How to Create a Yelp Listing Customers Will Truly Appreciate

How to Create a Yelp Listing Customers Will Truly Appreciate

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

As of last month, Yelp has 1.1 million claimed local business profiles -- a 58% increase over Q1 of 2012.

The site, which has 100 million unique visitors every month, is the fastest growing directory and review service on the planet. In other words, it's something you want to be a part of

Claiming your company on Yelp will help you grow your business and retain existing customers like whoa.

Below is your guide to doing it right.

Step One: Completely Fill Out Your Profile

In the bottom left-hand corner on, you find the "Edit Business Info" link. Once you've claimed your listing, this should be your first stop.

Filling out as much information as possible is critical to gaining professional credibility with your potential customers. Providing a wealth of information upfront will also help you secure the high-quality leads and prospects you're after.

Step Two: Add Pictures

Just as they do on Facebook, people on Yelp love to look at photos. In fact, research has shown that consumers will stay on your page for more than double the time if your listing has pictures. It's an incredible opportunity to stand out and set yourself apart from your competitors.

Have you ever been to a restaurant that highlighted a select few items on their menu with a picture? They've done so to capitalize on the power of visual appeal -- it's influential, captivating, and easier to absorb than writing. The same principle applies on Yelp.

If you want to really make an impression, consider hiring a professional photographer to capture engaging photos that will charm people's socks off.

Step Three: Be Active

That is to say, respond to reviews.

Whether they're positive or negative, business owners must make responding to reviews a habit. Doing so will show people that you care -- a very powerful acknowledgement that could spell the difference between a return customer and a perpetual naysayer.

While responding to reviews isn't a formulaic process, per say, there are guidelines you should follow. For example, every now and again, positive reviews should be acknowledged with your own brand of thanks and appreciation. Negative reviews, however, should always be addressed calmly and tactfully -- regardless of how disrespectful the reviewer may have been. Remember that your retort will be public. Therefore, a levelheaded response (preferably one that offers an explanation for, or a resolution to, the issue) will help you maintain the professionalism customers are paying for.

Step Four: Don't Forget Keywords

Use keywords throughout your listing to optimize on Yelp, just as you would throughout your website copy to optimize on Google. Keywords that are relevant to the products and/or services you offer could also earn you valuable backlinks. Whether they come naturally, or via guest posts and press releases, they're very powerful and shouldn't be ignored.

The Surefire Way to Improve Your PPC Results by up to 30%

The Surefire Way to Improve Your PPC Results by up to 30%

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

We've all seen them:

The late night get-rich-quick infomercials.

The early morning breakfast cereal ads.

The mid-afternoon local services commercials.

You hear them on the radio. You watch them on TV. They're all different -- advertising vastly different products in very different ways. So what do they have in common?

The answer is dayparting.

Dayparting is an effective, time-tested method in which marketers limit their ad appearances to specific times of day. This helps them target a specific demographic of people, i.e., the most likely buyers of their product/service. It works for the radio and television people; it will work for your pay per click campaign, as well.

At Spectrum, we've noticed that our PPC customers reel in more leads at a significantly lower cost per lead when we incorporate dayparting into their overall strategy. For instance, consider that your service-oriented company is only open 8 AM - 6 PM. Wouldn't it make sense to only turn on PPC advertising between those hours? After all, doing so would target individuals who 1) are most likely to act on your advertisement and 2) are able to actually make contact with somebody at your business.

Take this case study table from one of our clients for a more concrete frame of reference:

Company Hours

Total Cost Per Lead

Total Leads

Total Cost

Business Hours (7 AM – 8 PM)




After-Hours (9 PM – 6 AM)








On average, our pay per click clients' results have improved by 15-30% when they only run ads during business hours.

"Turning off ads after-hours is one of the surest ways to slash your cost per lead," says Spectrum's own PPC expert, Brian McKenzie. "And it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to implement."

What Will Happen to Your E-mails After You Stop Using Google?

What Will Happen to Your E-mails After You Stop Using Google?

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Given the virtually unlimited amount of space that Google allots its Gmail users, more and more people are treating their account as a sort of digital storage service. When they're not deleted, most photos, e-mails and documents are either archived or left in the inbox -- a practice which begs the question: what will happen to your data after you, for whatever reason, stop using Google?

Who gets it when you are no longer willing or capable of utilizing Google's services yourself?

The answer: anyone with a phone number.

Google recently announced the "Inactive Account Manager" option. It's a way for people to pass along any virtual materials they may have on Google+, YouTube, Google Drive and Gmail to a trusted family member or friend. As long as they have a valid phone number -- for verification purposes -- you can make your documents available to that person (via download) for three months.

You can also instruct Google to straight up delete your account.


It's really very simple.

The "Inactive Account Manager" can be accessed from the "Accounts" page. Here users are prompted to enter their mobile number in order to receive a deactivation message. You can choose to deactivate after 3, 6, 9 or 12 months of account inactivity, at which point Google will consider you "dead".

The next section gives you the option of picking up to 10 people whom you'd like to inherit your files and documents. Once you complete this allocation process, you're done -- your friends and/or family will be notified about your account inactivity and will be granted permission to download your data.

Again, if you don't want to pass anything along, you can simply switch the "Optionally delete account" toggle button to "Yes".

Easy-peazy. Just don't forget to click the blue "Enable" box when you're done.

Now go relax.

What's the Secret to Internet Marketing Success?

What's the Secret to Internet Marketing Success?

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

When it comes to finding business marketing success online, few things will get you as far as trust.

To dominate industry-specific keywords and become an ostensibly visible company on the Internet, everything you do must emanate trust. Not only is it the cornerstone of healthy human relationships, it's also almost exclusively what drives organic search engine rankings.

Let me briefly explain:

Trust & Search Engines.

Google (and every other search engine, for that matter) wants reputable and reliable links to appear on their results pages. Google's goal is to organize the wealth of information on the Internet while simultaneously categorizing the quality of each page as it relates to specific searches. Thus, a page of search results is essentially a list of the most trusted pages on the Internet (at least according to Google -- and you trust Google, right?). 

Being trusted by Google -- a feat largely achieved through the consistent creation of exemplary content -- will steadily drive your organic traffic through the roof. Forget about algorithmic updates. Forget about your competition. Providing keyword rich, quality content via a blog and/or new pages will get your website crawled deeper, faster and more often than virtually anything else you do.

Trust & People.

People do business with people they trust.

Consciously or otherwise, humans need to exercise trust every day in order to function normally. We do it when we're driving, when we're paying bills, when we go in for a checkup and, yes, when we're choosing a company to buy from.

Each new visitor to your website will -- subconsciously -- analyze your design, copy, advertising, etc. to determine your company's credibility; your trustworthiness. And at the end of the day, a trusted website is far more likely to convert searchers into revenue

Developing a respectable Internet presence for your business doesn't happen overnight. Successfully marketing your business online takes patience, time, perseverance and constant analysis. Make sure that all those factors develop and evolve from white-hat, trustworthy methods and your SEO efforts won't only be successful, they'll be long-term, as well.

If Your Marketing Sucks...

If Your Marketing Sucks...

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

You are great at what you do.

Your customers love your service. Your employees commend your leadership. Your company is where it is today because of your choices and your initiatives. Thus far, you did a fine job. But you want more.

You need marketing.

A solid marketing strategy will establish your company's brand and build trust with new and returning customers. It will increase revenue and raise profits. But you already know that. The hard part is nailing the execution. But don't sweat it -- that's expected. You're a business owner, not a marketing guru. And one doesn't necessarily go with the other.

So, if your marketing does indeed suck, maybe...

...You're Not Researching.

Research is code for more work. And nobody wants that. But to market your business successfully, you need to put in your due diligence. Before going in any one direction, you must understand where people will look for your product or service:

The newspaper?

The ole tube?


You should then ask yourself which strategy is the most cost-effective? Which strategy has the most long-haul potential?

Research begins with asking the right questions. And not just to the polished, well-mannered salesperson who's pitching you ad space or an Internet marketing strategy. The more organic research you do the better chance you have of finding a solid, applicable marketing solution that makes sense for your business.

...Your Plan Lacks Specificity.

It's not enough to simply know what medium you will use to reach your potential customers. Understanding exactly what action you want your people to take after seeing your advertisement is also crucial to your success.

Do you want customers to call you or go to a specific landing page online? Do you want people to buy immediately or are you trying to develop a long-term relationship?

What specific outcome are you looking for? Make sure your plan reflects the answer to that question.

...You're Not Testing or Tracking.

Before the Internet, testing and tracking advertisements was difficult. Agencies used focus groups, promotional codes, questionnaires -- anything they could to get a better understanding of how people received their message.

The arrival of the Internet, however, brought with it far more convenient ways track and test ads. We still use all of the aforementioned methods; it's just easier now. We can even target people online based on their browsing history.

These days, there's no reason not to test your ads. Unless you're lazy (which you're not).

Whether it's a quote form on your website, an email signup page, or a pay per click advertisement on Google, testing the ad copy you're using to convert readers will help you craft a perfect message over time. And even the most minor change can make a profound difference in the response you get.

...You Quit.

My parents own a lovely travel agency. About six months ago, they spontaneously invested $100 in a Google AdWords campaign. Just to try it out. Thirty hours after the campaign launched, I received a call from my Dad. "Eddie. I think I just wasted a hundred bucks," he said.

"Rose didn't cover the spread?" was my off-the-cuff answer.

"Very funny," my Dad responded. "We're never doing that Adwords thing again." He was convinced it was a lost cause. A mistake.

I told them they were quitting too soon.

Their business -- which is largely service-oriented -- was actually very well suited for pay per click advertising (the model used by Google AdWords). I told them that the medium wasn't the problem. It was their hasty approach that set them back.

We worked together to create a sensible, realistic budget as well as landing pages that would drive consumers further down the sales funnel. We built a strategy around AdWords. We wrote some stellar copy. We got all our ducks in a row and then we pulled the trigger.

Today, my folks are seeing a 20% ROI from their pay per click campaign. Their success is a testament to the fact that quitting too early can be a dangerous (and costly) decision. Because an unrecognized opportunity can be just a detrimental as a failed chance.

How American Consumers Are Using Their Phones in 2013

How American Consumers Are Using Their Phones in 2013

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

In an attempt to understand the ever-changing landscape of mobile usage, Nielson Media Research, the company that creates the Nielsen Ratings, took a survey of more than 2,000 smartphone users. The results were then compiled with data from the Nielsen Smartphone Analytics Panel.

The results are a compelling reminder that the way people purchase products and services has changed.

For local businesses, it's more of a wake-up call.

Below are five compelling statistics that could change everything:

1 in 3 Mobile Searches are for Local Businesses

Given that only 1 in 5 desktop searches are for local businesses, the significance of this statistic can't be contested.

The fact that smartphone searches are 66% more likely to be for local companies than those performed on a desktop signifies that people who use their mobile phones are typically looking for something around them (e.g. directions, an address, a phone number).

Is your business website optimized for mobile browsing?

65% of Online Searches Begin on a Smartphone

This means that the majority of people that find your business online will be using a mobile device to browse your site.

It goes hand-in-hand with the next, more interesting statistic...

60% of Smartphone Users Complete Purchases Related to Mobile Activity

People have never felt more comfortable making purchases on their phones.

It makes sense. After all, every passing day yields more opportunities to explore and learn and customize. And every update makes it all easier. And if you haven't bought anything using your smartphone yet, you will soon enough.

46% of People Use Their Smartphones as Their Primary Research Tool

With so many options and so much available information, you better believe that consumers are doing their research. The question is are business owners doing everything they can to progress potential customers further along the mobile conversion funnel?

57% of Smartphone Users Go Directly to a Company's App or Website

If you're a small- or medium-sized business, you most likely don't have (or need) a dedicated company app.

A website, however, is a necessity.

The most effective way to provide your website visitors with an enjoyable, consistent experience on the mobile version of your site is to build it with responsive design technology. Doing so will ensure that each page of your website is easy and intuitive to navigate on any device, including tablets and smartphones.

Given the prolific use of mobile these days -- for everything from browsing to research to purchases -- there is no question that responsive design is on its way to universal standardization.

4 Dangerous Mistakes That Are Killing Your Website

4 Dangerous Mistakes That Are Killing Your Website

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

If you want your website to be a competitive force on the Internet, you have to play by the rules -- Google's rules, that is.

Below are the 4 biggest, most common and most dangerous mistakes plaguing today's websites. If you learn to recognize and avoid them, your website's SEO and user experience will improve.

Naturally, so will your sales.

1. Google Can't Find Your Website

If you don't put any gas in your 10-cylinder Ferrari, you're left with a beautiful, yet entirely useless, hunk of metal.

Likewise, if you don't make your website accessible to Googlebots, you're left with little more than a virtual space (that's virtually unseen) on the Internet. Googlebots (a.k.a. bots or crawlers) are programs that index millions of web pages everyday by following links. You can create the most outstanding content the world has ever seen, but it'll all go to waste if Google can't find it.

You can fix this problem by 1) browsing your website to ensure all your pages are accessible via regular links and 2) clicking here.

2. The Words in Your Copy Aren’t Highly Searched

In addition to catering to Google, your website also has to work for people. In other words, the copy on your site must contain words and phrases people search for when seeking out the product or service your business provides.

Incorporating industry-specific keywords throughout the pages of your site will help with search engine rankings. Also, avoid using PDFs and other non-text file formats on your website. Anything that isn't in plain text isn't crawlable and you know what that means.

3. You've Let Links Get the Best of You

Link building, when done properly, can be uber beneficial for your website. However, don't allow yourself to get carried away.

As crucial as links are to your website's SEO success, so is the creation of useful and compelling content. In fact, if your website contains great information that people find valuable in some way, the links will come.

Therefore, focus first and foremost on your content. Make it irresistible and things will start to fall into place.

4. Your Titles Tags Stink

Title tags are hidden pieces of code that are only publicly visible in two places: the title bar of your web browser and as the headline of your search result on Google.

Although they may seem scarce and insignificant, title tags are actually very important to the overall health of your site. They work for Google while also enhancing the user experience -- often enticing people to click through on search engine results. Make sure your title tags are descriptive and easy to understand. Write them as if they were headlines -- be concise, clear and compelling -- and you'll be rewarded with more page visitors.

Why Your Business Should Use Social Media (Even If You Don't Want To)

Why Your Business Should Use Social Media (Even If You Don't Want To)

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

According to, a social networking site for small businesses, one-in-three small business owners spend three hours managing their social media accounts every week. 10% spend as much as 10 hours per week -- a healthy bit of time.

But is it worth it?

Because of the time commitment it requires, many business owners don't want to engage in social media, but do so anyway simply because everybody else does. The popular contention being that if your business doesn't have a Facebook and Google+ page, you'll miss out on lucrative marketing opportunities and hoards of potential clientele. 

It's a contention that happens to be true. Here's why:

1. Google Will Love You

Your Google+ engagement will impact your search rank on Google. 

Any +1s (the Google equivalent of a Facebook "Like") your business content receives on Google+ will have a direct impact on you organic search engine rankings. The ability to tie search and social together is, for the most part, unique to Google -- an advantage that has established Google+ as a place for companies and their customers to interact. 

2. ...So Will Your Budget

If you want more exposure for your business, but aren't willing (or able) to increase your marketing budget, social media is your best available option.

It's free. And, according to at least Facebook, "always will be." 

The tradeoff, as points out, is time. If you want to be successful, you need to devote some energy to understanding the tremendous tools social platforms are offering. However, once most business owners realize the potential of social media, it becomes a permanent part of their overall marketing strategy. 

3. It's Marketing, the Smart Way

Instead of casting a huge marketing net via traditional sources (e.g., radio, newspaper, television, direct mail), use great content (e.g., blog posts, infographics, ebooks) to target quality prospects that are specifically interested in your product or service. Thus, rather than blasting out a general, expensive message to a large and diverse group of people, your business can use social networks to target individuals who definitely want to buy what you're selling. 

Finding those individuals is easier than ever, too. 

People identify themselves and their needs on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter by what they post online. Social media-savvy business owners can use this to their advantage, especially with new tools like Graph Search

4. It's the Fastest Way to Build a Great Reputation

Nowadays, one out of every two business connections you make will search for your company online. When doing so, they'll most likely search a combination of your name and company name -- a unique aggregate that will (in most cases) yield a high ranking on search engines. From there, people will inevitably land on your business website or social media page. 

Your website is where people will go to find out more about your company -- essentially, what you do. Your social media page, however, is where people will go to find out more about how you do it --and more specifically, how you did it for other customers. 

Consumers love talking about their experiences on social platforms -- especially on sites like Twitter and Yelp. As long as you're a successful business with a dedicated customer base, this is a fantastic way to instantly relay your credibility and build your brand. And even if the feedback is negative, potential customers will still view you as a reputable business if you acknowledge the complaint and offer a solution online.

How to Turn Your Website into Your #1 Salesperson

How to Turn Your Website into Your #1 Salesperson

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Most websites could be better.

Not just a little better -- significantly better. The question is does your website have room for improvement?

A great website should always be working -- capturing leads and generating profound sales for your business while you sleep. It could be the best salesperson you ever hired. But you already know that. What you don't know is how to reach that level of success (and maintain it once you're there).

Here are five elements every lead-capturing website absolutely must have, you know, just to get you started:

1. Killer calls-to-action that drive engagement.

A call-to-action, or CTA, is anything on your website that prompts the user to continue down the conversion funnel. It could be a button, a banner, a graphic or a well-sculpted sentence at the end of a paragraph that compels a potential customer to actually take action. 

A clearly displayed toll-free phone number, for example, is the most common call-to-action there is. A prominently displayed quote form is another. The latter, however, is only used by service providers (e.g., moving companies, remodelers). The equivalent for product retailers, like furniture stores and mattress resellers, would be an e-commerce shopping cart icon. 

A powerful call-to-action should be clear and concise. It should effortlessly draw people in. It should create a sense of urgency. It should be compelling. The best calls-to-action are irresistible.

However, you don't want to overwhelm your visitors with too many CTAs. The more options people are presented with, the more difficult it can be to make a decision. Simply having a phone number, a quote form and a shopping cart prominently displayed in the same spot on every page is good place to start.

2. A reassuring website design that promotes credibility and trust.

If you're an accredited business with a good reputation, don't ever be afraid to flaunt it.

If you're a BBB-accredited business, showcase your achievement on your homepage. Other awards, accolades, distinctions and customer praise should also be visible throughout your site -- very visible. Displaying your company's accomplishments instantly builds trust and relays credibility -- two essential elements in almost any business relationship. 

Pepper pictures of your employees hard at work throughout your website, as well. Showing customers the people behind the business is a great way to bring your company down to earth.

3. Convenient and intuitive responsive design.

Whether you like it or not, your customers are not just viewing your website on a desktop or laptop computer anymore. In fact, more people are surfing the web with their tablets and mobile devices than ever before. If your website isn't optimized for viewership on any-sized screen, you're losing visitors faster than you can say responsive design.

4. Smart, striking landing pages that demand attention.

A landing page is quite literally where someone "lands" after clicking a search result or online ad.

When you create a page that's directed toward a specific segment of your customer base, you drive further interest and engagement -- more than you would if you were to just send them to your home page or another generic page on your site.

Landing pages should have a singular goal, such as prompting a quote request, signing-up for an email, or actually securing a sale. A clear objective will allow you to sculpt a concise headline and an effective call-to-action. It will also focus the viewer's attention, making it easier for them to pull the trigger.

5. Local search data that works.

In addition to having a Google+ account, make sure that your website's "Contact Us" page lists your company's city and state so that Google crawlers can index your business's address. This will put you higher on organic local search results, exposing your products or services to potential customers in your area.

6 Stellar Ways to Drive Immense Traffic to Your Website (Besides Google)

6 Stellar Ways to Drive Immense Traffic to Your Website (Besides Google)

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Although Google is an incredibly powerful lead generation tool for business, it's important to know that it's not the be-all and end-all of online marketing.

There are other great avenues a business owner can (and should) take in order to drive traffic to their website.

Don't get me wrong, Google is a beautiful thing; a proven method that should always have a reserved spot at the head of your Internet marketing toolbox. However, Google is also periodically making algorithmic changes that could put websites in a vulnerable position -- forcing business owners to change their marketing strategies or face the consequences.

To circumvent this issue, consider using one (or two or three or all) of the following strategies to diversify your traffic sources and round out the corners of your Internet marketing strategy:

Bing, anyone?

Although the world's #2 search engine claims only a forth of Google's market share, it's still a significant source of traffic that, if nothing else, can be used as a safety net every time a new version of Penguin is rolled out.

Paid Search

Paid Search, whether it's a Pay-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Impression model, is a terrific way to reach your target audience. This strategy drives relevant traffic to optimized landing pages on your website, yielding higher conversion rates than traditional non-targeted methods.

Content Marketing

Ah, yes, content marketing. It's the creation of valuable content -- you know, blogs, videos, white papers, etc. -- that has a marketing purpose. You can exchange the aforementioned content for an email address or a "Like" on Facebook or a "+1" on Google+, allowing future communication with potential customers. While it may not lead to an immediate sale, it definitely opens up room for additional touches. After all, today's marketers are playing chess, not checkers.

Social Media

Social media websites are among the most popular URLs on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn bring in hundreds-of-millions of unique visitors every day. And if you consistently market your business with quality content that generates wide appeal, you'll find hoards of individuals sharing your content and flocking to your site.

Paid Social Advertising

If you don't have time to create awesome content that people are going to want to share, Facebook, Twitter and, most recently, LinkedIn have created paid advertising models that'll get your business in front of a lot of eyeballs.

Guest Blogging

Posting quality content to other trustworthy blogs is called guest blogging, and great marketers do it all the time because there are many benefits that come from it. Not only will your own site gain exposure and credibility, but you'll also increase your inbound links and grow your social media following with every new post you submit.

How Smart People Approach & Conquer SEO

How Smart People Approach & Conquer SEO

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Here's the thing about creating a successful website:

There are many things you must do to make your website a success.

Assuming that your idea of online success is increased site traffic and sales, these aforementioned things almost exclusively revolve around SEO. Like the pistons of a Corvette, your site's link building strategycontent development approach, meta data and calls-to-action all have to perform in perfect harmony.

When your SEO is a well-oiled machine, it doesn't matter what industry you're in. As long as you follow the rules, your business can boost its online presence (and bottom line). Of course, while it's important to do what you gotta do, understanding the intangible concepts behind search marketing is just as crucial to your success. In other words, your execution can only go as far as your expectations permit.

So be realistic. Here's what you should know:

1. Search Engine Optimization is an Investment

If you can't wait at least several months to see the value of your SEO campaign, then you probably shouldn't start one in the first place.

Search Engine Optimization is a long-term strategy that requires diligence and dedication, because it's a process that builds momentum and gains upon itself as time flies by. Business owners and marketers need to understand that while you may not see the fruit of your labor immediately, your website will inevitably benefit from the hard work you put into it weeks, months and years down the line.

2. Visitors > Search Engines

Google's goals as a corporation are to 1) organize the world's information and 2) provide searchers with the most relevant results possible. Therefore, Google has absolutely no problem with humans producing content that is valuable and beneficial to other humans. In fact, Google's algorithm rewards that type of behavior because it goes hand-in-hand with one of their most important objectives.

Most people don't realize that when you focus your effort on creating high-quality links and content, you're simultaneously earning your keep with Google -- big time.

3. Link Building Requires Steadfast Consistency

When it comes to building out links on your website, there is no set amount of time you must do it for. Neither is there a finite number of links you must build out before you're done.

Link building never ends.

Creating useful, quality links for your visitors is fundamentally essential to increasing your position on SERPs. When your link production slows down, however, you create opportunities for your competition to beat you out. Think of search engines as a living entity, constantly in a state of change (because they are). Respect this fact and you'll be far more pleased with the SEO results you yield

White Hat SEO or Nothing

White Hat SEO or Nothing

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

A couple weeks ago, we published an article that sought to analyze the ethics of Internet marketing from a purely fundamental perspective. In a mere breath, we explained both black hat and white hat SEO as well as the projected outcome of each strategy. Of course, such a broad and complex topic can only be grazed within the confines of several hundred words; however, the basics are all you really need to know in order to make a decision about what's right for your business.

Being an purely white hat shop, Spectrum only works with companies that are invested in their long-term Internet presence and not just out to make a quick buck. Black hat tactics, after all, will ultimately get your site banned from Google and every other major search engine. These tactics include link farming, keyword stuffing, hidden content, spam-y blog comments and other techniques that cheat Google's algorithm and skew search results for everyone. Sites like Google and Bing aim to organize the world's information, which is 1) no easy task and 2) made even harder by people who abuse obvious loopholes in the system. That's why Google made rules that carry severe and lasting consequences when broken.

Needless to say, people still practice black hat SEO because it can produce short term success. For example, if you created a costume website several months before Halloween and then marketed it with black hat tricks, you could probably secure a good rank for relevant keywords and make some money before the holiday. Nevertheless, pulling it off would still require a great deal of time, effort, knowledge and of course, you would have to be okay with the fact that your website will be banished sooner or later. So, if you own a legitimate business with a steady stream of revenue and long-term goals, black hat SEO just isn't for you.

Conversely, white hat SEO is right for businesses that are investing in their long-term success. That's why at Spectrum, we only employ white hat tactics that will gradually build our clients' Internet presence without the risks associated with cheating the system. Our team creates lead generation websites using awesome content with effective keywords, proper title and meta data, and quality inbound links that Google will consistently reward. At Spectrum, it's white hat SEO or nothing because, frankly, our clients can't afford to lose their Internet presence and we won't stand to perpetuate the unethical behavior that leads to those consequences. Never have. Never will.

How to Milk Paid Search for More Than Just Leads

How to Milk Paid Search for More Than Just Leads

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Paid search, or pay-per-click, is an extremely successful advertising model that businesses use to hone in on their target market. While many companies are attracted to the practicality of PPC marketing, many business owners also find it difficult to be successful without a healthy dose of prerequisite knowledge. That being said, paid search is still an awesome strategy for companies trying to increase their lead acquisition. Although an influx of new customers isn't the only benefit for businesses using pay-per-click. The data you acquire from your PPC efforts can actually be used to improve the user experience on your website -- boosting organic rankings and even conversion rates! Want to milk your PPC campaign for everything it's worth? Here are three just three ways you can get started:

1) You can test keywords you should be organically optimizing for.

Next time you're trying to figure out which new product or service will sell best, try testing keywords throughout your PPC campaigns. For example, consider that your pay-per-click ads are doing a great job converting Google searches for the phrase "garden window" into orders. Capitalize on this term by dispersing it throughout your website's copy/content, as well! Essentially, if you find success with particular keywords in paid search, you might as well transition your website to rank organically for them (a.k.a. for free). In this instance, incorporating "garden window" throughout your website's landing pages and blog posts will yield higher search results without the price tag.

2) You can improve your site's calls-to-action through pay-per-click A/B tests.

Also known as a split testA/B tests are used to identify which design and copy changes would have the most positive impact on conversion rates. At Spectrum, our paid search department is constantly split-testing advertisements to improve click-through and conversion rates. We'll also use our test results to improve the performance of a website's landing pages. For example, we showed the following two ads to people who were searching the phrase "mattress store locations":

As you can see, 6.02% of people clicked through to the first ad starting with "Convenient locations", while only 4.28% clicked on the ad that started with "Great prices". Taking this difference into consideration could prove to be extremely beneficial in the long haul. The idea being that if specific keywords are making your PPC calls-to-action irresistible to potential customers, you can apply the same influential choice of words to the landing pages on your website.

3) You can figure out which works best: online chat, click-to-call, or both?

Click-to-call and online chat are two excellent ways to engage your potential online customers. Giving your visitors a simple, direct line to sales will increase more than just your closing rate; the overall customer experience will drastically improve, as well. Whether you go with click-to-call or online chat on your website entirely depends on the type of business you own. You may even decide that both are worthwhile for you.

A great way to find out which method is right for you is by creating two pay-per-click landing pages -- one with a click-to-chat option and one with an online chat option. By split testing the two, you'll gather data on which is more popular for your industry and product/service. Whichever has a higher click-through rate is a safe option, as it will likely solidify the most leads for your business over time.

7 Ways Live Chat Will Blow Up Your Conversion Rates

7 Ways Live Chat Will Blow Up Your Conversion Rates

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Live chat is a software application that many B2C business owners choose to implement on their website. It's not exactly the newest technology; it's actually a relatively old form of communication by now. However, in the context of today's text-heavy society, live chat is more impactful and more useful than ever.

While the novelty of chatting has worn off since it first revolutionized communication in the 1990s, the comfort, ease and practicality associated with jumping on a chat for a quick information fix has never disappeared. If you don't already have this functionality on your website, it's certainly something to consider, as it will personalize your business and provide outstanding value and convenience for your online customers. All in all, the advantages are plentiful:

1. Quick response time.

Chat is like email on steroids. It's just faster and more satisfying to instantly receive the information you need about a product or a service in friendly, plain English.

2. Awesome user engagement.

When you have a competent, diligent and knowledgeable individual handling your company's live chat, you're adding a very powerful dimension to your business. By giving your customers a real person to connect with, you're creating new opportunities for conversions and up-sells.

3. Build your credibility.

Business owners and marketers understand the fundamental importance of professional credibility. It's often a key component to landing a lead or actually closing on a sale. It's why referral programs are so impactful. It's also what makes chat so powerful: the ability to answer you customers' questions at any given moment gives you an opportunity to display authority and industry expertise that can be extremely influential (especially to someone on the verge of making a buying decision).

4. Feedback.

It's essential to the evolution and growth of every business. The information your website users relay can be used to streamline processes and improve customer service as people's needs and expectations change over time. Live chat, when it's not being used to help your prospective customers, can be a simple and direct way to provide completely honest feedback that will help your sales over time.

5. Keep visitors on your website for longer.

Engaging prospective customers via chat can help keep those people on your site for longer periods of time -- holding their interest and allowing them more time to convert.

6. Offer support.

By proactively chatting with your visitors, or initiating the conversation, you're streamlining the buying process (just as sales people would in a retail store). Not only is it an effective way to increase your conversion rates, but customers who do in fact need help certainly appreciate it.

7. Tracking capabilities.

Understanding where your Internet traffic is coming from helps businesses capitalize on specific forms of advertising -- specifically those that work. Live chat makes it easier to see which ads, which pages and which searches converted the most users. Over time, this information can be utilized to create a targeted ad campaign that really works.

Should You Cheat Google's Algorithm?

Should You Cheat Google's Algorithm?

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Ultimately, whether or not you should cheat your way to the top of a search engine results page depends on several factors. However, before we take each of those determinants into consideration, it's important to note that cheating theGoogle algorithm isn't illegal (in the traditional sense). If you intentionally violate Google's SEO rules you won't go to jail. You may face other varying repercussions, but unless you do something that's blatantly against the law (like hack a website), you'll live to surf the web another day.

Basically, SEO techniques fall under two broad categories: "white hat" and "black hat". SEO practices that conform to a search engine's rules are called white hat, while those that are deceitful are known as black hat and can come with some hefty penalties if found out. Now, whether your business would benefit more from white or black hat SEO practices is completely dependent on your end-goal. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you willing to risk? How much effort are you willing to apply?

While it may come down to fundamental morality for some people, this article is not meant to analyze the ethics of search engine optimization. Even though Spectrum is an exclusively white hat shop, I'd like to approach this topic neutrally -- breaking down black hat and white hat techniques to unveil the choices people are faced with when it comes to SEO.

1) A question of risk.

With every new Penguin update, Google becomes smarter and more proficient at preventing dishonest tactics on their search engine. Whether your black hat method of choice is keyword stuffing, meta keyword stuffing, link farming or applying hidden content to the code of your site, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get away with any of it.

Ten or fifteen years ago, when the Internet was less regulated, practicing black hat SEO would get you in some trouble. Maybe you'd get a warning; a stern finger in your face accompanied by a termination notification. So, you'd start over. Of course, by that point it didn't matter because you made a lot of money before you were finally caught. Maybe it wasn't right to do, but people certainly did it.

Come 2013 and the game's changed dramatically. Google is catching on to anything that isn't white hat with incredible speed and efficiency, making it increasingly more difficult to make a quick buck. The penalties are harsher, too. A couple years ago, keyword stuffing may have resulting in Google simply ignoring those pages -- costing you some time and effort. Now, these types of algorithmic infractions can cost you your site and all the sweat, blood and tears you've ever put into it.

Therefore, legitimate businesses that have a stake in the service Google provides must be ready to assume the risks associated with black hat tactics. If you're interested in building a strong, secure, reliable web presence for your company, white hat SEO is the only sure way that will ever happen.

2) Are you in it for the long haul?

Let's say you're presented with an opportunity to sell the hottest lap top on the market and you take it. After a wholesale purchase, however, you're not left with a great deal of money to invest in your Internet marketing. You also need to start making sales quickly, as your peak profit opportunity will only last several months (if that). In other words, you need a smash-and-grab Internet strategy -- one that will get you found quickly by a lot of people on the web.

This type of opportunity does not leave you with a lot of white hat options to play around with. If you don't have the time to build quality content on pages with proper titles, meta data, keyword usage, inbound links and everything else associated with effective and acceptable SEO, then you're not in it for the long haul. As I mentioned earlier, the consequences for quick Internet marketing fixes are steep these days. However, it may be the case that by the time your black hat tactics are discovered, you've already made a profit on the exposure and the consequences you face are now relatively insignificant. The point being that people who recognize their business opportunity as being short-term, from a strictly practical perspective, may have no problem employing some black hat tricks to make a quick buck.

Conversely, established businesses that are seeking long-term results may see some short-lived search engine gains but ultimately, will find that black hat tactics are a losing proposition that can really burn a reputable business. And while the thought of instant gratification may be thrilling at first, is it really worth tarnishing (or even losing) the Internet presence you've worked so hard to achieve?

Anchor Text: An Instrumental Piece of Your Internet Marketing Plan

Anchor Text: An Instrumental Piece of Your Internet Marketing Plan

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

An extremely effective way to raise your organic search engine rankings and build a great online reputation is through anchor text, which is a visible, hyperlinked word or phrase (exactly like the one in this sentence) that takes you to another web page when clicked.

Google, Bing and other search engines use anchor text, also known as link text, to help determine the relevancy of the page it's linking to. It works this way because, ultimately, search engines want to deliver the freshest and most relevant results to their users and they see quality, accurate links as vote of confidence for your content.

Therefore, if a handful of pages on a trustworthy and reliable site use the above anchor text to link to the online reputation article behind it, it will help the article achieve higher search engine results for that key phrase. In this example, the phrase is "build a great online reputation," and although it links to an article on our own blog, it will still help increase organic results. Typically, however, it's best to get these links from other reputable sites. The best ways to influence others to promote or link back to you with anchor text is to:

1) Create great content.

If the content on you website and/or blog is moving, interesting or informative, people will be influenced to share it with others. Although you can't control whether the share will be through social media or via anchor text on their own website, it's a win-win situation that you should welcome and encourage. Nevertheless, you still want to be linked to by a reputable site -- after all, the web pages you're connected to can speak volumes about your reputation.

2) Build relationships.

Another great way to diversify your presence on the Internet through links is by simply building relationships with the administrators of blogs and websites that are pertinent to your business. For example, if you're a moving and storage provider, it would be ideal to partner with reality companies because their business goes hand-in-hand with your own. This can be done through guest blog posts, corresponding landing pages, etc. The best way to start down this path is to connect with other business owners via LinkedIn or the available contact information on their website. If your request to collaborate is delivered professionally and from a mutually-beneficial perspective, then there's a good chance you'll find success.

A word of caution:

Don't go overboard. Search engines are privy to the multitude of illegitimate methods people use to try and game their algorithm. Google, for example, who commands approximately two-thirds of the search engine market, will demote your content or even ban you from search engine results for anchor-texting too aggressively.

3 Ways Businesses Should Capitalize on Facebook's Latest Redesign

3 Ways Businesses Should Capitalize on Facebook's Latest Redesign

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Earlier this month, we published an article that highlighted the Facebook News Feed changes Mark Zuckerberg announced on March 7. The amendments are almost exclusively on the aesthetic front, as Zuckerberg based them on the fact that almost 50% of the content in today's News Feed is visual -- made up primarily of photos and videos. The changes are the most profound in the company's nearly eight-year history. In this follow-up article to "8 Beautiful Facebook Changes That Will Change Everything," we'll discuss the most important adjustments business marketers can make to their Facebook content in order to capitalize on the new look and feel of the world's #1 social network:

1) Create more visually-oriented posts.

When Facebook introduced timeline for brands, photo and video engagement rose an astonishing 65% in the very first month. With FB's latest update, visual content will be more striking and pronounced than ever before. With such an incredible push to display beautiful photos and videos, you can expect users' engagement with visual content to increase far beyond what it is now. This means more Likes, more comments, more exposure. To capitalize on this, business owners and marketers should consider converting their text-based statuses and posts into ones that are more visually driven. For example, instead of simply writing out an influential quote for your potential and current customers to read, try putting a high-quality, pertinent image behind the text. This method will make the most of the exposure FB's new design gives to photographs and will deliver your textual message in optimal form.

2) Write shorter, more concise copy.

Since the new News Feed places a large amount of emphasis on photos, Facebook has also altered how captions will be displayed from now on. In the previous version, the captions appeared below the pictures. As of now, they will display directly on top of the pictures -- giving the entire post a more natural, integrated and holistic feel. In response to this, business marketers should strive to make the copy that goes along with their posts as concise as possible, delivering a quick message that will inspire customers to take action while not taking away from the impact of the picture.

3) Implement contests to collect more LIKES for your business page.

For businesses, accumulating Likes has always been a fundamentally important part of finding success on Facebook. With the new News Feed in place, however, being Liked by someone is more impactful than ever. Now, each time your business receives a Like, your cover photo will be immediately broadcast to the friends of that Facebook user. Also, a new story will be created in the News Feed that displays the default of your page.

To make the most of this new development, it's more important than ever to create an influential cover photo -- one that brands your business while also relaying key information such as your tag line, your company's contact information, references to your major affiliates and other info that will establish your credibility right off the bat. A great way to grow your Likes is through incentivized contests. Spectrum, for instance, has developed and will soon launch a Photo Competition app that will help our clients attract new followers while taking advantage of the truly tremendous new visual platform that is the future of Facebook.

The Right Way to Use Blogs & Social Media for Business

The Right Way to Use Blogs & Social Media for Business

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

If the there was ever a communications business marketing dragon with two identical heads, one brain would be social media oriented while the other would focus solely on blogging. It's the truth. Both forms of online marketing are equally important to the success of any business marketing plan. Although while they can technically serve the same fundamental purpose (client acquisition), they're typically used by businesses in completely different ways.

As of today, it would seem as though blogging has taken a backseat to social media. Facebook, after all, has over a billion active monthly users and with Twitter surpassing the 500 million mark, social media might as well be the end-all when it comes to client communications. Right? Well, not quite.

While the world's most popular social media sites serve as tremendous tools for marketers, business owners must be cognizant of the fact that blogging will still impact existing and current visitors in ways that, while different, are equally beneficial to a company's bottom line. Below I'll breakdown the distinct qualities of each, focusing primarily on the ways in which each platform can (and should) be used to connect, inform and influence your target customers.

Social Media

Behind Google, Facebook is the #2 most visited website on the planet and Twitter doesn't fall far behind at #10. The popularity, longevity and cost-effectiveness of social media makes it an exceptional marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. Be that as it may, there's a right and a wrong way to use it.

Typically, because there is so much engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc., it would be most beneficial (from a business perspective) to use social media as an information "quick fix" for your customers. For example, if you're a furniture retailer, create short and relevant posts about new models you may have in stock, current specials and other incentives that would prompt your followers to engage with you. Also, given Facebook's latest News Feed update, it's more important than ever to share pictures that are intriguing, beautiful and emotionally stirring -- there's no better way to get a LIKE, retweet or +1.


Although social media is a powerful tool, businesses that have completely thrust all of their resources into it at the expense of a healthy, well-kept blog are missing major opportunities to connect with potential customers. If social media sites are the best place to keep your customers engaged, blogs are the best resource companies have to keep people informed.

A blog is where a business builds authority and reinforces its credibility with potential customers. Rather than posting your company's daily deals or charitable pursuits as you would on social media, a blog should be used to go in-depth about industry-specific topics that are relevant to consumers who are looking for your products or services. If your business is moving and storage, for instance, articles on moving best practices would be a great source of search traffic. Consider this: someone with several pets is preparing for their first move with animals and searches "Tips For Moving With Pets." Your blog pops up. They read it, like it, learn from it, and decide that you're a credible enough company to go with. Furthermore, because a blog lives on your domain, it can be used to drive traffic to pages that are more conversion-oriented after trust and credibility have already been established.

Google Analytics: Why Your Website Can't Compete Without It

Google Analytics: Why Your Website Can't Compete Without It

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Business owners, more than anyone else, understand the importance of precise, accurate data and the impact it can have on a company's success. Marketers have long relied on concrete data to make impactful decisions that would truly resonate with the goals and objectives of a business, both long- and short-term. To gather this data, most marketers and business owners rely on Google Analytics, a truly sophisticated service that generates website traffic and conversion metrics for businesses of all sizes. Google Analytics, or GA, is regarded as a magnificent tool by many marketing professionals, as it gives invaluable insight into the performance and efficiency of online campaigns -- and it does so completely free of charge.

At Spectrum, our GA-certified Search Marketing Engineers use the service to drive targeted web traffic to our customers' sites. In several clicks, we can gather statistics on the number of visitors to a site as well as individual page views, bounce rates and a heap of other statistics you could use to improve your website's conversion rates. All-in-all, GA is becoming more of an industry standard, and just in case you're not convinced yet, below are several legitimate reasons why you must have Google Analytics working for you:

Target Your Audience

Perhaps your business has a niche market, or maybe, you're product or service is seasonal and more sought-after during a select few months out of the year. When you use GA as a monitoring device, you can make your business more visible online, increasing the exposure your brand receives with highly-effective, well-implemented keywords your potential customers are searching for. These keywords, of course, can be attained using GA.

Understand the Effectiveness of Your Marketing Efforts

Internet marketing is unique to any other form of advertising because it offers concrete methods through which to understand your efforts as a marketer. Google Analytics is one of those methods. When you use targeted keywords to drive traffic to your website and, in time, are able to narrow down the ones that are most productive, there's truly no limit to how efficient your online campaigns will ultimately become. Furthermore, by telling you your website's bounce rate, or the percentage of people who leave your site shortly after entering it, GA is giving you extremely useful insight about the quality of your PPC advertising. In other words, does your website deliver what your online ads are promising?

Make Changes to Your Website Over Time

As a sophisticated online tracking tool, Google Analytics gives you the information you need to adjust your website to the demands of your customers. For example, in just a short succession of clicks, GA can tell us not only how many individuals visited our site, but from which device, as well. Therefore, if you notice an increased number of mobile visitors to your site, it may be time to make the switch to responsive web design. The same principle can be applied to other measurable aspects of your site. Landing pages, for example, are excellent indicators of your marketing, as most are created with the sole purpose of converting potential customers. Using GA, marketers could calculate the conversion rates of their landing pages and eventually, through proper A/B testing, settle on a design that's most profitable.

At the end of the day, Google Analytics provides business owners with truly remarkable features that make marketing a much more calculated and dependable art form then ever thought possible. Of course, as with any in-depth system, there is a learning curve -- one that cost many unacquainted users valuable time (not to mention accurate data). At Spectrum, our professionals are GA-certified, ensuring that our customers are properly set up for Google Analytics success.

8 Beautiful Facebook Changes That'll Change Everything

8 Beautiful Facebook Changes That'll Change Everything

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Somehow, Facebook has a way of giving every new adoption of their site a profound feel while simultaneously making their recently changed version seem old, tired and utterly out-of-date. Yesterday's unveiling was no exception. When Mark Zuckerberg revealed the News Feed design and functionality changes that he and his team have been working on, it was obvious that Facebook hadn't lost its creative aptitude and willingness to reinvent the way over a billion people share, explore and connect with their world.

The latest update will change the look and feel of the stories on our News Feed while also giving us more control over what we see than ever before. Another exciting change comes on the mobile front with responsive design, a technology that we've been writing about and promoting at Spectrum for all the same reasons that Facebook chose to implement it. By making Facebook responsive, the social media king now delivers a consistently beautiful, intuitive and familiar experience across all platforms -- desktops, tablets and mobile devices. Spectrum has started to provide its own marketing customers with responsive web design services as a way of capitalizing on people's innate need for familiarity. It's an approach that promotes a unique level of comfort in users, prompting potential customers to fill out quote forms or, in Facebook's case, simply engage more comfortably and more often on their mobile devices.

Facebook says that people will start to see the new changes to their News Feed slowly emerge over the next several weeks. From a design perspective, here's what we can expect:

1. Bigger, more vibrant photos.

No more squinting. Anticipate viewing your friends' photos on a larger scale with more detail and satisfaction than ever before.

2. More encompassing stories.

Whenever a new story pops up, it will now share additional features from the person or company that posted it, including a cover photo and friend/fan thumbnails.

3. Places are BIGGER.

4. Videos are BIGGER.

5. Third-party content is BIGGER.

In tandem with the size changes made to video and Places notifications, you will now see content for popular apps like PinterestInstagram and Foursquare in a larger, crisper and generally more appealing format.

6. More attractive, enticing article sharing.

When you LIKE or share an article online, the image as well as the title and the summary of the article will be larger and generally more attractive on the new News Feed.

7. Popular articles appear more readily.  

Facebook will now automatically deliver trending articles to your News Feed that align with yourinterests.

While the seven aforementioned changes are extremely significant from a design perspective and will forever change how we see things on Facebook, there is one other new feature that will allow us to control what we see on Facebook -- an arguably more significant calibration. "Choice of Feeds," as Mark Zuckerberg called it, will allow users to pick and choose what topics and information they're viewing on their News Feed. This adjustment is based on the company's push for a more organized and intuitive site that is less cluttered and thus less frustrating and annoying. The new News Feed will break down into the following four categories: FriendsMusicPhotos and Following. Welcome to a very simple, efficient and pleasing way to browse your world.

So, why all the changes?

First of all, Zuckerberg mentioned that nearly half of all News Feed content is picture-based. When photos and other visual notifications are 50% of everything people see on FB, it's only natural to want to make it more aesthetically pleasing. The "Choice of Feeds" adjustment, however, was inspired by research that showed that people only want to be exposed to content they want to see. It's an ongoing issue, as the digitalization of our lives (especially through Facebook) has made it far more difficult to avoid what we don't want or need to view. This change, much like responsive design and the introduction of more resonant photos, is certainly one for the better. Let's go.