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.  =)

The Complete SEO Strategy Guide for Small Business

The Complete SEO Strategy Guide for Small Business

It’s no secret that search engine optimization has changed drastically over the years as Google continuously adapts to reward the most helpful websites with coveted first page rankings.  And for the average small business owner or entrepreneur that’s on the outside looking in, it can seem like executing the perfect SEO strategy is nearly impossib

What if I told you, however, that everything you need to know about search optimization is summarized in the very first sentence on this page?

Go ahead and look again if you don’t believe me- I’ll sit here and wait while you do it.

The websites that go out of their way to help their customers the most are the ones that SHOULD rank at the tops of the search engines.  That was the goal in 1991 and it’s still the goal today.  The only thing that’s really changed is that Google and Bing have become much better at detecting unsavory tactics that allow websites to artificially rank, but the goal still remains exactly the same.

So as we work through this guide together, I want you to remember one universal truth that can guarantee your excellent search placement for the next fifty years- the site with the best content should always win.

That means that as long as you’re making serious efforts to bolster your customer’s online experience, you will remain in favor with the search engines and continuously see improved results.  It really is that simple.

Since this is an official SEO Strategy Guide, however, then you’ll probably want a little more detail than that to work with.  So let’s get down to some key points of interest for your search optimization strategy.



Core Content is Everything in SEO

Old-school search optimization depended largely on stuffing keywords, cranking out tremendous amounts of content and getting any form of backlinks to your website.

The Internet back then was like the Wild West; everything was available for the taking if you didn’t mind being called an outlaw.  And that’s why quality was almost an afterthought over the past two decades, the search engines did not have a strong enough algorithm in place to properly identify what we now call spam.

I won’t lie to you- some of those tactics still perform well with the major search engines these days.  You can still take a few shortcuts building backlinks and almost any form of traffic is still considered a positive signal, even if it comes from spammy sources that have no interest at all with your brand.  These black hat methods are becoming harder and harder to execute properly though, and there’s one crucial thing you have to remember about being an outlaw-

Outlaws eventually end up dead or in jail.  So stop trying to be an SEO outlaw, even if think you’re the quickest draw in the West.

  • DO create informative content to educate your customers
  • DO update your FAQ and core information pages
  • DO commit to a weekly blog about your industry
  • DO share your blogs on social channels to increase engagement
  • Do focus on a quality over quantity approach
  • Do update or remove poorly written pages
  • Do post content that leads to additional actions (read more, call, opt-in, etc.)

So when it comes to content for your website, don’t even think about taking shortcuts in 2016 and beyond.  Everything you post should engage your audience and help them learn a little bit more about your brand.  That means you should be getting down to the nitty-gritty and sharing precise details about anything and everything your customers have questions about, and it should be written in a way that just makes sense.

Take Mobile Seriously

Let’s talk about backlink building as a search optimization method for a moment…and I’ll start with an obligatory, “Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position.  We are about to experience some severe turbulence.”

Over the past few years, creating a solid backlink profile has become increasingly difficult.  Let’s just look at what Google tells you not to do-

  • DO NOT guest post on websites with questionable ethics
  • DO NOT leave random comments with your link in it
  • DO NOT buy backlinks under any circumstance
  • DO NOT swap backlinks with other websites
  • DO NOT associate yourself with any spammy site
  • DO NOT use the same anchor text across most of your links

That’s where we reach the turbulence part of this journey, because chances are pretty darn good that you’ve violated some or all of those guidelines over the past few years.  If that’s the case, then we strongly recommend that you disavow your less-than-reputable backlinks since your website is likely facing penalties because of it.

With that said, link building strategies have not changed much over the past year other than to avoid the ComLuv’s of the world that Google has clearly blacklisted.  In fact, you should probably forget about any form of guest blogging where you’re permitted to insert a backlink straight to your website, unless it’s in an author bio.  There are still tens of thousands of quality content sites to write for out there as well- just use a little more caution this time around.

Social media is still a powerful way to receive natural backlinks as well, and Google vastly prefers this approach since others are choosing to talk about you on their own sites.  Other solid opportunities for gaining backlinks are creating highly-sharable content like infographics or case studies, utilizing directories within your niche, press releases and blogging about authorities within your industry.

One more word on backlinks before we move on.  Remember that your profile does not need dozens of backlinks to every possible page in order to achieve solid overall rankings; this is the old-school formula for grey hat SEO and it is completely unnecessary.  The search engines would rather see a handful of natural high authority links to your domain over thousands of weaker ones, so make sure your focus remains on quality partnerships.

Build Better Backlnks

Let’s talk about backlink building as a search optimization method for a moment…and I’ll start with an obligatory, “Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position.  We are about to experience some severe turbulence.”

Over the past few years, creating a solid backlink profile has become increasingly difficult.  Let’s just look at what Google tells you not to do-

  • DO NOT guest post on websites with questionable ethics
  • DO NOT leave random comments with your link in it
  • DO NOT buy backlinks under any circumstance
  • DO NOT swap backlinks with other websites
  • DO NOT associate yourself with any spammy site
  • DO NOT use the same anchor text across most of your links

That’s where we reach the turbulence part of this journey, because chances are pretty darn good that you’ve violated some or all of those guidelines over the past few years.  If that’s the case, then we strongly recommend that you disavow your less-than-reputable backlinks since your website is likely facing penalties because of it.

With that said, link building strategies have not changed much over the past year other than to avoid the ComLuv’s of the world that Google has clearly blacklisted.  In fact, you should probably forget about any form of guest blogging where you’re permitted to insert a backlink straight to your website, unless it’s in an author bio.  There are still tens of thousands of quality content sites to write for out there as well- just use a little more caution this time around.

Social media is still a powerful way to receive natural backlinks as well, and Google vastly prefers this approach since others are choosing to talk about you on their own sites.  Other solid opportunities for gaining backlinks are creating highly-sharable content like infographics or case studies, utilizing directories within your niche, press releases and blogging about authorities within your industry.

One more word on backlinks before we move on.  Remember that your profile does not need dozens of backlinks to every possible page in order to achieve solid overall rankings; this is the old-school formula for grey hat SEO and it is completely unnecessary.  The search engines would rather see a handful of natural high authority links to your domain over thousands of weaker ones, so make sure your focus remains on quality partnerships.

Local Search is Massive

Here’s a statistic worth remembering- almost 80% of all mobile searches in the United States directly lead to a purchase.  Since almost 73% of those purchases occur in local brick and mortar stores, local search optimization (AKA Google Maps) should definitely become one of the most important parts of your overall SEO strategy in 2017 and beyond.

How do you optimize for the local search engines?

  • Create/verify your listings with all the major search engines
  • Complete the certification process to show that it’s your business
  • Complete your profile 100% (photos, categories, descriptions, etc.)
  • List a local contact phone number in your profile
  • Repeat this process on major directories (Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.)
  • Ask your best customers for honest reviews/ratings
  • Build backlinks from social and authority sites
  • Focus on your main website’s core engagement levels

Essentially, Google and Bing want to see you treat your local search profiles exactly like you would your own website, so remember that the little things really do matter in this instance.  Also, make sure that each of your local search profiles uses 100% unique content for the spiders to crawl, but all of the other information should be exactly the same.  In other words, do not list different addresses, phone numbers and other information that the search engines could see as a conflict, and avoid toll free numbers altogether since they signal that you’re probably not seeking local business clients.

Monetization & Lead Generation

Quick question- why are you worried about your website’s SEO in the first place?  And before you answer, let me point you right back to the very first sentence on this page once again.  Because the answer you’re looking for should not be, “So I can make lots of money.”

Honestly, Google could care less if you are making income through your website or not.

Their only worry is that your site’s content makes visitors happy, and it is a huge red flag for the search engine giant if they see just a few paragraphs of text and a dozen or more ads.  Without even looking at anything else, they know right off the bat what your real intentions are.

  • DO use appealing calls to action in contact forms
  • DO ask users to visit your social sites
  • DO monetize your pages in natural, logical ways
  • DO offer freebies and giveaways to generate leads
  • DO NOT lose focus on making great content the top priority

Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use ad banners and email captures on your website; just don’t do it in a way that would make people question your motives.  Remember, this is not so much about the amount of advertising, but about how much actual content there is to balance it out.

So don’t be that guy who posts 12 flashing ad banners per page- not even John Chow does that anymore…and you’re no John Chow.  That is, unless you are actually John Chow and you just happen to be reading my blog.  If that’s the case, then I guess this last section doesn’t fully apply to you.

But for everyone that’s not named John Chow, then you may want to reconsider limiting your ad-space and focusing on your actual visitors instead.

Back-End Optimizations

Even though you probably have a web developer that handles the heavy lifting when it comes to the back-end of your website, there are several minor issues that could cause you to lose appeal to the search engines.

I won’t dwell here though, just scan through this list of miscellaneous items that could be harming your search ranking-

  • Slow loading times/not enough bandwidth
  • Poor navigational structures
  • Missing pages that do not properly redirect
  • Broken inbound and outbound backlinks
  • Images not properly labeled
  • Missing H1 (main title) tags
  • Lack of meta keywords & descriptions
  • Plugin conflicts that affect functionality
  • Suspicious redirects (possibly by hackers)

So if you see any of these issues, contact your system administrator and tell him that he stinks at his job.  Then call me to fix the issues and we can make fun of that other guy together!

Keyword Research

You may have heard some of the experts mention that keywords are officially dead, and to some degree they are absolutely correct.

You should no longer be focused on things like keyword density or packing in as many combinations of key-phrases as you can in any given page.  This is no longer a valid tactic since the search engines have made it abundantly clear that they are more focused on your visitor’s engagement levels.

At the same time, keywords certainly do still matter, so let’s go straight to our bullet points-

  • DO mention on at least one primary keyword on each page
  • DO use keyword software to find popular phrases with low competition
  • DO hyperlink your targeted keyword to other parts of your website
  • DO hyperlink your targeted keyword to authority sites within your niche
  • DO include your targeted keyword in the title, meta title, and description
  • DO NOT repeat keywords just for ranking purposes
  • DO NOT ever use a keyword unless it fits naturally within the text
  • DO NOT forget that quality and engagement are the most important factors

To prove that, let’s do a little experiment and talk about our famous SEO Keyword Spatula, which is something that I just completely made up for testing purposes.  It does sound like a pretty cool product name though and since I bolded it, the search spiders will likely see it as being important.  Notice that we’re not actually keyword stuffing though, since the phrase is only being used twice total.

If you take peek in AdWords, the phrase “SEO keyword spatula” has zero natural competition (as expected) but it is also somewhat related to almost 600,000 similar monthly searches containing both “SEO” and “keyword” within the phrase.  And if our little experiment here works, then I should have the #1 ranking not only for the worthless phrase I just made up, but also have the opportunity for getting noticed in dozens of similar search terms that people are actively searching for.

Does that make sense? It’s sort of a backdoor ninja approach to capturing the easy stuff and possibly getting noticed in the ultra-competitive niches as well.

You should be doing the exact same thing with all of those long-tail keywords within your niche that others are not actively targeting.  And the long-term benefits of consistently searching for and using new long-tail keyphrases within your website copy can pay serious cumulative rewards.

Video Marketing is Huge

Many people are on the fence about video marketing since Google cannot actively see the content contained within your embedded multimedia players.  Hopefully by now you’re not going to make me refer you back to the very first sentence again though; modern SEO is not about what Google sees.

It is about how your visitors react to the core content on your domain.  And if a video captures their attention while they’re visiting you, then Google doesn’t have to understand what they’re watching.  It helps you anyway.

  • DO use videos to explain core products and services
  • DO share videos on social sites
  • DO share other videos on your site that resonate with viewers
  • DO keep the majority of your videos under two minutes
  • DO focus on lighting and sound quality
  • DO NOT hesitate to shoot simple, first person videos with a smartphone

Here is another incredibly important piece of the puzzle for video though– the most influential video hosting website on the planet is owned by Google.  So not only does video marketing get the benefit of its very own search stream for consumers, but Google also prioritizes YouTube videos within both the natural and the video types of searches as well.  So you literally get three streams of exposure by posting one video on YouTube and embedding it into your website…and your customers will love you for it.

What does a homeless young Korean man in a singing competition have to do with SEO and video marketing?  It’s almost impossible not to be moved by his amazing journey…and that is engagement at its very finest.  However, if your videos happen to answer the specific questions that your website’s visitors are contemplating, then it is an extremely powerful sales technique as well.

So while video marketing is not a core SEO factor all by itself, the engagement that it creates certainly matters.

Boosting On-Page Metrics

Throughout this guide so far, we’ve talked about the term “engagement” in almost every single section.  It is certainly one of those buzzwords that are tossed around frequently by experts, but it hardly ever seems to get properly defined either.  So let’s define it now by search engine standards.

Customer engagement refers to any positive action that is taken by a user on a website.

Any when I say “any positive action”, that’s exactly what I mean.  Think about this for a moment- the average smartphone user visits a website and qualifies it in the mind in a mere three seconds.  So if you manage to tick over to that four second mark, it’s a positive.

Not a good one, mind you, but still a plus in your favor nonetheless.

And your entire job as a website owner is to create more and more of those positive experiences so the search engines know that people are finding good stuff there.  This can include any combination of the following-

  • Visiting multiple pages
  • Clicking on a backlink
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Leaving a comment
  • Sharing on social media
  • Watching a video
  • Downloading a file/app
  • Users revisiting to your website
  • Opting in for email alerts
  • Giving likes, +1’s or other nods

If you look in your Google Analytics account, the search giant has been tracking these types of metrics for years now, so it only makes sense that you should keep up with these key metrics as well.  Every chance you get to create additional engagement helps your website overall, so know that your on-page metrics are as important as ever in the eyes of the search engines.

If you’re wondering how to boost your on-page statistics, just try to make each page as pleasant of an experience as possible for your visitors.  Here are just a few techniques to do that-

  • DO focus on using only top notch writers
  • DO keep your navigation simple
  • DO add lots of visual elements to your website
  • DO incorporate video, charts, and infographs
  • DO use bullet points and subtitles to break up text
  • DO use bold and italics to make key points stand out
  • DO link internally so users have easy access to more content

Focusing on the Consumer

If you haven’t realized it by now, search engine optimization is all about the consumer.  The more you go out of your way to provide great information and make your visitors happy, the more Yahoo, Google and Bing will reward you with a boost in natural rankings.  And even though some of the things I’ve shared so far may seem super technical and difficult to implement, I’ll tell you one more time to read the first sentence of this article- that’s close to 85% of today’s SEO right there.

As long as you’re putting forth a genuine effort to become more helpful online than all of your competition, then you will eventually outrank them…even if it’s purely by dumb luck.

So let’s recap real fast with the highlights-

  1. Write great content.
  2. Optimize for mobile users.
  3. Focus on quality backlinks.
  4. Use local to your advantage.
  5. Don’t be that guy with too many ads.
  6. Make sure your website loads smoothly.
  7. Continue to focus on keywords.
  8. Post a few videos on your site.
  9. Use smart page layouts to increase engagement.
  10. Always focus on pleasing your consumers.

That’s not so hard, is it?

If you have any questions about modern search optimization or want to point out a tip or two that I missed, please feel free to reach out through my contact form or leave a comment below.  I’m here to help.

What Type of Web Content Drives in New Customers?

What Type of Web Content Drives in New Customers?

great web contentIf I had to pick one question that business owners ask me about the most, it would easily be, “What kind of content should I have on my website to get more visitors?”  And I will quickly tell them that they’re asking the wrong question- because traffic is only half the formula of a successful website.  The real goal is to convince those visitors to become real-life customers that support your brand.

Now, there’s one great thing about having lots of relevant content on your website; it attracts people and the search engine spiders exactly the same way.  So the more you share with the world about your business, the faster your website will rank naturally.  That means an increase in traffic AND since you have lots of great content, those potential customers are more likely to reach out to you as well.  So it’s really a two for one benefit.

Excellent Core Content

web content spartanburgTo gain new visitors more frequently, strengthening the core content of your website is absolutely vital.  Because think about it; you have no idea why someone happens to visit your website.  Most companies offer dozens of products and services, so the inbound traffic could have an interest in any of them…but only if you provide solid initial answers to their questions first.

If you fail to do that, however, then the consumer is going to be off to the next business in the search results without thinking twice about you.  That’s why you need to have AT LEAST-

  • One core web page for each of your main categories
  • One core sub-page for each of your products/services
  • One page answering the most common questions within your industry
  • An About Us page that tells the company’s history
  • A contact us page with all your location information
  • A testimonial page to show what happy customers have to say
  • A “specials” page with your current discounts and specials
  • A warranty page if that’s applicable to your business

Once you start doing the math, that’s easily 30-60 core pages that your website absolutely has to have in order to capture attention.  And each of these pages needs visual elements (photos, charts, infographics, etc.) and solid formatting (sub-headings, bullet points, backlinks, etc.) as well.  Your main pages should also offer video tutorials to assist your customers if you really want to make them pop.

An Informative Blog

Likewise, bloggingWriting a blog is an awesome way to keep your visitors engaged, educate them about your industry and talk about things that are happening around town.  There’s an equally important reason to have a daily-weekly blog as well though; the search engines absolutely love to see new content getting indexed.  In fact, the more new information you post, the closer the search engines keep an eye on you…which helps you gain additional visibility at a lightning-fast pace.

In fact, if you do a quick search for a list of the current Fortune 500 companies and then start checking their sites for blogs, you may be surprised to find out that every single one of them use blogging to engage their customers on a daily basis.  Some of them even have 3-5 blogs for different client-types, plus their marketing team writes for online publications like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal for even more exposure.

So even though you probably don’t want to bother with blogging, know that it’s the fastest way to put your brand on the www map.  Not even paid advertising can consistently deliver the results that simple tips and other types of articles can provide.

Smart Social Optimization

writing for social mediaSince almost every single one of your customers now carries a smartphone in their pockets, optimizing your local presence is no longer optional.  Because here’s what happens-

A consumer does a Google search for “patio furniture” and they start browsing through the local search results to compare features and prices.  That brings them to your Google+ or Bing Local page where they’ll see your logo and contact information, the link to your website, customer reviews and any blog posts that you’ve shared through that channel.  This is assuming, of course, that you spent the same amount of time optimizing your social pages as you did your website.  Most businesses don’t.

The sweet thing about sites like Google+ is that you can optimize them with photos and videos of your products, and then embed links straight to your website.  So it definitely pays to spend an extra few hours per month keeping your profiles in tip-top shape, and this needs to happen on EVERY social channel that your business is registered on.

Great Video Tutorials

writing video scriptsOne final type of web content to consider is producing short video segments to give consumers a completely different type of visual experience on your website.  You can add videos to all of your main category pages to give a quick overview of your products and services, plus create a video testimonial series with locals who really appreciate your business.  And since people can’t help but click on video links when they see them, this will quickly become one of the most popular features on your website.

Additionally, smart videos can also be shared on your social media pages for even greater exposure, plus they get indexed by the search engines within their own category as well.  So if someone searches for “How to file for bankruptcy” in the video search results and your local law firm has a short video on it, Google is going to prioritize your video above the national brands.  Since this also boosts your website’s results and your local search presence, it’s a win/win/win strategy for almost any type of business.

Using Social Media to Empower a Business Brand

Using Social Media to Empower a Business Brand

social media spartanburgIf you look at the average Spartanburg social media account for local businesses, you’ll likely see some basic contact information, links to recent promotions, and maybe a photo or two.  Other than that, it’s simply a sad, boring page without too much going on.

And when you really think about it, that’s not being very social at all.  In fact, most of us would consider that anti-social.

Now, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, it may not make a whole lot of sense for you to place countless hours in building up a great social media profile and embracing residents in Spartanburg and Greenville, but that’s because you really don’t understand how social media works in the first place.  After reading this article though, I might be able to change your mind.

Everyone is Looking at Social Media

Looking at social mediaThe next time you head over to downtown Spartanburg or the WestGate Mall, take a few minutes to really look around and see what shoppers are doing.  They’re shopping, sure, but I’m talking about what they’re doing in-between their travels from store to store.  Look around the food court or check out the moms that are watching their kids on those neat slingshot trampoline contraptions…what are they doing?

They’re staring at their smartphones.

And as you know, one of the big favorites of any smartphone user is their social feed.  That’s literally how they keep up with the world around them.  Cousin Bobby got married.  Michelle took the kids to Myrtle Beach this week.  We love this senseless kind of banter because it’s easy to keep up relationships without putting forth any type of real effort.  With just one tap of the “like button”, everyone knows that we’re on board.

Social Media Delivers Massive Traffic

drive traffic in spartanburgAs a business owner here in Spartanburg, those social media feeds can become especially important to you since they represent 100% free advertising with Upstate locals who already know and love your brand.

Think about it for a moment.  You hit the “like” button over cousin Bobby getting married, and instantly 300-500 people know that you approve of the event.  And some of them had no idea that Bobby was tying the knot, so they chime in the conversation as well…and that invites all of their friends into the conversation as well.  So just one photograph at the altar ends up reaching tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, and they all end up happy for Bobby (even though most of them don’t know him) because somebody they know supports him.

Customers Love Social Media Recommendations

spartanburg social mediaNow, if we apply this same type of social media campaign to your business, a single post can get your brand in front of thousands of potential customers across the upstate.  And since it’s your best customers who are initially hitting those like buttons and leaving comments, they are actually serving as brand ambassadors on your behalf to get the word out about your company.  And the snowball effect can literally become massive if you’re publishing content that’s social by nature.

What do I mean by that?

Well, everyone “liked” Bobby’s wedding because it was the polite thing to do., whether they were actually interested in it or not.  People also like videos, funny stories, contests and dozens of other types of media because they feel personally connected to it in one way or another, and their friends pay attention because they value each other’s opinion.  If you’re only posting sales material though, then there’s really no reason for someone to like it…even if they end up making a purchase.

Using Social Media to Build a Brand

building a brand social mediaSo if you want your social media accounts to explode in popularity, the number one rule is to stop trying to sell.  Focus on engaging people instead.  After all, you have a website that should be fully optimized to showcase your products and educate consumers about your business, so you don’t need to try to do that all over again on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter…especially since every post you make on these social media sites will link back to your homepage anyway.

Instead, your one and only focus on social media should be about getting likes, comments and other types of interactions.  And the real beauty of it is that it doesn’t matter what you do to get that positive feedback- it doesn’t have to have anything to do with your brand at all.  Because as people find enjoyable content on your social media pages and begin to share it with others, you’re creating the opportunity to talk to thousands of new Spartanburg customers on a daily basis just by showing off your personality…and the sales part can definitely come later through other channels.

Where to Start with Social Media

Suddenly wstarting with social mediae’re back where we began; at your dreary Facebook page with 47 likes and nothing but boring promotional material.  And you’re probably thinking, “All of this sounds great…but how do I start connecting with customers on social media and make them appreciate my brand?”

It’s actually pretty simple to do…just contact Upstate Synergy and we’ll handle everything.

Seriously though, it really is not that difficult to start building your brand on social media.  Start with some type of promotion- a giveaway, a contest or almost anything that you can display in your storefront that would grab your customer’s attention.  Consider it a bribe of sorts; if they follow you on social media, then you’ll reward them with a little extra something.

For example, if you own a restaurant here in Spartanburg, then offer a free soft drink with any purchase in exchange for a like on Facebook.  Then set the offer on your counter, let people complete the action as they’re waiting in line, and they’ll have a confirmation page to show your waitress/cashier that grants them an inexpensive freebie.  It’s that simple.

For other types of businesses, I suggest going with an iPad giveaway.  Because even though that tech toy will cost you $500+, you can give one away every few months and gain tens of thousands of subscribers for that minimal investment.  Another good method is to give away an industry guide in exchange for a social media like and an email address, because you’re educating your customers and building initial trust at the same time.

Keeping the Conversations Going on Social Media

social media conversationsWhatever you choose to do, getting that initial like is simply a stepping-stone towards building an actual relationship with your customers and their friends.  So once they start looking around at your social media wall, they should see all kinds of great photos, videos, local news, testimonials, fun stories and other things to make them appreciate you.  And once again, this doesn’t have to be solely about your business or what you have for sale…it just has to be engaging and there should be lots of it.

Before you start a campaign to gain new followers, I’d recommend having at least ten posts on your account for people to look at.

And once you start getting new fans on social media, just give them a few additional content pieces per week so you stay sharp in their minds.  Even something as simple as “What do you like most about <your business name>?” or “What’s one feature you’d love to see added to <business name>” can get conversations started and get you in front of new customers within the community.

That’s the only real goal here…posting content that makes others appreciate you and eager to join in on the conversation.  Just make sure you add attention-grabbing photographs or the occasional video since it makes your posts stand out a whole lot more.

For more information on building a killer social media account, feel free to contact us via email for a complimentary needs evaluation.  We are always happy to help out.

Every Business Needs a Good Blogger in their Corner

Every Business Needs a Good Blogger in their Corner

upstate blogger spartanburgWhile blogging is immensely popular in larger cities around the nation, there doesn’t seem to be too many professional bloggers here in Spartanburg or throughout the Upstate.  I have a feeling that once the word gets out on how ridiculously awesome blogging can be, it will become a commonplace for professional copywriters and freelancers alike.

What the Heck is a Blogger?

A blogger is nothing more than a writer that talks about a specialty on the Internet- like online marketing, professional football or collecting classic cars.  This person usually starts out as an amateur writer with no formal training, but they have a passion for what they write about and eventually other people take notice.  Before long, their website starts to get some traffic and a hobby suddenly becomes a business opportunity.

How the Heck Can Bloggers Make Money?

Here’s the sweet thing about blogging- you can write about absolutely anything on God’s green Earth and produce some income by doing it.  That’s because no matter what you decide to talk about, there are businesses that have products and services that your audience would be extremely interested in.  If our blogger is a Carolina Panthers football fan, for example, then he could create an affiliate account with the NFL or any sporting goods store to sell jerseys, ball caps and numerous other items through his website.

Why Do Businesses Hire Bloggers?

Like the example above points out, bloggers build a very personal bond with their readers and they usually have a very strong influence over their purchasing decisions.  Let’s say our Spartanburg-based blogger told his followers, “I just had a Chili Cheese a Plenty at the Beacon and it was awesome!”  Something like that makes others say, “Darn, I could go for a burger at the Beacon too!”  It may be the most powerful targeted advertising there is in the world today.

Should Businesses Have their Own Blog?

Absolutely!  If they live here in the Upstate and they want to bring the Spartanburg culture into their businesses, a blog gives multiple ways to do that.  I tell businesses to talk about everything from local gossip to upcoming promotions to humor and seasonal activities.  Tutorials on things related to your business are also great ways to gain exposure.  Because what it does is make “XYZ Corporation” a living, breathing entity that’s associated with dozens of fun things around the Upstate.  It is a very powerful marketing tool.

Do Blogs Help Businesses in Other Ways?

It just so happens that blogging is also the most powerful way to increase your exposure in the search engines and rake in new customers.  Blogs are social by nature, so they are great to share on social media like Facebook and Google+ to build up plenty of likes and shares.  Since people in the Upstate are friends with hundreds of other locals, it gives massive visibility while making your brand look good.  It’s a huge win/win scenario.

Can I Use Other Upstate Bloggers to Advertise?

Believe it or not, Upstate blog writers make a good portion of their income talking about local Spartanburg businesses.  They usually work in one of two formats- either by accepting guest posts (which you would write) or having them write a review of your business.  It is extremely cheap advertising too; there are several Spartanburg bloggers who have 10,000+ local followers and they’d charge less than $50-100 to brag about your products and/or services.

How Do I Start a Blog for My Company?

Contact your local web developer (or me…preferably me) and ask them to add a blog to your website.  In most cases, they will be able to install WordPress or a similar platform right on top of your existing site, and then all that’s left for you to do is to start typing away.  Even better, the formatting will be very similar to Microsoft Word so there are very few learning curves involved.

How do I Find Inspiration to Write a Daily Blog?

My small team usually gets together one a month and says, “What would our customers like to read about?”  Then we throw around a bunch of bad ideas, and then a few good ones, and eventually something that sounds like pure gold.  Once we have 4 or 5 themes we want to run with, then we get behind our keyboards and go to work.  Just make sure that you find a way to work some of your business’s main keywords into each article so it serves the dual purpose that we talked about earlier.

Can Web Synergy Teach Us to Write a Great Blog?

Definitely.  Just give me a call or reach out through the “Contact Us” page and we will help you do a little brainstorming.  My staff and I can also teach you all the search optimization basics to keep Google happy, plus show you about how to incorporate contests and giveaways to boost your readership quickly.  If you’re not feeling inspired, then you can also have your web content written by a world-class blogger and copywriter (that’s me)…since that’s sort of my specialty.  Just let us know what we can do to help.

Four Critical Elements Every Successful Website Needs

Four Critical Elements Every Successful Website Needs

website elementsFar too often, Upstate business owners place far too much emphasis on website design instead of what the site actually does for them.  Because just like every other aspect of your company, a website is a powerful tool that can either drive in new business or drive it away.  Don’t get us wrong, a good looking website is very important to impress new customers, but ultimately they care far more about its functionality and the available information.  Here are a few more tips to keep in mind-

Fast Loading Times

Three seconds.  That’s how long you have to grab the average consumer’s attention from the very instant that they click on your link.  If your website is hosted on a slow server that takes a few seconds to load, then you’d better have the Holy Grail of homepages to convince them to stay.  Google, the king of all search engines, recognizes this trend as well and they reward websites that load quickly.  Optimizing a website for all of today’s digital devices is a win/win scenario.

Complete Search Optimization

If you think SEO stands for “Southeastern Oregon” or anything other than “Search Engine Optimization”, then your website is probably in trouble.  From proper page formatting to building backlinks to adhering to the dozens of other requests made by Google and Bing, this is the only way for new customers to find you online without paid results.  For now, we’ll spare you the technical details, but know that these are steps that have to be taken if you have a realistic expectation of a good return on your investment.

Lots of Fresh Content

Since recent studies have shown that upwards of 82% of all Americans price-check from their smartphones before visiting a retail store, having a search optimized website is absolutely crucial for your success.  While we won’t go too much into technical detail, every successful website has to have a steady stream of content talking about their business to achieve proper search results.  In fact, even sponsored campaigns are now taking your site’s optimization levels into consideration, so there is simply no substitute for frequent updates.

Other Reasons to Get Involved

Then again, a successful website has a lot more than just words on a page- it gives consumers a reason to stick around and/or visit more often.  That’s why so many sites these days have social media contests, news clips, games and hundreds of other unique features…they want you to stick around.  Not only does it help their site optimization efforts, but it also creates a company sub-culture that your customers become a part of.