Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Blog: How a Small Local Business Went from Good to Great Using Local SEO

Written by: Christian Haberman; Founder, Auctus Marketing

One of my clients who started his own personal fitness business a little over a year ago has done an excellent job at promoting his business online as well as engaging and growing his online audience. For this post, I thought it would be interesting for other small business owners and marketers to learn a little bit about how he did it. 

For a little background, before this venture he was managing a very popular restaurant here in Boston and doing very well at it. For those of you in the hospitality business, you will most likely understand why my friend simply got worn out from this exhausting work. The hours are very long and little time for a break. So due to the tiring schedule as well as lack of fulfillment, my friend decided to follow a passion of his, health & fitness. He really quite honestly felt it was his calling and it was inspiring to observe this relevation come about. 

So my friend, Jake, approached me during this pivotal time in his career and we would discuss his ideas whilst running together or in my office. One day after he had worked for about 10 or 15 days straight at the restaurant, he said “That’s it; I’m done”. At this moment, we started talking about his new venture in a bit more detail and started to lay out a strategic plan for his fitness business. The first thing we discussed was his brand and what it represented. We came up with the brand name TriJake due to his passion for endurance sports and since it incorporates his name. 

After we developed his brand a bit and discussed his mission of trying to helping others to enjoy and experience the joy of being active, we talked about some of the fundamental components that he would need to do to first set up his business. For example, he needed his trainer’s license, to register his company with the state, set up a website, find a studio and develop an initial business plan so his new venture has some structure, and of course call a lawyer.
My friend Jake works incredibly fast so he took care of all of the off-line set up in what seemed a heartbeat and in the meantime we started crafting his website. In regards to his site, it was clear that displaying his passion for endurance sports & helping others was very important as well as of course making his program very inviting to all (eg. someone new to running or an expert marathoner). Finally, and most important he wanted to make sure that his online visitors could easily contact him so he could generate leads and clients. 

One of Jake’s real strengths is that he is very outgoing, approachable and a natural at sales & PR; so he was signing up clients before he even had his studio. Once he found the ideal location for his studio and put money down, he immediately immersed himself into the town’s community. For example, he joined their local chamber of commerce, introduced himself to all of his business neighbors, and started hanging small posters in various coffee shops & restaurants which introduced his service. In regards to his online growth strategy which I formulated with him, we focused on 
1. Local Targeted SEO Program 
2. A Small AdWords Campaign 
3. Content Marketing via his blog, other blogs & social media 
4. Local PR 

In regards to his local SEO program, I did a lot of local competitive research to learn how his local competitors positioned themselves online and to understand their keyword strategy. From this and looking at some keyword research + search trend data, we developed his top keyword phrases which would serve as the base of his online content strategy. Utilizing these phrases I set up the PPC campaign to give his site an immediate traffic boost since his brand was new.

The next thing of course was his content strategy which I helped him a lot by showing him some successful examples of some other blogs and then breaking down how these blogs achieve this success into simple actionable components. By breaking down his overall online marketing strategy into simple daily/weekly action items or tasks, Jake was able to see that if he followed this simple program and did the work, he would get results. (below is an overview of his 2014 Traffic Growth). 






From the above Google Analytics data, it is clear that his overall online traffic experienced a 2x growth jump through the months of January to March. How did this happen? Well if you were to take a look at his website www.trijake.com you would clearly see that his site is very well optimized for local search, he clearly posts a fair amount on his blog and that he is very active in his social media channels. He even received an award due to the quality of his posts. But there was something he did along the way that really took his online game from good to great. He incorporated video.Why was this so beneficial to his online performance & results? 

Well first off, for a personal trainer utilizing video is a great way to offer instructions & workout tips for your clients which they can access at their leisure. It’s also of course great content that can be easily shared to further promote your brand and its wonderful for SEO, especially when all of his videos are posted on the town’s .org site. Funny enough, he even does a local weather forecast for the town that his studio is in now and he received PR for it to boot! Check – Move over Al Roker: Have you seen Wellesley’s awesome new weatherman? 

So to sum it all up, today my friend’s site pretty much owns all of the local search results for the top search engines in his local area for his main keyword phrases. His site is about a year and a half old, so he has managed to do this relatively quick. (He actually broke onto Google’s 1st page in about 4 months.) Some of the things that really helped his traffic & rank were optimizing his site with a very local focus, having a mobile site using responsive design, his frequent posts on his blog & social media channels and his use of video. So if you are running a local business or in charge of online marketing for one, please try incorporating some of these online tactics and I would bet you will start to see a positive return in your overall online performance & results. Of course, if you have any questions about any of these tactics, please give us a holler. 

Happy Marketing! 

-Christian

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Simple Website Designs Just Work

Written by: Christian Habermann Founder; Auctus Marketing

"The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.” - Steve Jobs 


Ever wonder why we all seem to just love simple homepage designs or simple designs in general? I was pondering this the other day as I was looking at some of the furniture in my apartment. When my father was retiring a few years ago, he offered me a desk that he had in his office for many years. It was actually an architect’s drafting table and I loved it ever since I first laid eyes on it. The design of this table is true simplicity. It is very basic and plain. Essentially, it’s like a coffee table or a desk, but with very long legs. I was thinking, what really has drawn me to this table or other things in my life that are designed with no thrills, but with just simplicity and grace.



Take for example my Apple laptop, which is a MacBook Pro I adore like so many million others around the globe. Its design shares many of the similar attributes and aesthetics as the architect’s table if you think about it. Their designs are simple, symmetrical and balanced. Many of my most favorite sites on the web share these similar characteristics as well. Why do we seem to like things that are designed with balance and order? It seems like we are drawn to things that have these traits right? For example, in website design its no surprise that some of the top revered sites in their respective vertical (e.g. Google, MailChimp) present a very simple design and message. Now I have to profess that I am not a psychologist, sociologist or PHD in design, but it is intriguing how many of us around the globe from different nationalities and cultures gravitate toward these simple and balanced designs. In fact, why we love simple designs and proportions that have symmetry might in fact just be a part of us it turns out. 

For more than 2,000 years, philosophers, mathematicians and artists have marveled at the unique properties of the “golden rectangle”: subtract a square from a golden rectangle, and what remains is another golden rectangle, and so on and so on — an infinite spiral. These so-called magical proportions (about 5 by 8) are common in the shapes of books, television sets and credit cards, and they provide the underlying structure for some of the most beloved designs in history: the facades of the Parthenon and Notre Dame, the face of the “Mona Lisa,” the Stradivarius violin and the original iPod. 

note: Golden Rectangle image experiments going back to the 19th century repeatedly show that people invariably prefer images in these proportions, but no one has known why.

Then, in 2009, a Duke University professor demonstrated that our eyes can scan an image fastest when its shape is a golden rectangle. For instance, it’s the ideal layout of a paragraph of text, the one most conducive to reading and retention. This simple shape speeds up our ability to perceive the world, and without realizing it, we employ it wherever we can. Website design is no stranger to this as well. Just think of all the golden rectangles that make a website truly stunning. I would argue that more simple a site’s layout and overall design is, the more we are able to capture these so called magical proportions that appeal to us so much. 

So the next time you are designing a homepage for a client or your company, try this exercise out. Try to keep the design, the message and the overall functionality as simple as possible. Take a step back and simply look at the page and see if you really need all that copy or links. Are you just trying to fit in too many messages and the end result is clutter? This is very common and rarely works. I encourage you to look at great sites like MailChimp, Google, AirBnB and of course Apple that are simple. Their raw simplicity makes their functionality seem so intuitive. This is a great goal to have and is well worth it. Remember, less is more. 

Now, let’s take a look at a common homepage layout for many B2B companies. As one can see there are many golden rectangles in the overall layout of this design, but when you step back it’s clear that these shapes are not in harmony. They are really creating visual dissonance. With that being said, B2B websites are often achieving a somewhat different goal than B2C sites, but at the end of the day, all of these sites want their visitors to simply understand their concept and move them as effortlessly as possible to a sale. 

When Steve Jobs was growing up in California he was heavily influenced by the simple home designs that were ubiquitous in his region. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of simple modern homes for the American “everyman,” developers such as Joseph Eichler and his imitators built houses that featured floor-to-ceiling glass walls, open floor plans, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors and lots of sliding glass doors. Jobs said a while back when being interviewed while walking around his old hometown “Eichler did a great thing his houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower-income people.” His appreciation for Eichler-style homes, Jobs said, instilled his passion for making sharply designed products for the mass market. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean elegance of the Eichlers. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.” So perhaps my love for this architect’s drafting table is somewhat similar to Job’s affinity for the Eichler homes. Without a doubt, it is apparent that like so many around the globe we both love and appreciate simplicity in design. So let this be a simple reminder that you can do more with less. Try it out in your next design and see what happens.


Monday, September 8, 2014

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month


In 2009, the Citizen Corps National Survey revealed that only 57% of Americans surveyed report having supplies set aside in their homes just for disasters, and only 44% have a household emergency plans. In an effort to spread awareness nationwide, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared September as National Emergency Preparedness Month. Here are some ways you can encourage your employees, family members, and yourself to be better prepared for emergency situations:

1. Build a basic disaster supply kit:
When faced with an emergency, this kit will serve as your first line of defense. You kit should be tailored to the needs of your household/business, but should also include the following items:
  • Water and non-perishable food
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone with charger or solar charger
  • Weather radio with extra batteries
2. Enable wireless alerts on your mobile device
Wireless alerts are a quick and easy way for officials to inform the public during an emergency. These notifications appear in the form of a text message and require no additional downloads or subscriptions. These messages will appear to alert you of:
  • Extreme weather
  • AMBER alerts
  • Presidential Alerts during a national emergency
3. Form a Family Emergency Plan for you, your families, and your employees.
This plan should include instructions about where you will meet, both inside and outside of your neighborhood. How you will contact each other as well as any other situation-specific instructions. You should also aim to run family evacuation drills similar to those performed in school or at your workplace to make sure everyone is comfortable with the emergency plan.

For more resources on you to protect yourself and your loved ones when faced with an emergency please visit: http://www.ready.gov/ and http://www.bbb.org/boston/emergency-preparation/

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three Questions to Ask When Hiring

The interview process is the fastest and most efficient way to assess the skills and aptitude of a potential employee. This initial interaction is also essential to figuring out if the interviewee will fit with the vision, mission, and workplace culture of your business. Asking the right questions is especially important because it allows you to seek out the details about a person that may not be reflected on their resume. Here are three important questions to ask when hiring:


1. How do you think you would best contribute to this company?
-This question shows how much research the potential employee has done to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your company. Someone who has really done their research will have a genuine statement, others will scramble to give a generic answer.

2.What hobbies do you enjoy outside outside of your work?
-This question is a great way to get a great read on how this person would fit into your team. While it is important that everyone brings unique qualities to your workplace it is good that everyone has is reaching towards the same goals.

3.Where do you see yourself in five years?
-This will give you a look into the work ethic of the person being interviewed. The answer can also indicate ambition, goals, and organization skills of the potential employee.

Bonus: Don't forget to ask questions tailored to the position!

What questions do you ask in an interview? Comment below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Small Biz Talk: Pros vs. Cons of Accepting Credit Cards

Advances in technology have made the the use of credit and debit cards even more important when it comes to small business commerce. If you are considering accepting credit or debit cards as a form of payment for your business, it is important to take a real look at the pros and cons first:

Pros:
  • Debit and credit cards have quickly become the main form of payment. Behavioral studies have shown that consumers are more likely to spend at your establishment because of the convenience of not having to carry cash. 
  • It is also convenient for the business owner to accept card payment. Data from these purchases can be used as an effective accounting/inventory tool with the right software rather than having to record each transaction by hand.

Cons:
  • Despite the laws and security measures put in place to protect business owners, card payments can come with an increased risk of fraud. Scammers that manage to get over on business owners can leave them responsible for all the loss of revenue. 
  • Accepting card payment will also result in small processing fees for your business. If your business accepts card payments for small purchases it could result in more fees than it is worth.
So, What Should You Do?
Small businesses accepting credit and debit cards as a form of payment that have a huge number of transactions can definitely benefit from this expansion. This decision will initially cost your business money and take a little more time for business operations but the payoff is definitely worth it!

What suggestions do you have for owners accepting card payments? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

BBB Office Update: How We Use Chromebooks and Chromeboxes to Improve Productivity

Your Better Business Bureau is always looking for innovative ways to make our office run as efficiently as possible. A good number of our staff telecommutes, making it difficult to find reliable systems that allow us to carry out day-to-day operations. We recently decided to bring 35 Google Chromebooks and Chromeboxes into the office and it's definitely made it easier to collaborate in a secure and timely manner. We're excited about finding new ways to make Google Chromebooks and Chromeboxes work for our business, the sky's the limit!

Read more about our efforts to improve office productivity here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Protecting Your Online Reputation


Rapidly developing tech trends have made it increasingly more important for business owners to maintain a presence online. From engaging with customers on Facebook to rewarding your most loyal patrons with specials on Foursquare; your online reputation can often make or break your business. Engaging with customers online requires the same calculated planning execution as every other part of managing your business. Corporations often hire communications firms often look at case studies and develop strategies for crisis management, but it can be somewhat expensive and is often not an option for small business. 

 Here are some tips for managing the online presence for your small business:

  1. Planning- It is very important to have very clear goals for engagement with your customers.  Look over your mission statement and make sure all media messages fall in line with it. Remember to always have the customer in mind when present on any social media outlet!
  2. Use listening tools- Most major social media outlets have made it very easy to monitor what your customers are saying online. This is a critical part of protecting your online reputation because it gives you the opportunity to address comments and concerns before they are no longer relevant. It can also helps you identify the most valuable parts of your brand for each potential customer. If you are opening a bakery in a new neighborhood, it might be beneficial to know that the local food blogger is gluten-free before you send her a dozen of your new triple chocolate cupcakes.
  3. Engage with all feedback (even the negative stuff)- taking control of your online reputation means highlighting the positive comments and reviews, and taking responsibility for every negative experience a customer may have with your business. This can be a daunting task, but there are ways to make resolving these kinds of issues without it being a major blow to your reputation. Working ahead of time to have a few prepared responses can be a tremendous help to engaging with customers in a timely manner.
What suggestions do you have to protect your small business online?