3 Reasons to Invest in SEO Today

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For business owners today, when they hear tell them how they should invest in SEO, it feels the same as when they are told that they should be better at diet and exercise. They do not dispute that there is a benefit in some vague sense, but they may not understand exactly what those benefits are, and it is difficult for them to devote resources to it when they have so many other things going on.

But as much as we may like triple cheeseburgers and Netflix, diet and exercise are good for us - essential, even - and so is SEO. For most businesses, SEO is actually one of the most vital and beneficial marketing investments that can be made. Here are some reasons why:

People Use Search Engines

They really do. Consider:

  • Over 90% of adults in the U.S. with Internet access use search engines. Multiple studies confirm this. It is even true for people 65 years of age and older.

  • Over 80% of consumers report that they conduct online research before purchasing products. The chief way they carry out this research is by using search engines. They will search for your product. They will search for products like yours. They will view company websites that come up. They will search for online reviews of your product. By investing in SEO, you can take control of this relationship and spin the situation to your advantage.

Google has become one of the biggest companies in the world for a reason: people really use Google’s products and services. Search engines have just about completely replaced newspapers and telephone books as a way to find local businesses.

SEO Is One of the Most Cost-Effective Marketing Expenses

It is difficult to measure the ROI for some of the common aspects of digital marketing, and even when results are measurable, they will often vary wildly from one business to another due to differences in offers, markets, and execution. However, generally speaking, SEO tends to bring an ROI of at least 10X. This puts it significantly above averages for PPC, social media marketing, etc.

The only digital marketing channel that brings a better ROI than SEO does is email marketing, which often brings a return of 40X or more. That number can be a bit misleading, though, because the real cost in email is not in the execution of the campaign, but in the building of the list, which is something that you do with your other marketing channels, such as SEO.

SEO Has Long-Term Benefits

One of the things about SEO that makes business owners hesitant to invest in it is the realization that it tends to take between 3 and 6 months to have any effect. This delay arises from the gradual and organic nature of the practice: SEO is about convincing search engines that a particular website is legitimate, authoritative, and relevant, and that takes time. As a result, businesses often decide to invest in PPC rather than SEO, as those returns come immediately, even if they are lower.

One thing to note about this fact, though, is that the opposite is also true. Once your website is ranking well in search engines, you can stop spending on SEO, and in many cases, it is common to continue to collect on that for a year or more! Whereas, with PPC, when the spending stops, the revenues also stop.

All things considered, the delayed nature of the effects of SEO is exactly why you should invest in it today. Paper companies plant entire forests of trees that will take decades to grow. Consumer products companies like Unilever invest in developing markets in Africa that will not pay off for many years. Rather than a sign of weakness, the willingness to put money toward something that will pay off later is actually the sign of a stable and responsible business.

How Much Should My Business Spend on SEO?

SEO for Small Businesses

Hourly Fees for SEO Services

It’s a tough world out there. Small business owners work long hours, compete aggressively against other businesses, and often do not have much to show for it. This makes it very important to hire the right people to fill vital roles, but whether we are talking about employees or contractors, this can be a challenge. It can particularly be a challenge when it involves the purchase of services that are beyond the scope of what you as a small business owner normally deal with. Not only that, but it is hard to determine what you should pay and what you should be getting in return.

This is particularly applicable to SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of optimizing online content - both on the given website and elsewhere - in order to help a website rank better in search engines for relevant terms. Since the search engines themselves (Google, Bing, etc.) are resistant to SEO and frequently updating their algorithms to make the practice difficult, it is hard for a business owner to gauge the quality or professionalism of what an SEO professional is doing, as the best practices are constantly in flux.

This last point should tell you one thing about SEO, though: it is a skilled trade. SEO professionals not only need to learn a variety of specialized skills and methods to employ to optimize your website, but they also have to constantly stay updated on developments in search engine algorithms. That being the case, it is quite normal for SEO professionals to make over $100 per hour for their services. In fact, according to one study conducted in 2015, the average hourly fee for an SEO agency is $203.08, while the average hourly fee for an SEO consultant is $138.25.

Total Spend for SEO

And here is the inevitable next question: “Okay, how much should I spend on SEO in total?”

This varies widely from business to business. To answer this question, there are a few factors that we need to consider:

  1. Is this a local or national business? If you are trying to compete on a national scale, you will need to spend more money.

  2. Is this a general or niche business? More general businesses will need to spend more money because they have more competitors. Niche businesses can often get highly ranked for targeted keywords with relatively little effort.

  3. Are your competitors investing in SEO? This can actually make a big difference. A small business in Seattle may have four local competitors, and a small business in San Francisco may also have four local competitors, but if the competitors in Seattle are spending on SEO and the competitors in San Francisco are not, the business in San Francisco will see more effect from its SEO investment than the one in Seattle.

In general, a local business can usually rank well by spending between $700 and $1,500 per month on SEO. However, if there is any competition at all, you will need to go toward the high end of that, and in highly competitive cases, you may actually need to spend more. As for national businesses, they will often need to spend at least $3,000 per month even if they have a niche offering. For more competitive nationally-targeted keywords, some businesses spend over $10,000 per month.

Bargain SEO Schemes

Realizing the value of SEO to local businesses, some SEO professionals peddle low-end solutions that are meant to attract the attention of business owners by competing in price. These solutions, in many cases, range from $100 to $300 per month.

It is not advisable to spend money on SEO like this, however. Even if the things they do are legitimate and beneficial (which is not a guarantee), those things probably will not be sufficient to have any real impact on your business. How much would you pay someone to paint half of your house? How much would you pay to get your old tire removed without getting a new tire? Bargain SEO schemes are a nice way for some SEO professionals to increase their income by undercutting competition, but they provide little actual value for clients.

Consult With a Professional

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for SEO. Different businesses will have different needs, and legitimate SEO professionals will be able to consult with you to determine what those needs are. In general, though, expect to spend between $700 and $3,000 per month, and do not pay more than $200 per hour.


Need SEO services for your business? Request a consultation with us today, and your business may qualify for a FREE custom-branded mobile app - over $15,000 in value!

How Mobile Apps Affect SEO

At first glance, they seem totally unrelated: search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of creating content, establishing links, and structuring pages such that your website ranks highly in search engines for the given keywords, while mobile apps are utilities that users download to their phones and use without going through a normal web browser.

However, these two aspects of digital marketing are actually connected. The use of a mobile app for marketing purposes actually can play a part in your overall SEO strategy.

Social Signals

One advantage of having a custom-built mobile app for your business is that it drives engagement to your social media profiles by serving as a hub that connects and promotes all of them. However, the influence of social signals on SEO is a matter of debate.

Search engines like Google and Bing do not release their algorithms to the public, so SEO professionals are mostly engaging in reverse-engineering and guesswork when they talk about the weight that various ranking factors carry. Even when the search engine bigwigs make statements about certain aspects of their algorithms, SEOs will often accuse them of lying – and even provide evidence to the contrary.

Officially, Bing has said that it does use some social signals, though not all. For example, a link from a highly influential Twitter account will improve your ranking in Bing. Google, on the other hand, says that it does not take any social signals into consideration. However, SEO professionals often doubt the veracity of statements such as this because they know that they are actually competitors with the likes of Google and that Google does not face any consequences for being less than forthright about such things. In truth, Google benefits significantly when it keeps SEO professionals guessing. So the debate continues.

What is clear is that there is a very strong correlation between social media activity and search ranking. Numerous studies have shown this to be true. One obvious reason for this is the fact that social media activity tends to lead to backlinks, and backlinks, so long as they are from a reputable source, do affect search engine ranking. That being the case, when you encourage app users to engage with your brand through social media, this can only help with your SEO efforts, even if it helps in an indirect way.

Review Signals

In the same way that your business’s mobile app serves as a hub through which to drive activity for your social media accounts, it can also drive activity on your online review profiles. While Google’s reliance on social signals has been rolled back, the effect of review signals is still evident and strong. There are numerous online portals through which customers can review your business, but here are some of the most important ones:

  • Google My Business

  • Yelp

  • Facebook

  • YellowPages.com

  • Better Business Bureau

Just as with social media profiles, your app can serve as a hub connecting your app users to your online review profiles. You can drive traffic and reviews by simply having prominent links to the profiles in the app. You can also use your push notifications to make people aware of these profiles, probably by sharing any five-star reviews that you receive.

Some business owners are leery about encouraging online reviews. They say: “But what if they give me poor reviews?” The truth of the matter is that, so long as you provide good service, by increasing the total number of reviews, statistical probabilities will be on your side, and you will have a good overall score. It is when you ignore your review scores and only have a few of them that one angry reviewer can do damage to your business. On top of that, remember where these reviews will be coming from. These reviews will be coming from people who have your app installed on their phones! Why would they have your app on your phone if they did not like your business already? That being the case, this user base will be biased in your favor, so you absolutely want them to be the ones writing reviews!

While Google does not say just how much weight review scores carry, SEOs have come to estimate that online reviews amount to about 10% of search ranking factors. There are three main aspects that are taken into account, and those are the average review score, the total number of reviews, and the reputability of the review source.

In conclusion, while SEO is not the primary reason for getting a mobile app for your business and using it to interact with your customers, a mobile app will have a beneficial effect on your search engine ranking, both directly and indirectly.

9 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs a Custom Mobile App

Restaurant app screenshots.

Restaurant app screenshots.

Most local businesses can benefit from custom-built mobile apps. However, restaurants in particular can derive a huge amount of value from them. Here are some things that our custom apps help restaurants to do:

  1. Encourage impulse sales with location-based deals. Set up GPS coupons that go out to people within a certain radius of the location or when they pass through a specific area that you have marked on the map.

  2. Encourage impulse sales with easy access to online ordering. Build a full delivery menu right into the app and accept payment directly through the app.

  3. Drive repeat business through loyalty programs. Encourage patrons to come back again and again to earn points toward rewards.

  4. Streamline operations through automated order fulfillment. Allow patrons to place orders through the app and pay through the app. Receive orders by email or with an automatic print-out.

  5. Increase sales among millennials. Statistically, millennials are highly mobile-reliant and would prefer to both order and pay through their phones.

  6. Optimize non-peak times with promotions. By using the app to expand the reach of your promotions, give customers reason to come back at times when your seats are normally empty.

  7. Drive sales through increased social sharing. Use push notifications, loyalty rewards, and other features of the app to encourage patrons to give you positive reviews and share updates about your restaurant on social media.

  8. Increase positive reviews on ranking sites that matter. Use push notifications to share positive Yelp reviews and invite more positive Yelp reviews from patrons.

  9. Create a sense of community among patrons. Use social functions in the app to encourage patrons to see the restaurant not just as a restaurant, but as a center for social activity.


Want to see what we can do for your business?

Poor Reviews...I Want Them All Gone!

The Wrong and Right Way to Handle Your Online Reputation

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An Eye for an Eye

When Lan Cai received a serious back injury in an automobile accident, she realized that she needed a lawyer’s help.

She went to Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm of Houston, Texas.

However, the relationship between lawyer and client was rocky from the start, and it never got better. After multiple misunderstandings, Cai took to Yelp and Facebook and gave the firm very unflattering reviews. As she wrote:

After 3 days, they didn't tell me anything about the doctor I needed to go to. I was in a lot of pain. Not only that, they didn't know where the hell my car was! And they came to my house and into my room to talk to me when I was sleeping in my underwear. Seriously, it's super unprofessional! ...I came in to the office to meet with my previous attorney, but he literally ran off.

In response to their client’s unappreciative Internet activities, someone at Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm had a sensational idea that apparently went something like this: Hey, we’re lawyers! Let’s sue her!

If you are wondering why they would do this, it is because you probably have some common sense. However, in their defense, we can say that they might have felt encouraged by reports of cases like this one, in which a law firm sued a client who posted negative reviews, and won over $500,000 in addition to getting the reviews removed. 

However, in the case of Hassel v. Bird, the lawyers were aided by two simple facts.

First, not only was the defendant unable to substantiate the claims she made against the firm in her reviews, but the firm could actually present strong evidence that she published claims that were patently false.

Second, even if that were not the case, the defendant completely ignored the entire process, causing the firm to win by default. Such was not the case with Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm's suit against Lan Cai.

The folks at the firm probably did not expect to get any money out of a waitress and college student, but may have simply been trying to use the suit as a way to pressure her into compliance. This did not work: she fought back.

Now, this case has been reported by numerous blogs and news websites leading to an additional flood of negative reviews on top of the negative reviews that the firm already had, and Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm has to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys’ fees on top of the embarrassment of losing the case.

Was Lan Cai actually lying about various things? Was she actually an unreasonable client? Was Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm actually the victim in all of this? Even if all of that were true, suing their client was not the right course of action for Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm.

Considering the fact that 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews, it makes sense that professional service providers would want to protect their online reputation from disparaging reviews.

However, the path that Tuan A. Khuu Law Firm took was not the right one. There is another way. There is a better way.

A Better Way

The better way is to do as good business people always do: look at every obstacle as an opportunity.

Other businesses receive negative reviews too. For those who ignore them, these negative reviews become weights around their necks, wearing them out and slowing them down. For those who react to negative reviews improperly, the burden becomes even worse.

If you are able to find a way to turn these weights into wings, you will have created a strategic advantage over your competitors.

Okay. So what should you do?

Dealing With Poor Yelp Reviews

To deal with poor reviews, the first thing you should do is see if they violate any Yelp content guidelines. For example, can you prove that the review was written by a competitor? If so, you can get it removed. If that fails, the only way forward is to engage with the reviewer.

To do that, take the following steps:

  • Research the incident. Find out exactly what happened. Was your business truly at fault, or is the customer exaggerating? If your business was at fault, where did the problem occur?

  • Express sympathy. You should respond to all reviews, but you should especially respond to poor reviews. Let the reviewer know that you care and that you appreciate the feedback, even if it is negative.

  • Give an explanation. Tell the reviewer why this negative experience occur. The reviewer probably assumes that the reason for the poor experience is that you do not care about your customers. Give a different reason to replace this reason.

  • Clear up any misconceptions. The reviewer may have had the wrong idea about what to expect from your business. If that is the case, it only makes sense that the reviewer was disappointed. Politely set the record straight.

  • Detail your action plan. Clearly note the things that your business will do to create a better experience for customers in the future.

  • Ask for clarification. Identify any points in the reviewer’s narrative that seem questionable or inconsistent. Ask questions to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is a polite way of causing the reviewer to realize that all of the details might not be completely accurate.

  • Invite the reviewer to come back. This is vital. This is how you get people to update their reviews and give you five stars. And if you go out of your way to show you care, they just might do it.

The negative reviews you receive on Yelp and elsewhere - unreasonable though they may be - are useful in that they reveal weaknesses in your business model.

In many cases, if not for such reviews, you would not know about the problems you have, and the diminished customer experience would result in diminishing business without any evident reason. Receiving such negative reviews allows you to see what the problems are and address them.

As for specifically dealing with the person who gave you the poor review, consider the wisdom of Laozi:

There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet, for attacking things that are firm and strong, there is nothing that can take precedence over it…the soft overcomes the hard, and the weak the strong...

erodingrocks

You will inevitably encounter online reviewers who are emotional, unreasonable, and recalcitrant. If you simply reciprocate, the result will be like when you smash two rocks together: both will be pulverized. But if you become humble, express sympathy, and show that you are willing to change, you can be like the water that wears down the rock.

Even if you are unable to change that one person, your professional demeanor and willingness to work with critics in the public forum will become evident to anyone else reading the reviews, and that will actually work to your advantage.


Free Ebook: How to Maximize Your Yelp Score

On average, a one-point difference to your Yelp score correlates to a difference of 5-9% in revenue.

Do you want to go beyond the items mentioned here and really make a difference to your Yelp score and your scores in other online review services?

Download this FREE ebook to learn how to do the following:

  • Use both positive and negative reviews to your advantage.
  • Eliminate many of your negative reviews.
  • Recover positive reviews that have been removed.
  • Obtain more total reviews.

Did we mention that it is FREE?

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