Posts

Why Your Website Isn’t Getting Traffic

If you have a functioning business website, you are on your way to connecting with customers and increasing your sales. The problem is that many business owners don’t realize that website management is not a single step, but a continuous process.

After the website is running, it is imperative that statistics are monitored to make sure that the website is getting sufficient traffic. If you see that there is a lack of traffic to your business site, there are some common problems with easy solutions that can jumpstart your traffic!

Common Problems and Solutions that Inhibit Website Traffic

Broken Links

The online world is constantly changing and evolving; for instance, you may stop selling certain products, rendering the links to those offerings invalid. You may also have linked to another site in your content that has since stopped being active, creating a broken link.

Broken links severely impede website traffic; one source states that “only 23% of users who came to 404 error page, make a second attempt to find the requested page, and the remaining 77% will leave the site forever!”

When Google’s bots peruse websites, they penalize those with broken links, leading your search rankings to suffer. To improve your website traffic, improve search engine visibility by removing 404 error and broken links from your site.

It would be very time consuming to click on every link on your site to make sure it’s working, which is why there are many online tools that can do the job for you. Try Dead Link Checker or Broken Link Checker to quickly and easily find and fix broken links.

Insufficient Content

Another reason that your website may be lacking in sufficient traffic is because no one knows it exists. You must lead online users to your site, and one of the most effective and affordable ways of doing so is with content.

Including product descriptions, website copy, articles, blogs and press releases on your website plays a big role in improving traffic. One survey found that sites that publish 16 or more new articles per month saw 3.5 times more traffic than sites than with 4 or less blogs per month.

Make sure that the content is relevant to your audience, and is informative and engaging. Include photos, diagrams and videos if possible to make your content more interesting to readers.

Poor SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that tells search engines, specifically Google, what words or phrases are relevant to your brand. By conducting a search on Google Adwords Keyword Planner, you can get detailed information about what relevant keywords online users are searching for, as well as how much competition each word has.

Once you have this data, you can include these keywords in your content, or base your content on the incorporation of these keywords. Ideally, you want to focus on keywords with the highest search rates and the lowest competition.

It may be beneficial to hire an experienced internet marketing professional or content writer to help increase your internet traffic. If you need help investing in this endeavour, IOU Financial can help by providing a small business loan of up to $300,000. Call us today to find out how you can become pre-approved and financed in 24 hours!

3 Marketing Ideas That Won’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

Whether you have just come up with a clever idea for a product or are already operating a business, you must continuously market your brand to stay relevant in your industry. Many small business owners don’t know what marketing channels are available to them that would properly accommodate their budgets. The good news is that there are plenty of marketing ideas that can be implemented that won’t cost an arm and a leg. We present three of our favorites in this blog:

Create Videos

Videos are replacing text as the new medium by which people search for and process information. Many businesses are putting their name on the map by creating instructional videos on YouTube. This platform provides free access to its 1 billion users around the world.

Although you can make the videos elaborate and allocate a big budget to this endeavour, all you really need is a phone with video capabilities and an Internet connection to get started. Make sure that you are an expert in your field, providing useful and engaging advice to your viewers.

More and more companies are utilizing videos as part of their marketing campaign, and finding it to be extremely effective. In fact, one source states that “a user’s positive experience with a video ad increases their purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%.” We like those stats!

Focus on Cross-Promotion

Remember that no man is an island and that other small business owners are struggling to market their companies as well. Spending money on marketing materials can be expensive, but it can be affordable if you split that fee with one or two other businesses.

Don’t just involve any company, consider what is relevant to your customer base, and approach those owners. In addition to creating a co-branded advertisement online and in print, you can also increase your advertising exposure to new customers if each business promotes the other one on social media and in house.

Go Where Your Customers Are

You can spend your money on a television commercial, but will your target clients see it? The most effective marketing is targeted marketing, meaning you need to know your customers and where you can find them.

If your customers are local because you operate a store, then you should focus on becoming an active member of your community. Sponsor school events, charities and local little leagues to get your name known in your neighborhood.

If you operate an online business, knowing the demographics of your customers will help you learn how to target them. Younger people tend to check Snapchat and Instagram often, while professionals gather on LinkedIn.

Each and every one of these ideas can be implemented completely free, but having a marketing budget can help you reach your marketing goal faster. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners start and grow their businesses. Contact us today to inquire about getting working capital up to $300,000 in less than 48 hours.

Two Effective Ways to Ensure Your Business is Generating Word-of-Mouth Referrals

There are so many forms of advertising and marketing today that many business owners forget about the most efficient, tried-and-true form… word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). Nine out of 10 people seek out their friends and family members’ opinions about shopping experiences, and trust those over any type of ads. Knowing this fact makes it imperative to focus on actively generating word-of-mouth referrals to grow your brand’s reputation and your sales! This can easily be accomplished with these two effective strategies:

Focus on the E’s

Suzanne Fanning, President of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), has the following advice about generating word-of-mouth referrals – “Engage, Equip, Empower.”

Engage

 If you want your customers to talk about your products or services, you must be part of that conversation! The first step is learning all there is to know about your shoppers, their patterns, trends, likes and dislikes. The second step is engaging with them on social media, in stores and online. Respond to reviews, ask for feedback and encourage your followers to keep on talking!

Equip

 If you want your customers to talk about you, give them something to talk about! An ordinary shopping experience doesn’t generate any buzz; however, something extraordinary does!

Consider what strengths your business offers – it can be unique products, exemplary customer service, knowledgeable staff, hassle-free return policies or even some humor tied into the shopping experience.

The best salespeople learn what their customers want, and figure out a way to deliver it to them. Once your customers are happy, their natural reaction is to share that excitement with others around them!

Empower

 Motivate your customers to spread the word about your company! People want to feel needed and valued, and it’s up to the business owners to create that energy for their shoppers!

Make it easy to for your customers to generate word-of-mouth referrals by creating business profiles on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share your profiles with your customers, asking them to leave reviews, post pictures and share information with their circles.

Reward

Your customers may have a lot of positive things to say about your brand, but not a lot of time to say them. How do you entice them to do so? With rewards!

Consider utilizing your best customers to be your “spokespeople” and spread the word online! If you have a loyal customer write a testimonial, you can share that on your site, email it to your subscribers and upload it to social media! Offer the spokespeople exclusive discounts or special previews of new products and services to make them feel special.

Another way to encourage WOMM is with contests; you can ask your customers to write reviews, testimonials or simply share your social media page with their circle of friends, ensuring them an entry into a contest for each action!

Starting a referral program can be extremely beneficial, as well. You can reward every individual who brings in new business with discounts, free items or other perks. Take Dropbox as an example; they offered both the old and new customer free storage space for every referral – thereby increasing their customer base and sales!

Although word-of-mouth referrals are free, motivating your customers to market your company for you will likely not be! IOU Financial wants to help you fund this goal with a small business loan. Contact us today to find out how to get a loan of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours.

How to Tell if You Need a Website Redesign

Your website is the very first thing your visitors see, and it largely determines if your customers will stay on the site and make a purchase, or decide to leave. Keeping your website relevant and implementing the latest technological advances to make sure it’s innovative is an important investment in your online presence. There are clear signs that can help you tell if you need a website redesign, such as:

High Bounce Rate

The goal of any site is to retain the visitors’ attention, have them browse around and ultimately make a purchase. A bounce rate determines how many people click on a certain page of your site and leave right away to another site. Installing website analytics can provide you with this information; if you find that your bounce rate is high, you should consider making changes to your site. In fact, one source found that 94% of online users base their shopping and trust patterns based on the site’s design.

Site Not Optimized for Various Browsers and Devices

Unless you are a website designer, you are likely not aware that there is no standard one-size-fits-all website design. Your website may look different when it’s accessed from a computer, a tablet or a phone. Additionally, the screen size and browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple’s Safari, can affect how your visitors see your site.

Verifying that your website has cross-browser compatibility can be time consuming if you go through them one by one, as there are currently over 300; however, there are tools that can provide this information for you. Browser testing tools, such as Ghostlab and BrowserStack, can bring to your attention the issues you need to address.

Not Ranking High on Search Engines

Although a small portion of your visitors may come to your website directly, a large majority would only find it based on search engine results. To verify how your customers find you, check the referral sources which bring traffic to your site.

You should be getting significant traffic from search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. If not, you need to incorporate more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into your content. This includes high-ranking keywords into the content, optimized images,videos and links to pages within your site.

Website Not Easily Navigable

A website that is easy to navigate is imperative for low bounce rates and efficient usability. Some websites have so much content, graphics and links that it leaves visitors confused about where they should click or how to move between pages.

Your site should be simple, not crowded and include top and sidebar navigation menus that won’t require guesswork to get the person to where they need to be.

 

Redesigning your website can be a costly expense; plus, this is not a one time solution, but a process, as sites need to be maintained and improved on a regular basis. To help you afford this cost, IOU Financial can provide a business loan is at little as 48 hours. Contact us to learn more today!

Creative Ways to Attract Local Customers to Your Small Business

Nothing is more disheartening to owners than an empty store, a phone that doesn’t ring, or a website with few visitors. You know you could make sales if only more customers would visit. Well, don’t sulk, get creative. Here are a few ways to draw in more customers:

Signage:

A sandwich chalkboard in front of your store can be a great attention getter. It’s ephemeral nature (you redo it every day) makes it timely, and when you use it to advertise one-day specials, you can expect to attract more customers. Restaurants use this technique all the time, but your retail store can easily adopt it. If the weather is bad, stick a banner in your window instead.

Flash sale:

An intra-day sale can generate excitement if it’s generous – for example, a two-for-one sale or 40 percent off from, say, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Pick a time when the weather forecast is good. Publicize the flash sale on social media, through emails, text messages, etc. And as mentioned above, list it on you sandwich chalkboard.

Free food:

Nothing packs them in like free food and refreshments. If your store happens to sell snacks, you can use your own inventory for the promotion. Or you can do a cross-promotion with your neighborhood bakery or coffee house. It doesn’t have to be fancy, because the great masses just can’t turn down free food. Hot coffee on a cold day, lemonade on a hot one, Danish on any day – customers and potential customers will enjoy your generosity and might be more willing to buy something from you.

Mobile push:

Double down on your mobile market apps (you use these, don’t you?) to push messages to consumers in the neighborhood who might want to drop into your store while out and about. The message can include a promo code for a special discount or free gift.

Entertain the kids:

A great way to gain the loyalty of local parents is to offer free, supervised entertainment to young kids so that mom or dad can do a little quality shopping. The area can have games, books, a play table, even a balloon-blowing clown. If you run a country store, how about setting up a small petting zoo – you might even be able to charge entry. Make sure you use trustworthy, preferably bonded, employees to mind the kids, and keep your liability insurance up to date. Offer special discounts to parents who bring in their children, that should really heat up sales.

Loyalty:

Many stores have adopted loyalty programs – have you? There are many off-the-shelf programs you can adopt, and the cost is usually low relative to the bump in sales. On a slow day, your flash sale might be triple points for a few hours.

Contests:

We all love to win. Thrill your customers by having daily raffles and contests. For instance, if you are a florist, elicit poems for specific purposes, such as get well or anniversaries. The best poem gets a discount coupon for future use. You can tie this into your email lists (after all, you have to notify winners), which is marketing gold that pays off many times the costs of the contests.

Revamp your website:

If your website has gone a little stale, it’s time to refresh it. There are many techniques to increase website traffic, including fresh and frequent blogging. If you don’t have time to write new content yourself, hire a good freelance writer and flood the zone with interesting stories.

We’ve listed a few good ideas, but there are plenty more out there – use your imagination and, with any luck, you’ll be swarming with new customers before you know it. If you need additional working capital to put these ideas in action, reach out to one of our Loan Officers to see if a business loan is right for your company.

Biggest Trends in Marketing for the Summer

When it comes to marketing, if you’re wondering how to make the most of the summer season, check out the following trends:

Chatbots:

Technology is neutral. Whether it’s used for good or evil is up to the user. Chatbots were notorious for planting fake news stories that sought to affect last year’s election. However, chatbots can be used for more benign purposes, such as spreading your marketing message via Facebook Pages and other venues. Bots allow for your brand to converse with prospects without the need for a human. The tech is still fairly new, but the potential is huge.

Live streaming video:

YouTube is no longer the only game in town. Instagram, Periscope and Facebook Live are all challenging YouTube as purveyors of live video content. Your brand can create and share live content at any time and from any location. It’s especially useful when you want to interact with a live audience. Check this link for best practices.

Evaporating content:

Snapchat and Instagram are the biggest names in expiring social content, but Facebook Stories is a new product that allows videos and photos to evaporate after 24 hours. This is an excellent mechanism for building excitement with fresh content.

Social traffic:

The holy grail of social traffic is getting it for free – organic traffic. This is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook algorithms become pickier about which content gets the most exposure. To play in this game, you certainly need terrific content, but you also might have to cough up some money (pay to play).

Augmented reality:

AR is hot. Snapchat has attracted competition from Facebook Live with new AR components, such as masks and lenses. AR changes your phone’s camera into a sensory input device as new apps proliferate. The marketing implications are limited only by your imagination.

Mergers:

It’s a good idea to stay on top of the latest social media mergers, because they may affect platforms you currently use for marketing. Recent mergers have seen Facebook gobbling up Oculus Rift, Instagram and WhatsApp, Twitter acquiring Periscope and Microsoft grabbing LinkedIn for $27 billion.

Personalization:

The trend is toward highly personalized and targeted content. For example, Facebook is developing sophisticated ad target options that address a marketer’s particular needs.

Big data:

Though big data has been with us for some time, its continually becoming more powerful and comprehensive. Demographic data helps marketers identify and understand the types of customers they attract. Psychographic data gives further insights into the motivations of actual and potential customers – an area of research pushed by Facebook. Attitudinal data describes how folks feel about your products, and behavioral data (or sociographics) is used to analyze online behavior across the web. This infographic neatly summarizes big data’s current state of play.

Social influencers:

Marketing campaigns tied to social content creators are achieving almost universal acceptance. One study found that 84 percent of marketers are planning one or more influencer campaigns in the next year. This is often a cost-effective way to extend your brand’s reach.

Clearly, the worlds of marketing and technology are intertwined in a growing number of ways. We encourage you to spend some time learning about these and other innovative developments – you can bet your competitors are. Need additional funding for marketing purposes? IOU Financial offers loans up to $300,000. Contact us today for more information.

The Pros and Cons of Adding a Blog to Your Website

When it comes business websites, content is king. One of the most cost-effective ways for a small business to add useful content is through a blog. The more often you can post a relevant, authoritative blog, the more you’ll get out of it. Here are some pros and cons of including blogs on your website:

Pros

Establish authority:

Marketing a product or service on the Internet is essential if you want to sell to the widest possible audience. A business blog educates consumers about your offering and the industry in which you operate. Your blog also showcases your talent and authority, giving readers the confidence to buy what you’re selling. Google bestows a higher Page Rank and better search results on websites that constantly offer authoritative, unique content, and there is no better way to create content than through a daily blog. A good blog generates new readers, who then become leads and (hopefully) customers.

Industry-Specific Marketing:

While blogging can help any company, it is especially useful in certain industries such as hospitality. For example, you can use your blogs to establish communication with potential travelers who are looking for, say, a nice place to stay in your community. If you blog about the local sites and events, travelers will come to rely on your information and will be more likely book their rooms with you when staying in your city.

Search Engine Optimization:

Fresh blogs can help get you on Page One of search engine results for your chosen keywords. Blogs should revolve around a cluster of search keywords. Your marketing effort should therefore expend some resources to ascertain the optimal keywords for your business. Online tools and SEO sites can help you with this task. For example, you can use tools like Google Keyword Tool to help you decide on the exact keywords and keyphrases to use on your website Frequent blogs that concentrate on your selected keywords can help enhance your marketing effort by:

  1. raising brand awareness
  2. solving customer problems
  3. exhibiting thought leadership
  4. establishing authority and trust

By peppering your blog posts with the appropriate keywords, you help improve your results when people search using those keywords.

Social Issues:

Sometimes, you blog not only to market an offering, but to express your opinions on social issues. Your blog and the responses it elicits can act as a forum for you and others to express their thoughts on the interesting and important issues of our times. By combining your blogging with social media such as Facebook and Twitter, you have a great opportunity to reach many people who share (or disagree with) your point of view.

Cons

Resources:

Like most worthwhile things, blogging requires you to commit resources such as time and money. Adding blogs to a website is easy and costs little, but creating good blogs is a talent that needs financial support. For example, you are diverting resources if your employees take time out of their busy days to wrote posts. The other route is to hire a professional freelance writer to create your blog posts. While not overly expensive, you should seek out the best writers with the finest reputations.

Risk:

A poorly prepared blog is worse than no blog at all. A blog is meant to establish your competence and authority, but you’ll achieve the opposite effect if your blog is poor. Some signs of a deficient blog concern:

  1. Poor grammar and syntax
  2. Improper, off-topic or otherwise unsuitable material
  3. Use of too much jargon
  4. Bad or poorly expressed ideas

Clearly, the benefits of blogging greatly overwhelm its drawbacks, especially if you have the resources to write good, effective blogs. Whether timely or evergreen, good blogs deliver benefits that far outweigh their costs.

Are you ready to budget for a blog? Start with the Business Budget Smart Sheet. This resource can help you make sense of tracking and spending, to help you forecast for the future.

The Benefits of Having a Chat Feature on Your Website

A website with a live chat feature has several distinct advantages over competitor sites that don’t chat. The live chat platform allows you to talk real-time with an expert and to exchange files, documents, screen images, and other important information that facilitates quicker issue resolution. While your website might offer phone support, email and other tools, live chat packs a special wallop, as we see in these benefits:

Convenience:

Many online customers appreciate the convenience of getting immediate help from a live person. Chats are often more convenient than phone conversations, because of shorter wait times, no exasperating phone menus, and the fact that important data, such as URLs, are written out for customers – no scrambling to find a pen and paper. A benchmark survey found that customer satisfaction reached 73 percent through live chat, compared to 44 percent for phone support and 61 percent for email support. A live chat agent can push documents and links out to consumers to help resolve problems faster. Many chat facilities allow consumers to receive a transcript via email at the end of the conversation, providing documentation of what was discussed.

Expenses:

Chat optimizes interactions, cutting costs relative to phone contact centers. Furthermore, a chat representative can often handle several tasks at once, thereby reducing the need for additional representatives. By spending less time on the phone, chats increase efficiency and save money.

Sales:

The efficiency of chatting produces high customer satisfaction, an important factor in motivating sales. One study shows that live chat boosts sales by 20 percent and provide a typical ROI of 300 percent. For better or worse, Americans demand instant satisfaction, and having to wait for an email reply or a long phone queue is enough to send a consumer to a competitor’s website. A chat representative can walk a prospect through a sale by answering questions and clearing up confusion that could jeopardize a sale. Chatting also provides businesses with an upselling opportunity that can increase sales margins.

Competitive edge:

The cost efficiency of a chat feature makes it an easy way to grab an edge over the competition. Put another way, lack of a chat facility gives your competitors a leg up. When you offer chat, you appeal to many Millennials who prefer typing to talking. Instant messaging has supplanted phone conversations among a great swath of the population. Omitting chat is like fighting the tide – not a good idea.

Data mining:

Phone conversations are hard to share, but you can mine chats for important information that help you recognize unmet needs or sources of frustration. This can lead to the introduction of new product/service features that respond to customer complaints. A savvy marketing person can sort through chat transcripts and recommend important improvements in what you offer and how you offer it.

Outreach:

Better live chat systems don’t wait for consumers to request a conversation. Rather, they invite visitors to ask questions or discuss issues. This proactive outreach can help shy consumers overcome their reluctance to chat, and offers more information that can help convert prospects.

Clearly, many small-business websites would benefit from incorporating a live chat feature. There are many chat packages available for to evaluate. Your webmaster can add a chat facility, or you can hire a third-party provider to do the work. However you get there, a chat facility is a great destination to strengthen your business.

Running your business takes a lot of work. Recognize areas that you may have overlooked while managing your day-to-day operations with our 7 Secrets to Small Business Success!

Free Resources Small Business Owners Should be Utilizing

Small business owners usually work with small budgets, which is why anytime there is a free resource to help you grow or manage your business, you should jump on it! In this article, we will provide three resources that will help you create a website and share articles with your customers, customize a business plan and market your services to clients.

WordPress

If you don’t yet have a website for your company, you are missing out on a lot of business. Not only does having an online presence allow you to sell your goods online, a website can help you advertise your business and help customers find and get to know your brand even if you don’t want to incorporate e-commerce as a selling strategy.

You may not have the budget to hire a web developer and designer; however, no business owner can make excuses for not creating a website when a free resources for this goal is available. WordPress is a tool to help both novice and experienced online users create a site for their business needs. It offers a multitude of options; beginners can choose from customizable templates to create their site, while experts can build a site using code.

WordPress allows owners to connect to clients by publishing articles and blogs, optimizing them with images and keywords, email them to subscribers and automatically post them to social media. Plus, this platform has thousands of different free and paid add-ons that allow them to accept online payments, prepare items to be shipped, analyze their website traffic and much more!

Enloop

Every successful achievement resulted from a solid plan, and any organization needs a business plan in order to grow and thrive. The problem is that not many small business owners have the knowhow to create a professional business plan, which can prevent them from getting a business or investment loan nor from following a roadmap to meet their goals.

Enloop helps business owners analyze their current business practices, set objectives and determine actionable steps to reach those goals. It will provide a blueprint for setting budgets, hire new employees and figuring out marketing budgets for each goal.

This is a free resource that allows users to create business plans with their AutoWriteTM feature that generates text for each section in 16 languages. You can invite your partners to view your text, edit it and suggest changes, while the program automatically saves all updates in the cloud. Once you and your team finish your plan, Enloop will grade your firm’s forecasted performance to let you know whether you’re on the right track.

MailChimp

If you’re not marketing your small business, you are not growing. Fortunately, there is a free resource that helps business owners market their small business completely free or with a limited budget.

MailChimp lets you send out up to 12,000 marketing emails to up to 2,000 subscribers every year. This system is easy to use, even for beginners, and integrates with WordPress so you can lead your audience straight to your website.

You can create email campaigns, customize them with content and design and choose to whom and when they will be sent out. To tailor campaigns to your customers, you can design A/B Split Campaigns, which let you test which subject lines, content and times work best for your audience.

These three free small business resources all have paid options that may be advantageous for your company. If you need help to afford these services, turn to IOU Financial! We are committed to providing small business loans in as little as 48 hours.

Looking for other free resources? Check out our Business Budget Smart Sheet.