5 Tips to Attracting Millennials

The Largest Living Generation on Earth

Millennials, a technology-loving generation born in the 80’s and 90’s, are providing the vacation rental industry an opportunity to make money. Attracting this huge generation of people, the oldest of which are already 37 years old, is important no matter where your company is located.  Whether skiing powder or snorkeling the reef with the best high-tech sports gear, taking selfies at a local restaurant, posting on Snap Chat while touring an amazing vineyard, or attending a group yoga class via Facebook, Millennials are a demographic you need to pay attention to.

To attract Millennials to your properties, first you need to be found! The question is how?

 

Tip One: Optimize your website FOR Millennialsblizzard internet millennial tips

Ensure Millennials can find your properties online, and when they do, stick around long enough to book.

  • Optimize your website to show for terms Millennials 18-34 search for via mobile and voice search.
  • Ensure your website has a clear message for Millennials. Millennials are looking for outdoor and activity-based trips, so when considering the packages being offered, be creative, and tout those packages on your website.
  • Is there a direct path to booking wherever your properties are listed, and do these bookings include packaged services?
  • Make sure your website is fast! Millennials demand it.

Tip Two: Use Social Media

According to recent research from Magisto, beyond ad spending, digital marketing and social media have gone from an extension of traditional marketing to a digital first marketing strategy. This transition is being led by Millennials who instinctively are digitally native, social-first and driven by video. In order for larger and older companies to efficiently and effectively market to Millennials they must re-evaluate the distribution of their massive budgets.

  • Today’s consumers are visual. Most prefer to look at images or watch videos rather than reading articles. Incorporate images and video into your Social Media advertising. Video can help showcase your brand, and increase brand engagement and awareness.
  • Provide discounts and promotions to those who ‘like’ your Facebook page as an incentive.
  • Utilize an Internet marketing expert to keep an eye on market trends, and social media platforms to ensure you are on the right platform to attract Millennials.

Tip Three: Know Your Audience

Knowing and understanding the needs of your guests is the key to increased bookings.

If they’re young, don’t expect them to spend an absurd amount of money. Millennials are looking for a constant experience but at a fraction of the cost. However, keep in mind that when people travel, they spend money.

What are their interests?

  • Do many show an emphasis on authentic experiences, hip lounges, and high-tech amenities?
  • Are they interested in natural areas, or community events like local food, concerts, workshops, and yoga classes?
  • Do you offer strong high-speed Internet? If not, know that a large percentage of this group believe that Internet problems top the list as one of the worst travel issues.
  • If you find a pattern in your audience, then pay close attention to this marketing channel.

Why would they buy your experience?

  • What makes you stand out to those travelers? Is it because you offer romantic packages and know that your guests tend to be couples on a honeymoon, or do you offer skiing, snorkeling or kayaking packages because you are finding that your customers are staying there for those experiences?

What motivates them?

  • Travelers will buy based on emotion – do you want them to feel relaxed, or adrenaline rushed?

Tip Four: Be Straightforward

Trust is a huge part of the service industry. When travelers trust you, they will recommend you to their friends at home and online, further boosting your bookings.

  • Be helpful. Whether in person or online, provide a solution, directions, or a recommendation. If you come across as helpful and engaging, then there is a good chance people will return.
  • Reviews. Utilize feedback. Your guests are your livelihood, so engage with them and ask for reviews. When you get reviews, ensure that they are posted for others to see.

Tip Five: Research, then market yourself in high Millennial traffic areas

  • If you do not have your own concierge service, then consider collaborating with a company offering concierge services, who understands ways to create and target packages in your area.
  • Partner with local companies that have the same interest in attracting the 18 – 34-year-old generation and promote each other.
  • Advertise your packaged stays using online platforms geared towards Millennials.
  • Evaluate your mobile presence
    • The average American spends almost five hours per day on their phone. Keep this in mind when you consider whether your website experience is getting smarter about the user experience.
    • Push more interactive digital content to vacationers on the go. Because people interact with content differently on mobile, trim the length of the videos posted online, and add limited text overlays to these videos.
    • You want to make it as easy as possible for people to read about your properties, the packages offered, and book them using all mediums, including mobile.

For more information on growing your reach, and increasing your bookings, contact a Blizzard expert today.

Facebook Haiku

How to Write an Effective Facebook Ad

Haiku is a highly structured form of Japanese poetry designed to communicate emotion and feeling in the fewest possible syllables. It is the ultimate form of efficient communication and can help guide the creation of an effective Facebook Ad.

What does this really have to do with Facebook? Particularly in Facebook Advertising, the number of allowable characters – like syllables – are pre-set. With only so many characters that can be displayed among all the Facebook advertising distribution channels, you only have so many characters to work with. Efficient wording and content structure requires planning and no small amount of creativity.
A Facebook Ads Haiku:

Facebook ads are easy
Provide a reason for action
And a good image

Facebook Ad Pitfall

Advertisers typically want to build an entire case for consumers to take an action and insert far too much information into the allotted Facebook ad space. This frequently leaves the reader confused about what he/she should do.

Clearly stating the reason for the message as well as detailing an easy-to-execute call to action can eliminate reader confusion and increase the opportunity for reader engagement. And of course, this must be done in a limited space.

Structural Elements to Facebook Ads

Making an ad or message interesting in just a few character spaces is a challenge! Facebook distributes its ads on desktop, mobile as well as in separate ad formats – all of which display quite differently. There are also only three areas of an and in which text may be displayed. In all, you have only four elements to the advertising message; text, image, headline and link description.

The desktop ad below shows placement for the messaging portion of the Facebook ad.

Facebook Ads allow user to manage image and text components as illustrated here,

This same ad content displays quite differently when viewed in the “desktop right” format:

The Facebook Ad - Right display drops the Link Description altogether

Note how the Text and Headlines are moved around and the Link Description drops altogether in the second illustration. A common error some advertisers make is to insert a meaningful part of the message into the Link Description – which then does not get displayed in many channels. Note also the absence of the “Book Now” button on the desktop right format. This means that the call to action should be included within the text.

Making it all Fit

To make all the content fit, Facebook recommends the following limitations on text:
• Text: 90-character limit
• Headline: 25-character limit
• Link Description: 30-character limit

There are instances where you might overrun the Link Description element as it won’t appear on most channels. However, it does display well on the desktop ad version. It is important to look at all formats when designing your message and then test the display before publishing.

Objectives

Messaging in such a compact space of course needs to be efficient. It also needs to have a specific objective such as attracting website visits or page likes. An ad is designed to inspire the reader to take an action, but with such limited space, it is important to inspire the reader to simply engage or find out more.

Phrases such as “check out the….” Or “learn more” are common in an effective Call to Action (CTA). Getting a good idea of what you want to accomplish before you start stringing words together really helps.

The “What” and the “Why”

When putting together your test, consider two elements.
• What the issue is, and
• Why the reader should take the action requested
In total, you have 115 character-spaces to make your case. “Book now”, “call today” or “learn more” are all effective CTAs. The “learn more” admonition implies that the reader may get more information by clicking and visiting your website. And on your website, you have all the character space you need.

A good rule of thumb is that you use the Headline to make the value statement or the communicate the reason the reader should take notice. The Text portion should then explain why and how the reader should respond. This is of course easier said than done in 115 total characters.

Landing Pages

Directing the reader to a landing page on your website has its own challenges. When you lead a reader to your site, Google sees this interaction. If readers quickly drop off your site, the search engines are likely to determine that your landing page doesn’t provide the information or value you promised. Accordingly, the page won’t be recognized as relevant or important. This would be a major opportunity missed to improve your page and website authority necessary for a strong search engine presence. Make sure the page to which you are directing readers provides valuable information and retains their interest!

Facebook Ad Images

The first thing readers notice about your Facebook ad is the image. After all, humans are primarily visual in what captures attention first. As an advertiser, you must capture reader attention before you have any hope of communicating a message.

Recommended size for a Facebook ad image is straightforward… 1,200 x 628 pixels. Finding or creating an image that will attract the attention to your message is another matter. Images used in FB advertising should be authentic, interesting, compelling, eye-catching and can even be humorous. Most stock photos are none of these things, so creating an effective Facebook ad frequently includes taking a few pictures yourself.

Getting the Shot

Fortunately, your phone doubles as a pretty good camera, so getting some great shots might not be as daunting as it sounds. Friends and associates may already have usable images that you can use. Even without a formal photography background, you can get some great images just by watching and observing. Taking pictures simply involves capturing an image of people being themselves and experiencing emotions that you want to convey in your ad.

Excitement, happiness, disappointment, dread are useful emotions for capturing attention. Thinking about the kind of emotions that you might use or try to inspire to give the reader cause to visit your website or get more information.

The real purpose of an ad image though is to separate the reader from where he/she “is” and introduce them to a new train of thought. An image that inspires emotion – such as something pleasant or something to be avoided, captures the reader’s attention.

Image strategies can include either an image of something pleasant – like walking on a beach,

A Facebook ad showing footprints on a beach is something many of us can relate to based on previous experiences. We know how it feels to walk on soft, wet sand.

or something to be avoided – like making a poor behavioral decision.

A Facebook Ad showing the effects of gravity and poor judgement illustrates a situation that should be avoided.

Using a real image as opposed to a stock photography shot, always works better. Images that you take yourself are almost always more authentic and ‘real.’ Readers can sense when something is overly staged. And if the ad image is too perfect or staged, credibility can be lost. If your image is realistic, authentic and interesting – as opposed to an obvious stock shot, viewers will be more likely to give you the attention you need and be receptive to your message.

Bringing it all Together

Even if you are not a great author or photographer, you can still create Facebook ads that get results. The key is in creating a succinct message, presenting an image that will inspire others to read your message and building it all within the Facebook guidelines.

Fortunately, Facebook provides all the test views you need to try different images and text configurations. Once you arrive at an ad you think will work, hit “submit!” If it doesn’t generate the results you want, it is very easy to try another image, another audience or another set of text. Facebook has some excellent tutorials if you run into trouble or have questions.

Check in with the Blizzard Blog often! Future articles will include Facebook audience creation, testing and creative messaging. With many years of experience in the online and digital space, Blizzard Internet Marketing helps clients achieve visibility in their target markets and drives sales and revenue growth. Have questions? Contact us today!

What is Voice Search ?

Voice search is the newest way to scour the internet. It utilizes speech recognition technology that allows users to search using speech versus typing. With the continued growth of smart phones users and other web enabled mobile devices with digital personal assistants (think Cortana, Siri, Alexa), voice search is becoming increasingly more important to consider and optimize for. Gone are the days of searching by a precise topic using a few relevant keywords. Welcome to today where we are asking our devices specific questions and using natural speech to search.

Think about this: If you wanted to find out who the CEO of HomeAway is, what would you search for if you were:

  • On your computer and typed in your search phrase?
    • Many would answer with a short search phrase, like ‘HomeAway CEO’
  • Talking into your phone using a digital personal assistant?
    • Many will likely have used natural language and asked, ‘Who is the CEO of HomeAway?’

We are unconsciously altering our search behavior everyday depending on what device we are in front of. So, shouldn’t we be altering how we optimize our content so we can be found easier? Yes! But first, let’s gain a better understanding of who’s using voice, what they are searching for, how it affects you and how to incorporate it into your SEO strategy.

Who’s Using Voice Search & What For?

Everyone! According to a variety of sources, voice search is on the rise amongst all age groups using smart phones. Users are becoming increasingly more comfortable using these new technologies not only on the go in their vehicles but also at home with devices like Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google’s Home. This rise in use is also due in part to Google’s speech recognition error rate being lower than ever at 8% – down from about 25% a few years prior. As of 2014, voice search was primarily being used for calling someone, asking for directions, dictating text and for help with homework amongst teens and adults. Now only a few years later, we are asking our devices much more complex and diverse questions.

  • “Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008” According to Google trends via Search Engine Watch
  • “Over half of U.S. teens and 41% of U.S. adults use voice search on a daily basis, with its use continuing to grow every day.” According to Northstar Research and Forbes
  • “60% of people using voice search have started in the last year” According to MindMeld

Voice Search Impacts

The true impact of voice search on SEO is still developing. It is obvious that optimizing for voice search is very different compared to traditional type search. Technology is progressing to understand user intent as well as context of the search therefore more complex natural language and speech are becoming more easily understood by search engines. One of the main differences in voice search as compared to traditional keywords searches are the phrases and keywords/terms, they tend to be longer than type search but they are also more complete sentences and questions.

How does this affect you? The developments in voice search means that companies and SEO Experts alike need to be open toward trying new optimization tactics, for example, by focusing more on what the customers intent is when searching. This may require a shift from targeting 2-3 words keyword phrases to more long-tail keyword phrases, with websites designed to answer searchers questions rather than just targeting specific keywords. The concern is not on specific words anymore, but instead on the users intent, and on answering with depth the various questions users have.

Where to Start Optimizing for Voice Search

As with all keyword research, first compile data for what you are already ranking for. Using tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, free SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Rank Checkers and website’s like AnswerThePublic.com you can gain a wide variety of insight.

Once your data is collected analyze it by identifying all keyword phrases:

  • That are longer than 3 words
  • That start with a question word (who/what/when/where/why/how)
  • That contain local markers (town/city/neighborhood names, landmarks)

You’ve narrowed your terms, now determine which of those convey the strongest intent and lend most directly to your content/location/service.

If I performed a search for ‘vacation rental’, you would have no idea whether I wanted to buy one, rent one, where I want to travel to, etc. We can draw some conclusions based on this keyword phrase but really, we have no idea if the searcher wants to buy or is simply doing research. However, when searched in question form, such as ‘where are the best vacation rentals’, this keyword phrase/question can reveal the degree of intent.

Therefore, keyword phrases asking ‘what’ or ‘who’ typically answer questions with quick and easy answers whereas ‘when’ and ‘where’ phrases are more complex and may require a searcher to take additional action after the search is performed.

Mobile devices and local search go together like peanut butter and jelly. When you are on the go and looking for a coffee shop, parking, things to do, etc., your search will produce results in the closest vicinity. Including a variety of local phrases and terms on your website especially your mobile version is imperative. Therefore, local businesses need to refine their strategy and ask themselves these questions:

  • Are there landmarks that should be used as a point of reference, like, “old town”, arenas/stadiums?
  • Are there local places of interest that matter to your company?
  • How is your area described in natural speak? Specific neighborhood?

Implementing Change

Before you completely 180 your SEO strategy, the true impact of voice search on SEO is still developing as is the technology that understands and translates it. Continue to optimize for 2-3 word keyword phrases on a per page basis, incorporating synonyms and similar phrases in the content. In addition to that, integrate voice search phrases and questions into various pages throughout your website, especially on mobile specific pages. Above all, anticipate and answer the questions users are seeking, and provide the information users need, at a depth and level beyond what you have previously done. Monitor these pages moving forward. Have they gained more desktop traffic, more mobile traffic? Has the organic rank for the term/phrase you optimized for changed? Look for any data that is indicating that the changes you made are working or not. Be patient, SEO takes time.

Have a million other things to do and need some help incorporating voice search tactics into your SEO strategy? Contact Blizzard Internet Marketing today to find out more about what we can offer you to help you succeed on the web!

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.

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.

Don’t Be A Twit! Why You Should Be On Twitter

Why Twitter?

You are busy. Very, very, VERY busy. You deserve a pat on the back for posting on Facebook at least 3-5 times a week and you keep your Google+ page updated and you actually, really enjoy getting lost in Pinterest. But Twitter? You don’t have time for that!twitter on mobile And who cares about Twitter anymore anyway? Isn’t that going away soon?

Well, unless you have been travelling very far abroad to an island nation without any Wi-Fi access or maybe to Mars, you probably noticed that we just survived a Presidential election like no other. And a HUGE part of that campaign took place on Twitter. Even now that the election is over, our PEOTUS is still burning up that Android keyboard with his Tweets; existential Tweets, insulting Tweets, re-Tweets. As it stands now, it appears very likely that we all will be keeping track of what’s really going on in the White House via Twitter.

That being said, why should you care? Celebrities and politicians can have
millions of followers who hang on every single one of each of their 140 characters. You may be thinking, my small business only has 250 followers so why does it matter if I even HAVE a Twitter account?

As of the third quarter of 2016, Twitter averaged 317 million active monthly users, according to Statista. Statista has a great chart, showing, that with a few exceptions, Twitters user numbers have steadily grown every single month since its inception. There are nearly as many reasons that people use Twitter as there are people using Twitter. Do you really want to miss out on these potential customers?
As the imminent demise of Twitter seems to have been grossly exaggerated at this moment, why not take advantage of this FREE and wonderful CUSTOMER SERVICE TOOL?

How Twitter Can Help Your Business

Customer Service Tool

If you can dedicate the needed time and attention to your business’s Twitter account, you can put it to work as an excellent customer service tool. Think about big brands that you personally use; Verizon, DirecTV, Ford, etc. If you have an issue with one of their products, you can call an 800 number and work your way through an automated phone tree, where you will likely be prompted to leave a message and you may or may not ever get a call back. You can go on to their website and try to chat with a customer service representative (which does work well, depending on the company) OR you can connect in real time with the brand in question on Twitter.

I recently did this with Petco.com. I didn’t receive a coupon I was supposed to get after making an in-store purchase. I went on Twitter and @mentioned @Petco. I Tweeted that I didn’t receive the coupon. Within 10 minutes, I received a direct Tweet from Petco, inquiring as to how they could help me. They referred my complaint on to their customer service department and with extremely minimal effort on my end, I received an email with the coupon early the next day. Incidentally, this was all over the course of a weekend, a Saturday evening to a Sunday morning.

Companies do not want to be on the receiving end of bad publicity, especially on social media. Hence Petco’s quick response and their moving my complaint off the Twitter feed to a private message. My Petco experience does tell us that Petco staffs someone, probably 24/7, to monitor their Twitter feed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tap into this great direct communication tool during your own business hours!

Twitter Dashboard

An extremely uOpen For Businessseful tool to help you with customer service on Twitter is the Twitter Dashboard. The Dashboard has been around for only a few months and many folks aren’t even aware of this handy app. This useful tool allows you to view only your Tweets, Tweets about you or your timeline easily. This app is great for customer service because you may also easily view any direct messages you receive and check your alerts and receive notice when you get them. You may also edit your Twitter account’s settings to indicate that your account is a support account. You can also specify the best times to reach you. No only does this help your customers know when to contact you, but it also leaves you off the hook if you aren’t monitoring your account all the time. You can also set up any direct messages you receive, letting the sender know that you will get back to them.

These features make the Twitter Dashboard an extremely useful tool and help make monitoring your Twitter account a breeze.

#Hashtags and Twitter Trends

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of what is hot in the world today, checking in on what is trending on Twitter via #hashtags or @mentions is a great way to know exactly what the Twitter-verse is all atwitter about. You may tailor your trends experience with, go figure, Tailored Trends. This snapshot is based on an algorithm that considers your location and who you follow. You will be fed the top trending subjects per your account. This can be extremely useful for your business account. Tailored Trends allow you to quickly see what is going on in your industry so that you can jump on whatever bandwagon is taking off.

With a great, FREE customer service tool like Twitter available to your business, why not use it? It’s a good idea to set your expectations as to how much you can accomplish with Twitter. Advertising on Twitter may not be the best way to spend your online marketing dollars and posting several times an hour probably isn’t in the cards for you either. Setting up your dashboard, bookmarking and downloading the Twitter App on your computer and phone and also being available to your current and potential customers on Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with those 314 million potentially satisfied customers. Let all those positive @mentions roll on in!

In The Grand Scheme, YES, Schema Is Important (And So Is Structured Data!)

What is structured data?

Structured data is a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web. Wait! Huh?! In more basic terms, structured data is predictable on-page markup that helps search engines better understand the information on your website and more accurately assess your site for search result purposes. In turn the search engines often use this information to display rich snippets (see star rating below), to improve your website’s search results listing and to serve the user with the most relevant content they are looking for.

Data that can be coded with this type of on-page markup includes but is not limited to your businesses NAP (Name, Address, Phone number), reviews, hours of operation, schema in searchevents, physical location etc. To have these rich snippets display, developers typically use Schema.org, a specific on-page markup vocabulary that is widely used to code this type of information.

Schema.org

Schema.org is a result of open industry collaboration among Bing, Google, Yahoo and Yandex. This collaboration has resulted in a more universal and agreed upon set of definitions for micro tags; a consistent way for all search engines to understand similar information across websites.

When you add Schema mark-up to your content, it gets indexed and returned in search results differently than if you didn’t use Schema. How? Because the mark-up tells the search engine what the content means, not simply that there is content. For example, let’s say the phrase ‘Jayson DeMers’ appears on an article. The search engine sees this and will produce a SERP on ‘Jayson DeMers’. However, if I put the right Schema mark-up around ‘Jayson DeMers’, we’ve told the search engine that ‘Jayson DeMers’ is the author of the article, not just a couple of random words strung together. The search engine will then display better information for the user searching ‘Jayson DeMers’.

Note, that there are different types of structured data and Schema mark-up, so be sure to find the one that best suits your business. Other popular structured data languages include but are not limited to, Microformats, RDF and Microdata.

Why is Structured Data Important?

Incorporating structured data into your website is essential in the ever changing playing field of online marketing. Two ways that structured data helps with SEO are first, by helping search engines identify the type of content provided on your website and second, by creating better visibility in the SERPs with rich snippets. In turn this can result in higher click-through-rates and better positioning in the results. Structured data allows you more influence over what search engines understand and get from your website.

Creating Structured Data

Generating Schema.org code for your website is made easier using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Not sure if what you created is correct, test the code. Although these tools are helpful having the expertise of an experienced developer to assist with creation and implementation of structured data is recommended. As helpful as structured data can be to your website and its visibility across the web, done improperly structured data errors can adversely affect you as well.

In the end…

You’re asking yourself are these small adjustments to my website’s content really going to help? The answer is….YES! The implementation of structured data is the future and few websites are taking advantage of it. The effort it requires will be well worth it when your search engine visibility increases and your business achieves its goals.