Can you believe it? It’s 2016 already and your business is looking to stay on top of the game. What can you do to outdo your competition? And where should you focus your limited but very important marketing dollars? Here’s a list of 5 things your company should strive to do to be a competitive business of the future, and not a fizzling business of the past.

1. Stay on top of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

2015 was a rollercoaster ride for anyone involved with SEO. It confused small business owners, cause “SEO companies” to get rich quick off of those who weren’t entirely sure what SEO is, and frustrated people with unrealistic expectations of how it all was supposed to work.

Well, the truth is that SEO always has been and always will be complicated. It won’t get you to the top of Google in 2 weeks, and it won’t guarantee you an online sale once people find your website. However, it is just as true that SEO is a necessity and that is DOES work. It takes a lot of patience and constant effort, but it’s worth it when you see your organic acquisition numbers begin to increase.

The key to seeing success with SEO is to keep updating your website’s content, including both text and images, based on what you’re seeing in your keyword reports and analytics data. For example, if your about page sees a higher bounce rate and lower average time spent on the page, then there is something about your about page that people don’t like. Think about rewording the text to include more relevant keywords, using more compelling images, and ensuring that the images are optimized for the web to keep page load time down (people hate slow websites).

The main thing people overlook with SEO is the external factors that play into showing Google that you have content worthy enough for other websites or people to refer you (backlink). This is the most time consuming part of SEO, but may pay off the most. To tackle this part of SEO, you have to blog at least once a month, guest blog for other websites and link that blog back to your site, or generate engaging content like infographics that people want to link/retweet/share on Facebook. If you aren’t doing these things, then you likely won’t see a steady improvement in your SEO efforts.

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You can also get more traffic to your site through paid efforts, which is our next topic!

2. Advertise more with Google Adwords

Paid Search, or Online Advertising, can help get you steadier web traffic without waiting for your SEO efforts to develop. It can also drive people directly to certain pages on your site (i.e. a landing page) versus just your home page. There are three main types of ads you can do with Google Adwords.

Text ads are great for helping your website show up in the 1-3 spots on Google (in the ad placement section) which means you’ll be leapfrogging the competition who may have a better organic search presence than your company.

Display ads allow you to display a picture on any of Google’s ad partner sites. This is especially helpful when you want to get some brand exposure to a larger audience using more effective imagery rather than just text. It also allows you to show off your product (i.e. a handbag) using a picture so that people can see exactly what that product looks like. If your products are nicer or more appealing than your competitions, or just appeal to the particular customer that sees the ad, then you have a higher chance of driving a purchase.

A long story short, your reach will be much greater if you pay to place your messages and images in front of web users versus waiting for users to discover you organically through a search engine.

3. Run more promotions to entice purchases

It’s no secret that people love a great deal, and your business should be no exception to enticing a purchase through a discount on some of your products. My advice is to run, at the minimum, at least one monthly promotion on your products or services. The reasoning behind this is that your customers may be thinking about purchasing something from you or 2 of your competitors. A sale may be the thing that tilts the scale in your favor. Or perhaps your customer thinks your price is a bit steep for them, but they really like your product. Temporarily reducing the price may dip you into your customers’ price range and influence them to make a purchase.

For example, if you run a retail shoe store, you may run a special for the month of January for 15% off all running shoes since your customers may be thinking about getting in shape. Or, perhaps you can partner with a local fitness club and give out a free month’s gym membership with every 2 pairs of shoes purchased.

4. Get a YouTube Channel

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again – your company needs to be on YouTube. It is a great inbound marketing source to get people to your website and helps engage people with your brand. You can do anything from tutorials on how to use your product, to unboxing your product when it arrives in the mail, to answering frequently asked questions people have about your product or services.

Helping to make your products easier to use or understand, or showing potential customers what it’s like to experience your product, may help sway them in their decision to buy your products or services. It will also help brand you as an expert while exposing more people to your business. If branded correctly, your YouTube channel will drive traffic to your website, and will soon even allow people to purchase your product directly from the YouTube video.

Our own channel, Davies Media Design, currently has almost 800,000 views and over 8,000 subscribers from across the world. This exposure over the years has been invaluable.

5. Update your outdated website

By this point you should know that Google made it a necessity to have a mobile friendly site. Apart from that, your site should also not look like it was made 10 years ago, and should also take less than 10 seconds to load.

Do yourself a favor in 2016 and get a new optimized, responsive website that looks fresh. Use lots of professional images and improve your messaging to increase the likelihood of converting website visitors into customers. If you’re a brick-and-mortar store – take professional pictures of your space and the products your sell to show curious online visitors what you have to offer. If you run an ecommerce business – make sure each product is professionally displayed and that your site doesn’t take too long to load the images.

Regardless of what it is that your business does, it should be easy for users to decipher what it is that you do, and where they can go to make a purchase. The site should be easy to navigate and full of enticing and useful content. It should look good on ALL devices, and not just a desktop. And, most importantly, it should be designed for your target customer and not purely for search engines.

Get a responsive, optimized website from Davies Media Design.

In closing

For 2106, you should be making sure that you are providing enough reason for customers to come to your business and stay with your business versus switching to a competitor. You want to capture new visitors to your site and store, but also want to generate repeat visits and repeat purchases. Hiring a marketing firm to keep these efforts consistent, or staffing someone in house, can help get your business to the next level and see more ROI on all of your marketing efforts.

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