Monday, January 20, 2014

Low Cost Online Marketing for Small Businesses

Often, I speak with many new and small business owners who don't market their business, which only hurts their overall success. The most common reason I hear why they aren't marketing their business is because they just don't have the money right now. The second most common reason, they don't know how. What many small business owners don't understand is the fact that you can easily learn how to market and you can do so without spending a fortune. Once your budget does allow a little extra, you can find low cost online marketing professionals to help you take your business to the next level.

I can't stress enough the importance of a website. Phone books are essentially extinct. If you're relying on a phone book for customers to find you, you're going to be waiting a long time. Although websites can get pretty expensive, when you're first starting out or your budget is small, you can find website services for under $100 a year. Many of these sites are simple to use so you can easily create your own website.

You can learn the basics to SEO with many affordable and free services to help you optimize your website. If you aren't the best of writer, there are other resources that will help you edit your website's content to rid it of typos and blatant grammar errors. If your budget allows it, look for a freelance web designer to create a site for you.

Business Cards
Business cards can be quite costly as well, but there are many places you can order business cards for very little money. For example, Vista Print often has deals where you can purchase 250 business cards for $10.00. Look for services like this to ensure you always have business cards handy.

Social Media
Social media isn't going away, and if you're not utilizing it, you're hurting your success. Even with little experience, you can still maximize the potential of social media as long as you stay active. Don't try to overdo it and use all of the social media outlets. If you're concerned about your ranking, at the very least, create a Google+ account. If you're a localized business create a Google Local page. To take it to the next level, you can create a Facebook and Twitter account. If your business sells products or has many visuals, consider creating  a Pinterest account. For B2B businesses, you'll want to utilize LinkedIn. As it can be very time consuming to stay on top of all the social media accounts, consider using Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts and view all of your social media account's activity in one place.

Blogging is a great way to keep visitors coming back to your site as you provide them with information they find interesting. Blogging is a simple way to engage customers and adds a personal relationship to your website. Many small business owners don't utilize blogging because they don't have the budget to hire a writer. Although it's a good idea to hire a professional writer, you don't need one if you can't afford it. You can do the blogging yourself and run the content through online services to clean it up.

If your budget does allow it, consider hiring a professional. Despite common misconception, you can have a professional handle your website and marketing much cheaper than many business owners believe. If you only have a small budget, avoid hiring large marketing firms. Yes, they may sound good because they cover everything; however, it will cost you an arm and a leg. Instead, look for freelancers, who have the exact same skills as large firms, but charge much less. With freelancers, you'll have a more personalized experience as you essentially aren't a number on a project board. Freelances will have more time to spend working with you and work harder to strive for you satisfaction.

Don't let financial costs hold you back from taking your business to the next level. There are many forms of low cost online marketing for small businesses that you can use to your benefit.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Feeling the Sting of Writing Fake Reviews

We all know reviews are an essential aspect of a successful business as 90 percent of customers report online reviews influence their buying decisions. Many business owners struggle to get reviews or have poor reviews about their business. In order to fix both problems, many business owners write fake reviews, have friends or family write reviews and even hire people to write positive reviews. But, is this the way to go? What's the harm with hiding a bad review or promoting your business with a few fake reviews? A lot is actually wrong with it. Although your intentions may be good, fake reviews are going to hurt your business more than they will help.

Google actually warns business owners to avoid fake reviews as they are viewed as spam and will be taken down. Despite Google's warning, some business owners feel they can outsmart Google's spam detection algorithms with well written reviews. However, this isn't the case either. It may not be clear to you, but fake reviews are obvious and stand out like a sore thumb.

Many feel justified in writing fake reviews because their competitors use the same tactic, but no matter which way you spin it, writing fake reviews is unethical. Your counter argument doesn't matter, you just don't do it!

If a customer should notice you're having fake reviews written, you've just lost a customer, possibly more if they decide to publicly call you out on it. Getting caught up in fake reviews will tarnish your company's image and credibility.

So, how can you build reviews naturally? The simplest way is to provide a great service someone will want to rave about, then make it easily accessible for your costumers to leave a review. Personally, I know there are times I've wanted to leave a review, but just couldn't find the business listed to do it. Don't let this be you. Make it clear and let your customers know where they can leave a review about your business-- either via website, phone, email or a handwritten note.

Bottom line, don't waste your time or money writing fake reviews.  Having 3 real reviews is much better than having 50 fake reviews. It may work in the short term, but it will come back to bite you in the behind.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Content Tips for eCommerce Websites

Many webmasters forget a critical component when developing an eCommerce website-- quality and relevant content. As you try to promote your products on an eCommerce site, it's easy to primarily focus on marketing your products, but what about your website's visitors? What's going to make them continue to return to your site after they've made a purchase? What will set your website apart from your competitors? The answer is simple-- quality and engaging content.

Not only do you need a strong and informative landing page, but you also need to include articles, blogs, videos and images to further promote your products. Plus, it will provide your website visitors with interesting content that will keep them coming back time and time again. As a result, you'll help develop brand loyalty; thus, increasing your sales.

If you're struggling to come up with ideas for content, these content tips for eCommerce sites will help you out.

How-to articles-- How-to or do-it-yourself articles are great for eCommerce sites. Create articles that are relevant to the products you sell. For example, if you sell beauty products, create "How to curl your hair" or "How to deep condition your hair." It will help drive traffic as you'll have interesting and engaging content. Not to mention, readers are likely to share the articles as well.

In depth product descriptions-- Often, product pages have a short product description. To add to your website's content and to provide more useful information, link a longer product description to your products page. Include reviews on the longer product description pages as well.

Videos and Images-- Videos and images are a hit in the marketing world. People don't just want to read about a great product, they want to see it in action. Create short videos or picture tutorials showing how the product works and the benefits.

There are many great ways you can create content for your eCommerce website. Other methods to drive traffic to your eCommerce site includes adding reviews and set up a forum or discussion area for your customers.

What are come content tips you use for your eCommerce websites?