For this article, we look at SEO from the lens of a local business with a physical address.
Back in the day, the Yellow Pages was the gold standard for finding a business. If you needed a plumber, you picked up the hefty paper directory book and looked up “plumber”. The plumber options were listed in alphabetical order. That is why there are so many “AAA Plumbers” and such to this day. Your name showed up first in the Yellow Pages if it started with an “A”. You could also buy ads, so savvy plumbers would buy a large ad to showcase that they were the “trusted source” or that they “fix problems in a jiffy.” They had a small square and they made that ad work for them. People who saw the ad were likely keenly interested in finding a plumber, so it worked. You could also pay to have your business name bolded. Free listings included your business name, phone number and an address.
Today, directories are online and your digital presence matters more than any other marketing platform. When you need that same plumber today, you turn to the Google search bar, right? Google is therefore where you need to show up to grow your business. And, just as the plumbers wanted to show up first and be seen in the Yellow Pages, there are effective strategies that make your company show up when someone uses the Google search bar, which is today’s Yellow Pages. And, to be clear, this applies to all businesses, not just plumbers!
As an aside, when you implement the best practices to show up on Google, you’ll show up well on other search engines, like Bing, as well. So, when we talk about Google, it’s because Google is the dominant player. But, the steps you are using for Google will help you across the board.
When someone searches for a business, say “plumbers in Nashville,” the businesses that show up – without paying for an ad – have strong SEO. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and all that means is that when someone is searching for something your business sells, that your website is an easy, visible option to click on. That is the end goal of SEO: to get people to your website. From there, you need a website that can convert potential customers into actual customers — but that’s the role of the website. The point of SEO is simply to get people to your website.
I want to reiterate that:
You can have a beautiful website that has terrible SEO.
You can have a beautiful website with a strong call to action and terrible SEO.
You can have a website with amazing SEO but the site itself is clunky and ugly and looks dated.
Ideally, you want a beautiful, functional site with strong SEO. But, this article is only talking about SEO
So, what are those tools to get people to your website?
There are four main tools to enhance your SEO that we are going to cover today:
Website + Content
Links from other websites (called backlinks)
A Google My Business account (they are FREE!)
Paid SEO services
Google is the god of the internet. SEO is simply a tool all businesses need to use in order for the Google gods to decide that your website, and therefore your business, is valuable enough to show up above other, similar businesses.
As you can quickly see, that makes SEO a big business and one that confuses many. With the understanding that SEO is not a silver bullet but rather a regular, deliberate process that takes time, let’s break down four SEO tools and turn confusion into clarity.
#1) Website + Content
As mentioned previously, a pretty website is one thing. A website that actually converts customers is another. And, a site that acts as a beacon to pull people to it is an entirely different thing. Ideally, all three of those things can coexist in your website. But, SEO has nothing to do with how pretty your site is or how well it converts a customer. At the end of the day, if you can’t get anyone to look at your website, none of the other stuff matters.
Meta Descriptions: One of the best ways to ensure your website has strong SEO is to add some almost-invisible words to it. These are called meta descriptions and they don’t appear anywhere on your site for people to read. But, they do appear in Google searches. It’s basically part of the language on which Google relies. If properly written, meta descriptions will increase site visitors over time quite significantly. Every single page on your website should be optimized with meta descriptions. Installing a tool like Yoast, for WordPress, can help you have an easy place to write meta descriptions. From there, it’s figuring out what keywords you want to capitalize on. This is overwhelming and far too technical for a lot of people, so one thing Blueprint.Inc offers is to write all these meta descriptions for a company as a key building block.
Broken Links: If you have broken links on your website, Google dings you as they really don’t like that. Furthermore, it’s a poor customer experience. You can click on every link on your site each month, or you can partner with someone with the tools to check them. At Blueprint Marketing, that is part of our monthly hosting fee for our WordPress clients. That means that if we host your site, we’ll scan it each month to make sure there are no broken links. If your host partner is not doing that, we’d love to talk with you. But, you can click on all those links, or at least the main ones, each month. You’d be surprised how many times an update will affect your website and a link stops working.
Image Alt Tags: Images may say a 1,000 words, but they say zero words to Google without image alt tags. These tags are simple descriptions of what is in the photo and they help Google serve up photos upon someone’s search. It’s commonly looked over and an easy way to make your SEO better than your competitor’s. Another tip is to name your photo before you upload it. So, instead of image IMG_2377.jpg rename it to “Best_Plumber_Nashville.jpg”.
Content: Having content on your site, that pertains to your business, helps potential customers find you. If you are that same plumber, and you have an article about 5 Reasons a Shower Drain Stops Up, you’ll likely start getting Google traffic off of that article. That traffic is also coming from people with stopped up drains. These same people are interacting with your website and getting to know you. CHA CHING! These same people reading this article are great to target with a retargeting ad (retargeting ads are ads that are served only to people who have visited your site via the Google ad network or on social media sites). If you are a plastic surgeon with blog content on how to get rid of a double chin with surgery or kybella, you will 100% pick up more clients than your competitor that doesn’t. Why? Google searches will bring those clients your way. That’s the power of SEO. (Another shameless plug, but Blueprint Marketing also writes content for business websites.)
Keywords: Keywords are words or phrases to use in your content that simply match commonly searched for terms that overlap with what you sell. For example if you are a jewelry store in Birmingham, please have “Monique Pearl, a jewelry store in Birmingham, AL,” written several times in your content on your website! (Obviously, don’t use our fictional store name, Monique Pearl, in your content … just ‘a jewelry store in Birmingham’ or whatever city your business is in!) That way, when someone is Googling “jewelry store birmingham” your business will show up. It’s worth the time to think through what keywords you need to build content around. And, this is what SEO content companies can help you build as well. But, beware of content simply written to boost SEO and actually provide no value to the person who finds your site through this blog post. You want all your content to be reflective of your brand and business.
If your business is lucky enough to be written about, and linked to, by The New York Times, your site will rank higher. Why? The New York Times carries a lot of weight with Google. Thus, if The New York Times says that they deem your business worthy enough to link to, it actually means a whole lot. It helps pull you up in SEO rankings. So, the more reputable sites that link to you, the higher your SEO will be.
These links, the ones where other companies are linking to you, are called backlinks.
Different websites have different rankings. StyleBlueprint.com is one of our three divisions at Blueprint.Inc. It’s our digital magazine and we started publishing in 2009. It has a strong SEO ranking. This means a link from StyleBlueprint is helpful to your website. This is also why StyleBlueprint has to sift through hundreds of email requests each week to add a link to their site from our site. These requests typically come from companies hired by businesses to strengthen their SEO and they, in turn, relentlessly send emails asking for their client’s website to be added to already published articles. They simply want the backlink. (By the way, we never add the backlinks requested from these companies. Never.) If you get enough links from other reputable companies it actually does make a difference to your website’s SEO which is why these companies exist. Higher SEO means more potential customers which means more revenue … it pays to aggressively ask for the links – BUT it’s also kinda spammy. But, this is also one of the many reasons companies pay real dollars for PR companies. They want their company name and link placed in multiple locations online that will bring them long-term value from these backlinks along with that content.
Backlinks are just one component of SEO, but it’s part of the SEO puzzle to remember.
#3) Google My Business Account
This is a free service from Google and it helps Google weed out imposter businesses, of which there are plenty. Not only does it help your SEO, it ensures your business shows up on Google Maps and that potential customers find accurate store hours, photos and reviews. And, of course there is a link to your website.
Make sure you have claimed your GMB account (that’s Google My Business for short). Then, you’ll want to update business hours, load photos that represent your business, and monitor your reviews. There are services that can do this for you, but this is your first step to building a strong local SEO presence.
The very confusing part of SEO (as if there is only one confusing part!) is that Organic SEO (bullet points #1 and #2 on this list) and Local SEO overlap, but act independently of each as well. A strong GMB page actually answers all the questions many people go to websites for (hours, directions, reservation link, etc). But, working both these sides of the SEO game both bring you to the same end goal: more customers and more revenue.
And make sure you know your GMB password and how to access it quickly. You’ll also need to respond when reviews come in.
#4) Local SEO Paid Services
No one likes paying for insurance and many don’t like eating their vegetables. Both insurance and eating vegetables are a lot like paying for local SEO services. These services basically allow you to know that you are doing the right things for the long term SEO health of your business. The results are not immediate, but they pay off over time. This is your digital insurance and it further enhances your relationship with Google.
These services come in a variety of price points, but what they do is make sure your business information is correct across a variety of online directories that are cumbersome and time intensive to change on your own. For instance, if your business is listed as 123 Main St in one listing, and 123 Main Street in another, and 123 Main Str in yet another, your human brain would know that these are all the same business. But, what Google sees is inconsistencies. Inconsistencies mean “not reliable” and that is not good. By methodically taking the time to get these listings changed, these services strengthen your legitimacy in Google’s eyes.
These services also will optimize your GMB page, monitor your reviews, optimize backlinks to your site, and SO MUCH MORE. Companies like Blueprint Marketing can do all of this, host your website to ensure it comes up quickly (which helps your SEO) and strengthen your website by optimizing meta-descriptions.
But, all of this is dependent on the level of spending you have.
These services typically start for under $300 a month and they take care of things that as a business owner, we don’t have time to take care of. It’s your SEO insurance and it matters.
If you are interested in finding out about the different levels of Local SEO Blueprint Marketing delivers, let us know here.
At the end of the day, SEO matters because it’s a process that builds and expands your digital footprint, the foundation of your online presence. From here, you need to look at how your website converts customers and if it is feeding your sales funnel. But, to get those people to your website, in order to feed that sales funnel, you likely need to strengthen your SEO.
P.S. Changes are always happening in the world of SEO. For example, recent changes put far more emphasis on the speed and performance of your website. It’s important to understand that SEO building is a continual project that is never “done” but always builds on what you’ve done in the past. Starting today allows you to be that much better in three months, and then a year, and then in 5 years.
In April 2021, StyleBlueprint hosted a lively discussion about customer service, work culture, and the ever-changing landscape of brick + mortar businesses. We also discussed taking that initial leap to start your business and the other ones that come from recognizing new opportunities.
Be inspired while learning from four amazing women business owners in Nashville, TN– Linda Roberts, Holly Williams, Judith Bright, and Amber Thomas – moderated by StyleBlueprint’s founder, Liza Graves.
This is the start of our Women in Business Webinar Series that we hope to continue throughout the year. Watch below!
The world of Instagram, now owned by Facebook, is fluid and ever-changing. With updates coming out daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the new features and changes. While all of these features can seem superfluous, making use of everything Instagram has to offer has its advantages. With over 1 billion active users, ensuring your profile stands out to your target audience can only be accomplished when you interact with your audience. From Reels to Instagram Live, here are three updates to the features we know and love!
Reels is a video concept where content creators can share and discover short videos on Instagram.This feature allows creators 15-seconds to create multi-clip videos with fun effects and audio. Since it’s rollout in late 2020, Instagram users have seen millions of views, followers, and engagement thanks to this interactive concept.
Creating a reel is super simple and a fun way to engage your audience in a new way! To make your own reel, head to your Instagram stories camera and choose ‘Reels’ which is located next to ‘Story’ and ‘Live’. Here you’ll see all of the editing tools available like Audio, Effects, Align, and Speed. This ensures you can create a cohesive video even if you’re uploading several different clips. You can either upload a video from your camera roll or start recording. After you’ve finished your Reel, you can add text, music, gifs, and much more to make your video branded and ready for your audience.
One of the newest functions released for Reels is ‘Remix’. This feature allows users to collaborate with a Reel to show their reaction, create a duet, or respond to the Reel in a split-screen video. It’s a super fun and unique way to engage with another brand! To use it, simply tap the video you want to duet and click ‘Remix This Reel’. From here, you’ll film your response and post it for the world to see!
Instagram Live & Live Rooms
Instagram Live has proven to be a beneficial tool for businesses to grow their following and engage with their audience. From establishing trust in your brand to increasing your discoverability for potential new followers, Instagram Live is a valuable feature when it comes to establishing human connection with your audience.
To start an Instagram live, open the Stories camera and swipe across to the “Live” mode. Tap “Live” to start your video. From here you can ask or answer questions, share new information or products, or highlight your business in an authentic and fresh way. The opportunities are endless! Once you end your Live, it will be available for followers to stream for 24 hours and you have the option to save it as an IGTV for longer storage.
New this year is Live Rooms. Live Rooms enables users to go Live on Instagram with up to three other people or accounts. If your brand calls for it, this is a great way to monetize your Instagram account. Live viewers can now purchase badges for their favorite creators to show their love! With Live Rooms, your audience has the opportunity to buy badges for the hosts and use other interactive features like Shopping and Live Fundraisers. Overall, Live Rooms will without a doubt increase your reach and following, as your participants’ followers will be notified of their collaboration with you.
Starting a Live Room of your own is super simple. Open your Instagram app and swipe to stories. Swipe left in the Instagram Live setting on your Story and pick the Live camera option. From here you can include a title to grab your followers attention. Tap ‘Rooms’ to add in your other participants.
Instagram stories are a fun and easy way to share content, information, polls, and much more. If you have over 10,000 followers, you also have the option to add a ‘swipe up’ to your stories which takes your viewers to direct links! It’s suggested that you keep your story updated daily since content on your stories only lasts for 24 hours. Create branded, engaging content for your stories and interact with your followers to increase credibility and brand trust.
A new feature recently rolled out by Instagram is the stories caption feature. This automatically turns verbal words into written. Since a majority of users watch stories with their sound off, this is a great way to keep your followers engaged with your stories and to become a more inclusive profile. To add this feature, simply record a video or upload one from your phone. Then, you’ll open the stickers option and look for the new sticker titled “Captions” – this will automatically add your speech to text!
Go out and conquer Instagram! Stay tuned for more social media insights, tips, and tricks coming soon.
As COVID-19 regulations continue to decrease and become more lax, many anxious travelers are beginning to think more seriously about leaving home for a much-needed summer vacation. From an increase in road trips to a rise in luxurious getaways, here are seven travel trends you can expect to see this summer.
What to Expect from Summer Travel
Travel Remains Top of Mind
Although travel itself decreased significantly last year, planning for future vacations did not. In fact, according to Vrbo’s 2021 travel trends report, 82% of U.S. families have plans to travel this year. After nearly a year-and-a-half of being cooped up at home, travelers want their next vacation to be extra special, so many people are spending more time planning their perfect getaway this summer. According to Tripadvisor, 74% of global travelers say they are likely to spend more time choosing a destination this year by reading reviews and researching accommodations and activities.
While travel in 2020 seemed to stop altogether, Vrbo’s 2021 travel trends report reveals families across the U.S. have used their increased time at home to plan a vacation in 2021.
A Rise in Road Trips & Drive Times
Despite this increase in travel planning, many people remain hesitant when it comes to flying. Vrbo reports that 59% of families who plan to travel this year are more likely to drive than fly. As more people prepare to travel by road, we also see an increase in the distance travelers are willing to drive. According to a study by Harvest Hosts, a membership program that invites RV owners to stay at unique campsites, nearly 60% of people who are planning a road trip are willing to drive over 500 miles (about 8.5 hours) to get to their destination.
Going Off the Beaten Path & Reconnecting with Nature
So, where is everyone headed this summer? According to a recent report by Airbnb, searches for remote destinations over Memorial Day weekend increased by nearly 40% within the last month. Travelers are opting for open-air getaways with a more outdoorsy feel rather than visiting busy metropolitan areas. Top rural destinations searched on Airbnb for Memorial Day weekend included Southern spots like Jackson County, NC, and Harper Ferry’s, WV.
Similarly, Vrbo reports that destinations near lakes, rivers and streams are also seeing an increase in demand. Popular Southern destinations searched on Vrbo with beautiful waterscapes include Emory, TX; Slade, KY; and Outer Banks, NC. But what about beaches? Those are on the rise, too! According to Expedia’s 2021 travel trends report, 56% of travelers are also looking to escape to the beach.
Outdoorsy destinations with nearby rivers, lakes, streams and beaches are also on the rise this summer.
Longer Trips That Combine Work & Play
Gone are the days of quick weekend getaways, as Vrbo reports that 75% of U.S. travelers are more likely to book summer travel vacations for at least seven nights. Because people aren’t spending as much of their travel budget on airfare, many can afford to extend their vacation by a few days. Similarly, as people lengthen their vacations and continue to work remotely, many travelers are booking “flexcations,” vacations that combine work and relaxation. In fact, according to Vrbo, 52% of U.S. travelers who took a flexcation in 2020 found the experience refreshing, and 62% would take another flexcation in the future. After all, who wouldn’t want to work beach-side?
Similarly, many families are willing to spend more in order to get their dream vacation. According to Expedia’s 2021 travel trends report, people are cutting back on dining out or ordering takeout, purchasing alcohol, and even their streaming services to afford more vacations in 2021. According to Vrbo, 33% of travelers are willing to spend more money on a 2021 vacation than they typically would.
2021 is the year of going all out as many travelers are willing to spend more to experience their dream vacation.
The Need for Travel Insurance
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to always expect the unexpected. As people begin to plan their future getaways, many are also purchasing travel insurance. This ensures a refund of any prepaid or non-refundable costs for your trip if you’re unable to travel due to an unexpected circumstance. According to a Nasdaq interview with Megan Moncrief, a spokesperson at Squaremouth, the insurance company has never seen the sales of travel insurance reach this height before.
A Focus on Family
Many families in 2020 experienced the cancellation or postponement of important events like weddings and graduations. These canceled celebrations have led to an increase in family-focused getaways in 2021. Vrbo reports that 31% of travelers’ say their main reason for taking a vacation is to spend time with family and loved ones. Similarly, Expedia found that people’s top summer travel companions this year are expected to be their children and those within their “quaranteam.”
After a year of canceled and postponed gatherings with family and loved ones, summer 2021 travel is expected to be more family-focused.
Like most things in the digital age, businesses are growing and changing faster than ever before. From technological advancements to new social media platforms emerging each year, it’s easy to feel the need to constantly change your messaging and marketing strategies. Although it’s necessary to adapt to the ever-changing business world, your brand should remain consistent throughout the years. Brand consistency is key to establishing trust with your clients, creating brand awareness in your marketplace, and ultimately, making key sales. So just how do you stay consistent in the digital age? We’re here to help break it down.
What does brand consistency look like in the digital age?
Before you dive into the intricate ins and outs of brand consistency, it’s important you ask yourself these questions to define your brand:
What is your mission statement?
What does your company believe in?
What problem are you solving?
What makes your business different from another one?
Why should people hire you or buy your products?
When someone interacts with your company, how do you want them to feel?
After you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to take the necessary steps to establish brand consistency that will last. In order to do so, you must consider the following:
Consistency of branding
Are you maintaining your brand through logos, colors, fonts, filters and yes, even business cards?
Did you know before Google was Google, it was BackRub? They only kept BackRub for a year. When you are starting out, it’s easy to have a period of time when you are changing your brand or business name. That’s okay for a very short time. But, you’ll be given very little grace here. Ultimately, it’s in your best interest to pick a name and stick with it as soon as possible.
Along with finding the perfect business name, it’s vital that you create a logo and try not to change it. Regardless of if it’s just your company name is a special font, seeing several different logos for your company is confusing so be sure to stick with one. If you change it, change it everywhere. Also, consider different sizing needs such as square and rectangular. Make sure your logo is in jpeg, ai and eps format so that any publication can work with it. This will save you a lot of headaches in the long run!
While creating your brand, keep in mind that professional-grade photos of your work are a MUST. Find a photography student if funds are low – we once used a 15-year-old student and got incredible photos! When grainy, overblown flash, blurry, or dark photos are posted on your website or social media outlets, your professional credibility is diminished.
Finally, let’s talk about business cards. They still matter! No matter what industry you’re in, you need to consider a card that matches your brand esthetic and will stand out. Your card says something about YOU and the image you’ve worked hard to create for your company. Whether you prefer a traditional business card made of heavy card stock with letterpress or lean towards a more modern approach like wooden or photo cards, your brand will be well represented, and consistent, with a well-designed business card.
Consistency of message
What are your core values? For Blueprint.Inc, we strive to have a positive message, to support women, to champion local businesses, to be smart, fun and respectful and to have a company culture that is flexible enough to let our employees enjoy their life outside of work. Your mission statement, core values, and company culture should be clear, concise, and reflect the image of your brand.
Consistency of communication
How do you communicate with your customer? This includes each touchpoint with your audience including social media, blogs, and email.
It’s undoubtedly hard to get noticed via social media today. But with persistence, consistency, and the help of your online community, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can be a great source for new clients, page views, traffic to your website, and much more. Be sure to share your pages with family, friends, current clients, and through local groups – the more exposure to your posts and messaging the better.
Gaining a larger audience on each social media platform is the first step, followed by promoting some of your best posts. Each platform makes it easy to target people within your city. Yes, you have to pay to do this, but it’s a marketing expense. $200 has the opportunity to get you in 50,000+ people’s feeds. That is pretty good! What does $200 buy in other marketing to such a targeted audience? Even a $5 boosted post can bring you in new followers. When creating your content calendar, don’t only post about your own work. Work in desirable content to make your page relevant and note that great photography can help engage your audience and grow your presence in your local community. Having your own photos, not ones everyone else has, will make you look like the expert, not “just” the curator.
Do you have a website? Unlike a blog, your website should be more static with the only things changing being additions to your portfolio and additions to your press section. Do you have a blog? Link to it from your website, but have it be a distinctly different product with similar branding. Make sure to include links to all your social media platforms from your website and from your blog. Overall, your website should reflect you and your brand. At the end of the day, you want to use your page to attract the type of person you want to work with.
Consistency of expectations
Are your customers getting what they expect to get?
The biggest reason you’ll lose customers, and their loyalty, is confusion. Confusion comes from not staying on brand, expanding your brand, and not meeting customer expectations. Avoid confusion by creating a line of open communication with your clients and keeping your messaging as consistent as possible.
Overall, creating lasting brand consistency is something that has to be consciously worked on and reinvented each year. Get your team involved in your creating strong company values and communication. Effort is 100% required when it comes to maintaining brand consistency through the years, but that effort always pays off in the long run.