Simple Tips for local SEO

simple-tips-to-improve-your-local-seo-markit-group

SEO is constantly changing, and it’s a very tough process to master. The search engines are always changing their algorithms and we have to guess what’s working and what isn’t. Even if a strategy worked 3 months ago, it may no longer work anymore.

For local SEO, your business is competing against others in the area. That means getting placed on Google Maps, showing up for the right keywords, and getting lots of great testimonials. Those are just a few pieces of your local SEO strategy, but there’s more to it than just that.

We’re going to walk through some do’s and don’ts for local SEO to make sure you’re properly ranking for the right keywords and that your site is well optimized for search engines.

What are the main aspects of local SEO?

There are a few components every local company needs to have in place in order to effectively rank in a search engine.

These include:

  • Your location on Google Business and Maps
  • Proper information for your business across all sites and platforms
  • Reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
  • Strong backlinks

Now, if you’re a local business and aren’t familiar with SEO, some of these terms may sound alien to you. Don’t worry, we’re going to dive into each.

Google Business

As a local company, this is one of the first places you need to be adding your business. It’s important to have all the correct info, and verify your location with Google.

Make sure your location is not already listed on here. You don’t want duplicate locations.

An account with Google Business means you will pop up on Google Maps, a top place for people to search for local businesses.

Here are some tips for optimizing your Google Business page.

Correct Information Across Sites

Duplicate or incorrect info does not help your site in terms of SEO. It is tough to go site by site to find these errors. There are tools like Yext you can use to find these errors for free. Try their Business Listing Scan.

You can use a paid version of Yext to correct these errors automatically.

The importance of correcting these errors is to ensure no customer ever gets the wrong information.

Local SEO Guide says, “We have done studies that show citation consistency can be a key factor to getting you into a local pack – so don’t ignore them”.

Reviews

Visible reviews on big sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google will really help your business. Not only will customers read these reviews and help decide whether to use your company, but it’s been found that reviews can increase your performance with Google Business.

“Things like Reviews and Photos and having an Owner Verified (OV) profile correlated with positive GMB performance,” says Local SEO Guide.

Strong Backlinks

Backlinks are links that are pointing to your site. If you are listed on your local Chamber of Commerce site, the link on there that points to your site is a backlink.

You want to get GOOD backlinks. This doesn’t mean just trying to submit your site to any directory just because you can get a link out of it. Search engines put more weight on links from well-liked sites. If you got a link from the New York Times, that is worth much more than a link from random site like news-web-city.com.

“Since the link data was so overwhelming, we also wanted to look at if just having optimized anchor text (for both keyword and city) would have any impact. Lo and behold, it did. That means if you can just get one good link with optimized anchor text you should do it. Go on, what are you waiting for?” (Local SEO Guide)

 

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UX Mistakes Your Site Might Be Making

ux-mistakes-your-site-is-making-markit-group

You have a website, congrats! You’re now searchable on the internet. It’s a big step for many businesses to finally get a working website up and running.

But hold up a second. Before you throw a party celebrating your new site, is it really that great?

Sorry to rain on your parade, but there are many websites out there that just don’t make the cut when it comes to a great user experience.

User experience? If you’re confused by the term, don’t worry! We’re going to dive into some commmon user experience (UX) mistakes that your site might be making. These are things you can definitely fix. And you need to fix them in order to keep visitors on your site long enough to get them interested in your business.

What is User Experience?

UX is an aspect of design centered around the experience a user has. When a website has a great look and feel, that’s the design. But what about how a user interacts with the site and finds information or clicks around? That’s the user experience.

I’m sure you’ve been on a site with a poor user experience, but you were on it for such a small amount of time that you didn’t really stop and take notice.

There’s a useful framework from UX Magazine called BASIC. It describes the aspects of a great user experience design.

Beautiful
Accessible
Simple
Intuitive
Consistent

You don’t just want a site that looks beautiful, you want it to be easy to understand and follow. You want the user to come on and know just how to find what they’re looking for. If there’s too much going on on the site and they become confused, they’ll leave. Simple as that.

What Are Common UX Mistakes?

For many businesses, just getting a website up and running is a challenge. Throw UX design in there, and they may just scrap the whole project.

Fixed headers that are too big

A fixed header is fine if you have long pages of content and want to keep the navigation easily accessible. But it becomes a nuisance if the header is too large and blocks too much of the screen. Go through your site and make sure the fixed header is not causing readability issues.

This is especially important for mobile. If you leave a large fixed header on there, you are bound to annoy a ton of mobile visitors who can barely see your site.

Poor mobile experience

A big issue with creating a website is not reviewing the design and experience on mobile. There are tiny errors you need to fix just for mobile, but they can make a huge impact. This includes things like removing full-page pop ups and ensure that the page properly resizes to the screen size.

Sometimes your navigation bar won’t resize properly, leaving it rather useless to a visitor.

Carousels

Carousels can be good or evil, depending how you use them. If you have too many items in it, people will not want to click through them all. If you have too few items, a carousel is a bit pointless. It’s also important to make sure that the arrows for click to the next or previous slide are visible.

There’s value in them for things like photos, but if you have key information in those slides that you want the user to see, it may be best to take them out of the carousel.

Here’s a website that has a pretty strong opinion on whether or not you should use carousels.

Ignoring the user’s needs

Often times, as a business owner you want to build a site that you love. You have a vision and want to see it come to life. But you really need to be thinking about your visitors. What do they want from the site?

If you make your About page the most prominent section, you’re telling the visitor you care about “you”. But put yourself in the customers’ shoes, what do they want from your site? Well, they likely want to know what you offer and the pricing. So make that prominent! Learn what visitors want out of your site and make it dead simple for them to find it, whether it’s pricing, your quote form, or signing up.

Bad font choice

A poor font choice not only looks bad but can affect readability. If your font is too thin, many browsers can’t properly render it. Make sure to pick a non-thin font, and also to pick appropriate colors and test these on different browsers.

Scrolljacking

This is a newish term in the UX world. It’s when a site takes over the scrolling for you, and frankly, nobody likes it. You don’t want to take control away from your visitors. If they get frustrated even for a second, they’ll leave.

More resources on UX

Want to learn more about UX design for your website? Here are some resources to help you.

UX Beginner Reading List

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding UX Design

UX Apprentice

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SEO Tools You Should Be Using

 

SEO is a pretty nebulous term, wouldn’t you agree? It involves creating content relevant to target keywords, finding backlinks, and ranking in the search engines.

There are tons of SEO tools out there, but which ones should you be using. And for what purpose?

We’re going to go over Chrome extensions, plugins, sites, and software to help you find the right SEO tools for your website.

Plugins

SEO Yoast
Probably the best SEO plugin available. It’s great for SEO newbies and pros. It will help you fill out all the right SEO pieces for your posts and pages. (Free version)

SEO Clean
SEO Clean helps optimize your overall website, not just your posts. It does a few things like clean up your source code and get rid of extra HTTP headers. These are things that can affect your rankings, but can be hard to fix on your own if you’re not tech savvy. ($19)

All in One SEO Pack
Downloaded over 30 million times, so you know it’s good. It doe so many things from advanced canonical URLs to generating META tags automatically. (Free version)

Chrome Extensions

Check My Links
This Chrome Extension is used to help with your broken backlink strategy. (free)

SEOquake

This popular extension gives you tons of metrics right on the search engine results page. Info includes domain score, estimated traffic, and more. (Free)

Websites

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MARKIT Group on SEMRush

SEMRush
This site helps you gain intelligence on your competition. Research keywords, backlinks, advertising data, and more. (Starts at $99.mo)

Moz
Moz uses a suite of tools include Keyword Explorer for targeting keywords, Open Site Explorer for finding content and link building opportunities, and MozBar for analyzing social, search, and page metrics in your browser. (Free trial, Moz Pro starts at $99/mo)

Ahrefs
Lets you track backlinks, brand mentions, and keywords. (Free trial, starts at $99/mo)

Software

Screaming Frog
This free SEO tool is installed on your computer. It can crawl website links, images, CSS, scripts, and apps to determine onsite SEO. (Free)

 

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How to create a buyer persona

How to create a buyer persona - MARKIT Group.png

Buyer personas get thrown around so often that many people consider them unimportant. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve never seen the benefit or seen one in action, or that they see the act of coming up with personas with funny names like “Sally Sales” to be a bit useless.

We’re here to tell you that buyers personas are as important as ever! They help you create targeted messaging to your main target audiences, rather than lumping them all into the same category. Once you create your personas, you’ll see use cases for them everywhere in your marketing strategy.

We’ll discuss why personas are important, how to create them, and how to use them.

Why Create a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas, as Hubspot defines it, are “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

These personas are defined by:

  • Demographics
  • Behavior
  • Motivations
  • Goals

But why create them in the first place if you already know your customers? Well, often times you really don’t know them as well as you should.

This is where customer research comes in. Yes, that means you have to actually talk to your customers! It’s surprising just how many businesses out there don’t do this.

But before we jump into exactly how to make the persona, let’s continue on with why you need them.

Personas help you create targeted messaging and content that appeals to your audience groups. Let’s use an example to illustrate.

Bob’s Landscaping has two main customer groups: Commercial buildings and residential single-family homes. Now both of these groups are not really wanting the same thing.

A commercial building owner is never going to go out and landscape their properties. They need someone who is reliable, works within the time frame, and is courteous of building visitors.

A home owner is going to want a landscaper if they have too much on their plate to worry about the yard. Sure, they can do the landscaping themselves, but they have better things to do like spend time with their family, or maybe they have a long vacation coming up.

Notice how the messaging and pain points differ for these two audiences. Bob, at first, saw his audience as anyone needing landscaping. Now he sees two distinct groups with different needs.

How to Create a Buyer Persona

Now, here is where we get into the nitty gritty. This will involve you calling up or meeting with customers. You should have some open ended questions in mind to get them to speak freely. You don’t want just one word answers.

Here are a few questions to get you started (provided by Customerdevlabs.com)

1. What’s the hardest part about [problem context] ?
2. Can you tell me about the last time that happened?
3. Why was that hard?
4. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?

In Bob’s case, let’s say he interviews a homeowner and gets these responses:

  1. The hardest part about keeping up the yard is all the other responsibilities I have. I can’t do it before work, and after work I’m just so tired. I tell myself I’ll do it on the weekends, and I just can never find time. I know I can do it, I just find so many other things to do instead.
  2. Just last week I was supposed to pull weeds and mow the lawn, but it never happened.
  3. I had a big project at work and ended up doing about 60 hours. When the weekend came, all I wanted to do was relax on the couch.
  4. I’ve tried other lawn care companies but they’re not reliable. I ask them to come every 2 weeks and it’s very inconsistent. They also don’t follow all my instructions. The last company pulled out the wrong flowers!
  5. All the companies seem the same, they show up when they want and leave whenever. I don’t feel like they feel that they’re held accountable for their work or when they show up. I haven’t found a company yet that does this.

 

Here is the fictional persona Bob created for his homeowner audience:

Howie Homeowner
Age 30-65

  • Has a family
  • Works a full time, salaried job with long hours
  • Likes to spend the weekends relaxing
  • Has the money to pay for a lawn care company but needs someone reliable
  • Wants a nice looking yard and knows he can do the work, but just can’t find the time

How to use the Persona

These responses (although fictional) are full of gold! Bob now knows that a huge pain point of homeowners, at least this one, is that they want to work on their lawn but are too tired to do so. When they go out to get a lawn care company, they don’t trust them to get the work done.

Now Bob, after interviewing a few more homeowners, is able to reword his marketing message to appeal to these direct pain points and to market his company as reliable and trustworthy. He puts in place a checklist that all homeowners receive after service, so they can see just what was done to their yard. He also adds a guarantee that if the company doesn’t show up on the date specified, you get a free servicing the next day.

Bob now goes back and interviews his commercial customers and creates another persona to better target his marketing.

Buyer personas are not the bad guy, they’re not useless, they may use funny names, but they’re supposed to be fictional caricatures of your actual customers. They help you identify and think through what an actual customer wants from your business and how to you can best address that through your content and strategy.

It’s a very useful tool that can only help you! Try it and see what new ideas you can come up with for your customers.

Resources

Free Persona Template

26 Resources to Help You Master Customer Development Interviews

Customer Interview Script Generator

Buyer Personas You Want to Use: The 9 Essential Parts

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Marketing Plugins for WordPress Websites

MARKETING PLUGINS for your WordPress site - MARKIT Group.png

Building a website is about more than just displaying your information to your customers. It is also about collecting those interested customers and buyers so you can market to them later!

Alright, I know that sounds a bit sinister, but, to put it bluntly, many websites don’t do a very good job of collecting info on their visitors and customers or improving the way their customer interacts with their site.

Case in point, go to any local business’s website in your area. It’s fine, I’ll wait. Do they have an email capture form? Probably not. If they do, does it say something like “Sign up for news”? I’d venture to guess that almost nobody signs up for that, and if they do, the website likely doesn’t even send out emails or newsletters.

There are so many ways to improve the visitor experience on your website and to market your website better.

In another article, I’ll go through ways to improve your lead capture system, but in this article, I’ll show you a few cool marketing plugins to help improve the marketability of your site.

SEO Yoast

This is probably the most popular SEO plugin, and for good reason. It makes SEO so simple that anyone can do it. At the bottom of any post or page in the editor, you’ll see fields where you can fill in additional information to help improve the search engine optimization of your posts and pages.

There’s a free and a premium version.

Broken Link Checker

The last thing your site needs are tons and tons of broken links. There’s no time for you to possibly site and go through each and every link. This plugin shows all the broken links so you can pop in and fix them easily.

Akismet

From the name, you’re probably wondering what the heck this is. It’s a way to reduce spam comments on your blog. Just install it, you’ll need it.

Title Experiments Free

Ever wonder if an alternate title you had thought up would have gotten more clicks and opens? Well, Title Experiments Free lets you A/B test blog titles!

Click to Tweet

Use one of the many Twitter plugins to allow your visitors to easily share your content on Twitter.

Testimonials

If your site doesn’t have an area to collect or display testimonials, you’re missing out on a lot of social proof. Showcase your testimonials all in one place.

A/B Image Optimizer

Now you can A/B test which featured image gets the most clicks for your blog posts.

Inline Related Posts

Have you ever read an article and seen a “related post” link between two paragraphs? You can use this plugin to add these types of links to your blog posts to ensure you get your readers staying on your site longer.

Floating Social Media Icons

Ever notice those sites that have the bar full of social media icons? Use this plugin to get a similar bar on your site. It makes it super easy for visitors to share your stuff.

Fancier Author Box

Make your posts look really professional. This plugin let’s you add an author box to your blog posts which includes a photo, name, and description. Kind of like what you see on news and magazine websites.

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HTML vs Text Emails: Which has higher engagement?

text-versus-html-emails-markit-group

If you’re new to the email marketing world, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is between HTML and text emails.

“HTML is always better, it just looks better. People want nice, professional looking emails.”

This is a common argument for HTML emails. The design is what will drive the engagement. Whereas people will say that a text email doesn’t look professional.

I’m here to argue that text actually is better. Sure, it looks like something your friend wrote, and doesn’t have the flashy template and design of an HTML version, but that’s the point.

The point of a text email is that it looks like it’s from a friend, not a business.

I’m going to go over why text converts better.

Does HTML or Text Drive More Engagement?

There are arguments for and against each of these types of emails.

ClickZ argues that Plain Text should die (Ok maybe they’re not that dramatic).

Meanwhile, a 2014 survey from Hubspot showed that while 2/3 of people said they prefer HTML, in reality they A/B tested emails and found that Plain Text always won.

html v text.png

Hubspot argues that HTML emails actually decrease open rates.

  • An HTML template with images had 25% lower opens than a Plain text version with no images
  • The more images, the lower the CTR
  • HTML template with images had 21% lower CTR than plain text with no images
  • A simple HTML template had 5.3% higher CTR vs an HTML heavy template
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HubSpot Images vs. CTR

Why is this happening?

One thing HubSpot noted in their article was the fact that a user’s email filter often automatically moves commercial emails out of your inbox.

Another thing is that in Gmail, if the sender is unknown the images will not display automatically.

Who should use text emails?

Text emails are not a must have for every company. A company like H&M is usually sending out emails full of clothing images. A text version probably would not do so well.

Here are a few cases where a text email might work:

  • Your company is based on your personal brand
  • Onboarding emails
  • Contact form thank you emails
  • Cold emails
  • Feedback/survey emails
  • Want to make the email feel personal
  • Showcase personality

Additional Email Marketing Resources

21 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid | Zapier

15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

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Vital elements to branding

Graphic design has been relegated to $99 designs and free logos online. The internet continues to cheapen the market, so why is it that designers still commission such high pay for their work.

Any good designer will tell you that it’s not how long it takes to create something, it’s how that design embodies and illustrates the company. A good logo is worth its weight in gold, while an ugly one can actually harm your business.

A well-designed brand identity shows that you put effort into your business and that, even if you aren’t the best at design, you know how to let a company or designer create something that embodies your company.

Your brand might not become iconic like Starbucks or FedEx, but it still speaks volumes about your company and is important for making a great first impression on a potential customer or client.

Logo

Your logo is how people will come to identify your company. Maybe you choose a symbol, or just a font, or you plan to combine the two.

When you’re creating a logo, you aren’t just in need of a logo. There are other essential elements that go along with the logo according to Visible Logic:

  • Logo or wordmark
  • Different logo “lockups”
  • Key Colors
  • Additional color palette options
  • Corporate typefaces
  • Standard typographic treatments
  • Consistent style for images
  • Library of graphic elements
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Varying color palettes for our client NEBCO

Brand Assets

In addition to a logo and it’s elements, what else is needed to create a cohesive brand? The answer is not so simple, as it varies by company type.

If you’re a company that uses a lot of stationary, you might be in need of custom notepads, sticky notes, folders, and cover letters. If you are a digital company, you may want custom email signatures or email newsletter headers.

Think about all the items that will be shown to customers and/or clients, and think about how you can brand them with your company’s identity.

Web Design

Your website is a large part of your brand identity but it can often get overlooked. The way your site looks is often a make or break situation when it comes to first impressions. Most people will search for a company before contacting or visiting them. If they don’t like your site, if it loads too slowly, if the images are blurry, if info is out of date, they will likely go find your competitor.

Here are 10 key elements your website should have:

  • Space
  • Simple navigation
  • About us
  • Contact information
  • Call to action
  • Search
  • Informational footer
  • Style for buttons
  • Great images
  • Web fonts

 

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