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10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant

If your website doesn’t show up on the first page of search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo, your potential customers might not even know you exist.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Better search engine visibility can be critical to boosting visits to your website, which can lead to increased brand awareness and higher sales and profits.

But what if you lack the time and technical expertise to improve your site’s search engine ranking? It might make sense to hire an experienced, reliable search engine optimisation (SEO) consultant.

Here are 10 essential questions to ask when considering prospective SEO consultants:

1. May I have a list of current and past clients?

A reputable SEO consultant should be open to sharing a brief list of current and former clients and his or her contact information, says Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google (Wiley, 2012) and founder of Nine By Blue, a Seattle-based SEO software provider.

These references can help you gauge how effective the candidate is, as well as verify that the person did indeed work on specific SEO campaigns. Clients may not provide specific analytics, Fox says, but they should be able to at least tell you if they saw a positive impact on their search ranking, especially in conversions and in gaining an audience, as a direct result of the consultant’s efforts.

2. How will you improve my search engine rankings?

Steer clear of SEO consultants who won’t freely discuss their methods in detail, cautions Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, a Seattle-based internet marketing software company and co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly, 2012). They should explain the strategies they would use to drive up your website’s search engine ranking, as well as estimate how long it could realistically take to achieve the SEO campaign goals you agree on.

Make sure the candidate’s proposal includes an initial technical review of your website to weed out any problems that could lower your search engine ranking, including broken links and error pages. Consultants also should provide “on page” optimisation, a process to make your website as search engine friendly as possible. It involves improving your website’s URL and internal linking structure, along with developing web page titles, headings and tags.

Also, ask consultants if they provide “off page” SEO strategies to raise awareness of your content on other websites, often via blogs, social media platforms and press releases.

3. Do you adhere to search engines’ webmaster guidelines?

You want a consultant who strictly abides by Google’s publicly posted webmaster best practices, which specifically prohibit 12 common SEO tricks, including automatically generating spammy content and adding bogus hidden text and links. If a candidate doesn’t follow those guidelines, your website could be relegated to a dismally low search results ranking. Or, worse yet, Google could ban it from search results altogether.

Bing and Yahoo also post webmaster best practices that consultants should confirm they follow.

4. Can you guarantee my website will achieve a number-one ranking on Google, Bing and Yahoo?

If the candidate answers yes, Fox warns, “Turn and run in the other direction as fast as you can.” Although it’s impossible to guarantee a number-one ranking on any search engine, she says, some unethical SEO consultants do make such bogus guarantees.

Consider it a red flag if the candidate claims to have an insider relationship with Google or any other search engine that will get you priority search results rankings. Only Google, Bing and Yahoo can control how high or low websites appear in their search results.

5. Are you experienced at improving local search results?

Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, Rand says. You’ll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques.

If your website is optimised for what’s known as “local SEO,” it should appear when someone nearby is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. To achieve that, a consultant should add your business’s city and state to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, and get your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographical area.

[box style=”gray,info” ]SEO Trends You Need to Know About[/box]

6. Will you share with me all changes you make to my site?

Search engine optimisation will most likely require a number of changes to your existing web page coding. It’s important to know exactly what adjustments the consultant plans to make and on how many web pages. If you would like the candidate to get your permission before accessing and altering your website code, be sure to say so.

For example, will consultants add new title tags to your existing HTML code or modify the existing ones? Will they provide additional copywriting content highlighting your products and services to beef up the number of visible, on-page keywords relevant to your potential customers? And do they plan to redesign all or some of your website navigation or add new pages to your site?

7. How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns?

To gauge the success of SEO efforts, you must track exactly how much traffic is being sent to your website and where it is coming from. Consultants should be experienced in using Google Analytics to track improvement in your site’s search engine rankings, the number of links from other websites driving traffic to yours, the kinds of keywords searchers use to find your site, and much more.

Be sure to ask how often they plan to share these important analytics with you and how they would use the data to continually improve your search engine rankings and website traffic.

8. How will we communicate and how often?

SEO consultants’ communication styles and customer service standards vary. You need to find someone whose approach best fits your needs. Ask if the candidate prefers to talk in person or via phone, Skype, texting or email. And find out how often will he or she reach out to you with status updates.

9. What are your fees and payment terms?

You need to know how much you’ll be charged, of course, and also whether the consultant gets paid hourly, by retainer or by project. Project-based payments are the most common in the SEO consulting industry, and they can vary widely, depending on a project’s size and complexity. Most contract projects ranged between $1 000 and $7 500, according to Moz’s 2011 pricing survey of more than 600 SEO firms.

The study also found that the most common retainers ranged between $251 to $500 a month on the lower end and $2 501 to $5 000 a month on the higher end, while the most common hourly rates ranged from $76 to $200. Fox said consultants who specifically serve small businesses often charge less per month and hour.

Other important payment-related questions: How often are invoice payments due – every 30, 60 or 90 days? Is there an interest charge for late payments?

10. What happens when we part ways?

When your contract expires or if you terminate it early, you should still maintain ownership of all of the optimised web content you paid the consultant to provide, Fox says.

Accordingly, you’ll want to make sure the contract states that when you part ways, consultants will not change or remove any of the content they added, modified or optimised on your behalf. You also should ask consultants whether they charge any fees for early contract termination, and if so, to specify them in the contract.

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

Online Marketing

A Basic Guide To Twitter Analytics, How It Works, and How It Can Help Your Marketing

As a business owner, your marketing efforts on Twitter can now be tracked via the new Twitter Analytics tool, which shows engagements & impressions on each tweet.

Steven Slotow

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In 2014, Twitter finally launched Twitter Analytics, which allows the more serious user to track their tweets from a marketing perspective. Using this tool, you can see which tweets reached the most users, how many impressions it received, and the overall reception for specific marketing campaigns. Here is a simple guide to using Twitter Analytics.

Using this tool means that you can gauge tangibly and transparently the reach of each marketing campaign you launch. The launch might have been long overdue, but since then Twitter has been updating their analytics tool little by little and improving the user experience.

They have since launched a Twitter Analytics standalone app called Engage. They also launched Twitter Moments, which allows users to edit multiple tweets and stitch them together into a single slideshow or video. This is another excellent tool for concluding or summarising a marketing campaign from beginning to end for prosperity and marketing purposes – for example, Rocket Ellie, the flying elephant billboard in Cape Town, South Africa.

For any regular Twitter user, you might have given Twitter Analytics a quick look when it first came out, but unless you’re interested in evaluating the reach a sponsored tweet would have versus a regular tweet, it won’t mean much to you. Just a glance shows that you can view impressions and engagements, but unless you know how to use this tool to its full potential, it might as well be useless.

How To Use Twitter Analytics

This tool can be found in the drop down menu underneath your name on the homepage. Here you’ll also find options for your profile, Moments, Twitter Ads, settings and more. With this tool, you can see your Twitter engagement rate. This is where you can view how many people saw your tweet, how many new profiles have followed your account, and how many likes, impressions and retweets each tweet has gained. It also includes replies and how many clicks your links or hashtags received. This is very helpful to see if your content is getting the desired reaction, and maybe you should take your hashtag back to the drawing board.

What’s the point in posting content that your audience isn’t interested in? This tool is an excellent way to evaluate how your target audience has received your content. You can use it to see what works, and what doesn’t. Your audience will tell you if they like your content, but it might not be as blatant as you would prefer. Therefore, using this to drive your content and marketing strategies provides a massive benefit when launching future campaigns, if you want them to be successful.

Use it to better connect with your audience, and at the end of the day, more prospective buyers will become real, paying customers who are interested in your business, and who will help further your brand.

Related: 10 Examples Of Companies With Fantastic Cultures

Impressions vs Reach

A Twitter impression is how many times your content has appeared on someone’s timeline. Twitter’s new algorithm has made this easier by posting your tweets onto other users’ timelines if many accounts they follow have liked or replied to your content already. The point of this algorithm is to help people engage with others who are like-minded, which means that if five like-minded people enjoy your content, the chances are high that some of their followers will enjoy it too. However, the number of impressions doesn’t tell you how many accounts, if any at all, actually interacted with your tweet. Therefore, how do you know how many people you are reaching with your content?

If impressions tell you how many times your content appeared on people’s feed, then your reach is how many users have the potential of seeing it. When your content appears on the timelines of people who do not follow your account, as stated before, that is your reach.

Tweet Activity

So how do your tweets perform on this platform? The tweet activity tool allows you to see, in a chart, if your tweets are achieving their goals. For many users, a question they ask themselves frequently is how their tweet took off so suddenly, in comparison to others? Even regular accounts who use Twitter for the social aspect of it, can spend time constructing the perfect joke only for another to perform better. There are tools available that can analyse your followers or recommend what time of day, or day of the week, is best to post your best content. However, the easiest way to answer the question of performance, and how to get to know your audience, lies within your own account data.

There are two ways to do this: you can either post tweets in groups within a particular time frame or analyse the activity on specific tweets individually. The latter is simple – when you select one of your own tweets, along the bottom bar, next to the attach images, GIF and emoji tabs – picking the bar graph icon shows the number of impressions, likes, clicks and retweets that single tweet received. It can be time-consuming; however, it provides valuable information according to what your audience likes. For example, your tweets with images or video content attached may receive more impressions than tweets without, meaning that you should post more content like that, more often.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 4)

In Twitter Analytics, under the tweets tab, you can customise your tracking to show only a certain period – for example, the weekend where most people receive their salary, or over the Christmas holidays – to see how your tweets performed during that time.

Using Twitter Analytics, you can do so much more than what has been mentioned. You can track your followers, and more specifically, the types of people who follow you. If you notice that a large portion of your followers is stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 28 – 35, you can customise your content according to the interests of that demographic. You can also learn about Twitter ads, how to promote your business, what works and doesn’t work, and if it is even worth the money. Twitter Analytics is an untapped oil reserve when it comes to tracking and gauging your audience’s reaction to your content, and adjusting your content and marketing strategies accordingly. Take the plunge into Twitter Analytics; it’s worth it!

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Online Marketing

The Top Ten Marketing Trends To Look Out For In 2019

With 2018 behind us, there is no better time to start looking to the future.

Jandre de Beer

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Most people start making their new year’s resolutions this time of the year, goals to make things better for themselves in the coming year. This is something that businesses need to look at doing too.

Running a digital marketing agency means one needs to keep ones finger on the pulse.

The world is continually changing and developing, and if businesses want to survive and thrive, then they need to grow and develop too.

As with everything else, marketing is also continuing to change over time, so it is important for businesses to be on top of the newest trends. Even if 2018 was a successful year for you and your marketing team, don’t get left behind by ignoring the latest trends. Make the necessary adjustments to ensure that 2019 is just as successful.

Maintain an advantage over your competitors by preparing yourself and adjusting your marketing strategy before they do. Whether your current marketing strategy is working for you or not, this article will help you by identifying the top ten marketing trends that businesses should look out for in 2019.

The first few trends look at technology that you have likely already heard of, but with constant advancements in technology, it is still worth taking a look at.

1. Chatbots and live chat

Although this is not a new technology, chatbots and live chat is becoming very popular with businesses all over the world. People are interacting with more and more chatbots on a daily basis. This technology has become so popular because of the benefits it offers businesses in terms of customer interaction and better customer service.

In a very conversational way, chatbots message back and forth with customers for a number of tasks, such as suggesting products to customers and ordering the items. Chatbots enable businesses to provide a 24-hour service to customers by providing customers with an instant response to questions, providing an easy form of communication, resolving complaints quickly and providing a good customer experience. It is a lot easier for customers to communicate with chatbots online than it is for the customer to phone or send an email to a company representative.

According to research, live chat makes it three times more likely that customers will complete the purchase process. With so many benefits to businesses, it is very likely that the use of chatbots and live chat will continue to grow in 2019 and beyond.

If you want to experience chatbots, feel free to visit this link and click on the chat button that appears on the screen.

2. Enhanced personalised recommendations

This technology has already stared becoming the way of the future. Personalising the customer experience is a trend that most businesses are already starting to implement, whether it is recommending movies or series when watching Netflix or recommending other products that the customer might be interested in based on previous buying behaviour, this technology can help businesses enhance the customer experience by giving the customers more of what they want.

This artificial intelligence algorithm is constantly being bettered and is making more accurate recommendations as time goes on. This is a trend that should not be ignored in the coming year.

Related: The Complete Guide To Writing A Marketing Plan

3. Facebook and Instagram adverts

The trends around paid social media ads are constantly changing. With these changes it is becoming obvious that businesses prefer to focus their attention on Facebook and Instagram ads over other social media platforms.

Social Media Examiner published the following data to show how ads on social media sites like Snapchat and Pinterest are becoming less popular with businesses, while Facebook and Instagram are growing in popularity.

social-media-marketers-paid-social-usage-trends-graph

As we know, Instagram is owned by Facebook, so it is not a surprise to see these two social media sites growing in popularity together. Businesses are able to manage ads on both these social sites in the same place. The format of these sites make it much easier for businesses to create ads that target the right audience, based on its needs.

Although it is a good idea to advertise on as many social media sites as possible to ensure that you are reaching the largest audience possible, it would be wise to focus most of your attention on these two top trending sites. If you are only looking at making use of paid social media ads in the coming year, then these two sites are the ones to start with.

4. Voice search

Voice recognition software has been around for a while, but the technology is evolving at a steady pace. Google Home now has a 95% word accuracy which shows how the technology is gradually getting better and more accurate. Voice search makes it easier and faster to search apps, to conduct web searches and even conduct image searches. Very soon, voice searches may represent the majority of total searches.

With voice search technology, people are searching for information, making purchases and even interacting with websites using only their voice. In time businesses will need to rethink how information is presented to audiences and may even be forced to come up with entirely new structures to keep up with this change.

In was reported that as of January 2018, voice searches were conducted 1 billion times a month, and in 2019 this figure is expected to grow. As a business, this should be flagged as technology of interest.

5. Mobile payments

Marketing your products and reaching potential customers is only half the battle won, the other half is completing the sale. Being able to offer customers a variety of payment options is something all businesses need to look at. A growing trend in this regard is mobile payments, so this is another option that businesses need to look at offering customers.

One portion of mobile payments allows customers to pay for goods and services directly from a mobile app, another portion of mobile pay comes from alternative payment options.

In 2018 an estimated 440 million users across the globe used contactless pay options, and this number is expected to increase in 2019.

The following graph shows exactly how this trend has been growing.

mobile-pay-is-expanding

Your business should be prepared to accept these types of payments because consumers are getting used to it. If you don’t have their preferred payment option, they may take their business elsewhere.

Related: Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

6. Interactive video content

Video marketing is a trend that has been on the rise for many years. More and more videos are being uploaded to social media and websites as part of marketing strategies. Video blogs (vlogs) have also been taking off in this regard. In 2019 we will start seeing changes to the way video is consumed with an increase in interactive videos.

An example of an interactive video is a 360-degree video that allows users to view the whole area being discussed in the video by clicking the navigation button in the top left-hand corner of the screen while the video is playing.

interactive-video-youtube

This 360-degree video was uploaded to YouTube by Washington Post.

Offering interactivity with videos means that more people can engage with your content. Interactivity also makes your videos more exciting for your viewers to watch than traditional videos. Research has shown that 360-degree videos have a greater click-through rate than traditional video formats, offering a higher return on your investment.

This is a trend that will continue to grow due to its popularity, so it definitely worth looking into now.

7. IGTV

Instagram has decided to re-envision mobile video with the introduction of IGTV. This new standalone platform has been developed specifically for mobile phones. Instagram has caught onto the fact that people these days are watching less TV and more videos. They have decided to develop this trend and cater to the growing wants and needs of the masses.

Instagram is definitely evolving with the times and its popularity has continued to grow because of this since its launch in 2010. Instagram currently has over 1 billion active users on its site, so even if a small percentage of these users download IGTV, it is still a large audience for marketers to target.

instagram-marketing-numbers

It will be highly beneficial to have an active presence on both Instagram and IGTV in order to use the large number of current users to your advantage. With the IGTV platform being so new, try to get a step ahead of competitors by getting to know the platform and producing content for it.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

8. Beacon technology

In a mobile era where mobile apps are becoming more and more popular, businesses need to get onboard with the latest technology if they want to stay current. Beacon technology is a great way for businesses to improve the profitability of their mobile app. This new technology works in a similar way to GPS, just not quite as complex.

Firstly, with this technology retailers need to encourage their customers to download their mobile apps. Once the customer has downloaded the app on their mobile phone, the app will be able to track their location. Retailers can then strategically place beacons around the shop so when the app users walk past a beacon, the business will know exactly where the customer is and what the customer is shopping for. With this information businesses can then send the customer a promotion via push notifications.

This technology can even be used by businesses that only have an ecommerce platform. Beacons can be placed in public areas relevant to what the business offers. Promotional push notifications can then be sent to the user when they are in the vicinity of the beacon.

Below is a visual representation of how the beacon technology works.

beacon-technology-diagram

2019 Will see a rise in popularity with this technology because of the rise in popularity with mobile apps.

9. Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics is very much related to personal recommendations in the sense that it uses a variety of statistical techniques that analyse current and historical facts to make predictions about the future. Businesses can use predictive analytics to gain a competitive advantage by uncovering new opportunities. Predictive analytics are used to determine customer responses or purchases and help businesses to attract and grow their customer base.

Technology like this can be so beneficial to a business, and that is why more businesses are making use of it. Its popularity is growing and will definitely continue to grow throughout the coming year and many years to come.

10. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is by no means new technology, in fact, many of the trends discussed in this article make use of AI and machine learning. It is so important for businesses to learn the marketing skills needed to survive in this age of AI as it is the fastest growing technology and no business can afford to ignore it. Ignoring developments in technology could mean that businesses will not be able to keep up with competitors.

Related: The Curious Case Of AI And Legal Liability

Conclusion

It is so important for all businesses to recognise the newest trends and to keep developing their marketing strategies along with new technology in order to be able to compete in such a competitive, ever-changing market.

2019 Is sure to be a very big year for marketers so I hope that by following these trends, your business will find success in the coming year.

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Now’s The Time To Go Digital

The digital age has completely transformed the way businesses market their products and services to their customers. As a result, the playing field of industries both big and small has forced companies to relook their strategies.

Digital School of Marketing

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Digital marketing is a broad term covering digital channels that people use to market their products. But what makes digital marketing different and unique compared to traditional marketing channels?

It gives the marketer or advertiser the opportunity to hone in on specific audiences that are more likely to purchase or see value in their offer, says Lisa Schneider, Managing Director at the Digital School of Marketing.

“Because digital marketing is computerised, it allows the marketer to get accurate analytical data about their campaigns, both in the research phase and when their campaign has finished. This makes digital marketing an easy way to gauge ROI of marketing and advertising efforts.”

Do you know how to market your businesses online?

Regardless of the size of your business, to remain successful, you need to have a good understanding and grasp of what digital marketing is and train your organisation on the skills it involves. According to Lisa, digital marketing skills encompass aspects that include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Social media skills
  • Search marketing skills
  • Copywriting skills.

“Without a doubt the most important element is understanding who your customers are and what makes them tick. One of the biggest advantages by far in digital marketing is the ability to market to an audience, assuring that your message will be seen, heard and appreciated,” says Lisa.

“The technology that is made available to market products in the digital realm is sophisticated software that allows the marketer’s message to be seen as widely or as granularly as they would want. A solid understanding of your target market is absolutely one of the most fundamental and important elements of digital marketing.”

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Advance digitally without breaking the bank

Marketing is an expensive exercise no matter how you look at it, says Lisa. “Digital marketing requires a solid understanding of many different areas that are quite broad, and how to manage and understand a multitude of platforms and analytical data is imperative. This will allow the marketer to extract the most value without burning a hole in their pocket.”

As a business owner, you must look at what is out there in terms of online education providers. It’s important to do your homework about the company and what accreditation and endorsements the company holds.

Lisa suggests contacting the accreditation body to find out the legitimacy of the educational provider. The Internet provides a wealth of information regarding different institutions and how their courses can benefit the company.

What defines a reputable online marketing education provider?

Authentic online education providers have a third-party accreditation or endorsement. In a nutshell, accreditation means that a third party, that is usually government regulated, has looked through the institution’s educational material and internal business procedures to see that it has met their standards of approval.

What this means is that the education provider is not self-governed but is regulated by higher government authorities. This makes your course more credible, recognised and respected compared to a non-accredited provider.

For best results, choose the experts

“The Digital School of Marketing stays on top of trends through solid research,” Lisa explains.

“Google is constantly updating algorithms and adjusting their online marketing platform capabilities. Social networks also come and go and adjust their marketing and advertising platforms.”

Related: Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

DSM prides itself on the ability and appetite to constantly research trends by reading industry journals, attending workshops and seminars, but only publishing what is relevant and has longevity. “We also benchmark the changes that are made on online learning platforms, so we can offer our students an experience that is unique and truly fulfilling on their educational journey,” says Lisa.

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