The Importance of Social Media in Today’s SEO

yorkshire-columnIn today’s search engine optimization, social media giants like Facebook play a large part in the overall visibility of your business on the web.

While Google’s SEO team hasn’t admitted to this outright, there are a number of search engine optimization bloggers that agree: it appears that Google considers your business’s activity and engagement on Facebook when deciding where to rank your website.

Now, in all honesty, Google is never 100% upfront about what their system looks for when deciding the fate of every business out there — they make sure to include plenty of mystery in their generic hints. After all, if everyone knew how the system worked, it would defeat their purpose. They’re trying to find the best and most informative sites to feature in the organic rankings, not the ones who know the rules of how their game is played.

But — coincidence or not — there have been a number of instances of businesses with more activity on Facebook and other social platforms who find themselves with increased visibility in Google’s rankings.

In a broad view, it makes sense. Google’s bots are constantly crawling the web for relevant and useful content, and they weigh what they find for each company/website and determine how well that company should be rewarded in the rankings based off of their findings.

If a business is highly active on social media while sharing real value with their customers and prospects, that may help them rank higher in Google searches.

Additionally, there is also the factor of driving more and more interested traffic to your website from social media, which can also make you popular with Google. For instance, if you are getting more engaged traffic coming in from your actions across social media platforms, Google may reward you for having better performance in these areas:

  • The amount of time a user spends on each page
  • How long the average length of a visit to your site is
  • Bounce rate (percentage of visitors who leave your site immediately, without spending any amount of time on your website)

In summary, a good social media strategy can benefit you in two ways. It can increase your business by enabling people to find you through social media channels and it can strengthen your position with Google and boost you in search results.

But even when they’re aware of the value, many business owners still don’t know how to properly utilize their social media followings.

Is Social Media Really a One-Way Street?

One of the most common misconceptions we see among small business owners is that social media is a “one-way street,” so to speak. They view it as a platform from which to declare the merits of their products or services, and that’s about it.

The truth is, social media is just that — a social platform. Users don’t go on Facebook expecting to search for their next purchase or to locate which company to buy from. They go on to be social, to be entertained, informed and amused and to interact with their friends.

As a business, you can tap into the success of these social platforms by providing the interaction and entertainment these users are looking for. Savvy marketers will be able to brainstorm ideas of how to incorporate aspects of your products or services into posts that delight and elicit responses from viewers.

How to Separate Yourself From the Competition

yorkshireDo a little bit of research on your biggest competitor(s). Go check out their Facebook Pages and scroll through some of their posts. Are they just advertising their services or a special? Perhaps an occasional goodwill message like “Happy Holidays?”

Now go take a peek at the Facebook page of a brand that gets a ton of interaction on their posts like Groupon

Granted, you probably don’t have 17 million likes on your Page, so expecting that much interaction is unreal, but look at the type of questions they ask in their posts.

How about looking at a lesser-known brand, like Yorkshire Tea? In the examples below, you’ll see how they respond to posts in a friendly, personal way. It humanizes the brand and, we expect, increases loyalty.

How can you start posting like these brands, and gaining the interaction and loyal following they have?

 

Making Social Media Work For Your Business

Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to increasing engagement (shares, comments, reactions) to your posts:

  1. Post a picture that will catch the eye of someone scrolling through their newsfeed. Whether it looks beautiful, tasty, or just plain weird, post
  2. something that will get someone to stop and glance at it for a moment.
  3. Rather than promoting your services, ask your fans a question.

Here’s how Groupon does it:

groupon

The Importance of a Mobile-Responsive Site in 2016

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We’re closer to 2017 than 2015 right now, and at this point, it’s almost a certainty that you know your website needs to be mobile-responsive. If you’ve never heard the term before or simply haven’t had the chance to update your site since this quality became essential about three years ago, this article is for you.

What is a mobile-responsive site? Simply put, it’s a website that looks great and functions well on any device — no matter if you’re viewing it on a large computer monitor, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or an iPhone 4.

Why is having a mobile-responsive site absolutely vital to online success? Read on to make sure your business is prepared for mobile searches.

The Google Change that Sparked a Trend

Back on April 21, 2015, Google released an update to the way they generated results for search queries, giving heavy preference to mobile-friendly sites and penalizing those which did not have a responsive website. This update had such significant impact on search engine rankings that it has been referred to as “Mobilegeddon” and “Mobilepocalypse.”

Even if you don’t get the majority of your traffic from “organic” rankings (non-paid results from Google or another search engine) and you’re not worried about losing traffic from search engines, you’ll still want to ensure your site meets current standards.

The number of people utilizing mobile devices for search has climbing for several years now, and in the last year and a half, it finally beat out desktop traffic. It was predicted to surge to at least 50% of all web traffic in 2016, and as of this February, it was already up to a whopping 56% of all traffic.

Ensuring your users have a great experience on your site is easy — just make sure your site is responsive so they don’t have to utilize the cumbersome navigation techniques that were required a couple of years ago. Remember “pinch and zoom” — the way you used to have to navigate your way around a web page?

Does My Site Pass the Test?

It’s pretty easy to test out if your site is mobile-responsive — just pull it up on your cell phone and take a look around!

  • Is it sized for your mobile device (the particular phone or tablet you’re using)? Do you have to scroll left or right to view the whole site or must you pinch to zoom? Or is the site easily visible on your phone or tablet?

One site that’s nailed this aspect of responsive design is Swiss hotel Badrutt’s Palace: http://www.badruttspalace.com/

  • Does it have a mobile menu — a menu that drops down, with plenty of space between each button, rather than making you try to click a link that is too close to others?

Responsive Website Responsive-Sites-Img-1
A great example of a mobile-friendly menu can be found on https://molekule.com/

If you don’t have your phone to hand, you can also pull up your site on your computer and follow these quick steps:

    1. If the browser (internet) window is in full-screen mode, click the middle of the three sizing buttons (between “close” and “minimize”) on a pc, or click the far right of the three sizing buttons on a Mac to make it smaller than full screen.

 

  1. Drag the edge of the browser window to one side, making the window smaller. As this window gets smaller and smaller, a mobile-responsive site will adapt and change to fit the size of the window, whereas a non-responsive site will not.A non-mobile site will simply begin cutting off once the window becomes smaller than the full site, and you’ll have to scroll left or right to view the entire site.At the beginning of the mobile craze, many businesses simply built two sites — one for computers and one for mobile devices. If the smaller version of the site you’re seeing is quite (or completely) different than the desktop version (what you see on the full-size computer screen), it’s mobile-friendly, just not mobile-responsive.Having a mobile-friendly site is extremely important but it’s usually not enough anymore. Google prefers sites that are fully mobile-responsive. That means that they were built with responsive web design so that the overall design of the site stays the same, no matter what your device or screen size, but the site smoothly adapts to fit your screen size.

    Here’s the final step you can do to tell if your site is mobile-friendly or fully mobile-responsive:

  2. Leaving this first window open, open a second, full-screen window with your site on it. Compare the two versions — the smaller, mobile-sized window and the full-screen window — and determine whether or not they are the same site, sized accordingly, or two separate sites.If you are seeing two different sites, it’s time to get a mobile-responsive site. If you’re unhappy with your site’s design, whether on desktop or mobile, we can help you, too. Call Visual Edge Design for the fresh design you’re looking for.

What’s With This Pokémon GO Craze & How Can I Make Money Off of It?

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If you’re under fifty, work with people under forty, or take occasional walks around your town, you’ve probably heard about the latest craze: Pokémon GO. Already the most downloaded app in U.S. history, this game has users in a frenzy to “catch ‘em all,” as the slogan goes.

What is Pokémon GO? Simply described, it’s a smartphone game that uses the GPS and clock to detect your location and match it to your progress in the downloadable game. If there’s a Pokémon character hidden somewhere in your location, it will show up on your phone. Keep moving around and you’ll find more game characters. It’s sort of like matching up true reality with virtual reality. It’s surprisingly popular with the eighteen to thirty-four demographic.

Players’ phones will vibrate when they are near a Pokémon, at which point they need to take aim on their touch screen and throw a “PokéBall” to try to catch the creature. One object of the game is to try to catch all 150 Pokémon, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Avid players are running all over their towns, looking for the next catch.

You might be thinking, “That’s great but what does this have to do with marketing my business?” And to be honest, this article is only going to help out a certain number of our subscribers. But it’s worth a few minutes of your time to see if you might be one of them, or at least get some fresh ideas on how you can stay current in your marketing.

How’s It Work?

This game is driving tens of millions of users to go outside, walk around and participate in real-world activities, like going to the park or the beach or visiting local businesses to receive in-game benefits.

Where this gets exciting for you as a business owner is that there’s a way to flood certain businesses with these creatures with an in-game purchase called a “lure” — allowing users to see that your business is a veritable hot spot and urging them to come in to partake in the catching craze, all the while patronizing your place of business.
Attracting these waves of customers can be as cheap as just $1.19 an hour, but at the most, it costs just $.99 for a half an hour. Here’s what two local business owners posting on Reddit had to say about the effectiveness of this tactic:

“We did this last night (college town), and within minutes of dropping the lure, 30 people walked in.”
“I own a pizzeria that’s a Pokestop and I literally did this all day. I had a ton of kids and adults (mostly adults) come in for a slice of pizza and a drink until the lure ran out.”

You’re probably wondering if this would work for your business, so let’s dive right into it.

Which Businesses Are Able to Participate?

Unfortunately — and this is the less exciting part — only certain businesses are featured within the game.
There are a couple different ways a business can appear within the game, if so featured:

POKE-2As a PokéStop: this is what you want your business to be, or to at least have one near your business. These “stops” are where players (called “trainers) can restock on supplies in the game as often as every five minutes.

POKE-3As a Gym: these are the “training” facilities for trainers, and while not as valuable to businesses as PokéStops at first glance, these gyms should still attract a steady crowd, and can still be used to your advantage.

PokéStops are particularly exciting, because these are the only locations where these lures can be dropped. There isn’t yet a map of PokéStops or gyms, but chances are there’s someone around you right now that has the game installed and can show you whether or not your business is either a PokéStop or a gym.

How to Get Started Driving Customers With Pokémon GO

If you have a PokéStop nearby, it’s worth buying a lure or two to try the tactic out to see if it drives traffic for your business. Here’s what a lure looks like within the game (and what potential customers will see to draw them in):

As you can see, there might be a lot of other people in your area with the same idea. Keep in mind these lures may be purchased by players, or by savvy businesses to keep customers in their stores. It’s smart to put out a sign of some sort advertising what you’re doing, and any current specials for players.

If you’re featured as a gym, not a PokéStop, you likely won’t have the same volume of players coming by, but you will probably have rival team members coming by to stake their claim and maintain control of the gym.

POKE-6Signs have been popping up all over the internet with discounts offered to whichever team is currently in control of the gym (team names are: Mystic, Valor, and Instinct).

If you do decide to try either of these tactics, I highly recommend getting the word out there through social media, and even dropping a few bucks in boosting a Facebook post to make sure players in your area know that you have (or will have) lures out, or that you’re offering a discount to trainers of the current prevailing team.

Even if your business isn’t featured in the game, you can still capitalize on this craze! One local bar in St. Petersburg, FL, offered half off bar tabs to anyone who showed the bartender a Pokémon that they captured in the bar. There have also been Pokémon bar crawls popping up all over Facebook as well.

With a little creativity, and a knowledge of what your customer base is looking for, I’d be willing to bet you can turn this craze into new customers — and big money — for just about any business with a storefront!

POKE-5While the maker of the game hasn’t yet announced a way for businesses to become featured in the game as a PokéStop or a gym, there has been overwhelming interest in the subject, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with something along these lines before too long.

While you can be pretty certain this craze won’t last forever, you can definitely make the most out of the next few weeks, or months, that it is carrying on strong, and work to win over those new customers you do bring in, to keep their business long after this trend is over!

For a step-by-step explanation of how this tactic works, check out the full article here. For more great ideas on how to keep your digital marketing fresh, call Visual Edge Design!

Using Email Follow-up to Increase Buyer Frequency & Maximize Profits

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Email Marketing
As a small business owner, your eye should always be on one of four goals in order to grow your business:

  1. Increase the number of leads you’re getting
  2. Increase the number of customers you have
  3. Increase the amount of profit you get on each customer
  4. Increase buyer frequency

Today, we’re going to show you a key strategy you can use to increase buyer frequency and therefore make more money from your existing customers. We’ll show you how to modernize the age-old concept of customer follow-up by utilizing email technology applicable to any market.

Email follow-up has been around for decades, but it still isn’t being used enough or correctly. And when you can set up a follow-up system that does the work for you — one that has the potential to double or triple your profit — why not take advantage of that strategy?

If you can spend money just once to acquire a customer and continue profiting from that customer for weeks, months, or even years, that maximizes your profit from every customer.

First, let’s answer a few simple questions:

What’s Your Moneymaker?

  • What has your average customer already bought from you? If you only sell a couple of products or services, which is your most popular? If you sell many, which are your top sellers?
  • What else might that average customer want to buy from you? (The same product or service after a while? The same product or service immediately? A corresponding product that will help them better utilize what they’ve already bought from you? Now’s your chance to list it out — get specific!)
    • If someone got a haircut from you two months ago, maybe it’s time to remind them to stop back in for a trim or let them know that you offer facials and manicures.
    • If someone purchased an insurance policy from you a year ago, you might want to find out if anything has changed in their coverage needs.
    • If someone has purchased a book on learning to play the piano, is there a DVD you could offer them with additional instructional videos to make it easier for them?
  • If you offer informational-based products or physical products, is there a service that you could offer that would help your customers accomplish their goals faster than using the product on their own?
    • If someone has purchased a weight loss supplement, perhaps you could offer a diet plan, an exercise plan or a workout DVD to help them achieve their goals quicker.
    • If someone bought a piece of sporting equipment, how about offering them lessons?
    • For a customer of musical instruments or books, you could offer music lessons or set up a workshop in your business and invite former customers in.
    • A scuba shop that sold someone equipment could offer a dive vacation or more advanced certification.

For some businesses, it might be easy to come up with the right answers, but for some, it might be tricky to answer each of these questions. It’s important that you really take a few minutes to think through your service list or your inventory, and get some solid ideas in mind for this exercise, otherwise there won’t be anything actionable for you at the end of this newsletter.

Have you got those answers in mind now? Good!

Getting Started

The next thing you’re going to want is automated email follow-up software. One of the most popular and inexpensive programs on the market today is MailChimp. But if you think a more robust system would better serve your needs, InfusionSoft is a great application that can help your business scale to the next level (and then some!).

If you are just getting started and have a very small customer list, you may not need to get an automated system just yet, but you’ll still want to implement the same techniques manually. Plus MailChimp is free for smaller accounts!

Prepping Your List

A great way to organize your customer list is by which product or service they purchased. It’s even better if you can also organize them by the product or service they might be interested in next.

In MailChimp, this is done through separating your customers into different lists. In InfusionSoft and other CRMs (Customer Relationship Management programs) this is done through “tagging,” labelling each contact in a certain way. Some CRM programs may have a different name for this function.

Separating customers into lists or tagging them allows you to easily put together a mailing for a particular segment of your list. It also makes it very easy to automate email follow-up, so that you can set something up once and let it work for you on autopilot from there.

Crafting The Right Message

Every market is different and as a business owner, you undoubtedly know your market. If you give it some thought, you’ll probably be able to come up with an angle for your offer that makes it nearly irresistible for your customers.

It might be as simple as asking them, “Want some help with that?” To someone facing a challenging task with little knowledge of the area, that offer might come at just the right moment.

Like just about everything with marketing, it requires some testing to see which copy, images (or no images) and headlines bring you the best results. Keep your copy and offer highly relevant to your customer, their purchase, and their area of interest for best results.

Get Going

Start by keeping it simple — identify your customers by their interests and which product or service would come next for them naturally and make them a great offer on it, one that’s personalized to them.

Once you’ve got the feel of email follow-up, you can do some more research and begin adjusting and testing different elements. But remember that any follow-up is far better than no follow-up. If you haven’t been following up with past customers yet, you’re very likely to see some serious improvement by sending out any messages, even if they are rough at first.

And, as always, if you need help with that, all you have to do is ask the team here at Visual Edge Design!

Launching E-Commerce Without the Pain and Worry

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Ecommerce
Whether you sell physical goods or deliver services, offering your products online is one great way to make money around the clock.

In fact, many companies that used to rely on sales departments are turning to e-commerce — which simply refers to websites that allow visitors to purchase products online through a shopping cart. Of course, there are some areas that might still perform better with a personal touch to close the deal, but you may be surprised at how many industries can — and do — sell online with great success.

The traditional use of e-commerce has been to make products available to those who can’t make it to a store during business hours or to those who live too far away to visit a store. The new trend is selling intellectual properties, services, and niche products online to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
For example, hot sauce used to be something you only got in a grocery store or a novelty shop but two spice-lovers in New York developed their own recipe and began selling it online. They sold $100,000 worth of their spicy mix in just one month last year.

Thanks to inspiring success stories like that one, many business owners are turning their entire business strategies towards selling online. Likewise, those who have worked to build up their businesses outside of their 9 to 5 jobs have found incredible success at reaching their niche markets through the internet and making their dreams a reality. There’s even a couple who are full-time stay-at-home parents now regularly bringing in $50,000 a month in sales by selling doll clothing patterns online.

Prime Industries for E-Commerce

Got an idea that you’d like to get out to the masses? An e-commerce setup can make it available in no time! Customers love the convenience of being able to purchase what they are looking for on their own schedule. They also love being able to do quick searches for the best prices and being able to take a look at reviews left by earlier buyers of the product or service they want. All these factors are driving more consumers to purchase online rather than their having to travel to a store where they only have one choice of product at one fixed price.

Don’t believe it? Just ask Amazon, now offering customers an array of services ranging from moving and cleaning to plumbing! Products and services that are prime for e-commerce include:

  • Beauty products
  • Mechanical parts
  • Sports gear
  • Consulting services
  • Clothing
  • Gift certificates
  • Food
  • Exercise equipment and accessories

Introductory Services and Offers Work

Even if you sell customized, high-ticket products or services, you can most likely think of something you can sell online to whet the appetites of your customers and make them want more from you. After all, it’s been proven that once someone has given you any amount of money — even just $1 — they are 10 to 20 times more likely to give you money again. If you can offer something enticing and affordable they might buy on impulse, you’ve instantly got someone who’s ready to hear about your next offering and is now far more likely to buy those services from you than they were five minutes ago.

Getting an Online Store Established

So, how does one start selling with e-commerce? And how do you get interested visitors to your online store? It all starts with a consultation. At Visual Edge Design, we offer full, turnkey e-commerce solutions for all types of businesses. Whether you’re looking to sell your grandmother’s cookies, an entire suite of tangible products or a variety of high-ticket service items, we have the package for you.

Our online marketing specialists will work with you to design the perfect website, shopping cart and marketing plan that offers your products and services to your target market.

There are many great platforms to use when setting up a shopping cart. Some of the most popular are WooCommerce and Magento and we offer them both. Plus, many of these systems include a Customer Relationship Management system so you can easily keep track of who’s bought what and when.

Once you have a great-looking shopping cart, we can build a website to match if you don’t have one yet or are unhappy with your current one. Then comes the design and structure of the marketing campaign to complement your e-commerce setup. This may include search engine optimization to put your products or services in the “organic” section of the search engines — meaning the non-paid section — paid ads and more.

Whoever you are trying to reach, in whatever geographic location, and with whatever interests, we can find them — and even better, get them to find your online store. And because we’ve already helped so many of our clients launch their e-commerce websites, we can eliminate the pain and worry you might think would be associated with this move.

Ready to find out how we can help you make money in your sleep? Not sure if this would work in your field? Give us a call or fill out a form on our website. We’re happy to show you the possibilities that await when it comes to getting yourself and your business out there on the Internet.

How to Capitalize on Your Existing Website Traffic to Maximize Your ROI

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Traffic-CTA-ROI
Let’s talk about using your website to market to the traffic you’re already bringing in. That’s right, I said using your site — as in, taking action with it. Having a great looking website that is mobile friendly, easy to navigate and gets found on Google is the first part of the equation. But there’s plenty more you can do to bring in even more results from your site and create the kind of expansion you went into business to achieve.

That might sound broad, but let’s dive into a few specific actions you can take today to start getting more customers and making more money from your website.

First off, let’s analyze what happens to visitors who do come to your site. Depending on the purpose of your site, you may be directing them to reach out to you to set up an appointment, request a free estimate or come into your storefront to purchase the products or services they need. Or, if you have an e-commerce site, your goal is obviously to get them to buy immediately (or as close to it as possible). But what happens if the visitor leaves your site without filling out a form, giving you a call, making a purchase, or visiting your establishment?

The fact is that a site visitor will usually decide whether or not your website has what they’re looking for within nine seconds. If you don’t catch their attention in that time (or even if they stick around for a bit and decide to leave without “converting” to a lead or a sale), they’re gone forever — or are they?

Repetition is Key

While the number of times a consumer must see the same message before acting varies according to the study done, general consensus is a minimum of three to five viewings of the same message are required before a consumer will decide to take action to find out more or (hopefully) purchase your product or service. But in a marketplace that relies on repetition to generate sales, how do you keep from losing the hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers that are currently visiting your site only once?

The answer is that you must capture their identity so you can send them those repeat messages. You have several options of how to do this and thus get more opportunities to prove to them that you are the company they are looking for.

One common and highly successful way is to incorporate a sign-up or opt-in form on your site that offers them an exclusive deal if they join your mailing list. The more specific your offer, the more successful your opt-in form will be. For example, if you have a hair salon, rather than saying:

“Join our mailing list and get 10% off your first service,” you might say:

“Get your first haircut for just $29 when you join our mailing list!”

Not only will you gain a new customer for that first haircut, you will have multiple future opportunities to win their continued business through your excellent service, your e-mail campaigns and more special offers to bring them back to your shop.

If you decide to engage in paid advertising (which can be extremely inexpensive and bring serious bang for your buck), there are tools that can be used on your site to place a cookie — a piece of code that identifies each visitor as someone who has already visited your site — on your visitors’ browsers so that you can later send specific ads to them to remind them why they need you.

One specific and effective method of paid advertising is to boost or promote a particular piece of content from your site through Facebook. You can spend as little or as much as you’re comfortable with, whether that’s $1 a day or $10. Facebook can find users who are likely to be interested in your content and display your post in their Timelines. Once they visit your site, you use one of the techniques discussed here to add them to a specific list so that you have the opportunity to advertise to them again later, should you choose to do so. To clarify that concept, here’s an example.

As the hair salon owner, you add a post to your website’s blog on how to choose the right hairstyle for your face shape. (You DO have a blog on your website, don’t you?) You could reasonably deduce that visitors to that article are interested in a new hairstyle that flatters their faces. You could then share that post on Facebook and tell Facebook how much you are willing to pay to put that post in front of those who have shown an interest in hairstyles. Your blog post should include a very specific offer, maybe for a free consultation to find the right style for their face shape, or $29 for their first haircut, etc.

Again, this can be extremely inexpensive and targeted to exactly the clientele you’re looking to reach. But your website needs to have an enticing blog or other content to get them interested in your services or opt-in forms with great offers that will get them on your mailing list. And the site must rank well in Google search results or you won’t even be able to get that far. Visual Edge Design has the marketing, design, SEO, and content skill set your site needs to bring you the business you’re looking for. Give us a call today if you’d like to get more business from your website.

Keeping Up with Google: More About Mobile

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Please tell me that you updated your website to be mobile-friendly in time for Google’s change on April 21st… you did, didn’t you?

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll assume that you didn’t – and I better explain what I’m talking about.

Most people with websites know that they have to be built so that they give Google what it needs to know to offer their sites properly in Search Engine Result Pages (called SERPs). This is the list of pages provided after you’ve typed an inquiry into the search box and hit Return or Enter.

There are many technical details included in any website, out of sight of the general public, that permit Google to get the information it needs to properly index your website. If you have a hair salon, your ideal is to appear high in the search result for salons – not hairdressing supply stores, hair replacement or any other category.

With the new requirement to be mobile-friendly, Google is acknowledging the fact that a growing proportion of searches are made on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, it was in 2014 that the number of mobile searches began to exceed those from desktops.

To give you an idea of the power of Google, right now, around the world, Google processes more than 100 BILLION searches each MONTH. Google is offering search results in 40 languages and this number keeps growing. So satisfying Google’s needs is definitely part of the game of having a successful website.

What Should Your New Mobile-Friendly Website Look Like?

So what does any website need to offer to comply with Google’s new rules?

  • The type should be large enough to be readable when viewed when the page first opens on a mobile device. If your site it not yet converted, your type may appear quite small until a person uses the pinch function to make the page larger. That was good enough for 2014 but not for 2015.
  • Links must be far enough apart that a person can hit the right link on the first try while viewing your website on a smartphone. If your site has not yet been converted to mobile-friendliness, it is probably hard for your customers to tap the link they want.
  • It does not use any software that is normally not available on a smartphone, like Flash. Flash is special software offered by Adobe that offers self-running animations used on the opening pages of high-end websites. While it’s an attractive feature, Flash animations may soon become a thing of the past. Flash has proven to provide opportunities for hackers to infect people’s systems with destructive software. In fact, Flash has just been banned from the widely-used browser Firefox meaning that websites that use Flash will not work on Firefox.
  • When your website opens, it should automatically be sized so that no one needs to scroll to the left or right.

In the first days of smartphones and smaller tablets, none of these features were required by Google. But the one thing that Google is known for is constantly (as in never, ever stopping for a moment) striving to offer a better browsing experience.

If you want to see some excellent mobile sites, here’s a few that recently won the Webby Awards, the highest honor a website can receive. Take a look (using your smartphone, of course) and compare it to your website to see how yours measures up.

  1. houzz.com. This home design site quickly sorts you into the right category – looking for home designs? A professional to help you? Want to buy stuff? Or just look at pretty pictures? Clean, easy to read, big links. Just right.
  2. marshallheadphones.com. Highly legible, offers you their top products right off the bat. Simple, nothing to distract you.
  3. virginamerica.com. This airline website wastes no time in asking you how many people are traveling and where you want to go. They specifically rebuilt their website – even the mobile version – to enable people to book their tickets in half the time of a typical airline site.

If you have not updated your site, you are currently being penalized by Google which means your site appears farther down in those SERPs we were talking about. To keep your name in front of people who might be looking for your products, call Visual Edge Design and get them on the job of making your site mobile-friendly!

Google Shifts Online Community to Mobile-Friendly Search Results

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When Google sneezes, the entire worldwide online community says, “Bless you.”

That’s another way of saying that many businesses live and die by their rankings in Google search results. So if Google makes a change in the way they index websites and offers search results, smart webmasters everywhere are quick to catch up. Very often, this has meant many webmasters putting their heads together to decipher the changes that must have been made. That’s because Google often makes these changes without prior announcement – sometimes without any announcement at all.

This time, however, it was different. Google announced a major change months ahead of time. Back in February, Google staff announced that as of the 21st of April, sites would need to be mobile-friendly to compete for top search result placement.

That announcement on the Google Webmaster blog stated:

“We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps.” What does this mean, exactly?

1. As of April 21st, websites configured to display well on smartphones or tablets as well as desktops and laptops will have an advantage. Google wants to serve up results with a good appearance and functionality on all devices so obsolete sites will start to rank lower in mobile search results. (Desktop search results will not change.)

2. Google will also offer search results obtained from “relevant apps.” We’ll explain what that means.

Google scans websites for specific information that tells them what that website is about. Some websites also double as applications that people can use to help them get information, take action or make choices and they may sign into these apps as needed. These website/apps include Pinterest, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, Etsy, Walmart, Yelp, Zillow, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Autotrader or ABC News. Until now, these apps were not scanned to include their information in mobile search results. Now, information from these sites will be given preference over sites that have not been updated to perform as well on a mobile platform.

We’ll give you an example to show you how this will work. Suppose a person has the app TripAdvisor installed on his smartphone and he performs a Google search for restaurants in San Francisco. Among his search results could be a few listings from TripAdvisor. If he clicks on one, he won’t be taken to the restaurant’s site, he’ll be taken to the mobile-friendly Trip Advisor app where he can read reviews for that restaurant.

Google always has its eye on the future. Phones are mutating into slim portable computers, which means that an increasing number of people do their searches on their phones. In fact, in 2014, MORE people are doing mobile searches than desktop searches. Google’s mission is to provide quality relevant content – and now, being mobile-friendly is an essential part of that quality.

Check out this graph to see why this is such an important issue for Google.

CaptureGraphBlog

The days of throwing up some interesting content and some attractive images and expecting them to draw business are long gone – if they ever existed at all. If a website is part of a company’s success, that site must keep pace with the changes the online world goes through. For a website to consistently rank high in Google’s search results, it must be continually updated in appearance and functionality.

This is no small task. Pages must be designed to load quickly on a mobile device. A mobile site must emphasize the functionality that your customers will want on the fly. For example, if your customers will search for products on your site, the search function will probably need to be redesigned to enable easier use on a smartphone. The same with a purchasing function. What you’re looking for is conversions – that’s when visitors to your site “convert” into buyers, subscribers, fans or whatever it is you want them to do. That conversion process looks and acts different on a mobile device and your site must accommodate these roaming visitors.

If you haven’t already done it, you should have your website maintenance company convert your site to a mobile-friendly structure and thoroughly test it for any errors. Google has provided the tools for analysis and guidelines for conversion. If you haven’t tended to this task yet, call Visual Edge Design today to get started.

Graph from http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/

Greater Mobility Means Your Clients Could be Looking at Your Website From Anywhere in Town

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The big news of the moment is the increase in internet use on mobile devices. In 2014, the number of mobile users finally matched the number of desktop users and in 2015, it’s expected to keep climbing steeply. The number of desktop users is only expected to make minor growth in 2015.

In 2014, both these numbers were at roughly 1.6 BILLION users. This is a dramatic change from 2007 when desktop users numbered about 1.1 billion and mobile hovered around 400 million.

So what does this mean to you? It means that location is more important than ever. Not only should potential customers be able to easily locate your business in their geographic area, it becomes even more important if you think of all those mobile people looking for your business while they are away from home. This indicates a need for a special kind of optimization for your existing website.

Research indicates that between 80% and 90% of consumers search the internet before making a purchase. Some of these people will be making these searches while they are sitting in their car, trying to figure out the best place to go get their (haircut, new shoes, dog grooming, car repair, insurance, lawnmower, etc.). Your website not only should show up high in the search results for your category, it should show up even higher in the search results for the area they are in.

A few years ago, did you ever try searching for a local business like a florist or hardware store? You wanted to find a place you could walk into right then and walk out with the bouquet you needed in your hand. Until about two years ago, the top listings in the search results were always national companies. They had the money to invest to beat out smaller local companies. Google realized that people need to find businesses close to them much of the time and changed the way they provided search results. Now, if you search for a florist in Clearwater, Florida, your top search results will actually be local businesses. That’s because Google realizes those are the most relevant search results for most people making that type of search.

So if you have multiple locations for your business, you need to be highly accessible to people searching for vendors in every one of those locations. Say you own a string of auto repair shops located along Route 66. You’ll need to have specialized websites that show up well in the search results for folks in Flagstaff, St. Louis, Amarillo and Tucumcari. What’s more, those websites also need to be designed to show up well on mobile.

So when Jason is sitting in his car on the shoulder of Route 66, trying to figure out where to get a new battery for his car because it just barely started the last time, the website for your auto repair shop should be the first thing he sees on his smartphone when he does a desperate search looking for immediate help.

We can help you keep up with the demands for accurate local search and mobile both. This industry is changing fast and to keep on top, you need to update your site regularly. Just call us for a review of your current site and we’ll let you know what we can do for you to keep you #1.

Four Ways Small Business Websites Often Miss the Mark

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Do you have a brick-and-mortar business? That refers to a business that is housed in a building people can actually walk into to buy products or services, as opposed to an online business where all transactions take place over the internet. Brick-and-mortar businesses may feel that a good website is just an afterthought, something that just provides their business hours, address and phone number. In fact, a strong website can be a valuable addition to the viability of just about any brick-and-mortar business. It may not have been part of the formula that made a business successful over the last two or three decades but it should definitely be part of every business’s future.

When a brick-and-mortar company sets up a website, since this is not their area of expertise, it’s common for some important basics to be overlooked. The owner of a brick-and-mortar company may have someone in the family create a few pages for the website and then call it quits. This company will be missing all the advantages that website could provide.

I looked at the minimal website of a small automotive repair company in my town and found a perfect example of a missed opportunity to create popularity and viability for that company. Here’s what they did that missed the boat:

1. Ignoring Quality
This website isn’t much more than a logo, a picture of the business, some text and some clip art. It doesn’t look like it has been updated in the last decade. You need to remember that every place you appear in public (website, mailings, uniforms, business cards) delivers a message about your product. A simple website with a contemporary design does not have to be expensive but that up-to-date website will assure someone that your diagnostic equipment and knowledge is also up to date.

Not much effort was put into the text. The basic certification of the mechanics was mentioned, which is good, and there’s an Angie’s List logo and a Better Business Bureau logo on the page, which is also good. But there’s no appeal, no effort to engage the reader or to communicate what makes this car repair shop different from all others out there. An article profiling a mechanic AND a customer who have both been with you for ten years might make you stand out from the crowd and convey a message of trustworthiness and stability.

2. Forgetting to Sell
If someone finds this site, right there is a chance turn him (or her) into a customer or to increase his loyalty if he is already a customer. This website makes no effort. There’s no testimonials which are always good for a car repair business. Everyone has a horror story of a ripoff car mechanic. The average person wants to hear from other people about a mechanic they trust. Testimonials are a subtle method of selling your business by getting someone else to sell it for you.

Also, there’s no effort here to show understanding for the problems of an unmechanical person who is looking for a trustworthy car repair shop. The home page could say something fun and different like:
We’re Experts at Diagnosing those Clunks, Squeals or Thuds Your Car is Making! Bring Us the Noise and We’ll Tell You What the Problem is.

It’s a little different and might appeal to someone who really doesn’t quite know where to start in explaining the problem.

There’s a couple more factors that are important for your website to have that this one was missing and I will cover those in the next blog post. Stay tuned for the next post!

On the other hand, if you’re thinking your website might need some tuning up, give us a call and we’ll tell you just how it can be improved. We’ll give you just the plan you need to make it a valuable asset for your business.