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Four Core Marketing Principles

Four Core Marketing PrinciplesMarketing your company or brand can often seem like a daunting task. Many business owners have trouble even knowing where to start. If you are faced with this situation, you’re not alone but there are simple solutions to get you headed down the right path.

This post may seem like a pep-talk, and in some ways it is but the best place to start, in my opinion, is to follow these four core principles. Four simple ideas to keep at the heart of everything you do. Four, time-tested ideas that breed success but are often overlooked.

Be your business biggest fan

Excitement is contagious, and you need someone to spread that excitement about your brand. Just as a fan (fanatic) is excited about their team, celebrates the wins and finds the positives in the loss, you should be out there ‘hyping’ your brand. Customers and employees know when leadership is not excited about the products or services they sell and it makes it hard for them to get behind the company when they sense this. Are you your businesses or brands biggest fan? Do you get excited when you have success, do you share that excitement? Be that leader, the brand evangelist, the hype-man of your company.

Don’t settle on past success

The past is the past, and the future is changing rapidly. Sure it’s great to celebrate a success or a big win. Every team needs to do that, but if you get complacent in your efforts, you will soon stop reaping the benefits of your past success. Marketing windows close quickly, audiences get bored with the same tactics and messaging. Therefore, you should always be looking forward, willing to try new channels and ideas. Some may succeed, others may fail but don’t settle in the past.

Build brand advocates

The best marketing comes from customers who fall in love with your brand and who become advocates for it. People buy into your business not because you say it’s great, but because they’ve heard it works from someone they trust and know. A little effort on your part can turn into a lifelong customer who spreads the word about your business so don’t neglect customer care. It always pays off in the long run.

Operate with Integrity

To gain a lifelong customer who becomes a brand advocate, you need to operate with integrity. Integrity needs to permeate through every aspect of your business, from the top, through the marketing and into the customer service. The public is quick to spot someone with operates without integrity and in today’s climate, and social media word can spread quickly. Bad press can quickly kill excitement about your brand and turn away potential customers. On the flip side, integrity breeds enthusiasm and enthusiasm is contagious.

Keeping these four principles at the core of your marketing efforts can help your business thrive! Operate with integrity, get excited about what you offer, spread that excitement to others and never settle on your past accomplishments.

Four Core Marketing Principles
Evaluating an SEO Agency

The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google always seem to be clouded in mystery. Even though it’s 2016 and Google has been around for 18 years, many business owners or marketing managers have no idea how it works or how to get their companies to show up on Google.

This confusion makes it easy for less-than-reputable individuals to take advantage of those who know they need to be found on the web but don’t know how to get there. These unscrupulous SEO firms throw terms around like Algorithms, Penguin, Penalties, and SERP’s – more to confuse and thus convince clients to trust them.

The end result is a company who pays a lot of money for tactics that, at best, achieve no results and, at worse, cause damages that are difficult to undo.

Evaluating an SEO Agency

Top 5 signs you might be dealing with an “SEO” Agency that doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

#5 No Clear Strategy

If an SEO has no way of articulating their strategy for increasing your visibility then chances are they don’t have one.  A strategy is their chance to explain what and why they will be doing certain things. Always ask what and why.

#4 Lack of Reporting

Reporting is a vital part of business operations. If you can’t report out on it how can you assess the ROI? Any SEO firm that doesn’t provide an account of what they’ve done and how successful or not (which is ok, failure if part of the process) it has been, is not being transparent. Lack of access to analytics (Google Analytics), conversion tracking tools, rank reports etc. are a sure sign things are not being assessed properly.

#3 Magical Results

Everyone wants to see their traffic, sales, conversions etc. grow and grow quickly. But be wary of the ‘magical’ results. Organic traffic can grow fast, but use your gut when you see extreme growth. Often these visitors turn out to be inflated or manipulated and provide no value to your company.

#2 Google Guarantee

Any SEO firm or agency that says they can guarantee an organic ranking is, well, not someone to trust. No one can. Google won’t allow it or Google would be out of business. Certain tactics have proven to be more efficient than others, but there are simply too many factors involved for anyone to declare emphatically they can guarantee rankings.

#1 Laziness

The digital world has changed a lot in the last five years. Google has made over 20 changes to how it interacts with a website in the last two years. If your SEO agency is still using tactics from 2010, they’re being lazy.

 

A mix of proven and innovative approaches always gives a company the best possible chance to succeed. A quality SEO firm will explain the tactics they are using and explain why they are important. If your agency isn’t doing that, you need to ask questions.

These are just a sampling of the things you should use to evaluate your current or prospective SEO agency. Our hope is that your agency passes the test and is providing you with a valuable service. Quality SEO makes the web a better place for everyone!

 

At Sanctuary Marketing Group we pride ourselves on having an open relationship with our clients. Our clients look at us as partners, focused on achieving results openly and ethically. If you’ve had a bad experience with an SEO or Digital Marketing agency, contact us. We are happy to listen to your needs and experience, offer advice and help you get back on track growing your business.

How to Evaluate SEO Providers & Avoid the Sketchy Ones

google_analytics logoAs a small business owner, you have many things to keep track of. What visitors are doing on your website may be on that list, but if it’s not, it’s time to start thinking about it. For most small businesses, their website might be the primary source of leads or a point of sale. For others it is an invaluable marketing tool. In any case, your website is there to bring you more business.

Tracking or “analytics” is how you know your website is either working to make you money or costing you money. Tracking the visitors to your site can yield valuable insights as to who is visiting, how they found you and what they are doing. With this information, you can find ways to gain more traffic, improve sales with the traffic, find holes or conversion roadblocks on the site along with many other insights.

Awhile back we at Sanctuary wrote a blog post 9 Great Google Analytics Features. Since then Google has provided even more new features and reports that can help you easily measure the success of your website. Here are a few of those updates.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking ReportThis Google Analytics feature provides a true measuring stick of how you stack up against the competition within your industry. Google uses hundreds to thousands of other sites within your industry category to create Benchmark numbers or averages. You can then compare how your site is performing in terms of acquisition and behavior metrics compared to the rest of your specific industry. Additional filters include by location, size of a site by daily sessions, channel grouping, and by a device. This report can show you where you are doing well and where you need to up your game to breeze by the competition.

Demographics & Interests Reporting

This relatively new feature uses third-party cookies to define your users. This will help you better gain an understanding of who makes up your audience in terms of age, gender, and categories of interests. Through additional segmentation, you can identify what content was successful for certain demographics or what demographics had the highest value in terms of conversions. As a business, you can then relate and market to your specific audience. Demographics & Interests Reports

Visitor Loyalty Reporting

The Count of Sessions and Days Since Last Session reports allow to you to understand better who your loyal visitors are.
Count of Sessions answers the question: How many visitors are just passing by and how many visitors come back consistently? Days Since Last Session is often referred to as “visitor orbit” and shows the loyalty of visitors based on the time since they last visited the site. By digging deeper, we can drill down to find out what brought these loyal visitors back to the site consistently and also what methods did not work for the other visitors.

Segmenting by Users

Google recently expanded their segmentation feature to allow analysts to define segments on a User basis. Previously you could only view data of visitors in terms of what they did by session. Now you can look at how specific users engaged across multiple sessions. This is another way to see how your loyal visitors are engaging across your site. If you have conversions or eCommerce tracking set-up, you can also see how visitors engaged on previous sessions before converting. What led them to convert? What channels or content reeled them in to eventually convert?

Multi-Channel Conversion Tracking

This report is an expansion of the previous feature we referenced. The Multi-Channel Conversion Tracking Report allows you to easily view the top paths visitors took on their way to conversion. Perhaps a visitor originally came to your site via a search engine, left the site, and then came back the next day via a post on Social Media. On that second visit, they then converted for one of the goals you set up in Google Analytics.

Previous data only credited the Social Media visit with the conversion. Now we can see that the true acquisition of the valued visitor came from Organic Search.
This gives us a different level of data when looking at how valued, converting visitors behaved on the site. What sources were best at bringing these visitors to the site originally? What channels brought them back before conversion? This shows more of the complete picture.

 

Google Analytics and Small Business Owners

Knowing a little bit about Google Analytics can help you make good business decisions, but let’s be honest, not every business owner has the time to spend digging through the data. We can help. Sanctuary Marketing Group, located in North Canton, Ohio can help guide you through the information and identify growth opportunities. Our goal is to equip business owners with the information they need to make smart business decisions. Give us a call 330-266-1188 or use our contact form and maximize the information your website is gathering.

Getting the Most out of Google Analytics
Yelp Reviews

Google Stars They say any press is good press in Hollywood. In some cases that might be true, but in the respected business world a bad review can set a business back and do damage to the bottom line. Local businesses depend heavily on word of mouth, column reviews, Yelp reviews and other types of positive press to grow their business. But what happens when someone posts a negative review?

An average customer who has a positive or pleasant experience is less likely to leave a review without being prompted. However, if a customer perceives a negative experience, they are highly likely to express their opinion without any prompting. Thanks to the explosion of social media, these negative opinions can spread like wildfire and be very difficult to overcome.

As a local business in North Canton, it’s critical that you make a dedicated effort to build a library of online reviews that enhances your business’s credibility and showcases both the positive experiences and your positive responses to negative experiences alike. Here is a compilation of Sanctuary’s top advice for developing healthy online reviews.

 

Overcoming Bad Online Reviews

Wreck-it-Ralph said, “I am bad, and that is good, I will never be good and that’s not bad, there’s no one I’d rather be than me.” You can think of a bad review in the same way. Bad reviews can often shed light on deeper issues and if treated the proper way can build strong relationships between a business and its customers.

Yelp Reviews Chris Auman addresses this subject in his article “Why Online Reviews are Important and How to Get Them.

His first rule of thumb is simple, Don’t Fear Reviews.

“There will always be difficult customers and you can deal with them directly. But if you run a reputable business, your overall reviews should give an accurate picture of your business. If you’re afraid of reviews then maybe you have deeper business issues to deal with.”

It may sound backward, but dealing with negative reviews is the first step in getting positive reviews. It’s a reflection of your business model, which dictates how your business operates. “A perfect business isn’t one with perfect reviews; it’s one that deals with their reviews and feedback perfectly.” – Mike Ramsey.
Continue reading Online Reviews Are Important…

 

Onsite vs. Offsite Reviews

Part of combatting negative reviews is having plenty of believable positive reviews from happy customers. , And that’s why offsite reviews are important.

It’s a great practice to have onsite reviews and testimonies from real people. Nothing helps to sell your business better than the words of a happy customer. BUT we all know that onsite testimonials have been cherry-picked. We’ve even seen some that are completely false and made-up. As a society, we’ve become very cynical and untrusting of these reviews. A sad state to be in, but nonetheless it’s where we are.

Chris Auman states “The key to an effective review strategy is to encourage reviews on external web sites. If a business has a substantial amount of good, offsite reviews on external websites, it will instill confidence that real people have given their honest opinions about a business. But more importantly, reviews are an important signal that Google uses to determine search results.”
Continue reading Onsite vs. Offsite Reviews …

 

Getting Reviews in Google

review-us

Getting positive reviews in Google is important. They will show in the search results, and the more you have the better positioned you will be to outshine the competition. We’re talking more than just reviews from other sites showing up in a Google search; we’re talking about Google+ and those coveted gold stars!

Google doesn’t make this incredibly easy for users to do, but that is the point. They don’t want countless, mindless reviews flooding the market – and neither do you. Reviews are always a matter of quality over quantity.

There are ways to get reviews in Google, which you can read about in our post “How to get Reviews for Your Business on Google Plus.

The number one way to do it is to ask for it. A follow-up email after purchase, a link in a Thank-You page or a card you hand out with steps to follow are all good ways to achieve this. Remember, people are slow to post a review unless they’ve had a bad experience, so you have to ask for them. Amazon figured this out a long time ago and if you’ve ever bought something from them, you’ve received a follow-up email 5-7 days later asking for a review. It’s good practice.

However, asking and paying for reviews are two different things. Do NOT pay for reviews. It’s not worth it, and if you are a small business you could get into troubled waters that are hard to get out of. And it should go without saying that paying for reviews is  simply an unethical practice.
Continue reading Getting Reviews in Google + …

 

Get Help with Online Reviews for Your North Canton Business

There is a lot to know about encouraging good reviews on Google+. Allow Sanctuary Digital Marketing Group to manage the gathering and promotion of your positive reviews. Contact us today for a no-cost, upfront marketing consultation. We can take a look at your whole internet presence and tell you what’s working and what’s not.

Call 330.266.1188 and tell us a bit about your North Canton business. Let’s chat about your marketing needs and how Sanctuary can facilitate your online marketing presence.

Getting Online Reviews
Local Mobile Search

You already have a mobile friendly site? Better be sure of that! On April 21, 2015 Google’s mobile ranking factors will kick in. Those who do not have a mobile friendly site will begin to see a “significant impact” in their search results, according to Google. This roll out will happen over the course of a week and will be a “Yes/No” on whether your site is mobile-friendly or not, there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness in this algorithm.

Mobile Usability
Our Mobile Planet: Understanding the Mobile Customer

Mobile is something we all should have been paying attention to anyway. According to a survey sponsored by Google and Ipsos MediaCT, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Smartphone penetration has risen to 56% of the population, and Smartphone owners are becoming increasingly reliant on their devices. In 2013, it was reported that 67% of smartphone users accessed the internet everyday on their phone and most never leave home without it. These number have undoubtedly risen.

Google is now stepping up the game with this update by ‘requiring’ businesses to have a mobile friendly website to be found in mobile search results. And it makes sense: Google wants to deliver results that their users can be happy using. As a business, you should have the same goal! Make your site easy for people use, and they will use it. To be clear, this will mostly likely only affect non-branded searches done through Google on your browser or the Google App. Those searching for branded terms will likely not see any changes in the results.

Local Mobile SearchOur smartphones allow us to research anything, anywhere. The moment an idea crosses our mind we can pull out our phone and begin the process of getting “more input.” Statics tells us that 94% of smartphone users have looked for local information on their device, and 57% of these users do it once a week, with a whopping 25% doing it every day. Being optimized for local search is a key part of being found.

So how do you make sure you’re ready for April 21st?

Usually updates come up with little or no notice, but Google said it wanted sites to prepare; so, you have some time to make your website mobile-friendly which is a big benefit for business owners. Assuming you have a mobile site already some of the usability issues can be quickly fixed to comply with what Google is looking for. We do offer web design services that can quickly identify any issues, and affordably provide you with a solution. If you don’t have a mobile site at all, we can help with that too.

Identify Mobile Usability Issues

Mobile Friendly LabelKnowing if your site is mobile friendly or not can be done by simply doing a search for your site on your smartphone. Since late last year, Google has been using a ‘mobile friendly’ label on sites which it has identified as being such. If the site does not have this label, then that means it has not passed the test, and there’s a strong possibility it will be affected by the update.

Identifying the issues that are keeping the site from being mobile friendly can be done quickly with a few tools Google provides. Each one of these tools offers varying features and should be used in tandem to assess current issues with usability. Google Webmaster tools will give you the specific items Google is looking for and alert you if the site is not in compliance. It’s also important to understand the potential impact on traffic, which is why I suggest looking at current mobile traffic. Understanding how these mobile visitors are getting to the site and what they do while they are on it will help in making decisions on improving the usability. Identifying landing pages, exit pages, and other metrics will provide information on hurdles users faces and potential areas of improvement.

  • Site validation: Validate your site with Google’s mobile friendly test tool. It’s important that all the elements of your site are crawlable.
  • Current user behavior: Google Analytics provides a wealth of information on mobile users. Identify how they enter your site, where they land, what they do and where they convert. This information will help you understand any hurdles they are facing.
  • Search appearance: Google Webmaster tools will show you what queries your pages are showing up for, what position they hold and which search results these users click. There are features with GWT that will alert you if Google finds usability issues and provide some guidance on the what to fix.

As with most Google updates there tends to be a “freak out” moment where we wonder if we’re going to make the cut. Remember this one simple rule, one that I live by, Don’t optimize for Google! Optimize for the user. If your site is built with user experience at the forefront, then you have nothing to fear. My colleague Jackie Baker has written extensively about The Best SEO Strategy is Always About Your Customers (Not Google).

Sanctuary Marketing Group is ready to assist businesses to make sure they don’t lose rankings and quality traffic on mobile searches after the change is made. Contact us at for a free consultation.

Google Mobile Friendly Update
Content Amplification

Content Amplification is the buzzword for digital marketing in 2015, and understanding what it means is the first step to putting it to work for your business. Let’s start by breaking it down:Content Amplification

Content = This word has 7 or more different meanings, however, for the purposes of this discussion we are only going to concern ourselves with two of them. “Content” is:

  • something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.
  • substantive information or creative material.

Amplification =  (amplify) to increase in volume of sound or to make something louder.

The sole purpose of amplifying anything is to reach more people, after all, that’s why we turn our amps up to 11!

In a nutshell, amplifying content is making your creative material reach more people online. You want your content to reach as many people as possible because each person it touches is either a potential sale or a potential referrer of a sale. It’s not enough to just create content, publish it and hope it brings in traffic. You have to work actively to get the word out.

So where do you start? Well, if you haven’t read “How To Amplify Your Content” by Chris Auman I’d recommend you start there. It’s a lengthy read chock-full of ideas to get you started — including The Sanctuary 7 Phases of Content Amplification.

Three Ways to Amplify Content

It all starts with a great piece of content. 5 Tips to Nail Planning Your Content Marketing Campaign can get you started in the right direction. Once you have an optimized piece of content ready for launch, there are three basic methods you can use to amplify it:

  1. Owned Amplification (You own the channel). These are your own social media channels, sites and email list. Hopefully, you are already engaged in different channels and have created some sort of following. This is the perfect place to start. You have a built-in audience that will (if you’ve done your homework) find your content engaging enough to share. Be sure to be creative with each channel and tailor the message in an appropriate way. Each channel has best practices, so be sure to follow those.
  2. Paid Amplification (You buy exposure). Don’t be afraid of pay-to-play amplification. Often paying for distribution can be a quick way to gain some traction for a campaign. Depending on your budget level, there are many options to choose from. Promoted tweets, boosted Facebook posts, content amplification services and more are all available. Do your research and find the best option to meet your budget.
  3. Earned Amplification (When others promote your content). It’s hard. It can be time-consuming. Earned amplification comes from doing amazing work. If your content is less than awesome it will be hard for others to share. Sharing something means attaching your name to it, and no one wants their name on junk. Think of it as quality link building, because that’s what it is. You want to gain a quality link, and most people want to give a link to quality content, so you need to produce quality material. You won’t be afraid to ask for a link if you are proud of your work.


What is Content Amplification in a nutshell?
Getting your strong, quality, content in front of the right people. Check out our Content Amplification Checklist. An easy to follow checklist that covers each step in the amplification process.

Content Amplification in a Nutshell

keyword researchKeyword research is essential but I’m often challenged by the fact that it’s hard to get good local information for a local key-phrase using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Maybe someday they’ll get better at showing us the valuable nuggets of information hidden in the dark niches of their servers. But for now we have to live with what we have.

So what are our options for local keyword research?

We’ll, if you get lucky you’ll actually get some results using the Google Adwords Tool. But the results will be hit or miss unless you live in a large metro area.

As I mentioned previously, Google actually does provide you with a decent tool to study trends with their Google Insights For Search Tool. This is a great option to study industry and local trends and see how different terms compare.

But what’s great about this tool is that it does actually show you the relative keyword volume for terms that are fairly niche queries in smaller cities.

For example, I live close to Canton Ohio, a small city about an hour south of Cleveland. Therefore, I might be working with a local bakery that wants to rank locally for what they do. Everyone loves baked goods but how many people REALLY search online for a local bakery in Canton? (more…)

Keyword Research for a Local Business

I’m taking a little detour from local search marketing to discuss and recommend a solution for project management and CRM software.

crm-softwareThe Problem

I’ve used project management software for many years now and recently developed my own system that made sense to me. But recently I’ve realized that there are major things missing and that I needed to look around for a robust system that allowed me to do what I do best (internet marketing) and let others build and maintain the software that I use to manage my business.

The problem is that I have a long list of requirements. What I really need is one online system where I can manage my staff’s tasks and time tracking, view and understand their workload, easily manage my projects and tasks, my sales leads and collaborate and organize and store all of my company’s procedural documents. I know there is stuff out there that does all this but the devil is in the details. Let me be a little more specific. (more…)

Online Project Management and CRM Software System Review

Sometimes I step back and breathe a sigh of relief about what I do for a living. It really does seem that the future is bright. Barely a day goes by that I don’t hear about how having a website is essential for every business or that internet marketing spending is growing in leaps and bounds. Everything from social media to seo and mobile to conversion are all things that people are talking about and doing more of.

Checkout the TopRank Blog for many resources related to the future predictions of our industry.

Also, here are a few quick highlights from the recent Hubspot blog post 33 stats that paint a picture of the future of marketing.

  • 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form.
  • Currently, marketers allocate 7.6% of their budgets to social media. CMOs expect that number to reach 18.8% in the next five years. (more…)
The future of internet marketing

Google-Local-Optimization-300x220In a video and comments regarding local search rankings, Jeremy Sussman of Google Maps described Google’s local algorithm as having three main parts: location, relevance, and prominence. The information contained within your Google+ Local Business listings data is a major piece of how Google determines these three factors and ultimately who shows up first in the local listings.

Google+ is one of the best ways to improve your local search rankings so we’ll focus on some specific tips and recommendations for this first. But it’s not the only site or tactic that you should be concerned about. We’ll discuss my additional recommendations in part 2 (coming 8/31/12) that go beyond Google+ and it’s mapping products. (more…)

20 ways to take your local search rankings to the next level (Part 1)

Research is an important part of effective local optimization. At the base level you need to know if it’s worth your time and effort to even attack a niche and if you’ll ultimately survive as a business. Getting that data is sometimes hard for small, local businesses due to the lack of data at the micro level. But here’s one good strategy to gauge the demand for your services locally.

Google Insights is a valuable tool to study search trends. If you live in Canton Ohio like I do, getting data about your niche or industry is going to be difficult. But by using Google Insights for Search you can checkout the trends for larger cities in your region or even trends in large metro areas in New York City to get a good idea if you’re industry is on the rise or on the decline. You might even find out that searches are increasing in one region but not another.

For example, I’m working with a local furniture store. It’s hard to get data for furniture shopping in their area. It’s one store, in one city in Ohio.

But can we learn more about furniture shopping in Ohio or the country in general?

Searches for furniture stores New York: (Ouch!)

(more…)

How to check what search terms are being used by potential local clients

The world of social media can be daunting for a small business owner. Even the mention of the term probably makes your brow furrow at times, right? So who needs ANOTHER social media site to deal with? Well, stick with me on this because this is not just another “how to succeed with social media” post.

Have you heard of Google+? If you haven’t please let me tell you why you should drop what you’re doing now and learn more. Here are some top level stats:

  • Google+ Local Business PageGoogle+ now has over 26 million users and growing daily.
  • Google+ has grown by 821% from the week ending on July 2
  • As of July 16, 2012 Google+ is the 638th most-visited site on the web.

Maybe you’re still saying “who cares”? It’s just one more thing to deal with. Well, let me give you a few reasons why you should care and why you should take an hour out of your day to claim and optimize your personal and Google+ Local Business Page. (more…)

5 Reasons why you need a Google+ Local Business Page