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Instagram Explained in 5 Minutes

Instagram is the fastest growing social media site worldwide with 23% growth in active users in the last six months alone. Users can spend hours scrolling through great photos posted by their friends, favorite celebrities, brands and products, bloggers, TV networks, and more.

There are over 300 million users who share up to 60 million photos each and every day. As the up and coming social network, Instagram has the largest population of younger users. Over 50% of users are between 18 and 29 years old.

So how does Instagram work and how could your business benefit from this Social Platform?

In this blog we will help you understand how Instagram works and how your business could use Instagram in its future Social Media endeavours as a way to connect with current and potential customers in a very graphical and interactive way that is not as easy to do on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Facebook.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a photo-sharing social network designed to easily and quickly share pictures or short videos usually taken on a mobile phone.

On Instagram you can “follow” other profiles and you have “followers” who follow your photos. You can also like individual photos posted and can re-post other users’ photos. With each new photo you can write a caption, add hashtags to make your photo more searchable, and encourage comments and sharing.

How Do Instagram Hashtags Work?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign (#) used to identify messages or photos about a specific topic, brand, location, etc. Hashtags make it easier for users to find your photos on Instagram and are what makes Instagram so networking friendly!

Hashtags are Searchable. Hashtags can affect where or if you are ranked in Instagram search.  Being visible in search results is important, because potential clients will search for what they’re interested in or what the most popular hashtags are. Using a hashtag that represents what’s in your photo is very important.

Hashtags are Interactive. Hashtags can also be created and used to encourage interaction. Why not create a specific hashtag and ask customer who buy your running shoes post pictures of where the shoes take them? Or start a hashtag for all your guests to use at your customer appreciation dinner?

Currently you can use up to 30 hashtags so the options are nearly endless. The goal is to pick commonly used yet relevant hashtags. You can use the Instagram search function to see how frequently a hashtag is used and what types of photos are associated with that hashtag. You can also use websites like top-hashtags.com to see the most popular hashtags for Instagram.

How do I get more followers on Instagram?

Many of the same rules apply to Instagram as for all other Social Media sites: Be interesting, Say something humorous or relatable, Post high quality photos, etc.

One commonly overlooked strategy to engage and get new Instagram followers is to use the popular like and follow hashtags (ex. #like4like, #follow4follow). People can be selfish and want something in return and they particularly want to be followed or liked back. Just remember than when you say you will like or follow them back, you try and stick to that. This can be a tedious process but it can be an important part of the growth stage.

How often should I post on Instagram?

As you attract new followers on Instagram it is even more important to keep them happy if you want them to continue following you. Remember that it is not just a numbers game – the quality of your followers is just as important if not more important than quantity!

A general rule of thumb for businesses on Instagram is to post a new photo every few days. This gives your followers a reminder of your account but doesn’t bombard their Instagram feed with too many posts.  The goal is to keep them liking your photos and following your account.

A recent study by Huffington Post found that the best time to post on Instagram is 5 pm (people are procrastinating at the end of their work day) and 2 am (there are less people posting and more engaged users).

How do I showcase my brand personality on Instagram?

Every Instagram account has a different style and layout. It’s a good idea to keep all your posts in a similar format and look. Inconsistent style or voice of posts can be confusing to your followers. Using a filter app is a perfect example to making your page consistent – one of my favorites is called Rookie Cam.  There are so many different ones out there, so pick a filter that suits your brand and the type of photos you are posting.

How do I connect Instagram with my website?

If you are active on Instagram make sure you have your Instagram account linked from your website along with all of your other Social Media profiles.

Currently the Instagram bio has a 150 character limit so write a catchy and quick description. Be sure to place a link to your website here as Instagram does not allow you to use links in your photo captions or in comments.

Do I Need Instagram for My Business?

After all this are you wondering if your business needs Instagram?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding if you should start using Instagram for your business:

  • Does your target market fit the demographics of Instagram (18-29 year olds)?
  • Do you have time and resources to devote to keeping your Instagram account updated?
  • Would your limited time and resources be better devoted to other more important Social Media profiles?
  • Are your products and services easily captured in photos?
  • Do you have a steady stream of new photo content to post regularly to Instagram?

If you have further questions about Instagram or about how SEO and Social Media interact, please contact us at contact@1stonthelist.ca or call 1-888-262-6687.

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What To Do If You Are Not Getting Leads From Your Website

I know that you want to see results from your website project.  And I know it can be disappointing when you don’t start getting results soon after you have launched the website.  It is natural to want to give up on the whole idea and conclude, “You can’t get leads for your business from the Internet”.

That’s fair, because you really should expect results from any advertising.  If it doesn’t work, you should stop using that promotion.

But there is another aspect of Internet marketing that you should consider.

I’m not trying to convince you of anything but, as a businessman, I know you have been asking yourself one question since the day you started and will continue to ask the same question for as long as you are in business.  I chose to be in this business with the same question in my mind.

Every businessman is always asking:  “How can I grow my business?”

When you boil it down, there are only two options:

  1. Referrals – When you start out you don’t have much of a budget so you somehow find a few clients to get started with, treat your clients like gold, and hope they will recommend their friends and family to help you grow.
  2. Advertising – At some point, every business person finds that referrals don’t grow the business fast enough and there are never really enough referrals to make a good living.

After struggling to make a living for a while, every businessperson turns to advertising to try to achieve the success they see others achieving in the same business.

Advertising sounds like a great idea, but pretty quickly you find out that it is easy to blow away thousands of dollars with little or nothing to show for it.

Even the cheapest of advertising can cost $1,000 to $2,000, with no guarantee of return.  In most cases, even after you spend the money you may never see any results.

I have clients in the roofing and driveway paving business that spend $20,000 to $30,000 at a time on a flyer campaign, four or five times a year to get a handful of new clients each time.  I asked them “How much do you spend, on average, to get a client?”

The answer was, “Well, over $500 … You never know if you will get any clients even after all the money has been spent.” 

Every single business person is in the same situation.  They spend a bunch of money and “hope” they will get clients.  Sometimes it works, many times it doesn’t.

This is where the Internet comes in.

In a scenario where every little magazine and promotional flyer requires a minimum of $500 to $2,500 with no promise of returns, what can a small businessperson do to grow his or her business without going broke?

Until the Internet came around, there was never a good answer to this question.

On the Internet, you can spend $500 to $1,000 per month and you will attract qualified prospects to view your proposition.

Every month that you promote your business online, you get more and more qualified prospects viewing your business.  Some of these people start picking up the phone and calling you.  Your business grows with new clients from the Internet and from the referrals they send you.

On the Internet, the longer you continue to promote, the more exposure you get for the same small budget of $500 to $1000 per month.

There is no other advertising medium that builds and builds your reach, the longer you keep advertising like SEO can.

If you decide to stop promoting your website, you will still face the same question, “How do I grow my business?”  You will have the same options you always did:  spend, spend, spend on advertising that produces little or no results.

After seeing and living through many different marketing programs, my conclusion is this:

SEO is by far the cheapest way to promote your business and get new clients.

When I start promoting a website, there is usually little or no traffic.  After a two or three months they start getting several hundred qualified prospects coming to their website every month. And frankly, this is just the beginning.

In the next six months the traffic builds and builds with the plan I implement.

I have a client where last month he got four people who filled out his website’s contact form.  I bet a few people phoned him as well, but they didn’t mention his website.  I also bet a few people saw where he was on the map on his website and stopped in without telling him they saw his address on the website.

How many clients will it take for you to break even with spending $500 to $1,000 per month?

If you got 10 new clients in the next 12 months would that cover your advertising expenses and more?  In my opinion you should be able to get 10+ new clients every month once the online marketing campaign matures.

Over time, a properly SEO’d website gains “Equity”.  It produces more and more business for you.

As you consider your options for “How do I grow my business?” I hope you will keep these points in mind.

I can help your business grow… slowly at first, and then faster and faster and faster as your website builds “Equity”.

If you feel that you want to work with me and 1st on the List, I would be happy to evaluate your situation.  If it looks like we can do something for you, we’ll let you know.  For some businesses Internet marketing on its own is just not enough. You may have to combine Internet marketing with other techniques to get good results.

The first evaluation is free.  Most people get a lot of value from the investigation we do initially.  Give us a call today at 1-888-262-6687 and let’s get your business growing!

Local SEO Opportunities Exclusive to Local Businesses

If you are a small business you can’t afford to miss the promising results of the recent study by Yodle on What Consumers Want from Local Businesses.

Guess what? People love local businesses!

Four out of five respondents use local businesses and nearly half say they shopped at local businesses more this year than last.

Your entire marketing budget may not even be a tenth or hundredth of your National Brand competitors but you do hold a Search Advantage in that people in your area want to shop at true local businesses. And Search Engines recognize this and are now showing more localized results than ever before.

In response to the new study Search Engine Land columnist Wesley Young discusses the results of the Yodle study in detail and helps us understand how to use what consumers want in order to boost your local SEO strategy.

Here are the key takeaways you can apply to your local business:

  • Highlight the competitive advantages people automatically attach to local businesses, such as personalization, trustworthiness, customer service, quality, and reliability. Do this throughout your website text and the Meta Data that appears beside your website in Search Results. You can also let this seep into your offline marketing!
  • Highlight that you’re locally owned and operated. We already know that people like to shop local and apply certain characteristics (like personalization and trustworthiness) to local businesses. Use your website to tell your story, explain your local heritage, and entice people to shop local.
  • Play to their emotions. People like the idea of keeping their business local and supporting their economy. Make the benefits of doing business with you clear and your customers won’t have trouble justifying shopping local over National Brands (even if they do pay a little more).
  • Ask for reviews. If your customers are like the respondents to the Yodle study, 90% would write a review for you if asked them … but only 7% have been asked. Don’t be bashful. Reviews are displayed in Search Results and used by potential customers each and every day to evaluate a business.
  • Get a website if you don’t already have one. Your website not only increases your visibility but establishes your credibility as a real business. Studies show that nearly half of sole-proprietors don’t have a website and over one third of small businesses with 25 or less employees do not have a website.
  • Stop turning potential customers away with an outdated, stale, or boring website. The majority of small businesses wait 6 months or more before making any updates which is far too long for most.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy for your local visitors to view on their phone. Many local businesses now see 20-50% of their website traffic visiting from mobile devices.
  • Connect with visitors how they want. Yodle discovered that nearly 70% of respondents preferred email communications over phone or mail. Does your website clearly present your contact email address? Do you respond to emails in a timely matter? Do you send appointment reminders or service updates through email?

If you are a local business check out our Local SEO Services to further advance your visibility in the Search Engines and ability to attract even more local customers.

What You Don’t Understand About SEO and Why It’s Hurting Your Business

Search Engine Land recently posted an informative article in which author Trond Lyngbø shared the ways a leader with a “quick fix” attitude towards SEO can hurt their business. In this blog post we’d like to unpack several of the very important and common misunderstandings towards SEO that he points out.

1. Great SEO can’t fix what’s wrong with your product.

Google wants to provide searchers with the very best results possible. If someone is searching for a new dentist or the best built in vacuum cleaner Google wants to recommend the most trustworthy websites and businesses. Are you truly the best or would your customers beg to differ?

Lyngbø suggests that your visibility will eventually be affected by the way your customers feel about your products and services. We believe that Google is already making the move to incorporate your customer reviews and general reputation into your visibility. Faulty product? Poor customer service? Your SEO success may soon come to an end.

2. SEO is not a “quick fix” or “duct tape” solution for your business.

Lyngbø makes this point in reference to using SEO to cover up your bad product or customer service but the statement is true in a broader sense as well. SEO works best when backed by a stellar brand, great customer service, strong understanding of customer needs, an informative and easy to use website, and so on. SEO is often the final missing piece of the puzzle for brands that are already doing everything else right.

3. You can’t just “install SEO” quickly and easily.

This misunderstanding stems from a number of valid sources. For example there are SEO companies out there who claim to do SEO at a very cheap price and very quickly. This makes many business owners and managers believe it’s a quick install or that there’s just one way to do SEO. There are also SEO software programs and even WordPress plugins that claim do SEO for you. But SEO isn’t quick or easy, and can’t just be installed. It takes an experienced person to analyze your website and all the various factors (between 200 and 300) that come into play when Google decides how to rank the website. They then have to know the best strategies to optimize the most important factors to get your website to start ranking better and for more and more relevant queries as time goes on.

4. An expert can use SEO to make your marketing stronger and prevent expensive mistakes.

The basics of SEO can be fairly easy to understand and start to implement. But would you know how to run a detailed audit of your website to identify areas where you can make it even faster? After all Google favors fast websites. Would you know how to confirm that Google is properly accessing and crediting all of the pages on your website? If you are getting a site redesign do you know how to ensure that all of your credit is properly passed on to your new pages? Will you risk losing rankings and traffic with your new site design?

5. Paid and Natural Search traffic are highly connected.

Lyngbø comments that:

“Some business leaders consider paid traffic to be completely distinct from search engine optimization, not realizing that an SEO specialist can help you amplify the reach and impact of your paid search campaigns … But both address search users, and having SEO and PPC teams work together can be powerful.”

It can be a costly mistake to think that your PPC is driving all your traffic or that Search is driving all your traffic. The two can be highly correlated and can work best together.

6. Just getting more visitors isn’t enough.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 500 visitors to your website a month doesn’t result in any new leads then is it reasonable to expect that 5,000 visitors would? At some point you have to stop chasing more visitors and start going after better visitors. The other option is tweaking your website so that you start getting more out of the same number of visitors, which is called Conversion Optimization.

On a bigger picture level, Lyngbø challenges any business owner:

“If only a tiny fraction of what you do is effective in bringing you desirable results, why repeat everything that doesn’t work again next year?”

7. Insights gathered from Google can help future-proof your business.

Over the years we have had to have some hard conversations with clients who were in what seemed to be dying industries. After seeing the total number of people searching for their types of products and services decline they questioned if they were still relevant or if people still wanted what they had to offer.

On the other hand, we’ve also been able to point out exciting opportunities we can find through search behaviour. The conversation often goes like this:

Us: “We’ve noticed an increase in the number of searches for X product or Y service. Is that something you would be able to offer?”

Client: “We have actually been considering adding that to our business.”

Us: “Well now may be the time because a lot of people are looking and very few other businesses are offering it. You can be a first mover.”

After all as Lyngbø it’s free to access Google’s search data and glean it for new insights. For example, do you know the most frequently asked questions on Google about your type of products?

8. SEO is built into your website design.

There are several factors that you may not think of as “SEO” but in fact have a pivotal effect on the success of SEO: website structure, navigation, internal link architecture, information architecture.

In addition to the above items that Lyngbø mentions a more recent belief is that Engagement Metrics such as time on site and bounce rate will (if not already) affect rankings. So if your website is poorly designed and your visitors are constantly leaving after spending only a second or two, your SEO could suffer.

9. Your rankings on search engines are not limited to your own site, either.

One important thing to understand with SEO is that many components are outside of your control. As much as there is to do when optimizing a website there are a number of things you don’t control, such as:

  • The area your searcher is located
  • The age of your domain
  • The direct competition going after visibility for the same types of Search Phrases
  • Plus indirect competition that Google also favors for your targeted Search Phrases

Changing Your Thinking Towards SEO as a Leader

In conclusion Lyngbø gives words of encouragement:

“Integrating SEO into all that you do, both offline and on, can enhance your results and speed up your growth.”

So how are you doing with integrating SEO into every fiber of your business? In our experience our clients who achieve the best success with us are all in and willing to do everything it takes – both online and offline.

If you need to start SEO for the first time or have realized it’s time to start taking SEO more seriously by hiring a qualified and experienced SEO expert give us a call at 1-888-262-6887 and we’d be happy to speak with you!

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8 Basic Facts Every Small Business Owner Needs Know About SEO

If you don’t know these facts you’re not alone. Most small businesses we speak to aren’t quite sure about these basic fundamental SEO concepts. We’ve made it our mandate to help small businesses understand these facts whether they choose our SEO services or not!

SEO is simple in concept.

Search Engine Optimization is simply the process of improving your website’s content and structure so that Search Engines understand your website and what you offer more easily and deem it the most relevant to the product and services that you offer.

SEO is much more complex in practice.

If your website isn’t currently ranking for your keywords the search engines don’t understand your website yet! There are 300+ different factors Search Engines look at on every website in order to determine who should rank in each position and for different searches. These factors carry varying levels of importance and may be different from website to website. Experience, expertise, and discernment are needed to know what exactly is keeping a website from ranking well.

SEO builds your credibility and authority.

Search Engines rank websites because they think they are the most relevant and reliable source for the specific search query. The art of SEO is first showing and then proving to the Search Engines that you are the most credible and authoritative source, whether you offer gutter repairs in your hometown or name badges across the country.

SEO has endless approaches and strategies.

You can’t just ask “How much does SEO cost” and expect to get one answer because there are a variety of techniques and strategies that all require varying amounts of time, expertise, and resources to implement. It’s like asking a Contractor, “How much does it cost to build a house?” or a Personal Trainor “How much will you charge to get me into shape?” We need to ask questions so we can understand the details about what you want to accomplish. Goals are different for everyone.

SEO is not a defined science, it is an acquired skillset that requires expertise and experience to get the best results.

Not all people who do SEO are the same. Experience, approach, processes, skill level, backgrounds, and other factors affect how they optimize your website and the outcome. It is similar to hiring an inexperienced accountant or an Accountant with years of experience. Your taxes will be filed but you usually have a much bigger “return” with the more experienced, skilled Accountant. Notice I said Skilled Accountant.

SEO requires content on your website.

Search Engines need to understand what you offer, who you offer it to and where it is offered before they can start ranking your website where it belongs. You tell them this through well written content such as Products/Services pages, Contact pages and About Us pages that are properly linked to each other. This is the same information your visitors will be looking for on your website.

SEO is directly affected by what the owner contributes to the website.

The purpose of SEO is to drive more traffic to your website but ultimately the message is yours to share. Keeping your website updated with current information and having a clear and unique message that speaks to and motivates your visitors will always get you the best results.

SEO is highly affordable.

Most research shows that SEO provides a lower cost per lead than most other marketing methods and an above-average sales conversion. This means with SEO you pay less and get more!

SEO is the missing link you’ve been looking for.

Many growing businesses today are using search to drive their business. Search drives business but it means you must be visible when people are looking for what you offer.

SEO connects small businesses that need new customers with people who are actively searching for the exact services they offer. Nowadays people find and research companies online first. They don’t have time to scroll through more than a few results and most don’t even click to the second page before they decide who to buy from. Furthermore, people trust companies ranked near the top of the search results the most.

Now that you have a better grasp on what SEO can do for your business it’s time to take SEO seriously and have us look at your website.

For Local SEO Plans starting as low as $100/month please call us Toll Tree at 1-888-262-6687 or contact us.

Start Your FREE 1 month Trial Today!

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16 Insanely Smart Small Business Blog Ideas

What if we told you we can help making small business blogging easier while improving your local search visibility?

There is! We’ve compiled this list of ideas of painless and effortless ways to keep your blog up to date while showing Google (and your visitors) your presence in your community and credibility.

1. Share community news.

Write about the upcoming annual event in your city that everyone looks forward to. Write about the upcoming tradeshow you’ll be attending. Show that you are involved in your community and support local events.

2. Tell customer success stories.

Did a customer just call you raving about a great experience they had with you? Were you able to solve a problem for one of your customers? Take the time to write a short summary of what you did and share the success with everyone your website. Be sure to ask the customer for permission to turn their story into a blog post.

3. Stockpile FAQ posts.

You likely get the same questions over and over again. Take each of these questions and turn each into their own post. Next time you have someone  emailing or writing to ask the question you can direct them to your blog post! These are great posts to write in advance and have ready to post when you get into your busy season and may not have as much time to blog.

4. Write about recent projects.

For service based businesses you can share about what you’re working on. Perhaps it’s replacing a sub panel in an Abbotsford home or pouring a new concrete driveway in Mission BC or even eye exams for children going back to school. Mentioning the service, products and city helps with your local optimization.

5. Promote your sponsorships or charities.

Write about local charities, events, amateur sports teams, fundraisers and any other involvement you have in your community. The point of these blog posts isn’t to put yourself on a high horse but to encourage your customers to also support the causes you believe in.

6. Write a ‘Top 5’ list.

Lists are easy to skim and digest … just look at the popularity of BuzzFeed. Put together a list of your Top 5 products related to a specific need, top 5 restaurants in your area, top 5 reasons to have regular dental checkups, etc. The list goes on about lists you could write.

7. Updates on changes to regulation.

Be the authoritative source to tell your visitors about changes to building codes in your area, updates to mortgage laws and other regulations that will affect your industry.

8. Create a local resource directory.

Put together a list of trusted businesses your customers may be interested in. Are you a plumber? Why not suggest trusted electricians, framers, drywallers and contractors you’ve worked with over the years?

9. Review other local businesses.

Give a shout out to businesses that you interact with on a regular basis that you think are worthy to recommend to your customers. You never know, that business may do the same for you one day.

10. Create a best resources collection

Pick a topic that is very relevant to your industry (it could even be a topic you always get asked about) and compile a “best resources” collection where you can guide your visitors to the best websites to do all their research. Your blog post will show your visitors who to trust on a certain topic and help in the education process.

11. Share a current event.

Find a unique spin of what you’re seeing and reading in the News and write a blog post. Has the value of the Canadian Dollar gone down? How is this affecting your industry? Have scientists found a new cure? What does this mean for your patients?

12. Compare and contrast products.

Take two similar items or products and write a comparison of the two. How are they similar? How are they different? Is one a better solution? Are there times you should use one product over the other?

13. Talk about failure.

Has something recently made you cover your face and shake your head? Whether it is something you did, something you found in a recent home you did work in or even a horror story that a current customer told you about their previous provider, take the time to dish out the juicy gossip. People like to hear bad news. Just remember to always close the post with an optimistic outlook and offer a solution.

14. Share industry insider secrets.

Be the one to tell customers the truth in your industry. Are the commonly believed misconceptions in your industry? You can be the one to share the truth with your customers.

15. Post a how-to guide.

People are always searching “how to …” in Google. Write step by step guides on how to do simple things.

16. Read related blogs in different cities.

If all else fails, find a company in your same industry but across the country (and no overlap of target markets) and see what they are blogging about. You will likely find new topics, ideas and insight that you can take back to your blog. Remember, never copy or steal blog posts. Just use the blogs for inspiration and bring fresh insight and a new perspective on their topics back to your own blog.

Plus One Insanely Foolish Blog Idea!

If there is one cardinal sin when it comes to blogging it is ignoring your blog for months on end! Nothing is worse than a post from last Christmas or your visitors seeing your blog was last updated 7 months ago. This shows that you aren’t relevant and may even hint that you aren’t actively doing business!

For more information about our blogging services and how we can help set up a blog for your website to bring in new traffic and increase the visbility of your small business in your local market, please email us or call our team at 1-888-262-6687.

Before You Hit Publish – 15 Blogging Tips for SEO, Branding and Sharing

A company blog can be a very strategic and powerful component of your SEO Strategy.

However, writing interesting, informative and optimized blog posts is an art to master. In this blog post we offer some simple tips for blogging and final checklist items to go through before you officially hit “publish” and share your blog with the world.

1. Read the entire blog post out loud.

Reading your rough draft or near-finished draft out loud will help you identify minor typos or mistakes you may not notice when reading the text in your head. This can also help make sure there is overall clarity and flow throughout the entire blog post.

2. Get a second opinion – share the blog.

Have someone else read the blog post and give their feedback. It is best if this person is outside of the company or at least outside of your department. Does the article make sense to them? Are there any holes in your reasoning? Does the blog post leave them confused? Are they motivated to take action or feel they can accomplish what the blog describes?

3. Add relevant links.

Make sure there is one or two links going back to relevant pages on your website. For example, this post about publishing content may go back to our Content Optimization sales page on our website. This does a few things:

  • Keeps readers on your website by pointing them to other related pages they may be interested in.
  • Helps “support” or push credit towards your more important sales pages.

If you need to link to an outside website as a reference make sure that your link is set to “open in a new window” so that your website remains open on the reader’s desktop. You don’t want to send your reader offsite with them never to return.

4. Write a Meta Title and Meta Description worthy of a click.

The Meta Title and Description are the few lines of text shown in Search Engine results. Typically your Meta Title is a shortened catchy version of the Blog Post title that includes your target keyword. The Meta Description explains in a nutshell the purpose of the blog post or what the searcher will learn by reading the blog post. Keep these interesting and informative while building curiosity.

5. Stay focused on one topic.

It can be easy to get sidetracked on other semi-related topics. However the more focused you stay on one topic the better. Think of it this way, what is the one problem you are trying to help your reader solve? What is the one process you are trying to explain? What is the one key point you want your reader to walk away knowing? You can go into depth on your chosen topic but don’t get sidetracked. If you find you’ve gotten sidetracked and have written three or four paragraphs that are off topic but still good, why not save them for another post?

6. Acknowledge relevant keywords for SEO.

Once you’ve established your primary topic or theme you can start selecting the keywords you want to target for SEO. In order to do this, think about how your readers may search for your blog post in the Search Engines. If the topic is “How to install a toilet” you can first anticipate various ways people would search. For example: install toilet, how to install toilet, installing a toilet, etc.

Don’t get stuck on just variations of the one keyword. Use Google Autosuggest and start typing “install toilet…” into your search bar. This will bring up related terms and topics, including flange, tank, seat and basement which is how people are actually searching for your topic. Incorporate these ideas and phrases into your blog post to give a well rounded and well optimized blog post on installing a toilet.

7. Make the post easy to scan with headings and lists.

Your readers will thank you for visual cues such as headings, bullet lists, number lists, tables and other formatting. The added white space gives their eyes a rest and they can quickly check if your blog post has the information they are looking for. Remember to use proper Heading Tags in the proper order: H1, H2, H3, etc.

8. Brand the blog post.

Your blog post should have personality and reflect your company’s brand. It should clearly communicate the message, match your intended audience and accomplish your brand goals.

9. Introduce the author.

Many companies choose to add extra personality to their blog by sharing who the author is. This makes your blog more personable and shows the faces behind your blog. It can also add credibility to the information in the post. For example, a blog post on preparing for tax season would carry much more weight and credibility if the reader knows it was written by the Partner of the Accounting Firm.

10. Add images for interest.

You can give your blog post extra interest by adding one or two images. Images are also useful when sharing your blog post through Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

11. Add images Alt Tags.

If you do add images to the blog post be sure to add an Image Alt Tag to each. This is a little piece of code that attaches to the image and is displayed if the image can’t load. It is also the text the Search Engines use to understand your pictures as Search Engines can’t actually see the picture itself.

12. Tell your readers what to do.

The purpose of a blog is to build out relevant supporting content that is usually time sensitive. It is also a great way to bring visitors into your website, introduce them to your brand and to get them to take an action such as submitting a quote form, downloading a PDF, calling your company or even printing a coupon. What do you want your readers to do after reading your blog?

13. Encourage readers to share the blog.

You can ask readers to share or you can make it even easier by having social sharing icons at the top or bottom (or both) of the blog post. This makes it really easy for your reader to share your blog on their Facebook wall or through Twitter.

14. Encourage feedback and comments.

Towards the end of the post you can ask for feedback to create open lines of communication. For example, if you are a contractor blogging about tips on keeping renovations on budget you could ask your readers about how they have saved during renovations. Or you could ask about their biggest renovation mistakes. If you have a comments section be sure to monitor and respond to any feedback.

15. Share the blog post within your company.

The rest of your team can promote the article. Perhaps you wrote on a unique or cutting edge topic …. The blog can be used to inform and educate co-workers in your own workplace. Your co-workers may also have clients who need to know the information you just posted.

What do you always do before publishing a blog post? Do you have any other tips for blogging?

At 1st on the List we can help you create a blog for the first time or we can help keep your blog updated with new, interesting and optimized blog posts. Give us a call at 1-800-262-6687 for more information!

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Don’t Miss the Most Existing Marketing Opportunity in 2015

Recently Econsultancy and Adobe asked over 6,000 marketing, digital and e-commerce professionals around the world the question,

“What is the marketers’ single most exciting opportunity for 2015?”

Over 1 in 5 (22%) responded “Customer Experience”.

What’s so great about customer experience? Many believe that it defines your brand.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience is all about the interactions a person has with your brand. There are various ways to measure customer experience including their overall experience with your brand, likelihood to continue to use your products or services or likelihood to recommend you to others.

Online marketing and web design can get caught up in user experience which is just one component of customer experience. We often focus on simple question such as How do people interact with the website and What experience do they receive from that interaction? 

The deeper questions to ask are ones such as how does a user’s experience on your website affect their overall impression of your brand and How does it affect their opinion when they visit one of your offices or receive their product order in the mail?

SEO and “Customer Experience Optimization”

Over the last couple years a large component of SEO has come to focus on customer experience and knowing how to optimize not only your website but to optimize all the online touch points a customer may have with your brand. Easy SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, buying backlinks or rewriting articles that used to work five years ago are no longer on the table. Successful SEO is all about promoting your brand and building a positive customer experience, through aspects such as content quality and sociability. A successful SEO Strategy focuses on optimizing for the user first while staying within Google’s quality guidelines.

How to Improve Online Customer Experience

Here are some quick ways you can work on improving customer experience through your website:

  • Make your brand interesting and write with personality.
  • Understand the needs of your visitors and why they are on your website. How can you help solve their problem and meet their needs?
  • Make sure your business’ contact information is clearly posted on the site. It is a best practice to have your phone number in the top header and full address in the footer so that it is accessible no matter what page a visitor is on.
  • If you run an e-Commerce website make sure your shopping cart and checkout runs seamlessly.
  • Write interesting email auto-responders, such as when someone completes a contact form on your website or requests a quote. Tell the person when they should expect a response and make sure they understand the next steps in the process.
  • Write informative FAQ pages to give customers immediate answers to their questions.
  • Never underestimate the importance of page speed – your customers want to access your products, services and contact information quickly. Pages or images that take a long time to load slow your visitors down and take up more of their time than necessary.
  • Make your website awesome for all devices. Make sure your website sizes properly on small mobile devices and has links that are easy to click with a finger. Don’t let a non mobile-friendly website upset your visitor before they’ve had a chance to experience all the great things about your brand.
  • Keep contact forms short and simple. Only ask for the information you need and no more. This makes it easy and quick for your customers to fill out.
  • Double check that your business information (including phone number, address and hours) are correctly posted across the Internet including Google Plus. Your Google Plus page, whether you’ve claimed and edited it or not, often shows up when someone searches for your brand. A potential customer who sees wrong hours listed in Google and shows up to your store after you’ve closed for the night could be very upset and may never come back.
  • Take the time to read the online reviews about your business. Learn from any negative truth in the reviews (Is your staff really rude? Do you have unreasonably long wait times?) At the same time, take a minute or two to personally respond to customers who had less than great experiences and offer to make it right.

Ultimately, customer experience is about building a bond with people who visit your website. The customer experience is everything and can determine your future success.
What kind of bond are you forming with your visitors?

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Yellow Pages Halting Delivery in Select Areas

On Monday February 2, 2015 Yellow Pages announced that select neighborhoods across Canada will no longer receive Yellow Pages phone directories on their doorstep.

This comes as a result of both consumers turning to the Internet to find local businesses and contact information as well as Yellow Pages transforming its services into a digital format rather than print.

The phone directories will still be available through distribution points in the areas without home delivery. Residents are also able to request home delivery of a phone book by calling Yellow Pages Distribution Services directly.

Caroline Andres, Vice-President and Chief Publishing Officer of Yellow Pages, is optimistic that its phone directories still have a purpose,

 “The print directory side of our business continues to have a solid user base and to fulfill a specific need for the small businesses that use it to market their goods and services … This evolution of our distribution approach is aligned with the transformation of our company as we look to ensure the directory is making it to those who use it, in an efficient and responsible manner that continues to generate quality leads for our print customers.”

Yahoo! News Canada discussed Yellow Pages’ recent announcement and made the point that home delivery of Yellow Pages directories are only the latest example of once-needed goods becoming obsolete. Other examples included public pay phones, wristwatches, and phone operators.

What are your thoughts? Do you think phone directories are becoming obsolete? Are you one of the businesses that rely on phone directory advertising to attract quality leads as Andres says? When phone directories are no longer delivered to homes across Canada will your business be found online instead?

How to Draw Qualified Customers to your Website

Today’s online marketplace has become a Mecca for high end and expensive graphic design. Many are spending thousands on the professionally designed websites and countless hours on focusing on what and how they will sell online:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Ad Sense marketing
  • Storefronts
  • Forums
  • Click bank

The problem is that you can have the greatest looking website known to man, or you can have the greatest product since sliced bread, but if you fail to connect with your visitors and customers, the effort is wasted.

In this short blog post we aim to discuss some basic ways to get you thinking about how to draw and engage qualified customers to your website.

Remember: Business is Built Around People

Don’t get us wrong. It is necessary to put careful thought into building your web presence, such as:

  • What should the site look like?
  • Where should you promote your site?
  • What do you want to sell?
  • What other information should go on your website?

But the most important factor in the equation is understanding who you will sell to and how you can reach them. Ask yourself the questions:

  • What do they need?
  • What do they want?
  • How can you give them valuable information?
  • What do you need to say to get them to buy your products?

To help answer these questions you will also need to know who your visitors are, what is their age demographic, what are the buying trends in their age group, what is their education level and so on. These factors will help you better understand their needs and wants and how they perceive value from your website and products.

Skip the Design, You Must Act (UACT)

You must find a way to connect emotionally with people. Look at your site and follow the basic UACT acronym:

  • Can visitors UNDERSTAND what is being said?
  • Do visitors get the ANSWERS they need?
  • Is your information CREDIBLE?
  • Why would someone TRUST this site?

Help Others First, Help Yourself Second

If you are trying to build an online business, you need to first understand your people as established above. Next you need to help your visitors or customers:

  • Help your people get what they are looking for.
  • Help your people find information, services and products they want.
  • Help answer your people’s questions.

Essentially, HELP make their life easier.

Remember, you will be talking to people who want an easy to understand yet well thought out solution. If they wanted a long winded dry answer they would look up an encyclopedia for their answer. If they wanted a shallow answer they would have gone to eHow.com.

Your visitors want an answer from an expert who understands their needs. So speak to your people in their language.

Don’t Forget to Connect With the Visitor

No I don’t mean “connect” in an emotional way.

I mean physically connect as in you need to first get the new visitor to your website – even if they don’t even know you exist. This can come through many online marketing channels including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click advertising (ex. Google AdWords) and creative branding and interactions through Social Media.

Once you connect with your people you can build your store. Business is built by people. People need to trust you. You must show you are Credible and they need to understand what you say.

Key Takeaways for Success

So what is the number one way to draw qualified people to your website or online market? Focus on your people.

  • Develop a campaign that speaks to them.
  • Build your business around your target market’s needs, desires, questions, fears and interests.
  • Create your web content around your customer and the solution for your customer.

Once you have this, you will know where your people are looking for help; you will know how to design to speak to your people, and your website will organically grow.

Are your struggling with a website that doesn’t speak to your people? Call our consultants at 888-262-6687 and get going in the right direction.

The ideas in this article have been adapted from Lisa Irby’s YouTube video UGH! Why So Many Sites Never Earn $$$.