How Will Apple’s New iPhone 6 Affect Your Local Business?

How Will Apple's New iPhone 6 Affect Your Local Business?Apple’s recent unveiling of three new products caused quite a buzz in the electronics community, especially the long-awaited iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. With new near-field communication (NFC), electronic payment capabilities, a larger screen, better camera, and improved battery life, this hot new model has competitors struggling to up the ante, and entrepreneurs wondering how the iPhone 6’s improved technology will affect their local businesses.

Paying for Stuff With Your iPhone 6

Apple has finally jumped on the bandwagon with NFC technology in both its iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Something Android devices have offered since 2006 (Nokia 6131 was the first NFC-equipped phone), near field communication technology allows short-range transfer of encrypted data, such as payment information, between two NFC equipped electronic devices. Apple has appropriated the technology for its new “Apple Pay” system, and has teamed up with Visa, American Express, and MasterCard to allow customers to pay for goods and services with a single click, both online and at retail locations around the country.

Before you go rushing out to sign up with Google Wallet or MasterCard PayPass, however, be aware that Apple is restricting its NFC chips from being used for any apps but their own proprietary system, which is insular from other NFC payment systems. Merchants who wish to take advantage of the new NFC-equipped Apple products will have to sign up expressly with Apple Pay. How this divisive behavior on Apple’s part will affect the implementation of NFC payment technology remains to be seen.

iPhone 6 is Larger Without Feeling Bigger

Finally breaking away from its cramped 4-inch screen, Apple is outsizing Android’s 4.5-inch model with a slightly larger 4.7-inch screen. And the screen size on the Plus model is a generous 5.5 inches. If you’re thinking this will make for a bulky, clumsy feeling phone, think again. Apple combines its thinnest ever, most advanced multi-touch display with a seamless, rounded glass edge to make its new phones sleeker and more comfortable to use. At just 0.27 inches thick, this is one slim phone.

What does this mean for your local business? The larger display screen also delivers higher contrast, more accurate color, and wider viewing angles. All of this translates to a better user experience when interacting with social media and other applications. iPhone 6 users will no doubt be rabid app consumers, and looking for places to check in, post reviews from, and try out all the newest technology. Businesses that are “app-friendly” are likely to see an upturn.

Smile for the Camera

Foodies, Selfie-holics, and Instagram buffs will love the new features on Apple’s 8 megapixel iPhone 6 iSight camera. With incorporated HDR, reduced focus time, brighter colors (even when using the flash), and a noise-reducing imaging chip, this camera is likely to swell the numbers of photographic check-ins, Facebook posts, and Yelp reviews. The camera also features face detection, blink and smile detection, and burst mode auto-pick that uses programmed algorithms to pick the best from a burst of similar pictures. Digital image stabilization is included with the iPhone 6, and optical image stabilization is added to the Plus model.

With 1080p HD video at 30 or 60fps and 120 or 240fps in slow motion, new iPhone 6 users are likely to also be taking advantage of Yelp’s new video app to post videos with their Yelp reviews. Continuous autofocus keeps your subjects sharp even as they move around, and video can also be filmed in HDR mode. Business owners will want to make sure their establishments are video-ready!

Increased Battery Life Means More, More, More

The larger size of Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus naturally incorporate more space for batteries, however Apple claims its new A8 chip is faster, better performing and also more power efficient. This adds up to not only faster performance but longer battery life. How long? Users can expect to browse to their hearts’ content on WiFi or film and watch videos for up to 11 hours on the iPhone 6, and longer on the Plus model – 12 and 14 hours, respectively.

What does that mean for your small business? Longer battery life means more time spent online and therefore more opportunities for local businesses to target consumers with mobile marketing. Longer battery life also means better reliability, which could lead to more iPhone users beginning to rely on their iPhones as a payment device.

So what is the main takeaway here? The long lines at the Apple store, days and even weeks in advance of the anticipated release, only demonstrate the population’s thirst for new technology. Business owners who choose to bury their heads in the sand and resist facilitating, promoting, and leveraging the tools of this brave new world are liable to quickly find themselves at the back of the pack!

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The Complete Reference Guide For Local SEO Terms From A to Z

The Complete Reference Guide For Local SEO Terms From A to Z

If you are like most business owners or marketing managers for a local business, you likely are very interested in understanding and optimizing your businesses web presence. However, you might feel uncomfortable about your sites’ web presence or even speaking with your web developer or marketing consultant as it’s hard to know about all complicated terms involved in building and maintaining a website. Most of what the web developer says goes in one ear and out the other, and you do not know what to make of it. We have created this reference guide of local SEO terms to help you understand the meanings of the many complicated terms used.

Algorithm – A formula created by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo used to decide how to rank a website on a search engine results page.  Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to reflect the information on the web and the search engine’s idea of how to best represent that information in search results.

Alt Tag or Alt Attribute – Essentially a text version of an image, this allows you to describe an image being used in a website so that it may be indexed by spiders and subsequently appear in search results.  This underused tactic of using keywords in the Alt Tag can drive traffic to your website by helping images show up in search results under relevant queries.

Anchor Text – The clickable text in a hyperlink, this text will typically appear underlined and in blue when used on a page.  Search engines can use a culmination of all anchor text linking to a specific website to determine what that website is about.

Authority – A score assigned to a website by a search engine to determine factors such as credibility, relevancy, trust, and power a site has.  To determine authority, search engines will often look at factors such as inbound links, site age, quality content, and page traffic.

Black Hat Local SEO – Unethical techniques used by some webmasters in order to trick a search engine, often resulting in serious web consequences, being blacklisted, if caught.  Some examples of black hat tactics include hiding content, meta keyword stuffing, creating doorway pages (that users are automatically redirected from), and link farming.

Bounce Rate – When a user leaves a site after viewing only one page.  Common causes of a high bounce rate include site design or usability issues, irrelevant content, or even because the information was provided on the first page.  In order to reduce your bounce rate, provide users with relevant and quality content that they will find useful on each page.

Broken Link –  A link that does not lead to the desired end location either because of an incorrectly provided link or because a web page no longer exists.  When a page has too many broken links, this indicates to a search engine that the content of the page and even the website is poor and decreases authority.

Canonical URL – An HTML tag placed on a web page and referring back to another webpage in which the content was taken from.  This is valuable as it essentially tells a search engine that both pages should be considered as one without redirecting the viewer to another page.  The value this provides for your website is in the fact that it tells search engines that content is duplicated without you being lowered in search rankings.

Citations - A citation is a reference to your business online, specifically to your name, address and phone number (NAP). Google uses them to determine the authority of your local business without requiring a link to your website.

Click Through Rate (CTR) - In pay per click terms, the CTR is the number of times someone has clicked on a paid search listing divided by the number of times someone has been shown a paid search listing.  The formula for CTR = clicks / impressions.

Conversion Rate – The percentage of people who commit the intended action when landing on a page.  For many sites, this will mean purchasing a product, subscribing for more information, or interacting with certain portions of a page.

Cost Per Click (CPC) – The price a site owner pays for every click the receive to their site.  For paid search programs, such as Google AdWords, this number is typically variable and changes based on budget and factors such as it’s PageRank.

CSS – Short for Cascading Style Sheets, this is the part of a sites code that explains how elements of a site such a headers, body content, and comment sections should look.

Directory – A site devoted to showing business information and websites relevant to category searches.  For a local business, appearing on the most prominent directories can be a great source of traffic to your website as well as drastically improve the customer conversion process.

Domain – The first part of your website address (e.g. signpost.com), most of the time the home page of your website. This site will typically show up more often than other portions of your site as it is the main page for your business.  Registering your domain for years in advance will typically have a positive effect on your SEO as it shows commitment to your site.

E-Commerce Site – A site whose primary goal is the sale of goods electronically.  An E-Commerce site will typically feature a high number of relatable products and allow for transactions to be placed over the web, reducing a businesses overhead costs and constraints provided by a brick and mortar such as labor and hours of operation.

Favicon – A 16 pixel by 16 pixel image that is displayed in the url bar of a website.  The Favicon is typically a condensed version of a website’s logo that is displayed directly to the left of the website.

The Fold – The invisible line designating what is seen right away when a user views a web page versus what a user must scroll in order to see.  One important thing to keep in mind for the fold is that this invisible line will change across devices, showing up in a different place when a user views your site on a mobile device compared to when they use a web browser.

Dofollow Link – This type of link has a special type of formatting in the HTML Markup that tells search engines that they can follow the link to the page it lands on.  Dofollow links are valuable for your business website as they build authority and make it easier for search engines to find and understand the value in your site.

Googlebot - The web crawling bot for Google, this is what Google uses to index your site and factor it into Google’s algorithm.

Heading - The top line of your website, this introduces viewers to the page as well as what the page is about.  The heading does not only show up on your page but also on the top of a viewers web browser and as the blue hyperlink text on a search engine result page.

HTML - Short for HyperText Markup Language, this is the standard markup language for most websites.  HTML tags elements of the site in angled brackets <H1></H1> and makes your website crawlable by search engine bots, something other coding language like flash cannot do.

Impression - In search, an impression represents an opportunity for a potential viewer to click on a link to your website.  Impressions build up when searchers come across your site in search results as well as when they view a link or ad to your site on another page or mobile app.

Indexing - The process by which a search engine bot will crawl the web to find information about your site to determine the quality of the page compared to other pages for relevant queries.  Search engines tend to index the web every few weeks and a plethora of dofollow links and the creation of a sitemap.

Internal Link – A link from one page to another page within the same website.  An example of an internal link would be this link to all of the blog posts I have written on the Signpost blog.

Javascript - A scripting language used by website developers to apply effects to a site as a user uses it.  Java is much more difficult for a search engine to crawl than other forms of code like HTML.

Keyword - A word or term that a user inputs to a search engine to find information related to that topic.  You should optimize every page of your site for specific keywords that searchers would use in a search query to find information.

Landing Page – The page that a user lands on when clicking through on a search engine results page.  The landing page is not necessarily the main page for your business but rather the page that has been optimized for the specific keyword search they used to find your site.

Local Marketing Mistakes

Link Building – The process of getting more inbound links to your site in order to boost ranking on a search engine results page.  There are strategies which Google rewards in link building as well as strategies designed to trick Google which can result in punishment for your website if caught.

Long Tail Keyword – Optimizing your site for a number of keywords that are not frequently searched for but also do not have very much competition.  The benefit in long tail keywording is that each search queries is less competitive and easier to get ranked highly on and the scale of doing so for a number of underutilized search term can add up to more traffic than targeting a few highly competitive keywords.

Meta-Tag – This description is written into the code of a page but does not actually appear on that page.  A meta-tag will be less than 160 characters long and will show up under the hyperlink to a page on the search engine results page.

NAP – This stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. NAP is essential for local businesses and their search rankings as search engines like Google use this data to determine which businesses and websites to show based on geo-targeted searches. Make sure your NAP information is correct and consistent on your website and local directory listings.

Nofollow Link – Opposite of a dofollow link, this type of link will not send a search engine crawler through to the page it links to.  If links to your page are nofollow, they will not build authority to your page online and also not have any effect on your search ranking.

Organic SEO - When a page is optimized without using a pay per click service to boost rankings, it has been optimized organically.  Common strategies for organic SEO include keyword optimization, link building, and a strong directory presence.

PageRank - This is what Google uses when determining the importance of a web page.  Factors determining PageRank include back-links to a web page as well as the quality of the landing page of a site.

Page Title – The name given to each individual page on your website, the page title will appear on the top of a user’s web browser.  You should put the most relevant content at the beginning of a page title as it is more heavily weighted.

Paid SEO – Any marketing program in which you pay for a specific ranking for your website.  For paid SEO, ranking is typically more indicative of the amount you are willing to pay per click as opposed to the quality and relevancy of your site.

Panda – A series of updates Google made to their algorithm, Panda updates were created to encourage quality relevant content over a plethora of mediocre content.  The updates emphasize web developers to produce relevant content that users value over a number of pages filled with highly searched keywords.

Pay Per Click – This type of marketing is a form of payment metric used for search engine marketing.  PPC and pay per action are the two most common metrics used on SEM programs as a method of tracking payment.

Pigeon – An update to the Google search algorithm, pigeon was implemented to improve the quality of search results for local business searches.  The idea behind the pigeon update was to provide more localized search results while also limiting the number of options presented to searchers in a query.

Query – A phrase or group of keywords, this is what is typed into a search engine search bar and determines the results showed to a searcher.

Ranking Factor – Any factor that affects how a web page is ranked.  Popular ranking factors include the number of inbound links a page has, how relevant the content displayed on the page is to the search query, and the amount of traffic a page has received from previous similar searches.

Redirect – Anything that causes the internet user to automatically be taken to a different page than the one submitted.  There can be both positive and negative reasons a website has a redirect.  A redirect can be a result of a new webpage address to help the user find the correct site, a doorway into a different page, along with a number of other things.  Redirects tend to hurt a pages search ranking as bots can’t always follow the redirect.

Referrer – When a site provides a link to another site that a user follows to get to the second site, the initial site is known as the referrer.

Referrer String – Used to help a webmaster understand how users are finding a site, this is a piece of information sent from the user to the website showing how they navigated to and where they went on a website.

Robot.txt File – a file placed in the coding of a website, robot.txt is intended to control how a search engine bot crawls a website.  When a robot.txt file is placed on a site, it limits and often disallows any crawling the bot can do on that site.

RSS Feed – Short for “Really Simple Syndication”,  it allows a user to subscribe to new content and be notified when any content is produced on a site.  RSS feeds are valuable for websites or blogs with followers who want to stay up-to-date with information produced on the site.

Search Engine Marketing – SEM for short, this is any form of marketing undertaking by a webmaster to increase the number and quality of leads driven to the site.  Popular forms of search engine marketing include both organic and paid SEO, paid listings, and content directing users from one site to another.

Search Engine Optimization – The process of maximizing a websites stature and presentation in order to increase traffic to the site provided by search engines.  SEO can be done both on-page, by including necessary keywords and making your site easily usable, as well as off-page, by listing your site on necessary directories and optimizing the meta-tags leading to the site.

Search Engine Results Page - SERP for short, this is the list of results produced for a certain search query.  For Google, each page will typically consist of 10 results.

Sitemap – A document created by a webmaster and provided to search engines to simplify the site and make it easier for a search engine bot to crawl a site.  Without a sitemap, search engine bots have to rely on dofollow links to crawl a site.

Spider – Also known as a crawler or a bot, this is a computer program that finds and indexes information on websites to ensure maximum relevancy in search queries.

Title Tag – The title tag is the title given to each individual web page on your site.  The title tag is arguably the most important content on your website as it not only serves as the title for the page but also appears as the linked content on a search engine results page.

Traffic – The visitors to your website.

Traffic Rank – The ranking of how many visitors a site gets compared to all of the other sites on the web.  The Alexa Score is the most common way of determining a site’s traffic rank.

URL – The web address of a page on your site.  Each page has it’s own unique url which is tied together to the rest of the site through the website’s domain.

White Hat Local SEO – These are search engine optimization techniques which conform to and are rewarded by search engine guidelines.  Examples of white hat SEO include producing quality content, doing keyword research and effectively implementing keywords, and title and meta-tags.

Zzzz – You snooze, you lose. The search engine algorithms constantly evolve, so make sure you keep up to date on local SEO via the Signpost blog.

301 Redirect – A permanent page redirect, the 301 redirect is used when a website switches addresses in order to help a user find the correct page.  The 301 redirect is most useful for people who have a site saved to their browser or listed as a bookmark.

302 Redirect – A temporary page redirect, the 302 redirect is used when a page has been temporarily moved to another page.  This is typical when a site is being constructed or re-done to allow users to go to another site in the meantime.

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10 Popular Myths About Marketing Your Small Business Online

10 Popular Myths About Marketing Your Small Business Online

When it comes to online marketing, there are a lot of popular misconceptions as to what one should or shouldn’t do, and whether it’s even necessary. To clear up some of the confusion, here is the skinny on some of the most common myths about marketing your small business online.

1. I Don’t Sell Online, So I Don’t Need Online Marketing

Let’s face it, unless you live in a third world country, just about everybody is searching for your business online. Whether you’re a dry cleaner, hair salon, restaurant, or even a local coin- operated Laundromat, chances are your customers are searching the web to find you. Thus, if you don’t have a web presence, you’re losing business.

2. My Product or Service is So Great it Doesn’t Need to be Marketed

Having a great product or service is essential to your long term success, but you could go broke waiting for word-of-mouth promotion to bring in new customers. Even with a basic internet presence, you’re facing some pretty stiff competition when it comes to getting your customers’ attention, let alone their money. A carefully crafted marketing plan that will appeal to your target customers is an essential step on your pathway to success.

3. I’m Cheaper Than the Competition, So I Don’t Need Marketing

Offering a great price doesn’t guarantee you customers, especially if no one knows about it. To make money while offering lower prices, you need to sell a lot of product; to do that, you need advertising, which costs money, which in turn increases expenses and forces you to raise prices. Be careful about relying on out-pricing the competition to bring in customers. Price shoppers are usually the least loyal, most difficult customers to keep, as they will drop you like a hot potato when a lower priced product or service comes along. Take some time to identify your demographic, work on your branding, and attract long term, loyal customers who will keep coming back because you’re convenient, local, and you offer a great product or service.

4. A Really Great Website is All I Need

Having a nicely crafted, attractive, thoughtful website designed to convert visits into sales is a very important part of your online marketing plan, but it can’t do it’s job if you don’t have a strategy to bring customers to your site in the first place. From social media to advertising and a variety of customer engagement methods, you need to generate a buzz that will get customers to visit your website, or else all of your hard work and investment will be for naught.

5. The Fancier My Website, the Better

Before you go investing a lot of money in a complex website with lots of animation, bells, and whistles, keep in mind that unless you’re selling fancy websites, simpler is generally better. Your website should be easy to read and navigate, pleasing to look at, and appealing to your customers. The more complicated the design, the longer it may take to load, causing customers to click away rather than wait. Also, the more complicated the design, the more difficult (and expensive) it will be to make changes later, so don’t be tempted to substitute high-tech gadgetry for good writing and pleasing design.

6. The More Traffic I Can Generate, the Better

Don’t fall for the old myth that all publicity is good publicity. While there’s nothing wrong with getting a high volume of traffic to your website, chances are it won’t result in a high volume of sales if it’s not your demographic. Don’t waste your time and money generating blind traffic. You should be channeling your marketing efforts toward your target audience to bring in the kind of traffic that will generate sales.

7. Social Media Caters Only to Teenagers

Actually, some social media sites like Facebook have been largely abandoned by teenagers because they discovered that their parents are using them. Different social media sites have different demographics, so it’s wise to do your research before choosing where to set up your business accounts. Whatever your product or service, however, chances are your preferred customers are out there using one social media site or another, and you would be wise to leverage such a lucrative marketing opportunity.

8. I Need a Really Big Budget to Get Results from Online Marketing

Online marketing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and you do not have to spend a small fortune to get results. You can start small, and add more money to the most profitable campaigns as you go along. A good online marketing provider will help you establish goals that fit your budget, and get the best return on investment for your marketing dollars.

9. Advertising is the Same as Marketing

Advertising is actually just a small part of the whole marketing picture. Marketing involves planning and research, as well as leveraging everything from various forms of advertising to social media and in-store promotions.

10. My Ad Has to Run Many Times to Get Results

Advertising aimed at developing brand awareness is quite expensive, requiring a business to run advertisements over and over again for best results. As a local business, however, you may simply desire to run an advertisement designed to generate an immediate and measurable response. Be sure your advertising sales representative understands your objectives and your budget.

Local Marketing Mistakes

While navigating the world of online marketing can seem overwhelming at times, there are many knowledgeable professionals available to guide you. The key is to find a trustworthy, reputable company, and work together to establish a clear understanding of your goals and budget.

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3 Benefits of Being Listed as a Verified Merchant Online

3 Benefits of Being Listed as a Verified Merchant Online

One of the drawbacks of being a local business is that you don’t have the brand name recognition of the big box stores and services. New customers might therefore be a little hesitant to do business with you, especially online. Add to that the fact that many business directories contain listings that are no longer valid and you can have a real credibility problem. Imagine the frustration a customer might feel after going to the trouble to locate, say, a dry cleaners in their neighborhood only to discover on arrival that the business has closed its doors.

For this reason, most business directories and listing services offer some type of “merchant verified” badge or status, which ensures that all of the information provided is valid and up to date. The benefits of being a verified merchant are threefold.

1) Get Preferential Positioning in Business Directories

Business directories loathe the idea of listing defunct businesses or incorrect information, but seldom have the resources to verify each and every listing. Therefore, when a business takes the time and provides sufficient information to achieve verified status, they are naturally listed ahead of unverified businesses.

The more directories in which your business has achieved verified status, the better your overall search engine rankings.

2) Gain Your Customers’ Trust

There are so many fly-by-night companies that appear and disappear, seemingly overnight, that customers are understandably wary of listings that provide little information or have not been verified by the directory or some other verification service. Let your customers know that you’re serious about providing them a secure shopping experience and will not hide behind a veil of anonymity.

Even if you’re not doing business online, that’s where your customers are searching for you, and where they will look for you again when they’re ready to redeem their coupon, verify their appointment time, or make a claim on their warranty. They need to know they will always be able to find you.

3) Claim Your Google, Bing, Yelp and YellowPages.com Listings

While many Yellow Page type directories including Merchant Circle, Manta, HotFrog, and Best of the Web do not require verification, you cannot claim your business listings on Google, Bing, Yelp, or YellowPages.com without undergoing a special verification process. This protects you from having someone else fraudulently claim your listings.

These are major search directories that you will want to leverage to the max, so it’s worth taking the extra time to verify your information. Then you can also provide a description of your products or services along with photographs, hours of operation, and more. And most importantly, when users see that your page has been claimed and verified on these major sites, they will have a much higher comfort level doing business with you.

In a nutshell, on the Internet, information is power. A savvy business owner strives to provide as much information as possible to potential customers, and becoming a verified merchant online lets customers know that they can trust that information.

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10 Benefits of Local Event Marketing for Your Business

10 Benefits of Local Event Marketing for Your Business

If you’re ready to stir things up and bring in new customers to your local business, there’s no better way than hosting a local event. Whether you hold a grand re-opening, debut a new product or service, have a storewide sale, host a charity event, or just throw a big party, hosting a successful event can increase your brand visibility, bring in lots of foot traffic, and greatly benefit your local SEO campaign. Here are ten benefits to be reaped from local event marketing.

1. Get News Mentions and Brand Exposure

A properly marketed event can attract lots of media attention, especially if it’s charity-related. Pay close attention to other local events and see which media representatives are attending and promoting them. Get names and contact information for your own event. The bigger and more unusual the event, the better the media coverage will be. Try to come up with an angle that will make your event stand out from the crowd. All of the marketing efforts you put towards your event will also benefit your brand, as even those who don’t attend will remember the promotion and may stop in later to check out your business.

2. Increase Foot Traffic and Sales

On the day of the event you’re sure to see a swarm of foot traffic, as people flock to your business for your sale or promotion or to participate in your event. Be sure you’re prepared to handle the volume, with extra staff on hand to keep things running smoothly. You’ll not only see greater sales during the event, but if you make a good impression then you stand to gain many more regular customers.

3. Reach a Targeted Audience

If your event is centered on a particular product or service, then those who attend will be potential customers that are particularly interested in that product or service. For instance, if you’re a salon who specializes in hair extensions and you put on a demonstration where people can see the products and how they’re emplaced, ask questions and explore the options, then you’ll likely attract anyone within a 30 mile radius who is interested in getting hair extensions. By tailoring your event to the type of customers you hope to attract, you are able to target your desired demographic exclusively.

4. Interact With Your Customers

When hosting an event, you have the opportunity to meet and interact with your customers on a personal level, and market to them directly. They’ll get to see your products or services first hand, and meet the person behind the business. This creates a memorable impression and establishes a relationship you can’t achieve through any other form of marketing.

5. Make Valuable Connections

In the process of hosting an event, you’re bound to make a slew of valuable contacts and connections as you go about the marketing process. From news media contacts to caterers to neighboring business owners, your virtual rolodex is going to swell with business cards from a variety of important people about town. The next time you host an event – or help a neighboring business to host an event – you’ll be ready!

6. Boost Your Local SEO Campaign With Valuable Citations

As you promote your event, you’ll naturally list it on every local calendar that gets published, online and in print. Each time the event is listed, your business name, address, and phone number will also be listed, giving you valuable citations that will boost your rating with local search engines.

7. Get Lots of Valuable Web Page Links

Make sure that wherever your event is listed online, you include a link back to your website, which will benefit your local SEO campaign immensely and boost your search engine ratings.

8. Social Media Benefits

Be sure to leverage social media before, during, and after your event, to create a buzz that will have them tweeting to beat the band. Encourage attendees to check in at your event, take photos, and post them to Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Foursquare. Create a hashtag for your event and promote it well in advance, then post it prominently on your big day so that customers will remember to use it for their social media posts.

9. Get Positive Reviews

A fabulous, memorable event is a great way to pick up some positive reviews on Yelp, Google+, and others. While Yelp frowns on anyone directly asking for reviews, it is acceptable to post a “Find us on Yelp” sign in your store.

10. Get Material for Your Blog Posts

If you maintain a blog, you undoubtedly have days where you find yourself struggling to come up with compelling subject matter. Hosting a local event will give you volumes of content for your blog before, during, and long after your event – and then you can start planning next year’s event. Be sure to ask your readers for feedback and ideas for the next one!

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How to Manage and Maintain Your Social Media Profiles

How to Manage and Maintain Your Social Media Profiles

For today’s local business, social media is a powerful tool in your public relations and marketing toolbox. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ among others allow you to connect with your customers in a personal way, transmitting information about sales, promotions, and new products almost instantaneously.

For many local business owners, however, posting to multiple social media profiles can be time consuming and even tedious at times. Having to log into each account and format specific posts for each site several times a day is just not feasible, and so often times these pages are not leveraged as well as they could be.

Fortunately, there are two very good social media management services that allow you to create content and schedule it to appear on many different social feeds at optimal times; they also track performance and activity while interacting with followers, all from one central location. These two services are Buffer and HootSuite, and each has different benefits for different levels of users.

Buffer – Easy and Intuitive

For the web-challenged, Buffer is definitely the way to go. It’s clean, simple and intuitive to use. While the “Awesome Plan” runs around $102 per year or $10 a month, there is a free version that will allow you to link Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter accounts, and even Google+ pages, allowing you to post to several accounts at one time.

Buffer is perfect for the user that has a lot of things to post but doesn’t want to periodically visit each social profile and post them manually. Each linked account has a “buffer” that you fill with content, to be posted at predetermined times until the buffer is empty. The site sends you an email whenever your buffer needs more content, and even recommends content for posting based on your page’s history and community interests.

Buffer’s analytics tools provide basic statistics such as click rates, reach, and retweets. Users who upgrade to the Awesome Plan get even more detailed analytics, as well as the ability for two team members to manage 12 social media profiles, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and App.net.

A browser extension for Chrome and/or Firefox allows users to add articles and links to their buffers during Internet browsing sessions with an easy click of the mouse, making content selection easy and intuitive.

HootSuite – Harder to Learn, but Endless Possibilities

HootSuite is a somewhat larger and more complex social media management tool, considered by many to be the biggest and best, capable of supporting a wide variety of platforms, including  Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress, and Mixi profiles.

While paid subscriptions run the gamut from under $10 to over $1000 per month depending on complexity, HootSuite also offers a free version with a number of helpful features, similar to Buffer. A basic paid subscription gives you the option to bulk schedule your posts from one single file upload, which can save massive amounts of time for those with a large number of social profiles.

HootSuite’s analytics tools allow you to track performance of specific posts, as well as viewing mentions, direct messages and general social feed on the dashboard. Clean, professional and customizable reports can be generated for presentations and professional meetings, for an additional fee.

For those who have the time and the patience to learn, HootSuite offers a lot of useful tools and devices, including the ability to display multiple feeds from various social networks at one time. And if you really want to get the most out of social media, HootSuite even runs an online training program that thoroughly explores the ins and outs of the software.

One drawback to keep in mind with both applications is that some sites may decide to prioritize  posts made organically over those provided by third-party apps. Twitter, in particular, has been known to discriminate against the use of third party tools. This is certainly something to keep an eye on, and still more reason to use the analytics tools offered by both services to continuously track the success of your posts on your various accounts.

While Buffer and HootSuite are helpful, time-saving services, it’s important to remember that direct engagement is important as well. No amount of automation will ever replace the personal connection, which is the basic intent of social media sites in the first place.

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We’re Joining the NewCo Community!

Signpost is proud to be partnering with the NewCo New York Festival next month!

NewCo is the “inside out” conference model where attendees get an opportunity to get an inside look at some of the most innovative and smart companies of our generation.  On Oct 1-2, great NY-based companies like Tumblr, Foursquare, Sprinklr…and yes, Signpost, will open the doors to their offices for a one-hour informational session.  Once inside, participants have a wide range of experiences – from behind-the-scene tours of cutting-edge work environments to founders candidly sharing insights into their own entrepreneurial journey.

Come tour the new Signpost New York headquarters as we share how we grew from 30 employees to over 200 in just a year’s time. You’ll learn more on what makes our culture tick, as well as insights into how cloud computing is aiding local business. After you get to see our space and meet some staff, our CEO Stuart Wall will share his founding vision around empowering local businesses, the lessons learned on fundraising, execution, customer acquisition and the importance of team culture.

Full Event Details

  • What: Signpost Hosts NewCo New York
  • When: Thursday, Oct. 2 4:30pm-6pm
  • Where: Signpost New York – 127 W 26TH ST FL 2, New York, NY, 10001
  • Register to attend Signpost and other NewCo host company events for free here

We appreciate your help to spread the word on our participation with a tweet.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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How to Make Your Local Business Stand Out Online

How to Make Your Business Stand Out Online

When it comes to Internet commerce, competition is fierce. It can seem as though the whole Webosphere is out there clamoring for the attention of each and every user who dares to venture online. How does one compete with all of that hubbub to make your small business stand out online and to get your fair share of the market?

If you haven’t got a trainload of money to throw at the problem, how can you possibly compete against the big brands? Rest assured, you can; you’re local and unique! Read on to learn about some ways to make your local business stand out against your competitors.

Don’t Be a Copycat

It’s natural – and even necessary – to want to check out the competition in order to understand the market, determine pricing, and so forth. Be careful, however, not to spend so much time browsing competitors’ websites that you find yourself unconsciously copying them. You can’t stand out from the crowd if you look just like them.

Don’t be afraid to be creative, let your imagination flow, and come up with your own ideas for how you want your site to look, and what messages you want to send. Decide who your customers are to create your own brand that will appeal to your demographic.

Find an Unexplored Niche

Look for areas of your market that are untapped. Whether it’s an uncommon product that you sell or an unusual service that you offer, use that to lure in customers who may have been searching everywhere for it. If everyone in your market is offering Swedish massages and you also offer Thai massage, explore the many health benefits of Thai massage in your blogs, social media posts, and advertising to entice customers who may be looking for something different.

You can also take advantage of your passions, such as recycling, to attract like-minded customers. Declare yourself a “green” business and enumerate the efforts you have made to reduce your carbon footprint. If you use only organic products, if you donate a percentage of your profits to a charity, if you go out of your way to acquire the finest ingredients for your pizzas; whatever you do that’s different, use it as a selling point.

Promote Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert

People searching online are often looking for information. Being a provider of information and education will put you head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to search engine algorithms. Whether you simply share articles and information from other sites or go so far as to offer courses and training on a particular subject depends on your comfort level, but the more that people see you as a subject matter expert, the more you will stand out online.

Build a Solid Email List

This one may seem a bit obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Many people are reluctant to give up their email address, and those that do often give only a secondary one they use for just such purposes. You need to convince your customers that your emails will be worth reading. Email addresses obtained by offering a freebie are not nearly as valuable as those you get from people who read and enjoy your blog and subscribe for email notifications. Once again, setting yourself up as a subject matter expert and sharing valuable insights and knowledge is a great way to build a loyal following for your business.

Promote Others

Don’t be afraid to give credit where credit is due and champion those from whom you get some of your valuable insights. Find people who are doing great work in your field and promote them to your customers. Only self-important narcissists spend all their time talking about themselves, so show your audience that you recognize genius when you see it and put the spotlight on someone else now and again.

Be a Social Butterfly

Dedicate a portion of your time each day to social media sites, and not just to post helpful and informative content. Interact with your customers by inviting them to comment on changes you have made, new product lines you’ve added, or anything else you can think of. Always take time to respond to customer comments, good and bad, and thank them for their input.

Don’t be afraid to be provocative, and get people thinking and responding. If your posts are all sunshine and flowers, your audience will quickly become bored. You should always strive to bring something new to the conversation to create a dialog.

In summary, the best way to stand out online is to take advantage of the fact that you are a local business, and you can offer a level of personal service and interaction that the big brands cannot. Those who spend their time on social media sites are often the same customers who prefer to shop locally, so make the most of your unique, local branding!

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The New Signpost and Lasting Customer Relationships

Signpost Dashboard - Overview

I want to officially welcome everyone to the new Signpost!

Working with local businesses over the last several years has been a truly eye-opening experience. The number one pain point we hear again and again is the lack of time that business owners have to attract and retain quality customers. This has informed our mission to empower local businesses as well as guide how we expand as a company.

With this in mind, we are unveiling a new era for Signpost today. One in which local businesses can effortlessly build lasting customer relationships.

The new Signpost, which is available for independent and franchise local business owners nationwide, combines automated marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). Signpost Dashboard - Top CustomersOur smart front office software enables seamless capture of email, phone, social media and in-person transaction data to build customer profiles. Based on this customer data, the right message (context and time-dependent email and SMS messages) is automatically sent for the merchant to boost sales, online reviews, and word-of-mouth.

Read our press release here, or take a deeper look at some of the new features of our patent-pending solution below to see how the new Signpost builds and manages customer relationships without taking time away from the work day.

Patent-Pending Product Feature Highlights

  • Automatic data collection for every call, email, and credit card transaction
  • Data is cross-referenced in an automated CRM platform to form comprehensive customer profiles
  • Timely messages are sent on merchant’s behalf to drive purchases, reviews and referrals
  • Merchants get real-time spending behavior for every customer in actionable digests to uncover business trends and their best clients

If you are a local business, we look forward to working for you!

UPDATE: Check out some of the great press coverage of our launch including Business Insider, New York Business Journal, Streetfight and more in our press room here.

Cheers,

Stuart Wall
CEO, Signpost

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How Customers Share Their Local Business Impressions on Yelp, Instagram, and Vine

How Customers Share Their Local Business Impressions on Yelp, Instagram, and Vine

A a small business owner, you can choose to ignore the growing influence of customer review sites being accessed by mobile users, but that doesn’t mean they will ignore you. Whether you know it or not, your business is likely being reviewed and shared electronically. As the old saying goes, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

Increasingly, customer reviews are going mobile. Yelp, Instagram, and Vine users are using smartphones to snap photos and videos, using them to share local business impressions not only with their friends, but with the public in general.

Yelp Me, Rhonda

Launched in 2004, Yelp quickly became, and remains to this day, the most popular Internet rating and review site for businesses of all types and sizes. By keeping spam and advertisements to a minimum and by focusing on longer, more thoughtful reviews, Yelp has succeeded in becoming arguably the most trusted source for local business reviews and ratings.

Yelpers can log on to the site via PC or mobile, write a review, post photos or even videos, and give the business a rating of one to five stars. Thanks to Yelp’s enormous influence, businesses can either be made or ruined by their Yelp reviews. If your overall rating is 3.5 or above, you’re doing great. Anything less than that and you need to do some serious damage control.

Yelp also has a somewhat controversial spam filter, designed to weed out suspicious reviews, both good and bad. For this reason, Yelp cautions businesses from overtly soliciting reviews from their customers as these may be filtered out. Suggested, less overt ways of soliciting reviews are displaying a “Find us on Yelp” banner in your store, adding a “Check us out on Yelp” link in your email signature, and placing a Yelp “badge” on your website. The distinction would appear to be that guiding customers to your Yelp page is fine; exhorting them to write a review is not.

In recent weeks, Yelp has added a new feature that will allow potential customers to send messages directly to your business email in order to ask questions or communicate with you directly.

Instant Gratification with Instagram

Launched in 2010 and purchased by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is an online mobile photo and video sharing social networking service, wherein users can share pictures and videos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.

Instagram’s signature feature is that it confines images to a square shape, reminiscent of Polaroid images, as opposed to the standard 4-3 ratio used by most smartphone cameras. Users can also choose from 19 different digital photo filters to apply to their images to enhance the overall mood and appearance.

When uploading photos, users have the option of tagging the photo with the business’ Instagram profile, making it easy for anyone searching for your business to see photos and video recorded by other customers. By accessing the “photos of you” page, businesses can access all photos that have been uploaded and tagged by their customers, allowing them to leave a short message for the user.

Heard it Through the Twitter Vine

Vine is a new mobile app purchased and offered by Twitter that allows users to capture and share short, six-second looping micro videos. These videos can then be posted to the user’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Envisioned as the animated version of Instagram, the video’s six-second length limit is designed to inspire creativity and provide a quick animated snapshot that is more likely to be viewed than a longer video.

Since its launch, Vine has been used to capture news stories, create commercial ads and contests, and even capture celebrity “selfie” video clips. The service’s lure is a combination of being easier to use than most video apps and its connection to one of the biggest social networks in the world (Twitter).

While the short clips do allow audio, users are cautioned that the audio is usually disabled on Twitter so videos should be able to stand on their own without it.

Because of Twitter’s immense popularity and the simplicity of filming and sharing a Vine video on Twitter, businesses can benefit – and suffer – enormously through these six-second cinemas, depicting décor, ambiance, food presentation, or even a cockroach scurrying across the floor.

Video Wars

In recent months, both Yelp and Instagram have begun to seemingly poach on Vine’s video territory by incorporating video apps into their services.

Originally designed to accommodate written reviews, Yelp soon began encouraging reviewers to post photos along with their words, and recently rolled out an iPhone app that allows users to post short videos as well. Videos range from 3 to 12 seconds, and contain only raw, uncut footage. Editing or uploading of previously filmed videos is not permitted.

Instagram’s new video feature is in direct competition with Vine, allowing users to take 15 second videos versus Vine’s 6-second clips. Offers image stabilization and photographic filters, the videos can be distributed to Tumblr, Flickr, email, Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter.

While Yelp boasts 138 million unique visitors every month, Instagram claims a total of 200 million users, compared with Vine’s 40 million. Although the three sites do have a lot of cross-functionality, each is unique in its own right, and attracts its own loyal following. As such, a savvy business owner would be prudent to monitor and leverage all three of these services to increase their market share!

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