A New Year’s Business Check-up

As 2013 comes to a close, we want to wish you and yours all the very best for the upcoming 2014. It’s been a great year here at AutoWeb Technologies and we’re just so fortunate to be able to do what we do here everyday. Thank you again for all you do for us as customers and friends.

At this time each year most people and companies find themselves taking inventory of where they’ve been and where they’d like to go in the coming new year. The great thing about life is that it’s never to late to make personal and professional changes that we’ve been thinking about. Whether it be a living a healthier lifestyle, earning more income, or learning a new skill, the time is never better than the present.

The same can be said for your business. What kind of year did you have? Are you satisfied with your revenue? Did you hit your goals?

For us, personally, we’re focusing on continuing to grow our sales team and project management staff in 2014. In mid-2013 we ceased offering “custom” web applications, free email, and entry level SEO plans and instead decided to put all of our focus into our core services such as:

  • Custom WordPress web sites
  • Magento E-Commerce web sites
  • Premium SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services
  • PPC (Pay Per Click) Campaign Management

We did this so that we could deliver the highest quality of predictable, repeatable services each and every time to our customers and not lose focus on trying to service everyone. The result was high customer satisfaction, good profitability, and a business that we could all be proud to be a part of.

What are your goals for this upcoming year? Would you like more sales?

Here is a useful checklist you can use to make sure that you’re on track to meet your business goals in 2014:

Sales and Marketing

  • When a lead comes into your business, do you know where it came from?
  • Once a lead arrives, is it tracked and serviced in a way that is prompt and repeatable?
  • Are you measuring return on investment from your lead flow? In other words, do you know what is working and what isn’t in regards to your marketing dollars being spent?
  • Are you building a database of all leads that come into your business and marketing to these leads each and every month to help establish familiarity and trust? Remember, not all in-bound leads will buy from you initially. Groom your leads over time and they may become customers or referrals at some point.

Web Site & Web Marketing

  • Does your web site have an updated, professional appearance that is easy to manage, easy to navigate, and easy for a visitor to take action?
  • Are you updating your web site regularly with new content and/or blog posts?
  • Where do you rank in the search engines with your core group of keywords?
  • Are you being proactive with your SEO and/or PPC to ensure that Google finds your site relevant and boosts your rankings?

Deliverables

  • Is your product or service experience the same each and every time?
  • Do you have established policies and procedures for your employees to work with that are easy to follow and allow them to be successful?
  • Are you delivering on your promises and “WOWING” your customers?
  • Are customers giving you good testimonials and referrals?
  • Does your company have an easy way for customers to communicate product and service support issues, problems, feedback, etc.?
  • What can you do to improve your overall customer service experience?
  • Would you buy from you?

Product and Service Development

  • Are you spending time each week or month keeping up to date on the latest developments in your industry?
  • Do you keep a watchful eye on your competitors to see what they’re doing and how you can learn or improve from them? What are they doing that you shouldn’t do?
  • What do your customers really need and want? Are you developing the products and services that really matter to them?

Taking action on one or more of these items is a big step. It takes time, but remember that there is no time like NOW. Your business, your employees, and most importantly…your customers will thank you for it!

Have a very safe and Happy New Year!!

-The AutoWeb Technologies Team

Social Media Grows Stronger Than Ever.

From Fast Company’s list of Ten Surprising Social Media Statistics that will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy:

  • The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket – impressive numbers against the prevailing idea that social media is “just for teenagers.”
  • YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-24 than any cable network – If you’ve been putting off adding video to your strategy, now’s the time to give it a go.
  • Every second, two new members join LinkedIn – Make sure you share consistently to your LinkedIn company page and profile by, for example, scheduling your posts.
  • 25% of smartphone owners ages 18-44 say they can’t recall the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them – there are probably very few times when they’re not connected to the web in some way and using social media.

Regarding that last point, social media marketing, local SEO and email marketing will help you get the attention of those mobile device junkies!

Click here to read the complete list of Surprising Social Media Statistics.

The Video Advertising Advantage

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, online video ads have a greater impact than TV ads and they are better at finding the hardest-to-reach audiences.

Two key findings:

  • Younger TV viewers, the coveted 18-34 demo, continue to grow their time spent with online video.
  • Online video ads score higher impact than TV ads on Nielsen measured metrics. Metrics are general recall, brand recall, message recall and ad likeability.

Click here to read the full report.

Advertisers can use the dynamic Google Adwords PPC platform to place video ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network. AdWords for video is a video-specific campaign management tool within AdWords. With TrueView cost-per-view ads, you only pay when a viewer actively selects your video, or chooses to continue watching a video when it first loads.

Video content for TrueView ads is hosted on YouTube. Google recently added a new video ad performance measure, Earned Actions, that reports how many people liked your video, stayed on your YouTube channel to watch more videos, subscribed to your channel, added your video to a playlist, or shared your video after watching the ad.

Keyword Encryption and You (an update)

As we’ve been reporting recently, keyword encryption means that Google will no longer reveal the keywords that sent traffic to websites from search queries. By the end of 2013, Google intends to encrypt all keyword search activity, with the exception of clicks on Adwords PPC ads.

Much of SEO reporting is based on Google keyword traffic data. Currently, Google has 68% of search engine marketshare; in comparison, the other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, etc.) share a meager 32%. Hence, there is no alternative to the prolific “keyword traffic data” that used to be available from Google. This makes data interpretation and metrics an even trickier area now.

In the absence of Google keyword traffic data, you can expect SEO reporting (if you’re a premium SEO customer of ours) to now employ other pertinent measurements, such as organic traffic over time, domain authority, root links and top entrances (number of pages that receive organic referrals), to demonstrate results.

The changes from the rollout of Encrypted Search have nothing to do with the effectiveness of SEO campaigns, however. This is very, very important. SEO is still an essential service for companies that want their websites to be found on Google search.

In other Google news…two algorithm updates are out in full force. Read about Penguin 2.1 here and Hummingbird here.

Google GOES DARK….

Well, the day many SEO professionals and web site owners hoped would never come, apparently did yesterday. It looks like Google has cut off keyword data altogether for SEO analysis.

You’re probably asking “What?” and “Why?”.

Let’s start with the “What”…

What is keyword data? Keyword data tells us what search term someone uses to find you. So, for example, if I do a search for “hvac companies dallas” and find your web site, Google records it and feeds that data into your Google analytics account.

When you then login to see the search metrics for the past 30 days, you’d see 1 visitor (me, for example) who found your web site by using the search term “hvac companies dallas”. This data, since analytics came on the scene many moons ago, allowed SEO professionals and web site owners to see exactly how people were finding them.

You knew exactly how many searches were being done for your selected keywords that you had been optimizing your site for. So, instead of just some bulk indicator such as “how many visits is my site getting”, you were able to see those “visits” broken down by specific keyword.

It was a match made in heaven.

Why, then, has Google decided to do this?

Two things. First, privacy. With all of the recent news and controversy about online privacy concerns, Google has decided to implement SSL encryption in their search feature. What this means is that, theoretically, the search terms you use when using Google are not being shared with Google Analytics (what we all use to analyze traffic data). This has been in the works for some time and they’ve gradually rolled this out.

Now, before you start anointing Google for Sainthood for doing this, let’s look at the OTHER reason that we believe they’ve done this. GREED….

The only way, now, to get specific keyword traffic data is by using their flagship marketing product, Google Adwords (imagine that…). Granted, this data is not the organic traffic data, but instead, if  you participate in their PPC program (pay per click), you get to see the full metrics of what traffic you received (paid for) to your web site. Nice of them…

There’s a lot of unhappy web professionals around today (including us). But, rather than scream about the sky falling, let’s talk about what we can do going forward…

1. Ranking data now becomes more important than ever. If you’re participating in an aggressive SEO/Content marketing plan, you want to see a progressive improvement in your rankings and overall organic traffic trends. Luckily, we can still track  your overall traffic to your site.

2. Sales/Lead tracking – It’s imperative that you put controls in place to screen new leads about how they found you (web forms, phone calls) and track as much of this data on your own as possible. Our SEO dashboard allows lead and sales tracking.

3. Set up a “retargeting only” PPC campaign. ‘Retargeting’ is literally re-targeting people; showing ads only to people who visit your website. They were interested in a product or service you have to offer–that’s why they visited your site in the first place. Your ads will appear on other publisher’s websites as a reminder to come back to your website. It’s an easy, simple, friendly, inexpensive way to get more customers who don’t convert when they first check out your website.

I guess when you are “THE GAME” like Google is, you can make the rules. Doesn’t make it any easier for any of us, however.

Information for AutoWeb Technologies Premium SEO Customers

For AutoWeb Technologies Premium SEO Customers, this will impact your dashboard analytics in two ways:

1. Our current non-branded traffic graph will no longer be meaningful.

2. The keyword tab that shows traffic by keyword will not have much data (we still get data from Bing / Yahoo).

Google Goes In-Depth

Billions of internet searches happen every day through the various search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Yet people do look to other sources for information and answers. Some people still consult the encyclopedia! In 2010, after 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica went out of print. In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica decided to focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. Some encyclopedias are still available on DVD as well.

The original search engine…

Encyclopedias and other information sources may have been just as handy as search engines when we were tied to desktops and laptops. Now, however, mobile devices have given search engines an advantage in terms of convenience and Google is now on a mission to have the answers for anything and everything a person could want to know.

Last year, Google conducted the Daily Information Needs Study to get some insight into what people want to know, but don’t search for. From the research, Google learned that about 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. With the recently released feature, In-Depth Articles, Google intends to deliver relevant, high quality content that will help the searcher explore a topic in-depth.

This article explains the steps that help Google find your content—With proper content marketing and content creation/syndication maybe you’ll be rewarded for your high quality content with a spot in the in-depth search results block!

Why the telephone can be one of THE most powerful components to your SEO plan.

With smartphone texting, online messaging, social media, and email, many of us find ourselves using the phone less and less to communicate. This is true many times, unless you own a business. The phone, for most of businesses is the primary pipeline for inquiries and new sales.

Statistically, 40% to 50% of highly qualified leads come through phone calls.

When phone calls come in, however, it’s still tough to ask how they “heard about you” unless you ask. Often, its a little uncomfortable asking a caller for this information initially. You want to keep the conversation about them and the reason they called.

However, new technologies now allow you to track customers or prospects who find your phone number on the web. This is called phone tracking. Here’s how a typical SEO phone tracking system works:

1. You buy or rent a number that either is a local number with the same area code as
your primary number or an 800 number (toll free).
2. You program your web site to display this new number ONLY if the person visiting
your web site found you through Google, Yahoo, Bing or a Pay Per Click campaign.
So, instead of seeing your current phone number, they see the new one.
3. When the person calls this new number, the system notifies them that the call will be recorded for quality assurance purposes (and for legal reasons).
4. On your end, when you pick up the call, you should hear an announcement telling
you that you are receiving a call from a person that found you on a search engine.
5. You take the call and simultaneously, the system records your phone call.
6. You can then use the recorded phone call log as a customer service training tool and also to follow-up with the lead through your typical lead nurturing process.

The beauty of this type of system is that it allows you to not just be focused on the rankings and the traffic you’re receiving, but be able to really tie some of that search traffic DIRECTLY to new business that is generated.

Also, if you’re spending money for Organic SEO or Google Adwords (PPC) campaigns, you can now measure the real cost of a new lead. Here’s how:

1. Take the total price you’re paying for SEO or PPC.
2. Divide that cost by the number of phone calls you get each month. This will give you your total cost per lead.
3. Track business generated from these leads and then factor in your lead cost calculated in steps 1 and 2 to see if you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI).

So, for example, if you’re spending $1000 per month on Organic SEO services and you get 10 calls per month, your lead cost is $100. If you close $5000 in new business from these leads, you can determine the value that your campaign really brings in. This varies, based on the gross margins you hold on whatever it is you sell, but you get the idea…

Some business owners think that leads should be cheap or a customer phone call should only be worth “$10”. But when you can actually hear the phone calls and realize that you closed a big “roofing job” or a got 5 new “DUI Cases” off of an organic search, the value of investing in SEO, PPC, and phone tracking becomes much clearer.

If this article makes sense and you’d like to see our SEO/Phone tracking system for yourself, please let us know. We’re here to help you.

Call us today at 1.877.490.8324 for some new ideas and a free, no-hassle consultation. You may also Click here to schedule a confidential consultation.

If you enjoyed this article, would you mind sharing it with others who might benefit as well? Please click any of the icons below and spread the word! :)

To your success!

Ben Vaughn
Sr. Online Business Strategist
AutoWeb Technologies

11 reasons why WordPress websites are better than regular web sites

We get this question a lot lately…

What is WordPress and what is so great about it?

Whether you are building a new web site or redesigning a current web site, chances are that you are going to hear about WordPress or are already familiar with it.

So, what is it….??

WordPress is an open source blogging tool and web content management system (CMS) used by many of the top web sites in the world. It allows you to create beautiful, feature rich web sites affordably and manage the pages/content effectively.

According to Wikipedia®, WordPress is used by over 16.7% of Alexa Internet’s “top 1 million”  websites and as of August 2011 manages 22% of all new websites. WordPress is currently the most popular blogging system in use on the Web.

Many of you still have the traditional type of web site systems that most developers (us included) have built for years using traditional HTML architecture. These type of sites have their place and always will. Sometimes, a custom solution is required. Things are changing rapidly, however.

WordPress can be used for just about anything you can think of in regards to creating, publishing, and sharing content. It still falls short in some areas such as E-Commerce, but there are several other open source solutions out there in the web design world now such as Magento that solve this problem.

So, with that being said, here is a short list of the benefits of using a WordPress web site over a traditional web site:

1. Save $ on Construction Costs – Instead of paying for a “from scratch” custom web site, a good developer will create a custom look/design or “theme” for you and then implement this design into a WordPress system. The system comes pre-built with your content management system and many tools ready to go “out of the box”. Development time is decreased and this saves money also. From there, you or your developer drops in your content and you go from there.

2. Save $ on Update Fees – No longer do you need to send the most basic text changes to your designer or even have your designer add new pages for you. Make the edits yourself whenever you need to and save money in hourly update fees.

3. Greater Accessibility – Make changes or add content from any computer or mobile device easily.

4. Social Networking Friendly – If your WordPress site will have a blog, you can automatically integrate your blog posts with social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. So, you don’t have to login to each account and make redundant posts. Connect the accounts to your blog and save time.

5. Ultimate in SEO Friendliness – The construction of WordPress blog code is consistent with the code that Google finds very inviting for indexing (hint, hint).

6. Fast Learning Curve – Learning to edit content, post new pages, add photos and images is as easy as using MS-Word (sometimes easier).

7. Increase Your Perceived Industry Authority – Making frequent posts and sharing your opinion on what’s happening in your industry offers so much more potential for establishing rapport with your audience than a traditional Web site could offer.

8. Connect With Your Audience – Keep your hand on the pulse of your customers and visitors by measuring the responses and comments received for your blog posts (if you decide to have a blog). This is a great way to find inspiration for developing new products and services.

9. Increased Functionality with Lower Cost – Thousands of pre-written programs called plugins can increase what you’re able to do with your site. So, if you want to add some sort of neat functionality or feature, chances are that there is a free or low-cost plugin somewhere you can use. Traditional websites require everything to be programmed by hand. Even if you find an available PHP or ASP script to work with a traditional website, there is usually significant integration work and customizing required.

10. Multi-User Capable – WordPress offers multi-user capability so that larger companies with marketing departments, for example, can offer editing power exclusivity or even read-only mode to others.

11. Mobile Readiness – WordPress is flexible in the mobile platform arena and has many options that allow both the regular (PC) and mobile versions to update easily and display content similarly.

Food for thought going forward…

Whether you decide to take this on yourself or hire a website designer or web site developer, we’re here to help you.

Call us today at 1.877.490.8324 for some new ideas and a free, no-hassle consultation. You may also Click here to schedule a confidential consultation.

If you enjoyed this article, would you mind sharing it with others who might benefit as well? Please click any of the icons below and spread the word! :)

To your success!

Ben Vaughn
Sr. Online Business Strategist
AutoWeb Technologies

How to use landing sites and pages to grow your business.

Some of you might have heard of landing pages. They are sometimes referred to as a “Splash Pages” or “Lead Capture Pages” or “Landing Sites”.

Traditionally, these are used very specifically in marketing (search engine, email, direct mail, etc) as a way to direct a prospect or customer response to a very specific web page or web site. These web pages/sites usually display specific sales copy built around a specific product, service or keyword. The main goal of these landing pages/sites is to create a “conversion” which is simply having a visitor complete a form, make a purchase, make a phone call, or do something else desired.

There are different variations of the “how” and the “why” behind landing pages and landing sites. Many times, these landing pages are just sub-pages of the main web site.

What I want to talk about today, however, is a variation of this concept.

Several years ago, it was easy to optimize your main web site for all the keyword phrases you could think of related to your business. That, along with proper meta tag coding on your web site, good content, regular submission, and some luck gave your site a decent chance at good rankings on the major search engines without spending too much money.

The problem is that in the last 12-18 months it has become harder and harder to get high rankings for a diverse set of keyword phrases. The search engines, especially Google™, are penalizing sites that appear too “Broad” with the number of keyword phrases. They want their search results to be as exact as possible.

Here’s the problem for us…

If you own a business that has a lot of different products or services, you might only be getting rankings for certain keyword phrases, which can omit areas of your business that are important.

For example, if you own an automotive repair business and your list of services is related to “repair” and also “maintenance” and the brands that you service cover all of the domestic and imports, that’s a lot of keyword phrases to cover. There’s a huge list of keyword phrases related to auto repair, engine repair, brake repair, transmission repair, etc. coupled with “Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, etc”. Conversely, the list of keywords related to automotive maintenance, engine maintenance, brake system maintenance, transmission service, routine maintenance, etc. coupled with these same car brands is also very long!

Same business, but a different set of services altogether.

Same thing goes for lawyers, insurance companies, dentists, doctors, contractors, etc… If you have a diverse set of service offerings and specializations, this can be a nightmare trying to get high rankings for all of them.

What can be done to help combat this broad list of services and still remain high in your site’s rankings?

Create landing pages or landing sites for your business.

When you create these “standalone” web sites/pages, you “segment” out a particular product or service from your business into a space all it’s own. This allows you to create focus and a directed “CALL TO ACTION” around a product or service that you want to sell a lot of. The landing page can include sales specific copy about that product or service or service group along with something that converts a visitor into something that is measurable.

Generally, this “CALL TO ACTION” can be several things:

  • Getting a visitor make an immediate purchase.
  • Getting a visitor to schedule an appointment or consultation using a form.
  • Getting a visitor to pick up the phone and call you.
  • Getting a visitor to sign up for a monthly newsletter or register for a free report about a that particular keyword/area of your business that interests them.  This then allows you to market to them on a regular basis. This is very powerful because we know that it takes several exposures to a product or service before a purchase is generated. We’ve written about this many times before. Newsletters and regular email communications that are informative, but not too “sales oriented” allow you to build trust and a “fence” around your herd of prospects and clients.
  • The list can go on and on and is only limited by your creativity.

Keep in mind!!! This doesn’t mean we remove these products and services from our main web site.

We want to make sure that our company’s main web site still covers everything that we do.

Other tricks of the “landing page/site” trade include:

  • Setting up these sites/pages with their very own URL (domain name). So, if you are a dentist and have a growing dental practice with good rankings for your traditional dental services, but poor rankings for your “cosmetic dental services” and you live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you might want to setup a separate landing site with a domain name “www.siouxfallscosmeticdentists.com”. Yes, it’s a long domain. It doesn’t matter. You won’t be advertising this domain (unless you want to, which is fine). This is mainly for the search engines to know what the site’s focus is (along with some other clever keyword phrase meta tags you’ll include).
  • Another strategy is to post videos related to this specific product or service/service group on the landing site.

Combine this strategy with GOOD CONTENT (a must) and you can watch your business search engine footprint grow exponentially.

Like to learn more? We’re always here to help. Call us today at 1.877.490.8324 for a free, no-hassle consultation.

You may also Click here to schedule a confidential consultation.

If you enjoyed this article, would you mind sharing it with others who might benefit as well? Please click any of the icons below and spread the word! 🙂

To your success!

Ben Vaughn
Sr. Online Business Strategist
AutoWeb Technologies

Are you boring your customers to death?

6 Seconds….

Statistically speaking, when someone visits your web site you have approximately 6 seconds to do one of two things:

A. Intriguing them into continuing reading or browsing (and possibly calling, making a purchase, or signing up for some sort of offer)

B. Boring them to death and making them leave (maybe never to return!).

Which one would you prefer?

It’s pretty obvious…

What separates the two?

It comes down to something very basic.

TEETH.

You need a compelling reason, offer, or content that has “TEETH”.

By that, I mean something that bites them and compels them to stay, call, make a purchase, or sign up for some sort of offer because it strikes an emotional nerve related to something they want, need, or lack.

AND, this message or offer must separate you from your competitors.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an attorney, an auto repair center, a plastic surgeon, a pizza shop owner, or a chiropractor. As a business owner, it is YOUR JOB to find out what problems (i.e….wants, needs, lacks) your typical customers have.  In other words, what PROBLEM can you solve for them that will make them spend money with you?

Once you figure out what that is, you need to craft your marketing message around that problem AND the solution.

Make it unique, impactful, and useful for them. It has to have some TEETH.

Remember, plain vanilla won’t put a dime of new sales in your company’s pocket or get you the herd of prospects you need.

Once you know what this is, do yourself a favor and build all of your marketing campaigns, web site focus, and all other media related to customer acquisition around this one, central theme:

FIND YOUR CUSTOMER’S PROBLEM (OR PROBLEMS) AND PRESENT A WAY TO SOLVE IT.

* Change your web site copy to include this message.
* Change your brochures to include this message.
* Change your direct mail to include this message.
* Change all of your collateral sales materials to include this message (business cards too).
* Change the focus of your consultations and initial conversations with them around this message. You almost need to change the entire sales culture of your organization from ME, ME, ME, to THEM, THEM, THEM.

Stop boring them with why you are so great and why your company is the best.

You know you’re great at what you do.

We know you are as well.

BUT, they don’t.

It’s not their fault. As human beings, we’ve been conditioned to treat new vendors, relationships, offers, etc. with a degree of caution. It’s human nature. We’re bombarded with “BUY THIS!!!” day after day.

Until you become a friend who can help solve their problem, they won’t care how great you are.

Think about it and do something about it.

Guess what? We specialize in corporate dental work (i.e….fixing teeth problems)

If you’re open to some new ways to turn your products and services into a clear cut message that solves your customers problems, call us and let’s get to work at 1.877.490.8324.

You may also Click here to schedule a confidential consultation.

To your success!

Ben Vaughn
Sr. Online Business Strategist
AutoWeb Technologies