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10 Things Wrong With Your Website

In this age of social media and digital everything, you can’t afford to be a website weakling. If your competition has a killer online presence, and you don’t, you lose. Today’s consumers look online more than ever before.  Even business owners who think they don’t really need a “best in class” website are missing more than they think.  Based on visiting thousands of small business websites, BizBest compiled this list of 10 common mistakes that businesses make with their websites, and how to fix them:

1. Crummy Content

Thanks to the rise of social media and changes in how search engines operate, it’s now more important than ever to have high-quality content on your site. Off-topic and poorly written content won’t show up in search and makes your site look second-rate. Don’t load up on sales pitches. Instead, provide helpful tips, case studies and other info that gives customers and prospects valuable information on how to solve a problem or accomplish a task.  Avoid industry jargon and keep it conversational. A service such as HubSpot.com can help.

2. Keyword Clueless

Knowing — and using — the proper keywords for the products and services your business sells is important to online success. Even if you think you know what they are, unless you’ve used a keyword discovery tool to see the precise terms that real people are typing into search engines daily, you haven’t done it right.  KeywordDiscovery.com and the keyword tool in Google AdWords can help.

3. Social Scarcity

No website is complete today without some nod to social media.  At a bare minimum that should be a link to your Facebook page, but could and should also include Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and your own blog.

4. Muddy Metrics

Who’s visiting your website? Where are they coming from? What are they doing once they get there? What are the most and least popular portions of your site? What kinds of visitors are making you the most money? If you lack the answers, you’re flying blind. Sign up for a web metrics service such as Google Analytics to get a grip on what’s happening.

5. Missing Mobile

Mobile web usage is exploding, with huge  implications for small businesses that lack a mobile-friendly site. Mobile sites are designed specifically for the small screen. They are quick, easy to navigate and “thumb friendly,” which means they use large, centered buttons with “breathing room” to prevent accidental clicks. The best mobile-friendly  sites make the mobile experience local. Since customers are constantly seeking local information on their phones, your mobile site should make it quick and easy for people to find you. Google has a terrific program called GoMo (www.HowToGoMo.com) to help business owners and startups learn about mobile websites and find help setting one up. You’ll find tips, a tool to rate the quality of an existing mobile site, samples of good mobile site design, and a helpful list of vendors who can help you create a mobile presence.

6. Obvious Omissions

It’s stunning how many websites lack obvious info such as contact information, hours and location, or seemingly try to hide it. Don’t make people hunt for a “Contact Us” page. Display your preferred means of contact prominently across your site. If you make it easy for people to call or email, they will. Be sure you have a process in place to follow up all inquiries.

7. Offer-less Ordering

If you want people to sign up, order or otherwise engage, you need to encourage it with some type of offer or call to action. You could, for example, offer free trials, discounts or a newsletter. Tell people what you want them to do.

8. Dorky Design

Design counts. But it’s not all about looking pretty. It’s about creating a great user experience and being highly functional and effective at attracting, keeping and converting customers. Obvious cookie-cutter sites and over-the-top images undercut your goals. Customers are there because they want to accomplish something, and your design needs to reflect that. Keep all order and lead-generation forms simple. The more information you require, the fewer people you’ll get filling them out.

9. Laughably Link-less

If people can’t find you online, you’re toast. One thing that makes Google (and other search engines) take notice is how many quality sites link to yours. Other sites are more likely to link to yours if you offer helpful information such as tips, white papers, newsletters, a blog or other items. Sending out regular press releases on your business is one way to build links. You can also seek links from professional associations, clients and vendors.

10. Unborn Updates

Incorrect or outdated info on your website spells certain doom. If your latest press release is three years old or other content is clearly aging, customers will wonder how up-to-date and vibrant your business really is. Review and update all content on your site regularly to keep it fresh and timely.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

ShopKick is Next Big Thing in Local Social Commerce

Remember this name: ShopKick. You’re about to starting seeing a lot more of it. ShopKick is a new mobile application that tracks and rewards customers with points (called KickBucks) just for walking into your store. Think of it as a new digital way to easily drive foot traffic into your location. 

Customers earn additional points for picking up and scanning the barcode on an item in your store using their smartphone’s camera and, of course, for making purchases. The more involved with your store a shopper becomes, the more KickBucks they can earn. It’s like a digital version of the old-style repeat-purchase punch card, but with vastly more capabilities.  

KickBucks can then be redeemed for rewards such as discounts, gift cards, merchandise and charitable donations. Consumers simply download the free ShopKick app to their smartphones and start looking for nearby stores and restaurants offering “Kicks Rewards.” The ShopKick FAQ section helps explain in detail how the app works from the customer’s point of view.

ShopKick is amazingly simple and – apparently – effective as well.  Several big retailers such as Crate & Barrel, American Eagle, Macy’s and Target began experimenting with it in 2010.  Best Buy, the electronics big box giant, likes it so much it recently rolled it out nationwide.

The big news, however, is that ShopKick has just launched a pilot program to begin offering the service to local businesses in 11 cities and metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Washington, DC, Detroit and New Orleans. Initially, 1,000 local businesses will be selected to participate and will get the service free for a year.

While any local business can apply for free, the preferred types of businesses for the experimental program are coffee shops, yogurt shops, bakeries, family restaurants and local clothing boutiques.  Other factors in your favor include these:  You have less than 20 locations are located in a shopping area, have a good Yelp rating and a distinctive store design.  Citibank is picking up the tab for the pilot program, and clearly sees big things ahead for ShopKick. Citi officials see it as an exciting new retail program that local businesses can use to help them connect with customers in their communities.  

A New Local Mobile Frontier

The huge growth of mobile commerce via smart phones is fueling Palo Alto, CA-based ShopKick and will change how customers interact with a local business. Already, about 20% of consumers use their mobile phones to check prices, according to a recent Booz & Company study. As smartphone penetration more than doubles over the next 3-4 years, that figure is expected to soar as well.  Booz & Co. also predicts that purchases made directly from mobile devices will more than triple by 2014.

It creates a new personalized experience for customers to tap into when shopping at local merchants.  And according to BIA Kelsey, which tracks local marketing trends, ShopKick is already available in 2,500 big retailer locations and 160 malls nationwide.

In short, ShopKick is a new retail technology that – for the first time – starts to meld the previously separate worlds of selling either online or offline.  Armed with their app-equipped mobile devices, customers can now exist simultaneously in both the digital and physical shopping worlds.

ShopKick, founded in 2009, has high-powered venture capital funding, and counts Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman among its backers.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

12 Local Business Online Marketing Success Secrets

Consumers seeking a local business, professional or other service provider search and choose differently depending on the product or service they need.  That seems like common sense, but it’s often misunderstood.  And that creates special opportunities for local business owners who get it right to be found first by customers searching online.

The basic secret to success is this:  Deliver the right types of information (consumers seek multiple pieces) for your specific category, industry or vertical.  In other words, today’s challenge goes beyond simply showing up in an online search. To win the business you need to deliver the right kind of information once the prospect has found you.  And that’s where the differences come into play.

For example:  The two things consumers want most when searching for an attorney, doctor or other health care provider are: 1) Information about professional credentials or specialties; and 2)  levels and areas of experience.  But someone looking online for auto repair services or any of the thousands of products and services that fall under “home improvement,” will first and foremost be interested in specific product or service details and costs.  Only then do consumers start to look for discounts, special offers or details about credentials.

These findings come from new nationwide research just conducted by WebVisible and the Chicago-based market research firm Synovate eNation.  Four different groups of 1,000 Americans were asked what kinds of information best help them make their choice when searching online for doctors, lawyers, auto repair services and home improvement product or service providers.

Different types of information include these:

  • Professional credentials
  • Special offers and discounts
  • A video featuring the service provider
  • Written customer testimonials
  • Personal referrals or recommendations
  • Product/service details and prices
  • The ability to find the local business in a variety of online directories

“Getting found online is just the first step,” says Ron Burr, CEO of WebVisible.  “Local advertisers have to make sure the information they provide will help close the deal. Do your customers want information or a discount? Do they want to read about your credentials, or see you in a video?  There is no one answer – no magic bullet that will make someone pick up the phone. It’s a combination of presenting yourself well, making a good offer and helping the customer feel educated and informed. Then, it’s a matter of giving them the chance to convert and take action right then and there.”

12 Ways to Perfect your Local Online Pitch

  1. Service providers who offer general, educational information – not just about their own company or services – will stand apart. In every category, people want a certain level of “education.” For attorneys, 52% of people want answers to common legal questions. For doctors, 46 % want to know about treatments and procedures. For home improvement, 44% want resources to learn about warranties, tax credits or energy savings. For auto repair, 32% want information about maintenance services recommended at various stages.
  2. Income is not a predictor of who will prefer special offers and discounts. In just one category – healthcare – the preference for discounts increased as salaries decreased (16% of those earning $75k+, compared with 37.5% of those earning under $25k). But in the other three categories those in the middle income ranges chose discounts at above-average rates.
  3. For healthcare providers, attorneys – or presumably any business offering a service that requires extensive education and training –consumers need details on credentials and experience.
  4. Half of the consumers surveyed say they want referrals and recommendations from people in their networks – an argument for having a Facebook page.
  5. Roughly half of customers say they want information about available treatments and new procedures when looking for healthcare providers, and about legal procedures and answers to common legal questions when looking for lawyers .
  6. When searching for consumer services like auto repair and home improvement, nearly 70% of people said they need information about specific products, services and costs. When seeking auto repair, 58% said they want a discount offer, while 54% said they want a recommendation from someone they know.
  7. When seeking a home improvement service provider, 54% said they want details about the provider’s certifications and experience, 53% want a deal, and 52 % want a personal referral.
  8. Women tend to seek greater information variety than men.
  9. Online video appeals to all age groups. In fact, across all four categories, both the young (ages 18-24) and the older (ages 55-64) chose video – either a profile of the owner/professional or of an actual customer testimonial – at higher-than-average rates.
  10. Discounts are important in the categories of auto repair (58 % of respondents named it as key) and home improvement (53 %).
  11. Discounts are particularly important to consumers under 45. Across all categories, the youngest age groups chose special offers and discounts more than the overall average.
  12. Across the board, nearly 30% of consumers want the service providers to show up in a variety of directory listings.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Local Business Owners Plan Big Boost in Online Ads

The great local business digital migration continues.  Following up a year when small business pulled big bucks from print in favor of digital, biz owners are holding yet another digital bash in 2011 by increasing their online spending to market themselves by a stunning 29%, compared to a 4.5% increase for offline spending. So says a new report from the future-probing firm Borrell Associates, which feeds media titans with high-powered market research.

And you know all those sales calls you’ve been getting? Guess what.  Other small business get ‘em too – an average of 22 calls per month.  According to Cassino, small business owners answer or return less than 5 of those calls.

 “The pitches from online ad sales reps have built to a cacophony,” says Kip Cassino, principal author of the Borrell report.  “Business owners are being offered deals programs, online coupons, website banner ads, search engine optimization, splash pages, targeted Facebook ads, email ads, reputation management, online directory ads – all amounting to a totally new language bound to make their heads spin.”  About 84% of small businesses plan some kind of spending this year to market themselves online.

And for more than half of them, the amount spent will represent an increase over last year.  By comparison, while 88% still plan to advertise in local newspapers, the amount they’ll be spending is expected to drop.  Last year the average local business spent about $12,000 on advertising; about 20% online.

The Borrell study also confirms a major small business move toward social media, even among businesses that do not have their own website. Apparently many business owners see social media participation as more important than having a storefront on the web.  

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.