Here are our tips for cleaning up your business’ e-commerce content and optimizing your SEO, social media, customer responsiveness and UX for 2016.

Start the new year off right: Here’s our 2016 local-optimization checklist

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SEO

2015 is behind us, but with the new year come new developments in social media and marketing technology, as well as new opportunities for SEO, audience engagement and UX. 2016 is a promising, but challenging, year for small and medium B2C businesses, and many online creative firms have made their predictions for small business marketing.

  • Logomix.com: More small businesses will take advantage of on-demand delivery services.
  • Endicia.com: Small businesses should consider new shipping technologies to help save time and money and potentially introduce their services to new markets.
  • Peopleclaim.com: In 2016, consumers will have higher expectations of customer service and responsiveness.
  • Lotus823.com: Location marketing is going to be crucial for small brick-and-mortar businesses, and Facebook is even beginning to roll out their Bluetooth beacons for businesses to broadcast promotional alerts to fans within range.

Sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas have grown substantially year over year. However, according to Adobe, large retailers’ online sales grew 12 percent year over year, while small retailers’ online growth only increased by 6 percent. Start the new year off right with effective tweaks to your SMB campaigns.

Here are our tips for cleaning up your business’ e-commerce content and optimizing your SEO, social media, customer responsiveness and UX for 2016.

Manage and leverage your online reviews

The holidays have come and gone, but the e-commerce season doesn’t come to a crashing halt after the new year. In fact, early in the year is an often overlooked period for B2C marketing, and proper management of online reviews and ratings are too frequently missed opportunities for marketing.

Make the most of your reviews, ratings and other customer-generated content about your business:

  • Respond to reviews

Whether the reviews are positive or negative, responding to them helps to engage your audience, and promote a culture of openness, responsiveness, customer service and willingness to improve. Make sure to include the reviewer’s username and strive for an insightful, gracious response, rather than a dismissive, generic answer.

  • Embed positive reviews on your site

Build credibility for your business by featuring your best reviews right on your site. Rating services like Yelp also offer embeddable widgets for websites, which marketers can use as visible, public testimonials.

  • Learn from your reviews

Most importantly, treat your reviews as free surveys on customer satisfaction. Use ratings and reviews as tools for improving your business.

Optimize your UX for 2016

mobile-friendly-label

Mobile-friendly link on Google results

Online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday reached $11 billion, with about half of Cyber Monday web visits, and a quarter of sales, made via mobile. Optimizing your e-commerce site’s UX to meet the standards for all formats can be challenging – In an end-of-year report, Pew Research Center found that 36 percent of Americans own a tablet, phone and computer.

Are you mobile-friendly? In 2015, we saw mobile Google searches overtake desktop, and as mobile search increases, it influences SEO. According to Searchengineland, Google’s four tips for successful mobile search optimization, which earn the “mobile-friendly” badge on results pages, are:

  • Avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash.
  • Use text that is readable without zooming.
  • Size content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
  • Place links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

To assess your UX to be as mobile search optimized as possible, ask yourself:

  • Does my site load quickly?

While Google takes load-time into SEO consideration, it is not as large of a factor as quality and relevance. However, users take speed more seriously. A slow-loading site leads to bounces and lost opportunities for conversions. According to Akamai and Gomez.com, 1 in 2 web surfers expects pages to load in under two seconds, and on average, if a page hasn’t loaded in three seconds, they’ll jump ship and navigate away.

  • Does my site feature good navigation tools?

The easier your e-commerce site is to navigate, the easier it is for your visitors to make purchases, especially on mobile. Stay away from shallow product categories to avoid narrowing the field too much for your buyers. The more selective and specific the categories on your online store, the less likely your visitors are to explore and browse, and the more text is squeezed onto a small mobile screen.

  • Is my site bold and readable?

The more your users have to pinch-zoom, the less likely they are to stay engaged with your site. Optimize all text and photos for a mobile screen.

  • It is easy for users to buy?

Make your site’s purchasing process as simple as possible. Fewer clicks (or taps) on a site help to reduce friction and speed up the buying process.

  • Does my site take advantage of CTAs?

Include buy, call or get directions buttons to shorten the funnel, and bring audiences directly from a mobile search result page to your site or door.

With a more accurate and complete online local profile, your company can take advantage of Google’s location and intent-based CTA buttons.

Clean up your local profiles on Google

In 2015, Google’s local pack listings decreased from seven to three. This means the competition is even higher for marketers to have their business featured in Google’s local display. While users can view the full list by clicking “More Places,” a spot in the top three is significantly more visible, and listing there is a top priority for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Tips for cleaning up your local listings and optimizing for local search are to:

  • Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Make sure all address and contact information is filled out completely and formatted correctly and consistently.
  • Select your categories wisely. Don’t overlap them, and use the least amount possible.
  • Clean up duplicate map listings. For in-depth instructions, head to Searchengineland’s how-to here.

You’ve likely already been taking advantage of the available options to increase the visibility of your local brand, but in 2016 we will likely see the strategies become even more dynamic and challenging. As mobile searches continue to increase, local and mobile optimization are factoring into general SEO more heavily. For more insight into SEO, including user intent, digital assistants and Google’s quality guideline, head over to our blog.

Ben Silverman
Ben Silverman is a former marketing writer for Brafton. His writing experience dates back to his time reviewing music for The UMass Daily Collegian at UMass Amherst. Ben comes from a background in marketing in the classical and jazz industries.

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