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Dear LocBox: I want to appear more frequently in online searches. SEO is the best option, right?

SEO is an important part of your online search marketing campaign, but it isn’t the only option, and it shouldn’t be your only focus. There are lots of other ways to get to the top of Google search results; you need to make sure you’re taking advantage of some of them if you want to succeed.

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Pros of SEO

Everyone who studies marketing must deal with SEO. Some SEO techniques are really helpful, not just for getting your site noticed by Google, but for helping entice human visitors to your site. For example, you’ll want to create a website that includes well-written copy and keywords. For example, if you’re a spa in Austin, use the keyword phrase Austin spa or spa in Austin in your welcome section near the top of the website.

Cons of SEO

SEO’s usefulness is limited, not to mention expensive. Once you set up your website with some keywords, you’ll need to keep changing it in order to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms. The cost of changing your website and purchasing SEO tools to continually analyze your web optimization and suggest changes can be prohibitive. You can outsource some of this, but that costs money as well, plus there are a lot of scammers out there who rip off small and local businesses by making false promises about getting them to the #1 spot on Google.

Even if your SEO provider is legitimate, it’s all too easy to mess up SEO. Google watches every website’s inner workings closely and changes its algorithms to keep spammers out of the top of search engine results. There are a number of practices that can get you banned from Google, but sometimes this list changes too. Check out this list of things you need to avoid if you don’t want to get blacklisted.

Other Ways to Get Found

There are other things you can do to improve your site’s visibility besides working on your SEO.
  • Build a strong online reputation. We strongly encourage our clients to create social media pages and claim review sites. If you interact positively with customers on Facebook and Twitter and have some positive reviews on Google+ or Yelp, it can raise your Google ranking. It’s especially important to have positive interacts on Google+ because Google is integrated with its social media platform. If you have a Google+ profile, information about your business, such as contact info and hours, will pop up when people search for you.
  • Fill out your entire Google+ profile. The more information you have on Google+, the higher your Google search rank. Filling out your entire profile also shows prospects that you are a legitimate business.
  • Get as many reviews as possible. The more positive reviews you get, the higher your Google rank, especially if you receive reviews on Google+. Google will show your page to more users if you have positive reviews on Google+

Google+ is an important part of your search marketing effort, and the good news is that it’s free! Thus, you’ll spend less on Google+ optimization than you will by hiring an SEO consultant. In addition, you’ll create more credibility for yourself by gaining positive reviews.

While SEO continues to be an important part of your marketing campaign, don’t limit yourself. Set up a website with keywords in mind, then forget about your SEO and focus on Google+ to make your marketing campaign a super success.

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5 Myths About Marketing Your Local Business Online

When working with our customers, we hear a lot of ideas about marketing that simply aren’t true. Here are some of the most common myths we’ve heard and what you can do instead in order to increase your sales.

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5 Myths About Marketing Your Local Business Online

1. You only need to focus on getting new customers

Acquiring new customers is an important part of your marketing campaign, but don’t neglect your old customers. Studies show that repeat customers spend about 67 percent more at your business than new customers do and that 80 percent of your future revenue comes from 20 percent of your existing customers. For these reasons, it’s vital to focus on encouraging customers to buy from you again. This is also far easier to do than converting new prospects into paying customers.

The biggest reason to focus on current customers is that they can do your marketing for you. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising; people are more likely to buy from a business a friend or family member recommends than from a stranger. If you keep your customers happy, they’ll tell their friends about you, and that means more business for you. Satisfied customers also write positive online reviews, which goes a long way toward helping strangers decide to use your business.

2. You don’t need a website, social media page or claimed review site

Forget about the idea of doing business without a website. Almost everybody searches the Web for answers to questions or to find businesses that will solve their problems; if yours isn’t online, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of business. In addition, people will be suspicious of your business if you don’t have a website. Having one makes you look more legitimate.

If the reason you haven’t built a website yet is because you don’t know how, don’t panic. You can outsource your web design and maintenance, which might cost more, but it is worth it. Consider it an investment into your future — one that will pay off handsomely.

The same goes for social media pages and claimed review sites. These sites are vital to your business because they help establish your credibility and give you the opportunity to interact directly with customers and prospects. Claimed review sites can bring more business your way if people write positive reviews; this helps demonstrate that your business isn’t going to waste customers’ time or money.

3. SEO is the only thing that matters

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an important part of your online marketing campaign. Without it, it’s harder for people to find your business when they’re looking for businesses like yours online, and you’ll get less business. However, an SEO campaign without a marketing campaign is useless.

First of all, SEO is constantly changing. Google updates its algorithms frequently to stop spammers and scammers from taking advantage of the system, leaving legitimate business owners scrambling to change their web content in order to stay at the top of search engine results. So if you focus only on SEO, you’re going to be spending a lot of time designing and redesigning your website and web copy, and it may not even pay off.

In addition, there are lots of things you need to be doing to get your name out there, and if you focus solely on SEO you won’t be doing them. You need to be getting reviews on Google+ and Yelp, and posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter if you want to stay relevant. Don’t get so caught up in SEO that you leave these vital tasks undone.

4. You should buy an email list

Whatever you do, don’t listen to this myth. Buying an email list is the worst possible thing you could do and can get you into a lot of trouble.

When you buy an email list, you’re accessing email addresses that nobody gave you permission to use. If your emails don’t go directly to the spam folder, the users may mark them as spam because they were unsolicited, which can result in big problems. You could get blacklisted from email services as a spammer, which means legitimate subscribers won’t get your emails, you might get a reputation as a spammer, and you could even get in trouble with your email server; most services don’t let you upload purchased lists, and you could lose your account if you do.

5. You need a huge budget for online marketing

Online marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot. Instead of trying to do everything, figure out exactly what your goals are and focus on a few channels that will help you get there. The hard part is figuring out what to do; experimenting with different avenues can cost a lot of money, especially if you don’t get the results you’re looking for. If you’re in doubt, focus on your email marketing campaign. This is the cheapest, most effective means of marketing because it’s easy to engage customers via email; you can also send digital coupons and special promotions to your email list.

Online marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or frustrating. We’ve helped hundreds of clients see results by following our marketing advice instead of listening to myths. If you focus your campaign, refuse to take shortcuts like buying email lists and pay repeat customers the attention they deserve, you’ll start to see your sales numbers jump with just a little effort.

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5 Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back Over and Over with This One Simple Marketing Mindset

Our experience with hundreds of clients has taught us about the importance of getting repeat business from customers. We have discussed why it’s so important to get customers to buy from you frequently. But how can you get new customers to come back time and time again?

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The key to getting people to buy from you more than once is to change how you think about them. They’re not just prospects you want to sell to. They’re people with unique needs and personalities; if you show them how you can fill those unique needs, they’ll buy from you every time.

5 Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back Over and Over with This One Simple Marketing Mindset

1. Keep In Touch

Put your business at the front of your customers’ minds and keep it there. There are a few ways to keep in touch with customers that will help them remember you when they need a spa treatment, car detailing, or any other repeatable service.

  1. Find out where your customers hang out online and communicate regularly with them. Set up a Facebook page and create an email list. These two channels let you interact one-on-one with customers, discuss problems, and give them timely solutions.
  2. Post frequently to remind them who you are. On Facebook and Twitter, people expect updates on a daily basis, while emails should be sent out on a bi-weekly basis. If you let too much time go by between communications, people might not remember you and might delete your messages unread.
  3. Make sure you send exclusive offers and deals regularly. Customers hate it when they sign up for an exclusive offers list and then get few or no offers. Follow through on your promise to send coupons or special promotions on a regular basis.

2. Don’t Be Overbearing

time-273857_640Although you want to keep in touch frequently enough that customers remember you, you don’t want to overwhelm them. This is a big problem with email; some businesses send too many emails, causing people to delete them unread or mark them as spam.

To avoid this problem, commit to a schedule of sending emails no more than twice a month. Mark your calendars so that you send emails on the right date. Sending a bi-monthly email is a good way to stay at the top of their minds without annoying them by emailing too much. Also make sure that your emails contain relevant information by varying the type of emails. Rather than just sending promotions, include informative articles, updates, and other relevant information.

3. Create a Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are great ways to get customers to buy from you over and over again. You offer an incentive such as a free service for every five services the customer buys or a discount on services for super-loyal customers. People will keep using your business so they can get the rewards you offer. Loyalty programs make customers feel special and valued, which also motivates them to keep coming back.

4. Send Personalized Offers

Screenshot 2014-09-15 10.45.32Personalized offers such as discounts on the customer’s birthday or anniversary are more effective than other types of offers. These engage customers who weren’t really thinking about visiting your business before they received the offer, and makes your customers feel remembered. This builds rapport and converts occasional customers into repeat customers.

5. Focus on Relationship Building

Every customer is a person with needs and desires, not just an opportunity for you to make money. When you contact your previous customers, don’t make it all about you. Take the time to ask how they’re doing and really listen to the answers they give.

Expect people to vocalize their concerns online. Take time to check out your social media and review pages daily, and respond to any negative comments. When you respond, don’t be defensive. Summarize what you hear the customer saying and offer a solution. You should also invite the customer to contact you privately if they have further concerns.

If you focus on building relationship with customers, including personalizing offers and offering a loyalty program, they’ll stick with you. The more you can engage customers, the more likely they are to buy from you every time.

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6 Reasons Local Businesses Should Never Buy an Email List

Once you create your email marketing list, you need to build your subscriber base. Most businesses do this by creating an opt-in campaign to encourage prospects to sign up for the email list. Some companies, however, offer another option — purchasing email addresses that you can add to your list without contacting the email address owners.

You may be tempted to buy an email list in order to jump-start your marketing newsletter membership drive. This is often not the best idea, however; buying marketing lists may not generate the interest you want because the leads you get are not part of your target audience. In addition, buying an email list may put you on the wrong side of anti-spam laws. Read on to learn six reasons to think twice before buying an email list.

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1. Your Emails May Be Marked as Spam

rp_avoid-spamming1.jpegUnrequested email newsletters often don’t make it to the recipients’ in-boxes. Many mail programs require users to place email newsletter addresses on an approved list; if the address hasn’t been approved, it goes directly to the spam folder, where it isn’t seen. If the email does make it to the recipients’ email boxes, they may mark it as spam. Too many spam reports can get you in trouble with email servers, who may block your IP address from delivering mail at all.

2. Your Engagement Levels May Plummet

no_deleteEmail marketing campaigns don’t succeed unless subscribers engage with the content. Since your content is unsolicited, and the leads may not be interested in what your business offers, you probably won’t get high levels of engagement from a purchased email list. These contacts have no idea who you are and are more likely to delete your content unread than to engage with it.

3. Subscribers May Bad-mouth Your Brand

megaphone-297467_640Nobody likes being spammed. Since subscribers never consented to receive your email newsletters, they may voice their displeasure publicly, telling friends and family members that your brand spammed them. Being branded as a spammer can seriously harm your reputation and chase away your current and future customers.

4. These Leads May Not Be Useful

When you run an opt-in campaign, you end up with targeted leads who find your business relevant and interesting. When you purchase leads, however, you have no idea who these people are. They may not have anything in common with your target audience, so even if they do read your emails, they are unlikely to act on them.

5. You Can Get in Trouble With Your Email Marketing Service

Reputable email marketing services take measures to ensure that their systems aren’t being used to spam email users. Subscribers usually have to confirm the subscription; you can’t just upload a purchased list and begin sending emails. In addition, most services reserve the right to terminate users who sign up email addresses without the owners’ consent.

6. You May Just Waste Your Time and Money

5930043516_b171ee1d18There’s no such thing as a master list of good leads. When you purchase leads, you don’t know where they come from, whether they are relevant, or if the email addresses you get really exist. In most cases, you just end up wasting your time and money when you purchase leads and attempt to sign them up for your email list.

There’s No Silver Bullet for Local Business Email Marketing

Purchasing email lists is a risky endeavor, to say the least. If you buy an email list, you risk your business’s reputation, may waste your time and money on low quality leads and may end up getting banned from your email service or from sending any emails at all. You will probably get much better results by running an opt-in campaign than by purchasing an email list.

LocBox helps hundreds of small and local businesses generate more revenue and more return customers by optimizing their email campaigns. Click here to see our local business marketing tool in action.

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Yelp Faces Another Lawsuit Over Review Policy

It has been rumored that Yelp has kept fake reviews on it’s website as a way to extract more money from it’s clients. Many businesses have claimed that once they started paying for Yelp advertising, the fake reviews came down or were filtered out.

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On Wednesday, August 6th, a class action lawsuit was filed against Yelp on the charges that Yelp knowingly designed their filter to keep fake reviews live and then sell services that would then make these reviews go away. The lawsuit went on to claim that Yelp installed this policy in order to look better to investors and stockholders as a way to inflate the price of their stock.

It still remains to be seen whether or not these allegations are true. But what we do know is that this isn’t the first time that Yelp has been faced with this sort of legal action.

In October of 2013, Yelp revealed that it filtered approximate 25% of all reviews, claiming that they were fake. Many small business owners, however, have seen legitimate reviews fall through the cracks. Yelp claims this is not intentional and that the filter is simply a work in progress.

But many small business owners also felt that Yelp was using the promise of accurately filtered reviews as a way to get them to start paying Yelp’s high premium for advertising. It is rumored that once they signed up, previously filtered positive reviews reappeared on their page.

Yelp stands firm that this is not the case. And at this point, we can’t know for sure simply because the inner workings of the Yelp filter are kept quiet. Until then, small and local businesses should keep a close eye on their Yelp pages.