How to Make a Good First Impression: 11 Tips to Try

good_first_impression_compressed.jpg

Did you know that it only takes a tenth of a second to make a first impression?

In other words, when you meet someone for the first time, you need to be on your game from the very beginning. This includes being aware of everything from the words you choose to the body language you convey.

Whether you’re meeting new connections, team members, potential employers, or customers, I’ve put together a list of tips designed to help you put your best foot forward and make a killer first impression.

11 Tips for Making a Good First Impression

1) Be mindful of your body language and posture.

Effective body language goes beyond simply standing up straight and having a firm handshake — although those things are definitely important, too. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, keep your posture open — don’t tightly cross your arms or legs, don’t ball your hands into fists, and don’t hunch over in your seat. Lean in when you talk to show you’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation. And don’t be afraid to take up some space at the table, either. If you normally use hand gestures or move around to communicate, don’t hold back. These nonverbal cues can make a powerful subconscious impact, so be aware of your body language and posture during meetings in general, but particularly initial pitches or interviews.

What behaviors should you aim to avoid? It’s smart to refrain from tapping, touching your face too often, placing objects in front of yourself, blinking excessively, and sitting or standing too close to others (respect the bubble, people). Some body language habits can suggest dishonesty, so be mindful to avoid those tics — avoiding eye contact, touching your mouth, and others — too.

2) Modulate your pitch and tone of voice.

A high-pitched tone of voice can make you seem childish or nervous — especially if you tend to “uptalk” or use a rising inflection at the end of your sentences. In fact, it has been shown that people perceive those who have a rising intonation as less knowledgeable, no matter what they are actually saying.

Not sure if you’re guilty of this? Try practicing your presentations or recording yourself reading aloud. You’d be surprised at how different you sound to others versus in your own head.

On the other hand, faster speakers are considered to be more confident, according to a study performed at Brigham Young University. However, even if you’re talking fast, be sure to avoid using filler words such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” and other similar phrases whenever possible, as it shows hesitation. Try practicing not relying on those filler words in front of a camera to train yourself.

3) Choose your words wisely.

Words matter even more than you think. Positive and persuasive words and phrases will often open doors and make people feel comfortable in your presence, which can ultimately make them more willing to work with you.

For instance, let’s take a look at many marketers’ favorite show: Mad Men. Some of Don Draper’s best pitches (e.g., Carousel & Lucky Strike) were full of positive language. That said, positive language doesn’t need to be cheesy or new-agey as Draper illustrates. Instead, positive language can be used to uplift your audience by simply being clear and simple.

This point is especially valuable if you’re making a first impression in a job interview. You want potential employers to find you positive, flexible, and capable, so use language that reflects optimism and agency instead of negativity.

4) Dress the part.

Regardless of how little you personally care about fashion or style, what you wear matters. While you want to look clean and neat, it’s also important to match or slightly exceed the relative level of formality of the person or business you are meeting with — whether that is business formal, highly casual, or something in between.

“You are your brand, especially if you are a business owner, so making sure that your look communicates your best self is important,” explains Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand.

If you want to show off your personality, try including one accessory that could be considered a memorable item or even a conversation piece. This could be anything from a unique piece of jewelry to a fancy tie to a pair of fun socks.

5) Make eye contact.

Focus on the person or people you are speaking with. It’s hard to get to know someone when you’re looking down at a screen, so make an effort to make some eye contact with everyone in the room.

However, keep in mind that eye contact can also backfire, according to a study by the University of British Columbia. If people aren’t already persuaded or inclined to be on your side, they may focus more on your mouth or any presentation materials you’re showcasing instead of your eyes, making attempts at eye contact a challenge.

6) Know your audience.

Do your research. If your meeting is planned in advance, you should know plenty about the person or business that you’re meeting with before you arrive. This might mean that you Google the people you’ll be meeting with, the company founders/co-founders, their history, their competition, their main products, and any other relevant info before you walk into the room.

Looking for a helpful tool to help you gather some background information? Check out Charlie App. This app scans hundreds of sources to uncover information about the person you’re meeting with and sends you a one-pager with all the details. Pretty cool, right? LinkedIn is also a good place to check out who you’re meeting with and learn more about them.

7) Come prepared.

There’s nothing worse than an unproductive meeting. To make a great first impression, be sure that you’re respectful of everyone’s time. If you’re meeting with someone working remotely, plan accordingly. That said, if you’re being productive and everyone has the bandwidth, it might be okay if the meeting runs long — just make sure you check in with the group before making the call.

Meeting time management is a key aspect of building an engaged group of clients or colleagues. Plus, it shows respect for their schedules.

8) Be authentic.

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, don’t fake it. The ability to lean into your weaknesses shows that you are self-aware.

However, be sure not to over emphasize your shortcomings. It might seem shockingly simple, but avoiding the “report card problem” or highlighting weaknesses and how you might fix them could cause you to only showcase the negatives, or at least make them the biggest part of your overall impression. While you don’t want to hide any weaknesses (people will likely figure it out anyways), you do want to be honest and move on to the good stuff — especially at the beginning of a business relationship.

9) Put your phone away.

That goes for tablets, laptops, and other electronics, too.

If you need to use technology to deliver a presentation, that’s one thing. But unless you’re projecting your computer or tablet screen to present to the entire room, turn off sounds and vibrations on your mobile devices, and put your screens away. Give your complete and undivided attention to the people you’re meeting for the first time to convey your commitment, focus, and let’s face it, your good manners.

10) Make a connection.

Pay close attention to who you’re meeting with for the first time and try to forge a connection based on what they share with you. Whether it’s their alma mater or their hometown, forging a connection outside of the professional conversation can be a great way to strike up a rapport.

That being said, don’t be too creepy. Avoid making comments about their appearance that could be perceived as inappropriate and stick to connections you might have in common. Those are more genuine than compliments anyway.

11) Don’t forget to follow up.

After an initial meeting, don’t forget to follow up by sending any necessary information — notes, presentation docs, next steps, and so on — or sending a thank you note.

These small gestures will help prove that you’re on the ball, and that you’re making them a priority, rather than just another task to check off your to-do list.

Sending out updated information after a meeting can also be a way to get a second chance at a first impression. How so? It helps to show another side of you or your business — perhaps a more responsible side. In fact, a Stanford study revealed that adding more external factors can actually mitigate the effect of a negative first impression.

Don’t let a negative first impression get in the way of your ability to get to know someone. Follow these nine tips to ensure that the first time you meet with someone won’t be the last.

What are your best tips for making a great first impression? Share them below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

learn how to hire an all-star marketing team

Advertisements

Ask Yoast: Publishing in another language and SEO

If you’re creating content for a website, you might want to, occasionally, publish an article in a language different from the language of your other content. However, it’s difficult to rank with one specific article that’s written in a language that differs from the rest. So what should you do to improve the SEO of that article? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll help you out and explain when to optimize your metadata in another language, when to use hreflang and what more you could do to help that article rank!

Justin from VPNgids.nl (VPNguide.nl) emailed us with this question:

“I’ve got a Dutch blog but I want to publish an article in English. What should I do? Should I just add an hreflang tag or something else?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 – Buy now » Info

English article on a Dutch blog

In the video, we explain what options you have to improve the SEO of an article in a language that’s different from your other content:

“In this case, the hreflang tag isn’t even really necessary. The only reason you would use an hreflang is if you had a Dutch version and an English version of the same article. If that’s the case, then you should use hreflang on both articles. In case of a separate article in English, what you should make sure of is that on the English article all the metadata shows that that is an English article and not a Dutch article. Unfortunately this is quite hard to do in WordPress, if you’re not running a multilingual plug-in.

But to be honest, if you’re going to publish in English, maybe you should just make a separate section of your site for it that is completely in English. Adding some more content to it would give you a lot more chance for ranking, than just having one article in English.

Of course you have to start somewhere. So by all means create that English section, start with that one article and then slowly add on to it. It’s always a good idea, if you’re Dutch and your English is good enough, to switch to English. The Dutch language area is only very small and the world is a lot bigger, with a lot of English speakers. So I would really encourage you to start doing stuff in English. Just like we did! I started blogging in English eight years ago, which is why Yoast is so popular now.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘hreflang: the ultimate guide’ »

How to Use Canva: An 8-Step Guide to Creating Visual Content

Creating-Visual-Content-with-Canva-compressor.jpg

Back in 2014, Peg Fitzpatrick and Guy Kawasaki penned a post for the HubSpot Marketing Blog that approached the topic of visual marketing as the “next big thing.” But since then, it’s gone to “here to stay.” After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words tend to get 2X social shares than articles with fewer images.

But in the previous article, Kawasaki — chief evangelist for Canva, a remarkably simple online platform for graphic design — stressed the importance of including shareable images in blog posts, and regularly creating custom, relevant visual content for Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts. Admittedly, following that advice is easier said than done. It’s time-consuming and requires multiple tools. That is, without Canva.

It might seem like you need myriad resources to create just one custom graphic: Photoshop to edit an image, InDesign to lay it out, VSCO for filters, and a multitude of stock photo sites. But Canva combines all these editing and publishing tools — plus a comprehensive image library — in one online design platform. Even better, it comes equipped with a collection of templates that can be applied to a number of different industries. Download our full collection of blog design examples here to inspire your own  blog design.

But whether you’re creating a Facebook banner for your retail store, or an infographic for your law firm, you might wonder where you should begin with Canva. That’s why we put together this walkthrough of how visual marketers — at any knowledge level — can use Canva. Using an animal shelter’s promotion of its weekend adoption fair as an example, we’ll guide you through the eight steps of creating visual content with these tools and templates.

8 Steps for Creating Visual Content With Canva

1) Begin with a content marketing strategy.

While we don’t think you have to go through the whole process of creating Gantt charts and editorial calendars — though they can keep you organized — it’s important to identify your content goals, and the platforms that will best suit them.

For the animal shelter’s weekend adoption event, the primary purpose is to let people — like social media followers — know about the event, and make them want to share it on social media. In this instance, we want to create a post to share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, and a visual that would work as a poster to print and display locally.

2) Browse the templates library to find and create the right content.

Canva has a collection of specific, professional templates for a wide variety of content. The templates page is arranged into categories — types of content — and subcategories for themes or topics. For example, you can choose between templates for posters and or presentations, based on the content marketing strategy your formulated in the previous step. Plus, each one is already optimized in the right dimensions for things like banners, headers, and cover photos for specific sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

image00-16.png

Keep in mind that these templates are meant to be your springboard to start designing. For many creative professionals, from writers to designers, starting with a blank canvas can be one of the biggest challenges. With these templates, you don’t have to create your content from scratch, or hire a professional designer just to create your day-to-day graphics.

For our animal shelter example, we’ll start with this social media graphic template:

image02-10.png

In the next steps, we’ll show you how to edit this template using Canva’s drag and drop design tools.

3) Find the right visuals to go with your post using Canva’s built-in photo library.

Visual content is 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. And since we want our pet adoption fair to get a lot of engagement on social media, like comments and shares, we have to include the right kind of visuals in its promotion. Using Canva’s built-in media library, we’ll look for a picture of a cute kitten to catch people’s attention — and hearts.

To start, type a keyword or two into the search bar, and choose from any of the photos or illustrations — that means no more Google image searches. The extensive photo library hosts a wide variety of subjects and themes, like abstract images, textures, landscapes, people, and animals. Once you’ve found the perfect image, just drag it over to your design, and drop it where it needs to go.

Canva Image Library

Canva also allows you to upload your own images and use them on your design, which is perfect for adding your logo and other branded visuals to content. (You’ll notice the text has changed in the image below — we’ll get to that in our next step.)

Add logo

4) Marry image and text through typography.

Now that we’ve got a cute kitten image to draw attention, we need to give our audience some details about the adoption fair. And since we’re already working with a template, we can just edit the placeholder text and add in the right details.

Custom text

The best social media content is a marriage of visuals and text — remember the statistic we cited earlier about the shareability of copy that includes the right amount of imagery. However, making sure your font complements the rest of the visual content can be tricky. While some professionals have years of experience to help them pair fonts, Canva provides a shortcut: The font pairing tool.

First, pick your starter font. Then, this handy tool shows you the best font combinations for your chosen typeface, as well as real-life examples from the web.

CanvaFontPairing

5) Enhance your image with a filter.

Filters are a great tool for easily changing the tone of an image. Plus, applying a custom filter across your various posts can help to create a theme and tie your campaign together, boosting consistency and recognizability.

To add a filter, select your image, click on the filter button, then choose from any of the 14 custom filters available in Canva. Use the slider to control the intensity of the filter. There are also advanced options that allow you to play with different settings like brightness, contrast, and saturation, or to add effects like a vignette.

Canva filters

6) Resize your whole design to fit various platforms.

We’re done creating our visual. That was quick, right? Now, we have to post share it across various social media networks, and print our poster. That also means we might have to resize for those various outlets — but rather than going back and re-designing the entire visual according to the dimensions required by each one, we can use Canva’s Magic Resize tool.

The Magic Resize tool is available for Canva for Work users — a paid plan starting at $12.95 per month. But if you’re using the free tools, fear not, as we’ve included some alternative resizing directions below.

That said, Magic Resize is quite a time-saving feature that lets you copy and resize one design into formats for various channels. Just click on “File,” navigate to “Magic Resize,” then choose the different formats you want to use to adapt your visual. Then, click the “resize” button, and you’re done.

Magic resize

Users of Canva’s free tools can still resize their designs by creating a copy of the original visual. Click “File,” “Change Dimensions,” and select the format to which you’d like to resize the design.

Canva Change Dimensions

7) Collaborate with a team, or post the visual to social media.

Canva allows you to collaborate with your team or design partners on a visual, within the same platform. Simply click on “Share”, navigate to “Link,” and choose the “can edit” option to generate a link that allows others to edit your design. Alternatively, you may choose the “can view” option to allow someone to see your design, without the ability to edit it.

Otherwise, you can post your final design directly to Facebook or Twitter. There’s also an embed option, which generates the code to embed your design into your blog or website.

Share Design

For other channels, or if you want an offline copy of your design, you can download an image file in a JPG, PNG, or print-ready PDF format. For our animal shelter visual, we’ll download the flyer version of the design as a high-quality PDF file, to enhance its printed appearance.

Download canva PDF

8) Learn to create better designs with Canva’s free, interactive courses.

Nice work — you’ve made a great design, with amazingly simple tools. But maybe you want to learn more about design — and Canva’s Design School is just the place to do it.

The Design School is a resource hub for learning the basics of design — everything from essential design tools, to typography, to photo editing, to consistent branding. Some of the most popular offerings are Canva’s 30 “Design Essentials” tutorials, covering fonts, layouts, and images. Plus, you can track and share your progress as you make your way through the different lessons.

Canva Tutorials

Starting with the following tutorials can help you hone your skills in some of the visual content design steps we’ve covered today:

  1. Marrying Text and Images
  2. Brilliant Backgrounds
  3. Choosing the Right Font
  4. Enhancing Images
  5. Fantastic Photo Filters

It might also be worthwhile to check out the daily Design School blog, which takes a more in-depth look into specific subjects, like designing for social media, creating better email headers, design principles, and even design psychology.

Canva design blog

Draw Inspiration

Despite the options we’ve covered here, there are actually many more designs and tools to explore in Canva. In addition to promotional visuals like the animal shelter example we used, you can create presentations, infographics, brochures — and a lot more.

One of Canva’s most differentiating factors, however, is that the above steps are pretty much the same across these different types of documents, thanks in large part to the ready-made templates. So don’t let visual content design intimidate you. It’s more than achievable — and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

What are some of your favorite visual content creation tools? Let us know in the comments.

get inbound certified for free

4 Strategies to Spark On-Demand Creativity

Back in the “Mad Men” days, only writers and artists were held accountable for driving an agency’s creativity. Today, that dynamic has expanded to include just about everyone.

Whether it’s the account services team bringing fresh ideas to clients, the business development team finding new ways to engage with prospects, or creative services producing content, everyone has to be creative for the agency to succeed. Individual contributors also must be able to tie their creative efforts to measurable ROI.

Why is creativity so important? Because for agencies, creativity is currency. The successful execution of good ideas separates top agencies from closed shops. The barriers to entry for marketing are lower than ever — anyone with an idea and an hour can build a website or whip up a logo. Agencies must communicate their value proposition as the owners of the best ideas and know how to measure that value.

But creativity alone is not enough. Agencies and the people within them must be creative on demand. To do that, every department and every employee must become part of a culture that excels at creative problem-solving.

Bringing New Ideas to the Table

Often, creativity is talked about like it’s a magical ability of the chosen few — something we have little control over that strikes at random. But Jason Keath, founder and CEO of Social Fresh Conference, says universal creativity is not as hard to achieve as some entrepreneurs would imagine.

I spoke with Keath recently, and he said that creativity is less about inspiration and more about learning to solve problems. “Anyone can be creative,” he says, adding that creativity is a process that we fail to teach in schools or in business environments.

This is good news, though, because it means creativity isn’t something the muses bestow upon you. Rather than wait patiently for lightning to strike, you simply must learn the process. If you want to teach people to become creative on their own and within a group, a lot of it comes down to management, Keath notes.

The first step in bringing new ideas to the table is banishing the notion of bad ideas — early in the creative process, bad ideas are an essential building block to create a better final product. A lot of times, a bad idea can trigger a better idea.

“One person might have a bad idea he considers to be the obvious solution, but he doesn’t mention it to avoid looking stupid,” Keath says. “However, as obvious as that solution might seem to one person, it probably hasn’t occurred to 80 percent of the people in the group. Plus, even the most obvious solutions are useful to put on the board because connecting to that is another idea.”

One tactic to encourage your team to get over their fears of offering “bad” ideas is to require anonymous ideation prior to creative meetings. This allows people who don’t normally consider themselves creative to contribute to the solution. “Judgment kills great ideas,” Keath says. “To preempt judgment, ask people to come to the meeting with 10 or 20 possible solutions to the problem. Have the person organizing the meeting anonymize the answers, and suddenly, ideas can be discussed on their own merit without fear of rejection.”

4 Tactics for Cultivating On-Demand Creativity

If agency leaders want to infuse creativity and new ideas into their agencies — and communicate that value proposition to clients — the path is twofold. First, leaders and team members must learn to take new steps as individuals. Second, agencies need to create an environment that enables creative individuals to collaborate. Here’s how to accomplish both:

1) Encourage individual growth.

Most creative people have a core competency that they build upon by brushing up against life. This means seeking out new experiences and connecting them to the areas they know most about.

That connection between the known and the unknown encourages people to seek out new experiences rather than hide within their comfort zones. A hiker might not know much about photography, but learning to take better pictures of hiking spots combines a known pursuit (hiking) with an unknown (photography) and allows the person to explore new ideas without feeling overwhelmed.

2) Pursue new experiences.

To achieve great output, you first need great input. According to principals of neuroplasticity, experiencing new things enables us to make connections and think in ways that would have previously been impossible. Experiences big and small can inform our decisions in surprising ways down the road.

Think about it like this: You’ve just returned home from a long trip. You need to cook something to eat, but you’ve been gone for a while and the kitchen is bare. Now, compare that to a kitchen that has been stocked with a variety of ingredients. Creativity works similarly: It’s much easier to create something interesting when we have a lot of raw materials to work with.

3) Always present two ideas: one safe, one scary.

We constantly hear CMOs complain that their agencies are phoning it in. Same old ideas, same old approaches, same old results. Of course, CMOs share the blame by selecting safe ideas, but that doesn’t mean their point isn’t valid.

No matter how many times your agency’s wacky idea gets shut down, you need to continue to bring new thoughts to your presentations. The unusual idea won’t get selected often, but bringing something new to the table shows clients that you’re willing to do things differently. And if a client decides to go with the crazier idea, that provides an opportunity for an agency to showcase its talents.

4) Host company outings.

Most of us haven’t had a field trip since high school, but they can still provide meaningful learning experiences for adults. Whether it’s catching a new animated movie, visiting the art museum, strolling the zoo, or something completely off the beaten path, getting your team out of the office together in a low-pressure environment can generate surprising discussions. The more inputs people have — especially when they share those inputs outside of work — the more creative connections they can forge.

We love to tell clients to think more broadly about their goals, but if we don’t mix up our own experiences, we fall prey to the same traps we ask them to avoid. By seeking opportunities to broaden our own horizons and building processes that facilitate creative discussions, we can transform our agencies into creative powerhouses that are capable of handling any challenge.

future-of-marketing

The Best Types of Content for Local Businesses: Building Geo-Topical Authority

Posted by MiriamEllis

bestcontentlocalbusiness.jpg

Q: What kind of content should a local business develop?

A: The kind that converts!

Okay, you could have hit on that answer yourself, but as this post aims to demonstrate:

  1. There are almost as many user paths to conversion as there are customers in your city, and
  2. Your long-term goal is to become the authority in your industry and geography that consumers and search engines turn to.

Google’s widely publicized concept of micro-moments has been questioned by some local SEOs for its possible oversimplification of consumer behavior. Nevertheless, I think it serves as a good, basic model for understanding how a variety of human needs (I want to do, know, buy something, or go somewhere) leads people onto the web. When a local business manages to become a visible solution to any of these needs, the rewards can include:

  • Online traffic
  • In-store traffic
  • Transactions
  • Reviews/testimonials
  • Clicks-for-directions
  • Clicks-to-call
  • Clicks-to-website
  • Social sharing
  • Offline word-of-mouth
  • Good user metrics like time-on-page, low bounce rate, etc.

Takeaway: Consumers have a variety of needs and can bestow a variety of rewards that directly or indirectly impact local business reputation, rankings and revenue when these needs are well-met.

No surprise: it will take a variety of types of content publication to enjoy the full rewards it can bring.

Proviso: There will be nuances to the best types of content for each local business based on geo-industry and average consumer. Understandably, a cupcake bakery has a more inviting topic for photographic content than does a septic services company, but the latter shouldn’t rule out the power of an image of tree roots breaking into a septic line as a scary and effective way to convert property owners into customers. Point being, you’ll be applying your own flavor to becoming a geo-topical authority as you undertake the following content development work:

Foundational local business content development

These are the basics almost every local business will need to publish.

Customer service policy

Every single staff member who interacts with your public must be given a copy of your complete customer service policy. Why? A 2016 survey by the review software company GetFiveStars demonstrated that 57% of consumer complaints revolve around customer service and employee behavior. To protect your local business’ reputation and revenue, the first content you create should be internal and should instruct all forward-facing employees in approved basic store policies, dress, cleanliness, language, company culture, and allowable behaviors. Be thorough! Yes, you may wear a t-shirt. No, you may not text your friends while waiting on tables.

Customer rights guarantee

On your website, publish a customer-focused version of your policy. The Vermont Country Store calls this a Customer Bill of Rights which clearly outlines the quality of service consumers should expect to experience, the guarantees that protect them, and the way the business expects to be treated, as well.

NAP

Don’t overlook the three most important pieces of content you need to publish on your website: your company name, address, and phone number. Make sure they are in crawlable HTML (not couched in an image or a problematic format like Flash). Put your NAP at the top of your Contact Us page and in the site-wide masthead or footer so that humans and bots can immediately and clearly identify these key features of your business. Be sure your NAP is consistent across all pages for your site (not Green Tree Consulting on one page and Green Tree Marketing on another, or wrong digits in a phone number or street address on some pages). And, ideally, mark up your NAP with Schema to further assist search engine comprehension of your data.

Reviews/testimonials page

On your website, your reviews/testimonials page can profoundly impact consumer trust, comprising a combination of unique customer sentiment you’ve gathered via a form/software (or even from handwritten customer notes) and featured reviews from third-party review platforms (Google, Yelp). Why make this effort? As many as 92% of consumers now read online reviews and Google specifically cites testimonials as a vehicle for boosting your website’s trustworthiness and reputation.

Reviews/testimonials policy

Either on your Reviews/Testimonials page or on a second page of your website, clearly outline your terms of service for reviewers. Just like Yelp, you need to protect the quality of the sentiment-oriented content you publish and should let consumers know what you permit/forbid. Here’s a real-world example of a local business review TOS page I really like, at Barbara Oliver Jewelry.

Homepage

Apart from serving up some of the most fundamental content about your business to search engines, your homepage should serve two local consumer groups: those in a rush and those in research mode.

Pro tip: Don’t think of your homepage as static. Change up your content regularly there and track how this impacts traffic/conversions.

Contact Us page

On this incredibly vital website page, your content should include:

  • Complete NAP
  • All supported contact methods (forms, email, fax, live chat, after-hours hotline, etc.),
  • Thorough driving directions from all entry points, including pointers for what to look for on the street (big blue sign, next to red church, across the street from swim center, etc.)
  • A map
  • Exterior images of your business
  • Attributes like parking availability and wheelchair accessibility
  • Hours of operation
  • Social media links
  • Payment forms accepted (cash only, BitCoin, etc.)
  • Mention of proximity to major nearby points of interest (national parks, monuments, etc.)
  • Brief summary of services with a nod to attributes (“Stop by the Starlight tonight for late-night food that satisfies!”)
  • A fresh call-to-action (like visiting the business for a Memorial Day sale)

Store locator pages

For a multi-location businesses (like a restaurant chain), you’ll be creating content for a set of landing pages to represent each of your physical locations, accessed via a top-level menu if you have a few locations, or via a store locator widget if you have many. These should feature the same types of content a Contact Us page would for a single-location business, and can also include:

  • Reviews/testimonials for that location
  • Location-specific special offers
  • Social media links specific to that location
  • Proofs of that location’s local community involvement
  • Highlights of staff at that location
  • Education about availability of in-store beacons or apps for that location
  • Interior photos specific to that location
  • A key call-to-action

For help formatting all of this great content sensibly, please read Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages.

City landing pages

Similar to the multi-location business, the service area business (like a plumber) can also develop a set of customer-centric landing pages. These pages will represent each of the major towns or cities the business serves, and while they won’t contain a street address if the company lacks a physical location in a given area, they can contain almost everything else a Contact Us page or Store Locator page would, plus:

  • Documentation of projects completed in that city (text, photos, video)
  • Expert advice specific to consumers in that city, based on characteristics like local laws, weather, terrain, events, or customs
  • Showcasing of services provided to recognized brands in that city (“we wash windows at the Marriott Hotel,” etc.)
  • Reviews/testimonials from customers in that city
  • Proofs of community involvement in that city (events, sponsorships, etc.)
  • A key call-to-action

Product/service descriptions

Regardless of business model, all local businesses should devote a unique page of content to each major product or service they offer. These pages can include:

  • A thorough text description
  • Images
  • Answers to documented FAQs
  • Price/time quotes
  • Technical specs
  • Reviews of the service or product
  • Videos
  • Guarantees
  • Differentiation from competitors (awards won, lowest price, environmental standards, lifetime support, etc.)

For inspiration, I recommend looking at SolarCity’s page on solar roofing. Beautiful and informative.

Images

For many industries, image content truly sells. Are you “wowed” looking at the first image you see of this B&B in Albuquerque, the view from this restaurant in San Diego, or the scope of this international architectural firm’s projects? But even if your industry doesn’t automatically lend itself to wow-factor visuals, cleaning dirty carpets can be presented with high class and even so-called “boring” industries can take a visual approach to data that yields interesting and share-worthy/link-worthy graphics.

While you’re snapping photos, don’t neglect uploading them to your Google My Business listings and other major citations. Google data suggests that listing images influence click-through rates!

FAQ

The content of your FAQ page serves multiple purposes. Obviously, it should answer the questions your local business has documented as being asked by your real customers, but it can also be a keyword-rich page if you have taken the time to reflect the documented natural language of your consumers. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what types of questions your customers will ask, try AnswerThePublic and Q&A crowdsourcing sites to brainstorm common queries.

Be sure your FAQ page contains a vehicle for consumers to ask a question so that you can continuously document their inquiries, determine new topics to cover on the FAQ page, and even find inspiration for additional content development on your website or blog for highly popular questions.

About page

For the local customer in research mode, your About page can seal the deal if you have a story to tell that proves you are in the best possible alignment with their specific needs and desires. Yes, the About Us page can tell the story of your business or your team, but it can also tell the story of why your consumers choose you.

Take a look at this About page for a natural foods store in California and break it down into elements:

  • Reason for founding company
  • Difference-makers (95% organic groceries, building powered by 100% renewable energy)
  • Targeted consumer alignment (support local alternative to major brand, business inspired by major figure in environmental movement)
  • Awards and recognition from government officials and organizations
  • Special offer (5-cent rebate if you bring your own bag)
  • Timeline of business history
  • Video of the business story
  • Proofs of community involvement (organic school lunch program)
  • Links to more information

If the ideal consumer for this company is an eco-conscious shopper who wants to support a local business that will, in turn, support the city in which they live, this About page is extremely persuasive. Your local business can take cues from this real-world example, determining what motivates and moves your consumer base and then demonstrating how your values and practices align.

Calls to action

CTAs are critical local business content, and any website page which lacks one represents a wasted opportunity. Entrepreneur states that the 3 effective principles of calls to action are visibility, clear/compelling messaging, and careful choice of supporting elements. For a local business, calls to action on various pages of your website might direct consumers to:

  • Come into your location
  • Call
  • Fill out a form
  • Ask a question/make a comment or complaint
  • Livechat with a rep
  • Sign up for emails/texts or access to offers
  • Follow you on social media
  • Attend an in-store event/local event
  • Leave a review
  • Fill out a survey/participate in a poll

Ideally, CTAs should assist users in doing what they want to do in alignment with the actions the business hopes the consumer will take. Audit your website and implement a targeted CTA on any page currently lacking one. Need inspiration? This Hubspot article showcases mainly virtual companies, but the magic of some of the examples should get your brain humming.

Local business listings

Some of the most vital content being published about your business won’t exist on your website — it will reside on your local business listings on the major local business data platforms. Think Google My Business, Facebook, Acxiom, Infogroup, Factual, YP, Apple Maps, and Yelp. While each platform differs in the types of data they accept from you for publication, the majority of local business listings support the following content:

  • NAP
  • Website address
  • Business categories
  • Business description
  • Hours of operation
  • Images
  • Marker on a map
  • Additional phone numbers/fax numbers
  • Links to social, video, and other forms of media
  • Attributes (payments accepted, parking, wheelchair accessibility, kid-friendly, etc.)
  • Reviews/owner responses

The most important components of your business are all contained within a thorough local business listing. These listings will commonly appear in the search engine results when users look up your brand, and they may also appear for your most important keyword searches, profoundly impacting how consumers discover and choose your business.

Your objective is to ensure that your data is accurate and complete on the major platforms and you can quickly assess this via a free tool like Moz Check Listing. By ensuring that the content of your listings is error-free, thorough, and consistent across the web, you are protecting the rankings, reputation, and revenue of your local business. This is a very big deal!

Third-party review profiles

While major local business listing platforms (Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp) are simultaneously review platforms, you may need to seek inclusion on review sites that are specific to your industry or geography. For example, doctors may want to manage a review profile on HealthGrades and ZocDoc, while lawyers may want to be sure they are included on Avvo.

Whether your consumers are reviewing you on general or specialized platforms, know that the content they are creating may be more persuasive than anything your local business can publish on its own. According to one respected survey, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations and 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews to form a distinct impression of your business.

How can local businesses manage this content which so deeply impacts their reputation, rankings, and revenue? The answer is twofold:

  1. First, refer back to the beginning of this article to the item I cited as the first document you must create for your business: your customer service policy. You can most powerfully influence the reviews you receive via the excellence of your staff education and training.
  2. Master catching verbal and social complaints before they turn into permanent negative reviews by making your business complaint-friendly. And then move onto the next section of this article.

Owner responses

Even with the most consumer-centric customer service policies and the most detailed staff training, you will not be able to fully manage all aspects of a customer’s experience with your business. A product may break, a project be delayed, or a customer may have a challenging personality. Because these realities are bound to surface in reviews, you must take advantage of the best opportunity you have to manage sentiment after it has become a written review: the owner response.

You are not a silent bystander, sitting wordless on the sidelines while the public discusses your business. The owner response function provided by many review sites gives you a voice. This form of local business content, when properly utilized, can:

  • Save you money by winning back a dissatisfied existing customer instead of having to invest a great deal more in winning an entirely new one;
  • Inspire an unhappy customer to update a negative review with improved sentiment, including a higher star rating; and
  • Prove to all other potential customers who encounter your response that you will take excellent care of them.

You’ll want to respond to both positive and negative reviews. They are free Internet real estate on highly visible websites and an ideal platform for showcasing the professionalism, transparency, accountability, empathy, and excellence of your company. For more on this topic, please read Mastering the Owner Response to the Quintet of Google My Business Reviews.

Once you have developed and are managing all of the above content, your local business has created a strong foundation on the web. Depending on the competitiveness of your geo-industry, the above work will have won you a certain amount of local and organic visibility. Need better or broader rankings and more customers? It’s time to grow with:

Structural local business content development

These are options for creating a bigger structure for your local business on the web, expanding the terms you rank for and creating multiple paths for consumer discovery. We’ll use Google’s 4 micro-moment terms as a general guide + real-world examples for inspiration.

I want to do

  1. A homeowner wants to get her house in Colorado Springs ready to sell. In her search for tips, she encounters this Ultimate Home Seller’s To-Do Checklist & Infographic. Having been helped by the graphic, she may turn to the realty firm that created it for professional assistance.
  2. A dad wants to save money by making homemade veggie chips for his children. He’s impressed with the variety of applicable root vegetables featured in this 52-second video tutorial from Whole Foods. And now he’s also been shown where he can buy that selection of produce.
  3. A youth in California wants to become a mountain climber. He discovers this website page describing guided hikes up nearby Mount Whitney, but it isn’t the text that really gets him — it’s the image gallery. He can share those exciting photos with his grandmother on Facebook to persuade her to chaperone him on an adventure together.

I want to know

  1. A tech worker anywhere in America wants to know how to deal with digital eye strain and she encounters this video from Kaiser Permanente, which gives tips and also recommends getting an eye exam every 1–2 years. The worker now knows where she could go locally for such an exam and other health care needs.
  2. A homeowner in the SF Bay Area wants to know how to make his place more energy efficient to save on his bills. He finds this solar company’s video on YouTube with a ton of easy tips. They’ve just made a very good brand impression on the homeowner, and this company serves locally. Should he decide at some point to go the whole nine yards and install solar panels, this brand’s name is now connected in his mind with that service.
  3. A gardener wants to know how to install a drip irrigation system in her yard and she encounters this major hardware store brand’s video tutorial. There’s a branch of this store in town, and now she knows where she can find all of the components that will go into this project.

I want to go

  1. While it’s true that most I-want-to-go searches will likely lead to local pack results, additional website content like this special gluten-free menu an independently owned pizza place in Houston has taken the time to publish should seal the deal for anyone in the area who wants to go out for pizza while adhering to their dietary requirements.
  2. A busy Silicon Valley professional is searching Google because they want to go to a “quiet resort in California.” The lodgings, which have been lucky enough to be included on this best-of list from TripAdvisor, didn’t have to create this content — their guests have done it for them by mentioning phrases like “quiet place” and “quiet location” repeatedly in their reviews. The business just has to provide the experience, and, perhaps promote this preferred language in their own marketing. Winning inclusion on major platforms’ best-of lists for key attributes of your business can be very persuasive for consumers who want to go somewhere specific.
  3. An ornithologist is going to speak at a conference in Medford, OR. As he always does when he goes on a trip, he looks for a bird list for the area and encounters this list of local bird walks published by a Medford nature store. He’s delighted to discover that one of the walks corresponds with his travel dates, and he’s also just found a place to do a little shopping during his stay.

I want to buy

  1. Two cousins in Atlanta want to buy their uncle dinner for his birthday, but they’re on a budget. One sees this 600+ location restaurant chain’s tweet about how dumb it is to pay for chips and salsa. Check this out @cousin, he tweets, and they agree their wallets can stretch for the birthday dinner.
  2. An off-road vehicle enthusiast in Lake Geneva, WI wants to buy insurance for his ride, but who offers this kind of coverage? A local insurance agent posts his video on this topic on his Facebook page. Connection!
  3. A family in Hoboken, NJ wants to buy a very special cake for an anniversary party. A daughter finds these mouth-watering photos on Pinterest while a son finds others on Instagram, and all roads lead to the enterprising Carlo’s Bakery.

In sum, great local business content can encompass:

  • Website/blog content
  • Image content including infographics and photos
  • Social content
  • Video content
  • Inclusion in best-of type lists on prominent publications

Some of these content forms (like professional video or photography creation) represent a significant financial investment that may be most appropriate for businesses in highly competitive markets. The creation of tools and apps can also be smart (but potentially costly) undertakings. Others (like the creation of a tweet or a Facebook post) can be almost free, requiring only an investment of time that can be made by local businesses at all levels of commerce.

Becoming a geo-topical authority

Your keyword and consumer research are going to inform the particular content that would best serve the needs of your specific customers. Rand Fishkin recently highlighted here on the Moz Blog that in order to stop doing SEO like it’s 2012, you must aim to become an entity that Google associates with a particular topic.

For local business owners, the path would look something like when anyone in my area searches for any topic that relates to our company, we want to appear in:

  • local pack rankings with our Google My Business listing
  • major local data platforms with our other listings
  • major review sites with our profiles and owner responses
  • organic results with our website’s pages and posts
  • social platforms our customers use with our contributions
  • video results with our videos
  • image search results with our images
  • content of important third-party websites that are relevant either to our industry or to our geography

Basically, every time Google or a consumer reaches for an answer to a need that relates to your topic and city, you should be there offering up the very best content you can produce. Over time, over years of publication of content that consistently applies to a given theme, you will be taking the right steps to become an authority in Google’s eyes, and a household brand in the lives of your consumers.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Is Technology Actually Making Us Less Productive? [New Research]

productivity_tools_compressed.jpg

After working in my role here at HubSpot for almost eight months now, I’ve started to go into autopilot when I turn on my computer every morning.

I open up my email app, my calendar app, my organization and productivity app, my grammar-checking app, my note-taking app, my analytics tool, and my blogging tool.

And that’s only when I first get into the office.

By the end of most days, my browser is full of different tabs, and so many apps and tools are running that they eventually start shutting down of their own accord. When all of these sites, apps, and tools are working, I spend a significant portion of my day using them: to write, to proofread, to extrapolate data, to keep track of what I’m working on, to update notes — all in the name of efficiency.

But as it turns out, the tools and apps that we marketers use every day could actually be making us less efficient. If you feel the pain of switching between 1,000 apps per day like I do, read on for new data from HubSpot Research.

The Trouble With Tools

We surveyed more than 2,000 business owners, salespeople, and marketers in the U.S. and U.K. The biggest finding from our research? Marketers and salespeople are using too many productivity tools and apps, and it’s actually making us less efficient.

Marketers are using a ton of tools.

You probably knew this one already from your own day-to-day experience, but it bears repeating: There are an enormous number of marketing tools out there, and marketers are using a lot of them to get their jobs done every day.

HubSpot Research analyzed our customer base of over 20,000 websites, and we found that each website has an average of 13 tool integrations — one website even had 88 tools and apps. The marketing app and tool landscape is incredibly crowded and constantly evolving, a phenomenon Chiefmartec.com chronicled in this extremely busy graphic:

marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000px-1.jpg

Source: Chiefmartec

Now, before you keep reading, think about how many tools you use every day to do your job. Keep that number in mind as you keep reading the results of our survey.

Marketers underestimate how many tools they’re using.

When I counted up the number of tools I use every day, my initial count landed at seven tools and apps. But then, when I started digging into my internet history, I realized the number was actually higher. HubSpot’s internal communications platform is a tool I didn’t consider. The same goes for our file-sharing service, my social media scheduling tool, and an analytics bookmark.

By the time I fully audited every single tool and app I use in a given day to do my job, the number was in the double-digits. And as it turns out, I’m not alone.

When we asked our survey respondents how many technologies they used in their day jobs, their answers were surprising — and perhaps too low.

Tools-report-graphics3-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The majority of survey respondents said they only use between one and five tools to do their jobs every day, and we think these numbers err on the conservative side for the same reason my initial number was so low. When technology becomes a part of your day-to-day routine, it’s easy to forget you’re using it — and to notice that it could make your day less efficient.

When apps and tools are built into your workday as browser extensions, bookmarks, homepages, and push notifications, for example, it can be easy not to count them. But as it turns out, using them is taking up valuable time.

Too Much Tech = Too Little Efficiency

In an ironic twist, tools designed in the name of productivity and efficiency could be impeding those results.

Marketers are wasting time.

We asked marketers to estimate how much time they spend each day logging into, using, and jumping between the different tools and technologies they use. The results were surprising: Marketers are losing up to five hours per week managing and operating apps to get their jobs done.

Tools-report-graphics6-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

Marketers are getting frustrated.

The two biggest pain points for survey respondents were how much time it takes to work in and operate the myriad of different marketing tools out there, and how much time it takes to switch between tools using different logins and passwords.

Tools-report-graphics1-3.png

Source: HubSpot Research

That hour lost to managing different tools and technologies each day is all the more aggravating if the tools share functional capabilities, and a majority of the marketers we surveyed think up to five tools they use could be redundant.

Tools-report-graphics10-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely redundancies between some of the tools I use. Heck, I use two to-do list apps and still write my list down with a pen and paper every day. How many tools do you use that work to do different versions of the same functions?

Marketers could be using that time to do other cool things.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the inefficiency of tools is that time spent managing tools takes away from time that could be spent tackling big-picture challenges, creating content, or closing prospects. Here’s what the marketers and salespeople we surveyed said they wished they could be doing with that time:

Tools-report-graphics5-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The three things marketers would prefer to focus on — growing web traffic, creating content, and converting new leads — might look familiar. They’re critical pieces of the inbound and content marketing funnel, and without ample time to dedicate to these tasks, marketers might not be able to generate as many leads as needed for their sales teams’ success.

What’s the Solution?

So, let’s recap.

The results of this survey aren’t great. Marketers and salespeople are having trouble being as efficient and productive as possible because they have to manage so many different tools. They’re sacrificing time to work on projects of greater impact and magnitude to log into tools and extrapolate data.

But not to worry — we suggest two steps to maximize efficiency and stay productive in the face of hundreds of productivity tools to choose from.

1) Do an audit.

If you didn’t do it earlier while reading, sit down and write down (or type) a list of all of the websites, tools, apps, extensions, and bots you use every day to get your work done. From your sticky notes app on your computer to your pen and paper to-do list, make an exhaustive list of everything you use to get everything done.

2) Consolidate and integrate.

Then, try to categorize your tools and apps into different functionalities to identify any redundancies in your productivity system. If you’re using three different types of to-do lists, as I do, can you cut two and just use one? If you’re spending time reporting data from three different analytics programs, sit down with your team to determine if there’s a more efficient way you could be reporting, or if your KPIs are up-to-date with your team’s needs.

The ultimate goal should be to create a system of tools that are easy to use and make marketers’ jobs as productive as possible. To learn more about how we’ve done that here at HubSpot, read about our completely integrated Growth Stack here.

How much time do you think you lose each day to redundant tools and apps? Share with us in the comments below.

subscribe to get free marketing data

An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Create Compelling Charts & Graphs [Ebook]

data-visualization-guide.jpg

Your data is only as good as your ability to understand and communicate it. Effective marketers aren’t only able to understand and analyze the numbers, but also to effecticely communicate the story behind those numbers.

The best way to tell a story with your data is by visualizing it using a chart or graph. Visualizing your data helps you uncover patterns, correlations, and outliers, communicate insights to your boss, your team, or your company, and make smart, data-backed decisions.

Designing charts and graphs may seem intimidating — especially to folks who aren’t designers by trade. But the good news is, you don’t need a PhD in statistics to crack the data visualization code. We’ve created a new guide to help you: An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Design Compelling Charts & Graphs That Are Easy to Understand.

This guide will walk through:

  • What data visualization is and why it’s important;
  • When to use the different data types, data relationships, and chart types;
  • How to visualize your data effectively;
  • The best data visualization tools.

Ready to learn how to analyze, visualize, and communicate your data better? Download our free introductory ebook on data visualization and use what you learned to run better experiments, create better presentations, and make better business decisions.

data-visualization-ebook