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Online MarketingSmall businesses are constantly tasked with making the most of the limited resources they have. If you are handling your online marketing within your company, chances are you are putting a significant amount of resources towards your marketing. While marketing obviously costs money, it also costs time and effort from workers and you likely aren’t getting the results you really want from your efforts.

Hiring an outside firm to take the reins on your online marketing may feel like giving away control of a vital part of your business, but it is more like hiring a driver who will take you where you would like to go while you are able to take care of your own business. If you are concerned about the prospect of enlisting an outside agency to handle or assist with your marketing, you might consider all the following ways hired marketing services can help your brand.

1) Save Time for Everyone

No matter the size of your team, allowing an outside party to take over marketing frees up time which can be better devoted to your own service. You will no longer have to invest the hours on writing marketing material, engaging your consumers on social media, or creating and managing all your email lists. With those tasks taken care of, your team can use their skills where they are really needed.

2) Gain an Outside Perspective

It is impossible for a business owner to ever distance themselves far from their business. The love of the industry, hard-earned skills, and personal investment in success all drive successful businesses, but they can also obscure your ability to see what exactly attracts your customers. Your perspective on the parts of your business that are most attractive will automatically be biased, so it can be important to have a set of extra eyes to give a professional and non-biased opinion. Marketing professionals understand consumer behaviors and how to attract and convert interested visitors, and they can use that knowledge to come up with unique angles you may not notice alone.

3) Leverage Built-In Expertise

If you are small enough to not have an actual marketing department, but you are still asking someone in your company to handle the online marketing, chances are they have other responsibilities. It is common for business owners to try to handle the marketing while they balance a million other responsibilities, or to have several team members who also work as customer service reps, salespeople, bookkeepers, or human resources. Hiring a third-party allows these members of your team (or yourself) to put their skills where they are most valuable, and you gain more professional and focused marketing in return.

4) Access to Specialized Technology

Your company likely uses a few platforms and technologies for various functions, including online marketing. But, how many marketing-specific programs do you use? Most likely, the answer is few to none. But, professional marketing services partner you with professionals who are well-versed with the latest technology designed specifically to improve the impact of marketing. Best of all, you won’t have to invest thousands of dollars in analytics and automation programs.

5) Do More With Less

One of the biggest drawbacks of handling your own marketing is a loss of efficiency. In-house marketing usually focuses on a few channels, but it also tends to miss other channels with huge potential for your business. It simply is impossible to handle maintaining a website while managing a PPC campaign, running several social media accounts, and trying to create insightful and useful blog content. You will either end up with low-quality output, an overwhelmed team, or both. Outsourcing the work allows you to cover all your bases and emphasize those with the best results for you, while optimizing those that are struggling. You will receive more back from your investments, with less effort and stress on your team.

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You can work on building your brand’s image and marketing as much as you want, but at the end of the day bad reviews can outweigh all that hard work. We’d all like to believe that good reviews can balance out the negative, however that notion got pretty well shattered when Mike Blumenthal recently published a set of surveys strongly showing that consumers perceive that a “negative review corpus hurts a business more than positive reviews help them.

For businesses struggling with the issue of negative reviews, this news isn’t a relief. However, Blumenthal reviewed his results and noticed something interesting. Younger consumers seem to be more tolerant of bad reviews than their older counterparts.

Of course, younger consumers aren’t going to forgive a place with an outstanding number of one star reviews. But, it appears that consumers between the ages of 18-24, specifically those who are more savvy to online reviews, may be able to parse negative reviews more thoroughly rather than rejecting businesses out of hand. Rather than accepting the review at face value, they actively search for aspects that could be a deal breaker.

Obviously, the best way to handle a bad review portfolio is to directly address any valid concerns of reviewers, and encourage those who have positive experiences to review your site so that you can potentially water down the negative. But, Blumenthal’s survey suggests that reviews are always the end-all-be-all that we think they are.

It isn’t uncommon for business owners to try to handle at least a portion of their SEO on their own. Some will try to find a balance between working with an SEO company and doing some of it themselves, while others try to go totally independent and see what they can do without paying for the professionals.

Both make complete sense and have positive aspects. You want to have control over your company’s online presence, and it is always important to try to familiarize yourself as much as possible with online marketing and SEO, even if you are working with an SEO agency.

There’s a reason there is professional online marketing help available however, and that is there are many online marketing tasks a company should try to take care of themselves, and then there are the more complex tasks that are best left to the people who work in SEO every day.

Many of the tasks the company can take care of are actually best done before you ever begin working with an SEO agency. If you don’t know what you can do on your own, Search Engine Journal writer Amanda DiSilvestro recently made a checklist of things you should do before you begin looking for professional help. They will let you take the reins on your online presence and make sure it fits the way you want your company to be portrayed, while also creating a foundation that experts will be able to build upon later.

You run a small local business with brick and mortar locations. What reason do you have to invest in online marketing? Actually, there are quite a few reasons local businesses can benefit from online marketing.

You want your business to be reaching out to customers everywhere they are looking for you or services like yours, and more and more people are turning to the internet before they make a purchase. If they aren’t buying straight off the web, they are checking reviews and public perception of the products they are looking for.

A recent BIA/Kelsey report said that 97% of consumers use online media before making local purchases, and Google suggests that 9 out of 10 internet searches led to follow up actions such as calling or visiting businesses. That means the majority of consumers are turning to the internet, and if your business isn’t there, they will find others.

Online marketing isn’t as intimidating as many thing, either. Search Engine Land says that 50% of small businesses’ online listings are wrong, and the majority of small business owners claim they don’t have the time to keep online listings up to date. Keeping Google’s information on your business updated only takes a few minutes, and that is where most will find you. You can create a local business listing even if you don’t have a website or sell anything online.

The one step above this is to embrace social media. Many smaller businesses focus almost their entire web presence on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, because these are where the brands can reach out directly to consumers.

If you do wish to fully capitalize on online marketing, but don’t think you have the time, hiring someone to manage your online brand and website eventually pays itself off in public awareness of your brand and cementing your brand identity as a trusted business in the community. However, you can’t just do a little. A shoddy or out of date website can hurt public perception of your company, so keeping your site up to date with all the current web standards is important to maintaining your brand’s integrity.

New business have a lot to manage in a short period of time if they hope to be sustainable, and one of the most important marketing tools they can use is SEO. Establishing your company online is a huge step towards establishing your business in your community, and the only way to get popular online is to have a website showing up in the search rankings.

In the past, creating a respectable website with good content would have been enough to get your page on the search results page, but the internet is now an incredibly competitive arena. To get your website on the front page, you have to create great content while also managing a number of ranking signals that Google and Bing use to rank websites.

These signals are read by “bots” or “spiders” that index web pages and all of their internal information, which are sorted by algorithms that decide what pages get ranked where. There are seemingly countless signals, and it can be overwhelming when you are just getting started.

Startups trying to understand SEO often feel completely confused by the barrage of technical information out there, but there are some basic steps you can take to get started. Sujan Patel has five rules you can apply to running your website which will help any fledgling business firmly ground their online presence.

As with any business, you not only need to keep up with current trends and updates in online marketing, but you also need to be looking ahead to attempt to predict some of the changes ahead.

To help with this task, Business2Community presents their predictions for the 2013 landscape of social media and search engine marketing. If you’ve stayed current with the trends of the past year, there aren’t any big surprises here. But, it’s nice to see a succinct list of things to keep an eye out for in the coming year.

 

As a web designer or developer, it’s always important to understand what the client wants. That’s why it is strange how few designers and developers understand online marketing.

Understanding and implementing online marketing give any developer or designer a great advantage in the marketplace and promises much more of a long term reward than those that fail to learn about online marketing. This isn’t to say neglecting your designing or developing skills is a wise decision, but by combining your skills with online marketing, you can do three things:

1) Get more clients – When clients post ads for developers or design jobs, they often get responses detailing what features and formats the person could implement. They promise so many pages, or list how they are proficient in HTML5, jQuery, and W4C standards. This may seem like a great approach for contacting potential employers, but it has a great weakness.

Potential employers want to know what you will do for them, and what they want you to do is make more money. Employers want to hear that you will raise the number of subscribers a certain percent, or will raise their revenue. Wether you use HTML5 or jQuery is not of much importance to them.

There are plenty of good web designers that can make nice looking websites, but there are way less designers that know how to increase sales. Those that know online marketing will get the better clients, and higher rates.

2) Build Your Brand – The biggest problem for every freelancer is building a base of clients. It would be great for clients to just come to you ready to pay however much you want, but that is a fantasy. Or is it?

Building a strong personal brand online attracts clients by exhibiting your skills to them beforehand. This can be fairly difficult and requires a lot of perseverance, but there is a basic pattern. First, you build a popular blog, followed by establishing a decent social media following. Then, you participate in outside activities like conferences, and make yourself known about.

This path does two very important things for you. It establishes you as a reputable expert, and gains you tons of publicity many would pay for. When employers need work done, they go to the experts they know first, and if you’ve built a strong brand, they will know about you.

If you want to know more about building a personal brand, I highly recommend watching the TED talk by Jacob Cass.

3) Earn extra income – Freelancing is far from a stable career and anyone should be prepared for unexpected problems. That is why it is important to make yourself as financially secure as possible before the problems arrive.

One of the best options for securing your finances is to diversify your streams of income between client work and passive income. If you are already perceived as an expert in your field, creating a passive income shouldn’t be difficult. There are a slew of monetization options, such as creating and selling your own products or even simply displaying ads on your site.

It does take effort to create a product, and even more to market and sell it, but it could be extremely important in your future.

Think of it this way, if you want to run a local bakery, you have to be as good at business as you are at baking. Otherwise, the business won’t get off the ground. The same goes for creating a business online. If you want to be successful online, learn online marketing.

 

If you want to learn more about online marketing and the mistakes you can make while starting out, read more at 1stwebdesigner.