Google makes thousands of updates to search every single year. How do you stay on top of the waves when you’re trying to be the best spouse ever, a super parent, and a successful business owner?
Oooh, I’ve got an idea! Make friends with a team of super nerds who spend hours every week testing new things and reading everything there is to read on Google, rankings, and all things SEO.
(Ahem, Spark Marketer.)
We’ve got you covered. Based on our nerd-findings, here are the top 5 SEO and marketing things you should focus on in 2020.
“Email’s dead!” has been cried more times than “The end is near!” But the truth is, email is alive and well.
How alive and well? Oh, I don’t know…let’s ask Emarsys, SaleCycle, OptInMonster, Fluent, DemandGen, eConsultancy, and Campaign Monitor:
- Email reaches about 85% of people. (That’s a waaay better reach than you’ll see with your organic social posts!)
- For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to see $44 ROI.
- 80% of business pros believe that email marketing increases customer retention.
- 59% of people surveyed say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
- Marketers who use segmented email campaigns see as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
- 68% of millennials say promo emails have influenced their buying decisions.
- 60% of consumers have made a purchase after receiving a marketing email.
- 60% of consumers prefer email when it comes to receiving promo messages from brands.
So yeah, I guess you could say email is still your best bet for communicating with customers.
Aaaand, email is currently the only communication channel you really own. Facebook owns your Facebook page and Instagram profile. Google owns your Google My Business listing. Hell, Google even owns the search results. But you own your email list.
So cherish it and use it to connect with your customers regularly and wisely!
3 bonus tips for sending better, more effective emails:
- There are some words you should definitely avoid using in your subject line if you don’t want your emails to go to spam. Words like: free, money, and reminder. Studies show those can land you in the spam folder faster than Ghallagher can destroy a watermelon.
- Use a familiar send name/email address and be consistent. If your customer doesn’t recognize your email address or name, they’re not going to read your emails. In fact, MailChimp says almost 50% of people will simply report an unfamiliar name or email address as spam. Eek!
- Get personal! Personal greetings make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Research shows that when you practice ongoing, personalized communication with your customers, you can expect to see a significant increase in revenue and customer engagement. Plus, your emails are more likely to be opened, which is always a win.
You may not officially own it, but you need to pay attention to your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Why? ‘Cause Google loves it and it’s one of the first things your potential customers are going to see in search results.
So first things first: If you haven’t already, claim your GMB profile and start filling out as much info as you can. Set your service area (if applicable), add your website, create Google Posts, answer questions, turn on messaging if you have the means to answer promptly.
Google is always adding and testing new features — some good, some bad — so download the GMB app and regularly check in.
We can’t promise you that all your GMB efforts will have the ROI that good email can have, but you should definitely be utilizing everything Google gives you, given that Google has 87.96% of search engine market share.
I know, I know, you’re not surprised to see this on the list — or at least you shouldn’t be! Reviews have been growing in importance for local businesses for the last few years, and they’re not going away.
Take a look at these stats from BrightLocal:
- 82% of consumers read reviews when searching for local businesses.
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling like they can trust a local biz.
- 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
So how do you get more of these trust-building reviews? Start by making your business the best it can be. 5-star service earns 5-star reviews.
Once you know you’re nailing the service and customer experience side of things, go ahead and ask your customers to review you — whether through email, text, face-to-face, or some sort of automated service or platform. Yelp doesn’t allow you to ask your customers for reviews (weirdos), but Google does. So go for it!
#4 Your website
What’s the number one thing that consumers do after reading reviews?
They visit the company’s website.
So don’t think, just because GMB is like a mini website right there in search results, that you can forget about your website. It’s still super important!
Here’s a quick cheat sheet on what makes a good website in 2020:
- Secure. If you haven’t made the switch from http to https, the time is now. Hop to it!
- Mobile-friendly. It’s a mobile-first world and something like half of searches are performed on mobile. So if you have a wonky website that looks like trash on a smartphone, it’s time for a revamp.
- Original photos and videos. Your customers don’t want to see Sven, the stock photo “blue collar guy.” They want to see you and your team. So upload high-quality, original photos to your website and show your customers who they’ll be working with. Also, the world can’t get enough video. Consider putting together a quick video to include on your homepage that introduces your company, answers common questions, and gives visitors the feeling that they’ve come to the right place for quality service.
- Helpful, informative content. You own your website, so make it a super helpful and useful resource for your customers. More details to follow…
Your customers are doing more research than ever before, so be their #1 source of information and answers. How do you do that? By creating awesome content on your website, blog, and social profiles.
Your written content doesn’t have to be a specific length. If you can answer a customer’s question in two sentences, do it. If you can provide more value by going deeper and writing more long-form content, do it! The length should fit the topic, need, and platform.
Videos are especially hot right now, and you don’t have to invest in super expensive equipment to create good ones. A smartphone, good lighting, and a tripod are all you really need to get started. So give it a shot.
What should you do in your videos? Answer customer’s questions. Introduce your team. Show them what it’s like to work with you. Show them how to do something or fix something. There are probably a million great ideas for video, so spend some time brainstorming.
Pro Tip: One of the best books I’ve read on creating content is They Ask, You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan. Go get it. For real. I’d give you my copy but almost every page is dog-earred and almost every sentence is highlighted.
There you have it, five things to focus on in 2020, straight from the super nerds at Spark Marketer. Have a great year!
In my time here at Spark Marketer, I’ve written website content for over 100 chimney sweeps. In other words, if there were an award for “most chimney-related websites written,” I’d quietly (okay, okay, and proudly) accept it.
You may think that writing a website for the same type of company only gets easier with time and experience, and while that is true to some extent, it also gets harder.
Why is that?
Well, I’m always trying to find new ways to write about the very same things: chimneys and all the maintenance, repair, and restoration services that go along with them. And the truth is — I’m usually working with the same exact information, nothing more.
But who cares? If you know the topic, writing the site should be easy, right? Yes, and no.
I’ve sat in on CSIA certification trainings and classes. I’ve spent so much time on chimney product websites that ads for chimney caps show up on every one of my personal devices. I’ve spent more time secretly judging people who fire up their fireplaces without scheduling an annual inspection than I’d like to admit. But none of that knowledge helps me when it comes to making your business stand out. To do that, I need information that only you can provide.
Trust me, I have more dictionaries, thesauruses, and creativity fostering books in my office than I have fingers. But fancier adjectives don’t make for higher on-site conversions: interesting stories and customized information do. And in order to communicate your interesting and unique story and really show your customers who you are as a company, I need your help.
So, what types of things should you share with me or whoever will be writing your website to ensure your website is better than the rest? Great question! Here are a few things that should get you started:
- The Basics. Let’s start with the basics. Let the writer working on your website know when your business was founded, how long you’ve been in the industry, what certifications your team has, what groups and associations you’re a member of, what products you use, and what services you provide. These are all things that matter to and build authority with your customers, and they’re all things that should be on your website.
- The Bios. Without bios, you’re just another faceless company in a sea of chimney sweeps. So please, send me some bios! Not just the bio of the business owner, but the bios of your employees as well. After all, these are the people who will be serving your customers, and they’re the people your customers care most about. They want to know who will be coming into their homes, what kind of people they are, if they have families, etc. Share qualifications, yes, but also share things that aren’t related to work; things that show the humanity of your team and make you relatable and likable to customers and potential customers. People do business with people they like, so give them a reason to like and trust you by properly introducing yourself.
- FAQs. A lot of companies simply copy the FAQ pages of other companies, and while looking at others in your industry can provide a good guide, go further than that. Talk with your techs and customer service representatives to find out what questions your customers frequently ask. Then share that information with me. This will allow me to think of ways to provide value on your website and address the hesitations, concerns, and obstacles of your customers before they even call you. If your website is a helpful resource for those searching for the services you offer, you’ll have their trust, and they’ll be more likely to call you when they’re ready to schedule an appointment.
- The Details. Let’s say you offer the same 15 services as your top competitors. When a potential customer sees those 15 services on your website and on your biggest competitors’ sites, how will they determine who is the best choice? The best way to win here is to differentiate yourself on your service pages, not just on your About page — and in order to do that, I need to know how you’re different and what’s important to you. By providing me with the details, you’ll equip me to answer the questions your customers may have about how those services are performed or why/when they’re needed. I’ll be better able to address the things that matter to your customers, like cleanliness, punctuality, etc., and communicate that you care about the same things they care about. Tip: If you’re not sure what they care about, check your reviews and the reviews of your competitors. You’ll definitely find some hidden gems there. You can also ask your customers!
Together, We Can Make You Stand Out
Chances are, your competitors have websites, and the more competitive your market, the more crowded the search results will be for someone looking for the services you provide. Make yourself and your website stand out by partnering with your marketing company and providing them with the info they need to really differentiate you and tell your story.
And quick note: just because I’m using our chimney clients as an example, don’t think this information doesn’t apply to you because you’re in the HVAC/plumbing industry, decorative concrete industry, wildlife control industry, or some other industry! No matter what type of industry you’re in, if you take a little time to give the writer of your website a little extra information, you’ll get a lot more out of your website.
In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me, help you.” Not just because you’re paying me to, but because I really want to! I love my job and I love the clients we work with — but knowing and being able to tell your story makes my days a lot more fun, and a lot more meaningful. So, do it for the both of us!
Psst! One last thing, on behalf of designers (my creative siblings) everywhere: Please provide photos of your team, service trucks, work you’ve done, and anything else you can that will make your company stand out. Do you need to hire a professional photographer? Not always. Sometimes all you need is a steady hand, some good lighting, and that camera you keep in your pocket, a.k.a. your smartphone.
BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that people are becoming less likely to visit businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (down 17% from 2016), which some took as a sign that websites are becoming less vital to business success. But is that true? While consumers trust reviews and they may simply call after seeing positive reviews rather than visit your website, does this really mean having a website is suddenly less important? No.
While there has been a decline, visiting a business’s website is still the most common next step after reading positive reviews, so discounting the need for a website based on a 17% decrease isn’t smart. Here are five other reasons why businesses of all sizes (even small) still need a website.
#1 No website = no chance of ranking organically or locally
Service businesses and small businesses typically serve their local communities, which means they need those in their local communities to be able to find them in search results. The problem is, businesses that rank high organically are more likely to show up in the Google local pack and map results, and without a website, your business can’t rank organically. If your business doesn’t show up when customers search for your services, how will they know you can help?
#2 Your website builds credibility
One of the biggest hurdles service businesses and small businesses face is trust. Unlike larger, more established brands or businesses that don’t send people into the homes of their customers, you have to work to earn the trust of your potential customers and establish brand authority. How does a website help you do this? 34% of consumers believe that a ‘clear & smart’ website gives a business more credibility. More credibility means more trust, and more trust means more customers.
But your website doesn’t just build credibility with customers, your website is also the citation that Google trusts most for confirming your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). The more sure Google is of your NAP, the more confident they are showing you in search results.
#3 Your website is permanent and more controllable than your social media profiles
We all know social media platforms (especially Facebook) change more frequently than a teenage girl before her first date, and the reach and control you have with your social media profiles is impermanent to say the least. Your website, on the other hand, is the one place online where you have total control over the customer experience and the story you tell.
Some business owners believe that simply having a Facebook page for their business is enough, but what happens if the giant is ever slain? All those ‘likes’ are already mostly useless, but when you lose your only means of communicating with your customers and your only real platform for telling customers about you and your services, well, that’s no good. Don’t leave such an important thing in the hands of an external party whose sole purpose is to make themselves more money (Sorry Facebook, but let’s be real).
#4 Your website acts as a main hub that potential customers can access 24/7
Sure, some consumers are only looking at reviews and doing less research on a business before making the call, but it’s still important that you provide all the extra information those customers who are researching want to know. Listing sites and social media profiles don’t give you the space or control to really say everything you may feel you need to say about your business and your services, while your website provides you somewhat limitless space and a somewhat limitless platform for introducing yourself and informing potential customers. Having all of the information and answers your customers might want in one place makes it easy for them to get a good idea of how you can help them and why they should consider choosing you over a competitor.
And since your website is up and running 24/7, your customers can get answers to their questions and research your business when it’s convenient for them, not just during the hours you’re open and answering phones.
#5 Your competitors have websites
Last but not least, the majority of your competitors will have websites, which means if you don’t have one, they have a major advantage. They have a chance of showing up in search results, answering the questions your potential customers have, and getting the call from customers you could be serving. Business is tough as is — don’t give your competition such a massive advantage.