9 Trends + Tips for Cost-effective Digital Marketing in 2013

By Steve Lubahn, Vice President of Client Marketing Services at Vision Design Group, Winona, MN

Steve Lubahn, Vice President of Client Marketing Services at Vision Design Group, Winona, MN

It’s that time of year again, to look back on how we’ve spent a year in anticipation for improving our businesses in the year ahead.

Working closely with more than 250 businesses at our marketing firm, Vision Design Group, I looked back at 2012 to find five key marketing trends that can help direct your marketing efforts in the coming year:

  • Continued shift of traditional print and advertising budget to digital marketing. Many clients now have digital marketing budgets that exceed 50% of their total marketing budget.
  • Website redesigns are becoming more frequent. Where businesses once updated their website every 5-7 years, they’re now finding it necessary to update every 3-5 years to keep up with online trends, updated information and implement new technology to serve their customers. Remember when we used to come out with a new brochure every six months, or an annual catalog? The ability to make on-demand changes to your website comes with the responsibility to deliver a website that keeps pace with changes in your product and service offerings, as well as changes in internet technology.
  • Major increase in requests for mobile optimized websites. Most of our clients are now seeing mobile traffic ranging from 10% to over 30% of their total website visits. It’s no longer optional to consider both the tablet and smartphone device user experience on your website. If you are updating your website, strongly consider a responsive design that will adjust the page layout based on the size of the display, from desktop PC to tablet to smartphone. (See the article Do I Need A Mobile App for My Business? for examples of several types of mobile website optimization.)
  • Sharp increase in the number of clients using paid search.Clients who implement cost per click (CPC) paid search advertising on Google and other search engines are typically seeing increase of 5% to over 70% in website traffic. In addition, paid search traffic often results in conversion rates higher than website traffic sources.
  • Increase in commercial photography. Companies are choosing higher quality photography not just for printed materials, but also to improve their internet presence. Fewer websites use stock photos and now favor real-life images of company-related people and settings.

Based on this ongoing migration from traditional media to internet-delivered media, how can you cost-effectively improve your digital marketing efforts in 2013? Here are a few ideas that you can implement quickly to improve the performance of your website and increase sales leads.

4 Tips for Cost-effective Digital Marketing in 2013

  • Claim and optimize your Google+ Local listing. Google and other search engines are placing a heavy emphasis on local search. If you haven’t already, claim your Google+ Local (previously Google Places) listing. It’s a free and simple action you can take immediately. If you have multiple locations or branches, optimize the listing for each location. Once you claim your listing, add keywords related to your business and services to improve your search rankings. You can also customize your listing with your logo, images, business hours and products and services. Also consider claiming and updating your listings on Bing Local, LinkedIn, Manta and other popular business directories.
  • Spend more time on email marketing. Though not as glitzy as social media and other newer forms of digital marketing, email marketing to a solid in-house list continues to be one of the most cost-effective means of communicating with and selling to your customer base. Experiment with frequency and the call to action. A good mailing list can maintain open rates of 20%-30%, and many of our e-commerce clients enjoy an increase in orders after every email they send. Be sure to clean out bounced or abandoned emails to improve your email deliverability rates. For more information on email marketing trends, advantages, and tips, see our blog post Email - still your most effective marketing media.
  • Improve your website’s organic search results. If you want to improve your organic search engine optimization (SEO), start with making sure your page titles are unique on each page, and align with target keyword phrases on each page. For best results, try to limit page titles to about 70 characters maximum, and page descriptions to about 125 characters. Most search engines place little or no weight on the keyword metatags, so do not spend much time trying to tweak your keyword metatag. Looking for ideas on what keywords to focus on? Review your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools reports for keywords and phrases that are currently driving traffic to your website, and focus on those that are resulting in orders or other forms of conversion.
  • Consider adding live chat to your website. For anyone over 40, it is hard to image the need for live chat on a website. If you have high school or college age children, you know their cell phones are rarely used for voice communication, but they use them constantly for texting and sending messages via social media. Many businesses are finding implementation of live chat increases their ability to interact with potential customers, particularly those in younger generations. Live chat can also improve your customer service with more timely interaction and can often reduce the time per support case for your customer service staff. Live chat is quick and cost-effective to implement; for instance, a platform called SnapEngage can be implemented with up to four customer service agents at less than $50 per month. For more information on Live Chat, see the Vision Design Group blog article Use Live Chat To Increase Leads and Customer Interaction.

Steve Lubahn is Vice President of Client Marketing Services at Vision Design Group in Winona, Minnesota. Please visit their Web site at www.visiondesign.com. Contact Steve by phone at 507-453-0767, or by email at slubahn@visiondesign.com.

Become a Google Author

Google does a lot of things, not the least of which is providing the world’s most popular search engine for people to conduct their internet searches. One thing Google has recently released is something called Google Authorship. If you are an author and publish your work on the internet, in a blog for example, you can become a Google author. Becoming a Google author means that your reputation as a writer will influence your content within the Google search results.

Several factors influence your reputation and rank as a Google author: your interaction within Google+, the authority of the site where you publish, your outside authority ranking and more. Maximizing your authority as a Google author can have a great effect on the placement of the pieces you write, and hence how many people see those pieces.

Forbes Magazine did a great story about becoming a Google author and its new Author Rank. Click here to read the full story.

Keyword Research - Getting Started

If you have a Web site for your business, you have surely heard of keywords. Keywords are your connection between what people are looking for on the internet, and your Web site. (Or in the case that nobody is finding you, it’s not quite a connection just yet, but it could be!) You might be asking yourself, “Why would I waste my time researching keywords? Why are they so important?” Well, the answer is that people type in words on the internet when they are trying to find something. Each search engine has its own “algorithm”: their own proprietary program and method for finding the most relevant web sites based on words that are typed in. If you aren’t using the keywords on your Web site that people are typing in, your web site probably won’t be found.

You might be completely surprised when you begin researching keywords, that the things you thought people were searching for are not actually the words people are using. Give the Google Keyword Tool a try and see for yourself. Like so many other tools Google provides, their keyword research tool is extremely helpful and is 100% free. Type in a keyword (which can be more than one actual word) that you think people are searching to find your Web site. If you are not signed in to Google, you will need to fill in the code to prove you are a human and then click on the ‘search’ button. Then you will see how many times per month that keyword is searched for globally and also locally (within the U.S.). You can also see the competition, which refers to advertiser competition within Google AdWords paid advertising. In addition, Google will give you a long list of similar keywords you might be interested in, along with the data for each of those terms. Note: the default option for this search tool is “broad match”. This means that the numbers you see come from searches done on your term and its related terms. If you want to get numbers only for that actual exact search term, click on the ‘Exact’ option on the left-hand side, and uncheck the ‘Broad’ option.

Just click on the link below to get to the tool.

Google Keyword Tool

So, what do you do with this information? Knowing which keywords to use is a good first step in your Web site being found, a.k.a. Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”). Be sure you are using the right keywords on your Web site, in natural way rather than planting them in here and there. Keyword research is absolutely necessary for your Web site to be found!

Internet Article Marketing: What Is It and How to Get Started

Internet article marketing is a marketing activity, whereby you promote products and services by writing articles, and sharing them on article submission Web sites. When you submit articles on the Web at article submission sites, they are indexed by the search engines and found by people searching for what you are writing about. This brings clicks to your Web site, and also positions you as a leader. It also helps your own Web site’s popularity by providing a back link to your Web site. Here are a few tips on how to get started with internet article marketing.

  1. Choose a topic and focus on a keyword.

    You might be asking yourself, “What on earth will I write about?” Don’t worry; nearly everybody starts out by asking that question! But really, you or somebody at your company has a whole wealth of information, just waiting to be shared with those who need it and search for it out on the Web. Think about what your customers or prospects would truly want to know or learn about. If you own a catering business, you could write about ten ways to plan the perfect gathering. If you have a heating and air conditioning business, you could write about how to drastically reduce your heating bill in the winter. You know what your customers would find useful, so write about that! Don’t try to write a novel; people lose interest quickly on the Web! So choose a fairly narrow topic: perhaps a keyword you know is popular and that you already focus on for a page on your Web site. (Note: “keyword” in this case can mean a set of 2-3 words, such as “accounting software”, etc.)

  2. Make it about 500 words.

    You definitely want the search engines to index and ‘like’ your articles. And these days, search engines (and particularly Google), don’t want to see a puny, short blurb, but instead an article with some real meat to it. Making the article 500 words, and surely no less than 400 words, gives your article a better chance at ranking with the search engines. (Tip: many article submission sites do actually have a minimum word count for this reason, and won’t allow shorter articles than their minimum.)

  3. No sales pitches.

    While it might be tempting to write articles all about why your product is so great, just don’t go there! People would much rather read about something useful than a sales pitch. So instead of writing about yourself (or your company’s product features), choose a topic that could actually be helpful to your reader.

  4. Try ezinearticles.com

    There is a wide variety of article submission sites on the internet, and you can submit your articles to most of them for free. I suggest starting out by signing up for an account with ezinearticles.com, and submitting a few articles at their Web site. Their tools make it easy to submit your articles, and ensure your keyword density and word count are optimum for the search engines. Plus you can easily access great statistics once your articles are live, and you also get a monthly report showing views, click through rates, and more for your articles.

Internet article marketing can bring traffic to your site and can also help in the search engine optimization for your Web site. Use these tips and start cranking out that first article today!

Three Ways to Use Facebook for Your Company

You’ve probably noticed a lot of people talking about Facebook. No matter where you go, it seems like somebody has something to say about Facebook! But let’s just say you have set up your fan page and now the crickets are chirping. Now what? There are some things you can do that your fans would appreciate! And if they like what they see, your fans will share it, too. Then the friends of your fans will see it, and so on! This is when your Facebook page can really pay off. Give these tips a try and your social networking could really take off.

Give special offers.

People always love a good deal, and they especially love it when it’s exclusive! Reward your Facebook fans by giving them a special deal nobody else can get. And don’t give out the samples from the back room, make it something they really WANT. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but make it worth talking about.

Spread industry news.

If you are an industry leader, you surely receive word about things happening in your industry. Your customers would surely like to be in the loop on what is going on also. Give them a tidbit of information they crave by posting your inside knowledge on Facebook! Your customers will love it, and you will position yourself as an industry leader.

Share customer comments.

Has a customer given you a nice compliment lately? Take those comments and spread the word by posting them on Facebook! Posting the comments and thanking your customer for them on your Facebook page gives others a chance to chime in as well. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your customer to be sure they approve of having their comments posted on your Facebook page.

These are just a few of the ways you can take action and get your customers talking about your company and your products!