Does Modern Design Destroy Your Content Flow?

Does Modern Design Destroy Your Content Flow?

When a person visits a website, they are almost always searching for a very specific piece of information.  

As writers and domain owners,we are always quick to assume that we know what that one thing is- people are here because they want to buy our products and services.  However, that’s rarely the case…at least not initially.

For instance, you stumbled across this blog post while navigating the Upstate Synergy website.  Does that mean you have your checkbook in hand ready to become one of our clients?  

Of course not.  You want to see who we are as a brand first, how well we know the digital marketing realm and what solutions we offer.  And even then, that doesn’t mean you’re here to buy anything.

 

Again- you’re looking for some type of specific information.

 

 

So in order for us to have any kind of chance at turning you into a paying customer, our first and foremost goal is to figure out what kind of information you’re really looking for.  The truth of the matter is that it could be almost anything- the possibilities are virtually endless.

That tells us that in order to have great website content, we need to foresee just about every possible need our customers could have when they visit us.  We try to do that by-

– Closely watching our website’s metrics and seeing how visitors travel through the site

– Posting contact forms on almost every page to make it easy to get fast answers

– Using FAQ sheets and other compact layouts to get lots of information in small spaces

– Studying feedback in email and surveys to see what info visitors can’t find easily

– Straight-out asking for direct feedback from our current clients

And guess what?  We still have large bounce rates at times.  That’s because you can’t account for every possible scenario that would cause someone to visit your website.  The best you can do is to keep asking questions and study your visitors to have a more complete picture of their needs.

 

 

Discovering Roadblocks in the Buyer's Journey

Now, you may be wondering why we go to such lengths- don’t we know our own business and our customers?

Of course we do.  That’s not the real problem here.

The real problem is that we know our business too good.  And you have the exact same problem.  You’re so close to the everyday operations that you can’t fully see the buyer’s journey from start to finish.

Let’s work through a practical example- 

A visitor arrives at your homepage.  This person falls into your ideal demographic, they can afford your product and they actually need it.  They’re an ideal customer in every sense of the word.

Yet, this person doesn’t enter your site on a product or information page- they happen to catch a link in search to your homepage.  So they’re looking at your header image, links to different categories and some type of headline.  Maybe there’s a few other pictures worked in there or a call to action as well.

The reason this ideal customer came to your site, however, was to see if they can make an online purchase/deposit with a credit card and then receive one of your products/services through a non-standard way.  Maybe they want to have a co-worker come by to talk to you about the purchase before making a final selection or set a delivery date sometime in the future.

They look on your homepage for that info.  It’s not there.  Then they visit your products page.  The info isn’t there either.  Next they try your FAQ, your contact page and a few more areas- the information they want is nowhere to be found.

So what does this ideal customer do?

While we’d love to think that they’d just call us and ask, modern consumers usually find their backspace key instead.  They’re off to another website with the same question.

 

Spotting the Content Dilemna

You may have noticed these days that major brands are actually using a lot less content on their main pages.  This is actually for two reasons-

1) Short, bold statements really stand out to the average consumer.

2) Modern search Optimization focuses heavily on visitor actions.

However, if you look at some of our pages closely, you may be surprised at how much content we packed in there while still keeping a minimal look.  For instance, our Lunch w/ Friends page has almost 800 words of content, but most of it is hidden in the accordian section.  We achieved similar results on the homepage with sliders, multi-layer text areas and other formats.

Now, you may think, “Nobody ever reads that stuff.”  

That’s not true though- almost nobody ever reads that stuff.  And we’re fine with that, as long as the one unique person with a specific question can find their answer quickly…or spot our contact form on each page that talks about legendary fast response times.

Along those same lines of thinking, every single page of your website should have a “Learn More” button included in each section.  While you or I may get excited over the small summary paragraph, we don’t want to alienate those who need more information and aren’t ready to reach out yet.

That means your website’s sitemap should look like a pyramid where every main page starts with a major category and then branches out for every specific need/problem.  Every time you introduce something new, then you should also provide 2-3 additional pages to talk about the different aspects of it.

The Modern Content Layout

Do you see that sexy hunk of modern muscle car above?  It pained us to put a sub-header over it because it is so darn beautiful.  That’s the new 2017 Mazda RX7.

Let’s knock out a quick examle for using Mazda USA and an example-

The home page would has some great hero images with  snappy text.  We’d also see our standard product pages, an about us (Why Mazda), a dealer page, shopping tools and a link to some testimonials.

We already know that the average buyer is going to be looking for things like fuel efficincy, overall horsepower, available colors, etc.  So they did well by working all of that information in on the homepage or the first landing page for each vehicle.  That’s essentially where the pyramid starts- going from the homepage to the eight different models that Mazda sells.

Each major category page also has content that’s light any airy.  We love the negative space to make each photo the star, plus they have some handy tools to learn about the specifics.  The layout of each vehicle page matches the exact process a salesman would present the car inside a dealership- so that’s perfect for the buyer’s journey.

However, you can’t forget about the car fanatics of the world either.  They want real information.

For instance, what’s the rear differential on the Mazda 3 sedan?  What’s the recommended mileage for changing the transmission fluid?  Does it require premium unleaded?  

One the Mazda USA site, this problem is loosely handled by providing product brochures, spec sheets and numberous other resources at the bottom of the homepage.  But is that the best way to ensure that the customer sees it?  

Definitely not.  It personally took me over eleven minutes to find answers those three basic questions.  

So while Mazda did well with “read more” and “learn more” buttons for each section, the information shared is simply too generic to meet all customer types.  We hit four different dead ends trying to answer basic questions and had to completely start our search over in other areas of the site.

Don’t forget, we’re talking about a specific car from a specific company that we’re already in love with.  If this was an example for printer paper or life insurance, we would have given up after 10-15 seconds of looking.  

Nobody earns 11 minutes of patience in cyberspace- not even Mazda.  After all, he new 2017 Ford Viper is even more gorgeous.

 

 

What’s the moral of the story here?

While your website may be beautiful, it’s probably not optimized for customers anywhere near as well as you think.  That’s a huge problem that can’t be fixed through design, navigation or different layouts- it takes real content that gives specific answers to questions that we may not have even thought about yet.

If you take one thing away from this article, it’s to find new ways to listen to your customers about what’s really important to them.  Then find logical ways to complete the buyer’s journey from homepage to contact, and remember that each of us will likely want to take a different path during that process.

Websites are not meant to be “one size fits all.”  That’s called a sales pitch, not a brand experience.

Be sure to let us know if we can help.

 

 

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Lunch with Friends CampaignDo you ever get the feeling that if you could only talk to some of your ideal customers and show them that you’re the real deal; that it could really change things in a dramatic way?

I was thinking about that today when I realized that I have more clients in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Chicago lately than I do in Spartanburg County.  Sadly, my local networking has really been lacking in recent years because I stay so busy with larger national clients.  At the same time though, I started Web Synergy years ago because I wanted to impact local businesses right here in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Asheville…so it’s time for some serious changes.

I decided to start a new “Lunch with Friends” campaign for Spartanburg County and the surrounding cities, and it basically works like this-

  • Visit my online calendar and choose a date to sit down for lunch together
  • When we meet I’ll answer each and every one of your online marketing questions
  • I’ll help you create an action plan to optimize your website and fix any issues
  • We will also look at the fastest way for you to start gaining new customers online
  • I’ll waive 100% of my consulting fees as well…just pick up the check

What am I looking to gain from this?

As I said, I would prefer to have all of my clients locally within the next few years.  I would rather help you out today for free and make a new local contact to network with, or possibly even gain your business.  But either way, you’ll receive my expertise and we both walk away big winners.

So if you’ve been wondering how to significantly boost your online presence, this is the perfect time to learn about search optimization and online marketing from the top authority in the southeast.  I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!

Use Content to Build Links & Your Brand in 2017

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Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

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The Death of Keywords in 2017

I need to ask you an important question here- and be honest.  How much do you really focus on keywords these days? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone about this.  Not even those self-proclaimed SEO gurus that...

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The Death of Keywords in 2017

The Death of Keywords in 2017

I need to ask you an important question here- and be honest.  How much do you really focus on keywords these days?

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone about this.  Not even those self-proclaimed SEO gurus that fill our LinkedIn feeds with daily content…especially not them.  Because I’m about to ruin the scam of the century for an entire industry that’s filled with snake-oil salesmen, con artists and self-promoting idiots.

Are you ready for it?  Keywords are officially dead in 2017.

And just so we’re clear here, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as keywords anymore.  Keywords are just some words placed together with other words…so obviously they still exist.  But they’re just not important.

Take this website, for example…and this very blog.  We all know that to properly optimize a page under SEO standards, we have to get the keyword in the title, in the very first sentence and again in the first subtitle.  Yet I haven’t used any of my site’s primary keywords.  And look down the page- there are no subtitles either.

But guess what?  You’re still reading this…and visitor engagement has surpassed silly things like meta-descriptions and keywords a long time ago.  Google has said so like a billion times.

Heck, “engagement” is probably Matt Cutt’s middle name by now…and he doesn’t even work for the search engine giant anymore.

Now, you may be pondering, “But what does it all mean?  How can the Earth survive without things like keyword density and anchor text?”  Before we get to that, I think it’s important for all of us to remain calm.  Go pop a Valium if necessary, because this feeling of utter hopelessness will pass by the end of this article.  I promise.

And just ask my kids- I may exaggerate all the time, but I never lie.  A promise is something worth keeping.

The truth is that keywords have actually been dead for quite some time now and in most cases, they’re completely unnecessary.    After all, the search engines have a very clear picture of what your website is actually about and one more blog post won’t tip the scales in your favor.

Now, you may come from the school of thought where you’d say something like, “Well, keywords definitely aren’t hurting my website, so why should I stop focusing on them?”

That’s a great question.

But unfortunately, you’ve been so obsessed with keyword stuffing for so darn long that you’ve completely forgotten what a keyword or a key-phrase is in the first place.  It’s just a series of words people- every single word on this page is a keyword.

Well, okay…maybe not all the “the, and, our, but, it” and words like that…but the rest are certainly keywords.  And if they are located next to other words on the page, then you have a bunch of key-phrases forming as well.

Before I make this too confusing, maybe I better give a practical example.  I’ll use my website once again.

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m a copywriter that knows a thing or two about online marketing and search optimization.  And I live in Spartanburg, South Carolina, so naturally by most important key-phrase would be something like, “Spartanburg Copywriter” or “Copy writer in Spartanburg,” right?

Wrong.  Those are horrible keywords.  And I can prove it.

When I tell people around town what I do for a living, about 1/3rd of them assume a “copywriter” is a person who issues patents.  Or someone who creates laws.  They have absolutely no idea what I do for a living unless they actually have ties to the marketing field.  And that means when they look for someone like me, they almost never type those phrases, even though Google AdWords says that they’re my best bet.

So let me ask you a question- what would my main keyword be then if it’s not “copywriter”?

Well, it could be anything that people type into the search engines these days to find someone like me…and that’s a pretty darn long list.  I see everything from content creator to digital analyst to brand manager on job boards, while your average Joe searches for a blog writer or social media professional.  Some even use “wordsmith”, even though that’s technically not a word.

Do you see the problem here?  I can’t just pluck a few nifty keywords out of thin air and properly reach all of my potential clients.  In fact, I probably couldn’t reach all of them with a thousand targeted key phrases.

That’s why keywords are officially dead in 2017… they died long before you ever took your first lesson in SEO.

Besides, what good does it really do anyway to target the same keywords over and over again?  Google is dead-set on normalizing the search results so you can’t appear in multiple spots for the same phrase.  Either your website doesn’t have quality content and it will never rank for your terms, or it is already ranking well and you’re being repetitive anyway.

Either way, it’s wasted money if you follow conventional SEO logic.

Again, that brings us right back to finding a true definition of a keyword.  But the dictionary won’t help, because the only opinions that truly matter here are your actual customers.  After all, they control everything when it comes to the success of your brand.

Are you with me so far on this?  I promise- a big revelation is just seconds away.

If your main goal is to connect with more customers (and let’s face it; that’s the only reason you do any of this crap), then your main focus is not going to be on a single key-phrase.  Or even your top fifty.  Instead, you’re going to throw the SEO book straight out the window and casually use every possible combination of industry-related jargon you can think of.

And that, my friends, means that there are no such things as keywords anymore.  It’s almost like the Matrix- everything is a keyword, and you don’t even have to take the blue pill.

The morale to this lesson here is to completely forget about keywords except when it comes to your back-end meta stuff, because that’s the only place where it still slightly matters.  But to connect to actual people and to convince them to trust your brand, you’d better be talking in their language…and normal humans don’t say the same phrase six times in a two minute period.

That’s just weird.

So your content marketing goal in 2017 is to simply focus on what matters to your potential customers and to deliver your messaging in plain-Jane English that they can relate with…and then do the exact opposite of keyword targeting.  Instead, try to use every possible variation of what your customers might type across your next 10-20 blog posts.

Guess what?  There’s a term for that as well- it’s called great writing.  And that’s been the #1 ranking factor of the search engines since the early 1990’s.  The best overall content always wins.

So moving forward, forget about those silly keywords and just focus on putting a smile on a potential customer’s face.  As long as you’re doing that, Google will see your value.  That’s all that really matters anyway.

Creating a Powerful Content Marketing Plan in 2017

Creating a Powerful Content Marketing Plan in 2017

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to search optimization is that it takes mass amounts of content in order for a website to rank favorably.  To this very day, I still see businesses taking the quantity over quality approach…even though they’re getting poor results and very little customer engagement.  So maybe your content marketing plan for 2017 should be a little bit different.

As I’ve said at least a hundred times a month to my clients, “Content is King.”  It always was and it always will be…it is the #1 ranking factor on any website for a reason.  Because when people perform a Google search, they’re looking for very specific answers; either your content answers their questions or it doesn’t.

And when your content fails, then the user is off to find a different website that can help them.  You’d better believe that the search engines notice as well, and that’s why customer engagement is the #2 ranking factor.  Google ultimately doesn’t decide which website’s content is the best- you and I do through our actions when searching.

Why Does Quality Content Always Win?

Perfect ApplesLet’s say you go to a farmer’s market and one particular stand is selling apples for three dollars each.  These aren’t just any apples, mind you; they are beautiful, flawless pieces of fruit that are fit to be served at a royal engagement.  Their sweet nectar and crispness are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, and they’re easily the best apples you’ve ever eaten in your life.

Naturally, there are dozens of people crowded around that vendor’s fruit stand because he has the best fruit at the whole market.

As you approach to make your purchase though, you notice a young boy standing in an alleyway with a huge basket.  He’s holding a sign that says, “Special! 25 Apples for a Dollar!” and you have to admit, they look pretty darn tasty from afar.  But once you approach the boy, you see that many of the apples are rotten and darkened with age, plus there are several worms and other insects crawling through the mass of apples.

Focusing on Content that Really Matters

what really mattersSo as a website owner, would you rather have one piece of golden fruit that everyone seems to want?  Or do you want a large variety of unappealing fruits that can be found almost anywhere?

Well, let me let you in on a little secret…Google wants those perfect apples.

Each time you post new content to your website, the search engines study it for hundreds of specific metrics.  Everything from word complexity to formatting to customer engagement is studied under a microscope to find the perfect blend, and there is absolutely no way to “cheat the process” in 2017.  Either your blog posts are interesting to people or they’re not…there’s really not a middle ground.

The Basis of a Winning Content Marketing Plan

writing a content planSo when we start to create a content plan for your website in 2017, the LAST THING that I want you to focus on is the number of articles you’re going to post.  Instead, you need to focus your energy on finding out what your website’s visitors really want to learn about when they search for a brand like you.  Those are the things you should be writing about…both in your blogs and on your core website pages…because that’s what will ultimately turn visitors into customers.

Take this website for example- look at the main navigation up top.  If you click on any of my main links, I give you a quick snapshot of the services I offer and how they can help you.  But you’ll also notice that every single page has a link to “learn more” or “find additional information”, because I never want someone to not be able to find a specific answer.

Most of my blog posts are further extensions of the services that I offer to my clients, but I’m not posting this to try to sell you anything.  Instead, I’m showing you that I really do know what I’m talking about and that I don’t mind helping you out some, for free.  And in a nutshell, that’s how you build trust on the internet.  You show that you’re an expert and a helpful person, and then your phone starts ringing from new clients.

Cleaning Up Core Content

cleaning up contentWhat does that mean for your website?

For starters, your homepage needs to touch on every product/service your company offers…or at least mention the broad category.  Because if folks can’t figure out whether or not you’re qualified to handle something for them within their first few seconds of visiting, then it’s already game over.  So nail down that homepage with great quality content…even if it’s just a few sentences per section.

Next, I want you to have your webmaster take a look at your website and see where the vast majority of your visitors leave.  Try to identify the worst performing 5-10 pages in Google Analytics, and make these a top priority for revamping in 2017.  But before you can do that, you need to figure out what was wrong with those pages to begin with…why did the customers leave?

Here are a few things to look at-

  • No direct answers to the customer’s most common questions
  • Vague product and/or service descriptions
  • Poor formatting on the page…it’s all one big mess
  • Too much content…it just seems to go on forever
  • Too many ads on the page (huge turnoff)
  • Far too many hyperlinks and other distractions
  • A lack of relevant photographs and video

If you can’t identify the problems of your worst pages by using the list above, then here’s a very easy test to figure out the issue.  You know that jerk friend that you hang out with sometimes that you don’t really like but associate with anyway?  Call up him/her and ask them why people don’t like that page.  They’ll be happy to tell you all the problems they see.

Or you can call me, I’ll be happy to tell you as well.  In fact, that may be easier and a lot less embarrassing.

Anyway, you want to proceed through your entire website and beef up the content where you’re currently doing poorly…that’s priority #1.  Don’t even think about a paid ad campaign or more blogs until your core site is set up to convert.

When to Start Blogging

blog writingBlogs are a great tool because they allow you to rank for your site’s relevant keywords, plus they allow readers to see a little more about what your company stands for.  So when you make a content plan for blog posts, you want the focus to be solely on your customers…what will they actually want to read?

And before we go any further, let me give you some ideas-

  • How-to tips, guides, and walkthroughs
  • RELEVANT company news and events
  • A deeper analysis of what you do for clients
  • Case studies showing your successes
  • Local charities, community events, etc.
  • OCCASIONAL information on sales and promotions

Notice that I went all caps with two words there- relevant and occasional.  It’s nice to post a blog about winning an award, opening a new store or doing something nice for the community, but people will be quick to stop listening if all you do is brag about yourself.  The same goes for sales promotions- they only belong on your blog when it’s truly newsworthy.

After all, if you’re spamming some type of sale every single day…then there’s no reason to pay attention.  That means everything always on sale and the urgency to buy is 100% gone.

Learn to Write Authority Articles

writing authority articlesAs I’m typing this sentence, I’m quickly approaching the 1,300 word mark.  And so far, everything here has been actionable information that applies directly to your website, which is exactly how a great blog is supposed to be written.  It’s what you’d call an authority article, and it will likely rank on the first page of search for various terms.

Why?

If you perform a Google search for “creating a content plan”, most of the examples out there are things like, “Five Tips for Creating a Great Content Plan” or “Write Better Content in 2017.”  But the problem is, they all give the exact same generic advice-

  • Deliver great content
  • Post consistently
  • Use images and video
  • Share on social media
  • Create email alerts

And once you get into the “meat” of the content on those sites, there’s really nothing of value that the bullet points didn’t summarize.  That’s a common article that anyone could write whether they have knowledge on the subject or not…and stuff like that rarely ranks well for long.  Because as soon as someone posts an updated version and gets a few hundred page views, their article becomes more popular than yours and Google promotes it.

So if you’re going to talk about something on your blog, then you need to go all-in and give your readers in-depth advice that applies directly to their specific situation.  A good example would be a blog I posted in November about online marketing for restaurants.  It’s about 1,000 words total and it’s the only time I ever mention the word “restaurant” on my entire site, yet it ranks #1 for every variation of the key-phrase “Restaurant Marketing Spartanburg.”

So just off an hour of writing, I gained awesome visibility for a complete industry within my market…and I’ve done the same thing for dentists, car dealers and many other segments.  There’s no reason why you can’t do the exact same thing with the right strategy.

Drafting your Actual Content Marketing Plan for 2017

content marketing checklistLet’s recap real fast.

Your first goal in 2017 is to update all of your website’s main content on any pages that aren’t converting well.  Your new layout will give brief answers on the main pages and in-depth analysis on each sub-page.

Next, you’re going to start writing blogs that address specific things that your ideal customers are wondering about.  These posts should be industry specific whenever possible and laser-focused on who you’re trying to target.  And figuring out the number of articles you need for each topic is easy- you keep writing super-high quality content until you take the #1 slot for your area.

Also, your most important key-phrases should have much longer articles that go really in-depth about the subject matter.  Just Google these phrases before starting to see what’s already ranking well on Google- your article has to be better than those already out there.  If you’re not willing to put in that level of effort, then don’t write it in the first place…focus on something else that’s easier to rank for instead.

Finally, you are going to mix in a few blog articles that show your company culture.  For example, I occasionally write about NFL football, family vacations and/or community events, because these are the things that matter to me.  And by opening up and showing who I am as a professional, my clients get a much better sense of who I am as a person.

Parting Words of Wisdom

One Perfect AppleThe only other piece of advice I can give at this point is exactly what I started with- always focus on superior quality writing that actually helps your customers.  You’d be far better off writing one awesome blog post per week over writing 10 so-so pieces, so try to remember the analogy I gave about the apple vendor.  You only want to serve content that’s fit for a king, yet written well enough for the masses to easily digest.

If you need any additional help drafting a content plan for 2017 or you need the services of a nifty creative writer, please do not hesitate to reach out to me through the contact form or by giving me a call.  I’m always happy to give free consultations and help you find the best path forward BEFORE you’re actually on my client list.

 

 

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Although it’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now to reach out to a few of the local Spartanburg car dealerships with horrible online presences, I simply haven’t had the time lately to try and add additional clients.  But since I’ve been writing sales copy for automobiles for practically 1/3rd of my life, I decided to take a look today just to see how my competition has been treating our local auto lots.

I can summarize what I saw in one word- ouch!

The best way to measure the area car websites is to do a basic Google search for “buy used car Spartanburg”.  Not surprisingly, GoUpstate had the #1 ranking since many of you are still paying for advertising, which you need since your sites are not properly optimized for consumers.  The number two dealership in the results was Family Auto of Spartanburg– which seems downright shocking.

Now, I don’t know the good folks that run this business, but the website loaded extremely slow, the text formatting was horrible, and the individual cars listings didn’t even load properly.  When you click on a particular vehicle, it pops up a single photo with the car’s information lower on the page…but when you try to scroll, the website in the background scrolls instead.  This means that their customers can’t even get basic details about the vehicles they’re looking at or see the price.

To make matters even worse, it was designed by a Greenville company that claims to only build automotive fleet websites; and yet they’re killing this poor business by not giving potential customers any reason to ever call the dealership!

Now remember, this is the highest ranked used car dealer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  What does that say about the rest of the Spartanburg automotive websites out there that rank below this one?

I’ll tell you what it says- double ouch, especially since almost 90% of all car buyers do preliminary research online before ever buying a vehicle.

That means by being poorly optimized for online sales, you’re likely selling to less than 10% of your ideal market each and every month.  The vast majority are driving to Greenville, Asheville and Charlotte simply because that’s where they are finding great vehicles on the net.  These consumers don’t even know you exist…even though they likely drive right past you every single day!

So if you’re the owner or general manager of an automotive dealership here in the Upstate, let me tell you real quick how to properly sell vehicles online-

1) Start with a gorgeous homepage. Grab some stock art of the top 3-5 nicest vehicles that could possibly be sold on your lot and place them on a slider at the top of the page.  Then on each photograph, give bullet points about your sales process, your simple financing options and how hard you work to serve the Upstate.

2) Nail down your navigation. Customers should be able to easily find vehicles by class, price range, mileage, fuel economy and even color…and these search elements should be visible below your homepage slider as well.  You should also have a financing page, a company history, current specials/promotions and a map of where your dealership is located.

3) Make Listings Pop. When it comes to actually listing vehicles on your site (and promoting it out to other sites like Auto Trader and Cars.com), more is always better. Consumers want to see the mileage, the options, recent service inspections and a thorough description…plus at least 25 photos taken from every possible angle inside and out.  A short video is also a massive plus since it lets them hear the vehicle and it gives you a new way to rank.

4) Write Awesome Descriptions.  That thorough description I mentioned- this is what actually sells cars online these days. Talk about the highlights (low mileage, one owner, maintenance receipts, great paint, etc.) while minimizing the negatives (rust, worn interior, etc.).  Here’s a quick bonus tip as well- NEVER use the stock description of a vehicle.  Google sees it as duplicate content and naturally penalizes it in the search rankings, so you’re better off having no information than something copied from the manufacturer!  This is true for every industry.

5) Drive in Leads.  You want to catch customer information as early in the viewing process as possible, so every description page should have a button that says “Schedule a Test Drive for this Vehicle!” Then they can submit their name, email address, phone number and preferred appointment time without ever speaking to a sales rep.

6) Encourage Connections.  Likewise, every page on your website should have the following elements- (a) your phone number and address in bold, (b) an clever opt-in form to generate leads and (c) something that creates urgency.

7) Learn to Convert.  Every online lead should go straight to a sales rep in real time so a personalized email can be sent. For example, it could read, “Hi.  This is Scott with ABC Autos.  I saw that you were interested in the ’06 Camry with 43k miles; it’s a really beautiful, great driving car.  Are there any questions I can answer for you before your scheduled appointment?”

8) Strong Community Outreach.  Dealerships also need to be huge in giveaways these days…but it’s actually nowhere near as expensive as you’d think. Have people opt in for a free oil change, a monthly drawing for an iPad or something similar, and build a loyal following using this strategy on social media.  You can also host contests where friends of friends do the voting…which means that your best customers become brand ambassadors on your behalf.

9) Keep Conversations Going.  Finally, start a fun-loving blog about events here in Spartanburg, customer testimonials and other light reading. This gives you something to post to social media between advertising each new car that you add to your inventory, and it drastically increases your natural exposure.  You’ll also use this content for email blasts to keep customers engaged well after their purchases, all the while helping you sell more vehicles.

This is the exact formula I use for all of my national clients, and it equates to an average of 30-40 additional used car sales per month over their previous totals.  Just take a moment and do the math- what’s the average commission times forty worth to your bottom line?  Because that’s what you’re losing out on every single month by not fully optimizing your website for consumers.

The best news of all is that online rankings for car dealerships in Spartanburg, South Carolina is wide open for anyone that’s serious about selling more cars and trucks; there simply is no serious competition out there at this time.  And as long as dealerships turn to those self-proclaimed “experts” in Greenville that can’t even make a car ad display properly, there will be a golden opportunity in place to really dominate the local market.

So if you’re ready to start flooding your showroom with foot traffic and sell a heck of a lot more vehicle every month, I would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss how we can make that happen- just fill out the enclosed contact form for a completely free evaluation.

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

I had an interesting conversation with a local restaurant owner in Costco the other day as he tried to push his enormous cart of mozzarella, spices and tomato base towards the checkout counter.  As a former Italian restaurant owner myself, I knew his story without even having to ask- his vendor undoubtedly messed up and good old Costco is always a solid last-minute bail out for our kinds of businesses.  I could instantly feel his pain since I was in the exact same position myself dozens of times.

After sharing war stories for a few minutes about incompetent delivery drivers and the perfect blend of cheeses for pizza, the owner asked me if I knew anyone that would be interested in buying his restaurant.  He explained that while the business was still profitable, it seemed like his customer base had continually shrunk over the past five years even though he’s remained highly competitive on his pricing and delivered a great product.

Then I told him what every restaurant owner needs to hear- online marketing is essential for every restaurant in the Spartanburg area, regardless of how big or small they are.
Why?  Think about this for a moment.  How do you order a pizza these days?

For my family, we hop on our smartphones, look at the current specials and then submit our order online…and that’s how over 70% of America does it these days.  That means if you’re still handing out flyers, placing newspaper ads and using other forms of traditional marketing these days, only 3 in 10 people are even noticing you.

For example, my family loves Sidestreet Pizza over in Tryon.  Besides the long wait times, I honestly couldn’t say a single negative thing about it.  The service is great.  The food is great.  I love the atmosphere.  Yet, I haven’t eaten at Sidestreet in at least 4 years.  But I’ve ordered from Dominos, Papa Johns and The Pepperoni Express in Inman dozens of times since then, all because they have a solid online presence and I can see their specials quickly.
Are franchises like Pizza Hut better than Sidestreet?  I don’t think we even need to dignify that with an answer.  But the big chains are making a huge effort to cater to today’s consumer and that simply makes them more relevant.  People will literally settle for food from an inferior brand simply because that’s what they see in the search engines.

And as I explained this to this restaurant owner in Costco the other week, he sort of hung his head in defeat since he didn’t know anything about internet marketing.  Even if I built him a great website, he said, there was no way possible that he would be able to keep up with updates and things that would make him stand out.

He also mentioned that cost was a major issue…and I realized that he wasn’t just trying to sell his pizza restaurant; he was on the verge of going out of business completely.  That’s the only reason why I’m not sharing his name or his location (yet).  Stay tuned for updates though, because I am actively working on his search optimization as we speak.

Now, I could completely relate to his situation.  When that bad ice storm hit Spartanburg back in 2003 and my restaurant was without water/power for over a month, I had no idea how to get my customers back fast enough for it to really make a difference.  I was underwater in debt and the idea of a website would have been laughable for me just like it was for this person.  But then again, I didn’t know back then what I know now…and you can’t ignore that 70% of all consumers perform a Google search before heading towards a local restaurant.

Since I definitely don’t want any other local restaurant owners to feel this way, here’s a quick cheat sheet of simple things you can do to drastically increase your online presence on a tight budget-

  • Build a Facebook and a Google Local business page, and start a campaign for people to like your page. My favorite for restaurants is giving customers a $3 off coupon or a free side item for following you on social media…and you’d be amazed how quickly it will be shared and deliver traffic to your doorstep.
  • Take the time to register on at least a dozen directory sites like the Yellow Pages, Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon), TripAdvisor, etc. Create complete profiles there and offer a special unique to each website, and be sure to add some photos of your mouthwatering food.
  • Ask your best customers to leave reviews for you on those directory sites in-house for an instant $1 off their check total per person (per review). If you’re doing this regularly, then you can simply raise your menu prices by $1 and all the reviews are free.
  • Build a restaurant website using one of the free online tools or contact me to create an affordable website for you. Then add the essentials- great photos, a full menu, daily specials, directions via Google Maps, a food blog, etc.
  • Use the same tactic to get customers to opt into your email marketing campaigns; just give them a great one-time special to share their email addresses.
  • Once you’ve completed the social sites, directory sites and your own personal website, start sharing fun facts about Spartanburg, cool photos, daily specials and other information people wouldn’t mind reading.
  • Likewise, every time you post a blog or a new special, share it straight to your social sites for people to see it. Then send out a weekly email recapping what you’re doing for customers.

Now, you may be thinking that most of those things are far outside your comfort zone, which is exactly what the restaurant owner inside Costco told me as well.  But then I asked him- how many times a night do you have to tell your younger employees to get away from their smartphones?  Fifty?  A hundred?  Every one of them is a social media genius- they just don’t realize that their talent for wasting time online can actually become a massive resource from a business standpoint.

And honestly, I do not recommend the free website builders like Weebly since they are hard to customize and rank effectively.  But if you have to choose between doing nothing and launching a basic website…go the free route every single time.  While it certainly can’t hurt, the help it could deliver is enormous.

So if you can’t afford to hire me right now, then put your youth to work knocking out the above list and improving your online presence.  You will be absolutely amazed at how quickly it makes a difference…I’ve seen restaurants go from on the verge of closing to being on track for $50k+ months in a matter of weeks.  It just takes a substantiated effort of communicating with your customers and giving them reasons to pay attention to you online.

If you have any questions about how to market your restaurant online or you need a little more guidance on making your location profitable; then feel free to contact me through my online form to set up a consultation.  Since restaurant management will always be in my blood and I love having the chance to make a difference here in Spartanburg, the initial consultation will only cost you lunch.  Hopefully you know somewhere good to eat.  =)