Don’t Let Your Content Get Iced Over

I grew up on the northern coast of California, where winter weather usually means a lot of rain and fog. Christmas snow was never anything we expected in our small coastal town.

However, this year I spent the holiday season visiting family in Vancouver, Washington. It doesn’t snow that regularly here either, but it definitely happens more often than in my hometown. This year, the snow came down in flurries all day on Christmas Eve and covered the ground with a fresh blanket of powder. It was really cool to have a true, Crosby-like “White Christmas” for once.

The next day, the temperatures stayed below freezing and that snow just turned to ice. It was crunchy and slick, and it made for some dangerous driving conditions on Christmas day.

What is the point of this story? Well, it makes me think of what happens when you let your web content go a bit stagnant. This is a topic I’ve covered before. However, it’s an ideal time to bring it up again because we’re at the start of a new year. It’s the perfect time to revisit your website’s content and freshen it up.

Your website content may have been as fresh and pure as the driven snow when it was first written, but it will eventually ice over if left untouched.

Let me count the ways to keep your content from icing over and becoming dangerously stagnant

1. Update Your Site Content

Take the time to run through every single page of your website. Make sure all the information is still relevant. Add any new information that is needed. Rewrite some sections of text, update graphics and revisit your SEO tags, keywords and links to freshen things up as much as possible.

2. Bring in Fresh Eyes

Don’t be afraid to ask for second or third opinions on your web content. Bring in an outside source or someone who wasn’t involved with the original site development. Let them look things over and provide a fresh perspective on what updates, upgrades and revisions could be made for better site performance.

3. Be Proactive

Don’t neglect your blog, news feeds and other dynamic content sources. Use these to provide fresh, relevant and searchable content on your site regularly. If you don’t have a blog yet, start one. If you do, just make sure to stay on top of it with regular posts. At least once a week is recommended.

4. Social Media Integration

Make sure your site is fully integrated with your social media platforms. Be active with your posts and advertising on social media, share all of your blog posts and news feed links, and engage your followers as much as you can.

5. Don’t Forget Your Brand Messaging

So many business websites these days are focused on SEO. That’s great to attract more site visitors, but only that kind of content can also come off as a little robotic. Don’t neglect your brand messaging and marketing goals. Once you get them to your site, you want to pique their interest and ultimately convert them into customers. Building a strong brand with well-crafted, engaging content is the way to do this.

These are just a few ways to freshen up your web content and keep it from going ice cold on you. To learn more about web content strategy, to discuss business blogging options or for a free, no-obligation review of your current website content, contact NextGear Marketing today.

Is Your Content Too Repetitive?

In the world of web content and SEO strategy, this is a hot debate. Is repetition of keywords and key phrases good or bad for your blog, website and social media?

The answer is not so simple. For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on the body content. Page titles, custom URLs and meta tags/descriptions are really a different story and you can/should go nuts with repetition there. However, the bulk of the content (the body copy, if you will) is a little trickier discussion.

SEO Keywords and Key Phrases

From a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, repetition is beneficial. There are some SEO experts out there that would have you put the focus keyword in every paragraph of your body content, if not every single sentence. Then, you should also work in variations and other related keywords and phrases throughout the copy.

Yes, this approach may help with SEO, especially if someone happens to be searching for that exact keyword/phrase. However, so much repetition will likely make your content unbearable to read. It may lead them to your site or landing page, but will it work to convert them into a customer? There is definitely a point where too much repetition is just too much for the reader.

Finding the Right Blend

Always remember that you have a lot of back-end elements helping with SEO, such as the tags, description, headers, URLs and other things you do that aren’t really seen or at least noticed by the average consumer. You’ll want to use these in conjunction with a healthy—but not too much—amount of strategic repetition in the body content of any web page or blog post.

There is definitely an art to it, which is why many companies will hire a blog specialist, SEO specialist and hosting company who are all specifically skilled at doing things the right way. Good SEO will be somewhat overt, yet also subtle at the same time. The content needs to be engaging and well-written, with the SEO strategy (keywords, phrases, etc.) peppered in just right to satisfy all the objectives.

Evolving Technology

Also, consider that search engines are getting more and more sophisticated. The quality of the content is becoming more and more of a factor in addition to the overall quantity, the keywords and the SEO tags, so it requires a more comprehensive, blended approach to do it right. When done right, however, you will have strong SEO and better customer conversion numbers. People will find your pages and they will take action.

For more information about SEO, web content and blogging strategies, contact NextGear Marketing and get more out of your online marketing plan.

Business Blogging Basics: Personal vs. Professional

We’ve talked about Information vs. Insight and Quality vs. Quantity in previous “Business Blogging Basics” articles. Now, we want to focus on whether it’s better to have a personal or professional tone in your blog (and all web/social media content for that matter).

What is Your Brand’s Voice?

We’re talking about your company’s “voice” that should be an extension of your brand message. Whether the tone of your content should be more personal or professional may depend largely on your brand identity, as well as who your target audience is.

First, consider your company and the products/services you are trying to sell. If you are a bank specializing in business loans and investors, you’ll naturally have a more professional style of writing used in your content. If you are a burger shack on the beach, your brand’s tone is likely to be more personal.

Next, consider your target audience. Again, people looking for a business loan or investment backing aren’t probably looking for a “fun” bank. They want information and resources that will help them make sound financial decisions. That said, the information provided should be personalized in the sense that it is coming from you. If it is just generic financial information, then you are doing nothing to build your brand or your credibility as an industry expert.

The burger shack customer, on the other hand, is just looking for an engaging brand and tasty food. Your content will still include interesting information about your restaurant, staff, menu, ingredients or location, but it will be presented in a more personal light. Your content voice is probably going to be fun and friendly as your main priority is furthering a positive brand association in the consumer’s mind.

The truth is, most small businesses fall somewhere in between ultra-professional and overly personal, which means there should be a healthy balance of the two in all content. The information and ideas provided in your content should be interesting and helpful. At the same time, it needs to be engaging and insightful.

Think about how people access your content in the first place:

Search Engine

Depth of content and strong, relevant information will go a long way on Google. This will get people to find your site or link to a specific blog article. Once they are there, though, they need to be engaged. If the writing is too stuffy and the information is too dry, they won’t develop a positive feeling about your company or your brand.

Ad Clicks

Your online ads or Adwords will intrigue the reader to click through. It may depend on the tone of the ad itself, but the content they find should pay off the tease—whether that’s informational, engaging or, ideally, both.

Social Media

When it comes to social media content, it really depends on your target audience. Find the right balance of professional and personal messaging that keeps them engaged and sparks conversations.

General Marketing

Emails, advertising, direct mail and other forms of marketing will promote your brand message to consumers. Most of today’s consumers will then look online for more information about your products and services, whether that’s your website, your blog or your social media channels. You’ll want them to walk away with the information they need to make a decision, as well as a positive overall feeling about your brand.

Finding the Right Balance

We use the “vs.” in these article titles to make things interesting, but the reality is good web and social media content will incorporate a healthy blend of information, insight, quality, quantity, professionalism and personality. Define your brand message, identify your target customers and create content that will engage them on all levels. If you can do this, you will generate more leads and convert more of those leads into loyal customers.

To learn more about content marketing, contact NextGear Marketing today. We’ll be happy to review your current content approach and discuss ideas on how you can get more out of your online marketing efforts.

What You Need to Know About Online Reputation Management

“Online reputation management” is a popular buzz term you hear a lot today. It’s all about maintaining a good reputation online and through any social media channels where people are talking about your business, products or services. There are some things you can control, such as the messages that you put out as a company. There are other things where you don’t have much control, including what customers (or competitors posing as customers) say about you.

Control Your Messaging

Putting out positive content shouldn’t be that much of a challenge, other than devoting the necessary time and resources to stay active with your blog, website content, social media posts, email campaigns and responses to online reviews and comments. You can proactively put a lot of messages out there that grow your brand, engage customers and generate leads.

Really, one of the keys to online reputation management is making sure there is more good content out there about you than bad. When there is bad content, how you respond can make a huge difference. We’ll circle back to that strategy in just a bit.

Focus on the Positive

First and foremost is the good content. This is the stuff you are posting and writing about, which should generally promote a positive image for your business. It should be engaging, interesting, informative and sometimes fun. You want to find the right balance of quantity and frequency in your posts, and track what content gets the best response.

Managing Customer Reviews

Beyond the material that you are posting as a company, there is what consumers are saying about your business. The truth is that most people who take the time to write reviews or provide feedback will either be positive or negative. You don’t see that many middle-of-the-road reviews because those people don’t have a strong enough opinion to share. Otherwise, it’s human nature. Some people just like to look for things to complain about. The Internet and social media are great outlets for them to speak out with a certain level of anonymity.

Fortunately, most reviewers lean toward the positive side. This means you want to encourage people to share their feedback on any platform they wish. Offer incentives (monthly drawings, discounts for future purchases, etc.). Get your fans and supporters working for you with authentic reviews, and they will help drown out the smaller percentage of negative comments. By the way, if you do this and the feedback is overwhelmingly negative, you need to rethink the way you treat your customers!

That said, you will encounter a negative review from time to time, whether it’s a customer with a legitimate gripe, it’s someone who may be exaggerating the situation or it’s a non-authentic reviewer (possibly a competitor) purposely trying to bring you down.

How you respond to these comments and reviews is crucial. Never get defensive or attack a negative reviewer, but do make sure and respond. Do it tactfully to show others that you are actively trying to resolve the issue. When done right, a negative review can be turned into a positive impression with a proper customer service response. If the reviewer in question is obviously fake, find a way to subtly call them out.

“We’re sorry to hear you had a negative experience. Unfortunately, we do not see your name in our customer database, so we want to make sure your concerns are resolved accordingly. What products/services did you come in for and when did you purchase?”

Odds are, a fake reviewer won’t respond to this and most savvy consumers will be able to recognize it’s a fraud. They’ll still value your resolution attempt, though, and that’s how you potentially turn a negative comment into a positive impression.

The Right Social Strategy

Online reputation management is an important strategy in today’s social marketplace. Be positive, be proactive and be responsive. These are the keys to success.

For more information about online reputation management or how to more effectively manage your blog and social media content, contact NextGear Marketing today.

Why Have an FAQ Page?

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is a popular tool among web developers. It serves multiple purposes, and if done right, can be a very effective web content strategy.

Now, some FAQ pages are fancier than others. That may depend on your hosting/development company and how interactive they can make the page. Still, even the most basic FAQ page has value.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

First, you have the SEO impact. An FAQ will provide a lot of targeted content on various subjects relating to your business. This is great for overall SEO appeal. Also, the frequently asked questions you identify and post on your website can boost your chances of generating organic search visits. In other words, if someone asks the question in a search that you post and answer, there’s a good chance your page comes up near the top of the search list.

Customer Conversion

So, someone found your FAQ page through a search? Fantastic. Now, it’s about conversion. Ideally, your FAQ answers should satisfy their initial inquiry and keep them engaged as they check out other questions and answers on the page. This builds your credibility as an expert in your field. It also makes the potential customer feel good about your business because you are providing helpful information.

When people have questions relating to your business, you want to have the answers. Most consumers these days are going to look for information online long before they ever pick up the phone or walk into your store/office. FAQs are a great way to first catch their attention and then build up your value in their minds.

Short-Form vs. Long-Form

Depending on the business and the amount of FAQs you want to have on your site, you may consider short-form answers or long-form answers. Usually, the more succinct the answer is, the better. Some issues are more complicated and naturally require a longer response. One great strategy is to write detailed blog articles on each subject being addressed on an FAQ page. Then, you can provide a short-form answer on the FAQ page along with an internal link to the longer blog post, where the reader can get more in-depth information.

However you build your FAQ page, consider the value of having it on your site in terms of SEO and customer engagement. Then, put a lot of thought into it. Make notes of common questions you get from people inquiring about your business, products or services. In other words, figure out what the actual frequently asked questions are by your target audience—not just what you think they might want to know.

To learn more about building a FAQ page on your website or for other custom web content ideas and solutions, contact NextGear Marketing today for a free consultation.

How to Build Your Credibility with a Blog

I’ve talked a lot on NextGear Marketing’s blog about the SEO and organic web traffic benefits of blogging. However, I’ve only scratched the surface when referring to one of the other big benefits of having quality web content in the form of a blog. That benefit is industry credibility.

We’ve all heard the term “street cred.” Well, that is also very important to have as a business (or as a representative of your business). If people consider you an expert or a helpful resource within your industry, you’ll have plenty of street cred in your particular marketplace!

So, how do you build credibility with your business blog? It’s simple. You write quality content about a variety of subjects relating to your field. Make it informational, but also make it as insightful as possible. In other words, don’t just recycle information that can be found elsewhere. Put your own spin on it, offer some advice and opinions, and show the reader that you really know what you are talking about. If they have questions or want to know more about the subject, make it so that you/your company are who they turn to for answers.

When you have a good blog, you never have to come out and say you are an expert in your industry. It should come across naturally. In fact, you rarely want to get too salesy. Look at it this way. If you go to a car dealership, would you rather the salesperson say “What do I have to do to get you into this car?” or “What can I tell you about this car?” I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d sure rather have a salesperson that is offering useful information and helpful insight rather than trying to “sell” me something.

There are many reasons why blogging is great for your business, but building your industry credibility is definitely an important factor to consider. For more information about business blogging and dynamic web content, give me a call at 714-348-0642 for a consultation or contact NextGear Marketing online.

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Links?

Links (or hyperlinks, if you want to get technical) have been around since the dawn on the Internet. Quite simply, they are a way to jump immediately from one page to another. If you don’t understand what a link is or how it works, then you probably aren’t ready for anything else we’re about to discuss.

Seriously, though, links are a powerful enhancement to your web content. They can boost SEO and keep your customers engaged. They can help you build better relationships with vendors and fellow businesses. And, if you are not utilizing links in your content, you are missing out.

There are three types of links we want to focus on in this article. I’ll explain the differences and offer some helpful tips on how to get more out of how you use them.

1.External Links

These are links that take someone to a site that is not yours. Perhaps you are referencing another article in one of your blog posts, or you want to provide resource links to manufacturers, service providers and vendors that you work with. Maybe you have a news feed that pulls from other online sources.

There’s nothing wrong with including external links from time to time. They show that you are providing useful information to your customers. The obvious recommendation is that you always set your external links (and all links for that matter) to open up a new browser window. You do not want someone clicking away from your site and not coming back.

Another good tip is to trade links with those manufacturers, service providers and vendors that we talked about. Set up a resources page on your site that links out to everyone you do business with and other reputable businesses in your community. In exchange, ask them to do the same. Everyone benefits from those inbound links, which is what we’ll talk about next.

2. Inbound Links

Inbound links are hyperlinks from other sites that point to specific pages on your site. They are very valuable when it comes to SEO, so inbound links are good for your business in just about every way. In addition to the exchange links we talked about earlier, social media is another great tool to create your own inbound links. Share your blog posts on all your social media accounts and periodically share links to various informational pages on your site. Make sure links to your home page are there in your bio sections. Of course, review and search sites like Google, Yelp, YP.com, etc. will also give you some inbound links. Pay-per-click and pay-per-impression advertising on search engines and social media will also boost your inbound link count.

3. Internal Links

Internal links are best for keeping a site visitor engaged. Have you ever watched a YouTube video that someone shared on Facebook? And before long, you have watched 10 more “related” videos on the side! That illustrates the power of internal links. By including links to your other pages and other blog posts within your own web content, you have a better chance of keeping the visitor on your site longer and getting across more marketing impressions. You may have even noticed several internal links in this article.

As mentioned earlier, also make sure internal links open up new browser windows/tabs. You always want them to come back to the page(s) they started on.

All types of links are easy to include in your web content and they all offer positive aspects that will help improve SEO, strengthen your overall content strategy and engage customers. You don’t want to overload your content with too many links, but you do want to incorporate them on a regular basis for positive results. To learn more about using links in your content, contact NextGear Marketing today.