Best Places to Work 2017

Today, November 7, 2017, Outside Magazine named Blizzard Internet Marketing as one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work in 2017. 2017 was Blizzard Internet’s first year in applying for this very special recognition by Outside Magazine, so as you can imagine we are extremely excited and very honored to have been selected.

Each year, Outside Magazine recognizes the top 100 companies in the United States that value productivity in combination with an active, eco-conscious lifestyle.  This balance between work and life has been at the cornerstone of Blizzard’s success over the years and a tribute to Blizzard Internet’s owner, Susan Blizzard, who has built Blizzard into the very successful company it is today.

This recognition is also a great tribute to all employees and to all our amazing clients. Blizzard’s work balance helps each employee excel and bring the passion, expertise, and desire to do the best work for each of our clients.

For Blizzard, we are also equally honored to have so many amazing clients who recognize our ability to make a positive difference for their companies. So, from all us at Blizzard, here is a shout out to our clients and a huge “Thank You” to all those companies who have partnered with us over the last 20+ years.

Check out the full list of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work 2017.

Geo-targeting & Reaching Customers on a Limited Budget

Authors: Danielle Rozga and Todd Chamberlin

Don’t overlook the benefits of adding geo-targeting to your campaigns! Beyond the simple world of search campaigns, geotargeting in AdWords & Bing is an essential tool in your advertising quiver.

What is Geo-targeting?

Geo-targeting, or location targeting, allows advertisers to specifically choose the locations in which they would like their ads to show for each individual campaign. For most advertisers, it’s not enough to simply add a location-modifier to your keyword(s), for example, “Vacation Rentals in Santa Fe New Mexico”. While this narrows down the area in which the searcher would like to see results, it doesn’t define the location of your customer base. By implementing advanced geo-targeting techniques, you can see a big improvement in Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and make efficient use of your PPC budget.

Location targeting options include:

  • City, State, Country, Region
  • DMA (Designated Market Area)
  • Congressional Districts
  • ZIP Codes
  • Radius Around a Point

How Do You Implement Geo-Targeting?

First, define who your audience is and where they are located. Run internal reports to determine where your customers are coming from, review analytics geographic data and sort it by transactions, time on site, pages per session, etc. to focus your spending on conversion-driving locations, and determine which campaigns/keywords are appropriate for specific geo-targeted audiences.  Spend some time on this – it’s important!

Once you have determined the areas you will target, head to your campaign settings and put it into action. Add your states, cities, zips, etc. If you want to exclude specific locations, that is a powerful strategy as well. If your business is located in Boulder, CO, you might want to exclude searchers in Boulder, UT from seeing your ads.

AdWords Location Targeting

AdWords Location Targeting

 

Bing Ads Location Targeting

Bing Ads Location Targeting

 

In the Settings tab, there are advanced location options settings that are important to pay attention to.  Google AdWords will opt you into the 1st, “recommended” option:

Adwords Advanced Targeting Settings
This is NOT recommended for most advanced advertisers.  This opens up your ads to people outside of your targeted areas who show “interest” in locations you have defined, meaning they could have recently visited your area or used your location in their search query.

The 2nd option, “People in my targeted location” is what we strongly recommend our clients to use, because it allows for the tightest method of control as to where ads are served. You put effort into determining where your customers are located, so why not put it to good use?

The 3rd option, “People searching for my targeted location”, is not highly-targeted and allows for any searcher who shows interest in your location to see your ads.

In Bing Ads, we also recommend choosing “People in your targeted locations”.

Bing Adcenter

In addition to the locations you want to target, if you add exclusions, you will need to adjust your settings in Google AdWords to ensure that you exclude “People in my excluded location” as opposed to the first, recommended default option.

Adwords Default Location

 

In Bing Ads, you can set exclusions as well, but there are not any additional advanced options for excluding areas at this time.

Enhance Geo-Targeting with Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments by location, located in your Settings tab for each campaign, allows an advertiser to increase or decrease bids by a certain percentage in chosen locations to optimize ad positions and increase click-thru performance.

For example, consider a resort town that has a dozen or so locations where most of their visitors reside. The advertiser can identify the cities by importance and give the most significant cities a higher bid adjustment. Or, perhaps one of these locations proves to be extremely competitive. The advertiser can increase bid adjustments to gain better ad positioning.

A word of caution about bid adjustments: Monitor your data and cost-per-click (CPC) of increased bid adjustments very carefully, as it can sometimes increase your CPC unnecessarily.

So, what are you waiting for? When you think about geo-targeting, there are many creative and effective ways to be more precise and relevant without limiting your reach. It can save you from wasting your budget and increase your bottom line. Know your goals and your audience and you will be well ahead of your competitors.

Should Lodging Companies Create Ads for Their Brand Names?

This is a good question. Many people think it is a waste of money to bid on your brand name, because your website will most likely appear at the top of any organic search results. Many people argue that advertising for your brand name cannibalizes these organic results.

The truth is, when done correctly, it is a good idea to bid on your brand name and it will not cannibalize your organic results. Instead, research shows that it supports your brand presence instead. Think of it as buying a little insurance to better entice people to click through to your website.

When you think particularly in terms of any lodging companies, whether it’s a hotel, or vacation rental manager with many properties spread throughout a geographical area, it’s even more crucial to bid on your brand name. Google serves results automatically based on the location of the person who is searching. That’s why you get local pizza restaurants when you search for pizza. This local search feature of Google does not work at all when someone is searching for their vacation. The companies that appear highest in any vacation information search are the websites that already get the most traffic. Don’t let Airbnb, VRBO, vacationrentals.com or any hotel website show up when people are searching for your brand name. Show your brand name paid ad, and also optimize your website to show up in free, organic search results.

It is important to remember that the main objective for any advertising is to get more traffic. Given this goal, here are the top reasons why you should bid on your brand related terms:

1) It’s Cheap
The cost-per-click (CPC) for an average brand term is generally a few cents. This cheaper cost is a result of your high Quality Score and often unique brand names. Google calculates Quality Score by looking at keywords, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Brand related terms by their very nature have a high click-through rate. They also should have a relevant ad and positive landing page experience for the end user.

2) It Wards Off Your Competitors
You might not bid on your competitor’s brand name, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bid on yours. They might, for example, bid on related key words that can be associated with your brand term. Through these generic searches, you risk that one of your competitors or non-competitors might be indirectly advertising on your brand.

National brands commonly have very large advertising budgets and they won’t think twice about bidding on a small brand that doesn’t have the money to compete. By bidding on your own brand, you at least make their bids slightly higher and your higher Quality Score should still outrank them.

3) It Builds Trust
It looks good to the search user when you have a paid ad next to your organic listing, because you can fill out the entire page when someone searches. The more real estate on the page you own, the more likely the user will click through to your website. It’s like being able to buy the entire page of the phone book for a few cents.
It’s still true that many search users instinctively click on the top results. By using paid ads for your brand name, you can ensure that you have top placement for your brand.
Also, don’t forget many people are searching on the small screens of their mobile phones. As more people search on mobile devices, top page placement becomes even more crucial.

4) It Allows You to Control the Message
Paid ads allow you better control of your message than organic search results. You can control the title and description, emphasize specials or call outs, add phone numbers, seasonal messaging, reviews, and office location extensions.

5) It Has a Positive Effect on Your Overall AdWords AccountGoogle-AdWords-Logo

Advertising on brand related keywords will most likely have a positive effect on the rest of your account, because the Quality Score for these terms is typically high. So, in theory, when you launch new keywords they should have a higher Quality Score, which results in lower costs for your keywords.

What is Quality Score? It’s how closely your ad appears to match the content of your webpage. The reason you want a high Quality Score is because the higher the Quality Score, the less you pay for every click. Nice!

Advertising your brand name can pay off, but you still need to be smart about it. Use all the features and tools that AdWords offers, including geo-targeting, negative keywords, extensions, etc., to make sure you are reaching the appropriate targeted audience.

Finally, be sure to keep brand related terms in their own campaign and pay attention to the results in analytics along the way. Do some A/B testing to see if it makes a difference in your organic traffic and/or overall revenue generation. By doing these things, and bidding on your brand name, you should be ripe for a good brand campaign with high ROI and strong reinforcement for your brand’s overall presence.

Don’t Be Left In The Dark – Use Google Search Console

  • Do you have a website?
  • Do you market yourself online?
  • Do you want people to find your website?
  • All of the above?

Well then YOU should be using Google Search Console. Developers, administrators and SEO specialists area already using this. If you have a website, you should be using it too. Oh, and in case you were wondering how much this wonderful tool costs – it’s absolutely FREE.

Yes, Google Search Console is a FREE service, offered by Google that can help you check on and maintain your website’s performance for users and online search results.

What Am I Going To Learn?

There are many things that Google Search Console can tell you about your website. With it, you can:

  • Ensure that Google can access the content of your website
  • Be certain that images and content you put on your website are aiding in your search results
  • Keep track of reasons that might be slowing down your website’s speed.
  • Learn what content might actually be damaging your website’s performance and search results.
  • Discover which other website’s are linking to your website.
  • Find out how your website is performing on mobile (super important!)
  • What are the terms folks are using to find your website when performing a Google searches

Do I Need to Be a Webmaster to Use Google Search Console?

Once upon a time, in a land pretty much the same as this one, Google Search Console was called Google Webmaster Tools. This handy and free tool was named that until a couple of years ago. Perhaps Google realized the possible intimidation factor of such a name. Although Google Search Console is extremely useful for experts in design, coding, SEO and website administration, it’s a good idea for anyone who has their own website to at least become familiar with the basics. The first step in using Google Search Console is to add you website. This is the tricky part. You need to be at least a nominally familiar with code and your website’s structure. This great explanation from Moz details the different ways to add your website to the Console and to get it verified.

Other GreaGoogle Search Consolet Stuff You’ll Learn in the Google Search Console

Once your site is loaded into the Search Console, you will have access to tons of valuable information about your site. You will also be able to ensure that your site is optimized for Google. Sit back and relax! You don’t have to login to the Search Console every day. If Google finds problems or issues with your website, you will be notified via email. It’s not all set it and forget it, however. Logging in monthly is a good idea however and the Google Search Console dashboard makes it easy to get a quick overview of how your website is doing.

If you make major changes to your website, add pages or add content, you will need to test that Google can access your new pages by using the Fetch as Google tool.

The Search Appearance section to determine if there are any issues with your content, title tags and meta-descriptions. The Links to Your Site tool shows you other sites that are  linking to yours. Another super handy tool is Search Analytics, where you will see your keywords and how many clicks they are getting.

Use the Google Index to see how many pages of your site are being indexed and those that have been blocked by robots or removed. You will also be able see crawl errors, which can guide you to fixing 404 errors, server errors and  URLs for pages that don’t exist.

This is literally just the tip of the information iceberg that Google Search Console can provide you. After a bit of set-up, you will be able to glean useful information that will help you keep your website in tip-top Google shape. You will even receive notices via email when there are problems. And it’s ALL free. Thanks Google!

 

 

 

Its Time To Get Excited About Local Citations

What are Local Citations?

With an ever-growing market, how do we make our local businesses stand out from the crowd in our own backyards? There are many factors that determine your visibility on the web especially as it relates to local search. Local citations are one piece of the equation that can help to increase your web visibility at large and most especially, locally.

Citations are mentions of your business around the web; these typically include your businesses NAP (Name, Address, Phone) and in some cases a link to your website. An example of a citation is an online travel directory where your vacation rental business is listed. Citations can be procured from a variety of any national, local, international, and industry related directory platforms, as well as with local chambers of commerce, tourism boards and many other various organizations around the globe.

Consistency when using citations is key. If a guest is trying to find you on the web and comes across a citation with out of date or incorrect information, they could easily be led astray, which makes for a poor guest/potential guest experience. Additionally, the more consistent your brand name, contact information and categorization the more certain the search engines can be about the authenticity of your business. Local citations help search engines verify that your business is who it says it is!

How to check local citations?

Before auditing the internet for your web citations, identifying your businesses official company name, main local address, and phone number (NAP) is an imperative first step to this entire process. All updates and newly created citations should match this format from here on out!

The next step is to find what is out there. There are a variety of tools free and paid that will help you find and track your citations. Some even have features where you can update and purchase new citations without leaving the platform, bing bang boom! However, be wary many of these services are automated and not manually monitored, allowing for a much larger margin of error, making incorrect updates or duplicate listings. Additionally, these services can cost a fortune.

Before signing up and giving your credit card information away a good alternative if you are just starting out is to check the following directories for a listing YOURSELF! If you have a citation and the NAP is correct, YAY! If the NAP is incorrect go through the verification process to claim/verify/update the listing. If you cannot find a listing, time to create one with your newly designated NAP!

Top Directories to Ensure You Are Listed In According to Bright Local:

So, What’s Next?

After you’ve done your preliminary audit of the above directories, what’s next? Depending on what tool or service you have decide to use to monitor your citations, you’ll want to move onto procuring new citations. What should you be looking for when obtaining a new citation?

Citations from well-indexed and well-established portals such as YellowPages are a good place to start. Be sure to go after several similar local, regional and state wide directories as well. Ensuring first that you don’t already have a citation with them to avoid duplicates.

Citations are not a one and done deal. You must continually monitor them as partial and incorrect citations can show up nearly every day. Citations though they can be tedious and seem such a small part of the grand scheme they are an integral part to the success of your local business.

Have a million other things going on with your local business and need some help with citations? Contact Blizzard Internet Marketing today to find out more about what we can offer you to help you succeed in local search.

 

Advertising on the Internet Facebook vs Google Adwords, Vs Bing. Which is better for my small business?

Deciding what network to advertise on and how much time and money to spend on each of those networks can be extremely confusing for a small business owner.  For small businesses who have small business sized budgets, the three platforms that are generally recommend are Facebook, Google Adwords and Bing Ads. Each of these networks has its pluses and minuses, depending on what your advertising goals are. Here is some advice to help you cut through the noise to allow your advertising efforts to be heard.

Why You Should Advertise On Facebook

Facebook, has the highest number of user sessions globally; literally billions of people use Facebook daily. What sets Facebook apart from both Adwords and Bing, is that it really allows advertisers to find customers based on their interests and online behavior.  For many small businesses, Facebook offers the best value-for-the money options with a potentially BIG return on investment.

Facebook ads have very high visual appeal as they show up in the news feed of a potential customer. These visual ads make Facebook great for branding and creating inspiring ads which offer a great appeal for those potential customers to take action. Facebook also allows you to segment your audience in detail as Facebook knows a lot about each user.  It is the segmentation ability that enables advertising to market based on interest, beliefs, ideologies, ages, values that truly enable advertising a global market at their fingertips without having to have a high dollar advertising budget.

Why You MUST Advertise on Google

Google Adwords on the other hand, is the world’s largest PPC advertising platform. Not only do you have options of showing up in google search results based on a user’s keyword search, but you also have the option of advertising on the Display Network, which consists of millions of websites around the internet and globe.  With BILLIONS of daily search queries, Adwords gives you access to customers searching for particular goods or services by allowing you to bid on relevant keywords and search phrases.

Google has a variety of advertising formats.  There are text ads, responsive ads and visually compelling display ads. These ads can be combined with ad extensions, such as site links, user reviews, price extensions and more, provide a compelling draw to search users. Google also has some advanced targeting options that include location targeting, demographics, negative keywords, time of day, language and device selection. For small businesses, the Adwords auction platform helps level the playing field and allows small businesses a reasonable  opportunity to bid for keywords against companies that have much larger budgets.

Don’t Forget Bing

Although a smaller network than Adwords, Bing’s Ad Network has many of the same strengths of Adwords. Bing, by virtue of being smaller, offers users less competition for the same keywords
which makes advertising for those keywords typically much less expensive. A big plus for small businesses. For some keywords this cost can be up to 50% less compared to Adwords, which can show much better return on ad spend. Bing also offers more flexible controls that Adwords does not. For example, you have more controls at the ad group level and you have more say, in which Bing search partners you want to target with your ads.old timey phone

So, my advice for a small business owners is try each of these networks and see which one works best for you to reach new and existing customers and meets your advertising. If you are unfamiliar or don’t have time, then hire a professional. There are many agencies and independent contractors who just focus on online advertising and can save you a lot of money and dramatically increase your online return. Best of all, this return can more easily be traced than many other advertising options out there.  Give Blizzard a call today to find out more about what we can offer you to help you make the most out of your online advertising dollars!

 

 

 

Visits from the Ghosts of Social Media Trends – Past & Future

2016 was a challenging year. Most of us are thankful to wave it goodbye. There were some bright spots scattered around its months. For instance, who will ever forget Super Bowl 50? Peyton Manning’s final game going out on TOP? We won’t discuss this year’s playoffs. Instead, we will focus on social media trends.

The social media landscape of this year was much like its political and cultural landscapes. There were many peaks and an AWFUL lot of valleys. Let’s look back at some of the good stuff and a bit of the not so good, while also gazing into the crystal ball social media trends for 2017.

Live Video & Storytelling

Live video streaming was not new in 2016 but it did begin to come into its Renaissance. Facebook introduced its very own streaming platform, Facebook Live, giving everyone the ability to produce their own live broadcasts to the world.

video equipmentData shows that organic posts with video reach up to 135% more users than posts with static images. Video posts engage viewers to spend a lot more time looking at the post, as well as providing increased engagement and interaction of 10%.  Live video performs even better, as viewers spend up to 3x longer watching a live video.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns in the social media video-sphere however, as we all learned that we will soon be saying goodbye to our six second friend, Vine. Vine is saying sayonara to the world, but users will be able to preserve their six second masterpieces and keep their followers via Twitter. Another social media slip-up occurred when Facebook was dinged for exaggerating the average time viewers spent watching videos.

Snapchat continued to grow in a big way. There are over 10 BILLION, with a B, daily video views on the platform. Instagram didn’t want to be left behind in the storytelling realm and introduced Stories. Even Twitter came to this content composition party and just a couple of months ago, when Twitter Moments hit the scene. Instagram and Snapchat are both pushing the idea of limited time access to content. If you have the time and ability to create these temporary masterpieces, why not give it a try? Show your audience a glimpse of things they might not ever see with glimpses behind the scenes or exclusive previews.

Spend Your Money Here! Pay To Play On Social Media

social media trends2016 saw Facebook adjust its algorithm in a move that seemed aimed at returning the social media platform to its roots. Posts on your newsfeed from friends and family increased in importance over posts from content sites and business pages. This change is making it increasingly difficult to get your organic posts shown in your followers’ newsfeeds. This year also saw the growth of what is often referred to as the Facebook Echo Chamber. More and more it seems that we get to live in our secure bubbles of interest and concern as we like things we like, and then only see things similar to what we like.

It seems likely that some of these changes could have led to the explosion of fake news as we have all been hearing about, as trending and highly clicked on posts also received preferential treatment in the newsfeeds.

The main gist of these changes simply demonstrates that Facebook wants you to pay money to get your company’s promotion or information post seen by more than just a few eyeballs.

eMarketer predicted two years ago, that marketers will spend upwards of $36 BILLION in 2017 advertising on Social Media. It’s likely that that number will be far exceeded next year.

Facebook advertising is reaching critical mass. It seems likely that 2017 could see an increase in costs associated with advertising on the platform along with the possibility of Facebook eventually running out of ad space. Seeking out alternative platforms upon which to advertise should be on everyone’s resolution list.

Make it Mobile. Keep it Mobile.

Google is putting its foot down on mobile. Google is now indexing mobile sites separately and penalizing sites and pages that don’t perform well on mobile. This is forcing businesses to make sure that their website is not just mobile friendly, but that it is also is up to snuff on page speed, and doesn’t have any of that dreaded interstitial (aka pop-ups) ads (Google has a BIG hate for those.)

Even if you have the perfectly optimized mobile website, you need to think of mobile beyond your URL. Make sure that ALL emails you send are mobile friendly and LOOK good on mobile devices. Be cognizant of mobile for all your social posting as well.

The Virtual World Moves in Real Time

2016 showed us that the imminent death of Twitter was, in fact, greatly exaggerated. Twitter became THE place for political figures to communicate directly with voters. Twitter seems to be continuing with that trend, as the President Elect’s transition team recently announced that the President WILL continue communicating through his Twitter account. Twitter also started broadcasting NFL games on Thursday Nights and it appears this trend of live broadcasting will grow.

In addition to capitalizing on breaking news and information, Twitter is quickly becoming the place where consumers will go to seek out a brand’s customer service. Twitter has released several features for brands to use to help them communicate directly with their consumers and solve problems and issues in real time.

It is important for businesses to capitalize on real time trends. With changing algorithms across every platform, capitalizing on hot content while it’s hot may be the only way to get seen by your followers and friends.

Buy Here Buy Now

Selling your cash register drawerbrand on social media has been around for a while. Selling your product directly ON social media is becoming the hot new trend in eCommerce. While still not a perfect vehicle to sell directly to consumers, Pinterest and Instagram have made great strides in selling wares directly from their platforms. According to Business Insider, referrals for eCommerce from social media increased nearly 200% between 2014-2015, with Facebook accounting for over 50% of social referrals and 64% of all social revenue.

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins are now available for businesses and brands of all sizes. There is data suggesting that 75% of Pinterest’s users have bought a product or service they have seen on the platform. Pinterest announced in October that it has 150 million users worldwide every month with 75 BILLION ideas for them to seek out.

Don’t forget about YouTube. The market for branded content is increasing and YouTube offers opportunities for marketing such as product placement, sponsorship and promotions. YouTube continues to grow as a search tool, and don’t forget, it’s part of the Google-verse.

Microsoft Gets LinkedIn

With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn earlier this year, many are expecting to see LinkedIn integration into the company’s Office Suite including the Outlook platform. Think this deal’s not a big deal? LinkedIn has over 400 million users, with 25% of all adult internet users using the platform. 40% of users check LinkedIn daily and 76% of top level executives do the same. If you want to reach educated, high end consumers, LinkedIn has plenty of them.

Is This Real?

2016 was touted as THE year of Virtual Reality. While there was definitely growth in the production of VR and accessibility, it didn’t quite take off the way it was predicted. This leaves opportunity for 2017 to take that virtual ball and run with it. The HUGE success of the Pokémon Go app is likely to lead to many copycats. Although still clunky, VR headsets are becoming more available and brands are finding ways to produce virtual content.

Expect to hear a lot about 360 video in 2017.

2017 Isn’t 2016

Looking back at 2016, the one constant in social media was change. Social media trends in 2017 will be much the same. Expect Snapchat to continue to grow and eventually figure out a way to make monetization more of a priority. Twitter will likely stick around, but perhaps someone will finally buy it or it may morph into a different type of platform. Live video is only going to grow in prominence and influence. Now is the time to jump on that movable feast before you get priced out or qualitied out.

There is so much noise out there it’s going to be increasingly important to give your brand a voice, a personality and a humanizing touch that will make it stand out. Millennials, in particular, seem to want to have an actual relationship with brands and are interested in more than just their products.

We did survive an attack by the Internet of Things in 2016. Even with the vulnerabilities of having smart devices exposed, Amazon just reported HUGE sales of its Echo and Echo Dot devices for Christmas. We are all becoming more reliant on virtual assistance to function in our new world.

2016 also showed us that Social Media is not simply a place to find news that might be relevant or interesting, but it really became THE place where news is broken first and even made. Being “anti” social is going to become increasingly difficult as our offline lives become more intertwined with these platforms.

2017 will be a good time to figure out your place in this landscape. Plant a flag and start building. Expect to hear the term Omnichannel as the social experience continues to merge with the offline experience of consumers.  There is still a wild west mentality out there and you can experiment and have some fun along the way.