Are single page apps killing your SEO?

A JavaScript-based website means that you need JavaScript code rendered/processed before serving thecontent to the web user and any User-Agent.

Traditionally, Google was only looking at the raw text-based content that we’d get in the HTTP response body and was unable to interpret what a typical browser running JavaScript would see. When websites started becoming more reliant on the use of JavaScript, Google initially was unable to read them and therefore unable to give them the benefit of their content in regards to search engine result page rankings.

In order to solve this problem, Google started developing the functionality to understand JS pages. Despite this advancement, even when a page is crawled and indexed properly, there is proof that sites that use large amounts of JavaScript can affect your rankings.

(Will Critchlow saw a significant traffic improvement after shifting from JavaScript-driven pages to non-JavaScript reliant.)

The outlook for JavaScript Based Websites

Angular is the most popular JS framework for Single Page Applications (SPAs). Google support and maintain AngularJS with a community of individual developers, whilst funnily enough, not being able to render large numbers of AngularJS pages.

In the following study, we’ll review Single Page Applications and similar technology rather than AngularJS to understand what you can do to make your angular site more visible in the SERPs.

List of popular JavaScript Frameworks

AngularJS is a very popular framework for Single Page Applications. Angular has been on the market for quite a few years and offers an impressive list of features that will benefit developers such as; two-way binding; templating; currency formatting; pluralization; reusable controls; RESTful API handling; AJAX handling, etc.

a chart showing which spa frameworks are supported by different seo functions

a chart showing that of all the search engine bots only google and ask can successfully crawl the single page app frameworks

Technically, SPAs don’t need to use any fancy framework like MVC, Ember.js, Node.js or AngularJS. It is, in fact, possible to build an SPA using only jQuery and HTML for the front-end display, but it’s not recommended for large websites where data is best managed by a powerful back-end CMS.

So what is the impact for SEO?

Today, Google is able to render a substantial number of web pages more like an average user’s browser with JavaScript turned on. But sometimes things don’t go perfectly during rendering, which may negatively impact search results of a site.

In fact, there is no search engine that can understand and process JavaScript at the level our modern browsers can. Even so, JavaScript isn’t inherently bad for SEO, it’s just that due care and attention needs to be taken to ensure that search engine crawlers get the full context of the pages easily.

John Mueller recently explained how Google indexes JavaScript sites in his newsletter.

“Google supports JavaScript to some extent. Google supports the use of JavaScript to provide titles, description & robots meta tags, structured data, and other meta-data. When using AMP, the AMP HTML page must be static as required by the spec, but the associated web page can be built using JS/PWA techniques. Remember to use a sitemap file with correct “lastmod” dates for signalling changes on your website.”

 

What is a Single Page App? 

A Single Page Application is a web application or website that loads all of the resources required to navigate throughout the site on the first page load. The idea behind SPAs is to create a smooth browsing experience like the one found in native desktop apps. All the necessary code for the page is loaded only once and its content gets changed dynamically through JavaScript.

A single page application is suitable for a simple site that doesn’t have too much data to load, because the data is loaded once, and all the actions are performed client-side. For example, a single luxurious villa holiday website would do the job.

Known tracking issues:

This type of application will often update the URL in the address bar to emulate traditional page navigation, but another full page request is never made. So, for a single page application where the site loads new page content dynamically rather than as full page loads, the analytics.js snippet code only runs once.

Some SPAs only update the hash portion of the URL when loading content dynamically. This practice can lead to situations where many different page paths point to the same resource. In this case, a website owner would require their analytics specialist to configure the tracking code to record virtual pageviews.

Known indexability issues:

The site’s content is not indexed by Google – as explained above, Google’s indexing system does process JavaScript but some issues may need to be fixed to make content accessible.

For example, if you are using new browser features like the Fetch API, ensure that they are polyfilled in browsers without support. “Polyfill” is actually a browser fallback, just like a JavaScript library that brings a new API to an older environment, using only the “means of that environment.”

To test how Google renders your SPA page, simply use the Fetch as Google tool, found within Search Console, to get a preview of what Google will see.

Progressive Web App (PWA)

A Progressive Web App (PWA) offers the benefits of a natively installed app, minus the app store.

The terms progressive in this context means it works for every user, regardless of browser choice because it’s built with progressive enhancement as a core functionality. A PWA has to have a responsive UI which means it fits any form factor; desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next. A PWA doesn’t necessarily need to be SPA, but can be multi-pages if developers put additional efforts to create custom URLs.

This technology shows two specifications that are particularly interesting for the future of SEO & UX:

  • PWAs run faster and perform smoother than mobile websites, which gives them an edge with impatient mobile users.
  • Users can access PWAs more reliably than traditional mobile websites. In an offline environment, PWAs employ service workers to act as a proxy server, allowing you to pre-cache all the resources you’ll need. This means your app continues to work in an offline environment that is exactly when people needs it the most (planes, undergrounds, etc.)

PWAs are SEO friendly as long as they follow a checklist of best practice and don’t take the form of a SPA. For best SEO practice, PWAs should use the History API to reproduce a sort of URL trail instead of page fragments that use Hashbang (#!). For example everything after the #! in https://example.com/#!user/26601.

Available Solutions

Because all the code is loaded only once in a Single Page Apps (SPA), search engines cannot assess page content quality, neither assign properly any page quality score to that webpage (or ‘PageRank’). In other words, Google know the existence of the page since they have the ability to discover it through links, but can’t really say if the copy on that page is able to respond to accordingly to the search intent.

At Harvest, we have investigated different workarounds below to run SEO-Friendly Single Page Apps (SPA). Some options may involve Dev resources and/or additional third-party tool costs.

Host a Sitemap

Overall, sitemaps are particularly helpful if a website site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process — for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or images. Even though this is only a partial solution it worth deploying an XML sitemap (if not done yet) on your website. With this sitemap, search engines will be able to follow links and then discover pages. However, a sitemap won’t solve difficulties regarding page content crawl & indexing. In other terms, webpages will appear in Google (essentially) but may appear not to have content in the SERPs if using heavy JavaScript frameworks.

E.g. – Checking Google’s cache for an SPA that only deployed an XML sitemap (but no other solution) tell us that their indexed pages are content empty:

a screenshot of the google search listings showing that cafe rouge has been cached by google

a screenshot from google search console showing that cafe rouge cannot be displayed and the site is not crawlable

Build Custom URLs (Dev Resources)

Depending on the JavaScript Framework, SPAs like Ember.js can be tweaked/optimised to serve custom URLs through dynamic segments. In the case of Angular.js, it will require attention from the developer to configure the location mode to HTML5.

BromBone

BromBone automatically downloads all of the pages from the sitemap.xml then uses a proxy to send HTML pages to search engine bots. No need to install any software.

  • Type: HTML pre-render
  • Dynamic/Static update: Dynamic
  • Deployment easiness: Easy
  • Cost: $129/month
  • Resource: http://www.brombone.com/

Prerender.io 

Prerender.io requires a manual upload of the sitemap.xml and will do the rest. Smaller sites (up to 250 pages) can use Pre-render for free, while larger sites (or sites that update constantly) may need to pay as much as $200+/month. However, having an indexable version of your site that enables you to attract customers through organic search is invaluable.

  • Type: HTML pre-render
  • Dynamic/Static update: Static
  • Deployment easiness: Very easy
  • Cost: $200+/month
  • Resource: https://prerender.io/

 

Conclusion

Will we be seeing more Dynamic JavaScript sites in the future? It is certainly possible. Even with traditional, multi-page sites, having solutions that make development and testing of those sites quicker and easier is always going to be welcome and appealing.

With more and more web designers and developers turning to these JavaScript-powered solutions, we can also expect them to become even easier to use as a whole – which is ultimately great news for everyone looking to design and develop rich web experiences.

Related posts:

The post Are single page apps killing your SEO? appeared first on Harvest Digital ™.

The nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in America

After retail and manufacturing, nonprofits employ more people than any other sector–most of them in health.

Nonprofits talk a lot about their missions to do good and change the world, but the collective might of these groups has strengthened quality of life within the U.S. another way: As a sector, the nonprofit world represents the country’s third largest employer.

Read Full Story

All that glitters…

Mince Pies arriving in store in September may cause an outcry in my local Co Op but in the word of marketing it is never too early to start thinking about Christmas. This week alone, I have had numerous conversations with clients about how their plans are shaping up and how they are going to tackle ‘the most wonderful time of year’ – but this time, these conversations have tended to have a very Dickensian feel as budgets are under pressure and the threats to success envelope projects like mist on the Thames.

 

The festive period will certainly still have some joy – Prince Louis will court the cameras for his first time with Santa (and perhaps Meghan and Harry will continue the fairytale by following the baby booming suit, although I think perhaps they are going to be far more interesting than that), John Lewis will drop a new campaign to warm our souls. But with Brexit, the data fallout from GDPR and continuing restructuring of the retail sector to name but a few challenges, there is much to prompt a ‘bah humbug’. Plus, thanks to the likes of Amazon, the Christmas trading period might even have the rug pulled from under it with Black Friday and Cyber Monday taking the sales before some places have even switched on their Christmas lights.

 

So what to do?

 

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as cut back, as whilst consumers may pull their purse strings tighter this year, their expectations will not fall with such parity. Christmas is a time for theatre, for production value, for bringing out all the stops. In our world of film, the season is often the one where every frame, script and casting gets the highest scrutiny, as the stakes are higher which is why we adopt, even more strongly than usual, a process of ‘creative craft’. With creative craft, we remember we are firstly makers and not accountants, and that we must use the resources that we have thoughtfully, imaginatively and intelligently to create film that is befitting of our passion for the medium, not the budget before us.

 

We create films that glitter, but are not made of gold.

 

Creative craft is a mindset to be adopted not just for delivering smart results in production but in terms of planning a strategy that will engage across multiple platforms and executions, delivering the magic but not costing the earth. Creative craft is what led to our TV Everywhere product, a data-driven approach which quite literally means that every relevant screen can be covered, with a potent alchemy of types of content that drive brand recognition, affection and purchase intent.

 

So as we look forward to Christmas, we actually will genuinely be looking forward to Christmas, as the challenges our clients are bringing us will force us to be better – to think harder whilst still reaching for the stars. As one of the main architects of the modern retail landscape (and admittedly the richest man in the world), Jeff Bezos once said ‘frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. The only way to get yourself out of a tight box is to invent your way out’. This Christmas, invent we will.

 

For more information on our TV Everywhere approach contact Steve Byrne at steve@magnafi.com

 

Author

 

Isla Kirby
Director of Creative Strategy & Technology, Magnafi.

The post All that glitters… appeared first on Magnafi.

TV Advertising Effective, Even For Digital First Brands

A recent study by Simulmedia looked into the sales lift that occurs through TV advertising, which brings light to the importance of using TV as an advertising channel for all types of businesses. As many leading brands nowadays are “digital native” or “digital first” companies, it often becomes difficult for them to justify spending on TV when they know for a fact that their customers are on digital platforms.

 

However, the study found that TV advertising is actually proven to increase website traffic, especially for direct to consumer brands. This justifies that TV is very effective, even for the digital first brands that were analyzed. Essentially, this shows that TV does more than just brand building, it can be a sales generator for digital first brands such as Birchbox that rely heavily on website traffic. For example, Blue Apron had an increase of 1,075% in website traffic after the TV launch. Airbnb had a 307% increase, and the average sales lift was 89%. The companies in the chart below increased their TV spend by 59% in 2016, while receiving a 184% increase in digital actions at the same time. Therefore, the study concluded that TV can and should be utilized for so much more than mass market brand awareness, it can truly drive sales.

 

Of course, we have our thoughts on this intriguing study. There is definitely a clear rationale behind why TV advertising works for digital brands. Nowadays, people will always check a website before buying a product. When they walk into a store and see a product, they go online and check the price and offerings at other retailers to make sure they are getting the best product for the best value. When they see a new brand or product on TV, they immediately go to the website, as well. In this way, accessing the website has become an essential step to the consumer decision making process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are making the purchase, but it means they are very close to it. It has become evident that consumers love video content through social platforms, and this love still extends to (and stems from) television.

Why do brands have to work harder to engage with the customer?

The way brands advertise has changed considerably, for the better. Brand effectiveness results in connecting emotionally with the customer via stimulating storytelling, which ultimately gains loyalty and trust. This is harder to achieve with just a billboard and a 30-second ad; it simply isn’t engaging enough. So how do you resonate in this digital age?

The different methods brands now use to reach out to and connect with their customers has become much more engaging in recent years. It’s interesting to see successful and well-established brands such as Burberry, Levi’s and Vans (to name a few) who are developing experiential and immersive ideas that work in harmony with their proposition and brand values.

One of the market leaders is, of course, Nike. Here we have a company that has a culture etched so deeply into their brand DNA that their customers all over the world are loyal for life. Just one of the many customer experiences Nike have produced over the years is a very successful concept and app called Nike Training Club (or NTC), encouraging customers to be active and get involved in the Nike culture. In 2014, one interesting twist was if you ‘liked’ NTC on Facebook, you could book yourself into a range of free (yes, free) classes all over London, including sprint classes, exercise classes, running club and yoga, which took place within their stores. Hugely successful, it’s actually a very simple way to immerse the customer in the brand both online and offline, improve customer retention while staying true to Nike’s core values and ultimately generating revenue.

House of Vans skateboarding neon signage

Another successful brand engaging with its customers offline as well as online are Vans, who launched ‘House of Vans’ a few years back in the Waterloo tunnels near Southbank. It is the physical manifestation of the culture that has defined Vans from day one. This is a space that allows people to connect with the ‘Off The Wall’ spirit of the brand, and engage with art, music and skateboarding throughout the summer months. Situated in an area that resonates so deeply with skateboarding, House Of Vans is inspiring for all types of people, and was even a significant part of the campaign against the council wishes to knock down the Southbank undercroft for redevelopment purposes. London doesn’t need another retail space, but it does need cultural hubs for a wide range of people.

So, why do brands have to work harder? It’s to keep the trust and loyalty of their customer surely, but also to enrich their lives on multiple platforms and drive engagement. Nowadays, more brands are turning to experiential marketing for a number of reasons, including customer awareness and media coverage, customer acquisition and retention, and to have something that helps them place themselves above the rest.

If you create a culture, people will want to be part of it. Ultimately, that’s how we see a successful brand working.

Want to find out more about BEAR’s services, including brand identity, strategy, UX, tone of voice and much more? Please contact the team at info@bearlondon.com.

Confessions of a marketing technologist


When Paul Gottsegen grabbed the CMO reins at Mindtree in 2013, he noticed a major deficiency in both himself and his teamthere wasn’t a single marketing technologist among them. Throwing down the gauntlet, Gottsegen shocked his team by mandating they all become more tech-centric since until that point, “everybody thought that was someone else’s job.” While Gottsegen admits there have been missteps along the way, he also believes that marketing has played a big role in the growth of the company, perhaps best reflected in the quadrupling of Mindtree’s stock over the last 5 years.

There is an ironic lesson here. Indian-based Mindtree is a consulting company that competes with the likes of Accenture and PwC in the so called “digital transformation” space. That means they help others be more tech-centric and expand their “digital value chain.” In essence, by focusing on marketing technology, Gottsegen was “taking his own medicine,” prescribing a course of action that could systematically yield big results. And yet in the end, even Gottsegen admits, ultimately marketing is both art and science, “it’s not a math equation.”

Continue reading at AdAge.com

Rokkan Bolsters Leadership Following Rapid Growth

Fueled by recent new business wins, Rokkan announces the creation of four new roles, adding to an already impressive year of agency growth. James Cockerille is promoted to Chief Strategy Officer; Lindsay Williams is promoted to Chief Connections Officer; Alex Lea joins Rokkan as SVP, Executive Creative Director for Cadillac; and Tammy Hwang joins as SVP, Strategy to lead strategy across various accounts, primarily Verizon.

“Rokkan’s unique approach to business doesn’t end with the creative work we deliver our client, but it’s embodied in the unconventional decisions we make as we build a diverse and exceptional team,” said John Noe, CEO, Rokkan. “I’m delighted to elevate James to the role of Chief Strategy Officer. We were drawn to his expertise as a global brand strategist and steward, and his ability to bring a broader, less conventional perspective to the role; we want someone who can navigate the new world of advertising and provide leadership on how to creatively break down traditional models and architect new ways to serve brands,” said Noe.

“Lindsay’s role as Chief Connections Officer will be focused on deepening our ability to drive transformation and growth for clients with a growing focus on data and consumer engagement. The Connections group will also serve as a deeper connection point to more of the tools and resources the Publicis Groupe brings. James and Lindsay have been a perfect fit in helping to move Rokkan into the future, and we look forward to the brave, breakthrough work to come as we welcome Alex Lea and Tammy Hwang to the fold.”

James Cockerille, Chief Strategy Officer
James Cockerille joined Rokkan in September 2017 as SVP, Strategic Integration to work across brands, with a specific focus on Cadillac. He immediately exceeded expectations, taking on strategic leadership during a time of rapid expansion and growth at Rokkan. His ability to look beyond traditional solutions and provide future-thinking counsel has been vital to Rokkan’s continued success and the swift decision to name him CSO was organic.

Cockerille brings with him more than two decades of unique global branding expertise that spans market research and insight development to brand positioning and implementation. His career includes leadership roles at Interbrand and FutureBrand in Australia. His work on Cadillac during his time as global strategic lead at FutureBrand cemented his status as a dynamic, creative leader. Other client work includes Carlyle Group, BHP Billiton, Dow Chemical, Oculus and more.

Lindsay Williams, Chief Connections Officer
Lindsay Williams joined Rokkan in 2014 and quickly developed the agency’s first media and analytics practice. Part consultancy, part SWAT team, her team specializes in connecting strategy across media, user experience, data and creative to help brands tell their best stories in a time of fragmented consumer attention. Williams’ brand-side experience and strategic background helps her in solving complex business challenges through a mix of data and creativity.

Williams promotion to Chief Connections officer demonstrates Rokkan’s deep integration within Publicis Groupe, and will help each leverage human insights captured through data and analytics to create more impactful work. Williams will be a key player in bringing siloed departments and work streams together to engage with new partners in a way that positions them for growth and delivers tangible business results.

Prior to Rokkan, Williams was global digital marketing director at Estee Lauder and worked in media at Aviatech and Razorfish where she served global brands like Mrs. Fields, Best Buy, Nike, Walmart and Mercedes-Benz.

Alex Lea, SVP, Executive Creative Director for Cadillac
Alex Lea brings with him diverse career experience to offer fresh and creative ideas on the newly won Cadillac business. He comes to Rokkan from Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York office, where he worked on Walmart as part of Publicis’ dedicated unit DeptW. Previously, Lea led creative for Ally Bank as group creative director at Grey New York, and before that was executive creative director for Erwin Penland’s New York office working with L.L. Bean. Additional client experience includes Miller High Life, Keystone Light, General Mills’ Fruitsnacks, Kraft’s Capri Sun, Kool Aid, Microsoft XBOX, Kraft JELL-O, and more at high-profile agencies including Droga5 and CP+B, among others.

Tammy Hwang, SVP, Strategy for Verizon
Tammy Hwang will lead strategy for various Rokkan accounts with a specific focus on Verizon. Having worked with Verizon during her four years at MRM, Hwang has unmatched knowledge of the brand as well as a proven track record of leading strategy and planning for numerous other bluechip clients. Prior to joining Rokkan, she was EVP, Director of Strategy, at MRM/McCann, where she managed a team of 50+ overseeing all brand, digital, media, content and social strategy efforts for global and U.S.-based clients including Cigna, Johnson & Johnson, USPS, Verizon, IHOP, U.S. Army and more. Hwang has also held executive strategy positions at Fitzgerald & Co. and McCann New York.

In 2017, Rokkan broke the mold by achieving unprecedented growth during a time when the industry as a whole was struggling. In the past 12 months, the agency hired more than 50 staff members including seasoned, award-winning talent to lead new clients such as Verizon, Coca-Cola, Hilton, VSP and Cadillac.

 

Source: NewsWire

In conversation with…David Charles

Every month we feature a different artist in our 3×3 Instagallery. This month, our artist in residence is illustrator David Charles, connecting childhood imagination with adult reality via his D I S E N E L O brand.

So David, what stories does your work tell?

That’s a good one, imagine being able to see into the mind of a four-year-old and the only real way to express your emotions, is through your actions or facial expressions. Through my work I like to push the boundaries of childhood imagination to a new way of displaying feeling. Childhood imagination immersed with adult reality. With each art piece having a deeper meaning or construct with layers, upon layers, which can be interpreted with an emotion and feeling which changes the art in our minds, with each moment.

D1

What gets you inspired and in the mood to create something?

When I take a moment to stop fidgeting – total silence, no TV, no mobile phone, just the birds chirping and the sound of the traffic on the road. The morning sun rise creating shadows through my indoor tropical jungle as I drink my coffee. Other times, it’s weirdly connected to the moon cycle, full moons are my most creative.

 

How do you make your pieces, and has this changed since when you first started producing art?

I feel the process has always been the same – a bit more digital nowadays. I would get an idea or see something that would inspire me, email myself with the design title and first thought in my mind, with a description of what exactly *eLo would be doing. But saying that, the original process would be doodling ideas with circles. Like a type of code that only I would understand, with a name underneath it.

I would then later if not the same night or minute, draw up my art. Most pieces are for digital compositions later, when I can focus more of my time on them – like melodies a singer would record for future hits, so to speak.

*eLo is the character’s name. It comes from when I was 4 years old and people adults would speak to me in a childish voice, saying ‘ello elo elo’ – I used that memory enthusing the L.

D2

What would you love to see more of in the creative industries during the next five years?

I’d like to see more creative industries pulling more towards working with the younger generation as they study, while they have all the energy and creative juices at the highest of potency! Inspiring work that talks to both the younger and older generation, making a better way forward closing the boundaries of understanding.

 

Got any winning tips for upcoming creatives you wish someone had told you?

Set yourself small goals and small achievements, then look at the bigger picture after 6-8 months and see exactly how much you’ve achieved.

D3

And last of all, what’s next? Any big plans for the near future?

Next? Another exhibition of my own where I can produce and push the boundaries of what it means to be an artist.

 

See more of David’s work at instagram.com/disenelo

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Local and Small Businesses

Let me start off by saying that digital marketing for local and small businesses does not need to be difficult. Many of the companies I’ve worked with in the past see it as a daunting task that is going to take too much time, money and a team of people to do. Sometimes they are right, but a majority of the time they are just trying to do too much at once. Internet marketing as a whole encompasses a broad set of activities, but local and small businesses do not need to do all of them. They just need to find specific strategies that work for them and capitalize on them.

This blog will be most helpful for local and small businesses such as electricians, plumbers, heating & AC Services, house cleaning companies, restaurants, lawyers and other small business types.

My goal is that you get at least one takeaway that will help make a positive impact on your business’s digital marketing efforts. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

OK? Here we go…

Tip #1: Your Website – Keep it simple

Your website is the face of your company online. It’s a marketing brochure for your brand, services, what your company stands for and the kinds of clients you work with. It should contain all the most important things about your business. This makes it easy for someone to find the information they need before making the decision to contact you.

In regards to creating a website, there are plenty of great companies out there that will outline and build a site for you.  Just make sure you do research before contacting them so you know what to expect. The best tip I have for building a site is to… keep it simple.

Keeping a website simple can be very good for user experience, website upkeep and management, and especially SEO (search engine optimization). Here is an example of a basic outline that will encompass everything a viewer should know about your company. This outline will still leave room for you to expand your site and create more content with SEO in mind.

  1. Homepage
  2. Individual Service Pages (including pictures and/or video of past work – if applicable)
  3. FAQ Page
  4. Testimonials / Success Stories / Reviews
  5. Resources (if applicable)
  6. Could be used as a “self-help” or “how-to” section for certain business types
  7. About Us
  8. Contact Us
  9. Blog

One thing to keep in mind is the kind of imagery and copy on your site. A lot of companies decide to use stock imagery and fairly generic copy. I would recommend going another route because this is a big opportunity for local businesses to show that they are human and their company has personality. This is where you can beat big brands for new business. To break this down a bit:

  • For imagery, use images from real projects or services you’ve done in the past. Spend some time ideating what kind of imagery you want to show on your website. Then hire a photographer (yes definitely spend money on these) to get the pictures you desire for your site.

  • For the copy, hire a copywriter who has done work previously for businesses in your industry. Make sure you give plenty of input so they know exactly what you are looking for and they stay in-line with your brand voice. And be sure they are experienced in writing copy with SEO in mind — that is very important. 😉

One local site that has done well in both categories is Johnson Roofing & Gutters (the name is just a coincidence and I have no affiliation with them).

Last but not least, make sure your website works on all screen sizes so people can view it on all devices (computer, tablet and smartphone). A responsive design or having a separate mobile-specific version is a must. Also, If you already have a website, I highly recommend going through the Technical SEO Audit Checklist for Human Beings to ensure it is healthy and will perform well in search engines like Google and Bing.

Tip #2: Reviews – Your customers are your biggest advocates

Reviews are VERY important for your companies reputation, especially online. Positive or negative reviews and how you handle them can be a customers deciding factor when it comes to their decision to contact you. This is why it is a good practice to respond to every review you can.

Similar to using real images of your work and developing copy that gives your site personality, replying to reviews shows people that you are human. Local and small businesses need to show they care about the customer. If someone gives you a positive review, say thank you. If another person gives you a negative review, respond like you would if someone gave you negative feedback in-person. This shows that you care about what people are saying about your company and you want to engage with your customers even after working with them.

Here is an example of a company that does a good job replying to reviews on Yelp.

  

I would like to highlight two things here:

  1. This company replies to all review types. Even 5-star reviews get attention, which is important because it shows the customer you care about their feedback and their business is important to you. This is a tactic that can help you get a customer for life.
  2. The response to a bad review doesn’t just stop at an explanation. It goes one step further and asks the person to get in contact with the general manager (contact info included), so they can learn more about the experience. This is a good tactic to (hopefully) change someone’s opinion after a not-so-great, or misinformed experience.

Along with the above, reviews can be very helpful for SEO and your company’s ability to rank above the competition. Be sure to ask for reviews on site like Google, Yelp and Facebook so you have a diverse review profile on a number of websites. Once you receive reviews, monitor them on a weekly basis so you can reply to them and engage with past customers. A good resource to learn more about why reviews are important is MOZ’s resource on Local Reviews and Ratings.

Tip #3: Social Media – Own your channels and grow your audience

Businesses of any size should be using social media. Create a company page, update it with all necessary information and use it on a regular basis. Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter can be very helpful when marketing a company. Plus, they are great sites to promote your services and post original content such as blogs and video. Use them correctly and you can find and engage with your target market (aka customers) and grow your following. Social media signals are starting to have an effect on SEO, too.

Some websites may have already created a generic page for your business. It’s good to do a sweep of all the main local and small business profile sites and check to see which ones have done this. Once you’ve identified the sites with your profile you can simply request to take ownership of the page and update it with all the correct information. Here is a small list of sites to check:

Now that you’ve taken time to create and/or round up your company profiles, update them with the most accurate data and include photos if possible. Then identify the ones that will be the most effective and start using them to your advantage.

Tip #4: Email Marketing – Keep them short and sweet

Email marketing is one of the best ways to market your services and content to a quality audience. People who sign up for your emails are asking you to communicate with them. You can do this by highlighting specials and deals you may be offering, letting them know about new blog posts or resources on your site, or just sending a monthly update on what your company has been up to and what’s ahead. One easy tip to keep in mind is to keep them short and sweet.

When used correctly, email marketing can be one of your highest converting marketing channels. Keeping your emails shorter is a good way to keep people engaged, while still getting your message across. People can get overwhelmed when presented with too much information. If the goal is to get someone to click on a link, write an enticing description and present an appropriate call to action (CTA). If your business has a new deal or promotion, tell them exactly what it is and how to get it.

Example email opener from Flatstick Pub that covers that month’s events

One more thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it with email marketing. If a company sends too many emails people could become uninterested or annoyed. This can cause people to unsubscribe from your mailing list, which is counterproductive to your goals for doing email marketing in the first place.

Tip #5: Content Marketing – Find your audience and plant some seeds

While content marketing is not always the most ‘important’ online marketing task it can be very helpful for many reasons:

  • Building thought leadership by answering questions around the web
  • Growing your online footprint by being active on Forums and Q&A sites like Quora, Reddit, and industry-specific sites such as AVVO (lawyers and attorneys) and HOUZZ (all kinds of home and garden discussions)
  • Both organic and paid social promotion of services and original content
  • Link building by creating relationships with bloggers and online influencers

Content marketing for local and small businesses can definitely take time to get right. It’s one of those tasks that’s easier to do when you have some spare time to spend on it. You need to identify “where to play”, meaning you need to find the right websites that have the discussions and content for you to engage with. This is also a very good way to identify new blog and page topics for your website. If someone has a question that requires a longer answer, write about it and post the full answer on your site. Then, you can answer the person on the site you found the topic on and refer them to the full answer on your site. Chances are that same question has been asked elsewhere, and now you have the “answer” on your site that you can point them to.

Final Thoughts

A couple things to keep in mind before embarking on any of these tactics are to:

First, make sure you have specific goals. This could include obtaining more organic or referral traffic, growing your social media following, or getting more qualified leads. Each of these tips can help you meet your goals and succeed in the ever-changing digital space.

The second thing to remember stems from my note in tip #1 about websites. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink things, which can cause less action to happen. Don’t be afraid to dive in and get familiar with each space. The sooner you start taking action, the sooner you will start finding digital marketing success for your local or small business.