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    3 Steps To Building A 5-Star Online Reputation [Infographic]

    Last updated 1 year ago

    When a consumer searches for your business online, do they see positive reviews with 4- to 5-star ratings or several complaints from unsatisfied customers? If they see the latter, you might be losing potential customers because of your online reputation.

    Luckily, there are steps you can take to help improve your business’ reputation online. Just keep in mind that building a positive reputation takes time and effort, especially if you have negative reviews working against you. Start by following the steps in this infographic, and you will be on your way to building a better online reputation. 

    Want to learn more about how to monitor, manage, and build a positive reputation online? Download our ebook, “Navigating Your Online Reputation.” 

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    Get More Opens: 15 Email Subject Line Formulas that Work

    Last updated 1 year ago

    One of the most important parts of any marketing email is often the part that most people spend the least amount of time crafting – the subject line. But this short amount of copy is the first hurdle that stands between you and your recipient. So, in order to make your email marketing program more effective, it’s important to craft the right subject line. No matter the content of your email, keep your subject lines short (50 characters or fewer) and be specific, always telling the reader what they will get by opening your email.

    Try these 15 email subject line formulas to get your email opened. 

    Ask Readers to Take Action

    To get a target consumer or customer to take action, it’s important to include action verbs in your subject line. Similar to a call to action on your website or advertising, your subject line should create a sense of urgency and provide a benefit to the reader. For instance, a subject line like “Get a Sneak Peek of Our Summer Menu Items” is more actionable than simply “River Grill Summer Menu Items.” This formula can work well for timely news such as upcoming events, product launches, or special promotions.

    1) Meet the Chef of [Business Name] on [Date/Time]

    2) Try Out [Product/Service] at [Discount]

    3) Refer a Friend and Get [Special Offer

    Create an Announcement or Invitation

    If you want your potential or current clients to feel like you care about them, send them an email invitation or special announcement. Whether you’re holding an event or announcing a new product, service, or store location, using words like “Invitation” or “Announcement” can grab your readers’ attention. Try these formulas for creating excitement with your audience.

    4) You’re Invited to [Company Name] Annual [Event Name]

    5) Announcing [Company Name] Brand New [Product/Service]

    6) [Company Name] Invites You to a [Product/Service] Open House

    Localize Your Content

    Consumers want to know about what’s going on in their neighborhood. So, let them know you’re in their area by including the location in your subject line. If you’re located in or serve more than one location, segment your emails based on city or ZIP code to ensure the right audience gets your emails. For example, if you have a new apartment complex in a specific neighborhood in Dallas, you can send an email just to prospects in that area inviting them to take a tour. 

    7) Join Us for the Grand Opening of Our [Location] Store

    8) Check Out [Company Name]’s Newest Store in [Location]

    9) [Location] Residents: Get [Discount] When You Book [Service]

    Provide Helpful Content

    It’s important not to just send sales-related emails to your prospects and customers. You should also be sending them useful content, such as helpful tips in your industry or best practices for using your product or service. For instance, if you’re a home remodeling business, you could send an email with tips for choosing a paint color.

    10) Your Guide to [Industry-Related Topic]

    11) How To Get the Most Out of [Product/Service]

    12) 5 Tips to Extend the Life of Your [Product/Service]

    Send a Company Newsletter

    One way to get the open from your audience is by sending regular emails with all of your company news, events, and helpful information. If you opt to send a newsletter, use the same subject line formula every time so your readers will become familiar with the cadence and content of your emails. This enables you to build a relationship with clients and prospects, which can impact the likelihood they will open your sales and marketing emails. An analysis conducted by MailChimp showed that emails that contained the company name were more frequently opened than those that didn’t. 

    13) [Company Name] Newsletter - [Date]

    14) Pulse on [Company Name]

    15) [Company Name] Newsflash

    What subject line formulas have worked well for your business? Let us know in the comments!

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    17 Expensive Marketing Mistakes that Cost You Customers

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Investing in online marketing is critical for businesses that want to grow their customer base – and ultimately their business. But, simply spending on online marketing doesn’t guarantee you results. You have to make sure that not only is your marketing itself effective, but also that you’re not making some of these (unfortunately common) expensive mistakes that can cost you customers.

    Are you making any of these expensive online marketing mistakes?

    1. Not tracking your online marketing.

    Tracking enables you to know which of your marketing tactics are working – and which ones aren’t. Continuing to invest your marketing budget into tactics that don’t work means you probably aren’t reaching the right consumers in the first place. It’s important to track these tactics so you can reach consumers who are actually in your target so you can convert more of them into customers. 

    2. Driving website visitors to fill out a Web form no one checks.

    Do you know where all your website contact forms are going? And if so, how frequently are you checking them? If you’re not sure, or not regularly reviewing leads you get from your website, you are probably investing in an important website feature you’re not taking advantage of – and missing out on converting a lot of potential customers.

    3. Paying for a website that’s not optimized.

    Simply having a website doesn’t mean it’s helping drive customers to your business. Investing in a website that’s not optimized for search engines and conversions could be costing you twofold. First, it’s likely you’re not even being found when your target consumers are searching for your products or services. And second, those that do find your website can’t contact you if your site doesn’t have easy to find contact information like your phone number or email address.

    4. Not targeting your advertising to the right people.

    Online advertising has powerful targeting capabilities – but targeting your ads to the wrong people – such as those outside of your geographic area, target age range, or income level ­– or worse, not targeting your ads at all – is both wasted effort and expense. 

    5. Paying for search ads that don’t use the right keywords.

    Search advertising is pay-per-performance, so you might be paying for clicks on keywords that aren’t really working to drive leads from your website. Not all keywords are created equal, so make sure the ones you are bidding on and using in your text ads help your ads show up when people search for your products and services, so they’re more likely to click your ad and convert.

    6. Not bidding on your business name in search ads.

    Regardless of whether you “own” your business name in organic search, it’s important to bid on your business name in paid search ads as well. Chances are, your competitors are bidding on your name, and their paid ads might trump your organic ranking on the search engine results page, which could cost you customers. 

    7. Using misleading advertising, promotions, or pricing.

    Consumers are savvy, and one sure way to turn them off is by using misleading pricing, promotions, or advertising. Sure, you might get more clicks on a “too-good-to-be-true” offer, but misleading advertising might cost you customers – and your reputation, too. 

    8Not marketing locally.

    As a local business, it’s important to make sure your online marketing targets local consumers. Not only is this more cost-effective, but it also cuts down on you filtering though leads that aren’t from your target area.

    9. Not following up with prospects who call you.

    After all the effort to drive qualified prospects to contact your business through your marketing and business website, this is one of the most costly marketing mistakes. It’s critical to have a system in place that helps (and reminds) you to follow up with people who contact your business. Whether they leave a message or just aren’t ready to buy, not following up with these leads can have a serious impact on your business.

    10. Not tracking your marketing through to conversions.

    Simply tracking clicks, visits, and number of followers doesn’t tell you much about how effective your online marketing actually is at getting you customers. If you’re not tracking your marketing all the way through to conversions like calls, or emails, you may be investing in marketing that isn’t really working.

    11. Not monitoring and managing your reputation.

    Is your online reputation costing you customers? If you haven’t checked to see if your online reputation is positive or negative, you could be losing many potential customers due to bad reviews, comments, or other content that’s critical of your business. Do a quick search for your business name to see what shows up – then take steps to improve your reputation.

    12. Not claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local page.

    Claiming your local listings is an important task for any local business. Google+ Local is even more critical, because your listing there is tied directly to your Google Maps listing, which is one of the top ways that consumers search for local businesses on the go via their mobile devices. If your Google+ Local page is bare-bones or contains incorrect information or negative content about you, chances are it will turn prospects away from contacting you. 

    13. Not checking your phone number on marketing and directories. 

    Is your phone number correct on all of your marketing as well as the directories your business is listed in? An outdated – or just plain incorrect – phone number is virtually guaranteed to cost you customers. So make sure to audit (and call to double check)!) your phone number everywhere it appears – whether on a billboard, print ad, or online source. 

    14. Poor phone call handling.

    Is answering the phone effectively a part of your marketing strategy? It should be. Since a majority of local businesses make sales or set appointments via the phone, poor call handling techniques – including rudeness, not providing the right or enough information, or not answering at all – is a huge source of churn for many prospects – who may then find a competitor who has better phone skills. 

    15. Not shopping your competitors.

    How are your competitors marketing their businesses online? What offers and specials do they run? What do their websites look like? How are their online reviews? Not shopping your competitors means you may be out of the loop on what appeals to your target consumers. 

    16. Not using negative feedback to improve your business.

    Nobody wants to see negative things about their business online. But when you do, do you actually take action on the feedback to improve your business? If not, chances are that other customers are experiencing similar issues, meaning once- loyal customers could be turning elsewhere.

    17. Waiting too long to contact a lead.

    How quickly do you call back a potential customer when they contact you? If your answer is weeks, days, or even hours, it could be costing you. Research shows that the more quickly you contact a lead, the more likely you are to close a deal. And common sense says that the first business to contact a consumer is more likely to win their business.

    It’s important to make sure that your marketing investment really works – and that you’re not losing valuable contacts and leads due to poor marketing or business practices. Which of these marketing mistakes might be costing you prospects, sales, and even customers?

    Share your thoughts in a comment!

    About the Author

    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the Web as blogger and senior content marketing manager at ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+

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    Google's Carousel SERP Update Puts Local Businesses Front and Center

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Google has unveiled a new search engine results page (SERP) layout on desktop search for small businesses in certain verticals. This new “carousel” display features small businesses more prominently on page one of the SERP when a consumer conducts a local search for certain terms on Google using a desktop browser (although the feature has been available on iPad for some time). So, in light of this Google search update, we’re answering a few questions about what the new layout looks like, what types of businesses are impacted at this time, and what the change means for your overall Web presence. 

    What types of businesses will this new update affect?

    This list of businesses on the new Google search results page layout currently includes restaurants, bars, and hotels, but we’ve also seen the new search results for entertainment-focused businesses such as theaters, museums, and art galleries. As Google continues to test the feature, it may add other verticals that could benefit from this new image- and review-intensive layout.

    What does the new search engine results page look like?

    When a local search is conducted in the supported categories, Google displays the results in a horizontal “carousel” at the top of the page. It shows as many results as will fit in the browser window. Each business has its own small carousel result that features a photo, the business name, and rating and reviews information.

    What are some key features of these carousel results I should be aware of?

    Here are some notable features of the new carousel results and what you can do to make sure your business shows up in the best light when consumers search for you:

    • Carousel results are tied to your Google+ Local (map) listing. Your Google Map listing is an easy and free way to help local consumers find you when they search online, even more now with this new update. That’s because local results will show up when consumers search for your business type plus a geographic keyword, like your city or ZIP code. And, these results also show up to consumers who conduct a non-localized keyword search when Google detects local search intent as well as the  location of the search via IP address. So, if you don’t yet have a Google+ Local listing, make sure you take steps to claim or create it so you can compete in this local search space. Then, make sure your page is optimized for search by using your top business keyword. (Pro tip: Get our ebook that walks you through claiming and optimizing your Google+Local listing.)
    • Carousel results feature a single image. That means it’s critical that your Google+ Local page contains relevant images that can be pulled into your carousel result listing in order to entice viewers to click on your result in the carousel. According to Google, algorithms decide which photo is displayed, so all your photos should be eye-catching and representative of your business, since you can’t change what’s shown on the search results page. 
    • Your carousel result contains your current Zagat rating number, if you have one. This is the rating number listed on your Google+ Local page. It’s important to note that Google recently announced that reviews will return to a 5-star rating system in the new Google Maps, so the way that number appears in the carousel may continue to evolve. Your carousel listing also displays the number of total reviews you have on your business listing. This means you need to make sure you’re managing your reviews on Google+Local by both responding to negative reviews and by asking happy customers to leave you positive reviews there to boost both your overall rating and your number of reviews. 
    • Clicks on your carousel result turns into in a branded search. One of the most interesting features of this new local SERP layout is that when the searcher clicks on the business link from its carousel result, Google changes the search box to include a search for the business name and changes the SERP results below the carousel to reflect those results. However, the carousel remains in place so users can browse to other business keyword searches.

      This makes your business Web presence more important than ever – because consumers can easily go from searching a generic local keyword to a specific search for your business name. That means it’s now more important than ever to make sure your content that shows up when consumers search for your business name is relevant, accurate, and positive. So, make sure you’re claiming your social media pages; creating content like blog posts, images, and videos; and monitoring your online reputation on sites like Yelp or Citysearch which can show up in the search results.

      Also, make sure to make note of the search term that Google automatically creates from clicking on your carousel result (in the above example, it includes a business name, business type and location). You will want to incorporate this long-tail keyword into your monitoring and Google alerts as well as your SEO strategy.
    • This branded search can display paid ads in addition to organic results. In addition to your organic results, this branded search can also feature one or two paid search ads directly under the carousel listings, so bidding on your business name is the best way to show up above the fold on this page. If you’re not already doing it, chances are your competitors are, as in the example below:

    How is my Carousel position determined?

    There’s no way to know for sure how Google’s algorithm determines a business’ rank in the organic listings. However, just like all of Google’s search rankings, it’s probably safe to say the following factors could play a key role in how well you rank in the map listings:

    As Google continues to update its algorithms and search functionality, local businesses will continue to be affected when it comes to the search engine results page.

    What do you think of this latest change to the Google SERP? How will you update your local listings to make sure your business is front and center when someone searches for your business type? Leave us a comment to let us know what you think! 

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    About the Author

    Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.

    The Three Most Important Conversations in Any Business

    Last updated 1 year ago

    As a business owner, you have a lot of conversations with a lot of different people in order to effectively run your business. You talk to your staff about how they engage with people who contact or visit your business. You talk to vendors who supply your business with office supplies. You may even have important discussions with investors about how your business is performing. But as important as these conversations are, there are three essential conversations that go on within any business that matter the most. And if you go radio silent in any of these conversations, you could miss out big time.

    Business to Consumer

    The primary conversation your business has with consumers typically happens online, and it’s often the first time a consumer learns about your business. And like starting any new conversation, it’s essential to introduce yourself, bring your best to the table, and leave a great impression. So what does this conversation include? It can be anything from your text ads and display ads to your blog copy, website, social media pages, and local directory listings – basically any content that tells consumers who you are and what you have to offer. And, once you’ve gotten a consumer to engage with you from these mediums, you can continue to reach out to them with additional “conversations” like email marketing and follow-up calls that help them turn into a customer.

    Why It Matters: Unless you’re you are able to communicate with consumers through some sixth sense, making all of your messages in your online marketing consistent, complete, and accurate is the only way to effectively tell consumers what you offer and why they should do business with you. Demonstrating your unique value and benefits is critical to separating your business from the competition. And while it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember adding key information like your business phone number and clear call to action on your ads and website so that you keep the conversation going.

    How To Kill the Conversation:

    • “I don’t have time to focus on my website.”
    • “A call to action on my online ads? Nah.”
    • “I don’t need a business blog.”
    • “I’m not making videos because they’re too expensive.” 

    Consumer to Business

    This next conversation establishes the first receptive connection between potential customers and your business. Consumers who are taking the time to engage in a conversation with your business often do so because they are interested in doing business with you, setting up the opportunity for you to earn an valuable lead. This conversation takes place anywhere consumers contact you, from comments on review sites and posts on social media pages to Web forms, emails, and phone calls from your website.

    Why it matters: Making it to the consumer-to-business conversation is kind of like making it to the second date of a new relationship. There’s intrigue and a little bit of healthy skepticism, but overall there’s a willingness to trust someone new. And as trust is a great foundation for any type of relationship, failing to take action when a consumer engages in a conversation with you can set you back on their list of companies they trust with their time and money. So, it’s important to be ready when a customer engages with your business by having a plan in place to monitor consumer engagements with your business and to effectively & quickly respond.  

    How To Kill the Conversation:

    • “I don’t have time to listen to my voicemails.”
    • “I don’t really need to monitor comments on my social media pages.”
    • “I respond to emails whenever I get around to it.”
    • “I’m busy. So, of course I don’t know how my staff answers every phone call.” 

    Consumer to Consumer

    This last conversation is one of the most important conversations, yet the most difficult to manage because your business isn’t necessarily involved in it. The consumer-to-consumer conversation can take place anywhere online, from review sites to social media pages to blogs, and also offline by word of mouth. While you may not be the conversation starter or recipient, conversations are still happening about your business, and you should be aware of what is being said and know how to respond, both online and offline.  

    Why it Matters: Approximately 90% of consumers who have read positive online reviews were influenced to buy. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Think about it. When you have to make a purchasing decision, be it personal or for your business, how do you go about making it? For instance, you may read reviews on sites like Google+ Local or Yelp or turn to social media to see what types of comments people are posting about a brand you’re considering.

    As a business owner, you need make sure that what consumers read online about your business is positive, even if you don’t start or control the conversation. You should do this by frequently monitoring review sites, social sites, and search engine results pages for comments about you, then take steps to respond to negative comments or reviews, encourage positive reviews and recommendations from loyal, happy customers, and provide excellent service that keeps all conversations about your business in the green.

    How to Kill the Conversation:

    • “Nobody will see those 1-star reviews about my business.”
    • “I don’t know what people are saying about me online, and it doesn’t matter.”
    • “The 90% of people who have a problem with my customer service are wrong.”
    • “I’ll just delete the negative comments about my business on my Facebook page.”

    How do you manage each of these conversations in and about your business? Let us know in the comments!

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    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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