your content to a visitor’s interests:
Here’s a simple example of responsive content. This martial arts school prompts visitors to choose a program on the home page. Once they do, they get a page of content where they can choose “pain points” to see the benefits of the program.
Once they finish choosing, the page would display information related to their choices, including benefits and frequently asked questions like this.
Writing this type of content doesn’t take any more time than it would take to write individual pages of content. It ensures that every visitor to your site feels that they matter. You can even offer lead magnets that are tailored to each product if you choose.
Live Updates and Chat
What happens when someone visits your website outside of your regular business hours? If the answer is that visitors are greeted with a static site that does nothing to acknowledge their presence, then it might be time for an update.
Interactive and live content can help you engage new visitors to your site and give the impression that you’re there to serve them even if you’re at home with your family. There are two simple changes you can make that will engage visitors at any time of day.
The first is by providing live updates. That means displaying a notification any time someone new fills out your contact form or buys your product. This is something we’ve been seeing on some sales pages as well as on website home pages.
To see an example, check out the website for Inspire Martial Arts in Burbank, CA. They display a notification that reads, “Jane from Burbank requested information about our classes.” If your site gets a decent amount of traffic, these notifications will capture visitors’ attention and create a sense of urgency.
The second option is live chat. You’ve probably noticed live chat windows popping up on some of the websites you visit. They often have a greeting, something like “Hi! How can we help you?”
The technology behind this type of live chat is actually less complicated (and less expensive) than you might think. It’s basically a chatbot that can be programmed with simple answers to your most commonly asked questions. If you’ve got an online store, your chatbot can even make product suggestions.
It might surprise you to learn that there are programs that will allow you to design your own chatbot. Of course, you can pay a programmer – and you may need to if you want your bot to engage in complex interactions. But if all you want is a simple bot to give the impression that you’re available at all times, you can check out this article for more information on DIY options.
FAQs and Self Service
If it’s been a long time since you updated your FAQs, then reviewing them and adding some updated information with internal links to your lead forms and sales pages can go a long way toward helping your website generate leads.
Not sure which questions to answer? Try checking your social media pages for ideas. Your followers probably ask questions and if several people ask the same question, it should be part of your FAQ.
A related issue is self-service options. The more information you provide on your site, the more likely it is that visitors will want to buy from you. Providing articles, links, infographics, and other information can help you keep visitors engaged and increase your conversions.
There’s no reason your website shouldn’t be generating leads around the clock. In addition to the usual advice about your content, images, design, and call to action, the four areas we’ve outlined here can help you engage visitors, get more leads, and ultimately, close more sales.
Higher Visibility in Search Engines
Every time you add a new post to your blog, it’s another page that Google is going to index. While having more pages doesn’t necessarily correlate to more search traffic, it does give you the opportunity to rank higher for more search queries. By targeting long-tail keywords and topics that your customers search for, you won’t have any trouble appearing in those searches with your archived information.
Higher Domain Authority
Producing more, higher-quality content will increase your perceived authority, expertise, relevance, and trust of your site and business. When your content gets more inbound links from external sources, your domain authority rises. A higher domain authority directly relates to higher search rankings.
Increased Conversion Potential
The primary reason to create content is to engage, inform, help, and bring value to your audience. Once you’ve taken care of this, you can use the remaining space to pitch what your business has to offer. When done right, this can lead to a noticeable increase in your conversion rate.
Improved Brand Recognition
The people that are reading your content are building an impression of your business. When visitors are looking for helpful information to a problem or an immediate need they have, and they find what they are searching for on your website – This builds trust and credibility, and you can quickly become an authority with your audience.
Decreased Marketing Costs
The only thing that content marketing will cost you is time (and effort) but it can provide a pretty darn good ROI. Effective content marketing isn’t a race. But you’ll get there. The sooner you start investing your time in a solid content marketing campaign, the sooner you'll begin to see results.
No matter what you are looking to achieve, whether its higher conversion rates, increased traffic, or a genuine relationship with your customers, there’s no reason not to include content marketing in your overall marketing strategy.
For instance, you don’t want to post images of actuarial tables when you sell insurance. Yes, it’s an integral part of the insurance business, but it’s not going to inspire many people to share your content…
.. And may end up with unfollows if you this approach.
If your business doesn’t translate well on Instagram, you may have to think of alternative methods to get your message out. For example, that same insurance agency could use images of disaster aftermaths and their company disaster relief team helping the people who were affected.
Then ask your followers to comment about their own experiences & encourage them to share their own images.
This is just one example of the many ways you can engage with your audience through Instagram, even if you don’t think you have post worthy content to share.
The more you get your followers involved, the easier it will be to get people to share. Also, the higher the influence of the people sharing, the greater the reach.
This is not to say you should just simply focus on influencers, but, they can definitely expedite the growth of your following.
Instagram is a new medium for small businesses but that is changing, and there hasn’t been a better time to “get in” when it’s good.
Do a little competitor research and find other insurance companies on Instagram (or whatever your business happens to be) and pay attention to the type of engagement that is happening. If It works for them, there is a good chance something similar can work for you.
Another option is to consider partnering with other businesses that are complimentary to yours. Connect with these businesses and brainstorm some mutually beneficial promotional ideas.
One idea is to offer special discounts for your partner’s business through your Instagram and your partner does the same for you. Keep in mind REFERRAL business is the BEST business. And both businesses benefit by tapping into a fresh customer base.
It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that Instagram is a social platform. Be less willing to sell and more willing to reach out and help others. Be involved in a meaningful way.
Find ways to give valuable content that makes it easy for followers to share it and you might find Instagram to be a great platform for your business… No matter what business that happens to be.
It’s your job to lay the groundwork for what you want people to know about your business and then supporting that identity by demonstrating your expertise and capability to deliver what you promise.
However, your customers will be the ones who decide what your overall brand image is based on their interactions with your business.
A well-defined, strategic brand message can build instant credibility in your industry, while helping you gain authority in your market and shape how customers perceive your business. It’s quite often the key difference between a well-structured online presence, and a faltering business that is struggling to connect with its audience.
So, how can you build a recognized brand that provides a clear message that resonates with your market?
Start by thinking about your target audience and what is most important to them. Once you’ve evaluated your audience, you will be able to position yourself so that you are directly addressing their most burning questions, concerns and needs.
To do this, you need to gather as much intel on your market as possible, which you can do easily just by looking at the competition.
What are other business owners and product developers offering your audience? What kind of products and services are they successfully selling?
Take things to social media and begin by evaluating social signals – which are clear indicators as to what is currently in demand, popular and selling well. The higher level of interaction, the more advertising dollars spent, and the more engagement; the better.
Knowing how to develop a strategic brand message begins by recognizing what is already successful and improving on it within your own business.
You want to become the go-to person in your niche market, the obvious choice when customers are considering who to turn to when making their purchasing decisions.
When you work towards building an unwavering presence in your market, starting with a strong foundation of trust, you’ll eliminate the initial barriers standing in the way of you connecting with your target audience.
To do that, you need to learn as much about them (your customers) as possible so that you can build a brand around what is most likely to capture their attention.
You’ll also be able to lower the barrier of resistance and leave a lasting impression on them. When you do that, they’ll come back to you time and time again.
And how do you do begin? It starts with what is called a U.S.P.
USP stands for unique selling proposition (or unique selling point), and it is critical that you establish what yours will be right from the start.
What U.S.P Really Means
Contrary to popular belief, a USP has nothing to do with logos, slogans or graphic design.
Sure, those are components of your overall brand that help people identify your products and recognize you, however, a USP is far more important than that when it comes to building your customer base, and breaking through the barriers of resistance that most businesses experience when they first appear in their market.
A USP is what truly tells potential customers how you are different from the competition. It helps to align your goals with your customer’s. Your USP tells them that you can be trusted, that you have their best interests at heart, and that you fulfill all promises. And most importantly, a USP ensures you aren’t a faceless brand.
This would include key factors that differentiate a product or service from its competition, such as the lowest price, an extended, no-risk guarantee, a unique or exclusive product or offer not found anywhere else, or the first-ever product of its kind.
Your USP should also demonstrate your dedication to satisfying customers, and provide reassurance that you stand by your products, and that there is no risk to your customer when doing business with you.
To start, think about what your product or service has that the competition doesn’t.
Consider ways you can highlight those differences and emphasize the benefits. Paint a clear picture as to why a prospect is making a wiser, sound decision to purchase your product instead of someone else’s.
Your USP is the driving force behind clearly illustrating value and giving potential customers a reason to purchase from you rather than the competition. That’s its one and only job.
Creating a unique brand that stands out in your industry and communicates to customers that you have something better to offer than your competitors can be an up hill climb at times, and nobody said it would be easy.
The key is to focus on defining how your brand is different than others and why customers should choose you over the competition and then going the extra mile for them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And, not all customer-attraction methods are necessarily expensive. Here are seven (relatively) low-cost ways to acquire new customers and grow your business.
#1: Update Your Audience Research
I’m always amazed when I talk to business owners and they tell me that the last time they conducted audience research was years ago.
That’s crazy. Audiences change. You’ve got to know who’s interested in your products – and why they’re interested – if you’re going to understand how to bring your audience to your site.
If it’s been a while since you conducted any audience research, it’s time to get back on the horse. For example, you can:
#2: Know Your Competition
Competitor research is another key component of customer acquisition. After all, you and your competitors are vying for the same audience. Knowing what they do and how they’re doing it can help you pull ahead in the race for new business.
A couple of easy tactics to use include:
#3: Focus on Benefits, not Features
Another common mistake business owners make is getting too wrapped up in their product’s cool features at the expense of considering the customer’s experience.
Let’s face it. A potential customer doesn’t want to hear your brag about how awesome your product is. They want to know what it’s going to do for them.
Don’t tell them that a frying pan has a non-stick surface. Tell them that it will simplify their clean-up! That’s a simple example, but it illustrates the point.
You can list your products features briefly, but most of your marketing should focus on benefits. Think about your customer (see #1) and the problem they want solved. Then, explain how your product will solve it.
#4: Build Trust with Your Target Audience
If you know anything about marketing, then you know about the Rule of 7. It says that, on average, a customer must have seven interactions with your brand before they’ll buy from you.
The key to building trust is to use those seven “touches” wisely. You’ll need to be consistent. That means knowing your audience, having a clear vision for your brand, and using the same voice for all your online content, whether it’s on your website or social media.
And speaking of social media, it’s ideal for building trust. You can connect with your followers every day without seeing overly sales-y or obnoxious.
#6: Pair with Other Businesses
You can’t expect your direct competitors to refer business to you. That would be counterproductive for them. But that doesn’t mean that B2B referrals aren’t possible.
Try searching for businesses in your niche – or in a related niche – that aren’t in direct competition with you. Then, approach the owners about the potential for a reciprocal referral program or joint venture.
For example, if you sell dog training products and there’s a company that sells cleaning products for people with pets, you could pair up to create special offers and referrals. You might link to their site and have them link to yours, and you could even create limited time offers and specials.
The key is that you’ll get access to their customer base and they’ll get access to yours – and you probably won’t have to spend anything to do it.
#5: Create a Referral Program
It’s important not to ignore your current customers as ambassadors for your brand. After all, who’s in a better position to tell new customers about the benefits of buying from you?
The key is not to assume that your existing customers will spread the word about you and your products. They might do it without prompting, but why not make it easy for them? A strong referral program can bring you snew business on a regular basis.
Many referral programs incentivize referrals. For example, you might offer customers a free product (or a free month of service) in return for a referral. Or, you might host a special event for customers who refer new business to you.
Make sure to specify the terms of any rewards and to provide customers with what they need to make referrals, whether it’s a supply of business cards or brochures or a dedicated URL on your website.
#7: Create Shareable Coupons and Offers
A referral program is one thing. But what if you could convince your existing social media followers to spread the word about your products in return for a simple coupon?
You can! The next time you’re running a promotion, encourage your followers to share it. Your call to action can say something like, “Why keep all the savings for yourself? Share this post with your friends and family so they can get a bargain, too!”
The key is not to assume that people will share your content. They may not know that it’s okay with you for them to do so – so make sure to ask in your call to action.
New customers aren’t everything…
But, if you want your business to grow, you’ll need to expand your reach. These 7 simple tips can help you attract new customers without blowing through your marketing budget. Instead, you can use them to blow past your competition!
Google’s algorithm is proprietary. That means we don’t know exactly how Google determines rank. They’ve shared some of the bits and pieces but not the entire picture. Marketing & SEO pro’s make a living reading between the lines connecting the dots to help their clients get the highest rank possible.
Here are the 5 things you need to know to improve your site’s rank and rise to the top (or as close as possible) on Google’s SERP.
#1: Backlinks to Quality Sites Still Carry Weight
In a Q & A session from March of 2017, Google revealed their top three ranking factors. Backlinks were number one. Since Google rarely comments publicly about their algorithm, we can’t say for certain that backlinks are still number one, but it’s safe to assume they’re very close to the top.
A backlink is any link that leads from another site to yours. If you want backlinks to have a positive impact on your Google rank, they must be from authority sites. Multiple links from the same site won’t help you since Google evaluates backlinks based on domains, not volume.
Remember that spammy backlinks won’t help you. In fact, they may hurt you. When a low-quality site links to yours, Google may associate your quality site with their low-quality content or practices. Instead of buying links or engaging in other “black hat” practices, focus on organically building quality links.
#2: Content is Still King
The next most important ranking factor is your content. Google’s aim is to provide highly relevant, quality content to searchers. The better your content is, the more likely it is that your site will rise to the top of the SERP.
Not all quality is created equal. You can signal quality to Google by doing the following things:
#3: Mobile Responsiveness is a Must
The next thing to consider is whether your site is mobile-friendly. As of 2017, more than half of all Google searches were conducted on mobile devices. That’s not something you can ignore.
If you’ve been paying any attention to developments at Google, you know that their Mobilegeddon update in 2015 penalized sites that weren’t mobile friendly. As of 2018, not being mobile friendly will have a negative impact on your Google rank.
Mobile users expect the sites they visit to be easy to use – whether they’re accessing them on a smartphone or a tablet. They’re not going to frequent your site if:
#4: Slow Loading Pages Will Drive Users Away & Affect Rankings
Web users are notoriously impatient. People who visit your site will expect it load quickly. If it doesn’t, they’ll find another site, instead.
Since “quickly” is a relative word, let’s talk about what it means. One study found that 47% of web users expect a site to load in two seconds. Of those, 40% will navigate away if the site takes longer than that to load.
You can test your site’s speed with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. If it’s too slow to load, you’ll need to address the situation. Some things that may affect your loading speed are:
#5: HTTPS is a Must
You probably know that, as of 2017, Google is penalizing sites that aren’t secure. That means that if you aren’t already using HTTPS, you should be.
HTTPS provides a secure user experience for your site. Sites that use HTTPS display a webicon of a lock. Those that aren’t secure get a message stating that the site isn’t secure, instead.
Switching to HTTPS requires buying a security certificate, installing it, and rerouting traffic from your HTTP site to the new HTTPS site. Once you do, your site will display the lock icon and you may get a boost in your Google rank, too.
Google’s Algorithm is Proprietary…
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to improve your site’s rank. The five ranking factors listed here are key to moving up the SERP – and getting the search traffic you deserve.