[News] Small Businesses Slow to Invest in Reviews

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Reviews] Study Reveals Only 13% of Small Businesses Invest in Reviews

News Source: Street Fight

This week, Yodle released a study that revealed a disconnect between the way small business owners view online reviews and the way customers view them. Only 13% of surveyed business owners said that they were actively encouraging online reviews from customers, although 90% of customers find online reviews to be essential in the decision-making process. The majority of survey participants did not see online reviews as important.

The main reason that small business owners don’t invest in reviews is the amount of time and effort it takes to curate and respond to online comments. Most small businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing resource on staff to handle this type of outreach.

Another factor in small business owners’ lack of enthusiasm is skepticism about the legitimacy of online review sites. Many entrepreneurs believe that these sites skew results in favor of businesses who advertise with them.

Key Takeaway: While small business owners may be slow to embrace the online review system, consumers are relying heavily on it to make purchase decisions. In order to remain competitive and make sure your small business’s online reputation remains solid, you need to invest in online reviews by encouraging patrons to provide positive feedback and by responding to negative feedback promptly and respectfully.

[Social Media] LinkedIn Launches Small Business Microsite

News Source: Business News Daily

This week, LinkedIn announced the launch of a new microsite to support small businesses. The microsite will feature tips and advice on branding, marketing, sales, and hiring using the LinkedIn platform.

The launch of this microsite falls in line with LinkedIn’s recent small business social media study, which showed that small businesses find social media to be an effective marketing channel. By providing better support, the social network hopes to garner more active participation from small business users.

Key Takeaway: This new resource will help small businesses make the most of the LinkedIn platform, which has historically focused on large corporations with established brands. While the microsite’s content is tailored specifically to the LinkedIn platform, some of the branding and marketing advice will be applicable to a variety of social media channels. If you’ve struggled to make the most of LinkedIn, these resources will help take your LinkedIn profile from meh to magic.

[Hiring] More Small Businesses Outsourcing Work to Contractors Abroad

News Source: NY Times

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that outsourcing isn’t just for big businesses any more: Small businesses are also jumping on the outsourcing bandwagon in order to cut costs.

One-off tasks such as website design, translation, and software development are being outsourced with the help of online marketplaces such as oDesk, Freelancer, and Guru. These marketplaces make it easy to review candidates’ experience and portfolios to find the right fit for the job, saving small businesses both time and money.

Key Takeaway: Finding contractors to complete discrete projects is now easier than ever for small businesses, and online marketplaces make international labor an accessible and cheap alternative to US freelancers. But is it really a good thing? While small businesses may save a bit of money by outsourcing, this decision undermines the “shop local” ethic that they themselves encourage patrons to follow by not supporting local freelancers. 

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

SEO for Small Business: Social Media

Search engines index content from all sorts of websites—including social networks, which are some of the most highly-trafficked sites on the web. While SEO how-tos often focus on the changes you can make to your business’s website, many of the same principles apply to your social media profiles as well. In this article, we’ll cover what SEO means in a social setting, what you should be doing to optimize your social media profiles, and how you can use content on social to boost your business’s overall search ranking.
What Is Social SEO?

Because social media networks house such an active community of people sharing links and interacting with content, it opens up a whole new SEO channel for small businesses. Social SEO is the practice of optimizing content on your social media channels in order to boost where your business appears in search results.

Optimizing Your Small Business’s Social Profiles

The best way to ensure that your social media profiles are SEO friendly is to fill them out as completely as possible. A few things to consider doing:

  • Include a detailed description and relevant keywords in your description on each social profile so that people searching for those terms will be able to find you easily.
  • Share your business’s physical address and links back to your company website on your social profiles. Make sure to link from your website back to your social accounts as well to close the loop.
  • Incorporate your business’s name into the identity of your social accounts; for example, if your business is called Bobby’s Bakery, then your Twitter handle, Facebook Page URL, Google+ URL, etc. should all include “Bobby’s Bakery” in some fashion. This will help people find you and make a clear connection between all of your profiles for social networkers and search engines alike.

Optimizing the Content You Share on Social Media

There are a variety of ways you can optimize the content you share on your social channels. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • When writing posts or sharing media content, include keywords that will be of interest to your audience and relate to what your business does.
  • If you host a blog or publish other content on your website, you should definitely share it with your social media followers—not only to broaden your readership, but also to help boost your SEO by helping search engines index your content more quickly.
  • Use your business’s name in your posts on occasion, especially in posts containing keywords you’d like to be associated with. This will help search engines connect the dots more quickly.
  • Protip: Sharing content on Google+ will give you an even greater chance of improving your Google search ranking than posting on other social networks. While Google+ may not get as much attention as Facebook or Twitter, it’s worth investing in, especially when it comes to SEO.

Use Content on Social to Build Links

Why is link building important? Because search engine algorithms are largely based on the use and analysis of links between websites. The more links you have pointing to your site, and the more quality websites you link to from your social media channels, the more authority search engines will give to your business. And the higher your authority, the better your overall search ranking will be.

Social interactions such as likes, comments, and shares also contribute to the authority given to your links. If you share content your followers find engaging, they’re more likely to share it with their followers and increase the number of links driving back to your online properties. Content can be anything from a blog article on your site to an ebook to a post on Facebook—it just has to be meaningful and easy to share.

The Bottom Line

If you want to boost your business’s overall search rankings, social media is a channel you can’t ignore. By optimizing your profiles and posts, you can make a real impact on where your small business appears in search engine results pages.

How a Niche Service Business Helps People Find Them

Michael Himelfarb, founder of Global Prevention Services, a mold-removal company with locations across the US, knows that his company is unlike most service businesses.
“Finding someone when you have a water emergency or a mold problem isn’t like finding a place to buy tires. You can’t just look in any newspaper or call up the same guy you’ve been going to for 40 years,” says Michael. “Looking for a person that’s reliable and knows what they’re doing can be a hassle.”

For Michael, marketing his niche company effectively means making it easy for people to find Global Prevention Services when they really need them.

“We’ve tried TV, we’ve tried radio, but traditional advertising really never made sense for us,” Michael explains. “People need to find us in a moment’s notice. That’s why we think the internet offers the biggest opportunity.”

Over the last few years, Global Prevention Services has worked to build an online presence any way that they can.

Doing so has presented new challenges.

“Keeping up with all of the different listings sites and platforms hasn’t been easy,” says Michael. “The information that’s out there really hangs around. So if our information changes, the stuff people are finding on a lot of these pages might not be accurate.”

Michael decided to look for a better way to tackle this ongoing problem since being found by potential customers is crucial for the success of his company.

“I wanted to find a company that could start to help us consolidate various vendor relationships into one, and would understand our business and take the time to do things right,” says Michael. “I also wanted help getting our business on to the sites we needed to be on, and really help clean things up.”

In 2013, Michael found SinglePlatform from Constant Contact.

“The concept of having a single source that can take you to the breadth of the internet, is certainly a great idea,” says Michael. “I also liked the relationship with Constant Contact, because we had used Constant Contact for marketing in the past.”

Within SinglePlatform, Michael was able to upload his company’s information and automatically create a mobile-optimized page that includes a listing of their services, information about their safe and effective solutions, and background about why other customers have chosen Global Prevention Services in the past.

With the company’s information now available on SinglePlatform, Michael could then have his information shared across the SinglePlatform publisher network — including Yelp, YellowPages, and Foursquare.

He also added the listing to the Global Prevention Services Facebook Page, so that people searching for help on social media could easily find his business’s information.

For Michael, the benefit of delivering a better way for potential customers to access this information has been clear.

“Our story is long, and it takes quite a bit of time to really tell why we are different and why we should be considered,” says Michael. “By having our list of services out there and knowing that we can update them when we need to, we’re able to tell our story and give people the information they need.”

What’s next?

Michael says that he is excited to do more with SinglePlatform in the future, and would recommend the tool to other businesses faced with similar challenges.

“I would recommend SinglePlatform to anyone in our situation who is also trying to get everything together,” says Michael. “SinglePlatform is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. It is an affordable way to attempt to keep these directories in line.”

If you want a partner in managing your online business listings, SinglePlatform is here to help! Visit our site to learn more about our services.

[News] Small Businesses Investing More in Social Media

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Social Media News] Small Businesses Investing More in Social Media Marketing

News Source: FOXBusiness

A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and research firm TNS found that 80% of small business owners are using social media to connect with new customers and generate business. 73% of “hyper growth” businesses—those experiencing significant revenue growth—are increasing their social media spend this year; 42% of small businesses experiencing no growth are also boosting their social media investment.

Businesses who are using social media have good things to report: 90% say that their social media efforts help maintain their company’s brand and identity online, and 82% say that social networking helps them generate new leads.

Key Takeaway: Social media marketing isn’t just a fad—it’s an effective way to form an identity around your brand and connect with customers and new leads. The good news is that, if you haven’t paid much attention to social media yet, it’s never too late to start! 

[Social Media News] Facebook Acquires WhatsApp for $16 Billion

News Source: The New York Times

On Thursday, Facebook announced its largest acquisition ever, purchasing text messaging app WhatsApp for $16 billion. The app currently has 450 million (mostly international) users who pay $1 a year for the service.

This acquisition is one of several recent purchases that Facebook has made to complement its current functionality. Given its struggle to retain younger users and its less-than-stellar messaging, the WhatsApp acquisition comes as no real surprise. But why the big price tag?

The short answer is: user activity. WhatsApp’s messaging volume is now approaching the volume of all text messages sent globally. That’s a lot of texts!

Key Takeaway: Facebook’s Messenger has always left a lot to be desired. With the acquisition of WhatsApp, the social network will open doors to new text-based features. In addition to seeing improvements in basic messaging functionality, we may start to see some messaging features designed specifically for business Pages as well.

[Restaurant News] Restaurant Sales Expected to Reach $683 Billion in 2014

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

The National Restaurant Association projected this week that restaurant sales will grow for the fifth consecutive year. Sales are expected to reach $683 billion in 2014, a 3.6% increase from 2013.

Of these project sales, $455.9 billion is projected to come from traditional sit-down and quick service restaurants, $20 billion from bars and taverns, $47.1 billion from managed services, $34.8 billion from hotels and lodging, $66.4 billion from retail, vending, and recreation, $55.6 billion from noncommercial restaurant services, and $2.5 billion from military restaurants.

Key Takeaway: Although there remains uncertainty about the economic outlook over the next year, restaurants will be doing their part to make both Main Street and Wall Street happy.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

SEO for Small Business: Online Listings

Improving your own business website is an important factor in SEO, but equally important for local businesses is optimizing the content on your local listings. Because local search drives the majority of traffic to small businesses online, having accurate, robust profile pages on a variety of listings sites and apps is essential.
In this article, we’ll walk you through where to get your business listed, how to incorporate keywords into your listings, and how to optimize your content for maximum visibility in online search.

Where to Get Listed to Boost Your SEO

The more listings you have for your business, the greater impact they’ll have on your overall search ranking. However, search engine listings are especially important because they tie in directly with local search results. For starters, you should make sure to have accurate, consistent business listings on Google Local, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local; CitySearch and Yelp are also important because they feed data to Ask.com, Bing, and Yahoo.

How to Incorporate Keywords in Your Listings

As we discussed last week, including relevant keywords in your online content is essential for SEO purposes, and that’s just as true for your business listings as it is for your website. Some ideas include:

  • Using a consistent format for your business name
  • Choosing consistent business types (which also act as keywords) across your listings
  • Including relevant keywords in your business description

Optimizing Your Content for Maximum Visibility

Beyond making sure that your business information is complete, accurate, and consistent, including rich content in your listings will help you gain even more visibility in local search. Having a searchable menu or list of products and services is essential; otherwise, you’ll miss out on people searching for a specific item rather than a type of business.

Including directions and a link to your website can also help you stand out in search results when a user is faced with multiple listings to look at; listings sites such as Yelp and YellowPages will show whether a business has a menu, linked website, and directions associated with it.

Once people land on your listings page, rich content such as specials, offers, and photos can help entice viewers and set your business apart from other competitors in your local area.

The Bottom Line

Local search and online listings are closely related. It’s important for you to get your business listed on the most important search engines, review sites, and mobile apps. Just as important is optimizing the content of your listings pages to ensure maximum visibility when consumers search for local businesses like yours.

Did you know that SinglePlatform can help you manage your online business listings across the web? Learn more about how we can save you time and get more exposure for your business! 

SEO for Small Business: Website Content

With the significant changes that happened in 2013 to Google’s search algorithm, SEO is now more than ever based on the quality of content your website contains. It’s no longer enough to have a site with tons of keywords and proper tags in place. In order to improve your search ranking and online visibility, you need to invest in creating original, useful, and interesting content.
Here are 6 types of content that will help improve your search rankings and bring more potential customers to your website:

1. Content That Answers Specific Questions

A key component of today’s search landscape is questions. Users often want specific answers to specific queries, not just general information about a particular topic. Therefore, when thinking about content to create for your site, consider developing pieces that address questions your customers might be asking.

Example: A boutique clothing store publishes a detailed guide that covers fashion trends for spring in order to answer the question, “What are spring 2014 fashion trends?”

2. Content That Includes Long-tail Keywords

Related to task of answering specific questions are long-tail keywords. These keywords are longer search strings that are less commonly used than single keywords or shorter search strings.

Example: Rather than using the simple keyword “pizza” in their introductory paragraph, an Italian restaurant uses the keyword string “family-owned pizza and pasta restaurant in Indianapolis”.

3. Expert Content on a Variety of Topics

As a small business owner, you’re closer to your industry than the average consumer is—and that gives you a unique position to share expert knowledge that readers will find interesting. Think about how you can share personal insights into your field with online viewers.

Example: A salon owner creates a how-to video on the best way to blow-dry hair, providing expert advice on technique, products, and equipment.

4. Visual Media Content

The more engaging your content is, the more it will positively impact your search rankings. Today, the most engaging content on the web is of a visual nature: infographics, videos, photos, and other graphics. Make sure your site features visuals that will appeal to potential customers and reinforce your business’s brand and mission.

Example: A daycare owner creates a visual tour of her facility, highlighting the space, the staff, and the activities they provide for children.

5. Content Shareable on Social Media

Social media is the easiest way for online readers to share your content with others. The more shares you have, the more traffic you’ll get to your site—and the more search engines will weigh results in your favor.

Example: A home repair business provides social share buttons on each of their individual blog posts to make it easy for readers to share their articles on social.

6. Content That Elicits a Reaction or Opinion

Posting content that people will get excited about—or, in some cases, upset about—is a surefire way to ensure reader engagement.

Example: An organic health food store posts an article about proposed GMO regulations in their state.

The Bottom Line

The more useful, relevant, and engaging your content is, the more traffic you’ll get to your website and the higher your website will climb in search rankings.

Holiday Business Trends: Valentine’s Day

The most romantic holiday of the year is almost here, which means big love for restaurants, bars, florists, and other local businesses. Last year, SinglePlatform’s customers employed a variety of tactics—some traditional and some more daring—to sweep patrons off their feet on Valentine’s Day. Here are a few creative marketing ideas from our clients.
Specials

From custom tasting menus featuring chocolate, strawberries, champagne, and oysters to special prices on bouquets of roses to spa gift card promotions, our customers pulled out all the stops to offer something romantic and decadent for Valentine’s Day.

Live Music

Mood music can make or break a romantic setting. To set the right tone, some of our clients brought in string quartets and live bands for the occasion; one bar even had a special Valentine’s Day karaoke event so that patrons could serenade one another.

Giveaways

Some of our restaurant clients, who know that freebies can often win over fickle hearts, wooed couples with giveaways such as cigars, roses, desserts, even champagne. If free champagne doesn’t contribute to customer loyalty, we don’t know what will.

Speed Dating

Valentine’s Day can often be a less than stellar holiday for singles. One of our clients decided to bring singles together by hosting a speed dating event. If you’re a natural matchmaker, it may be just the thing to boost your business in February!

Anti-Valentine’s Day Parties

For those more jaded bachelors and bachelorettes, a few bars threw anti-Valentine’s Day parties. One of our clients hosted a costume party featuring angles and devils; another offered drink specials for “non-Cupids”.

The Bottom Line

Holidays are meant to be embraced and enjoyed by businesses and consumers alike. Get creative with your offers and events, and your patrons will be sure to swoon.

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