TunedUp Media is a full service digital marketing and branding agency focused on providing creative digital marketing solutions, delivering results for our clients while supporting causes driving social change.
When looking at good design, I often look for things that aren’t totally obvious. There’s an instinct that you like something before you know why. That’s the common thread among this month’s three essential design trends.
From animations that delight and take projects to the next level, to white space that makes a design so approachable, to dark color overlays that enhance readability, these trends contribute to better user experiences.
Here’s what’s trending in design this month:
1. Next-Level Animation
Nothing makes you want to click around and engage with a website like a delightful animation.
While full-screen video is still one of the most popular animated effects of the year, other opportunities for animation can be just as impressive. Use animation to bring attention to certain elements, create the scene for your story and grab user attention or prompt continued engagement with an interesting way to navigate a design. Each of these techniques is used in the examples below (you should definitely click through each to see the animated effects in action).
What makes a good animation? Here’s how each of these designs takes animation to the next level:
Mistretta Coiffure uses a water effect over still images so that the whole background seems to be right below the surface of a pool. Text elements are static to ensure readability. The effect isn’t overwhelming and it’s something that feels unique to the content of the website for a salon—which uses a lot of water.
Wonderland uses animation in a more interactive way, meaning users have to engage to activate it. Each of the photos in the row across the bottom of the screen serves as a secondary navigation element. Hover over any one and it pops up into a larger element and impacts the background as well. This instance of a cool hover animation can help encourage users to interact more with the design.
Naturalis Topstukken takes a completely different approach—every card in the design is part of the complete website. User-controlled animation allows you to drag and drop elements on the screen to enter different parts of the website. It almost feels like a game. The design is highly engaging and for those that don’t quite “get it” the screen scrolls on its own after a few seconds to encourage that first click.
2. Large White Margins
One of the most dramatic—and easy—ways to draw attention to a design or specific element is through appropriate use of white space. While many designs have trended toward more packed full-screen designs recently, there’s a growing shift back to open space.
And there’s a reason for it.
This technique and design make content the focus for users. Elements surrounded by white space are obvious focal points. The simplicity and balance of such as design is easy to engage with and isn’t overwhelming to the user.
Maybe one of the best things about a design with so much white space is that it feels approachable. The clean white space in the design does draw you in.
Think about some of the color associations of white—purity, light, goodness, perfection, cleanliness, safety—all of these are inviting and welcoming feelings that come with an open white background.
Looking at the examples below from Panda Monk, It’s Alive, and Centros, it’s easy to see how this feeling comes from each of the designs. It’s as if each website is inviting users to engage and learn more.
3. Dark Color Overlays
One of the website design trends that’s been popular is use of dark backgrounds in design projects. That trend has extended to the foreground with dark color overlays on images as well.
While this technique can look cool and help emphasize brand colors, there’s another key reason for using dark color overlays. This technique can help make text elements more readable over photos or backgrounds elements with varying light and dark colors.
Each of the examples below uses this concept in a slightly different way:
Lafayette Grande frames an image with a dark color overlay with a double-stacked navigation menu using brand colors. It creates a solid frame that then drives users down to the main headline.
Julius Silvert uses a full screen video b-roll background where all of the images have a mostly transparent dark color overlay. On scroll, the overlay darkens to a mostly saturated box so that text is easy to read while the video still runs in the background. This is a great solution to the probable presented by moving images—it can be tough to find a good place to put text elements so that they are easy to read at all times. The dark color overlay solves this problem nicely.
Scalzo Design uses a dark background plus dark color overlay on images to draw users into his portfolio. The overlay shows that there are visual elements to explore but maintains a focus on the words first, before users get too deep into visual content. This leaves users with the information that Scalzo is a designer first and showcases the work second for a strong first impression.
While some of the animated techniques featured here are more complex techniques, you can start small with a similar idea. The key to using any trendy design element is that it works with the content in the design, contributing to the overall message.
When Google announced Showcase Shopping ads in 2016, two objectives were mission critical: to help shoppers discover what they wanted to buy and where they wanted to buy it.
Today, the ad format is still an important method used to capture shoppers using broad terms on Google. But the tech giant is doing more than just catering to upper funnel shoppers this holiday season. Recent updates have made Showcase ads appear for more specific queries while the addition of video is giving retailers a new, visual way to promote their brand.
A lot is happening in the world of Showcase ads ahead of the year-end retail rush. Let’s talk about Google’s latest updates, results we’re seeing, and what retailers can do to get the most out of Showcase ads during the holidays.
Here’s what is new
Showcase terms expand
Showcase ads were initially released as ads displayed for generic queries. Recent data from Sidecar (my employer) has shown that they’re also moving down the shopping funnel as the holidays approach. In addition to broad search terms, Showcase ads are now rendering for more specific and branded terms.
These terms, which now range from broad searches like “couch” or “sofa” to detailed searches like “KitchenAid mixer,” indicate Google’s willingness to test a wide range of search queries and determine the value of Showcase ads throughout the shopping journey. Engaging high-intent shoppers may lead to higher conversions and position Showcase ads as a full-funnel format.
In September, Google announced a new addition called video in Showcase ads. This feature allows retailers to include a video of any length along with their Showcase ad. Video is a vehicle retailers can use to differentiate themselves and serve captivating visuals to get shoppers’ attention. Google was strategic with its release, too: The rollout of video comes just in time for the holiday season.
Still a discovery-driven format? Look to the data
Showcase ads may soon be an effective way to drive purchases and find new customers, but the data suggests they are still mainly an exposure play for retailers. We took a look at Showcase ad performance over a 16-week period between July and October 2018. The data, based on a sample of over 50 U.S. retailers, shows that impressions and engagements increased significantly while conversions stayed relatively flat over that time.
Both impressions and engagements began to tick up in mid-September, with each reaching peak values in mid-October. Conversions, on the other hand, remained static over the 16-week trial, never seeing more than a 20 percent week-over-week increase.
Google’s expansion of Showcase terms to include specific queries may help bolster conversions over time, but for now, Showcase ads remain an exploratory ad format.
Tactics to employ this holiday season
Use Showcase ads to increase exposure
Discovery is key when it comes to Showcase ads. While it’s helped inform early-stage shoppers about new retailers and products, the expansion of Showcase terms targets shoppers in every stage of the shopping journey.
Use Showcase ads to get your name and products in front of as many shoppers as possible. It’s a powerful format that helps shoppers get more acquainted with your brand and the products you have to offer. Whether your ads appear to low-intent shoppers in the research phase or high-intent shoppers ready to buy, being visible to a wide range of shoppers can only benefit your business.
Keep an eye on specific and branded query performance
The growing number of Showcase terms expands the playing field to include shoppers who are further down the funnel. While it remains unknown just how well specific terms in Showcase ads perform, retail marketers should keep a keen eye on specific and branded searches — especially during the holidays.
Use query mapping to see which ad groups and keywords specific queries are being matched with. This will shed light on how well these lower-funnel searches are faring in Showcase ads. Stay close to shifts in performance from one campaign to the next and use this intel to inform spend on specific keywords.
Know the difference between negating keywords in Shopping and Showcase ads
When two or more Shopping campaigns promote the same product, a priority setting (low, medium, or high) can be set for each to determine which campaigns’ set of products should be bid on in auction. This setting can also help funnel certain keywords downward.
The process of segmenting keywords is different for Showcase ads. According to Google, campaign priority is not compatible with Showcase ads. If you create a low-priority Showcase campaign that only contains keywords you negated from the high-priority campaign, the low-priority campaign will pick up many queries along with the queries negated from the high-priority campaign.
Don’t look to your Shopping campaigns to inform your negative keywords for Showcase ads. Instead, simply negate the keywords you don’t want to appear for Showcase ads.
Build a campaign tree that excludes underperforming products
Showcase ads don’t allow you to bid at the product or product group level. Since this is the case, think about building a campaign tree to exclude certain products that don’t perform well. This will help you focus directly on promoting the products that move the needle for your business and achieve your Showcase ad goals.
If you’re focused on generic query performance, for example, you may exclude high price tiers so you’re showing products that are more affordable and approachable to a wider variety of buyers.
Use the search terms report to gauge the need for new ads
Let your query performance inform your campaigns. In Google Ads, use the search terms report to determine which queries are driving traffic to your site and which queries are performing poorly. Running this report helps you gauge the need to create new Showcase ads. For instance, if you have a kitchen appliance ad or ad group and are seeing queries roll in for coffeemakers, it may be a good idea to build a separate ad specifically targeting coffeemakers.
Develop a strategic approach to video content
Video in Showcase ads will be an important vehicle in maximizing brand exposure. Before deployment, however, retailers should give their development process careful consideration. Think about how your business can benefit from the addition of video and what its purpose will serve in each of your Showcase ads. These factors should serve as the backbone of your video production strategy.
Consider all that goes into the development of video for Showcase ads. From content ideation to creative execution, video requires collaborative thought from some resources. Create a content strategy for video that makes the best use of your time and team.
These tactics can play a big part in getting the most out your Showcase ads this holiday season. With these actionable items in place, your Showcase ads are set to take on the holiday retail blitz and beyond.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Steve Costanza is the Senior Analytics Consultant of Enterprise Customer Strategy at Sidecar. He analyzes digital marketing performance and strategic direction for large retailers across verticals, focusing on data visualizations and advanced account segmentation. He is responsible for deriving meaning from numbers and determining how to use those insights to drive marketing decision making. Steve is especially close to Google’s new innovations impacting Shopping and paid search. He has a master’s degree in data analytics and contributes to Search Engine Land as well as Sidecar Discover, the publication by Sidecar that covers research and ideas shaping digital marketing in retail.
Roughly a month ago European Commission (EC) competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that Google’s efforts in shopping search were making progress and that the company would likely be able to avoid additional antitrust penalties. However in a new open letter to Vestager, EU shopping comparison rivals argue that things are actually getting worse for them.
The backstory. In June, 2017 the EC fined Google roughly $2.7 billion for alleged abuse of market position in vertical (shopping) search. Following that decision, which Google is in the process of appealing, Google implemented a number of changes to provide “equal treatment” for rival Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) in Europe.
The major change Google made was to treat Google Shopping as a separate business unit with its own operating budget that would compete with other shopping sites to appear in Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs). It also said the business unit would operate at a profit. All parties would now theoretically compete on equal footing to appear in PLAs.
‘Harm continues unabated.’ According to the letter’s signatories, that’s not how things are playing out. Signed by the leaders of 14 CSEs, the letter states, “It has now been more than a year since Google introduced its auction-based ‘remedy’, and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by Google’s illegal conduct has continued unabated.”
The letter argues there’s no material difference between the new approach and the previous system, which was found to violate EU antitrust rules, except that Google has to compete to appear in PLAs. However, the CSEs dismiss that change as “meaningless.”
The shopping sites object to the PLA auction itself, saying it compels them to “bid away the vast majority of their profit.” They dismiss Google’s participation in the auction, as an independent unit that has to achieve a profit, as “meaningless internal accounting.” They also argue that because users who click on their PLAs go directly to merchant sites and not the CSEs themselves, they have no opportunity to “derive value from the process.”
Rejecting the auction entirely. They also argue that the auction harms consumers because it is “all but eradicating” a “thriving [online] comparison shopping market in Europe.”
The letter concludes that, “As long as placement is determined by auction rather than relevance, it makes little material difference whether competitors occupy none, some, or even all of the available slots. In all cases, Google is the main beneficiary of any profits derived from these entries, and consumers are the main losers.”
Without specifying a desired alternative approach, beyond implying it should be based on “relevance,” the group encourages the EC “to enforce its Prohibition Decision by rejecting Google’s non-compliant ‘compliance mechanism’ and demanding an effective remedy that adheres to the principle of equal treatment set out in the Decision.”
Why it matters. The outcome of Google’s appeal in Europe could still be a couple of years off. In the interim it will have to comply with the EC’s decisions. And while Google and its stock have mostly been impervious to even multi-billion-dollar fines, the CSEs’ letter could put pressure on the EC to compel additional changes in shopping search results or an entirely new approach in Europe, which would certainly impact everyone across that 28 country market.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local SEO Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.
WooCommerce is a free, open-source e-commerce plugin built for WordPress websites. The plugin allows you to easily sell almost any type of product all while giving your visitors an intuitive and seamless on-brand buying experience.
You can create your customized buying experience by utilizing one of the dozens of WooCommerce themes. These themes have features that provide a wide variety of layouts, formats, images, fonts, styles, social media integration and more. They work like your regular WordPress themes — but they’re used specifically to customize your WooCommerce store.
As more brick-and-mortar conglomerates bite the dust and online sales continue to climb, the ability of a smaller ecommerce brand to stand above the crowd will determine its life or death.
As many businesses know at this point, content marketing is the crucial ingredient for this task.
The landscape of content marketing is changing like crazy.
As the standards of SEO, web design, writing, etc. continue to evolve, businesses from all industries are continuously forced to refine their approaches.
The harsh reality is that some strategies can work like magic one day, then be completely obsolete the next.
Nowadays, the scope of what defines “good content” for ecommerce businesses is a layered concept that involves many elements.
Let’s discuss five ways ecommerce brands can establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
1. Prioritize E-A-T Score
One the most important recent changes to Google’s search quality ratings guidelines involved E-A-T score (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness).
There is now a strong focus on applying this score to individual content creators, rather than brands themselves. The idea is to refine the way content is ranked based on the source.
For example, if someone is producing content and weight supplements, they should have a strong E-A-T score in the medical field.
So how does this factor in for ecommerce brands?
Google’s algorithms are designed to mimic hypothetical human quality raters.
That being said, if you want your product pages to rank highly on the SERPs, you need to find ways to improve your E-A-T score.
You need to prove to the search engines (and the users) that you have a proven knowledge of the goods you sell.
As an ecommerce retailer, start by making sure that you work with highly reputable manufacturers.
If you make it a point to showcase that your suppliers/manufacturers have recognized expertise in your field, this is going to reflect on you.
Additionally, you can reach out to renowned figures with proven industry expertise to give you recommendations.
The functionality, aesthetics, and integrity of your website play a huge role in how experts will decide to recommend you and your products.
This is all about verifying Expertise.
In the ecommerce world, it’s easy for bigger companies that manufacture their own products (like L.L Bean and Nike) to be seen as highly authoritative.
Third-party sellers, on the other hand, need to have evidence that they are a verified merchant for certain products.
For example, if you have the Better Business Bureau logo linked to your website with verified affiliation, the page would likely rank higher.
Getting your product pages to rank well comes down to the concept of customer success. For instance:
Do your product pages answer potential questions or concerns a buyer might have?
Is it easy to get in contact with you?
Is the return process clearly explained?
Are there any unpleasant surprises in the checkout?
Are there verified user ratings?
Do the pages deploy HTTPS?
These are just a few pieces of the puzzle when it comes to building trust. Essentially, the more descriptive, intuitive, and secure your product pages are, the better they will rank.
E-A-T score has been building up in importance for some time now, and will continue to in the future. In order to get product pages ranked, these guidelines will need to play a key role in your content marketing strategy.
2. Integrate Video into Product Pages & Beyond
The biggest drawback of buying online has always been the inability to look at products in person. For the most part, you never reallyknow what you are getting until it shows up on your doorstep.
Now, AR has been doing amazing things to remedy this problem.
However, most online brands aren’t IKEA – they don’t have the budget to spend on this flashy feature.
That being said, incorporating video into your product pages and content marketing plan should be a must. It’s no secret that the internet loves video content. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of all online traffic is video.
Starting with product pages, video does wonders to give buyers a visual understanding of what they are buying.
Seeing a real human handling the product is about as close as they can get to seeing it in person.
Take a look at this one from Saddleback Leather:
This video does a fantastic job of giving viewers everything they need to know about the product, along with some personal insight.
Simply put, images and descriptions of products can only get you so far.
Now, outside of the product page, you can use video to discuss the latest trends in your industry, compare items, bring in guests, etc.
Keep in mind, the search engines and social media (Facebook especially) favors video in their ranking algorithms.
Using video across the entire scope of your ecommerce content marketing plan does a lot to solidify your brand voice and values, as well as gives potential buyers all the information they need.
3. Focus on Qualified Reviews from Google Partners
Nearly everyone who has ever bought something online knows how much customer reviews can influence purchasing decisions.
Reviews are validation from a third-party source with no ulterior motives. That’s why reviews are extremely powerful in convincing people to buy.
Unfortunately, many companies and review services took advantage of this and would produce phony reviews in an attempt to increase customer confidence.
Over time, both consumers and the search engines wised up to this shady practice.
Reviews have been a ranking signal for a while, but Google has made it a point to favor those that are left via a verified Google Review Partner.
Partner platforms like Trustpilot and Yotpo do a lot to ensure all reviews are authentic and timely, and for that, Google sees them as credible resources. These verified reviews can do a lot to improve your Google Seller Ratings.
Accounts with 1,000 followers or less normally see an 8 percent like rate, whereas this number drops to about 4 percent in followings of 1,001-9,999.
The takeaway is that smaller followers tend to be more focused on the message. When it comes to influencer marketing, engagement will always be more important than the number of followers.
A couple of years ago, Banana Republic did a great job choosing micro-influencers to promote their products on Instagram.
By using a diverse set of industry influencers for different styles and hashtags, they were able to reach a plethora of different audience segments for relatively cheap!
So, instead of dumping all your budget on a single big name, you are wise to choose several different micro-influencers. Your engagement rates will likely be much higher and give you a better ROI.
5. Do It for a Cause
Cause marketing has been a huge buzzword in recent years. In the realm of content marketing, it can do wonders to create a more loyal and devoted customer base.
According to Edelman, 64 percent of consumers buy on belief, and will choose, switch, boycott, or avoid brands based on their standing in relation to a social issue.
Now, cause marketing can be a small as a monthly or annual contribution to a cause.
Or, the cause can define the brand itself.
Patagonia has been doing this successfully since day one.
As an ecommerce brand looking to get the ball rolling in cause marketing, several key factors come into play.
First and foremost, you need to choose a cause that has parallels with your business goals. If there are no congruencies, it will look like a cheap PR stunt.
KFC’s “Buckets for a Cure” campaign is a prime example of this type of failure. A few years back, KFC paired with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and donated $0.50 for every bucket of chicken sold.
In terms of money raised, it was a great success. However, from a PR standpoint, it missed the mark horribly. This is because fried chicken simply has nothing to do with breast cancer.
Many would argue that greasy fast food can actually increasethe risk of cancer! The lesson here is to choose a cause wisely and prove that you have a strong business devotion.
Next, once you’ve chosen a fitting cause, you need to figure out the details of how you will contribute.
Will a portion of a purchase go toward the cause?
Will it be a “buy one give one” deal?
Will it be action-driven where customers can get involved themselves?
There are several types of cause marketing to consider. Be critical in your choice and understand how it will benefit both parties.
In a nutshell, cause marketing shows customers that their money is going to something greater than both themselves and the seller.
One of my favorite examples is TOMS’ One-for-One campaign.
When a customer purchases a pair of shoes from TOMS, the company donates a pair to children in developing countries. The campaign has given more than 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need.
Now, something like this might not be feasible for a small ecommerce operation. The most important thing is that you prove you are devoted and promote the fact that buying your product is making the world a better place.
There’s no denying that ecommerce businesses have it tough these days.
After all, they are going up against one of the biggest business giants to ever grace the world: Amazon.
If you look at all the successful ecommerce brands out there (aside from Amazon and eBay), the biggest common thread is that they produce and distribute stellar content.
If you are looking to gain traction for your ecommerce store, keep these five strategies in mind.
You also don’t have the same internal resources to create the “10X content” every other article on link building says you need in order to get links.
And because you’re small, it’s simply not as easy for you to attract links as a big, well-known brand.
However, link building is not impossible. Like everything else that’s hard, it just takes time and effort.
When you’re a small business with limited time and resources, you need to make sure that any time you devote to link building is spent on tactics that will actually work.
Good news: all of the below link building ideas really work. I’ve personally tried all of them with my own clients, many of whom are small businesses. Let’s dig in.
1. Support Your Local Community
Charitable organizations and nonprofits are always looking for sponsors. At least one sponsorship tier will include backlinks to a sponsor’s site.
Think about what organizations you can sponsor in your town. Do they host fundraising events?
Don’t limit yourself to traditional charities. Consider schools and for-profit events as well. Anyone in need of a sponsor is a potential backlink candidate.
Ideally, the sponsorship should make sense for your brand — by either aligning with your physical location or your industry.
To uplevel this tactic, sponsor something that your target customers actually care about, instead of sponsoring anyone who will give you a link.
The goal with link building should never focus solely on links; you want those links to translate to traffic, too.
This tactic does require a monetary investment, but it can take less upfront effort than other link building ideas.
Typically, you don’t have to build a strong relationship with event sponsors or convince them of why you’re worthy of a link.
Send them the money for your sponsorship tier, and you’ll get everything that’s included.
2. Connect with Local & Niche Bloggers
Who are the popular bloggers who cover your city or industry?
These content creators are expected to drive constant content for their readers. Like any content manager, they run out of ideas from time to time. Be the hero that gives them an idea.
Follow these folks on social media and subscribe to their blog. Comment or reshare their pieces when you find them interesting. Build a genuine relationship.
Over time, this can translate to natural mentions.
In the meantime, pay attention to what they write about, and review where it might make sense for them to include you.
If you’re a florist, you might ask to be included in their roundup blog of local gift ideas.
If you sell accounting software, you might ask a personal finance blogger if they want your CEO’s top tips for getting a tax refund.
The key here is to share something of real value for their readers. These bloggers are influential because their content helps their audience. Help them do that, and they’ll want to help you.
As a small business, you’ll have better luck going after smaller bloggers. These so-called micro-influencers may not have the domain authority of a celebrity blogger, but their niche focus makes their backlinks highly relevant for your website.
3. Run a Scholarship
Sponsoring local organizations are one way to give back. College or high school sponsorships are another — and there’s an excellent way to earn juicy .edu backlinks.
I’ve covered this before on Search Engine Journal, so you can read my step-by-step walkthrough for this kind of link building campaign there.
The idea is to create a scholarship for college or high schools students that are relevant to your small business.
If you’re a realtor, ask students to write an essay response hypothesizing the future of the housing industry.
Then, reach out to the financial aid offices at schools and ask them to share it with their students.
You will need to set aside some budget for this, but it’s one of the most effective link building campaigns I’ve ever run, and it really helps students in need.
As a small business, I recommend limiting your campaign to the local regions where you operate or focusing on schools with a major department that matches your industry.
Plus, after you select a winner, you can always run a press release for additional coverage and potential backlinks.
4. Guest Post for Industry-Relevant Sites
You’ve seen this suggestion multiple times before, and that’s because it works.
Guest blogging takes real effort, perhaps the most out of any tactics on this list.
You have to:
It’s a lot of work, but it’s commensurate with the return you get.
Guest posts provide much more than a backlink. When you land a guest post on a site your target audience frequents, they can drive qualified traffic your way.
Plus, having a byline on these sites helps elevate the status of your brand.
Small businesses often run into roadblocks when they pitch guest posts to popular sites. Instead of going after the biggest sites you’ve ever heard of, pitch articles to sites that are smaller, but relevant, to your industry.
Using our accounting software example, you might go after personal finance blogs with engaged readerships, rather than publishing behemoths like the Wall Street Journal.
If your small business regularly partners with other companies from complementary verticals, consider pitching them a guest post, too.
They’re already in the habit of referring customers your way, so there’s a clear fit there.
How can you write a post for their site that provides value to their readers, while making it natural for them to contact you?
For instance, a short-term rental management company might partner with a local maid service. The maid service could write a guest blog providing tips for cleaning your home in between Airbnb rentals.
5. Offer Case Studies or Testimonials
This is one easy link building tactic I don’t see being used nearly as often as it should.
What vendors or software products does your business use? If you’re happy with them, offer to take part in a case study or provide them with a testimonial.
It’s customary practice for brands to link to the business featured in the case study or testimonial, in gratitude for their social proof.
You don’t want to go into this asking for the link, and you should only do this for brands you’re sincerely satisfied with.
Contact your sales rep. Let them know how much their product or service has helped you, and that you’d be willing to provide a testimonial for them. You’re going to make their day.
Set up free Google Alerts for “[your brand name goes here]” and “[yourdomain.com]”, as well as the names of any prominent members of your leadership team.
Whenever a website mentions you without including a link, reach out.
This is a friendly audience who already thought you were worth mentioning to their readers. It’s only natural for them to include a link to your site, so their readers can learn more about you.
Pro tip: Review every mention before you reach out. If a site mentioned your business in a negative way, do not consider that your opening to ask them for a link. Instead, consider it an opportunity to evaluate their feedback and how you may need to adapt your business, if at all.
7. Promote Your Content Far & Wide
You’re already writing blogs and sharing advice on your small business website. Are you doing anything else to promote that content, besides the obligatory share on social media?
Take to the internet. There are many popular online blogs that allow you to syndicate your content (like Medium, LinkedIn, and others). Simply due to their massive size, these sites are much more likely to rank for your target keywords than you are.
Don’t get frustrated by that; use it to your advantage instead.
Rewrite a compelling intro for your blog, or rewrite in its entirety, and post a canonical link back to your website.
This tactic is known as content syndication, and fellow SEJ writer Ben Jacobson wrote a great piece on it right here.
You can also share links to your content in social sharing sites and online message boards like Quora and Slideshare.
Monitor the threads that are relevant to your business. Show off your business expertise and provide real value in your response – before pointing users to a piece of content on your website for additional information.
Do this regularly enough, and you’ll start to build a name for yourself as an authority in the space. Users on these sites may start to follow you specifically to see your answers. That translates to traffic.
Speaking of traffic, this tactic usually (but not always) results in unfollowed links. While less valuable from a link equity perspective, nofollow links can be just as valuable for driving traffic — and that’s the ultimate goal of link building, really.
Links are just one way to boost your search rankings. Traffic is what you really want.
Link Building for Your Small Business
Link building can work for small business. In fact, it can work really well.
You just have to be thoughtful about where you put your efforts. Spend your time on tactics that work, and you’ll start to see results.
Albeit a lot of this is actually dependent on content marketing and influencer marketing strategies of your small business. Both of which we’ll talk about shortly.
The important thing to remember is that social media doesn’t just help with your brand awareness. It also allows you to freely engage your customers.
In fact, you have the edge here compared to big brands. Customers like authentic, prompt responses. And as a small business, you’re more than capable of delivering that.
2. Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is an absolute must of in a marketing plan in small businesses. When I talk about SEM it includes both its components – SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click).
To explain the components in simpler words, SEO is about optimizing your site and content to improve your search engine rankings. Thereby, improving your site traffic.
No wonder it’s a top inbound marketing priority for 61% of marketers. This is according to the previously cited HubSpot report.
Paid search or PPC marketing is all about advertising within the sponsored listings of a partner site or search engine. You pay for each click coming through the ad or per impression (CPI).
It’s evident then, that SEO helps you boost your traffic organically while PPC can help your traffic grow faster.
They both clearly have their own benefits. And if I were to recommend a marketing plan for small businesses, I’d go for a balanced strategy involving both.
3. Content Marketing
SEM gives your small business a good marketing foundation and social media gives you a good delivery platform.
The next obvious step is to create and market content that is capable of causing a surge of traffic to your web pages.
Content marketing can take numerous forms, depending on your goals and marketing strategy.
If you’re looking to publish detailed content, then ebooks, white papers, and other long-form content are the ways to go. These can help you gain downloads, site traffic, and leads.
46% of marketers believe research reports generate leads with the best conversion possibility.
That’s exactly what the Content Marketing Institute does. In fact, they have a dedicated online library for users to download their ebooks from.
Image via Content Marketing Institute
On the other hand, you can also use content like testimonial videos or brand advertisements. They are great ways to generate buzz about your small business.
4. Influencer Marketing
This is where you can truly shine as so many other small businesses have. In fact, influencers can seriously elevate the three marketing plans we’ve already discussed.
Working with experts from your niche and other significant influencers can have a major impact on your brand awareness.
It’s essentially a paid form of media advertisement that has a very organic feel to it.
Influencer-generated content and interactions are one of the best ways to increase your organic traffic.
Pro tip: If you’re running influencer marketing campaigns to your eCommerce website, there are a few tricks you can implement to squeeze every last drop of ROI from the traffic your influencers create.
5. Email Marketing
Now you might think why this dinosaur of a tactic is on this list. But it’s on this list for a reason.
According to the Smart Insight study from before, 30% of marketers rate email marketing to have the highest ROI.
As is evident then, email marketing continues to be one of the best marketing plans for small businesses.
Essentially, this marketing ploy is about building a directory of your existing as well as prospective customers.
It’s list of consumers who might be interested in your business, (and their emails addresses).
And you can safely say that they’re interested because most of the time they’ve opted to be on that list.
Here’s an interesting thing to note. Perhaps you’ve picked up on it already.
Remember all of the points that we discussed earlier?
They help contribute to this golden directory of yours in some way or another.
Whether it’s by signing up to download your white papers or to take part in that social media giveaway, people will be voluntarily giving you their names and email addresses
From this point onwards, it’s all up to you on how you want to leverage this golden egg of prospects.
An easy way is to send them simple content like newsletters or update them about your latest blog post.
This way you can increase your site traffic and increase the number of times they are exposed to your brand.
By showcasing your authority and credibility in your industry, you’ll be able to convert these leads into sales.
And that’s what matters in the end, doesn’t it?
6. Focus on Local SEO
Since we’re talking about a marketing plan for small businesses, we can’t ignore the role local SEO plays in your marketing success.
Local SEO is a must-have marketing plan for a small business with a physical address. Regardless of whether you’re a consultant, a doctor, or a restaurant owner, local SEO will help you gain more customers.
Consider this insightful nugget of information:
Around 76% of people who looked up a nearby business on their phones visited the business within a day. Further, 28% of these searches ended in a purchase.
That’s a pretty staggering percentage by any measure.
It goes to show the importance of being one of the top results when potential customers search for nearby businesses. Focussing on your local SEO helps you do just that.
Now, you’re probably wondering what you can do to improve your local SEO. Well, there are a couple of things that you can do.
The first of which is getting yourself listed in the Google My Business directory. Numerous link aggregators and platforms mine data from Google Maps, so having an updated listing will do you a ton of good.
Image via Google
After that, you want to shift your attention to improving your search rankings to ensure your listing is the top result.
One way to do so is to research relevant long-tail keywords that users might use in their queries to find your business.
This will help you identify the keywords you want to be ranking at the top for. Then you can incorporate them into your website content.
7. Mobile Marketing
Typically, people tend to give a lot of emphasis on social media marketing and content marketing plans for their small business.
A sizeable number of them make the mistake of ignoring the importance of mobile marketing.
Just consider the previous statistic that 78% of people look up nearby businesses on their smartphones.
By no means is that a small number of potential customers. But what does this have to do with mobile marketing?
Well, it’s all about providing the best possible mobile experience you can to mobile device users.
More often than not, if people are having trouble looking up your business on their mobile, they’ll just move on. This is why it’s important to optimize your website to be mobile-friendly.
There are many tools you can use to that end. WordPress, for one, allows you to create a mobile-friendly version of your website.
In addition to having a mobile-optimized website, you can also consider offering a native app for customers to install on their phones.
When it comes to marketing, there really isn’t any magic formula.
What does help though, especially if you’re a small business, is proper planning.
Defining our goals, coming up with a well-thought-out strategy, and nailing your execution is what pushes you across the line.
Brandon Brown is the CEO of Grin, an influencer marketing software solution for brands. Grin’s software helps customers identify, recruit & activate the world’s most engaging influencers. Prior to Grin Brandon led marketing for the #1 energy drink market in the world, Los Angeles & Orange County, at Red Bull North America. He is an expert in consumer marketing and has extensive experience working with the worlds largest brands to reach consumers through influencers, athletes, musicians, and artists.
Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today’s question comes from João B. in Portugal. He asks:
Should I disavow from my backlink profile (with GSC) a link that comes from a site with very low DA, but that is related to the theme of my company (no signal of spam) and that sends a lot of traffic?
Could you help us with this?
I want to congratulate you; I’m pretty sure this is the only question we’ve ever gotten that doesn’t have an “it depends” answer.
The answer is absolutely not. Don’t disavow a link unless it is spam.
Remember, any link value from a third-party tool (DA is Domain Authority and is specific to the Moz link tool), is an estimate of the link’s relative value. In most cases, this is determined by the links into a site.
Just because a site doesn’t have a good link rating doesn’t mean it’s a bad site. If the site is relevant to your business and sends quality traffic, it’s a good site.
SEO people worry so much about search guidelines sometimes that they forget to use common sense. You’re not alone in this at all.
But there are other things besides search traffic. And there are lots of reasons to make decisions other than SEO.
Think about it this way:
If you had a guy who came into your store every day wearing something embarrassing – maybe clown shoes – but every time he came in, he bought 10x what the average person does, would you ask him not to come in anymore?
Of course, you wouldn’t.
Similarly, you shouldn’t turn down a free source of good traffic. Just because they have no links now doesn’t mean they always won’t.
If anything, it’s great to have a solid source of traffic outside of Google.
Google may send 80 percent or more of your traffic, but that may not always be the case. Anyone who is significantly reliant on Google traffic should try to diversify.
Rather than think about whether you should disavow traffic from a source like that, you should be thinking about how you can increase traffic from that source or convert that traffic better.
Tech folklore has it that the landing page was born in late 2003, when Microsoft created the concept in response to poor online sales of Office. Realising that the buying process had to be smoother and more direct, the IT giant created a separate mini-site designed specifically for buying its flagship product.
Whilst the campaign undoubtedly worked for Microsoft—we’re still stuck with Office, after all—it’s hard to believe nobody had tried the concept before, so basic is the marketing principle behind it. Surely, people had been using single, direct sales pages before 2003, even if that was their entire web presence?
Either way, catchy, compelling landing pages that convert clicks into contracts are still a must-have for any online business. The problem is that, like any marketing concept, landing pages are in a constant evolutionary race with consumers. Fifteen years after Microsoft’s breakthrough, only the slickest, most original designers are winning. Many landing pages have become formulaic, and for the average business the traditional landing page may no longer be a suitable approach.
The Early Years
In the years following Microsoft’s discovery, landing pages proliferated. And in the true style of the early Internet, they were messy, shouty affairs. Often several different brash sales pitches competed for prominence with the obligatory glowing testimonials, all on a white background.
That started to change in 2009, a year in which the landing page seemingly graduated and became professionalised. Almost overnight, a series of specialist companies sprang up and started to offer recognisably modern design. Messages became shorter, funny even. The background turned from white to hues of blue, and the photos came into focus.
Along with these visual improvements, the marketing concept was refined too. By running sites in parallel—known as A/B testing—designers literally got a scientific answer as to what worked best.
The ‘Rules’ of Writing a Landing Page
There is a lot of advice available online regarding the writing of compelling, high-converting landing pages. It comes from experienced marketeers and it has worked very well in the past. Certain elements of this advice effectively serve to define what we understand as a landing page today: A catchy headline; a punchy intro directly addressing a core customer need or desire; and a concise ‘call to action’.
Start with the goal. The call to action. The thing you want visitors to a landing page to do. Then, work backward from your button, writing only copy that will convince people to click that button. Nothing else makes it on the page. Nothing.
The ‘CTA’ is perhaps the defining characteristic of the pure landing page. While some marketeers still advise including testimonials, and telling customers exactly how you will solve their problem, others have stripped things back to the very basics: the initial page is primarily just a ‘buy’ button or an email field, even if a little bit more info is available by scrolling. Microsoft themselves have evolved towards this approach.
Short and Simple Sells
While popping a ‘buy’ button in front of the customer straight off is visually appealing, that simplicity of approach is only possible when people already know what the product is. Big companies with enough branding behind them are just providing a gateway to the product: Smaller businesses can attempt this by running social media or advertising campaigns that sell on specific points. The landing pages these campaigns point to can, in theory, be highly simplified because the selling points have already been addressed.
Businesses offering relatively complex and high value services will struggle to sell directly through a conventional, simple landing page., however. Their options, in the modern era, are to go for a simple first screen that then scrolls to further information set out in a visual, reassuring and intuitive way, like this Australian business finance firm; or to target something less than a full sale.
The Squeeze Page
If all you want is an initial contact or an email address from a customer, you don’t need to go for a hard sell. In this example, a no-obligation opportunity to interact leads the customer into a mini-site. What marketeers call a funnel, these simple ‘squeeze pages’ have become a sub-category of the landing page.
The concept of a squeeze page is to keep things very simple, because all you want is an initial contact or, more usually, an email address. In order to do this, businesses offer a free downloadable guide; a trial version; or a no-obligation consultation, for example. For a squeeze page to work, is has to be clear that what is being offered is free.
Linking to a Search
There is one further approach for more complex services, and that is to simply start the customer’s search for them. Airlines and online booking companies do this: imagine how Hotels.com will load on your screen if you search for ”Paris hotels” and then click on the company’s ad.
The Landing Page Links Debate
Most landing pages have links—84% of them, if you believe the latest count, which seems reasonable.
But a series of A/B tests by HubSpot, using their own landing pages, suggested that at best links made no difference and at worst they were an unwelcome distraction: when it came to free trials and demos, the versions without links performed 16% and 28% better in terms of conversions, respectively.
Tests by other companies have shown even bigger jumps in conversion rate when all links are removed. But these tests have no way of accounting for cautious potential customers who want to browse your site a little before they commit to buying—because these potential big spenders would eventually contact you via a different page, or perhaps by a phone call.
Unsurprisingly therefore, the inclusion or otherwise of links—even to your own homepage, remains a hotly contested topic for landing page experts. Online marketer Neil Patel suggests that the only clickable link on a landing page should be your call to action, and possibly a link to more information for those who are undecided:
Forget about links to everything else…all they do is clutter up the page and increase the likelihood that your visitors will abandon your landing page without converting.
Pages Must Fit the Business
What seems clear is that as landing pages have evolved, they have become more varied. Despite ruthless live testing, no secret formula has emerged. Indeed, several different approaches have thrived in response to the many and varied businesses that use them.
Best practices will tell you that both short and long forms perform well—it all depends on whether you want to generate a lot of (potentially) lower-quality form submissions, or a smaller number of higher-quality submissions.
If you’re an online business that can offer something immediate, therefore, landing pages work and you want to keep them simple. It seems brutal, but the statistics suggest that, if you can offer a free trial, a demo version, or if you basic product is basically free, then all you need is a catchy page that looks good, loads quickly and is highly functional and intuitive.
If you’re in a more complex sector and you want this, it’s even worth creating a freebie—usually an e-book or guide—as a way of collecting email addresses with this approach.
On the other hand, if you provide complex products and are essentially hoping that customers will call your expert advisers—or you, if you’re a small business—and discuss their needs in more depth, you’ll want them to be able to check you out in full. Arguably, what you will then build is not a true landing page. But if it is designed to meet specific traffic, then the basic rules are still applicable.
Neil Patel sums it up:
Your copy should be clear and concise. It should be persuasive, too. Landing pages are not the place to show off your creativity, unless that creativity is clear, concise, and persuasive. Leave the creative turns-of-phrase for your blog.
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