PrairieWeb Internet Marketing https://pwim.com Dominate Your Online Market Tue, 05 Mar 2019 20:45:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.4 What If I Can’t Afford an Agency? https://pwim.com/2019/02/21/what-if-i-cant-afford-an-agency/ https://pwim.com/2019/02/21/what-if-i-cant-afford-an-agency/#respond Thu, 21 Feb 2019 20:40:30 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14240 Most companies, even small businesses, recognize how important marketing—especially internet marketing—is, not only for the bottom line but perhaps even the survival of the company. But as expenses mount, particularly during the startup phase, it can be tempting to see marketing services as just another expense. And that’s when you may be tempted to declare, [...]

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Most companies, even small businesses, recognize how important marketing—especially internet marketing—is, not only for the bottom line but perhaps even the survival of the company. But as expenses mount, particularly during the startup phase, it can be tempting to see marketing services as just another expense. And that’s when you may be tempted to declare, “I just can’t afford you.” So what should you do?

Examine Your Mindset

The biggest hurdle when incorporating marketing services into your budget is overcoming the idea that marketing is an “expense.” Yes, you do have to spend money, but like training, staff, tradeshows, and more, marketing isn’t just the “cost of doing business” but an investment in your future. It’s also not something you should wait to do once you’ve got a revenue stream, because in today’s crowded marketplace where just about anyone can put up a website and compete with you, you might not get a second chance at getting your message out there. Marketing your brand spankin’ new business needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.

Would your business consider electricity, phone service, internet, and business association memberships optional? Marketing is just as critical as a utility or networking relationship. You may have to exercise caution in your expenses, but that doesn’t mean it’s an add-on for later down the road when it “works” for you.

Choose Your Services

Agency relationships don’t have to be all-or-nothing. You may have some interest or capacity for doing certain marketing tasks in-house. But just because it’s not in the budget to hire an agency for a full-service package doesn’t mean you can’t have access to their knowledge, expertise, and coaching. From consulting to a la carte solutions, an agency relationship can elevate your results by filling in the gaps in your team’s experience. Don’t let an all-or-nothing perspective result in you doing just that… nothing.

Count the Cost

Many times, when hiring an agency is viewed as a big expense it’s because it’s not being compared properly to the alternatives. If you don’t hire you agency to market your business,

  • You could fail due to not being able to promote yourself competitively.
  • You could be responsible for all your promotion and burn out.
  • You could take on an intern who ultimately doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to get you results. You’ve invested time and money into their development with few business results.
  • You could hire an entry-level staffperson who lacks experience, may not make good choices on social media, and who will need to be replaced as they quickly move on to a new job further up the ladder. You’ve invested time and money into their development with few business results, and will rinse-and-repeat the process with frequent staff churn.
  • You could hire a qualified marketing manager at market-value salary and benefits, putting your business in a tight spot when it’s not ready for the human resource cost.

The alternative is that for about the cost of that entry-level staffer (before the cost of churn kicks in), you could have an experienced agency that will be with you for the long haul. When you can have the pros without the overhead, wouldn’t that be a wiser investment?

We get it—building, growing, and maintaining a business is a delicate balance, and sometimes tough financial decisions need to be made. But marketing is an area that must always get some consideration, whether it is to bolster your efforts with a little outside help, or go ahead and contract with an experienced agency to avoid the pitfalls of trying to drop the task on the shoulders of an inexperienced entry-level employee. Marketing is an investment in your future, not an expense.

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How to Make Your Marketing Company Happy https://pwim.com/2019/02/12/how-to-make-your-marketing-company-happy/ https://pwim.com/2019/02/12/how-to-make-your-marketing-company-happy/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 19:13:11 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14237 Yes, I hear your objection immediately. “Why should I care if my marketing company is happy? After all, I’m the client, and they should worry about keeping me happy.” We don’t disagree, and we kinda asked the question for the “shock and awe” value. Of course, as marketers, we want to keep our clients happy. [...]

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Yes, I hear your objection immediately. “Why should I care if my marketing company is happy? After all, I’m the client, and they should worry about keeping me happy.” We don’t disagree, and we kinda asked the question for the “shock and awe” value. Of course, as marketers, we want to keep our clients happy. But, there are steps and actions our clients can take that will make our relationship even more productive and get you better results—and that makes us happy!

Single Point of Contact

You’ve heard the adage about “too many cooks”—and it’s just as true in business (and marketing) as it is in the kitchen. You probably have a number of decision-makers and contributors within your company structure that weigh in on the direction of your business. We get that. But since those internal conversations can cover a lot of ground, take a bit of time, and sometimes reverse course based on your needs and goals, it’s best to filter it through a single point of contact once it goes to your marketing partner. We’re agile and can make adjustments along the way based on results, or just the need to change course. And while it’s still important to be made aware of “what-ifs,” it can be counterproductive to have a number of voices giving us direction—especially if the instructions seem out of alignment.

Having a single point of contact as much as possible (we realize there are times we need to talk to other staff, managers, and even third parties) streamlines communication and helps reduce confusion or, to be honest, power plays. Miscommunication, or missed opportunities can be avoided with a streamlined system—and that makes us happy.

Own Your Own Assets

Marketing and web development is, quite often, “techie” business. And the temptation is to hand all the keys over to your marketing partner and never look back. While it certainly can make it easier at first for us to do all the account setup, content creation, etc., it should always be on your agenda (and in your best interest) to take control—either from the start, or by regaining full administrative power over your own assets after it is initially set up. Is it because you can’t trust us? No—we want you to be able to trust usbecause of the fact that we value your ownership. In reality, it’s because we’ve had to work so hard on behalf of new clients who were badly burned by other marketing and web partners. It’s hard enough to wrestle back your own credentials after “breaking up” with an agency. It’s far more difficult to do it on behalf of someone else.

We want to have a great, long-lasting relationship with you. But we don’t want to do it by holding your assets hostage. They’re yours, and you should have the final control—and that makes us happy.

Read Marketing Reports

Writing an unread marketing report is like sending it out into the void. I know the charts and numbers can kind of blur together from month to month, but we know that data is powerful—but only as powerful as the action that results. We’re constantly accumulating data on behalf of our customers, and interpreting that data helps us to make better decisions about allocating resources to achieve business goals. If you don’t read marketing reports, is it because:

  • You’re too busy.
  • You don’t understand the metrics.
  • They seem irrelevant.

If you’re too busy for the reports, that’s concerning. Hopefully it means you’re getting so many leads from our efforts that obviously things are working. But still… it’s your business. Checking in to see what the data says is still important.

If you don’t understand the metrics or they seem irrelevant, it’s important to communicate that with your marketing company. Have your goals been fully defined? Have they been clearly communicated to your agency partner? Have they implemented it, or merely disregarded you and gone with a cookie-cutter approach? We work with our client companies with business goals at the forefront. It metrics don’t point to the achievement of goals, client feedback helps us measure the right things—and that makes us happy.

Keep Partners in the Loop

Effective marketing requires a mix of tactics, strategies, and platforms. Some efforts don’t natively “show up” in our dashboards and data gathering—especially if we didn’t set up the campaign. Are you doing your own email marketing? Visiting or exhibiting at tradeshows? Do you have foot traffic at your business location? Did your kid (or mom) promote you on Instagram or Pinterest? We are thrilled to partner with clients for what they need us for, but we’re also thrilled for their in-house initiatives. We just wanna know about them. What was that huge spike in traffic on Thursday? Why the sudden popularity of this product? When we can tie the data to all these efforts, that makes us happy.

Our greatest concern is the happiness of our customers, and our own happiness is a great side effect of awesome marketing results. Want to make your marketing company happy? Help us help you crush it in your marketplace!

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Why You Should Hire a Business-Minded Marketing Company https://pwim.com/2019/02/01/why-you-should-hire-a-business-minded-marketing-company/ https://pwim.com/2019/02/01/why-you-should-hire-a-business-minded-marketing-company/#respond Fri, 01 Feb 2019 17:39:49 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14227 Yes, we get it. Marketing, SEO, web development, etc., are indeed techie things. Customers expect to hear a lot of unintelligible jargon, and lots of agencies are more than willing to use those technical terms so prospects will know how “smart” they are. But do you really want to be hiring an agency just because [...]

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Yes, we get it. Marketing, SEO, web development, etc., are indeed techie things. Customers expect to hear a lot of unintelligible jargon, and lots of agencies are more than willing to use those technical terms so prospects will know how “smart” they are. But do you really want to be hiring an agency just because they know the latest big words (and you’re afraid to handle it yourself because you don’t)? Or do you want a company that will do business-minded marketing?

Make sure your marketing company knows business.

There are more than enough buzzwords in the internet marketing industry to make just about anybody sound competent, but marketing can’t take place in a vacuum or with a cookie-cutter approach. Is your marketing company as skilled at business as they are at marketing? Running a business requires a unique skillset and an entrepreneurial focus, as well as the ability to set goals and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to help measure results. Choose a marketing company that does more than follow current trends and tactics, but is strategic and goal-oriented.

Make sure your marketing company cares about your business.

While businesses within certain industries may have similar needs and approaches, you want a marketing company that demonstrates an interest in your unique company and the goals and measurements that truly matter to you and your success. Your agency should make the most of its experience with companies similar to yours, but if there’s no personal touch and sense of investment in your growth and profitability, you should look elsewhere.

Communicate your business goals—and results—with your marketing company.

Your ideal business-minded marketing agency is a committed and compassionate partner in meeting your goals—but you are responsible to outline and communicate your goals, expectations, and KPIs to them. No one knows your business better than you, so to empower your agency to get results for you, you must take an active role in equipping them with the knowledge they need to take the ball and run with it. They are experts in marketing, but you’re the expert in your business—maybe even industry. Tailored marketing requires knowledge and insight so they can market your actual company/product(s)/service(s) and not just a generalized version. And without a doubt, the more your marketing company understands your business, the better the results will be.

Make sure your marketing company is also technical.

Clearly, you can see that a business approach is essential to a thriving agency relationship. But that doesn’t minimize the importance of marketing expertise. Your marketing company should have the technical skills and knowledge, and be tuned into the ever-changing landscape of trends and tactics in order to actually do the job you’re contracting them to do. So look for an agency with longevity in the field, real results, and skill at anticipating and pivoting with the changing tides of the web.

PrairieWeb has been a business-minded internet marketing company since 1997 (back when Amazon was a toddler). We’ve seen a lot of shifts over these past two decades—and many companies, services, and trends have come and gone. But the one constant is that every company needs to be positioned in front of customers and prospects, and our results have been increasing leads, sales, and revenue across a variety of industries. Have questions or looking to get started with marketing services? Give us a call or contact us!

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When (and When Not) to Outsource Your Marketing https://pwim.com/2019/01/24/when-and-when-not-to-outsource-your-marketing/ https://pwim.com/2019/01/24/when-and-when-not-to-outsource-your-marketing/#respond Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:03:55 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14218 Every business owner or executive knows how important marketing is for getting the word out about your business and getting in front of the best potential customers. The process of building and implementing an effective marketing strategy is complicated enough, but the even greater challenge may be deciding whether to keep the efforts in-house or [...]

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Every business owner or executive knows how important marketing is for getting the word out about your business and getting in front of the best potential customers. The process of building and implementing an effective marketing strategy is complicated enough, but the even greater challenge may be deciding whether to keep the efforts in-house or outsource to an experienced agency.

When Not to Outsource

You’re already getting results.

If your in-house marketing efforts are keeping the lead funnel full and producing sales, then you may not need outside marketing management. But it’s important to remember that the landscape can—and does—change rapidly, so forming a relationship with an agency that can provide periodic consulting and training for your team can be beneficial.

You have a full team in the marketing department.

If you are already fully staffed for marketing, then outsourcing isn’t a necessity. But if you’re lacking in any particular area, don’t think you can’t make use of an agency. Outsourcing to cover a gap or weak spot can bolster the quality of your own efforts—and results.

You’re a pro at both marketing and reporting.

If you have all the knowledge you need about marketing (and keep up with constant changes), and you have all the data and analysis you need to determine what works, what doesn’t, and the overall ROI, then outsourcing isn’t for you. But that probably means you sell marketing services—or perhaps should!

When to Outsource

You’re not getting results.

The internet is a crowded landscape, so it’s easy to chase results but not ever find them (and waste a lot of money in the process) due to inexperience. Your expertise is your business and the products or services you sell. You probably didn’t go to marketing school and don’t have years or experience in the field. So rather than struggling, outsourcing will give you an experienced and knowledgeable partner, and is an investment in future profit rather than an expense.

The job is too big.

Do you have a marketing team? A single overworked person? An employee tasked with adding marketing onto their “regular” work? It’s tough to get results when there’s more to be done than can be managed in-house. Get better results with an agency team that can be far more effective and efficient due to experience and immersion in the industry.

The impossible task of measurement.

It’s tempting to try tons of tactics in the effort that something brings in results. But if you try this broad approach but without strategic data gathering and reporting, you’ll never know what worked and what didn’t or how to optimize for the best ROI. Poor or nonexistent reporting, and therefore the inability to make business decisions from those results, can waste tons of money. An agency partner can plan and implement data collection and provide reporting based on the metrics that truly demonstrate business-goal-based success.

Tyranny of the urgent.

Having too small a marketing department or divided attention from staff also assigned to other responsibilities can keep your efforts of a treadmill of sorts: running in place from the tyranny of the urgent. Deadlines always seem too close. You’re checking items off the “to-do” list but there’s no solid strategy behind it. Instead, an agency can help develop a business-goal-focused multi-channel strategy where the actions on the to-do list have meaning and purpose—with attainable milestones and deadlines.

A full-service agency contract isn’t right for everyone. But agencies like PrairieWeb offer an array of services that can benefit even companies that manage the majority of their own marketing. And for those companies that have been muddling through with too few resources, it may be time to take the leap to working with an agency that can help you meet not just the marketing goals but your business goals—and help you be even more profitable. Have questions, or are ready to get started developing a solution for your needs? Give us a call or contact us!

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The Future of Remote Marketing Employment for Agencies https://pwim.com/2019/01/11/the-future-of-remote-marketing-employment-for-agencies/ https://pwim.com/2019/01/11/the-future-of-remote-marketing-employment-for-agencies/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 19:36:26 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14214 Internet marketing has changed significantly over the past decade, but web properties and tactics aren’t the only things that have been transformed by technology. In many segments of the web industry—from software and SAAS companies to marketing agencies and more—going to work used to require office space packed with computers and staffed in person by [...]

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Internet marketing has changed significantly over the past decade, but web properties and tactics aren’t the only things that have been transformed by technology. In many segments of the web industry—from software and SAAS companies to marketing agencies and more—going to work used to require office space packed with computers and staffed in person by programmers, developers, and client-facing marketing professionals. But just as the technology that empowered internet marketing has grown leaps and bounds, so have the opportunities to work from literally anywhere. The future—and present—of internet marketing agencies is a growing trend toward remote work.

Increased Productivity and Efficiency

Employers hesitant to adopt a remote working option (or entire company model) often express concern that employees will be less productive and may take advantage of reduced supervision. Aside from the clear lack of trust that demonstrates, it’s been shown industry-wide to be untrue. Remote workers recognize the great value in the flexibility of telecommuting, and are more productive, more efficient, and often miss less work (due to illness, inclement weather, etc.).

Reduced Overhead

Agencies that only employ remote staff have fewer overhead costs. No mortgages or rental properties, and no office equipment or furniture. Many companies also do not provide remote workers with computer hardware or internet access, but it can be considered as part of a benefits package. On the other hand, employees save significantly on transportation costs, so covering their own equipment is a reasonable tradeoff.

Reduced Environmental Impact

Remote employment reduces a company’s environmental impact, largely by eliminating the daily commute—along with its associated vehicle emissions. The energy consumption of a corporate office space is also eliminated.

Workforce of the Future

Remote employment is growing rapidly and impacts a larger amount of workers than many business owners might imagine. More than 40% of workers spend some time working from home (perhaps a day a week or so, for example), while nearly a third spend full (or near full) time working remotely. As technology continues to develop and working from anywhere becomes not only easier but more desirable, the remote employment model will empower more companies to acquire (and retain) the best candidates for the job while allowing their workforce tremendous flexibility.

Can Improve Family Dynamics

Parents used to have to choose between long hours away from their kids or simply not working at all. Remote work makes it possible to be home with the kids, attend their activities, and maintain a thriving career. But it’s more than physical presence; remote workers avoid the “wasted” time of a commute, can often flex their work hours, and can also experience less stress, which can improve the quality of their family time in addition to the quantity.

Remote employment is the future for many marketing agencies—and a thriving present for many companies now. Remote staff has been very beneficial for PrairieWeb. Could it be right for your company?

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2019 Facebook Updates that Say, “Yes, You Should Still Advertise” https://pwim.com/2019/01/04/2019-facebook-updates-that-say-yes-you-should-still-advertise/ https://pwim.com/2019/01/04/2019-facebook-updates-that-say-yes-you-should-still-advertise/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 19:32:01 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14205 Depending on who you talk to, there are a lot of mixed messages about social media platforms, their longevity, and whether it’s wise to spend your advertising dollars on them. In the center of the bullseye is Facebook, a platform that some love to hate. Stocks are up and down and controversies pop up with [...]

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Depending on who you talk to, there are a lot of mixed messages about social media platforms, their longevity, and whether it’s wise to spend your advertising dollars on them. In the center of the bullseye is Facebook, a platform that some love to hate. Stocks are up and down and controversies pop up with some regularity, so does it warrant a piece of your marketing budget?

While the definitive answer to that question may depend on your specific business and audience, chances are really good that for your business it’s “yes.” And here’s why:

  • Everyone is on it. Frequently it’s argued that Millennials (or the generation after, Gen Z) don’t use Facebook, they use Instagram. But the truth is that 26% of the world is on Facebook (and that’s a lot). However, 68% of the U.S. population actively uses Facebook (that’s a whole lot). So while it’s not literally true that everyone is on Facebook, it still means that there’s a great chance the bulk of your customer base is.
  • Instagram. That “they’re not using Facebook… they’re on Instagram” argument? Guess who owns Instagram. Yup—Facebook. And the default advertising options in Facebook push ads out to Instagram too.
  • Targeting, targeting, targeting. Facebook has a notorious amount of information about their users, rivaling the reach of hyper-targeted direct mail marketing which once ruled our mailboxes. It’s true that following the Russia interference debacle leading up to the 2016 election that Facebook shuttered some of its data partnerships, but it still has a ton of information that can help advertisers reach audiences that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere.
  • Organic can’t compete. It’s not enough to just have a Facebook page for your business (though you should… you do, don’t you?). Organic has had limited reach on Facebook for several years now, so it’s almost guaranteed that your audience will not see every post you publish. You really have to be willing to at least periodically spend some money to be seen on Facebook.

2019 Facebook Updates

On top of these reasons, a number of 2019 platform updates offer a number of benefits to advertisers to make it more compelling.

Advertising Features

  • Shopping within Instagram stories: beyond the Instagram newsfeed is the story feature (which Facebook also offers). Product stickers can now be added in stories to motivate sales within an engaging format.
  • Augmented reality ads: engage consumers with the ability to bring your product (virtually) into their world to try on apparel and accessories, for example.
  • Facebook stories ads: similar to Instagram stories, advertising within this fullscreen immersive format can be very effective.
  • Playable ads: do you offer a game, or have a way to gamify your product or service? This format is a great way to grab customers’ attention and loyalty.
  • Video creation kit: automagically generate a video ad from your image assets.

Page Updates

  • Page recommendations: an update to the reviews feature.
  • Mobile experience: pages have been redesigned on mobile for an optimized experience.

Data, Analytics, and Assets

  • Updated video metrics
  • Brand lift data
  • Value-based lookalike audiences (based on online and offline behavior)
  • Minimum ROAS bidding

No platform is perfect, but Facebook is far from dead or irrelevant. In fact, advertising spend continues to be strong—especially as it is heavily bolstered by rapid growth in Instagram spending. Like other advertising platforms, it can be complex and the data obscure, but that’s where a great agency partner with Facebook advertising expertise can be a tremendous help. Give us a call or contact us to discuss how advertising on Facebook and/or Instagram can be part of your marketing mix to help you reach your business goals—and gain loyal customers.

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SEO 2019: What You Need to Know https://pwim.com/2019/01/02/seo-2019-what-you-need-to-know/ https://pwim.com/2019/01/02/seo-2019-what-you-need-to-know/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 16:51:14 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14201 For many years, SEO seemed to be an ever-changing target for website owners. “Expert” recommendations came fast and furious in an ongoing effort to stay ahead of “the man” and game the system. It’s been years (literally) since anyone in good conscience recommended some of the shady tactics of the past—black hat backlink building, link [...]

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For many years, SEO seemed to be an ever-changing target for website owners. “Expert” recommendations came fast and furious in an ongoing effort to stay ahead of “the man” and game the system. It’s been years (literally) since anyone in good conscience recommended some of the shady tactics of the past—black hat backlink building, link farms, paid placements, etc.—and “content is king” has been firmly established as the preferred approach.

So what will be different in 2019?

Truth be told, not much. High quality (shareable) content and great site structure will remain the foundation. But as with any new year, it’s a good time to turn over a new leaf, right some wrongs, and get your website shipshape.

Meet User Need and Intent

How well do you know your audience? As a business owner, you know how important it is to understand your buyer (don’t you?), but depending on your business model, site visitors can be different from buyers through other channels (especially if you have a physical location). Use data from past sales, Google analytics, customer service interactions, and any other resources you have to continually improve your understanding of who visits your site, where they are in the buying cycle, and how you can best serve them in order to convert them—through both content and user experience.

Mobile-First

Many site owners dragged their feet on mobile adoption for a number of reasons: the cost of development, “my users aren’t on mobile,” or just plain obstinance. But as of about 2015, anyone serious about competing in search had to embrace mobile or risk losing out to forward-thinking competitors. But a healthy SEO-friendly site is more than just readable on mobile, it is designed for an optimal experience on mobile first, with desktop accoutrements being, essentially, the cherry on top. Roughly 2/3 of internet visitors across all industries view sites on mobile. If your site isn’t optimized yet, it’s time to catch up.

It’s Not Just About Google

While it certainly feels like Google is the only search engine out there, there are competitors that you should at least pay attention to—including traditional search engines like Bing, but also other platforms that have practically become search engines: YouTube, Amazon, Pinterest, and even Facebook. Beyond that, are your customers’ needs dictating that you embrace other platforms, such as native mobile apps? Be where your consumers are, and Google will notice (even if it’s not on their property).

Schema / Structured Data

Schema (also called structured data or microformats) are HTML tags that markup special kinds of content. It signals to search engines that the content within matches a common pattern, such as:

  • Books
  • Movies
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Events
  • Organizations or People
  • Products
  • Ratings

The list of recognized schema has grown quite large, so anywhere you have content on your site that fits into one of these recognized patterns it makes sense to use the full schema markup to give your site an SEO advantage.

Be the (Recognized) Expert

We all like to think we’re the expert (in our own minds), but on the internet it really only counts if your expertise is recognized off-site. Build authority and trustworthiness by providing the best expert content you can (either with in-house writing or by contracting an expert) and building your audience around your expertise.

Technical SEO

Speed is everything to on-the-go users. Your desktop bells and whistles may be worth waiting for (though your users may not agree), but they certainly can bring a mobile view to a screeching halt. Invest in optimizing speed, script serving, and even implementing Progressive Web Apps (PWA) this year or in the near future as greater adoption is on the horizon.

Conversion Optimization

Once your visitors drill down to your call to action, don’t make it hard for them to pull the trigger. Optimize your product, service, checkout, and squeeze pages to reduce resistance or friction, and encourage conversion.

Voice Is Coming

Experts claimed mobile would overtake desktop for several years before it finally did, and now voice search is getting the same treatment. It’s not likely to explode in 2019, but it’s already here and poised to grow both in search engines and smart devices, so now is the time to prepare. Optimize answers to what, where, when, and how regarding your company, product, or service with brief phrases that can be picked up through AI (artificial intelligence).

2019 is a great year to continue with your solid SEO foundation, and also a perfect time to pivot if you’ve allowed your site to lag. Need help planning your SEO approach? Give us a call or contact us!

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Congress Doesn’t Know How Search Engines Work… Do You? https://pwim.com/2018/12/13/congress-doesnt-know-how-search-engines-work-do-you/ https://pwim.com/2018/12/13/congress-doesnt-know-how-search-engines-work-do-you/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 21:46:11 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14197 Earlier this fall, we talked about President Trump taking issue with Google’s search engine results (and whether or not his accusations could be accurate). This week, the issue went before Congress in an escalation of the concern over Google’s political bias in search engine results. The takeaway: government leaders (including congress) don’t understand how search [...]

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Earlier this fall, we talked about President Trump taking issue with Google’s search engine results (and whether or not his accusations could be accurate). This week, the issue went before Congress in an escalation of the concern over Google’s political bias in search engine results.

The takeaway: government leaders (including congress) don’t understand how search engines work. But as a business owner, do you? And should you be concerned that lawmakers regulating such corporations are so uninformed?

There is no doubt that companies like Google have incredible power and have amassed a collection of user data we can only begin to imagine the depths of. But a focus on search engine results may miss the point, primarily because of what a search engine is not. And it distracts from the real effects search engine skewing can have on small businesses.

Search engines aren’t encyclopedias.

The conversation on Capitol Hill focused on conservative vs. liberal news sources (mainstream or partisan) and how they show up in search. But search engines aren’t encyclopedias delivering (relatively) dispassionate news to educate the masses. Rather, search engines can only draw from the content available to them, and much of that content is also not dispassionate or completely unbiased, which leads to the next point.

Search engines are the sum of human-generated content served up by algorithms.

The point is two-fold: humans always bring their own bias to their content. It doesn’t mean that people always have ill intentions, but just that it’s rare to find fully objective information. Plus, the more emotionally charged the topic is, the greater the bias that is likely to come through.

Search is a popularity contest.

The goal of Google’s (and competitors’) search algorithm(s) is to deliver results that meet users’ needs for information, and the way they determine what information meets that criteria is by a number of quality signals, including content that is original, fresh, frequently shared, and visited often. Significant traffic and “social proof” from sharing don’t directly indicate whether content is true, accurate, or unbiased. It just means it’s popular, because ultimately search is a popularity contest. Does that mean that the search algorithm or the actions of search engines are biased? Not necessarily, and in fact algorithms are more likely to be agnostic of bias in the search for “satisfied” customers who found what they were looking for.

Popularity doesn’t just apply to news and commentary, and that’s why business owners need at least a general understanding of search—and to partner with an experienced and knowledgeable SEO agency that stays current and avoids black hat or spammy behavior. Small businesses can work very hard on SEO (search engine optimization) only to be overshadowed by the big brands in their online niche’s popularity contest. Without informed strategies, it can be tough to compete.

Know and serve your audience… and aim to do both very well.

The best way for your business to compete is to have a deep understanding of your audience and their needs, and to serve them very well. Give them a great user experience on your website. Provide all the information they need to decide to work with you or buy your products. Be available and understanding in all customer service. Keep in contact to nurture customer relationships. Engage with your customers on other platforms where they spend their time (like Facebook, Instagram, email, etc.). And do all of this within your niche; you may not be able to compete with the biggest players in your industry, but you have a unique offering that they don’t—your niche. Focus on that, and being stellar at it.

Support fair competition and accountability in the digital marketplace.

Even with your best marketing efforts, there’s no guarantee that methods today will continue to work far into the future. There is simply too much change online. Our company has been at this since the early days—1997—and we’ve seen a lot come and go, from website platforms to browsers to Google algorithms and rules. Whether you think search bias is real or not, you can count on change, which is why it’s also important that lawmakers support and create laws that keep the internet healthy. Keep your representatives and senators accountable to be informed, make regulations, and enact legislation that support a fair and sustainable internet marketplace—based on facts and not suspicion, rumor, or unfounded accusations. Have questions or need help with your business’s digital marketing? Give us a call or contact us!

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Marketing Effectively to Different Generations https://pwim.com/2018/11/23/marketing-effectively-to-different-generations/ https://pwim.com/2018/11/23/marketing-effectively-to-different-generations/#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 14:34:27 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14188 Each generation is commonly known by some stereotype, rather than as the diverse groups they are, or what really creates a “generation.” Based on common life experiences and often marked by either a major social or historic event, the primary generations of concern to businesses marketing their products or services are: Gen Z (“Generation Z”) [...]

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Each generation is commonly known by some stereotype, rather than as the diverse groups they are, or what really creates a “generation.” Based on common life experiences and often marked by either a major social or historic event, the primary generations of concern to businesses marketing their products or services are:

  • Gen Z (“Generation Z”) – born since 2000
  • Millennials (“Generation Y”) – born between 1980-2000
  • Gen Xers (“Generation X”) – born between 1960-1980
  • Baby Boomers”) – born between 1943-1960

Currently, the oldest generation is the “Builders” (born before 1943) but for marketing purposes we’ll concentrate on their children (Boomers) and younger.

Generation Z

While some older generations may think of anyone younger than Generation X as “Millennials,” there is actually a younger generation. Gen Z has never known an analog world and they are immersed in digital multimedia. Visual advertising, interactive elements, and instant access are important to them—and effective. As the oldest of this generation prepares to head to college, their buying power will grow immensely in the next few years.

Millennials

The generation born within the 20 years leading up to Y2K is Generation Y, or more commonly, the Millennials. These aren’t “those kids” anymore. Rather, they are the young professionals in their 20s and 30s. Some are still in entry level positions, but older Millennials can be found in management and executive levels. Millennials are also generally “digital natives,” but their age and experience has moved them from simply surfing the web for entertainment and cat videos. They are idealistic, socially conscious, want to make a difference in the world, and reward authenticity. They respond to influencers, and value reviews and peer recommendations. Social proof combined with loyalty engagement are effective marketing approaches for Millennials. As one of the largest generations with significant consumer wealth, Millennials are often discussed, but can be underestimated.

Generation X

Once known as rebels in their youth, Gen X is now middle-aged, with the oldest in their 50s, and the youngest in their 40s. As children of the ‘80s, they grew up consuming content, and do the same online. But they are hopeful (if skeptical), and are looking for valuable offers that will not only meet their needs but even lead to transformation. Effective approaches with Generation X include discounts and coupons (they’re known for being savvy savers), lifestyle benefits (they appreciate convenience and things that make life better), charitable tie-ins (they value doing good), and even direct mail (they’re old enough to be nostalgic for old fashioned snail mail).

Baby Boomers

Once the largest generation, Baby Boomers have now been eclipsed by Millennials in population, but they are still a critical segment of consumers. They’re surprisingly tech-engaged, and have accumulated a lot of savings, accounting for half of all consumer buying! Social media for Boomers is, well, social—catching up with grandkids, friends, and past acquaintances—so tread lightly on the hard sell on such platforms. But they are very loyal consumers (think loyalty programs) and respond well to upsells (recognizing the value of getting more bang for their buck). But that doesn’t mean they are only looking for discounts; Boomers actually want to enjoy the finer things with their hard-earned wealth, so it’s worth marketing full-price and premium products (and those upsells). Among the digitally-connected generations, Baby Boomers are the most likely to respond to more traditional (offline) marketing methods, so consider a mix of approaches when planning your campaigns.

The Right Mix

Depending on the appeal of your product or service, you may be able to focus on one or two generational groups. But if your product or service has mass appeal, you can’t afford to ignore the differences, even if you can’t afford to hyper-customize your campaigns. Some insight into how the various generations respond to marketing and messaging will help you to find common ground, avoid pitfalls, and optimize your dollars.

For help crafting your marketing to reach your ideal audience, give us a call or contact us!

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Template Website Copy Is Duplicate Content… that Google Doesn’t Like https://pwim.com/2018/11/18/template-website-copy-is-duplicate-content-that-google-doesnt-like/ https://pwim.com/2018/11/18/template-website-copy-is-duplicate-content-that-google-doesnt-like/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 04:39:29 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14178 Building a small business website can be challenging, especially if your business is new, or you just finally decided to go “digital.” Shortcuts are tempting, so you were delighted to find a company that promised you that: They know and understand your industry. They can make the process super simple. They’ll provide you with a [...]

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Building a small business website can be challenging, especially if your business is new, or you just finally decided to go “digital.” Shortcuts are tempting, so you were delighted to find a company that promised you that:

  • They know and understand your industry.
  • They can make the process super simple.
  • They’ll provide you with a “template” of content so you don’t have to write a thing!

Sounds terrific, right? Except you’ve now got a much bigger problem than you had when you didn’t even have a website. You’ve now got (basically) the same website as everyone else in your industry that this company has ever worked with. And that means duplicate content.

The way that Google and other search engines work is by matching up website content with what searchers are looking for. But there’s so much content on the internet that Google has to prioritize which content they’ll suggest as the result of a search. “Good quality” content might not be enough. Where there is lots of competition, what rises to the top is what has authority—which can come from how many other sites link to the content, how much it’s been shared or interacted with on social media, and (most important for this discussion) who published it first.

If you have a business website full of cookie-cutter content, you’re not the first to publish it, and you’ll suffer on Google because of it. At best, you’ll be no more relevant than your competitors. At worst, your site could be flagged and penalized by Google for plagiarism.

Why Your Website Should Have Unique Content

Avoid Search Engine Trouble

The best way to avoid a problem with duplicate content is to not have any. We’ve been taught since primary school not to copy and paste from previously published work, but sometimes we forget that the rules apply to what’s on the web. People “republish” blog posts, photos, and other content all the time from other sources—but it’s still wrong. Buying a template of business copy can actually be legal (depending on the licensing of the content), but (1) will Google see it that way? and (2) why risk it?

Stand Out from the Crowd

Even if you can get away with templatized content and achieve modest success with your site, there’s still no advantage to sounding like everyone else. Using your own company “voice” will make you stand out. If everyone is using the same verbiage and targets the same persona, you’ll be a breath of fresh air by addressing them online the same way you talk to them in person.

Tell Your Unique Story

No company just pops up out of a vacuum. You have a unique story to tell. What motivated you to start your business? What inspires you? What need are you trying to meet? How are you doing it differently from everyone else? People don’t do business with businesses. They do business with people, so speak to them in that way. This too will set you apart from all the other cookie-cutter copy on the web.

Help! I’m Not a Writer!

Business owners are tempted by these template promises because it’s easy—especially if you don’t consider yourself a writer. But there are better alternatives to sounding like everyone else even if you’re not a wordsmith. The good news is there are people like us who are! You still have a unique audience, voice, and story, and we can learn that information from you, build an outline, and put pen to paper (or pixel to screen). You can have original content without the stress of composing it, and also without sacrificing your own voice.

Need help creating original content for your website? Check out our content creation services, give us a call, or contact us!

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Web Marketing Agency Partnership https://pwim.com/2018/11/12/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-web-marketing-agency-partnership/ https://pwim.com/2018/11/12/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-web-marketing-agency-partnership/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 19:49:45 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14143 For many businesses, contracting with an internet marketing agency is a necessity because the web is constantly changing and keeping up can be overwhelming. “They’re the experts.” This can be true regardless of business size: for the small business with a local reach or service area, and also for the multinational corporation serving a varied [...]

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For many businesses, contracting with an internet marketing agency is a necessity because the web is constantly changing and keeping up can be overwhelming. “They’re the experts.” This can be true regardless of business size: for the small business with a local reach or service area, and also for the multinational corporation serving a varied audience. But outsourcing marketing doesn’t mean handing over the keys to your web properties and data, never to look back again. You’ll only get the most out of your web marketing agency partner if you’re an active participant in the process.

Understand what your agency offers

Agencies come in a variety of flavors, from full-service to search engine marketing (SEO and PPC), to inbound/content marketing agencies, to local search optimization, and any number of specializations. Depending on your needs, internal capabilities, and budget, you may choose to outsource the majority of your marketing, or select one or more services a la carte. But because the web changes frequently, it’s possible your agency partner with change or add services from time-to-time, so it’s important to stay aware of current services and why you may consider modifying your marketing mix.

Set clear goals and define “success”

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish—measurably—with your marketing, your agency certainly won’t either. And even if you have a good handle on your goals, don’t make your marketing agency guess what you’re looking for. Clearly communicate the goals and how you define “success” so that all efforts are aimed in the right direction. It also helps the agency understand how their performance will be evaluated.

Outline your “whos” and “hows”

Some companies have internal staff who will handle parts of the marketing mix and only outsource some marketing channels (such as SEO or PPC). Others employ the services of an agency for most or all marketing efforts. To get the most out of your partnership, clearly outline:

  • All marketing efforts in use (internal and external, including offline).
  • Who is responsible for managing various marketing channels?
  • Who is the contact person (or persons) inside your company?
  • Who is the contact person (or persons) outside your company?
  • How will assets (documents, images, billing information, etc.) be provided/accessed?
  • How will marketing approaches be measured, and by whom?

Keep your agency partner in the loop

Offline and offsite activities can have a huge impact on other marketing channels, but if your marketing agency isn’t involved in those projects, they need to be kept in the loop. If you handle any of the following in-house, or outsource to additional partners, tell your marketing agency about activities like:

  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Social media promotions
  • Tradeshows
  • Print advertising
  • Media coverage
  • Local events, promotions, or coupons

It’s especially important to talk with your agency, as internet marketing professionals, about any campaign designed to drive traffic to your website. They can help you set up tracking for email or offline promotions so that those efforts can be tracked effectively through promo codes, custom URLs, or direct analytics integration. Keeping everyone in the loop is a proactive (rather than reactive) approach that helps you make good business and marketing decisions, and reduces potential data loss and the need for correction after-the-fact.

Follow your agency’s advice (or accept the risks)

You’ve hired your agency because “they’re the experts.” If they indeed are the experts, it’s important that you take their advice as much as possible. Their success is dependent on your success, so they’re not intending to lead you astray. While you may not be able to apply every recommendation (due to budget, decision-maker issues, etc.), if you regularly ignore their advice you’re wasting their time—and your budget! You’ll also not get the results they’re working hard to achieve. If, however, you don’t trust their advice… why are they your partner? Choose a partner you trust, and then empower them to do their job (and get you customers).

Actively learn

Just because you trust your agency doesn’t mean you should check yourself out of the marketing process—and principles. You are the expert in your business, and should be a resource for your agency so that they can make educated decisions about promoting you. Further, you can learn from your interaction with your agency, and make the most of the opportunity to educate yourself about current issues in internet marketing. It will help you to ask better questions, get better answers, and not become so dependent on a marketing partner that you feel trapped.

Measure results

Since you set up data tracking (you did, didn’t you?) at the beginning of the relationship (or beforehand, if migrating from another agency or an in-house marketing person), you can now use those resources to measure the results of the marketing efforts. For greatest success, provide your marketing agency with information they don’t have direct access to (results from offline events or phone sales, for example). And when your agency compiles and provides you with a monthly report (they do, don’t they?), be sure to read it, look for key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI).

A skilled marketing agency is an excellent partner in building and growing your business, but they can’t work in a vacuum. Set your agency up for success in the relationship, and they’ll be a profit center for you for years to come!

To discuss your options for internet marketing services, give us a call or contact us!

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8 Tips for Impactful Nonprofit Marketing https://pwim.com/2018/11/01/8-tips-for-impactful-nonprofit-marketing/ https://pwim.com/2018/11/01/8-tips-for-impactful-nonprofit-marketing/#respond Thu, 01 Nov 2018 18:57:49 +0000 https://pwim.com/?p=14130 To some extent, marketing is marketing, no matter the business or organization, or product or service. But what makes an exceptional marketing partner is someone who understands not only the (fairly universal) principles of marketing, but also the unique needs and tactics of specific industries. In nonprofit marketing, this is particularly critical, especially as the [...]

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To some extent, marketing is marketing, no matter the business or organization, or product or service. But what makes an exceptional marketing partner is someone who understands not only the (fairly universal) principles of marketing, but also the unique needs and tactics of specific industries. In nonprofit marketing, this is particularly critical, especially as the margin for error is much smaller—with dollars, stakeholders, supporters, the public, and even the government. The financial, emotional, and manpower investments people make in nonprofits can make the work more challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. To make the most of your marketing efforts and inspire action from your prospective donors and volunteers, check out these 8 tips.

Know your donors

While there might be some guesswork early on in the life of a nonprofit, you’ll never reach your impact potential without understanding who your donors are and what makes their heart beat for your mission. Using real data and information from your donors, website and social visitors, and those who interact with your organization, develop a “persona”—a representation of your ideal donor—and craft your communication to that representation.

Show and tell your story

Numbers don’t drive emotional response like story does. And as important as words are, photos and videos stir and motivate exponentially more. Use high-quality images and videos of your organization’s activities and donor/recipient testimonials, display data in infographics to communicate statistics visually, and stay connected and in front of your audience with social formats like Instagram (photos and videos) and Facebook—including live videos.

Understand the motivation of giving

If you comprehend why—and when—people are more likely to give, based on the psychology of giving, you’ll be more effective not only in crafting your message, but timing its delivery.

Maximize the value of email

Email marketing remains one of the most effective methods for nurturing and expanding your audience. Your list is an incredibly valuable asset, so it’s important to make good use of available email marketing resources. First, always make sure to reach out to new subscribers right away to show your appreciation for the connection and permission to interact with them. It’s also a great opportunity to craft a short series of messages to onboard them with your organization, including more information about what you do, and how they can give financially or volunteer their time. You can also get better results from your list by segmenting by interest and behaviors so that messages are much more specific and therefore effective.

Optimize for mobile

Your website should be mobile responsive so that it offers a great user experience on any device. But don’t forget about your emails. Design emails for excellent readability on a mobile device; it’s even more important that they are mobile-readable than that they look pretty on a desktop or laptop because 2/3 of all emails are opened on mobile!

Treat each social media platform uniquely

Be selective about the social media platforms you use and remember that each may have a unique audience. You don’t have to be on every platform, but you should be everywhere that is important to your ideal audience. Make use of data and reporting features on each platform and aim to understand the unique characteristics and needs of each audience as well as the communication formats that are most effective for each platform.

Embrace “old school” correspondence

All the automation and personalization technologies in the world can’t make up for the emotional payoff of receiving a handwritten note of thanks. Take the time with personal touches like pen-on-paper to nurture and retain your donors. It’s a simple gesture, but very meaningful. Your mission is likely very personal, and your interaction with donors can be enhanced with an equally personal interaction.

The stakes are high for nonprofit marketing, as the ROI can literally change the world. You need a marketing partner on your side that is experienced with nonprofits and understands the value of giving back to transform our world. Ready to get started? Give us a call or contact us!

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