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The State of SEO and What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

From frequent changes in search engine algorithms to new social media platforms, the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) is in constant flux.

Jason Fell

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For businesses, that means online marketing strategies need to be redesigned more often than ever.

SEO experts at a Search Engine Strategy Conference in San Francisco tried to shed some light on these issues for business owners, as well as fellow online marketing professionals. One of those experts is Mike Grehan, group interactive publishing director for Incisive Media, the London-based company that owns the conference, as well as marketing news sites ClickZ and Search Engine Watch. Before joining Incisive, he spent nearly two decades as a search marketing consultant for a number of major brands.

We caught up with Grehan and picked his brain about all things SEO for business. What follows is an edited version of our exchange.

Entrepreneur: What’s the biggest misconception about SEO among business owners?

Grehan: The biggest one is that there is some secret SEO code somewhere that you can use on your website to rank higher at Google. There is no magic bullet.

Do as many searches as you like and analyse the top ranking sites at Google. The one thing that makes them stand out more than others is that they’re really good at marketing themselves online, and most likely offline, too.

Entrepreneur: What’s a business owner to do about the frequent search engine algorithm changes?

Grehan: My advice is to not lose sleep over anything regarding algorithm updates. Be aware that it happens, but don’t change your entire business or marketing plan every time Google burps.

For Google, the critical analysis in their information retrieval algorithms is based on relevance feedback. What that means is that given you’ve done all of your SEO fundamentals and you have other websites linking to yours, the end user data kicks in. How many times do people click on your link in the search results compared to others? How long do people stay on your pages compared to others? Those are basic examples, but the real secret to success is still based on creating compelling, relevant content that is both informative – and maybe even entertaining – in order to provide a richer experience.

Google has penalised many websites for trying to game the algorithm. In my experience, the two most important things are to design your website for human beings, not algorithms, and to gear your business toward multiple sources of traffic, not just from Google.

Grehan: Siri is the forerunner of what you could call concierge search. It’s not just about voice-activated commands. It’s about multimodal search – information which is aggregated from many sources to suit a given environment or set of circumstances. This is a glimpse into the new “information provider” as opposed to search engine of the future. Google’s new Nexus smartphone has a similar feature called Google Now. It proves this type of search is going to be big.

Entrepreneur: “Data” seems to be a buzzword at the conference. What’s that about?

Grehan: Data is the modern equivalent to black gold in digital marketing terms. In much the same way that Google has been able to take implicit data about end users to provide more relevant results, marketers use this “big data” for exactly the same reasons. I use an analogy sometimes about Google.

People look at Google and it’s a mysterious black box and nobody knows how it works or what goes on inside it. Yet, it is looking at you, the end user, and you’re a mysterious black box, and it has no idea how you work or what goes on inside. But if you share some data together, there’s a much richer and more personal experience. Mining data is a way of personalising information for you, and that includes advertising.

Entrepreneur: What’s the key to managing SEO on top of everything else an entrepreneur has going on?

Grehan: SEO doesn’t have to be rocket science. If you choose to set up a business online, then you should know something about how the Web works. So the jargon involved in SEO and the process is something you’ll pick up pretty quickly along the way.

The hardest part of the job for most people is understanding why links are so important. Search engine algorithms begin with an analysis of how many other Web pages link to yours as a sign of popularity. The big mistake is to start thinking about “how do I get links?” The better your marketing is online, the more links you’ll gain as a byproduct.

Even for smaller businesses, it’s possible to do all of this in-house, just as they would probably handle their offline marketing. It’s more of a case-by-case thing than it is a rule.

Jason Fell is the technology editor of Entrepreneur.com in New York City. Previously, he served as online news editor of Foliomag.com, the online arm of Folio: magazine. He also worked as a staff writer for Soundings magazine and a reporter with the Journal Register Company of newspapers. Email him at jfell@entrepreneur.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jwfell.

Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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