Selling vs. Telling: 3 Copy Tips Website Owners Can’t Afford Not to Know

Selling vs. Telling: 3 Copy Tips Website Owners Can’t Afford Not to Know

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

I don’t care what your business is.

I don’t care if you’re a carpenter or a mover or a painter or a limo driver. At the end of the day, service professionals are all trying to acquire more of the same old thing: quality leads.

I say I don’t care what you do for a living because, as a copywriter, my job is set in stone. Human psychology doesn’t waver, so copywriting strategies and tactics are able to transcend industries, markets and even cultures.

As a copywriter I follow the rules, which help me to create content that impacts consumers; takes them over the edge; influences them and, ultimately, gets the sale.

Sure, you want your website to tell people information. People need some facts before pulling the trigger on a purchase. But the difference between a website that sells rather than just communicates is buried in the nuances of its content: imagery, call-to-action and, of course, copy.

Keep the following 3 tips in mind every single time you set out to write, edit or request word content for your website. Doing so will help you start selling rather than simply telling:

#1: Never Forget Your Headline

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

David Ogilvy

Ogilvy is a truly legendary figure in the copywriting world. Known as the “Father of Advertising,” he became famous for his seemingly innate ability to write persuasively. He also appreciated a well-sculpted headline.

But here’s the thing: you’re not David Ogilvy. You’re not even a copywriter. You’re a business owner who is trying to make the words on your website more effective. To do so, start simple and be concise – it’s a great start.

An Illinois moving company, for example, might sport the following headline on their Chicagoland services page: “Chicago Moving Company.”

Simple, huh? In fact, it seems like it’s almost too simple.

But that’s all it takes: a concise, accurate message that’s just about identical to what consumers might type into Google.

In addition to providing great SEO value, keyword-influenced headlines like “Chicago Moving Company” let the reader know that they’ve come to the right place. Remember: your goal is to drive eyeballs down the page. Appealing to your readers’ needs is one of the most efficient ways to do so.

#2: Clever Doesn’t Pay the Bills

“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.”

- Charles Mingus

Every time you get cutesy with your words, you run the risk of confusing your readers/customers. Nobody wants to understand you more than they do. So give them what they want.

Don’t be clever (it’s confusing). Don’t be funny (there isn’t enough time). Stay on track.

Consumers arrive at your website because they need to accomplish something, not because they want to be entertained. So make sure your message is as straightforward as possible – this will keep your bounce rate (i.e., visitors who leave your website) under wraps.

#3: Research is Your Best Friend

“The best copywriters are the most tenacious researchers. Like miners, they dig, drill, dynamite, and chip until they have carloads of valuable ore. John Caples advised me once to gather seven times more interesting information than I could possibly use.

Gary Bencivenga

The more you know about your target customer, the more dangerous you are.

But you’ll be surprised to know just how much you don’t know about the preferences of the clientele you’ve been dealing with all these years. The devil is in the details...

For example, your quote request button: would it get clicked more often if it were green instead of red; would it get clicked more often if it were on the right side of the screen instead of on the left; would it get clicked more often if the word “free” was somewhere in verbiage?

Knowing the answers to these questions can spell the difference between a sale and bounce many times over. That’s why every single Spectrum website is A/B tested for performance – and yours should be, too!

The more you know...

Create Sales Fireworks with Content Marketing

Create Sales Fireworks with Content Marketing

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

This Fourth of July, after the party has died down and you’re sitting with your family and friends watching the fireworks show, make sure to have a look around – people watch for a minute.

Take in the glee that’s all around you. Listen for the oohs and aahs from parents trying to heighten the moment for their kids. Toothless smiles are everywhere on the Fourth.

There’s no doubt fireworks are beautiful. But their true purpose is to draw out happiness, which, in turn, brings people closer together. That’s the real point of it all. Sometimes we forget that.

I don’t think I have to stress how vital happiness is. A healthy, consistent dose of it will help you live longer and feel more fulfilled. It may even help you be more successful professionally. But you already knew that.

Same goes for making other people happy. Spread joy and you’ll inevitably benefit, as well. But you already knew that, too.

But did you know that you can make people happy as a business owner. Not by selling a great product or providing exemplary services, either – that goes without say. I’m actually referring to your company’s marketing.

That’s right. Online marketing – when done right – can really make people glad to know you. Business owners that create selfless, accommodating and generous online marketing materials stand to reel in more leads, more sales and more repeat business.

Talk about fireworks.

Here’s how to create some of your own with Content Marketing:

Make a Connection. Earn Trust.

Before the Internet became completely accessible, people either watched television, listened to the radio or read newspapers and magazines for their daily dose of news and entertainment.

Now make no mistake: all of the aforementioned mediums were invented, first and foremost, to collect advertising dollars. Marketers knew that people had no choice but to experience their ads – a practice which is known as “interruption marketing.”

Before the Internet, there was no DVR or Netflix. People couldn’t simply “x” out of a window. You had no choice – you had to sit there and be bothered over and over and over again.

Not anymore, chief.

Today’s humans have become very, very good at blocking out the messages they don’t want to receive. Hence the invention of Content Marketing, which is all about engaging your ideal prospects with entertaining, informative, highly tailored material.

Let’s dive into that.

Content That Informs

Informative content is valuable content. And people love value.

Content marketers create articles, infographics, videos – you name it – that are as informative as they are easy-to-share. Therein lays the golden ticket: shareslikestweets. People will share your smart, educational, helpful content via social media, which means more eyeballs for free.

So next time you create a content asset, make sure people can take something away from it – something they’ll remember and use in the future. Don’t worry about whether they buy from you or not... that doesn’t matter just yet. What matters is that you’ve implanted your message in the mind of your customer.

Implant enough messages and people will begin trusting you, which is the first step to making a sale.

Content That Entertains

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Don’t inform your potential customers to sleep – that’s not good for business. Be professional. Stay true to your brand. But at the end of the day, try to have some fun. Be intriguing. Have great headlines and subheads in your written content. After all, you’re trying to get people’s attention, so create content that appeals to them.

Also, it’s important to remember that you’re writing for the Internet, where a casual tone typically works best.

Content That Fits

Per my last point: the Internet is HUGE. I’m guessing you don’t need everyone as a lead. You need the right type of leads, which means you need to be calculated in your approach.

Content Marketing isn’t mass marketing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for everyone; it’s for a specific group of people: those who can benefit from your product or service. Therefore, it would behoove you to create content about your particular trade. If you’re a painting contractor, give your audience some DIY painting tips. Ditto if you’re a mover or a remodeler.

Be specific and create content that fits the needs of your target audience – you’ll find it easier to influence people this way.

Google Business View: Pretty Soon Every Business in America Will Have It

Google Business View: Pretty Soon Every Business in America Will Have It

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

I know what you’re thinking: here we go again.

Here’s another Google product.

Here’s yet another time burner.

Here’s something else I have to spend a buck on.

Believe me, I’m with you. Keeping up with Google’s ever-evolving landscape for the sake of your online marketing can be tiresome; it seems like something new is a-brewing every few months.

That’s because it is – and more often than not it’s completely worth it.

Business owners should take solace in the fact that, while Google’s pervasive updates can be frustrating, they're for good reason: they support the search giant’s (now famous) mission statement:

“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Your business is very much a part of the world’s information. So don’t be overwhelmed when Google releases a new product (or a not-so-new one starts to pick up momentum), because, ultimately, it’s going to help you reel in better leads (and more of them).

Pretty soon every business in America will be set up with Google Business View, a product that helps consumers make informed decisions about whom they do business with in a simple, intuitive way.

Here’s the scoop on the best thing to come out of Google since Street View:

Google Business View was initially offered in April, 2010. Back then, it was only available in select cities around the US.

Fast forward 4 years and Google Business View has expanded to 27 countries and 180 American cities.

What is Google Business View?

Think Street View, the informative and equally entertaining Google product that provides a 360 degree panoramic view of just about any road in America. Now imagine that technology in your store, warehouse, gallery, showroom, restaurant, etc.

Bringing the virtual tour experience inside the walls of your business can be extremely beneficial. Here’s why:

Your Business Comes to Life!

Business View makes consumers feel comfortable.

The product serves its purpose by providing potential customers with a terrific first impression of your business. After all, what’s more professional than allowing people to virtually explore and interact with your company?

The product isn’t only for aesthetically driven businesses, either. Sure, florists and furniture showrooms and art galleries love Business View, but the underlying impression of reputability, confidence and professionalism are universally appealing.

Consumers are always trying to find something that differentiates you from their other options. Many businesses – especially those offering commoditized services and products – are using Business View to demonstrate their distinction.

Traffic to Your Website & Social Properties Will Increase!

It’s a fact: pictures command attention.

And With Google Business View, your company’s photographs will appear across 3 very important and popular Google products: Google Search, Google Maps and Google+ Local.

A typical search result is easy to overlook because it’s only several lines of text. However, once your photos are uploaded your listing will 1) make people take notice and 2) engage people, as your interactive photos will literally expand to the size of the entire computer screen.

There’s no better way to showcase your business.

Touch Prospects Anywhere!

Online browsing, shopping and researching are becoming more and more prevalent every day. Google knows this better than anyone, which is why they made Google Business View completely mobile friendly.

So don’t worry, the fully immersive and utterly satisfying interactive experience of Business View can be had anywhere and at anytime – on an iPhone, Android, iPad or Windows tablet.

Don’t Sweat That Negative Review – It’ll Probably End Up Helping Your Business

Don’t Sweat That Negative Review – It’ll Probably End Up Helping Your Business

Don’t Sweat That Negative Review – It’ll Probably End Up Helping Your Business

That bad review has been on your mind, hasn’t it?

It’s not really a big deal, but it bugs you every now and again, right? Like a mustard stain on a white shirt collar, that two-star review is a grim reminder that your business has been publiclytainted. And the whole world can see that ugly yellow stain on that otherwise pristine white shirt.

HEY! Snap out of it! You’ve got it all wrong...

According to Reevoo, a leading ratings and reviews service, “Bad reviews can improve conversions by 67%.”

That’s because every less-than-stellar review is really just masquerading as an opportunity to demonstrate the integrityadaptability and authenticity of your business.

But that doesn’t take the sting away – it still sucks to be put down. Just remember: it happens to most everyone.

It really doesn’t matter how wonderful your product or service might be. Someone, somewhere, will find something negative to say about it. And if you they post it on Yelp or Google+ or Angie’s List, you won’t be able to delete it... but you probably already knew that.

It’s unfair and utterly frustrating, yes, but those are the breaks. That’s just the game. First you have to get the reviews, and then you have to make sure the bad ones are still helping your business.

Here's how to do both:

How to Get Reviews.

Be Visible.

The Opinion Research Corporation released a survey which states, “84% of Americans say consumer reviews influence their buying decisions.”

This illuminating statistic is testament to not only the incredible popularity of online reviews, but the immense influence they carry, as well.

People simply want to know what other people think. So avoiding negative reviews by not registering your business with Google+, Angie’s List and Yelp just isn't an option.

Not signing up with major review sites and directories will 1) hurt your search engine rankingsand 2) kill your credibility with consumers who are researching your business online (i.e., reading reviews).

If you’re not already signed up with the aforementioned sites, that’s step one to actually getting the reviews.

Be Proactive.

People usually don’t take it upon themselves to post a review unless they’re disappointed and want to vent. Rarely will someone go out of their way to write a “good” or “satisfactory” review. That’s why it never hurts to ask. If you know you kicked ass, why not?

If you're in the service industry, for instance, directing your customers to leave a review on Yelp, Google+ and Angie's List via automated "thank you" emails will increase traffic to those properties.

If you want someone to do something for you, you have to make it a very simple process.

Be Loud.

Put your reviews on blast.

Syndicate your good feedback to your social properties – ensuring that your fans and visitors have a chance to see the great work you’ve accomplished. There should also be a testimonial section on your website for prospects to reference.

As the title of this post suggests, negative reviews are also an opportunity. They’re an opportunity to make things right and, in the process, illustrate your company’s ability to roll with the punches.

Agility is vital to customer satisfaction.

How to Make Bad Reviews Work for You.

A “bad” review isn’t the end of the world -- it’s actually a necessary evil. According to Reevoo, “68% of consumers trust a company's reviews more when they see both good and bad scores.”

Unfortunately, a baaaad review is inevitable and, worse yet, it’s not going anywhere. There’s just no winning on that front.

So if you can't beat them, join the conversation. In other words: diligently respond to all of your reviews – the good ones, the bad and the ugly ones. Doing so will paint an authentic picture for readers. It will earn their trust, which is essential to successful online lead generation.

Answer a positive review any way you like, as long as it’s pleasant and sincere. A bad review, however, needs to be approached logically; responded to in this order:

1. Acknowledge the problem.

2. Identify the reason for it.

3. Offer a tangible solution (e.g. money-back offer, future discount, free servicing).

Read more about how to effectively handle a negative review here.

At the end of the day...

Once an online review is published, it's out there. Anyone can find it and please believe, they will judge your business by it. So your best bet is to get in front of it. Cut it off and make it right before people have a chance to get the wrong idea about you.

People know that no product or service is ever perfect. And if you demonstrate that you can handle your mistakes fairly and appropriately, people will typically give you the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, it’s always better to have more “good” reviews than “bad” ones. The Spectrum Reviews Application helps small and medium businesses maximize the number of quality reviews they receive each month – making the process streamlined and organized.

Has Your Website Reached Its Full Money-Making Potential?

Has Your Website Reached Its Full Money-Making Potential?

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Your website isn’t a brochure. It’s not meant to just look nice and be informative. Its purpose, first and foremost, is to sell.

Sell. Sell. Sell. And then sell some more.

If your website isn’t directly generating leads and contributing to the growth of your business, then it hasn’t reached its full potential.

Luckily, the internet makes it easy to adjust. In fact, if you’re not constantly testing and fine-tuning your website – if you’re website isn’t “optimized” – you’re losing money.

Look, there’s always something you can do to make your website more striking, more impactful and more effective. But until you know what that “something” is, you’re just feeling around in the dark.

To help you discover what weaknesses (if any) your website has, I’ve compiled 7 straightforward questions you, as a business owner, should periodically ask yourself.

Can you answer all 7 with a resounding “YES!”?

WindowWorks, one of Spectrum’s clients in the home improvement space, can...

Let’s use them as a benchmark to add some context to the following questions:

Does Your Website Engage Visitors?

In other words, after visitors arrive on your site, does it draw them in with crisp, beautiful visuals and then present them with a clear, compelling call-to-action (i.e., a next step that will drive them down your sales funnel)?

As you can see, WindowWorks homepage does this very well:

The first thing visitors see when they land on the page is a large, commanding image, which showcases the elegant craftsmanship WindowWorks is known for. Circled in pink are the page’s calls-to-action – “Get Pricing” takes you to an online quote form while the other captures phones leads.

Go to the page itself and you’ll find a Spectrum Managed Chat box just off to the right. Scroll down and you’ll see more opportunities to “Set an Appointment” or to “Read Customer Reviews” – all put in place as part of the mechanism that drives leads down the funnel.

Is Your Website Easy to Navigate?

Many visitors will land on your website with a specific product or service already in mind. The last thing you want to do is confuse or frustrate them by not providing a clear path to more information about that specific product or service.

WindowWorks leaves no chance for such an opportunity:

Circled in pink is the site’s “main navigation” bar. It’s like home base for visitors. It quickly helps them find exactly what they’re looking for, which is incredibly important – particularly online (where the average attention span is less than 4 seconds).

Does Your Website Have Fresh Content?

The easiest way to consistently add new content to your site is with a blog, which is a win-win: great for search engines and great for humans.

Google and Bing love websites with blogs because every post provides new content to craw, index and rank.

People love blogs because they provide valuable information that can ultimately help them make a buying decision.

Does Your Website Offer Incentives?

Incentives have helped sell people since the beginning of time – and they’ll work on visitors to your website, too.

Shoppers love a good deal. That’s why WindowWorks puts their promotional offers front and center:

If your business provides a commodity product or service like WindowWorks does, the secret to selling your customers is 1) giving them a good feeling about you and 2) giving them a deal.

Is Your Website’s Branding Consistent?

Branding matters.

Your business – regardless of its size – will benefit from a logo, tagline, or specific color pattern that reminds people that your company is trusted and reliable.

That’s why you’ll see this artwork on every single page of the WindowWorks website:

Drive the point home and then drive it home some more. That’s how you get people to remember you.

Does Your Website Link to Your Business’s Social Properties?

WindowWorks keeps their social icons really low key. See how they just blend into the website’s footer:

How much attention you draw towards your social properties all really depends on how much attention you want them to receive in the first place – if you have the resources to devote to social media, then you’ll probably want a lot of traffic.

However, if you’ve put your FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn profiles on the backburner for now, you might want to hold off sending your visitors there until you can deliver value.

Is Your Website Mobile? looks and functions optimally on any device. In other words, browsing the WindowWorks website is easy and intuitive whether you’re on a phone, a tablet or a laptop.

Spectrum built the site using Responsive Web Design (RWD), a technology that automatically reformats the website to fit any-size screen. This allows visitors to experience everything we just covered – effective engagement, easy navigation, tempting incentives, consistent branding, etc. – anywhere, anytime.

Google says that “52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.” Expect this number to grow as more and more people become accustomed to intuitive, stress-free mobile browsing.

The New Age Small Business Mindset: How to Turn Your Customers into Die-Hard Evangelists

The New Age Small Business Mindset: How to Turn Your Customers into Die-Hard Evangelists

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

As a small business owner, doesn’t it feel great when a new customer calls you up or walks through the door and says, “My friend so-and-so told me to come here because you’re the best”?

Absolutely it does! Why? Probably because 1) it’s nice to know that somebody out there loves the way you do business and 2) you just aacquired a new customer for free.

And nothing beats free business.

Except, of course, one thing:

Consistently Free Business

Ever heard of Evangelism Marketing? It’s a form of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) that consistently yields free business.

Evangelism Marketing will help your company develop incredibly loyal and passionate customers who will freely promote your products or services to others.

Evangelism Marketing creates evangelists.

Evangelists are business patrons who want nothing more than for others to spend money where they’re spending money, because they truly believe in the company’s products or services. Apple, for example, has a lot of evangelists.

Bottom line: Evangelism Marketing drives consistently free business to your company’s doormat.

How to Create Evangelists

Seth Godin, a highly respected new age marketing guru (and overall brilliant thinker), once said:

“In the Industrial Age -- the 50s and 60s -- the goal was to be a big business. An industrialist did a reliable thing for average people again and again... [Back then], every small business was told to act more like a big business. [Now], in the Post-Industrial Age, it’s reversed. Every big business needs to act more like a small business. Every small business needs to embrace the fact that the owner is only one click away from the customer. That the owner -- the person that cares enough -- can change things if she decides the market needs it. And yes, big businesses have to do the same; otherwise they’re going to keep industrializing themselves out of the picture. The future doesn’t belong to the mighty industrialists [anymore] -- the future belongs to the adroit, agile small business person who can listen and then deliver.”

That is sound advice.

But I want everyone to sit up and take notice of one crucial word Godin uses in the last sentence. The word is agile.

Agility is “the ability to move quickly and easily.” Therefore, from a business standpoint, being agile has everything to do with 1) quickly responding to your customers and 2) providing competent assistance. Businesses that approach customer service with these two factors in mind are well en route to creating evangelists that are going to spread their message to anyone who will listen.

So let’s break these factors down:

Response Time

Never in the history of commerce have consumers been so accustomed to the notion of instant gratification. It’s become something of an expected norm – more common and abundant than ever before.

The Internet did that. And companies around the world have had to fall in line.

Today, almost every company has a social media presence and most large corporations have entire departments dedicated to social media because 1) consumers use social media and 2) social media makes it easy to respond quickly.

Some companies even make response time pledges. Dell, for example, has a “two hour rule,” which -- you guessed it -- promises that someone will respond to your inquiry within two hours time.  

The “two hour rule” is an incredible commitment. It’s also a testament to the level of attentiveness today’s consumer has come to both expect and appreciate -- the latter being a decidedly important emotion when it comes to developing an evangelist following.

Competent Assistance

Django was fast in Django Unchained. He was also damn accurate. That’s what made him dangerous.

Quickly responding to questions and complaints isn’t enough. Consumers also expect ability.

Mistakes happen in business: deadlines fall through, products stop working and services sometimes fail. But popular wisdom tells us that it’s not the problem, but how you deal with it that, in the end, makes all the difference.

For example, your sales and customer service staff should be more than just familiar with your products and services. They should be trained to eloquently answer any questions, complaints or grievances -- providing an effective solution to just about any issue surrounding your company’s offerings.

A great example of competent assistance is the Genius Bar at Apple retail stores. The “Geniuses” behind the bar know how to quickly and fluidly solve problems, which has proven to make people immeasurably happy.

Can Your Business Achieve the Same Results?

Can your business make consumers happy the way Dell can... the way Apple can?


Must your business have a budget like Dell’s or Apple’s to do so?

No – not even close.

Your business can efficiently and effectively satisfy your customers’ needs right from your website – all with one, straightforward and inexpensive tool:

Managed Chat

This tool will help you sell online like you’re in person, creating happy evangelists who will spread the word about your company’s outstanding customer service. Managed Chat is also an exceptional lead generation tool...

Spectrum Managed Chat is completely full-service, which means that a team of experts (in your industry) will be available to handle chat inquires from your website traffic 24/7 – capturing superior-quality leads by collecting more information than any reasonable form.

Quality information = high-grade leads that are more likely to convert.

Your chat leads will stream directly into Spectrum’s Lead Management Platform, which keeps your sales funnel organized and gives you instant access to the information you need.

Spectrum Managed Chat also features Call-Connect software, which allows chat agents to turn a chat conversation into a phone call with you, the owner, or, as Seth Godin put it, “The person that cares enough.”

If you show your customers that you care, they will care back. They will become evangelists. And they will make other care about your business, too.

10 Questions That Will Help You Make Sense of Paid Search Advertising

10 Questions That Will Help You Make Sense of Paid Search Advertising

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

AdWords, Google’s online advertising service, is how Google makes its money -- $57.86 billion in 2013, to be exact.

So if the annual revenue Google makes from AdWords can buy 57 Taj Mahals, why isn’t everyone who uses the service getting filthy rich, too?

The fact of the matter is that Google makes money every time a paid search ad is clicked. AdWords users, however, will only make money if the ad is clicked by a quality prospect (i.e., someone who is serious about making a purchase).

AdWords’ is so perfectly honed and configured, that not getting any clicks just won’t happen – Google did its job here. The user’s job then is to get the right people to click, which, of course, will drive website traffic that actually converts.

Running an effective AdWords campaign is hard work, though. At Spectrum, we handle accounts for small and medium businesses with monthly budgets ranging anywhere from $3K - $40K. These ten questions help our clients make sense of the process. Hopefully they’ll help you streamline your results, as well:

1. For starters – is your website appealing?

If you want to convert web traffic, your site needs to look great. Experiencing your website should be tantamount to speaking with a seriously delightful salesperson. The copy should be engaging and concise. Each page should also have a strong Call-To-Action and gripping imagery. All of this will earn your prospects trust – a key element to selling online.

2. Are people clicking-through to a specific landing page?

Or are the people clicking on your ads landing on something generic like your homepage or worse yet: the “About Us” blurb? If you don’t make it easy for people to convert online – if you don’t really lay out the process for them step-by-step – they simply won’t do it. Internet consumers want to know they’re in good hands with a legit, bona fide company. To give off that impression, your landing pages must have the following:

  • Unique information and no duplicate content (i.e., wording you won’t find anywhere else on the web).
  • Meta tags that describe the page’s content very, very well.
  • Image tags (for search engine crawlers and the visually impaired).
  • Bullet points and clear Calls-To-Action (CTA) for easy reading and fluid navigation.
  • Header tags (i.e., the page’s first line of text) should align with the keywords you’re trying to rank for.
  • Content that is 100% relevant to the ad itself (for a healthy quality score).
  • And for the love of everything that is holy, no pop-up ads.

3. What about your AdWords copy? Is that generic?

The vast majority of Google users won’t click on results with text that doesn’t exactly match their search query (which is easy to spot because Google conveniently bolds your searched words/phrases throughout the results page). Using long-tail keywords (e.g., “Chicago kitchen and bathroom remodeling company”) versus conventional, short keywords (e.g., “Chicago remodeler”) will save you money and drive higher-quality traffic to your website. 

Less expensive and more effective – it’s a win-win.

4. Are all your ads run under a single campaign?

Although one campaign could, in theory, be enough to positively impact your bottom line, most businesses will require a more complex configuration to be successful. For example, if you're targeting more than just one market or city, it’s wise to create a separate AdWords campaign to accommodate each one. This also rings true for the products and services your company provides. 

The more specific you are, the more control you'll have over your campaigns' reporting and overall performance.

5. Is your Regional Targeting turned on?

Running a nationwide ad – whether it’s appearing on TV or on a search engine results page – is for companies who do nationwide business. SMBs that strictly work with local customers, therefore, should turn on a nifty little AdWords feature called Regional Targeting. This will allow you to hone in on only the markets and demographics you’re interested in.

6. Are you using the most efficient matching option?

When it comes to matching searchers' queries with your paid advertisement keywords, AdWords gives you three options:

1. Broad Match: Your ad will appear when people search just about any combination of words in the ad copy.

2. Phrase Match: Your ad will appear when people search your exact ad copy, but will also appear when additional words are entered before or after the phrase.

3. Exact Match: Your ads will only appear when your ad copy is searched verbatim.

For most small and medium businesses, the Goldilocks Principle (it is better to fall within certain reasonable margins than to reach extremes) applies here. Broad Matching will probably be too much exposure for your campaign while Exact Matching will likely undercut you. Both will ultimately stifle the number of quality clicks your ads attract. When it comes to this aspect of your campaign, Phrase Matching will almost always give you the best results.

7. Are your ads running 24 hours a day?

Running your ads all day, every day is the AdWords default setting. Although this may sound appealing at first, SMBs will quickly realize that running ads outside of business hours is a tremendous waste of money. After all, serious customers may want to call your office or talk to someone online if they have a question. And do you really want clicks from people at 4:00 AM?

Cut your losses. Only run your ads while you’re open for business.

8. Do you regularly review your campaigns’ performance?

The AdWords machine requires perpetual maintenance, because at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Split testing the performance of your keywords and ad copy will help you slowly but surely shave the fat off of your campaign. There’s always something to tweak. You can:

  • Adjust your bids
  • Pause underperforming keywords
  • Expand the use of top keywords
  • Create separate ad groups around your best-performing keywords
  • Review/pause advertisements
  • Review/add negative keywords

Of course, all of this data is readily available to AdWords users (kudos Google).

9. Do you use Negative Keywords?

Negative Keywords are words that you do not want to trigger one of your ads. This makes them just as important as the keywords you do want to be associated with, because they will help you avoid low-quality clicks that don’t convert. Add Negative Keywords as needed by checking the list of actual search queries that triggered your ad to appear.

10. Is your website in Responsive Design?

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web design approach that makes your website consistent and functional across any device: desktop, tablet or smartphone. The ever-growing popularity of mobile Internet coupled with the fact that Google won’t let AdWords users turn off mobile ads makes this is a real mission-critical detail. Your ad might be just what people are looking for, but if they’re using a smartphone and land on a page that isn’t mobile friendly, 6 out of 10 times they’re going to move on almost immediately. 

"The Shawshank Redemption" Can Actually Teach You A Lot About Marketing Your Business

"The Shawshank Redemption" Can Actually Teach You A Lot About Marketing Your Business

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

In addition to being nominated for seven Academy Awards, The Shawshank Redemption either won or was nominated for 25 other accolades (which just so happens to be the average number of times a typical fan has seen it).

The Shawshank Redemption is a time-tested cult class that’s as satisfying as it is uplifting. Oh, and it can teach you a ton about business marketing and lead acquisition... especially this scene:

The Lesson: 


Or, from a marketing standpoint:


As ol’ Brooks would say, " Easy peasy."

Now let's break down the variables:

Pressure + Time

To start carving canyons, just add water!

Fundamentally speaking, pressure and time are at the core of every successful marketing strategy. It's why companies buy television ads by the dozen. It's why logos matter and time slots count. Pressure and time are the raw ingredients from which marketers create brand awareness and build trust .

Pressure and time worked for Andy Dufresne, the story's humble protagonist, and they'll work for you, too.

The challenge lies in striking a good balance between the amount of pressure you apply (i.e.,how and how often you touch your prospects with marketing material) and the rate at which you do it (i.e., time). Initially, this is done largely through trial and error because almost every business, especially an SMB, has a unique and specific target market. Just know this: too seldom is always, always better than too often. The most detrimental marketing mistake a company can make is over-contacting its prospects via phone and email. Consumers don't want to be bombarded with solicitations. Short doses of valuable content are much more effective.

Once prospects are on your website, however, there’s an entirely new set a challenges to overcome. In order to conquer them gracefully, you'll need some online tools. That's where Rita Hayworth comes in...

Hello, Rita. Gosh you’re important.

Red loves it when “she does that thing with her hair,” but Andy loves Rita Hayworth for a completely different reason: she helps him accomplish his goal.

Rita, along with one other handy instrument (thanks , Red), are the tools Andy uses to manipulate pressure (using that instrument) and time (using Rita).

When it comes to carving rivers into canyons, Rita Hayworth is water. When it comes to Internet marketing, Rita Hayworth is software tools, which are an essential part of the 2014 Internet marketing landscape.

At Spectrum, for example, we use a myriad of front-end and back-end online software tools to provide our clients with a turnkey lead generation solution. These tools include, but are certainly not limited to:

A quote request form.

Providing your website visitors with a simple and straightforward way to request a quote isimportant crucial to successfully generating leads. In fact, every word of copy, every design element -- everything -- should be created with the end goal of locking in a quote request or recording a phone call.

Spectrum also highly recommends Quote-2-Text, a powerful and pragmatic software tool that allows sales staff to respond almost immediately when a quote request come through the pipeline. Typically, faster response times yield more conversions. So just imagine how compelling your presence would be if you responded while the prospect was still on the website...

An appointment setting option.

What’s better than a quote request? An appointment request. Hands down.

This tool is a godsend for businesses that actually have to close the sale during an in-home consultation (e.g., remodelers, window/door companies, handymen). Appointment setting lets companies bypass a couple touches -- mainly an initial email and subsequent phone call.

Spectrum found that although fewer visitors choose to “set an appointment” than to “request a quote,” the conversion rate for appointment setters is more than 3X as high.

An automated 'follow up' page and email.

You wouldn’t have someone sign on the dotted line only to immediately walk out on them without so much as a smile and a thank you, right? That would be unprofessional, not to mention weird. Personally, I'd probably void the check if I felt thoroughly enough snubbed. The same principle counts doubly online, where trust, credibility, and piece-of-mind are paramount to everything else.

Taking someone's information without providing so much as a confirmation email in return is just bad business. Check out the following elements of a quality follow-up page and, if any apply to your business, consider implementing them ASAP:

  • An image of the technician that will be performing your service . This can help customers feel less anxious about your arrival.
  • A link to the positive reviews your business has accumulated. This helps you build clout with customers as well as prospects.
  • A confirmation number. This allows your 'thank you' page to serve as a convenient, printable receipt.

The point is that every additional step in the multi-touch sales process is an opportunity to build trust, garner credibility and, ultimately, differentiate yourself from the competition. Spectrum's software tools are a convenient and simple way for business owners to automate the processes they know they have to implement in order to close business. 

14 Signs You Have a Good Website on Your Hands

14 Signs You Have a Good Website on Your Hands

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

Google knows what it needs in order to find, crawl, and index your website.

But do you know what it takes to play ball with Google? And really make it work for your business?

Below are 13 signs your website is on the right track when it comes to getting found on the world’s largest search engine:

1. It resembles a pyramid.

Google wants to see sites with “a clear hierarchy.” In other words, your visitors should see broad links (on your homepage) first, which gradually become more specific and specialized as they venture deeper into your site. This helps both people and search engine crawlers navigate your website more efficiently and completely.

For example, a service-oriented company should present its core services on the homepage:

Image 7.jpg

If a visitor clicks through one of those services, the page they land on should present them with a more specific set of services:

And so on...

2. It has a site map page.

A site map is an outline of your website. It’s a great utility for visitors who know what they’re looking for, but don’t know how to get there. It’s also serves an invaluable SEO purpose: allowing crawlers to easily find and index your pages.

(A crawler, or bot, is a program that systematically scans the Internet for new information to index. This is how search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo find and list your website.)

Keep in mind that while site maps are great for search engines, they’re made for humans. Therefore, if your site is large (I’m talking hundreds or even thousands of pages), it’s best to only include pages that are central to your website (i.e., don’t go all the way to the base of your website pyramid).

3. It doesn’t go overboard with the links.

Google says “keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.”

The definitive cutoff used to be 100 links per page. Now, Google leaves it fairly open-ended because the number of links each page has leading back to it more-or-less determines the page’s link limit.

I would still cut it off at a hundred, though. Any more than that and you'll start to negatively impact user experience. 

4. It’s full of useful information, relayed clearly and accurately.

Note: This is hard to do. It takes time to build something truly valuable.

A “useful, information-rich site,” as Google calls it, contains unique and original content (i.e., it hasn’t been copy/pasted from anywhere else on the web). It’s easy to navigate, easy to understand, and easy to use.

Google loves unique content because it usually benefits users – giving them a fresh perspective on the service or product (or whatever it is) they are searching for. The catch is that creating unique content that is also valuable to others requires knowledge, effort and time.

5. It’s full of relevant keywords.

Your website is only as good as the words within it. The words throughout your content tell Google what your website is about and, in turn, allow prospects to find your site when they search for it.

Your content should consist of words your customers would type into a search bar to find your company’s products or services. So think like a prospect, not a business owner, when you’re creating your site’s content. It’ll help you appear in more relevant searches.

Just don’t overdo it.

6. It uses text instead of images to relay essential info.

Your address, your company name, your services and products – every important piece of information about your business should appear in text form on your website... not as an image.

Unless an image has an ALT tag (see below), search engine crawlers will simply breeze over it, providing zero SEO value. This is not to say you shouldn’t use images. You should. Just be cognizant of the fact that crawlers like text way more than they like pictures. It’s easier for them to understand and record.

7. It has quality titles and ALT tags.

A “title” is the first line of a search engine result (see below):

It should be page-specific (i.e., if your website is about remodeling, the page should have a title with the word “remodeling” in it). It should also be written clearly and concisely, the way good copy is. A title is like the headline of an article – it’s the first thing people see. A good one will entice people to click through to your site.

An “ALT tag,” in so many words, explains an image. It helps search engines interpret what an image is about, which provides great SEO value. Just don’t overload your ALT tags with keywords. This is called stuffing and goes against Google’s guidelines.

8. It doesn’t have broken links or incorrect HTML.

Broken links, in addition to being frustrating, are a staple of poorly maintained websites. Check your site daily, weekly or monthly – depending on its size – to ensure your links take people where you intend them to. Otherwise you’ll annoy your visitors, or worse yet, lose their trust.

Incorrect HTML will likely prevent crawlers from indexing your web pages. It can also cause slower load times, which will shoot your bounce rate (i.e., the rate at which visitors leave your site) through the roof.

To see if your HTML is correct, go to and search your web address.

9. It has dynamic pages Google can crawl.

Unlike static pages, which remain constant, dynamic pages are always changing. For example, a simple dynamic page might display the date and time. A more complex dynamic page would have to access database information to display unique, user-specific info. A dynamic page typically contains a “?” character in the URL. It is also more difficult and time-consuming for search engines to crawl.

A good way to ensure your dynamic pages are Google-friendly is to limit the number of parameters (i.e., what goes after “.com”) in your URL.

10. It supports If-Modified-Since.

The If-Modified-Since HTTP header lets the search engine spider know whether a webpage has been changed since its last indexing. This feature exists because re-indexing pages that haven’t changed – when there are literally billions of pages that have changed – is an incredible waste of time and resources for search engines.

If-Modified-Since will also save you bandwidth (which is used up when crawlers do their thing). And, because it helps expedite the indexing process, your pages will appear in the search engine results faster.

11. It uses the robots.txt files correctly.

Website owners use robots.txt files to tell crawlers which pages they’re allowed to index. Taking advantage of this functionality is important because search engines aren’t the only entities capable of crawling the Internet. In fact, anyone with the proper coding knowledge can create a program that scrapes the Internet for data (e.g., email addresses, phone numbers) that they can then use for their own purposes.

If you know where that information is located within your website, you can use robots.txt to control what gets picked up. Just make sure it’s done correctly. You wouldn’t want to accidently block your entire website.

12. It only allows valuable pages to be indexed.

According to Google, you can “use robots.txt to prevent the crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.” In other words, you should use robots.txt to hide pages that’ll do nothing more than frustrate and annoy visitors.

Google’s goal is to organize the Internet’s information and present it in order from most to least valuable. Muddling the results with unoriginal web pages only serves to derail this goal. It makes Google angry. And then Google eats you.

Don’t get eaten by Google. Only show it pages that are unique, useful and, ultimately, valuable.

13. It displays correctly across several different browsers.

Your website should display correctly on Chrome, Firefox and Safari. If it doesn’t, you’re missing an incredible amount of traffic.

And if your website doesn’t display correctly (or optimally) on any device, then you’re missing an incredible number of leads.

14. It’s fast.

Creating a website that loads each page in under three seconds requires a fairly technical set of skills. You need to know how to:

  • avoid CSS expressions,
  • reduce DNS lookups,
  • remove duplicate scripts,
  • configure ETags and a dozen other things.

If you don’t have the technical knowledge, it’s best to consult a professional.

Knowing why speed is important, however, can help you create an experience your prospects will enjoy. Your visitors will appreciate a blazing-fast site. Of course, they’ll also appreciate a site that’s informative and easy to navigate – one with clear contact info, a convenient quote form, and a defined main navigation.

It’s all about convenience. Give it to your prospects and, in turn, they’ll trust and do business with you.

Want to Sell More? Then Show, Don’t Tell.

Want to Sell More? Then Show, Don’t Tell.

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

Picture a plainly dressed man sitting outside on a piece of cardboard. He’s holding a cardboard sign. His coat is on. His scarf is wrapped around his neck.

It’s raining.

And yet most people ignore him, even though his sign reads:


A young, professionally dressed woman eventually walks by the man. She stops when she notices his sign, walks over to him, and starts to scribble a new message on the other side of the cardboard. The blind man makes no objections and, when she’s done, the woman walks away...

When she returns several hours later, the plainly dressed man is holding a tin that’s overflowing with change. He’s never seen so much money in his life.

“What did you do to my sign?” He asks the woman, who is standing over him. 

“I wrote the same message,” she says, “but in different words.”

The new sign reads: It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.

A UK-based content development company called PurpleFeather created this advertisement to show people just how much impact the right words can make.

I transcribed it to demonstrate one writing guideline that you absolutely, positively shouldn’t overlook:

Show, Don’t Tell

Sound familiar? Freshman-year-third-period-English familiar? Probably. 

If you’re a business owner, Freshman year was likely a while ago, so why revisit ancient history? Because this particular principle is as timeless as it is lucrative. 

It’s usually not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. That’s why history’s most influential writers rarely told their readers anything. Instead they used dialogue and specific, sensory language to emotionally charge their audience and draw them into their story. 

Business owners can also use Show, Don’t Tell to sell more. Here’s why: 

It helps your prospects visualize their pain point. 

Pain points make the world go round, because virtually every consumer has one.

A pain point is a problem that one would spend money to solve. If your business is service-oriented, you’ve likely heard the same pain points over and over again from prospects. You probably even have them memorized...

Good. That’s your ammunition. Now load it into your website. Preferably with a story -- it’s the best way to engage, entice and sell people

If you’re a moving company, for example, use each of your website’s service pages (e.g., residential, commercial, long-distance, international) to highlight a particularly unique or challenging job you’re proud of. And make sure your story makes mention of at least one pain point customers seeking out your specific service typically have. 

You don’t have to be Earnest Hemingway to get this done. You just have to know your customer. 

It keeps prospects on your website longer. 

It’s always a good sign when your site visitors stick around, hang out and put their feet up. It means they: 

1. Have a pain point. 
2. Like what they see. 
3. Feel comfortable. 

An effective way to command your visitors’ attention is with copy that shows rather than tells people what they want to hear. Make them visualize their problem being solved. Show Don’t Tellcopy will compel prospects to finish paragraphs, reread sentences and click-through when they come across a call-to-action.

Why? Because they’re genuinely interested. 

It helps your passion come through your marketing vessel. 

An author’s passion is conveyed through Show, Don’t Tell content that’s gripping and engaging. 

A “marketing vessel” is any tool that helps you promote, advertise and brand your business. One such tool is your company’s website. Another is your professional Facebook page. Another is your Twitter. 

Quality marketing vessels are well-maintained and consistently updated with relevant information and, if necessary, great design. This is how businesses earn their credibility and turn organic traffic into revenue. 

Show people your passion. Don’t tell them about it. 

I'M BLIND. PLEASE HELP. vs. It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it. 

The plainly dressed man sitting outside on a piece of cardboard made one fatal mistake when composing his sign: He underestimated the power of human imagination. 

Everyone who walked past the man knew he was blind -- the sign wasn’t telling them anything new. It wasn’t compelling them to venture outside their typical thoughts and truly consider his despair. His sign simply stated the obvious. It never made them think

The woman’s sign, however, made people contemplate life without sight -- a scary, raw feeling that reminded them what a gift vision truly was. The sign made them appreciate their sight and everything beautiful that comes with it. Her sign stirred their emotions. It made them empathetic.

It showed them what the man was going through. And that made all the difference. 

It will make a difference for your business, as well. 

5 Eye-Opening “Yes or No” Questions Business Owners Must Ask Themselves Before 2014

5 Eye-Opening “Yes or No” Questions Business Owners Must Ask Themselves Before 2014

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Below is a no-nonsense questionnaire every business owner should take. Please take it sooner rather than later. 

Note: These questions are about your online marketing.

The more questions you answer “Yes” to, the more likely it is that you’re adequately prepared for the online consumers of 2014. 

Next year’s Internet is going to be driven -- more than ever -- by convenience, accessibility and design. This questionnaire will hopefully illuminate areas where your website (and overall Internet marketing efforts) could use some help. 

Let's get started.

1. Have you made any significant changes to your website in the last 18 months? 

The design and functionality of a “modern website” is almost entirely dictated by the consumer who uses it. Consumer websites, as a general rule, should evolve to meet the demands of the people who use them. 

Your website is not an exception. 

The consumers of 2014 want faster, smarter websites, because that’s what they’re used to. 

They’re used to efficient checkout processes and convenient click-to-chat features. They’re used to websites that function as beautifully as they look. These websites drive people to take action -– turning visitors into customers.

Here are several ways you can get started: 

1. Advance your website’s framework (to make it look sharp).

2. Switch to a cloud-hosting environment (to make it go fast). 

3. Upgrade to responsive design (to make it convenient to use). 

That’s a good start.

2. Is your website easy to view on a smartphone or tablet?

If you have an iPhone or an Android, take it out and go to your website. How does it look?

Is the text too small to read?

Can you make out what the buttons say?

Do you have to zoom in on everything?

Because if you do, so do your potential customers. And, according to Google, the vast majority of mobile visitors won’t hang around on a website that’s hard navigate on their phone. They’ll literally leave your homepage in a matter of seconds. 

The solution is responsive design, which you can implement into the code of your website to provide viewers using mobile devices with an optimal viewing experience. 

No more resizing. 

No more panning. 

No more scrolling. 

Your customers are going to love it. And you'll love the boost you get in mobile leads and conversions. 

2014 is the year mobile Internet will eclipse desktop usage. Adapt to this new standard as soon as possible. Your investment will pay off. 

3. Do you engage your prospects on social media networks?

Do you?

4. Do you blog often? 

A blog can serve several purposes. For example:

  • It can be used as an information funnel for your current and potential customers (e.g., product/service info, company news, announcements).
  • It can be used to build up the number of pages on your website. More pages = more indexable content = great SEO value.
  • It can be used to educate your potential customers, creating an ongoing relationship that gives your business clout. 

If you blog at least once a week and you do it well (i.e., you give away your secrets, because that’s what people really want), you’ll get what you’re ultimately after: trust.

You can’t buy trust; you have to earn it. One of the best ways to do so is with a blog. 

5. Do you A/B test your website?

Albert Einstein once famously said:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So don’t be insane; change your website. 

Change the layout.

Change the headlines and sub-headlines.

Change the color of the call-to-action buttons.

Change everything and only keep what yields the best conversion rates. In time, your site will become dangerously efficient at converting visitors into revenue. 

Never stop tweaking and you’ll never stop improving your bottom line.

6. BONUS: Do you really like what you see on your homepage?

An old colleague once gave me this tidbit of writing advice:

“If you like it, chances are somebody else will, too.”

It was great advice for a writer, but I wouldn't give it to anyone trying to build a website that converts the masses.

If you don't like the way something looks on your website, always consider why it's there in the first place. Chances are it serves a very deliberate and specific SEO purpose.

Meet the Internet’s Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Yet to Come

Meet the Internet’s Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Yet to Come

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

One Christmas Eve, three ghosts paid ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge a visit. They made him realize two things:

1) He’s been bad and 2) being good is much more rewarding.

In so many words, that’s what Matt Cutts has been telling people who try to scrooge Google (i.e., get to the top of a search page unethically, using sleazy, no-good black hat SEO tactics).

Let’s face it, the Internet’s a tempting place to cut corners and Google, with all its billions of users, is the perfect platform to exploit if you’re trying to get your business noticed.

As the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts leads a brigade of computer engineers in the fight against black hat SEO. Their primary weapons: computer algorithms and manual reviews.

So, if you’re an Internet grouch, a user, or a plain Google abuser, meet Matt Cutts, your Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come all in one.

Why should you care about Matt’s work?

In addition to keeping the Internet safe (he wrote the first version of Google’s family filter, SafeSearch), Matt and his team ensure that Google is fair for everyone... including you.

Google’s mission, ultimately, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google does this by constantly indexing new content, which it then ranks based on several factors, including the number of people that link back to it. The more backlinks a webpage has the more valuable it is to searchers. The higher your page’s value, the higher your page will rank on Google.

Black hat SEO messes this system up.

When Scrooges use black hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, hidden text, and unnatural links to bypass Google’s quality standards, Matt’s team has to step in to ensure that diligent webmasters who play by the SEO rules get to see the fruits of their labor.

When people muscle their way to top of Google, it makes it harder for searchers to find what they’re looking for on the Internet – it makes it harder for consumers to find business owners who are investing time, effort and money in doing SEO the right way, the fair way.

Much like the apparitions that visit Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol, Matt Cutts and his team serve to spell out the dos and don’ts of human decency – they just do it online.

Why do people scrooge Google & what are the consequences?

If you know what you’re doing, black hat SEO can be very effective.

It’s a good way to increase your website’s visibility on Google. It’s also a good way to get your website banned altogether.

Black hat tactics (see below) will speed up your Internet marketing campaign and put your product or service in front of more eyeballs. Of course, there’s a catch: Your exposure will bevery temporary.

Matt will likely pay you a visit send you an email warning you to stop what you’re doing (i.e., start over the right way). If you don’t, he’ll erase your website from the world’s largest search engine.

Black hat tactics may technically work, but legitimate businesses are always better off doing SEO correctly. Because if your business depends on a steady flow of quality leads, getting shut down by Google is one of the worst things that can happen to it.

Being bad...

Sometimes knowing what to avoid can be just a useful as understanding what to strive for.

Even if cheating the Internet marketing system never crossed your mind, familiarizing yourself with the following techniques will provide you with a good frame of reference:

Sneaky Redirects: The electronic equivalent of a bait-and-switch, a link that promises one thing in the text but brings people to an unrelated landing page offers little, if anything, when it comes to value.

Webpage Keyword Stuffing: Although the introduction of Hummingbird has effected the significance of keywords, they’re still a major piece of the Internet marketing puzzle. Keyword stuffing occurs when the same highly searched word appears on a webpage over and over and over and over. Doing so can mislead the search algorithm into believing the page is more valuable to searcher than it really is.

Image Keyword Stuffing: Black hatters will insert long strings of keywords they want to rank for in the titles and captions of images on their website. Google doesn't approve. 

Unnatural Outbound Links: Selling links that are “unnatural, artificial, deceptive or manipulative” to people who want the SEO value those links provide is another deceptive practice Google frowns upon.

Unnatural Inbound Links: The buyers of these links are liable to be punished, as well. Because when it comes down to it, purchasing inbound links will only get in the way of searchers finding what they’re looking for.

Duplicate Content: According to Matt Cutts , approximately 25-30% of the Internet is comprised of duplicate content. If it appears on your website because you’re quoting someone, that’s okay. However, if you’re attempting to reach several dozen markets with your website, it’s not okay to copy/paste content and simply replace the keywords you’re trying to rank for on each page. This'll get you flagged and eventually banned from Google. 

Being good is much more rewarding...

A Christmas Carol teaches its readers about the importance of kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity – all of which are universally appreciated.

These qualities will bring joy to your personal life and success to your Internet marketing:

Be kind: Help people find what they’re looking for online with appropriate keyword usage.

Be thoughtful: Don’t waste people’s time with faulty, spam-ridden links.

Be generous: Give away useful information with educational and entertaining blog posts and webinars.

Do all of the above in abundance and your prospects will grow to know and trust your business. You’ll garner the respect of Google and the people who use it. You’ll also make Matt Cutts very proud, which means you’re on the right track to success.

To all our customers (past, present and yet to come), may your holidays be warm, cheerful and void of any ghoulish phantoms in the middle of the night.

All our best,

The Spectrum Team

This is What Websites Will Look Like in 2014

This is What Websites Will Look Like in 2014

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

Hello, Business Owner.

I’m a Responsive Website. I’m what the future looks like. And the future is closer than you think...

Before you sign off, hear me out. Because when it comes to your website, switching to responsive design will bring your company the most value, the most usefulness – both now and in the long-term.

A well-made responsive website looks impeccable and functions flawlessly on any Internet-ready device. So whether your prospect is using a desktop, tablet or smartphone to view your site, they’ll be able to find precisely what they’re looking for (no matter where they are in your sales funnel) in a minimal number of clicks. 

This level of ease has become the standard among mobile consumers. That’s why in 2014, getting a responsive website should be your primary online marketing goal. 

According to Google, 74% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to return to that site in the future. Moreover, 67% say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy that company's product or service.

So what makes me, a Responsive Site, mobile-friendly?

Speed: I load in 5 seconds or less across any platform (online -- especially on mobile -- every second counts).

Usability: My buttons are big and vibrant, so they’re easy to find and press. You also won’t find anyone zooming me in or out. 

Appearance: By proportionately transferring images and videos across all platforms, I give visitors a consistent branding experience. 

Convenience: I prominently display business contact information and social media links. I’m also enabled with “click-to-call” functionality. 

These are the features consumers are looking for when they access a website from a smartphone or tablet. And, as a Responsive Website, I’m equipped with all of them. 

A word of caution:

Don’t have a responsive website just for the sake of having a responsive website. 

In other words, it’s imperative that the backend (code) and the front-end (design + content) of a responsive website is created correctly. Popular website-building platforms like WordPress, which are template-based, offer business owners a fast and cheap alternative to a quality responsive build-out. 

Sure, it’s a quick-fix. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for

Unlike a template, a responsive site built from the ground-up will not break when it stacks (i.e., I’ll look symmetrical and proportionally aligned 100% of the time). A professionally built version of myself will also have significant SEO advantages over anything WordPress can provide for you. Having the freedom to properly dictate where your H1s, H2s, titles and images go will make a world of difference. Placing quote forms and other lead generation tools in the optimal position will also boost your conversion rates (see below).

No hiccups = No compromised credibility. And remember: 

“Quality is free, provided it is done right the first time.”

Bruce McIntyre, Founder MacPac Wilderness Equipment

A note from the editor:

Responsive web design isn’t a fad. 

It’s the most time-efficient and cost-effective way to optimize your website for the consumers of 2014 and beyond. And Spectrum has the numbers to prove it: 

We compiled data from 5 moving clients in responsive design and compared their results to the same periods last year. On average, these clients have spent 6 months in responsive.

We found that after they’d made the switch to responsive, the average mover had:

  • 23% more leads come through the pipeline
  • 11% more unique visitors to their website
  • 3X more online leads come from a smartphone

Our search engineers also saw the average revenue-per-visitor increase by $18. For a moving website that attracts 1000 visitors per month, that’s an annual sales increase of $216,000.

4 Conversion Strategies You Can (and Should) Use on Your Website

4 Conversion Strategies You Can (and Should) Use on Your Website

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

In 2012, went down for 49 minutes. As a result, the company lost nearly $6 million in sales.

Six. Million. In less than an hour. 

On average, each unique visitor will spend about $189 with Amazon. To put this in perspective, that’s five times more than what eBay’s unique visitors spend.

Amazon’s success boils down to 3 things they’re doing right:

  1. Enormous Selection (Amazon’s warehouses have more square footage than 700 Madison Square Gardens)
  2. Great Prices (Amazon’s profit margins are extremely thin, which ensures long-term customer loyalty and trust)
  3. Conversion Power (Every page is designed to encourage and help people buy products quickly and easily)

This article is about the “conversion power” part, and how you can put it to use on your own website. Here are 4 pointers to get you started:

1. Make an all-in-one search bar

If your website has search functionality, it should be smart. Your search bar results should yield more than just the services or products your company sells. It should act as a catch-all for everything on your website.

For example, type “return policy” into Amazon’s search bar and the first result (out of over 800 thousand, mind you) will be “About Our Return Policies”. 

Now that’s smart. And people love it because it’s convenient. 

Spectrum implemented this type of one-and-done search functionality on The Mattress Factory’s site, which allows customers to find other useful information besides product info. If the customer enters their zip code, for instance, they’ll see the store nearest to them -- not an error page. 

Many competing mattress retailers have a separate “store locator” search bar, which is just another opportunity for potential customers to become distracted and not take action. 

Less is better.

2. Create location-specific content

If you’re browsing in the UK, you’ll be shown prices in pounds. Shoppers outside of the States don’t have to make any specific changes to their settings -- Amazon will just read your IP address and make the adjustment automatically. 

Given how convenient this is, The Mattress Factory is in the process of implementing its own form of location-specific content. Soon, visitors will see the Mattress Factory store closest to them prominently displayed in the top-left corner of their screen. This is calculated based on the visitor’s IP address, and will save prospects the extra step of entering their zip code.

This does not, however, make The Mattress Factory’s all-in-one search bar obsolete, as prospects can use it to locate more than just store locations (e.g., warranty info, financing options, buying guides, guarantees). 

Location-specific content makes important, pertinent information more accessible. This, in turn, makes user experience easier and conversion rates higher.

3. Show a call-to-action banner

Here’s how to put your company’s most exciting promotions directly in front of your customers without being annoying. We call it a call-to-action banner:

Amazon features something like it on almost every single page: a thin, subtle strip of copy. It’s interesting because it’s not too pushy -- nothing like an obnoxious popup ad -- but it’s still right there, always in the customer’s line of sight.

Harrington Moving & Storage, another Spectrum client, has a call-to-action banner on every page. It prompts visitors to find out how they can save 15% on their next relocation. 

And it’s helped them sell a lot of moves.

4. Send follow-up emails

This one’s to ensure that your customers come back.

It may not seem necessary, but a simple “thank you” can go a long way -- especially online, where things can get pretty impersonal sometimes. 

Every time you make a purchase on Amazon, you’ll receive an email thanking you for your order and confirming that it went through successfully. It’s a virtual receipt as well as a virtual smile. It also encourages people to leave reviews. 

WindowWorks, a major remodeling company and Spectrum client, sends a confirmation email to each lead it receives. Because doing so isn’t only courteous, it’s good business. 

It reminds people that help is on its way. It makes people feel good about your customer service (before they even speak with anyone from your company). And, most importantly, it discourages people from seeking a solution to their problem elsewhere. If you know the tow truck's coming, there’s no need to accept help from a Good Samaritan. The tow truck will be there soon!

Ultimately, you don’t want to be a company that responds to leads ONLY as quickly as your employees are able to. In other words, if someone requests a quote at 5:30 PM on a Friday, they shouldn’t have to wait until Monday morning to hear from you. This period of time will only give prospects an excuse to look elsewhere. 

Your auto-email can be as simple as:

“Thanks, we’ve successfully received your quote request and will get back to you as soon as possible!”

Even something as crude and generic as this will buy you time and help you secure the sale.

I know what you’re thinking...

This is minor stuff. 

To which I’ll say: it is and it isn’t. 

Just because it’s easy to implement doesn’t mean it won’t make a profound difference. The devil, after all, is in the details. And if the details of your website are rough around the edges, you’ll rub people the wrong way. 

Minor features like these can have a major impact on your bottom line because they make it easier for people to buy services and products through your website. Amazon knows that making the buying process more intuitive for customers will result in more sales. The aforementioned strategies make using their website simple and streamlined -- even fun. 

The good new is: you can do it, too.

How to Sell a Commodity Online (Better Than the Next Guy)

How to Sell a Commodity Online (Better Than the Next Guy)

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Imagine a sixty-something woman wearing jeans and a sweater. A single gold band – her only piece of jewelry – adorns her ring finger. Her hair is thick and short and silver. She’s walking hand-in-hand with a brown-haired little boy who won't stop jumping.

This was my grandmother, my babushka, in 1992. The boy was me. And little did I know she was about to show me a miracle.

Our daily walk had taken us farther than usual from home. We were about a mile or two away from the glass of water I was desperately craving. I was four years old at the time; uncomfortable and impatient as all get out. So I flexed a little:


My grandmother, however, was patient. She was tactful and kind and nurturing and accommodating. Most importantly, she had magic powers.

“You want some water?” She asked calmly. 


“Well it’s a good thing I brought a thermos full of tea. Do you want tea, instead?" She knew I loved tea.


“Then make me a cup with your hand, I need somewhere to pour it.”

I immediately tucked my thumb down and curled my remaining fingers into my palm. My grandmother did the same with her own hand.

“Hold still,” she said, as she poured the tea into my tiny clenched fist. I motioned for her to stop just before the invisible liquid spilled over the top of my hand. I put my fingers to my lips and drank. My elbow rose steadily with each gulp. 

It was damn good.

After that, I'd stopped yelling and jumping. I was still thirsty. My throat was still dry. But I was satisfied. Miraculously, I was content. You could say my grandmother sold me. Not on a product, but rather on a feeling.

Basically, my grandmother's show was neat and engaging -- it took my mind off the thirst. It put me in a good mood. I liked what I saw and it made me think: 

"This ain't so bad, I think I'll go with it!"

Coincidently, if your business provides a commoditized service, this is also what you want your website visitors to think. Interestingly, much of what my grandmother did to make me comfortable will also work on your prospects. 

For example:

Creating trust and undeniable credibility

My grandmother was completely calm, collected and cool. I was about to run into traffic to prove how thirsty I was, but she held it together. Her gentle, even voice evoked good feelings. It was the voice she used when she read books to me. It reminded me that I trust this woman. Hell, that I love this woman. Of course I'd follow her lead. Design your website correctly and your customers will follow you, as well. 

Is your moving company part of the American Moving & Storage Association? Then display the AMSA emblem in your footer. 

Is your remodeling company part of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry? Then NARI's logo should be somewhere on your homepage. 

A link to your social media pages as well as your Yelp reviews can't hurt either. Ultimately, you want to make sure your audience is exposed to the extent of your positive web presence (i.e., don't send your prospects to an abandoned Twitter page or an overwhelmingly negative Yelp profile). 

Furthermore, great content on both your web pages and your blog is essential to creating credibility and trust. If the information you provide your prospects is consistently useful, intelligent and entertaining, it's only a matter of time before you start seeing conversions. 

Want to know how to make your blog sticky? Sprinkle some anchor text throughout your content. 

Making it super easy, like 1 + 1 = 2

My grandmother's call-to-action was incredibly simple: "make a cup with your hand.”  

That’s it? No problem. Done. Now gimme what you promised. 

Evoke this type of reaction from your prospects and you'll be floating in a sea of quote requests, because if something's easy and painless and there's a need for it, people will try it.

For example, just about every page of your website should have a quote request form in the top-right corner (because that's where our eyes go first). You never want to make people wonder what to do next (e.g., how to request an estimate or which button to press to speak with sales). The vast majority of people will grow impatient and leave your site. 

A strong, visible, attention-grabbing call-to-action (e.g., a quote request form, a telephone number or anything else that tells your potential customers what they must do to make a purchase) is good for conversions. Incorporate these throughout your website and start allocating time for order processing.  

Exuding confidence and oozing value

I forgot to mention that my grandmother provided free refills. 

As Spectrum, we know we're not the only SEO marketing company on the block, but we are one of the few that offers a money-back guarantee. If you're truly confident in your ability, a money-back promise is one of the best ways to articulate that fact. 

Businesses that want to bring additional value to their customers and prospects may also choose to equip their websites with live chat

Whatever strategies and techniques you choose to implement, just remember:

Your website should make your customers feel good about your business.

Your website should differentiate your company from the other guys in your industry.

Your website should make the buying process simple, streamlined and stress-free for prospective customers.

Whatever you do, dear reader, make sure it culminates in a positive feeling. Create a feeling that emanates confidence, comfort and value. Create a feeling that makes people lean back and say:

"This ain't so bad, I think I'll go with it!

How Plain Ol' Jelly Helped a Remodeling Company Increase Its Leads by 309%

How Plain Ol' Jelly Helped a Remodeling Company Increase Its Leads by 309%

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

So here’s what happened at a gourmet grocery store about 15 years ago:

Researchers from Stanford and Columbia University set up a display of high-quality jams for customers to sample. Customers were also incentivized to buy a jar with a $1-off coupon. Half the customers were shown a display with 24 varieties of jam while the other half were shown only 6 types of jam.

Here’s what they found:

·  The display stand with 24 types of jam attracted more people than the one with 6 jams. 

·  On average, people tried the same number of jams regardless of the offerings (6 or 24).

·  Only 3% of people presented with the 24-jar display table made a purchase.

·  A whopping 30% of people presented with the 6-jar display table made a purchase.

Based on the fact that presenting people with a third of the total selection yielded ten times the sales, we can conclude that:

1.  People are less likely to make a decision when presented with too many options.

2.  People will be more confident in their final selection if it’s chosen from a smaller pool.

3.  People may appreciate variety, but too much will create looming doubt.

Basically, the main takeaway is this:

Too many options stress the hell out of people.

In other words, choice can be demotivating and can lead to something called decision paralysis,which is really bad for business.

If you want your customers to take action – especially on your website – you’re going to have to simplify things (e.g., fewer buttons, fewer words, more space). That’s how Spectrum increased lead acquisition for WindowWorks, a Chicago-based remodeling company, by over 300%!

WindowWorks was founded by two brothers after years of working with and learning from their dad, a master carpenter. Our goal at Spectrum was to make their website as beautiful and functional as the remodeling projects they carried out for their customers. Our goal was to bring in tons of high-quality leads.

And we did.

Simplification, however, wasn’t our only strategy. Here are six other initiatives that helped WindowWorks increase their visitors, phone calls, and of course, sales

1. Life cycle lead tracking

The online sales funnel (for services) looks something like this:

Customer Need > Search Engine > Website > Quote Request > Appointment Request > Sale

Spectrum helped WindowWorks implement a lead management system that their salespeople now use to better track this sales process. It’s also used to automatically send out “thank you” emails (which will increase your closing rates).

A lead management system helps companies understand which elements of their marketing campaign are working.

For example, WindowWorks uses it to ascertain where their prospects are coming from (e.g., paid search, organic search, email marketing, social media). Having this knowledge helps them allocate resources where they’re most effective.

2. Online appointment setting

Successful marketers know that shortening the sales process is one of the best ways to increase conversions. By allowing their visitors to schedule appointments (rather than mere quote requests), WindowWorks did just that.

For remodeling companies (or any other in-home service provider, for that matter) an appointment is a huge opportunity, as it’s typically the last step before a sale. It’s also an option that attracts serious, quality prospects that are ready to buy, not price shop.

Ultimately, online appointment setting is a win-win: Customers can quickly request your services and your business gets consistently great leads.

3. Gorgeous images

Facebook did it

Bing is all about it.

Your website should draw people in with visual appeal, too.

Captivate your visitors by instantly capturing their attention with polished, beautiful images. WindowWorks builds credibility and trust by featuring high-quality pictures of work they’ve done on their homepage as well as service-specific galleries throughout the rest of the site.

4. Responsive Web Design

On average, Spectrum clients increase their traffic by 30% when switching to responsive.

And Google has said it over and over again: “We recommend using responsive web design because it has many good aspects.”

Responsive web design isn't hype. It’s the future. It will allow your customers to view your website at home, on the train, in a tree – wherever – because it will automatically adjust to the screen it’s being viewed on.

Companies with responsive websites reel in more leads because there is not one device in the world their website doesn't look great/function well on. Therefore, prospects will no longer be pigeonholed to requesting quotes/appointments exclusively on their desktop or laptop. They'll be able to do it on their iPhone while they wait at the doctor's office. 

Want to experience this technology for yourself? Just click here and start adjusting the screen size.

5. Ceaseless sales support

...otherwise known as live chat, an efficient and cost-effective way to be there for your prospects all the time. On the WindowWorks website, you can find this service in the bottom right-hand corner of every page:

After only 31 days of implementing live chat on its website, WindowWorks saw a 45% increase in online lead volume and a 59% increase in online conversions.

6. A/B testing

Testing the copy and design of your web pages is essential to improving their effectiveness (i.e., testing is the only way to ensure you're doing everything you can to maximize conversions). The simplest way to do this is with an A/B test.

A/B testing can be done with software that allows you to temporarily change elements of your website to see if they have any impact on your conversion rates (e.g., changing the color of a call-to-action button).

Just like the jam experiment, there’s a control group (A) and a variable group (B). If your changes positively impact conversions (e.g., if the button’s color change spiked your quote requests) then it’s time to permanently implement the change. And if not, then it’s time to try something else.

So let’s bring all of this full-circle:

WindowWorks originally started with 11 custom windows pages: 

Considering what the jam experiment taught us about choice, we cut it down to 7 custom window pages:

We ran this A/B test for a month and then checked the results:

WindowWorks’ online conversion rate quadrupled. This ascent in activity piled hundreds of extra leads into the sales funnel, which resulted in hundreds-of-thousands of extra revenue dollars per year.

Not bad. Not bad at all. 

As you can see...

Internet marketing is as much a study in human psychology as the jelly experiment was all those years ago. Our technology might’ve changed, but our brains are still hardwired the same way:

Put too much in front of us and we might cry. Narrow our choices and we’ll give you a straight answer.

WindowWorks put this strategy (and others) to work and came out three times farther along than where it started. Consider implementing the aforementioned strategies on your own website and see what kind of results you get.

Hummingbird: Inside Google’s Biggest Change in 12 Years

Hummingbird: Inside Google’s Biggest Change in 12 Years

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Google’s last algorithm update, affectionately known as Panda, stepped aside late last month. 

On October 3, 2013 Google announced Hummingbird, which is being billed as the company’s largest algorithmic change in 12 years.

Google, believe it or not, has been around for 15 years.

What is Hummingbird?

Humming -- don't call it an "update" -- bird is Google’s new algorithm. Now Panda and Penguin? Those were updates. This is something bigger.

Hummingbird was created to listen, not just hear. The algorithm analyzes each search for more than just keywords. It strives to identify the searcher’s intent – technology that first came about through Knowledge Graph, the Google project that ultimately spawned Hummingbird. 

What is Knowledge Graph?

Google was built and marketed around the fact that humans thrive on discovery, exploration and growth. We love that stuff. In mid-2012, this fundamental principle led to the announcement of Knowledge Graph, a project that was going to expose users to more relevant and significant information every time they searched.

Knowledge Graph transformed Google from a search engine into a 'knowledge engine', allowing searchers to explore parallel topics relating to any single person, place or thing Google had information on.

For example, search Leonardo da Vinci, and you’ll be given the chance to learn about a multiplicity of other Renaissance figures (see below). 

This function is a product of Knowledge Graph. 

Knowledge Graph seems to understand searchers, not just the keywords they type. That’s what makes it so groundbreaking. That’s what makes it cool

It (somehow) grips the concept that everything is connected, and in that way is able to understand what people are interested in based on their searches. Similar to a human, it understands intent...

Why is 'intent' so important nowadays?

The search landscape is changing. People no longer exclusively use Google behind a desk (or even while seated, for that matter).

Thanks to awesomeness like Voice Search, people can execute search queries on their tablets and smart phones. And they do. So much so, in fact, that the smart people at Morgan Stanley predict mobile will exceed desktop usage by 2015.

As it turns out, spoken queries come out differently than typed ones do – very differently. Spoken queries are longer and typically contain fewer keywords. And if this is to be the norm going forward, an algorithm that understands intent is critical to Google’s effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term sustainability. 

Google's complete embrace of mobile technology should also be a glaring sign to business owners everywhere: make your site mobile-friendly. Implement responsive web design. It's very possible that your website won't last without it

How will all this impact SEO?

You did SEO the right way. You worked hard and followed the rules. So now that Hummingbird is calling the shots, will all your SEO diligence and persistence go to waste. Is your website going to be obsolete? 

Definitely not. Google implemented Hummingbird to adjust to 'on-the-go' queries, not to reinvent the wheel. So don't sweat it, Jack.

If your Internet marketing is based on honest, white hat techniques, your website will remain efficient and productive. It’s been a month since Hummingbird's announcement and Google still rewards great contentquality blog postsanchor text and title tags. 

So keep doing what you're doing, or let the good folks at Spectrum do it for you! Click HERE for a quick tour.

How to Win New Business like a Machine in 5 Systematic Steps

How to Win New Business like a Machine in 5 Systematic Steps

This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog. 

Good morning, you lead generation crackerjack, you.

That’s right, you. It must be nice waking up to a steady flow of quality leadsevery day. But then again, what do you expect when you’re doing everything right? Your website is organized, informative, remarkably self-sufficient and it fits any screen in the world? You’re site’s a winner. That’s a given.

But what do you do with the leads once you have them? How do you convert prospects into green money?

First and foremost, you earn their trust. And to do so, you must be consistent.

Whether the prospect decided to learn more about your company by calling you, filling out a quote form, or even chatting you online, your obligation is to approach each lead with steadfast regularity. Follow a step-by-step process. Swear by it! And you’ll start winning more business than you know what to do with.

If you’re ready to make this happen, below is a good place to start. Here are the five actions you need to take (in consecutive order) when a raw lead hits your pipeline:

1. Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

A lead is technically made up of two parts: your prospect’s name and their email address. Without these two components, you don’t have a lead and thus cannot begin the process of systematically winning new business.

So when somebody does give you their name and email, don’t just send back a lifeless quote response. That would be taking your potential customers for granted…

Instead, as soon as they press the “Request Your Free Quote” button, redirect them to an appreciation page, which includes a thank you message and (if you really want to make them happy) a picture of their new account rep. You could also do this via email. Either way it’s going to look sharp.

Always show your appreciation. It won’t make you look weak; it’ll make you look like a human being – one that other people are inclined to trust and do business with.

2. Let ‘Em Hear Your Voice

Shortly after a prospect receives their free quote, you or another company representative should (if possible) place a phone call and make a formal introduction. This’ll also give you a chance to gather additional project information.

While this step helps open an important new line of communication with your prospective client, it also allows you to qualify the lead – assuring that a responsible and mutually beneficial relationship will ensue.

3. Confirmation Time

Email the transcribed details of your conversation back to the prospect along with any combination of the following:

·  Letter from the Sales Manager: if you want to get micro.

·  Letter from the President: if you want to get macro.

·  Customer Reviews: created by satisfied clients.

·  Customer Testimonials: created by your marketing department.

This step will, again, help you build rapport with your prospect. The information you provide will also give your company credibility, which makes it much easier for Mr. /Mrs. Customer to pull the trigger when the time comes.

Fur-ther-more, a confirmation email is a good opportunity to schedule an in-person meeting (if the nature of your business calls for it).

4. Let ‘Em See Your Face

For service providers (e.g., moving companies, remodelers) an in-person meeting is often an essential part of the closing process.

This meeting is more than just an opportunity to better understand the scope of a project. It’s a chance to get paid.

This stage is similar to a standardized test, in that if you’ve prepared and done your due-diligence (i.e., followed the aforementioned steps), good results will follow.

Remember: serious prospects are serious about getting projects into the development phase. Keep this top-of-mind, directly above your smile and the proactive banter that’s coming out of it. 

5. Always Be Tactful. Always Be Mature.

Say things work out.


Send over a follow-up letter as soon as possible thanking them for their time.

Say things don’t work out.


Send over a follow-up letter as soon as possible thanking them for their time.

Whatever happens, it’s imperative that you handle the situation professionally (but you already know that). Burning bridges, after all, isn't the best way to get places. Keep yourself in as many digital rolodexes as possible and you’ll never lose a qualified prospect. 

How to Sell Online Like You’re In-Person

How to Sell Online Like You’re In-Person

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

Your company depends on a steady flow of quality leads to be profitable.

Not a dribble; a flow – that’s why you've invested all that energy and moola to create a captivating website with great contentanchor text, and just the right amount of keywords. All that work ensures that your organic rankings are strong, which, in turn, allows consumers to quickly find your website when searching Google and Bing for the products or services you offer. Perhaps your website is even in responsive design, which is one of the best moves you can make for your lead generation efforts going forward.

So what more can you do? How can you make your website even better?

Right now you’re sitting pretty with a site that’s, essentially, selling for you. But more and more business owners are beginning to personalize the browsing experience by communicating with their prospects via Live Chat.

You may have already come across it: a small, rectangular box that pops up in the corner of your screen. The words “Talk to us” or “We’re here to help” might be displayed in the header. It’s a Live Chat option and lately, it’s been helping a lot of businesses convert raw leads into revenue. 

Here are several reasons why:

Convenience + Instant Gratification = Happiness

How do people get answers to questions in 2013? We ask Twitter. We ask Facebook. We ask Quora.

We Google it.

Traditional mediums of customer service, such as phone and email, have taken a backseat to the aforementioned methods. Search engines and social media eliminate the hassle and waiting associated with picking up the phone or sculpting an email. By implementing Live Chat on your website, you can emulate the convenience and instant gratification people have come to expect – two powerful elements that could ultimately spell the difference between a lost opportunity and a repeat customer.

Proactive Salespeople Sell More

When I’m ready to make a purchase at Best Buy, nothing is more welcoming than the warm, friendly advances of a knowledgeable salesperson. On-point customer service and support: one of the only advantages to shopping retail rather than online. And while Live Chat will never be quite the same as talking to a human face-to-face, it can (and usually will) fill the personal void felt by most online shoppers – especially those who need help.

Live Chat will act as a security blanket for your prospects and as a safety net for you. It’s a win-win.

More Productive, Less Overwhelmed Employees

Visitors to your site will typically use Live Chat to make small inquiries. This will leave other customer service channels, such as phone and email, open for more important issues.

Minimizing the amount of phone calls and emails your staff answers on a daily basis will increase productivity, as one employee will be able to assist multiple customers at once. 

In Conclusion:

Live Chat is an effective tool.

WindowWorks, a respected Chicagoland home repair company and long-time Spectrum client, saw a 45% increase in online lead volume and a 59% increase in online conversions within 31 days of implementing Live Chat on their website.

Of course, as with any new initiative, you have to plan accordingly. Spectrum suggests analyzing your website activity to determine the hours your Live Chat will be available to customers and prospects. Also keep in mind that your Live Chat service is only as amazing as the staff that operates it. Therefore, be sure to set appropriate response time expectations, outline a communication process and train your Live Chat employees on customer service best practices and techniques.

At the end of the day, your due diligence will pay off in spades.

Voice Search: The Google Product That's Changing Everything

Voice Search: The Google Product That's Changing Everything

This article originally appeared on the Spectrum blog. 

Voice Search, or Search by Voice, is anything but classic.

It's the Google product that allows you to speak your query rather than type it. It's a lot like Siri, Apple's personal assistant software, only you can use it on your desktop.

Because it’s a Google product, Voice Search is only available on desktops if you’re using Chrome. But you can also install it on your phone, tablet, laptop -- wherever -- as long as the device has a microphone you no longer have to type out your searches. 

Voice Search is convenient, simple, intuitive and, according to Google, "the future of web search." Considering the success Siri has seen, there's a lot of truth to that statement.

Bing and other major search players have already adopted this type of technology. Its widespread popularity leaves little doubt that it will penetrate our lives like a boulder through thin ice -- becoming an industry standard. It's a scenario that also begs the question: how will Voice Search change SEO?

However, before we get to that it’s important to understand the root cause of the change itself. And the following six words basically sum it up:

"People write differently than they speak."

This fact is especially true when you're speaking to a machine. Here are two big, dominant ways search engine dynamics will change when you use natural language to execute queries instead of a keyboard:

1. Fewer Keywords Will Be Used In Queries

Most people won't Voice Search, "Chicago car mechanic."

Instead, they'll say something like, "Find me a great mechanic" or "I need a mechanic."

The latter is natural language. It’s what we feel most comfortable saying.

People don’t want to constantly consider their keyword usage when they're speaking. They just want to be understood as soon as possible. Nobody cares that you've spent months optimizing your website with keyword rich content and title tags. In fact, a lot of folks may not even know these practices exists.

To adapt to this issue, business owners may need to start implementing more long-tail keyword strategies on their websites. Long-tail keywords are phrases, not individual words. Therefore, they have the potential to drive more traffic to a site because there's less competition for them.

2. Queries Will Be Longer

Voice searches tend to be long-winded.

Perhaps this is because talking is easier than typing so we do it more freely? Or maybe the process puts people into a conversational frame of mind? Or maybe we feel a small degree of pressure after we press the microphone icon and hear the tone? (Ever leave an unnecessarily wordy voicemail?)

Whatever the reason, Search by Voice produces longer, more convoluted queries than the "original" method.   

To work around this, search engines may have to make some profound algorithmic changes. What if in the future, search engines were programmed to summarize the gist of a query rather than simply isolating keywords from it? What would the SEO landscape look like then?

In Conclusion

The impact Voice Search will have on search engines and the websites they catalog is still grey matter at this point. What we do know is that this technology is here to stay, and with it will come longer queries, less eywords and big changes. It's a testament to the malleable nature of search engine optimization. It also serves as a reminder that quality SEO providers will always adjust their strategies to suit the requirements of search engines and deliver for their clients. So while your Internet marketing approach may change, the results you're after never have to.