By Ed Peabody, Content Specialist
If there's one thing every person has in common, it's that we love a good story. Everybody loves to be entertained, enthralled, or invested in a tale that's relatable to them; and this is an aspect of human nature that media platforms have not only embraced but facilitated. In the past few years, we've seen the implementation of stories within Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and more. Now, Google is hopping on the bandwagon. But, the difference here is that a solid web story can actually greatly influence your web traffic and conversions because very few companies are taking advantage of the new feature.
So, What is Google Web Stories Anyway?
Google Web Stories is a free feature that allows creators to tell a tale using video, audio, images, and text. They all come together to create a multimedia slideshow. These stories, powered by accelerated mobile pages (AMP), are displayed on Google in organic search engine results pages (SERPs) above the fold, making it more important than ever to bring your creative A-game if you want to rank well for relevant keywords. While the ideas are similar, this is not like Facebook or Instagram stories -- this is more like a visual blog post.
However, Google Web Stories are currently displayed on mobile-only, so images and video will need to be cropped (or shot) in portrait mode (9:16 aspect ratio). Google Stories are a great way to create bite-sized, consumable media that exhibits your brand, engages audiences, and creates buzz. One key difference, though, is that unlike the fleeting stories common on social media platforms, these are permanent content that lives on your website (like a blog post).
How to Install Google Web Stories on WordPress
Not using WordPress? Read other ways to create Google Web Stories.
General Tips: Creating an Engaging Story
Despite the plugin being mostly drag-and-drop, creating an effective web story takes time and creativity. Below we'll cover the basic elements that go into an engaging web story:
Interest and Immersion
Your story needs to be interesting above all else. Yes, you are showcasing your brand; but this isn't a sales pitch, and you're less likely to get eyeballs on your story if you treat it like one. Try to create content that's inspiring, fun, or at the very least, useful to people. If, hypothetically, you are a bar owner, the topic 5 Craft Cocktails You Can't Live Without leaves more room for creativity and enticement than Why You Should Visit Our Bar. Take the time to plan out what type of content you can offer that's engaging and interesting to users that may not know anything about your business.
This is your opportunity to get compelling clips in front of an audience of potential customers. Where Snapchat and Instagram tend to have videos that are spontaneous and fleeting, Google Stories allows for more calculated, strategic creations that can stand the test of time. Just be sure that the video is shot or cropped in portrait mode (we know, this is heresy to many).
Even if you don't have compelling video on-hand, Google created partnerships with Unsplash and Coverr to create a growing library of free video and images within the plugin, making quality clips accessible to companies of any size.
While there is plenty of room for text in Web Stories, it shouldn't be your main focus. Advice that comes straight from Google is to, "avoid large blocks of text. Keep it to the essentials." Try and keep text minimized to calls to action, clickable links, etc. within your stories. Let the visuals and the audio do the storytelling, while the text supports it when possible.
You want to keep users engaged so they scroll through each of your story's slides. Try to keep attention by building suspense and leaving each slide on a bit of a cliffhanger, eventually culminating into a satisfying end and a call to action.
No Time For Stories? We'll Tell Yours For You.
Google Web Stories are gaining traction among top brands and have already begun to boost SEO efforts. Right now, they are in a bit of a golden age -- few brands are taking full advantage of this new feature, meaning the ones who do are among less competition and getting eyes on their brand. As competition ramps up, it may become harder to break into, so the sooner you get involved, the better.
Our team is ready and willing to help you tell your compelling story -- we just need to hear from you first.
Author: Allison Zalesny, Social Media Associate
2020 was a year that no one expected. Our daily routines all changed within a blink of an eye and we’ve been navigating this “new normal” ever since. For social media marketers, this year threw us many unexpected curveballs. We had to shift strategies, scrap marketing plans, and push ourselves harder than ever before. Although 2020 was a difficult year, it also forced our RyTech Social Squad to learn, grow, and adapt professionally. After reflecting on 2020, our team compiled observations on what we've learned and how it will impact us and our clients in 2021.
Social media is not always about business. Your end goal isn’t always going to be a lead or a conversion. In 2020, we found that to be especially true. The audience on social media was simply looking for human connection. Whether it was a screenshot of a Zoom happy hour or a simple “we’re here for you” message, individuals across the globe were just looking for pockets of togetherness on social media while we could not gather together in person.
In 2021, the search for pockets of togetherness is not going anywhere. As some businesses are returning back to “normal” or adjusting to a “new normal” we want to continue to showcase the human connection, the faces behind the business.
This year, it felt more than ever like people wanted to peek behind-the-scenes of those they follow on social media. The feeling of “what’s everyone else doing?” was not limited to individuals - people were interested in businesses, too. Many customers wanted to see in real-time how their favorite businesses had adapted to keep everyone safe and continue to thrive (or survive) in an unpredictable year.
If 2020 taught us anything it’s that sometimes we need to slow down. Social media can often be very reactionary and the fear of missing out can cause Social Media Managers to want to send messages out as quickly as possible. This year showed us that sometimes that isn’t always the best course of action as misinformation and misconstrued messaging can be incredibly detrimental to a brand.
In 2021, our plan is to listen first and then react. The world is ever-changing and we can’t predict the future. What may seem like a good message now might not be a good message in the coming months, weeks, or even days. Stop, take a breath, listen to what people are saying, and then begin to craft the right message.
Humor can be a powerful tool on social media when it's relevant and appropriate, especially during challenging times (like 2020) when people crave distraction.
Businesses that publish content connecting their brand to a meme or moment in pop-culture are able to establish a feed that is more memorable, relatable, credible, and shareable. Although this may not be a part of a social media strategy for every business, it can be a way to engage followers.
If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught me, it’s to stay flexible. No, I’m not talking about being able to do the splits or put your feet behind your head, which would be pretty awesome. I’m referring to adapting your marketing strategy quickly in response to unexpected events.
In marketing, we often work to plan ahead, anticipate trends, and create strategies that push us closer to our goals, but 2020 made this almost impossible at times. Marketing strategies had to be rethought or recreated as new information, movements, and trends swept in and out like the tide. This year taught me to proactively create marketing strategies that can pivot if need be and adapted painlessly.
Looking Forward: Implementing Data-Driven Strategies
It’s safe to say that we’ve discovered and experienced a lot in regards to social media in 2020 and we’re looking forward to taking our learnings into 2021. As we continue to look at 2021 and the new year that has arrived, we are focused on developing data-driven strategies for success this year on behalf of our clients. From what we learned, we know that consumers are hungry for brand engagement, storytelling, live video, Instagram stories, and user generated content. If investing in your social media presence was on your New Years’ resolution list, schedule a free consultation with a member of our social media team. We’re happy to have the conversation!
Author, Allison Zalesny, Social Media Associate
Inclusivity is a hot topic in the world we live in (as it should be). Companies have been making a concerted effort to include wider audiences within their content, but many don’t realize that many people are still being left out of the conversation. For example, the deaf or hard of hearing community, the blind community, and those that deal with color blindness or vision issues struggle with accessibility on social media daily. At the end of the day, social media marketing aims to reach as many people as possible, right?
To do that, social media marketers need to start taking steps to make sure that the content going out is as inclusive as possible. Here are some ways you can make your message more available (and inclusive) to everyone.
Alternative Text (Alt Text)
A picture can really tell a story. But what happens if you can’t see the picture? Does the message get lost? Adding alternative text (or alt text) can help people visualize images through a description. Adding custom alt text to images posted on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter ensures that those using screen readers can truly depict the full message you’re trying to convey. When adding alt text, always remember to be as descriptive as possible. Let’s say we’re looking at the famous American Gothic painting. What alt text could you provide to make help your reader identify this painting?
No Alt Text: When no alt text is added, screen readers will simply read “image” to their user.
Poor Alt Text: “Photo of a man and woman.” First, the reader already knows that an image is being described to them so starting your alt text with “photo of” or “picture of” is redundant. Stating that a man and a woman are in the photo is true but it also doesn’t really provide your reader with any more information than they would have had without the alt text.
Good Alt Text: “An older man holding a pitchfork stands next to an older woman in front of a farmhouse on a clear day.” This text provides details about the couple’s age, where they live, and what the scenery around them looks like. Without seeing the photo your reader could identify this image as the American Gothic painting.
Adding captions to videos is something that can help a wide variety of people like the hearing-impaired community, non-native speakers, and social media users who have their sound turned off. Studies show that 85% of 30-second videos on Facebook are viewed without sound. Captions improve the user experience by allowing all users to enjoy video content in any environment. Social media users can be found checking their social channels in restaurants, Ubers, gyms, airports, and anywhere else that has WiFi. Making your content more easily digestible by adding captions is a high-value effort that can yield a lot of benefits. Captioning your videos may not only include an audience that is often left out of video content but it could also draw more people to your content overall.
Social media managers sure love hashtags, but do they always convey the same message to everyone? Did you know that if you don’t capitalize each word in your hashtag, screen reader software can’t always differentiate each word? For example, one Twitter user recently pointed out that the hashtag #blacklivesmatter (uncapitalized) is read aloud as “black live smatter.” To avoid issues like this, take the time to capitalize every word (#BlackLivesMatter) in your hashtags.
Sharing images that standout is important, but are you making sure that everyone can read your graphics? For people who are colorblind, color contrast is key. When making graphics, avoid red/green or blue/yellow combinations as they can be challenging to differentiate. Text that is laid over images can also create a challenge for people with vision issues. Try adding a solid or opaque background behind your text before you lay it over an image. Finally, when creating graphs or charts, always label your data for those who may not be able to see the difference in data color.
Make The Effort
Nobody is perfect - all we can do is try our best to be as inclusive as possible with our content. There are many tools available online to help make this an easier process, such as readability tools, captioning services, contrast checkers, and others. Adding these extra steps may seem tedious at first, but overall, making your content more inclusive, only widens your audience.
Want to learn more about what you can do to be inclusive with your social media content? Contact Allison Zalesny, Social Media Associate, at email@example.com.
Written by, Walton Kay
A company’s website has never been more important than present day: Q4 of 2020. As the world continues to adjust to major changes stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, companies are meeting the challenge of communicating the measures they are taking to support their employees, customers, suppliers and investors.
The level of resiliency that companies have shown during this time is downright impressive. Businesses have implemented major changes ranging from pivoting business operations to help address disruptions in supply chains to changes revolving around in-person interactions. Regardless of the response strategies put in place, it’s clear that companies are using their websites as a primary channel to keep their key stakeholders engaged and informed. Customers are turning to company websites for information involving:
Wordpress: The World's Most popular Website Platform
WordPress is a free, open-sourced and full-featured content management system (CMS) that happens to be the world’s most popular tool for creating and managing websites. In fact, it’s estimated that WordPress powers 37% -- or an astonishing 522 million -- of the world's websites. In this guide we delve into why companies have been choosing WordPress to represent their businesses for over a decade. Be sure to note the differences of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org when evaluating platforms. We recommend WordPress.org.
6 Benefits of Using WordPress Websites to Communicate Information:
1. 100% Customizable Website Design
WordPress websites are completely customizable from a design and user experience perspective. In a time when pertinent information needs to be front and center, many companies are redesigning their websites to have a dedicated hub for key business updates. The options are endless with WordPress functionality. Website design goes way beyond communicating important information. It is often the first chance a company has to prove legitimacy. In fact, 75 percent of consumers admit that they judge businesses’ credibility based on their website design according to Research at Stanford. All businesses are subject to this degree consumer choice and scrutiny - from retail stores to doctors' offices.
2. Search Engines Prefer WordPress Websites
What good is your website if customers and key stakeholders can’t find it? The technical code on the back end of WordPress is very clean and simple, making it easy for search engines to read and index your site’s content. Taking it a step further, each page, post, and aspect of a WordPress site can have its own meta tag keywords, descriptions, and titles. This allows for each web page to be optimized for specific keywords, allowing for very precise search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. In other words - WordPress is built for Google search and has unlimited potential when managed properly!
3. WordPress Websites are Easy to Use
WordPress has a very intuitive user interface. Once the heavy lifting during the design process is completed, adding new blog posts, images and pages can be done quickly and efficiently. This allows you to spin up a new blog post in a matter of minutes to get important information and updates out to audiences without sacrificing design elements.
4. Grow Your Website Alongside Your Business
WordPress websites are extremely scalable. This means that your website can grow alongside your business. WordPress is the standard platform for businesses large and small. Whether your website has five pages or thousands of pages, the performance of your website will not be compromised. Investing in WordPress ensures that your website will not be subject to planned obsolescence.
5. Security & Peace of Mind
Security is a major concern for all businesses big and small. When combining WordPress with a secure hosting service you can subvert potential security risks with:
6. WordPress.org is a Free and Open-Sourced Platform
There are a plethora of paid website providers out there that will attempt to entice you to use their platform, offering all kinds of bells and whistles. But when it comes time to make changes or edits to your site, you’re forced to use their development team at an additional (and often high) cost for even minor tweaks. In addition, they often lock you into long-term contracts and take ownership of all the content and data associated with the website.
WordPress is 100% free and open-sourced. This means that you pay nothing beyond annual hosting costs and up-front web design investments. You own your website and all of the data (a rarity in today’s cloud based world). The open-sourced community of developers does a great job staying ahead of security threats. There are also unlimited options for additional website add-ons called plugins. Occasionally plugins do charge an additional fee depending on features.
High Quality & Affordable WordPress Website Design
The RyTech web design team has been hard at work expanding our knowledge base, bringing on new talent and elevating our website scope to include design and development on WordPress. We tailor every project to your unique business needs and pride ourselves on delivering high-quality work.
Don’t just take our word for it! We're already seeing enormous growth from our recent work for these clients/industries:
Last week, Twitter announced they are rolling out a new feature. Users are now able to record their own audio and share it on the platform as a voice tweet. It appears that “voice tweets” is currently an enabled feature for a limited number of users on Twitter for iOS but will be available to all iOS users in the coming weeks.
Let's look at some of the logistics of using a voice tweet:
With an eye toward how we can implement this new feature on behalf of our clients and our firm, our Founder & CEO @sjryanjr took to Twitter to crowdsource initial thoughts and reactions about voice tweeting and experimented with it a bit. Check out the feedback below:
Our CEO Steve Ryan (@sjryanjr) tested out a voice tweet and asked his followers for feedback. Overall, responses from Steve's followers were positive. Individuals responded about the sound quality and liking it more than they expected. Some users remarked that it reminded them of a podcast and others are hopeful that all Twitter users will have the opportunity to try this out soon. Twitter hopes "people will use this to make their voices heard and add to the public conversation."
Some Positive Takeaways for Using Voice Tweet
More Content: You can fit a lot more content in 140 seconds than you can in 280 characters; be careful you don't start rambling, though. You might even consider scripting yourself to ensure you fit your entire message within the allotted time. If you have a lot to communicate, Twitter provides the option to create threads with multiple voice tweets in a row, if you're looking for longer-form voice content.
Humanization: It's easy to scroll through Twitter quickly without stopping. You may find yourself unsure of who you are following, how you knew them originally, or what their priorities might be. Voice tweets put a name behind the face and a voice behind the name. This humanizes your Twitter account and your brand.
It's New: Who doesn't love a new feature on a social media platform? This is exciting and time to experiment, try something new and innovative, look for ways to make it work for your brand, and be a trendsetter as opposed to letting other companies push forward and leave your Twitter account in the dust.
Things to Consider Before You Jump All In
Visuals: As previously mentioned, Twitter pulls your profile picture and background color for your voice tweet. As a user, you do not have control over imagery/visuals to correspond with the voice tweet functionality. So, if you have particular brand guidelines, you have to be willing to budge when using this functionality.
Headphones: According to recent reports, 80% of active users access Twitter via mobile. Remember that they likely have their audio turned off or don't have headphones in, so they really have to want to listen to your content if they push play. This is why it's still important to introduce the tweet via text.
Text: Transcription or text overlay would be a great add-on to this functionality so that users don't have to listen but could still consume the content without audio (understanding it defeats the purpose of voice tweets).
Access: From reading between the lines, voice tweet functionality appears to be only available for iOS users in the initial rollout. You will need an iOS device that will allow you to record and utilize the functionality.
Ideas for Leveraging this Feature
Quick Hit Updates: Want to showcase yourself as a thought leader or have a quick update or mini tip to share? Voice tweets give you the time to put your thoughts together and talk through a topic.
Company News: If you have something newsworthy to share, use a voice tweet of your company spokesperson or senior leadership to share. Maybe it's reading a press release or responding to a crisis or sharing something fun, putting the voice behind a brand is powerful.
Mini Podcast: Don't want to commit to long-form content or in-depth recordings? Voice tweets could give you the solution you need to launch a podcast, maybe it's daily for 140 seconds or weekly or even monthly. Choose your topic, brand it, publicize it your audience, create a branded hashtag, and commit to trying it on a timeline that works for you.
Still not convinced or unsure how you might use voice tweets as part of your social media strategy? Schedule a free consultation with a member of our social media team.
Social media has become a digital marketing must for businesses across the globe, but if you didn’t grow up in the “social media age” or aren’t familiar with all of the capabilities, social media can be daunting to determine how to apply it to your business and even more so how to measure return on investment. There is a common misconception that to be on social media means you have to have a presence across all social media platforms. That is not the case. It all depends on who your ideal audience is and what your goals are. So where do you start?
IDENTIFY YOUR AUDIENCE
Taking a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of identifying your audience is vital to the success of your social media efforts. Who is your ideal consumer? Where are they located? How old are they? Are they shopping online? What do they like to do? Where are they spending their time on social media? These are all important aspects to explore and consider when developing and executing your strategy. You may be producing great, creative content but if it isn’t relative to your audience, how will it convert?
DEVELOP YOUR GOALS
Before you continue posting because you feel as though you have to be on social media, identify what you are looking to achieve. Each of your social media channels should have a purpose that directly aligns with your goals. You don’t have to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or other social platforms if it doesn’t make sense for your business. Are you looking to social media as a customer service tool? Twitter is ideal for real-time, immediate conversation with your followers. Maybe your goal is product promotion? Instagram is a great visual platform to showcase your product and create engagement with your following. Perhaps you want to grow your customer base? Facebook engagement ads allow you to target your ideal audience and encourage them to follow and like your page to continue seeing your content.
PAID VS. ORGANIC
With social media algorithms changing frequently, businesses can utilize social media organically, with paid promotions, or a mixture of both. There is no right or wrong answer to whether or not paid or organic is the right choice. Often the most effective is a combination of both; however, it goes back to your goals.
Organic social media takes time, not dollars as the investment. By continuing to invest time in posting on social media, your audience wants to hear from you consistently. Organic content flows in the feeds of your audience to stay top of mind and keep your audience informed about events, promotions, and organizational updates. These are your regular updates, when you share a sale that you're having in your store, a photo of a new product that just arrived, highlighting an employee, or sharing an article about a local fundraiser you are supporting. It's also when you're engaging with your audience by liking and commenting on posts of other businesses and individuals. The investment is time.
Paid social media efforts allow you to hone in on and target specific demographics. With all of the sophisticated targeting capabilities, you can be sure that your content is being seen by your ideal customers; this is a monetary investment. One way to utilize paid advertising is if you have a major product or content push you want to be sure is being seen by your target audience. Boosting your existing organic content on Facebook allows you to reach more of your target audience who may not be following your page, but match the profile of your “ideal customer.” You can also create specific ads to promote awareness and increase your reach or send traffic to your website, if you have an online store. Instagram has similar advertising capabilities but allows for more creative visuals to accompany your ads. Twitter ads allow you to further promote existing content on your page but is more heavily used for creating engagement and soliciting clicks and traffic to your website. Paid social media can also be used to build up your following with real, relevant followers and increase brand awareness and traffic to your website. If you’re struggling with what sort of content to include in your paid advertising budget, try starting with organic content to see how your audience engages and that has proven successful for your business. Start with the content you are already seeing a return on with your audience.
It’s good to create a conversation with your content, but it is also important to join conversations already happening online about your business and industry by simply listening. Sprout Social defines social listening as, “the process of tracking conversations around specific topics, keywords, phrases, brands or industries, and leveraging your insights to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences.” Social listening offers businesses the opportunity to monitor, analyze, and listen to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, Reddit, blogs, forums and news sites for conversations happening online about your business, brand, or specific keywords (like the many shoe brands you carry within your store or online). That being said, the insights gained go far beyond researching hashtags and manually scrolling through news feeds to gather data. With all this consumer research, social listening ultimately gives you the tools you need to develop and drive an effective content strategy to optimize consumer reach and propel your business towards a successful future.
Read, 'The Power of Social Listening.'
If you’re not seeing a return on your social media investment, oftentimes, it not because of your product. It’s because you’re not telling the story of who you are as a business in a way that relates to your customers. All too often we see brands promote products by saying, “We’re the best! Buy our product!” But why are you the best? Customers are so used to the same old, “We’re the best, buy our product” language. Differentiating your business in a way that is easy for your customers to understand will make them more inclined to give you a shot. Simon Sinek argues that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Social media has the power to reach a wide range of customers and tell the story of your business, why you do what you do, create a connection with your customers, and ultimately make them want to do business with you.
Read, 'Maintaining Your Social Presence During COVID-19.'
It’s important to keep track of your social media metrics month over month and year over year to ensure that your social media strategy is hitting the mark and that you are achieving your digital marketing goals. Some vital metrics to measure include engagements, followers, and of course conversions.
Engagements represent the number of clicks, likes, comments, and shares of your particular posts. Engagements are important to track as they affirm that your audience is interested in the content that you’re posting. You may be posting creative content, but if your audience isn’t resonating with your posts, it can prove to be unsuccessful. Maintaining a significant following across your social platform is also something you want to be aware of when measuring brand health. Having a substantial number of followers is a sign of credibility and trustworthiness when users come to visit your page. This data shows that people have an interest in your business. That being said, the quality of your followers and who you are following is very important too. A follow from a consumer to your page is a way of saying I care what you do. The same goes for your business. You want to be sure your “endorsements” are reflective of who you are as a brand, to maintain that credibility and trust with your audience. Conversions represent a response to the call to action you are soliciting with your message, turning that lead into a customer.
Your social media objectives and strategy is going to be unique to your business and will take time to develop and execute, but if done correctly can and will have a great ROI for your business.
FOLLOW RYTECH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
With the expansion of the number of digital ads, the increase in Google profits, and the advertising landscape only becoming more competitive, it can be surprising to learn that five retail stores are opening for every one that closes [IHL Group - 2018]. It would seem that as eCommerce continues to boom, so does the need for consumers to visit stores for a variety of reasons:
It can be near impossible to compete with Amazon, Zappos, and the actual brands that retailers carry in a paid campaign due to budget alone. That being said, local retailers can win in driving local, high intent traffic into your store through a well-thought-out Google Search Ads campaign. Not only can this strategy increase brand awareness in your area, it can increase customer lifetime value as well. Some basics to keep in mind when building out a Google Search Ad campaign: include what keywords you're willing to bid on, negative keywords (or keywords to excluded), your budget, the maximum you're willing to bid (per click), what you consider a conversion (and what that conversion is worth to you), landing pages being used, and compelling & on-brand ad copy.
Google Ads understands that not everyone can compete with eCommerce giants, and they've introduced a few features to be aware of as you set up your campaigns to offer a more level playing field and increase return on investment.
1. Geo Targeting
Using Geo Targeting around your city is a smart, effective and cost efficient way to ensure your ads are only shown to potential customers who are near your business. The recommended radius depends on your city - highly populated metropolitan areas will want to use a tight radius because competition is high and travel is more difficult. If you're in a less populated, more suburban or rural area, you could expand your geo targeting to 15-20 miles around your physical location as people will be more willing to travel to get to your store.
2. Ad Schedules
If the primary goal is to drive foot traffic, it makes sense that the majority of your budget should be spent during business hours. Using Ad Scheduling to turn off ads when your business isn't open will maximize your allocated spend and yield the best results.
Instead of scheduling for your business hours, schedule your ads to run 15-30 minutes before you open and to end 30 minutes-1 hour before you close. That way, people who are looking to shop early in the morning will be able to find your location, and people searching for a store 2 minutes before closing time won't see your ads.
One underutilized function in Google Ads is the Ad Extension addition. Google doesn't make this function easy to use, but it can have dramatic effects on your ad campaign if you can properly add certain extensions.
a. Location Extensions
For any local campaign, adding a location extension is vital. This involves connecting your Google My Business (GMB) account - your homepage on Google - to your ad account. By connecting a location extension to your Google Ads account, your GMB profile is able to show in Local Map Packs which promotes phone calls, directions to your store, location details, and reviews, as well as allows you to start tracking store visits.
By tracking store visits, you can get a real idea of how many customers your ads are drawing into your physical location.
b. Promotion Extensions
While local competition doesn't stack up to Amazon or Zappos, it's still important to differentiate yourself from potential competition. Using promotion extensions when you have local deals is a great, efficient way to catch a person’s attention and differentiate your ad from organic results. According to SparkToro, only 4.22% of people click on ad results as of September 2019 data, so advertisers need to use whatever is available to them to increase click-through rate whenever possible.
4. Chat Features
a. Message Extensions
The added benefit about using proper location targeting and ad scheduling is enabling messaging extensions. A messaging extension will allow potential customers to communicate with you through the Google Search Engine Result Page, eliminating the friction of going to a website or having to find directions.
b. On-Site Chat Bots
On-Site Chat Bots are a smart alternative, or addition, to message extensions, allowing potential customers to communicate with your staff - or AI - to answer questions that may be a barrier to visiting your location.
While competing with retail giants, original brands and other global eCommerce businesses can seem daunting, it can be done effectively on a local level with a fairly modest budget. Even $500.00 per month can generate 200+ clicks to your website for high-intent, local keywords (i.e. "shoe stores near me") as long as the time is taken to properly set up your ad account. The first step is identifying your target audience, defining what makes your business unique, and using those insights to set up an effective ad campaign.
Morgan Flores, Search Marketing Manager
Are we going to be okay? A common thought as we face these uncertain times and most unusual challenges. Should we double down on our marketing budget or gut it entirely? Let’s be honest, the marketing budget is typically first on the chopping block. When faced with such tumultuous times business owners and executive leadership are forced to make some very difficult decisions. Get rid of this, cut that—we don’t know what tomorrow brings and therefore we should ‘err on the side of caution.’ Not so fast, the decisions you are making, are they backed by data or are they a knee-jerk reaction to the uncertainty that awaits? If your answer is the latter, consider this; how many successful businesses operate by a system of purely gut feelings? While intuition certainly has its place, you should always have baseline data to defer to.
MARKETING IN A DOWNTURN
Adapt to survive. While wise to contain certain costs, failing to examine core customers’ changing needs can jeopardize performance over the long-term. Take a scalpel, not a cleaver or a sledgehammer to the marketing budget. Recognize the need to adjust strategies and product/service offerings in order to not only survive but thrive in times of an opaque future. While this particular health crisis may be new, this isn’t the first or last time the world will face an economic downturn or volatility in the market. One thing remains the same, customer psychology. Businesses that aim to survive a crisis will focus on customer needs and position themselves as helpers, not opportunists.
PIVOT, PIVOT, PIVOT.
Imagine you’re moving a couch up several flights of stairs. The elevator is out. Left. Left. You’re lifting the couch over your head. You’re turning, turning, turning. Then, along with a couple of your friends you pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Nope, won’t fit. Things don’t always go according to plan. You may even cut the couch in half or scrap the idea entirely.
So, how should you pivot your search initiatives? Where do you begin?
TAKE A MICROSCOPE TO YOUR DATA
If you’ve been paying attention to the shift from print to digital, your website should have a Google Analytics account (at minimum). Print media is declining—that’s an indisputable fact. What is your business doing to shift to expanding consumer behaviors and what mechanisms do you have in place to track success? A perq of digital marketing is that you can effectively track conversions and engagement, it’s not some antiquated estimation built on counting new paper clippings or media impressions.
Let’s begin with the basics. The OG (original), no I don’t mean wading through server logs, I’m referring to Google Analytics. Consider viewing not just overall conversions or users, but also cost per conversion and conversion rates, broken down by campaign. If you're noticing conversion rates falling by 10% or more when looking at the same campaign performance, start digging deeper and determine if that's a campaign that should be paused or funds can be allocated in different directions. Consider the audience being targeted, the amount of users, and other on-page characteristics.
Every phone number clicked, every email address, every form filled out on your website must be tracked. Analyzing your conversion tracking, making informed decisions using data, and specifically honing in on key performance indicators will guide this decision making. Just counting the number of sessions or users year over year is not an efficient measurement of achievement nor does it allow you to strategically plan for the next few months or years. For example, it is critical that you view CAMPAIGN v CAMPAIGN, not just overall spend when analyzing paid ad success so you’re comparing the same audience performance.
Read, ‘Top 5 Takeaways on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communications.’
EXAMINE PAID EFFORTS
If you’re running any pay-per-click (PPC) ads, now is the time to review them. Is the ad copy still relevant to your audience and sensitive to the current situation? Are you able to fulfill orders or deliver services that you’re advertising? If the answer is no, then turn off those ads immediately. Determine what products or services you can deliver. For example, if you’re a hair salon, shift to online product sales. Build your messaging around how these products solve an immediate problem. With salons shuttered across the nation, many individuals will be forced to perform their own haircuts and manicures at home.
REVISIT THE BLOG CONTENT CALENDAR
Much like with your email campaigns, evaluate the content you are pushing out on your blog. To quote one of the most influential hip-hop artists of our time, Ice Cube, ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself.’ And to quote another famous figure, the legendary investor Warren Buffet, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.’
Is your message commiserate with the current climate? The blog posts you had scheduled to promote, are they still relevant although many businesses are closed? Take this opportunity to generate new blog posts that your target audience will connect with and find valuable. A successful blog post will engage your target audience online through multiple mediums. Your blog content should function as an anchor pulling people from various channels online back to your website.
HAVE A PLAN
It is imperative that you have a two-month flexible plan for future messaging given the pandemic. While COVID-19 is a fluid situation, you should plan for this time of isolation to go through the end of May and have tertiary plans just in case stay-at-home orders extend past then (in many states this is quite possible). If you did not have a business continuity plan previous to this, consider reaching out to a local company near you for guidance.
SEARCH MARKETING, CUT OR NOT TO CUT?
There are winners and there are losers. Many of the winners will double down on search engine optimization (SEO). Thinking about creating a lead-generating download enticing visitors to give their email for a case study, white paper, ebook, template, or guide? That’s a great idea! But how are you going to drive demand? The users that were once searching for you by brand name are now occupied with other activities at the moment. Creating a profitable demand on an opt-in email list or lead-gen download is dependent on organic and paid strategies led by the needs of consumers. People still need products and services, the key is to understand how your products/services can fulfill an immediate need, articulate that need, and package it in a friction-free way for mass consumption.
As a business owner or executive leader, you are forced to get creative with tackling new obstacles and your employees look for you to lead the charge. The critical component is to know when to shift strategies and to do so with conviction. One thing to remember as you remain nimble is that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. Stay true to strategies that are working, laying the foundation for future success, and focusing on conversions at all levels of the funnel.
You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” -- Michelle Obama
If you find yourself in need of a gut check on your current marketing strategy, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to help.
Eileen Kennedy, Social Media Manager
Many of us are looking for the “right” answers about how we should be handling coronavirus (COVID-19) and what we should be communicating to our clients. At the onset of the pandemic, many of us decided to pause our communications to figure out strategic next steps.
If you’re still in that phase, we’re here to tell you now is not the time to go dark.
Your doors may be closed and services may be paused, but there are plenty of things you can be doing on social media to foster connection and support within your community.
First things first, people are on their phones, computers, and other devices more than ever with shelter in place orders across the country. According to eMarketer, Facebook saw a 70% increase in its app usage in March. During this time of social distancing, people are looking to increase connections, so meet them where they are already spending most of their time - on social media!
Be transparent. The media can be very overwhelming and sources of anxiety for many and people are looking for distractions. Social media is the place for your business to share your truth, be a beacon of hope, and a place of information and inspiration for your audience. Let your audience in on what you are doing during this “downtime,” how you are supporting your employees, and share your plans for the future.
Any resources within your community or elsewhere that could be helpful for your audience (like work from home tips, at-home family activities, medical information, donation opportunities, etc) should be considered share-worthy even if it is not directly related to your business. Be discerning, don’t just share everything you find, but sharing accurate information from reliable sources or information relevant to your audience will be well-received. If you want more guidance, read our Top 5 Takeaways on Coronavirus Communications.
NO SERVICE? NO PROBLEM.
With many doors closed and some services on hold, the reality is we may not be getting as many conversions as we’d like to see on social media, but this is time to focus on growing and strengthening your community and brand sentiment. Your goal should be to frame your business as a resource and thought leader.
Social media “live” capabilities are a great, creative way to communicate in real-time with your audience, answer any question they may have, allow them to see your face, see that you’re working, and see that you are there for them during this unprecedented time. Don’t try to hard-sell your products or services - just be there to relate to your audience, educate them, and offer support.
If you have customers asking how they can support your business during this time, Instagram recently rolled out its gift card option. Stay tuned for more fundraising opportunities from Instagram.
KEEP YOUR FINGER ON THE PULSE
Instagram has created a sticker series for users to not only stay connected during this time of social distancing but also to gather important information on the virus.
There is also an abundance of hashtags that you can search or use to find conversations and connect with others during this time. This is a helpful tool for joining discussions already in progress.
Your customers want to hear from you. They want to see you and they want to know that you're optimistic about the future. Give them updates, resources, and support. Social media is a great tool to connect with followers and provide them with quick updates and valuable information.
People are home. People have phones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, and desktops. People are working remotely and might have a few extra minutes on their hands. They're turning to the internet - online video gaming, streaming services, social media, and browsing the web. I know in our house, Disney+ might be streaming every minute the kids are awake, so we're definitely contributing to the increased usage for streaming services. In residential areas across the country, we're seeing a surge of 20% of internet browsing activity.
If your website was redesigned in the past 4-5 years, your business is likely using responsive design technology to respond across all devices appropriately, built on a content management system that allows you to make updates as necessary. It likely has a modern design that won't offend a visitor when they land on your site and is hosted on a reliable server that can withstand a traffic surge. So, in this scenario, you're likely ready for a surge in traffic, but you should still make sure that your website and all of its functionality responds accordingly on mobile, tablet, and desktop views.
User Experience = Customer Experience
Websites, much like businesses, need to continue to innovate and expand their customer experience. In a traditionally focused in-store, retail environment, you can make face to face customer connections, develop relationships, and foster positive brand sentiment. Why can't you do that online through your website? Provide your customers with an experience that matches what they would see in-store. Allow your customers the ability to see products, purchase merchandise, connect with a staff member virtually, or request more information. For B2B companies, focus on telling your story, sharing what separates you from your competitors, and inform why someone should work with you. What's unique about your company that would make someone want to convert and work with you? This content is relevant and necessary to answer the questions of those who are already online and landing on your website.
Bells and Whistles or Necessary Functionality?
There is a lot of debate among website designers of what add-ons are too much and what is necessary for businesses to include on their website. Our take is really what does your business need in order to be successful, and before that, what is the overall purpose of the website. Your website should be the foundation of your marketing strategy and initiatives, digitally and offline.
That being said, you want your website to be the foundation of all of your marketing efforts - online and offline. The website should be configured to allow for conversions to happen (even when no one is around to answer the phones at the office).
A few opportunities to consider:
1. Develop a content strategy that provides responses to the many frequently asked questions your business receives from potential clients.
2. Consider adding a chatbot or live chat feature to your website to allow questions to be asked from those who are almost ready to convert.
3. Look into a book a consultation or calendar integration to allow for customer meetings right through the website. These strategies will help you filter out unqualified leads as well as streamline the conversion process.
However, if you're a retail storefront that is looking to increase revenue consider, taking the customer experience a step further and add an online store to your website that provides a new revenue stream opportunity. You don't have to add all of your inventory at once, perhaps it's five to ten products to test the market. When built on a scalable platform, this could easily take less than a week to implement and go live with an opportunity to convert customers after hours.
SEO v. User Experience
Myth: you have to choose one or the other.
Fact: you don't have to compromise the user experience on your website with a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
The two components of your website are not mutually exclusive. Don't compromise your design, don't forget about being found through search engines. Rather, some designers do not have the SEO knowledge and know-how to successfully implement a solid SEO strategy on a beautifully designed website.
Revisit the keywords that you optimized for previously. Times have definitely changed and the keywords you are ranking for might have dropped off significantly. Develop quality content over quantity of content - focus on long-form blog posts when necessary. Or take some time to add case studies, white papers and client testimonials throughout your website.
Making sure that your website is updated with the right content, will convert with a spike in traffic, and strategically positions your company for growth should always be a priority.
Ensuring that your website is technically sound is an integral part of both SEO and user experience, marrying the two together. Your website needs to load quickly for end users on mobile devices, tablets, and computers. A timely load speed encourages users to interact with the graphics and content on the website, and ultimately impacts your search rankings. One common issue found is a lack of image optimization that slows down your website’s load speed. Check with your designer or use a plugin to address image compression and cacheability.
Not sure if your website is equipped to handle the new demand? Want a complimentary website assessment? Click here to get your FREE analysis.