Building Citations Boosts Influence and Digital Marketing Power

A table with board game pieces connected by lines drawn on the table.

Even the newest online business owner can imagine that the more places their website URLs appear online, the better the chance they have of getting noticed. However, spreading links all over the web without a plan makes as much sense as dropping leaflets from an airplane to advertise a new restaurant. In order to get the right link in front of the right audience, you need to build a smart citation campaign.

After taking action on this plan and growing your collection of purposeful citations on the right platforms, you may enjoy one of the most magical parts of digital marketing in existence. Your web of influence will grow automatically when loyal customers or clients start talking about you online—creating “citations”—without much effort or additional investment on your part. So, how do you start on that path? Let’s explore the digital marketing power of citations.

 

What Is A Citation Anyway?

To put it simply, a citation is any mention of your business on the internet. They do not require direct links to your company website or other unique platform, although that always helps. Your listing on a high-level professional directory is a structured citation. A customer who posts “ABC Company is awesome!” on their Instagram page gives you an unstructured citation. Both provide great benefits for your overall marketing efforts.

The example below demonstrates an unstructured citation: a reference and link to MLT Group that wasn’t prompted and that appeared organically on the web.

A screenshot of a news article that links to MLT Group, demonstrating an unstructured citation.
Credit: Alex Kocman, Liberty University News Service.

 

Something called co-citation also exists. When two different websites or pages mention the same source, that mention is called a co-citation. This does not include direct links. So, if ABC Inc. and XYZ Ltd. both mention your company as their source for quality information, Google gets excited and assumes that your website must be quite valuable. You have very little control over this type of thing unless you engage in a targeted guest blogging strategy or similar. Provide top-quality content that people want to mention, and it will happen organically.

Citations are a part of that age-old search engine optimization practice of link building. It would not make much sense for you to mention your company name somewhere without attaching the website address unless, for some reason, it was not allowed and your brand just came up in conversation.

 

Proper NAP for Citations

When it comes to geo-specific businesses that have physical locations or service areas, local citations matter more. These require the exact same name, address, and phone number (NAP) each time they appear online if you want maximum benefits. While you cannot control a customer posting something incorrectly, your structured citation plan must start with a decision about the precise NAP you intend to use everywhere.

For an example of a structured citation, see MLT’s listing below in the local chamber of commerce directory. It accurately lists our NAP and is one of many places on the web that includes this information.

A screenshot showing MLT Group's listing in the local chamber of commerce, demonstrating a structured citation.

 

Google and other search engines want consistent information. If your business is listed under different names or at different addresses, it looks sketchy. Before you begin building local citations, seek out inconsistencies and mistakes and try to correct them.

 

What Citation Building Does for SEO

In Google’s constant quest to bring the most effective search results to its users, they constantly find new ways to weigh everything from keyword phrases to links to vague mentions of your business. Google commands about 90% of global searches, so focusing on what Google wants makes sense in the digital marketing arena. Many online business experts constantly provide new information about what, exactly, that is.

 

A line graph demonstrating Google's 90% search engine market share.
Credit: StatCounter, 2019. Search Engine Market Share Worldwide.

 

Throughout its history, SEO focus has flowed from keyword stuffing to crazed levels of content creation, to machine-gun link building, to something that makes a lot more sense for actual people. Structured citations on directories give people information about what companies offer the products and services they need. Unstructured online mentions build brand authority. After all, why would a random customer post about your business unless it mattered in some way?

Number, accuracy, and positioning of citations all affect search engine positioning in really common sense, user-friendly ways. The more your NAP appears, the more important your brand looks in the industry. Correct information always outranks messy, inaccurate mentions. Where the citations occur matters a lot, too. Link building on popular sites is obviously more effective than spamming your link on trash sites that no one ever looks at.

 

Local Optimized Marketing Specifically

According to recent statistics, 86% of consumers find local businesses online. If your company operates in a specific geographic area, local citations are one of the most powerful options for improved SEO and rankings. Accurate and consistent NAP show potential customers and clients who you are and how you do business.

 

An infographic from Google showing the most frequently searched-for information on smartphones and on computers/tablets.
Credit: Google, 2014. Understanding Consumer’s Local Search Behavior.

 

Taking an active approach to building local citations prevents the potential penalties and confusion that leaving things to fate often brings. This includes company information positioning, dealing with inaccurate or unflattering mentions, and maintaining control over how your brand appears online.

 

Where Do You Want Citations Online?

The more high-quality, on-topic, and positive citations you have online, the better. This answer makes sense from a logical point of view. The average consumer needs to first become aware of your brand through a mention or marketing, hear about it a few more times to build comfort and recognition, and then finally make a decision about doing business with you or not. It increases the chance of someone coming across your brand information and makes Google happy.

Structured citations such as regular business listings on directories create a type of extended platform that builds on your website and social media pages. Unstructured citations create something called social proof. People care more about what their friends – even relatively unknown social media friends – are doing than what businesses say about themselves. Even if you run the quaintest Mom-and-Pop shop, consumers will trust someone they know saying, “Hey, you should shop there” over you saying how great your bargains are. The Facebook “Like” button is a fundamental example of the social proof concept in action online.

The Facebook Like graphic.
Credit: Facebook Brand Resource Center.

A combination of every type of citation makes sense, although you have little control over where a person might mention your company on their own. For what you can control, however, focus on website authority as a guide.

 

Understanding Domain or Website Authority

Online marketing master site Moz developed the concept of domain authority to help business owners and strategists figure out how they rank and how they can improve it. Authority goes up, you rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Most of the determinations for this website or web page authority are a matter of common sense. Does the site itself rank high? Do a lot of people visit it? Does it have a high amount of positive citations itself?

Every website has a specific value based on a very complex system that ranks the power of link backs and other factors. To explain it in the most basic way possible, the value of the sites that your links are on matter an awful lot.

 

Platforms for Citation Power

Your company exists in a certain industry, and you should know the most popular websites and other pages that people go to for the niche-specific information. If not, start researching as this knowledge can form the foundation of your overall marketing strategy. Also, understand that social media matters more than static websites in this socially connected world. Video is hot, podcasts are rising quickly, and mobile apps outrank a lot of other online access types.

Where should you build citations? The simple answer to that question is “Wherever you can!” although you should definitely shy away from poor-quality, low-authority sites. With the goal of improving Google rankings, it makes sense to start with the internet giant itself.

Google My Business directory pages provide not only a SERP-friendly platform to claim your place on the internet but also helps you maintain accurate NAP. Claim your Google My Business page, fill out everything properly using keywords and eye-catching graphics that help build your brand, and consider using the integrated web 2.0 site for more benefits. Below is MLT Group’s Google My Business page in action. This information is often the first thing a potential site visitor sees, so make sure to get it right!

A screenshot showing MLT Group's Google My Business listing.

 

Next, focus on business citations for both global and local reach on associated directories and review sites. Other search engines like Bing and geo-focused sites like Yelp are musts. Double check your NAP and make sure you have no double listings. Also, get citations on specific platforms. If you want to market a physician’s office, make sure you show up on HealthGrades. If you run a travel agency, TripAdvisor is a must.

Local citations affect rankings considerably, too. Look for geo-specific directories, business collectives, state commerce lists, and even neighborhood social media groups. You already know not to spam your business name around randomly, but it would not hurt to become active in the community you wish to serve.

Remember that whenever someone mentions your company name or brand information, you get a citation with the power to improve your marketing automatically. You cannot really control where someone will bring it up, although you can suggest existing customers and clients leave reviews. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest work well. YouTube still provides a great option, too.

 

Track Everything: The Digital Marketing Mantra

If you fail to collect data and analyze it, your online marketing efforts of any kind are probably wasting time and money. Keeping track of your citations matters if you want to intelligently build your online presence and power. You need to ensure your NAP stays accurate, your links point in the right direction, and your mentions are providing benefits rather than detracting from your brand message.

 

Keeping Track of Citations

Various free trial and premium tools exist that search for your citations online. You could also just do comprehensive and specific Google searches for your company name, website URL, or any unique brand designations that people may use to mention your business. Track citations regularly so you know how your business stands in comparison to competitors.

Structured citations should pose no problems. These are the mentions you created yourself on top directories and review sites. They should not change after placing them. Just occasionally check them to ensure they’re still around and still 100% accurate.

Unstructured citations remain mostly outside your direct control. If someone posts something negative or on a low domain authority website, you cannot send them a message to remove it in most cases. Dealing with bad reviews is a matter for customer service actions, not citation building.

 

How Citation Data Helps You Succeed

Every piece of information you gather about your company’s reach and influence online matters. When you know the number and location of citations, you know where to focus your efforts. Do you need to extend your mentions to a new directory? Is your presence weak on a certain popular social media platform?

Things change all the time online. Competitors who manage their citations better can squeeze you out of the top-ranking results pages. Everything depends on comparative standing, after all. If a town has two plumbers, the one that stands out the most for the right reasons is going to get the bulk of the business. If your citations fail to engage and impress new consumers, growth stops.

The digital marketing world involves so many moving parts you have to wrangle in order to reach those coveted top Google positions and attract people with their wallets wide open. Citations come into play in all the strategies that have long benefited brands: content marketing, search engine optimization, boosting social proof, and direct advertising. Whether you place the mentions on purpose or conduct your business to inspire customers or clients to create beneficial citations for you, they play a considerable role in how the search engine algorithms and the buying public view your brand.

 

Start Building Your Citation Campaign Today

A strong citation campaign will build more roads to your website and help to generate leads and organic engagement. So, ready to boost your digital marketing power and grow your business? Contact MLT Group today for a free consultation and quote and learn how our digital marketing services can build a smart citation campaign for your business.

 

Video SEO and Video Content Marketing 101 (2018-2019 updated)

Have you heard of Video SEO?

What about Video Content Marketing?

You can use video production to drive traffic to your website and create better content.

Doing both is important because you have to stay ahead of the curve for your business to succeed online.

Just ask the companies who failed to create mobile websites and lost their rankings after mobilegeddon.

Ask those who lost traffic because they didn’t improve their content after Google’s Panda update. 

Google introduces new updates like these all the time like Google penguin and recently Google Rank Brain.

 

With each update, business owners like you must alter your strategies to keep getting traffic, leads, and sales to your website through Google.

What’s the SEO focus in 2018? Google wants quality content and not just written content, either. Video and multimedia are now cornerstones of both SEO, paid marketing, and content marketing. Just take a look at the numbers.

Video SEO and Content Marketing by the Numbers

There are also compelling statistics behind the wave of multimedia in SEO and content marketing:

  • 59% of those surveyed in this study agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to choose video.
  • Social video generates 1200% more shares than written content and images combined.
  • Video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80% or more.
  • Landing pages with videos are 53% more likely to show up on page 1 of the SERP.
  • Blog posts with videos receive triple the number of backlinks as blog posts without video.

Are you missing out on web visits and leads if you’re not using video? The numbers say ‘yes’ emphatically.

You can use Video in two different ways — as an SEO tool or as part of your content marketing.

How to Use Video SEO to Drive Traffic to Your Website

You’d have to be living under a rock to ignore the fact that ranking highly on Google can send visitors to your website.

What many business owners don’t know, however, is that Youtube – a company owned by Google – has its own unique ecosystem and search function with comparable power to send new leads to your website.

Imagine the following scenario. You’re an e-commerce store selling uniquely branded makeup. The makeup industry is one where video search makes a huge impact. Just look at these results for the query ‘makeup tutorial’:

 

 

video-seo-example

 

 

 

The top search results for this query have millions of views. If your company creates makeup tutorials, ranks them highly, and siphons some traffic from your videos to your e-commerce store, you have the potential to dramatically increase your sales.

Even better videos for certain subjects — mainly how to material — ranks at the top of search results themselves:

 

seo-for-video

 

Here’s an example of video potential for a healthy snack company:

video-content-marekting
1 million views for top results

 

And one for a fish and tackle company:

video

The bottom line is this — if you have creative videos to share, you can use them to drive traffic with video SEO.

Some key points to understand about Video SEO using Youtube are:

  • Videos can be optimized – Videos on Youtube utilize titles, descriptions, and tags for SEO purposes. The same methods of keyword research and use of key phrase rich content derived from website SEO apply to Video SEO.
  • Youtube uses similar ranking factors – Google uses time spent on page as a ranking factor for websites. Youtube uses time spent watching videos as a ranking factor. Google measures click-through rates of search engine results pages as a ranking factor. Youtube does the same. Google measures engagement as a ranking factor and experts say social sharing matters. Youtube ranks videos using similar metrics like comments per video.
  • Content is king – When it comes to ranking highly on Google, nothing is more important than the quality of the content itself, especially with new Google updates like Rank Brain suggesting depth and quality of content will soon become the top ranking factor. Conversely, your videos must also provide content that informs your audience about the topic you optimize your videos for. Yes, Youtube can track the content of your videos just like Google tracks keywords in your content.

The steps to building a traffic engine using Youtube and Video SEO are:

  • Do your research – In search engine optimization, keyword research is the cornerstone of a successful SEO campaign. You must know how many people are searching for certain terms to decide how to optimize the pages on your site. For Video SEO, follow tried and true methods like brainstorming, using the Google keyword planner and following suggested results on Google search engine results pages. After you have your list of words, take them to Youtube and test your results by typing the researched phrases into Youtube search box. Youtube has a different results page and the words you research won’t have the exact number of viewers as they do searches on Google. Using the results strategy helps you see if there are viable numbers of viewers for your topic.
  • Leverage existing videos – If you have company videos available that match researched topics, use them! Make sure the video title, descriptions, and tags include an optimized keyword. For each video, you’re allowed to enter a URL in the description – this is where you want to add your site’s URL. You can also add calls to action within the video itself. You can find a guide for doing that here.
  • Create new videos – If after doing your research you discover a huge potential for site traffic and views, consider shooting new professional quality videos. Using a video production company like MLT group will help your videos rank higher on both Google and Youtube because high-quality videos increase viewer engagement and retention.
  • Promote your videos – Share your videos on social media repeatedly, send them to your email list if you have one, and embed them into the content on your website. Speaking of the last point, there are more benefits to video than ranking on Youtube and Google.

How Video Has Become a Content Marketing and SEO Staple

We’re long past the days of newspapers. Even “newer” methods of content creation like blogging are seeing rapid changes. Video has become a major part of the content marketing conversation and will only grow from here.

Let’s just take a look at a few of the goals of content marketing and SEO:

  • Engage your target audience – You want your target audience to know, like, and trust you. What better way to build a relationship with them than provide your content in a medium that’s both easy to digest and fun to use?
  • Keep visitors on your website – You want visitors to stay on your website for long periods because Google uses this as a ranking factor. Users have been known to visit sites and leave quickly. If however, while reading your content a user discovers a video in the middle of the page, they may find themselves staying on your site well past the industry standard two to three-minute mark for effective SEO.
  • Give the people want they want – The easiest way to turn off site visitors is to give them content in a way they don’t want to receive it – think providing a written manual where a video could be much more informative. Some people simply don’t enjoy reading, so video provides all-inclusive option to attract new visitors, leads, and customers.

You don’t have to create videos for SEO purposes only. You can create them with the intent to provide a fun and unique way to market your business. 

Blendtec provides a great example of video content marketing.

How do you market something as simple as a blender?

Blendtec thought outside the box and created a video of their blender shredding different items like iPhones. The campaign went viral.

 

When you think of marketing your business, don’t look for the obvious only. Be creative with your marketing because it’s more fun for customers and ‘Mother Google’ wants you to as well.

Let MLT Group Take Your Digital Marketing to the Next Level

If this post made you interested in the power of video production, let’s talk about creating amazing video together.

Thinking of putting together a cool campaign to build buzz for your business? We offer full marketing strategy, social media management, and an entire suite of services to draw eyeballs to your business.

Does the thought of keyword research and SEO make your head spin a little? No worries, that’s what the pros are for. From start to finish, we can help you achieve results that help you grow your business.

When you’re looking for a digital marketing company to work with, check their digital marketing strategy.

With literally thousands of pieces of content, we aim to prove we’re the cutting edge and go to option in Rochester, Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, and across the U.S.

You’ve made it to the end of this post, which means you’re interested. If you’re interested, what you do next is simple. Pick up the phone, call 507-281-3490 and learn how to skyrocket your business’s marketing.

Understanding the Benefits and Drawbacks of Template vs. Custom Websites

Should you still choose a custom website in 2018?’

After all, there are many alternatives available to you.

You can start a WordPress website and get a theme for free:

template website

You can work with companies who provide ‘done for you’ options with quick turn around.

There are even companies who offer websites built by artificial intelligence that can create a new website for you in one day.

A custom website used to be your only option. But now you can choose a website option that’s best for you based on a number of different factors.

Spoiler alert – our company provides custom web design services.

Rather than just tell you the positives of our services and the negatives of others, we’ll give you the full picture when it comes to the custom vs template website debate.

Before we jump into the comparison, let’s take a look at some of the custom websites we’ve built at MLT Group

Custom Websites By MLT Group

custom website example

SEMA Equipment is a John Deere manufacturer with multiple locations and a customer base of thousands in the Southeast Minnesota area.

The custom features on their website include:

  • A data feed that populates a dynamic product inventory
  • Email-marketing integration
  • A custom backend admin for updating advertisements, newsletters, photos, and more

This is a robust website with thousands of pages, which means SEMA relies on our expertise to make site updates and improvements for things like UX, SEO, and order processing.

Schreier Industrial services helps manufacturing businesses improve their processes. Our custom website design and color scheme help represent the company’s core values including precision, expertise, and rapid improvement.

If you click through to the website, you’ll see custom animations for banner images, body images, text, buttons, and more.

custom website features

Hip for Homes provides a perfect example of a simple small business website with unique features. Our favorite piece of the website is the homepage, which includes model home imagery describe each facet of home HIP provides products and solutions for.

Before we dive into the comparisons of custom websites vs template websites, notice that each of these websites are unique. They were created with the combined knowledge an expertise of forward-thinking business owners and design, development, and digital marketing professionals.

Template Websites

Template websites have a wide variety of functionality and features. From WordPress themes to more customizable drag and drop templates, you can do quite a bit with these templates, but they also come with drawbacks.

Let’s start with the pros.

Take Less Time to Launch

Many template websites can be set up in a single day.  A template website will require significantly less time to get up and running than a custom website.

The design and most of the coding is already done, so once you develop content for the site, input your logo, and add images and content, you’re well on your way to completion.

Cost Less

Generally, template websites are less expensive than custom websites.

WordPress offers hundreds of free themes you can use. Premium WordPress themes like Genesis Themes can range from $100-$500 or more.

Often, you can find site affordable site hosting, which can work well for businesses who don’t get a ton of traffic. Some companies, like Bluehost, offer hosting for as little as $3.95 per month.

Your costs also depend on who is implementing the template and how much manipulation needs to be done to the template design, potentially adding $1,500 plus to the cost.

Don’t forget monthly hosting and the cost of writing content for your site. Still, the final cost of a template site is likely to be considerably less than a custom designed site.

Options

You can choose from thousands of different templates from hundreds of different companies.

The templates themselves can be customized to a degree. For example, here’s a screenshot of a demo page from Studio press:

custom vs template website

This is not how the site would look when you buy it. Instead, you have options to configure the homepage with different button styles, images, captions, menu layouts, etc.

Also, many template website companies have built support features to make their offering more robust such as:

  • Email marketing tools
  • Done for you landing pages
  • Bull drag and drop builder functionality
  • Membership site integration

If you choose to buy a WordPress theme, you can customize your site even further using plugins, which are applications that add different types of functions and features to your template website.

If you have a very low budget and just want to “get something out there,” you can definitely go the template route.

Before doing so, however, take a look at some of the downsides.

Customization

While you can customize certain features, you don’t have nearly as much control as you would with a custom website and a team of designers and developers who can help you make updates to it.

Here’s a list of features that aren’t easy to add with a template website:

  • Backend databases
  • Animations and custom javascript
  • Membership site functionality
  • Event registration with payment processing
  • Custom graphics and placement

This is a short list of the hundreds of different features that are more difficult to add to a template website.

These changes can be done, but who is going to make them?

Oversight

A template website is perfect for someone who has a lot of time on their hands, technical knowledge, and the willingness to fail and go through frustration in order to get the end result.

If you’re a normal business owner who needs to spend the majority of their time working on the business itself, consider the implications of using a template website that only you have control over.

If there’s a glitch, you are the one contacting support to figure out what’s wrong with the website. Need to make a change? Either you’ll make it or you will have to hire a freelancer or web company to make the change anyway.

Contrast this with a custom website built by a team who understands your needs. If you work with MLT Group and need to make an update to your website, you simply pick up the phone or email us, we fix it, and you can continue to work on your business.

Security

Did you know that many template and hosting solutions provide security as an add-on? 

If you buy the base package your site may not be covered against security risks. Why is that important?

Hackers often target popular template solutions because they know there are many users to exploit. Make sure to check if your website solution comes with SSL encryption, captcha, backup, and more.

All too often, business owners who use low-cost template solutions can experience nightmare situations like their entire sites crashing and databases disappearing. Then, when these issues occur, they have no one to turn to for help other than the support of the template company, which may or may not be great.

Duplication

The biggest drawback of having a template website — for a business owner who wants to stand out in their industry — is the fact that you may have an identical site out there.

Does having a website similar to others in your industry provide a competitive edge?

You can go to lengths to make sure you choose a template others in your industry haven’t, but nothing is guaranteed.

Branding is an important factor in digital marketing because strong brands get better recognition on search engines and on social media.

Using a template website — while efficient — isn’t going to grow your brand’s presence.

Content Creation

Although content creation isn’t part of the development process for custom websites or template websites, it’s important to mention for one reason.

Our agency provides content creation services along with custom web development. Why is this important?

Content matters quite a bit. It helps your business rank well on search engines. It helps to articulate your brand, engage customers, and even make sales.

If you opt for a template solution, you have two options — hire a freelance writer or write the content yourself. With the freelancer option it’s possible — although not guaranteed — to have great content for SEO. The drawback is now you’re having to work with a separate contractor while working on your website at the same time, which means you have less time to spend on your business.

The do it yourself option can work, but it won’t work well unless you’re an SEO and content creation expert.

Now that we’ve explained the pros and cons of template websites, let’s discuss the pros and cons of custom websites and explain when our services would make the most sense for your business.

Custom Websites

Custom websites aren’t the only player in the market anymore. With increased competition, it’s our job to show you why our option makes sense for your business. 

And that’s the key. All things considered, a custom website might not be for you. That’s okay. We want to work with the right businesses and take on projects that are a good fit for both of us.

If you’re already convinced, go ahead and fill out the form below for a free consultation:




 

Now let’s start with the pros. 

Design & Branding

If you’re the type of business owner who likes to share the uniqueness of your business and have input on the way your brand is communicated, it’s wise to go with a custom website.

When choosing to go with a custom-built website you have control over all the aspects of the design, branding and call-to-actions.

Your design can also evolve as your business evolves. You’ll have access to a team of marketing professionals who can provide insights for your business over time. Perfect example — we helped many of our clients re-build their sites to be mobile-friendly after Google announced it would no longer prioritize non-mobile-friendly websites.

Working with a smart agency gives you the reigns to your site while also having an intelligent guide to help you navigate the course of business.

Scalability

Custom built websites can grow as your business grows. If you need added functionality, a custom website can allow the developer to add this over time without the potential limitations of a template website. This is important for certain businesses like e-commerce websites. 

We can also build highly advanced websites for businesses who need complex solutions like HIPPA compliant databases, thousand plus member membership websites, and online courses.

Unique Look

Your business is unique because you, the business owner or the marketing professional in the business, is unique.

Do you want a website that reflects your brand and only your brand?

In business, unless you have an unlimited advertising budget, a unique brand can be critical to your business. Combine that with the way we interact with businesses online, and having anything less than a stellar looking site can turn off your target audience.

Full-Service Marketing

On top of our custom design services, we offer full-service marketing — meaning we can help you with any and every digital marketing need you have from SEO to social media to marketing research and more.

Not only do we build custom websites, we provide custom solutions to help you grow your business.

We sit down and talk with you to understand your needs. We craft a plan as a team to help you stand out among your competition online.

Working with an innovative agency means you can work on your business instead of in your business.

We’re your strategic partner, meaning we care about growing your business just as much as you do.

That being said, there are a few drawbacks to custom web design.

Cost

Custom-built websites generally have a higher cost than template solutions. While you might have to spend more, you’re getting a more quality product.

If you’re truly cash-strapped, however, it might not be wise to spend thousands of dollars on a website. Custom websites are best for established businesses with solid revenue who want to take their marketing to the next level.

Time to Launch

A custom-built website typically takes longer to build. This is because we go through several quality control measures from start to finish to make sure your website is error-free, branded perfectly, and stands out in a sea of websites. If it isn’t worth 12 weeks of your time to create a great site, custom websites might not be for you.

Conclusion

We recommend looking at your business needs, website users, and your overall online marketing goals to help you choose the right direction for your business or organization.

If you’re curious about custom websites, let’s talk. We’ll give you a free no-obligation site audit and proposal to see how we can help with your online marketing.




Why Your Business Needs a Blog

When it comes to maintaining your business’ website, you probably think of updating information, pictures, and managing your SEO and advertising efforts. But there’s another important element you’re forgetting— a blog.

Blogs are an often underutilized business tool. There are a number of hidden benefits to blogs beyond promoting your business, and if you’re not taking advantage of them, your business can fall behind the competition. Let’s take a look at what a blog can do for your small business.blog

Help build a relationship between your business and consumers

Blogs give you a great opportunity to connect with potential customers. They are a voice for your business when your sales staff can’t be there, telling customers what you stand for, what services you offer, and developing your business’ persona.

Help your site rank on search engines

When you type in a search on Google, their bots crawl around the web looking for sites that are relevant to the inquiry. One way bots evaluate sites is through keyphrases and geotargets. If someone searches for “floral arrangements in Minneapolis,” and you have a few blogs that highlight floral arrangements in that location, the bots will view your site as relevant, placing it higher in the search rankings. Bots also look for websites that are frequently updated with new, quality content. Blogs allow you to do this with ease. Even posting once a month lets bots know that your website is active.

Blogs work, even when you can’t

You can’t be promoting your business, interacting with customers, and boosting SEO 24/7. Blogs can. There are no expiration dates on blogs, so even blogs published months ago are still working for your business. Also, each new blog builds on those previously published, so the longer you consistently post for your business, the greater the benefits.

Build authority for your business

If a stranger walked up to you and claimed that they were a hairstylist, would you let them cut your hair? You’d probably want some proof of skill first. This is what blogs can do for your business. With plenty of competition claiming that they are experts in your industry, blogs give you an edge by allowing you to show off your expertise to potential clients.

Provide Content for Social Media

Creating fresh content for your business’ social media profiles can be time consuming. However, your blog is a great source to draw from. You can easily have blogs auto-publish to Facebook or Twitter, or manually share them. This exposes your content to a larger audience and allows you to get more mileage out of one piece of content.

In business, you need every advantage to rise above the competition. Utilizing blogs for your website is a great way to gain an edge. If you’re looking to improve your site’s rankings, engagement, and authority, MLT Group is here to help, offering a number of SEO services, including blog writing. For a FREE consultation, contact the professionals at MLT Group at 507-281-3490 or sales@mltgroup.com.

How Facebook’s Latest Update Affects Your Business’ Social Media Presence

Recently, Facebook has made a significant change to its algorithm to prioritize posts that encourage meaningful connections between individuals. This means more posts from friends and family will appear on users’ timelines and fewer from businesses, brands, and organizations. This attempt to cut down corporate clutter on users’ newsfeeds has small businesses seeing a decline in viewership. Even before this change, businesses found it challenging to appear on their target audience’s radar; now it’s only going to get harder.social media presence

This change doesn’t mean Facebook is any less important for small businesses. It still attracts a large audience with 2.13 billion monthly users, and it would be ill-advised for businesses to neglect maintaining and growing their social media presence. But while it has become more difficult for small businesses, it’s not impossible. It just requires a different approach.

1. Prioritize Connection Over Sales:

It’s tempting to post sales pitch after sales pitch, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. Facebook is a place to build a connection and a relationship with your audience that will translate into sales. With Facebook now prioritizing meaningful connections over commercial clutter, this is more important than ever.

2. Use Ads:

One commercial aspect that won’t be affected by this update is ads. Paying for ads is a great way to get your business in front of your target audience. Facebook allows businesses to be very specific in who they target, narrowing down their audience by age, location, gender, and even interests. Depending on how long you want the ad to run, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

3. Create or Join a Community:

Businesses can create or join groups on Facebook that focus on their industry or expertise. By creating or joining a group, businesses can attract their target audience. For example, if you own a photography studio, you can join a group for local couples planning weddings. There, you can share your photography ideas and expertise. Just remember to stay away from ‘salesy’ language. Genuine participation will garner better results.

4. Create Events:

Is your business hosting an event? In additional to traditional advertising, create an event on Facebook. Local events will appear prominently in users’ timelines and you can invite followers to attend. When users respond that they are either attending or interested, their response may appear in their friends’ timelines as well, further spreading news of your event.

5. Engage With Your Followers:

It’s easy to think of Facebook as just another place to advertise your business, but at its heart, it’s social. It’s a great opportunity to interact with your audience, building a relationship and brand loyalty. When users comment on your posts, leave you reviews, or send you a message, you need to respond. This won’t only make an impression on the user you’re responding to, but will also make your business look good in the eyes of those who see it.

In the end, Facebook’s update is meant to benefit users. Small businesses that can appeal to this change will benefit, not only from improving their presence on Facebook, but also by better appealing to their audience.

Are you looking to improve your social media presence or update your social media strategy? Contact the digital marketing experts at MLT Group at sales@mltgroup.com or 507.281.3490 to schedule your FREE consultation today!

Top 6 Ranking Factors for 2018

  1. Content keyword relevance & content based metrics – To rank well, your page content must show that it’s relevant to the search being done.  This is about publishing original content that is accurate to your services or products using the key phrases and geo-targets that are searched by the people you want to find you.
  2. Quality of online identity info – Lots of online directories publish information about your business, and they may have gotten it wrong. Claiming your business on map results and optimizing your business information across these directories is important to consumer confidence and to the search engines’ view of your businesses reputability.
  3. Responsive design / mobile optimization – If you want your site to rank in mobile searches (from smart phones and tablets) you have to have a mobile optimized site. Responsive design is the new standard. Businesses without mobile sites in 2018 are well behind the curve.
  4. Original and relevant content – Search engines don’t want to return results filled with the same-old-same-old content. Your site must be filled with original content that speaks to your offerings and the user’s search.
  5. Page load speed – Google is comparing the load speed of sites and returning results for searchers heavily influenced by how fast a site loads. Even sites built just a couple years ago can probably realize load speed enhancements in 2018 by implementing new coding techniques.
  6. Backlinks – Good quality backlinks are the single biggest ranking factor, but link building is an arduous process. It’s difficult to get other sites to link to your site and it can be extremely time consuming. However no other ranking factor has a bigger impact. The better the quality of the backlink, the higher its value to your ranking, leading many SEO leaders to concentrate on expensive but effective PR backlinks (links from high quality sites that must be gained through public relations and relationship building).

Are you ready to improve your website’s ranking? Contact the SEO, paid marketing, and web development professionals at MLT Group today at sales@mltgroup.com or 507.281.3490.

Backlink Boot Camp: Why Your Site Needs Them to Climb to #1

Competition for the top spot on Google is fierce and your site could use every advantage. Your site is optimized for search engines, your online identity is consistent, you’re running pay per click ads, and you’re regularly getting positive reviews, so what’s left? Backlinks are an important part of any digital marketing strategy and can help your website make it to page 1.

backlinks
Backlinks help your overall digital marketing efforts by allowing reputable sites to vouch for you.

What is a backlink? 

A backlink is a link from another site to your site. Backlinks from quality sites improve your rankings on Google and other search engines, making it an essential part of any SEO strategy. It’s almost as if another site is vouching for yours. When it comes to backlinks, quality trumps quantity. 100 low quality backlinks won’t have the same impact as a few high-quality ones. In fact, too many backlinks can seem spammy and actually hurt your SEO!

What makes a good backlink?

There are a few factors that go into a quality backlink.

  • Relevance- Backlinks should be related to your site and your business. If you provide carpet cleaning, you won’t want backlinks from a trucking site.
  • Domain Authority- Domain authority measures how reputable a site is. Backlinks from sites with high authority will be stronger than those from a site with low authority. You can use tools like the MozBar to evaluate a site’s domain authority.

How to get Backlinks:

Look for Broken Links: If there are certain sites you’d like backlinks from, search it for broken links. For example, if you’re a doggie daycare and you find a broken link on a pet blogger’s site, you can contact them, let them know about the broken link, and suggest replacing it with a relevant link to your site.

Ask: If there’s a site you want a backlink from, simply ask. This works best if you’ve formed a relationship with the site’s owner. Perhaps they’re a prominent blogger in your field? Follow their content, engage, and work on building that relationship before you ask, and you’ll increase your chances of getting that backlink.

Track Mentions: Services such as Google Alerts will track mentions of your business across the internet. If those mentions aren’t linked back to your site, you can email the publisher and request a link. For example, if your business was mentioned in the local paper’s online publication, Google Alerts will notify you and you can email the writer to link the article back to your site.

Are you ready to get quality backlinks for your website? Contact the experts at MLT Group at sales@mltgroup.com or (507) 281-3490 today! We’ll develop a backlink strategy to get your  website high-quality backlinks to help your site climb in rankings.

How to Respond to Online Reviews to Boost Your Business

Responding online reviews
Responding to reviews, both good and bad, can help business owners promote their business.

We’ve talked about the importance of online reviews before, but when you receive a review, what should you do? Should you respond or leave it alone? What if it’s negative? Responding to reviews requires tact and strategy. If done right, responding to reviews, even negative ones, can give your business a boost! Here, we’ll talk about the importance of responding to online reviews and how to respond to both positive and negative ones.

Why You Need to Respond to Online Reviews

It’s important to respond to both positive and negative online reviews. Responding gives your business a voice in the ongoing conversation consumers are having about your services. It also lets readers know that you’re engaged and care about what they have to say. Even if a reviewer was dissatisfied, a simple and polite response can make a world of difference. But how do you respond to reviews in a way that’s tactful and boosts your business?

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

Every business loves receiving a positive review, so responding is easy. But you can maximize this opportunity , connecting with your customers and promoting your business by remembering these key elements:

  • Remember your manners- Always thank a reviewer for taking the time to write about your business. It’s polite! “Thank you! We’re happy to hear you enjoyed your visit!”
  • Make it personal- Personalizing your response to each review shows customers that you read their reviews and care about what they have to say. To personalize a response, thank the reviewer by name and highlight specifics of their review. For example, if they appreciated your attention to detail, mention that thoroughness is something your business prides itself on. Doing this also allows you to re-emphasize the positive qualities of your business.
  • Invite them to come again- Inviting the reviewer to visit again shows that you care about their repeat business and makes them feel welcome. You can also use this as an opportunity to promote a special event or sale you have coming up. “Come see us again for our semi-annual sale starting on June 1st!”
  • Use keywords- Reviews can show up in search results, so utilize industry keywords and your business’ name when responding to a positive review so more readers will see it.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Receiving negative reviews hurts. However, they are a great tool for growing as a business, improving the customer experience, and even mending relationships. As expected, responding to negative reviews can be tricky, but with these tips, you can make negative reviews work for your business.

  • Understand what happened- What made this customer unhappy? Speak with your employees and try to piece together what happened or what went wrong. This will give you a better idea of how to respond and what you can do to remedy the issue. Was there a misunderstanding? Did your business drop the ball? Or was the customer in the wrong? This is something you should already be doing to improve your business and your customers’ experiences.
  • Remain calm- When responding to a negative review, it’s important to maintain a level head. Sounding angry or defensive will only reflect poorly on your business. Remaining calm shows that you are a professional and can take criticism.
  • Apologize and sympathize- Even if the customer was in the wrong, always apologize for their poor experience. This shows humility and acknowledges the reviewer’s feelings. This will also show other readers that your business cares about its customers and their experiences. “We’re sorry to hear you were dissatisfied with our services. We always try to put our customer’s satisfaction first, but it seems we’ve missed the mark.”
  • Take the conversation offline- Include your contact information and offer to resolve the issue outside of the review forum. This gives you the opportunity to make things right with the disgruntled customer and shows them that you value their patronage. It also shows readers that your business cares about its customers and takes their experiences seriously. If you are able to resolve the issue, politely ask the disgruntled customer to update their review to reflect this.
  • Don’t use keywords or your business’ name- As mentioned earlier, reviews can appear in searches. Avoid using keywords or your business’ name when responding to negative reviews so these reviews won’t be seen by other customers.

Reviews are an important part of any business. With these tips, you can maximize every opportunity to connect with your customers. Do you want more reviews for your business? Contact MLT Group at 507.281.3490 or sales@mltgroup.com and ask about our review campaign services.

How Online Reviews Are Affecting Your Local Ranking

We all know that positive online reviews are important to your business; they build your reputation and are highly influential to consumers. But did you know that good reviews can also influence your local search ranking on Google?

Here is an example of Local Three Pack results for carpet cleaning in Rochester, MN.
Here is an example of Local Three Pack results for carpet cleaning in Rochester, MN. You can see the online reviews prominently displayed.

As far as local searches are concerned, every business wants to appear in Google’s Local Three Pack which shows the top three local search results. The Three Pack takes up prime real estate on Google’s search results, appearing before organic results and just below the paid ads. Having your business appear in Google’s Local Three Pack means that potential customers are more likely to find your services and click through to your website.

However, the Local Three Pack results are determined by more than content, relativity, and keywords. In a continuing effort to provide users with the best possible results, Google’s algorithm is rewarding businesses that have positive reviews, by helping them rank in the Local Three Pack.

How to Appear in the Local Three Pack

So how can you help your business receive positive reviews and boost your chances of appearing in the Local Three Pack?

First, make sure you’ve claimed your business on Google My Business. This way you can start directing customers to write reviews on Google.

Second, you will need to develop a strategy for encouraging your customers to write reviews of your business. Here are 3 tips for promoting positive reviews.

  1. Ask. It may sound obvious, but many businesses forget to ask their customers for reviews. Try including a prompt on receipts or in follow up emails.
  2. Learn from your existing online reviews. Learning from your existing reviews, both positive and negative is important for your business and will help promote positive reviews. Capitalizing on your businesses’ strengths while addressing its weaknesses will help you to provide a better experience for your customers, leaving them more likely to leave a positive review.
  3. Make leaving online reviews easy. Your customers aren’t likely to go out of their way to review you. Offering them a simple and direct option for leaving reviews will increase the likelihood that they will participate. Include direct links to your review profiles in emails, newsletters, and other communications to your customers.

There’s no time to lose! The experts at MLT Group can help set up and optimize your Google My Business profile and help you promote positive reviews for your business. For more information, please contact one of our professionals at 507.281.3490 or sales@mltgroup.com.

Protect Your Business’ Online Reputation

 

Watch our latest Theo Talk about managing your online reputation.
Watch our latest Theo Talk about managing your online reputation.

You’ve worked hard to build your business and provide quality services. After all of the time and energy you’ve put into your business, it can be heartbreaking to see your business’ reputation under attack from online reviews. As our Director of Operations, Theo St. Mane, explains in our latest Theo Talk video, too many good businesses are marred by just a few negative reviews.

But how can just a few bad reviews have such a devastating impact? Imagine the last time you paid for a good or service and had a good experience. Did you feel compelled to write a positive review about it? Now imagine the last time you had a negative experience. You were probably more compelled to share the story. There is a psychological reason for this. Positive and negative experiences are processed differently in the brain. Negative experiences take more processing power, causing us to ruminate on them. This makes it more likely for consumers to share their negative experiences on review sites.

What Should You Do With Bad Reviews?

No matter how well your business operates, bad reviews happen, which is why it’s important to have a plan for how to handle them. First, deleting isn’t the answer. Most review sites such as Yelp and Google Business won’t allow businesses to delete reviews unless they can prove the review is false or attempting to inflict undue damages. If they did, these sites would lose all credibility. But if you can’t delete a bad review, what can you do?

  • Research the complaint– Who is the customer? Is their complaint valid? What were the circumstances surrounding their experience? This is information that will be helpful for understanding the complaint and how to respond.
  • Respond to the complaint– Sharing your side if the story can help repair your relationship with the dissatisfied customer and improve your image with potential customers reading the review. In responding make sure you sound reasonable and professional. The quality of your response can completely neutralize a negative review in the eyes of other consumers.

How to Receive Positive Reviews

If consumers are more likely to share negative reviews, how do you get consumers to share positive experiences about your business?

  • Make it easy – Include links to your business’ review profiles on your website, social media, emails, and newsletters. Customers aren’t going to spend time looking for your business on these sites, but if you make it easy for them they may take a few moments to leave a positive review.
  • Give incentives– Customers are more likely to leave reviews if they have some incentive. It is important, however, that you are not seen as paying for reviews or paying for good reviews. Monthly giveaways and other chances to win prizes are proven strategies for encouraging reviews.
  • Ask– It seems so obvious, but many businesses fail to ask their customers to write reviews. Make it part of your daily work practice for you and your employees to solicit reviews from customers.

Your business’ reputation is invaluable so make sure you protect it. To find out how MLT Group can help your business with its online reputation and SEO, contact one of our professionals at sales@mltgroup.com or 507.281.3490. Also, watch our latest Theo Talk video about managing your business’ online reputation here.