Having a great-looking website that represents your company is enough to keep your business healthy and growing – right?
If only it were that simple. The sad truth is that most local businesses aren’t doing everything they can to generate leads online. And, it all starts with their websites, which – let’s face it – aren’t getting the job done.
In fact, I’ll take it a step further. If you’re not opening your inbox to find new leads from your website every day, you might as well not have a website.
The good news is, you can change that. Your website might be basic or have all the bells and whistles. It might be years old or freshly designed. No matter what it looks like, you can make it better and turn it into a 24-hour marketing machine.
I’m not going to bore you with the same old advice you’ve heard a million times. You know that your site needs great content and a killer call to action. Instead, let’s dig into some of the next-level stuff you can do to kick your website’s lead-generating power into high gear.
Do a Complete Website Audit for SEO and User Experience
Audits. Nobody likes them, but they’re necessary if you want to fine-tune your website and get more leads than you are now.
A website audit should look at two things. The first thing is SEO. You want to make sure that:
The second element of your audit should focus on the user experience. You may even want to hire testers to pinpoint roadblocks on your site. If your pages take too long to load or your site is difficult to understand, user testing can help you get to the bottom of it. You can find a list of effective usability tools here, including some that will allow you to create heat maps of your site even mimic the eye movements of users.
Use Responsive Content
For many local businesses, creating one-size-fits-all content is the goal. It’s certainly easier to do that than to work on unique content based on the user’s preferences and needs. But I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s also holding you back in terms of conversions.
You have two basic options when it comes to tailoring your content to a visitor’s interests:
Here’s a simple example of responsive content. This martial arts school prompts visitors to choose a program on the home page. Once they do, they get a page of content where they can choose “pain points” to see the benefits of the program.
Once they finish choosing, the page would display information related to their choices, including benefits and frequently asked questions like this:
Writing this type of content doesn’t take any more time than it would take to write individual pages of content. It ensures that every visitor to your site feels that they matter. You can even offer lead magnets that are tailored to each product if you choose.
Live Updates and Chat
What happens when someone visits your website outside of your regular business hours? If the answer is that visitors are greeted with a static site that does nothing to acknowledge their presence, then it might be time for an update.
Interactive and live content can help you engage new visitors to your site and give the impression that you’re there to serve them even if you’re at home with your family. There are two simple changes you can make that will engage visitors at any time of day.
The first is by providing live updates. That means displaying a notification any time someone new fills out your contact form or buys your product. This is something we’ve been seeing on some sales pages as well as on website home pages.
To see an example, check out the website for Inspire Martial Arts in Burbank, CA. They display a notification that reads, “Jane from Burbank requested information about our classes.” If your site gets a decent amount of traffic, these notifications will capture visitors’ attention and create a sense of urgency.
The second option is live chat. You’ve probably noticed live chat windows popping up on some of the websites you visit. They often have a greeting, something like “Hi! How can we help you?”
The technology behind this type of live chat is actually less complicated (and less expensive) than you might think. It’s basically a chatbot that can be programmed with simple answers to your most commonly asked questions. If you’ve got an online store, your chatbot can even make product suggestions.
It might surprise you to learn that there are programs that will allow you to design your own chatbot. Of course, you can pay a programmer – and you may need to if you want your bot to engage in complex interactions. But if all you want is a simple bot to give the impression that you’re available at all times, you can check out this article for more information on DIY options.
FAQs and Self Service
If it’s been a long time since you updated your FAQs, then reviewing them and adding some updated information with internal links to your lead forms and sales pages can go a long way toward helping your website generate leads.
Not sure which questions to answer? Try checking your social media pages for ideas. Your followers probably ask questions and if several people ask the same question, it should be part of your FAQ.
A related issue is self-service options. The more information you provide on your site, the more likely it is that visitors will want to buy from you. Providing articles, links, infographics, and other information can help you keep visitors engaged and increase your conversions.
There’s no reason your website shouldn’t be generating leads around the clock. In addition to the usual advice about your content, images, design, and call to action, the four areas we’ve outlined here can help you engage visitors, get more leads, and ultimately, close more sales.
That’s painful to hear, but it’s also probably true. But you’re not alone. Most small business website content sucks.
It’s badly conceived, poorly written, boring, and – worst of all – ineffective.
The good news is, you can make it not suck. It’s not even that hard. The most difficult part is evaluating your content with a critical eye and acknowledging that it’s not working. Once you’ve done that, it’s within your reach to create compelling and persuasive content that will get results.
Signs That Your Content Sucks
Your content probably sucks, but how can you be sure? Here are seven signs that your content isn’t pulling its weight.
#1: It’s Stale and Old
The first sign that your content isn’t up to snuff is if it hasn’t been updated in a while. Look at your website. Is your content:
These are all signs that your content is staler than last week’s loaf of bread. Google prioritizes fresh content, and so do web users. Your content must be updated regularly to stay relevant.
#2: It’s Not as Good as Your Competitors’ Content
The second sign that your content needs refining is if it’s not measuring up to your competitors’ content. You should be looking at your competitors’ sites and social media pages regularly, so you know what they’re doing.
If they’re blogging and you’re not – or if they’ve recently revamped their website – your stale site isn’t going to be able to compete. It’s time for considering an update.
#3: It Doesn’t Clearly Define Your Unique Sales Proposition
What’s so special about your business and what it has to offer? If your content isn’t doing a great job of identifying your USP so that prospects know why they should choose your product, your content is letting you down.
One of the key jobs of online content is to differentiate one brand from another. You can’t expect people to buy your products unless your content gives them a reason to do so.
#4: You’re Not Using Your Content to Generate Leads
Is your content helping you attract new site visitors and get them to opt-in to your list? If it isn’t, that’s a sure-fire sign that your content sucks.
It’s rare for a prospect to visit a site and make a purchase the first time. It requires repeated contact with a brand to convert a lead into a paying customer. Your content should be compelling enough to get people to give you their email addresses to get it – so you can follow up and nurture them.
#5: Your Content Is a Snooze
You might know a lot about your niche. You might even be the most knowledgeable person around – but it won’t matter if your content is boring.
A lot of entrepreneurs post regular blog posts that are effective only if readers are looking for a cure for their insomnia. Your blog posts (and all your other content) must be highly compelling, entertaining, and useful if you want people to buy your products.
#6: You’ve Omitted a Call to Action
What do you want people to do when they visit your page or view your social media content? If it’s not obvious, then the chances are good that they’re not doing it.
You’d think by now that every entrepreneur would know the importance of including a call to action in their content – and yet, a lot of them don’t do it. Every page (and every post) must have a compelling CTA that tells the reader or viewer what to do next.
How to Create Content That Doesn’t Suck
At this point, you know your content sucks. But what can you do about it? That’s the million-dollar question – and the good news is, there are some very easy things you can do right now to improve your content and improve your results.
One more thing…
The final key to creating content that doesn’t suck is testing. Very few of us can create perfect content on our first try. Testing your content will help you fine-tune it until it’s generating leads for you every day – and that’s one thing you can’t do if your content sucks.
Who are you and why should anybody care what you think?
If you can’t answer that question in a compelling manner, then you’re probably not an authority figure in your niche.
Maybe you’re just starting out. Or, maybe you’ve been in the game a while, but you’re having a hard time getting people to pay attention to you.
Either way, the solution is to make yourself into an authority.
Here’s the secret that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t know:
Authority is not something other people bestow on you. It’s something you can build.
That might surprise you. It shouldn’t. The people you view as authorities created their authority by their actions. And you can too.
Why Authority Matters
Why is authority important? It’s very simple. When you have authority, people listen to what you say. They value your opinion – and when you tell them to buy something, they’ll do it.
That’s why authority is one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence. Psychologically speaking, people are inclined to do what an authority figure tells them to do – even if they wouldn’t do it on their own.
A simple example of this principle in action comes from television advertising. Maybe you remember those commercials featuring well-known actors. They always started with something like this:
I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.
You might think of that as a disclaimer, but it’s a statement of authority. People were accustomed to thinking of those actors as doctors. So, when they recommended a cough syrup or headache medication, people trusted those recommendations.
Another way of looking at it is that authority is based on trust. If you do a good job building authority, people will trust you and your products.
Branding and Authority
You’ll build authority more quickly if you define your brand and present it in a consistent way in all your online marketing.
Why? Because authority is easier to build if you have a narrowly defined area of expertise. Nobody is equally knowledgeable about everything, right?
Of course, there are exceptions. Someone like Oprah is so well known that people might take her word for just about anything. She can present herself as an authority on self-help, alternative medicine, clothing, and books because she has achieved a level of authority that allows it.
Most of us can’t do that. We need to define our niches and stick to them.
Here are some ways you can create a consistent and authoritative brand:
Think of your brand as the cornerstone of your authority.
Every piece of content you create for your brand must be authoritative. That means that everything on your website, online profiles, social media accounts, ads, and marketing videos must be conceptualized and executed with authority in mind.
It all starts with your website. You need a professional site that uses clear and authoritative language designed to appeal directly to your target audience. It should be easy to use and provide immediate value to the people who visit it.
The same is true of your social media content. Every status update, Tweet, or photo you post must be relevant to your brand and presented with authority.
You may also want to consider creating long-form authoritative content to build authority. Examples include:
If you watch cable news, you know that one of the ways they fill the 24-hour news cycle is by booking authority figures to offer opinions about current events.
Think about it. Every political consultant, pollster, or retired general is there for one reason. They have experience and knowledge that is applicable to a story, and because of that, they are viewed as authorities whose opinion is worth hearing.
You can build the same kind of authority online by being opinionated. That doesn’t mean you should spout about politics (unless that’s related to your brand, of course.) What it does mean is that you shouldn’t be afraid to say what you think.
One very effective way to do that is to curate content for your social media pages. Curated content is content that somebody else created. You can find it by following:
It’s not enough to share curated content without commenting on it. That won’t help you build authority. Instead, read or watch everything you share and then offer an opinion about it.
For example, say you find an article that lists ten essential things about your industry. You might feel that the writer left out something important. You should point that out when you post the article.
Taking a controversial stance can be a good thing, too. When you contradict or rebut something that an established authority says, you’re putting yourself on their level.
The key here is to sound confident when you offer an opinion. If you seem uncertain, people will dismiss your opinion.
There’s one more thing…
The final step to building authority is to put these things together and use them to create marketing campaigns that convert. If you do it right, you’ll set yourself apart from other brands in your niche.
In other words, you won’t just be one option for people seeking products or services in your niche. You’ll be the only option – and all because they view you as an authority figure.
Search has changed in the last four years. Anybody who’s paying attention knows that.
Since 2014, mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches. At the same time, Google has prioritized local searches to the point where finding non-local results has become almost impossible. In fact:
These two factors, combined with a concurrent rise in voice search, have changed the ballgame when it comes to ranking for local searches on Google.
They explain why searches for “businesses near me” have skyrocketed. After all, if someone’s out looking for a place to eat or a store to visit, they’re probably not looking for something 100 miles away. They want to know what they can find nearby.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to improve your “near me” search results.
Understand What Factors Influence “Near Me” Searches
It’s important to understand which factors make the biggest difference in “near me” searches. The solution is not stuffing your site with “near me” keywords. Instead, keep these three things in mind.
Amplify Your Search Signals
To improve your rank, you need to let Google and other search engines know where you are. One way to do that is to plant virtual flags by getting your business included in online directories and review sites.
You should start by searching the most relevant “near me” terms to see where you rank in the results. You’ll also want to note the sites that appear near the top. They will likely include:
It’s also important to make sure your NAP listings are consistent. It should be clear that the company listed on Yelp is the same as the one on Foursquare and the one linked to your Facebook page.
Differentiate Your Company from Others in the Area
What sets your business apart from the others that rank in “near me” searches? One way to find out is to vary your search terms and focus on the things you offer that others don’t.
For example, let’s say you own a sushi restaurant. You should search “sushi restaurants near me,” but you might also vary it and search these terms, too:
Name Local Landmarks and Other Identifying Features
Your NAP listings tell potential customers where to find you, but they may use other terms to define what’s near them. For example, many large cities have defined neighborhoods. In San Diego, these include:
The same is true of landmarks. Someone in Seattle might search for “Italian restaurants near the Space Needle.” You may also want to name prominent businesses near you (provided they aren’t your competitors). Adding exterior photos can also help identify your location.
Target Mobile Customers
According to Review Tracker, 14% of all searches are carried out by people who want to visit a business immediately. It makes sense to target these people, many of whom will be searching using mobile devices.
One way to do that is to include your telephone number with all listings. Some sites may allow you to enable a “Call Now” feature so that mobile users can dial you with one touch. One example of this is Facebook, where mobile advertisers can choose “Call Now” as their CTA button.
Encourage Your Customers to Review Your Business
The final step you need to take is encouraging your customers to review your business on Google. Any review signal can help, but for obvious reasons, Google reviews carry more weight than those on other sites.
Keep in mind that businesses that actively solicit reviews tend to get more reviews and have higher average ratings than businesses that don’t. One reason is that people who are satisfied often won’t bother to leave a review – whereas people who are unhappy are motivated to leave one.
You can start by generating a link that your customers can use to leave reviews. You can find detailed instructions on how to do it here.
Of course, you’ll also need to monitor your reviews and respond as needed. That way, people who read reviews will see that you care about your customers’ experience.
Remember that rankings change…
Even if you’ve done all the things suggested here, it’s still important to monitor your search rankings. If you’re still not getting the rank you deserve, you’ll need to double down on your efforts to make sure that people near you can find you.
Online marketing is easy. Everybody’s doing it, from bloggers to Etsy entrepreneurs. Why should you pay for something you can do yourself, right?
You could look at it that way. It’s certainly true that technology has made marketing more accessible than ever. If you’re just starting out, you may think that spending money to hire an agency doesn’t make sense.
In fact, failing to hire an agency is one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make. It’s not necessary in every situation. But here’s the thing:
“If you’re not a professional marketer, it’s a virtual certainty that you’re missing opportunities – and sales – because of the marketing choices you’re making.”
Yikes. That’s not what you want, right? Most small and medium-sized business can’t afford to give sales away.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about how you can tell if it’s time to outsource your marketing to an agency.
#1: You Don’t Have a Handle on Your Online Presence
The first big indicator that you need a professional marketer is that you don’t really know how people perceive your brand online.
Let’s face it, “online” is a big place. You might think of your website as your home base, but you also need to know how your brand is represented:
#2: You’re Not Sure How to Allocate Your Marketing Budget
Where are you spending your marketing budget? Do you know how much you’re spending? For a lot of entrepreneurs, the answer is no – and that’s a problem.
If you’re handling your own marketing, you might feel as if you’re shooting in the dark. One week you’re spending on Facebook ads. The next, you’re running a Google AdWords campaign. You’re trying everything and hoping that something will bear fruit.
The problem is that you don’t have a marketing plan. You haven’t had the time (or expertise) to evaluate marketing platforms and choose those that are most likely to get you the results you want.
A marketing pro will have broad experience and should be able to assess your brand and target audience – and use that assessment to choose the best marketing options. You don’t need a big budget to be successful, but you do need to know how to use it.
#3: Your Marketing Campaigns Aren’t Generating Leads
This one should be a no-brainer, yet it’s a common problem for DIY marketers. If your marketing campaigns aren’t bringing you qualified leads, you’re throwing money away.
Guess what? Your marketing campaign could be well-conceived. Perhaps you’ve created what could be a winning ad. You might still have problems with:
#4: You’re Not Aware of Marketing Trends
The world of online marketing is constantly changing. What worked a few months ago might not be effective anymore.
Here’s one example. At the beginning of 2018, Facebook announced it would change its algorithms to favor posts from family and friends over posts from pages and brands. Companies that used to get a fair amount of organic engagement must now pay to get the same attention.
It can be difficult for entrepreneurs to keep up with what’s happening in marketing. You’ve got other things to do.
When you outsource your marketing, you’re paying someone whose job it is to know what the latest and greatest marketing trends are. You won’t have to worry about spending on outdated marketing techniques.
In other words, paying a pro will ensure that your marketing dollar goes further than it would if you tried to handle everything on your own.
#5: You’re Not Testing Your Campaigns
Very few people – even marketing pros – create perfect campaigns on their first try. Marketing is both an art and a science, and in science, testing is essential.
Many entrepreneurs never look at the results of their marketing campaigns. They don’t know which metrics matter – and that means they’re not using their results to tweak their campaigns and improve them.
Marketing pros understand the value of split testing. Once they launch a campaign, they’ll measure the results and tweak the ad until it’s perfect. You might not have the time to do that – and that’s why you need a pro to do it for you.
Done properly, this kind of meticulous tracking and testing can make a huge difference in your conversions and ultimately, in your bottom line.
#6: You’re Not Making Marketing a Priority
Is marketing something you think about every day, or is it an afterthought? For many entrepreneurs, it’s the latter. They make time for it when they can.
The problem with that, of course, is that you won’t get the robust results you deserve if marketing isn’t a priority. You might push it aside in favor of other needs that you view as more pressing.
Marketing should be a priority. It’s the only way you’ll create a strong brand, build your platform, attract new leads, and convert them into paying customers.
If you don’t have time to give marketing the attention it deserves, you need to hire someone to do it for you. It’s just that simple.
Outsourcing your marketing will cost you…
… but it won’t cost you as much as running lackluster campaigns that do nothing to build your brand and attract leads. It’s worth a bit of up-front investment to get the results you need.