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The Three Elements of an Effective Total Online Presence

The Three Elements of an Effective Total Online Presence written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Total Online Presence

Business owners today understand that being visible online is important. But what does having an online presence really mean? It’s a lot bigger than just having a website and a Facebook page. And when you look at the statistics on how consumers behave online, it’s easy to understand why. Did you know that:

  • 77 percent of searches on mobile devices are followed up by an action within an hour;
  • 87 percent of potential customers won’t consider a business with low reviews/ratings;
  • 7 out of 10 consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information on social media sites; and
  • 82 percent of small business owners claim their main source of new business is still referrals?

All of these statistics demonstrate the importance of having a total online presence that is fully integrated. That means that the total online presence shouldn’t supplant everything else you’re already doing—it needs to support it.

In order to make the most of the way that consumers interact with brands online, there are three fundamental elements of strategy for your online presence: website, SEO, and content. These are bigger than just tactics, they’re strategic components; as such, they need to be blended together in an effective and efficient way.

Below, we’ll take a look at the three elements of your total online presence, and how to get them working in tandem to bring you the greatest results.

Creating an Effective Website

The way that both search engines and people search has changed how websites need to work today. Your homepage isn’t just a placeholder and index for all of your links. It’s now the start of a journey—it’s where you build the know, like, trust, and try elements of your relationship with customers.

The first thing your homepage must do is demonstrate how you solve the biggest problem your prospects are facing. No one comes to a website looking for a product or service; they come looking for a solution to their problem. If you can prove that you understand their issue, then you can begin to talk about how you solve it (with your products and services).

The content on your homepage needs to back up your claims. Video is becoming an increasingly important element in building trust. A video featuring your team talking about your deep understanding of the problems your prospects face builds trust. Not only do they feel like you really know what you’re talking about, but the simple act of seeing your face and hearing your voice builds a personal connection that makes the trust grow even faster.

You also want to provide an evaluation or checklist in order to give prospects a way to try your approach. When they can see the way you work to solve their problem, they gain confidence in your ability to get the job done.

Beyond those basic content elements, your website also needs to address two major technical hurdles in order to be competitive today. First, it must work on a mobile device. In 2018, Google announced that they’d be using mobile websites, rather than desktop websites, as their main basis for indexing and ranking. This means that if you don’t have a mobile site (or you have one that isn’t optimized for mobile), you’re lagging behind your competitors and falling in Google search rankings. Second, security and privacy are becoming bigger and bigger concerns for consumers. After years of watching some of the giants like Facebook and Target stumble with online security, consumers are looking for small businesses who work hard to guard their personal information. This means ensuring that you have an HTTPS site and that you are encrypting any data you collect from visitors.

Search Engine Optimization

It’s Google’s world, we’re just living in it. Whether you like it or not, Google is the biggest player in the online game, and so a small business owner’s chief concern needs to be optimizing for Google. But at the same time, you can’t lose sight of your customers and optimizing for their human needs.

The first thing that any small business owner should do to ensure they’re ranking well with Google is take a deeper look at Google My Business. I’ve talked before on the podcast about the importance of this tool, but Google continues to build out this platform and further integrate it with other tools. In fact, I suspect that in 2019 it may become Google’s very own social platform, allowing small business owners to interact with their customers. But for now, at the very least, it’s the number one way in which small businesses are being found by people looking for local solutions.

This means you should be taking your Google My Business presence seriously. If you haven’t done so already, claim your business and make sure there are no duplicate entries. Ensure the category of your business is specific, and that the name, address, and phone number all sync up with what you have on your website. Add photos and videos, posts, and descriptions to your profile. You can even use Google My Business to connect directly with customers and prospects through text messaging.

You also want to be sure that your website is giving you the best shot at ranking locally. Fill your pages with local data, content, and resources. And beyond what is actually on your website for prospects and customers to find, you need to be paying attention to the metadata behind the scenes. Make sure your titles and descriptions are helping you rank for those search terms that matter most to your prospects.

Reviews are the final piece of the SEO puzzle. They have become a significant factor in how you rank. Businesses with few reviews or poor reviews will fall behind those with lots of good reviews. And as with all of the other elements of SEO, while reviews matter for rankings, they also matter for the people reading them. Having reviews—and good ones at that—will make prospects far more likely to give your business a try.

Content Beyond Blogging

Today, it’s pretty common for “content” to be used interchangeably with “blog posts.” But in reality, content is much bigger than that. Content drives every channel. Whether it’s advertising, email marketing, social media, community events, videos, referral offers, or text messaging, these are all forms of content (or at the very least channels where content is needed).

When you’re developing content, you need to be catering to every stage of the customer journey. A great way to do this is through the creation of hub pages. These pages allow you to structure your content around specific topics. When you centralize all of your knowledge on a given topic within a hub page, that allows the content to be shared more easily and to draw attention in ranking.

Beyond just creating a centralized page for relevant content, you want to be sure you’re marrying content upgrades to those hub pages. If you have a page that ranks, attach a free checklist or eBook so that you can begin using all of that content to capture leads.

I’ve Got My Strategic Elements—Now What?

As you can see, these three main elements of your total online presence all go hand in hand. This means that you also need to get your website, SEO strategy, and content working together to generate and capture leads, so that you can begin the process of nurturing them and converting them to customers.

Building an effective strategy is about addressing the needs of your prospects and customers all along their journey. Whether they’re in the earliest stages of the marketing hourglass, and are just coming to know and like your business, or they’re a repeat customer about to make a referral to a friend.

Every element of your strategy needs to be focused towards moving people along the hourglass, and this goes beyond just website, SEO, and content. Things like advertising, outreach, pay per click, and reviews all must work together to accomplish this task.

Fortunately, if you’re using these three major strategic elements as your guide, you’re able to structure the other tactics around those larger forces to create a marketing system that best serves the needs of your business and your customers.

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Must-Have Website Elements for Professional Services

Must-Have Website Elements for Professional Services written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

As a professional services provider, your website should be your most valuable marketing asset and the hub of all of your marketing efforts. Your website shouldn’t just be a pretty design that people can look at. It needs to act as an actual tool for your business and work as a lead generating machine.

Your website has many jobs these days and should help you:

  • Get found – Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a priority for your business to help you rise above the competition in search engine results pages.
  • Build trust – I write more about this below as well, but your website needs to work the way your customers need it to and expect it to. You need to instill confidence in your audience.
  • Educate and inform – Help your audience understand what their problems and challenges actually are and how to solve them.
  • Nurture and convert – This is where the whole lead generation component comes into play. It’s common for people to visit your website numerous times before deciding to work with you. To ensure you stay top of mind, put enticing forms and CTAs in place (that link to valuable resources) to get their email address and continue to create valuable content that is relevant to their stage in the customer journey. This will help to move them closer to the sale.

I’m not going to lie, after working with countless professional services businesses over the years I can say that many websites look the same. They have the exact same structure and messaging (this even applies across industries) and it can be difficult to separate one business from another.

To help you stand out from the crowd, keep the points mentioned in this post in mind.

Speak to your specific audience

Now, the core of this is that you have to have a deep understanding of who your audience is in order to speak to them directly. You want them to feel special when they land on your site and this happens best when they feel an emotional connection with your messaging.

When developing the copy to reach your audience, keep the following in mind:

  • Focus on the messaging on your audience, not your business (i.e. replace “we” with “you”). It will resonate much better with them if you take this approach (easier said than done, but it’s a must).
  • Write as if you’re talking to one specific person, not a group of people.
  • Avoid using jargon. This is especially important for professional services. It can be so easy to get caught up in your everyday lingo, but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t always make you sound smart. It confuses your audience more often than not because they don’t understand what you’re saying.
  • Write conversationally. This makes your business less intimidating and can make your prospects feel like you’re talking to them, rather than at them.

Find your point of differentiation

As mentioned, so many professional services websites look and feel the same, so you need to find a way to stand out. To do this, take a look at your brand’s company, culture, and services, and identify what makes you unique.

A good place to start is by looking at your culture (the most relatable aspect of your business) and showcase your culture through storytelling and various aspects across your site. You will have competition that provides the same services as you, but your company’s personality can truly set you apart.

Let your audience know who you are. Create an about page, show pictures of your team, share fun facts, and so on. Provide your mission and values that people can connect with. There are so many things that you can do. Start thinking of what these are and add them to your site ASAP.

Think about visuals and design

You know the phrase, “you need to dress to impress?” Well, this saying goes for your website as well. Your website is often a potential customer’s first impression, so you need to make it a good one. Make sure the visuals assist with guiding people through the buying process and that they accurately represent your culture and target audience.

Do the best you can to avoid common stock photos. They make you appear less authentic.

Take a look at your competitors’ websites when putting the design together. While you may be able to gather a few good ideas from what they’re doing, you should also look at them as designs to stay away from.

Ensure your site is mobile optimized

Your customers are busy and are likely researching your business on the go, so you need to provide a stellar user experience for them on their handheld devices. Google is actually penalizing sites that aren’t optimizing for mobile, so to avoid frustrating potential customers and losing rank in search, optimize ASAP.

Must-have homepage elements

In addition to the thoughts above, here are actual elements you need to add to your homepage:

  • A promise and sub-promise – You need to make a clear promise that will solve your customers’ problems. A sub-promise is a trust factor that a company offers (such as “Kansas City’s most trusted”). Make sure these elements are clear.
  • A call to action (CTA) – CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps. It provides a clear path for customers to take and removes ambiguity.
  • Contact information – Make it easy for people to get ahold of you. This is especially important for local businesses since a company’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) is a local ranking factor.
  • Video – Video allows you to give people an understanding of your personality, who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story. Some of your clients or customers may be intimidated by the professional services you provide, so providing an element that can humanize you or establish an emotional connection is ideal. A video can do just that.
  • Trust, proof, and authority elements – As a company that provides professional services, I can almost guarantee you are being compared to others that provide the same services you do before a person makes a decision on who they want to work with. To stand out, you must do your very best to include the following elements on your homepage: testimonials, client logos, association badges, client results, case studies, media recognition, and awards.
  • Fresh content – In order to best serve your prospects and clients, you need to always be providing valuable information for them. It shows your company is active and cares about the audience’s experience with your brand.
  • Core services – One of the things many companies don’t do enough of is list out their core services on their homepage. This can be a point of differentiation but can also help boost your SEO because it provides a good user experience.

If you own or run marketing for a professional services business, what are you doing on your website to help separate you from the competition?