7 FREE Online Marketing Tools For Small Business We Use (and so should you)

Being a small business owner means that sometimes we’re a little strapped for budget. And we all know that a great website is the best investment you can make for your marketing.

But sometimes you want to do more than just a website. There are plenty of free tools to help you manage and improve your online marketing. Here are our top 7 completely FREE tools!

2

Canva

What is it? Canva is a free graphic design tool that helps non-designers produce simple, beautiful graphics. It has hundreds of free templates, graphics and pictures, and many others for sale for $1 each.

Why it’s great. We love Canva because it can take care of simple tasks like social media cover graphics, presentations, email headers, even website ads. It’s worth looking into and learning if you don’t have a big budget for graphic design.

1

Buffer

What is it? Buffer is a social media scheduling app that helps you spread out your social media updates. The free version lets you have one profile for each network, as well as ten scheduled updates at a time.

Why it’s great. Buffer finds the best times for posting on each social media channel, and posts stuff for you. You can make a Buffer update from any page by using the Chrome app.

3

Google Analytics

What is it? Google Analytics is the standard analytics app by the masters of search, Google. Access your website’s statistics and program goals and alerts to keep an eye on every aspect of your website’s visitors.

Why it’s great. Although it’s a bit complex at first, it’s worth learning how to use this free tool offered by Google. The wealth of information on your website this offers is invaluable.

4

HelloBar

What is it? HelloBar is a simple full-width bar that appears at the top of your website. You can program it to encourage email signups or social shares, or to A/B test emails and pages.

Why it’s great. The top online marketers have been using HelloBar to increase their email signups. The basic functions are free, and if you’re just starting to build an email list, keeping the HelloBar logo is a fair price.

6

Hotjar

What is it? Hotjar is an analytics app that provides heatmaps, usage recordings, conversion funnels, form analysis, polls and surveys, and even live user testing. If you want to look at the specific behaviour of users on your site, it’s a great all-in-one tool.

Why it’s great. The free version offers the basic functions, and they’re enough if you’re just starting out. The data you’ll gather from just the free version is worth the time invested in installing and learning the tool.

LeadIn

LeadIn

What is it? LeadIn is a “lite” version of the well-known inbound marketing tool Hubspot. It all beings with capturing leads with an email address, and you get a database of all your leads and some analytics data.

Why it’s great. If you’re not ready to invest in Hubspot yet (it’s not cheap), LeadIn is the perfect way to get started with inbound marketing. You’ll see how your marketing efforts are working, and you’ll have a nice lead database to start growing your business.

7

SumoMe

What is it? SumoMe is a free WordPress-based tool for all your online marketing needs. It provides many tools, including email lead capture (smart bar, scroll box or welcome mat), heat maps, content analytics, a Google Analytics integration, contact forms, and many more.

Why it’s great. Aside from the SumoMe website being an amazing resource for all things internet marketing, it’s basically an all-in-one tool that does a lot of what many separate apps can do. The free functions are practical enough to be worth it, and it’ll serve you well as a basic, all-around tool as you begin to grow your online presence.

Have any other tool to suggest? Let us know in the comments!

digital marketing tips for business owners 2016

Digital Marketing Tips for Small Business Owner – 2016 Edition

1. Your website better be awesome on mobile – if not, you are losing traffic.

  • In 2015, 68% of Canadians surveyed in this study owned a cell phone. This was up 24% from 2014.
  • 2015 marked the year where more Google searches happened on mobile devices than desktop in Canada (among the USA and other countries)
  • Nearly half of all Facebook users only access Facebook on mobile

Share this Image On Your Site

2. Start tracking the return on your investment.

With the incredible amount of information, tools and data businesses have access to, tracking return on investment has never been easier. Yet, so many business owners have no idea what the return of their marketing investment is.

Calculating your ROI: First subtract all of your advertising and marketing costs from the total revenue generated from advertising and marketing, then divide by the total marketing and advertising cost.

3. Dedicate a budget for digital marketing. Your competitors are.

In case you have been sleeping under a rock for the last two years, companies have been dumping money into digital marketing. Simply because it’s delivering a positive return-on-investment (ROI). Two years to five years ago you would of had an early mover advantage. Now you are behind. Your competitors are spending money on Google AdWords campaigns to show up on search engines, hiring employees to manage social media, running Facebook Advertising to drive traffic and sales on websites, investing in ways to improve how high they rank on Google search result pages, and more….

  • 75% of small businesses said their money spent on digital marketing was effective or very effective.

Many small businesses have no established marketing budget. You think you do not need a marketing budget, and you are right. However, if you are looking to grow your business, keep or grow market share in a competitive market, designating a marketing budget should be a priority. The trouble is businesses don’t know how much to spend. The small business administration recommends a budget between 7 and 8% of your gross revenue. We have created a table below showing different annual revenues and marketing investments of 3% to 10%.

Annual Marketing Budget Matrix

Annual Revenue

3%

5% 8% 10%

$250,000.00

$7,500.00 $12,500.00 $20,000.00 $25,000.00

$500,000.00

$15,000.00 $25,000.00 $40,000.00 $50,000.00
$750,000.00 $22,500.00 $37,500.00 $60,000.00

$75,000.00

$1,000,000.00 $30,000.00 $50,000.00 $80,000.00

$100,000.00

$1,500,000.00 $45,000.00 $75,000.00 $120,000.00

$150,000.00

Monthly Marketing Budget Matrix

Annual Revenue

3% 5% 8% 10%

$250,000.00

$625.00/mth $1,041.67/mth $1,666.67/mth $2,083.33/mth

$500,000.00

$1,250.00/mth $2,083.33/mth $3,333.33/mth $4,166.67/mth
$750,000.00 $1,875.00/mth $3,125.00/mth $5,000.00/mth

$6,250.00/mth

$1,000,000.00 $2,500.00/mth $4,166.67/mth $6,666.67/mth

$8,333.33/mth

$1,500,000.00 $3,750.00/mth $6,250.00/mth $10,000.00/mth

$12,500.00/mth

Other Articles for Small Business Owners in 2016

http://www.inc.com/springboard/5-ways-to-succeed-with-digital-marketing-in-2016.html
http://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/yelp-small-business-pulse.html

Wordpress SEO Yoast Plugin Meetup

Yoast SEO – Victoria WordPress Events Meetup

Hey WordPressers!

This post contains the slides from the Yoast SEO WordPress Meetup that happened on November 19th. A big thanks to Q College for the space. If you have any questions or comments please post them below.

Useful links 
directory

Victoria Business Directories – A Guide For Local Businesses

When is comes to local SEO it is very important to have many citations of your business information across the web. It is also important that the information across them are consistent. Citations are mentions of your business information. Specifically your NAP information:

Name

Address

Phone Number

Many times these sites will create listings for you. But the information can be incorrect, or incomplete. You should start by establishing your business information on some sort of standards document. This should include:

  • How company name is written
  • Address
  • Local phone number, and toll free number when necessary
  • Short form business description (200 characters)
  • Long business description (200 – 500 words)

You should then Google your business name, go through the first 5-10 pages, and correct and complete all of the listings.

Deciding when to pay for listings – often these sites will have free and paid options. The paid options could give you a higher placement, guarantee page views, etc. Other times they will ask you to pay more of a membership fee, and there will be other benefits. Assess these carefully, thinking of your target audience and the potential reach. Often it is not necessary to opt for the paid option, as much of the reason we do this is for SEO.

Important Listings for Businesses in Victoria BC


Think Local Victoria
Paid – $250 per year (membership)
http://thinklocalvictoria.com

Shop in Victoria
Free/ Paid
http://www.shopinvictoria.com

Victoria Chamber
Free
http://www.victoriachamber.ca/search

Yellow Pages
Free/ Paid
http://www.yellowpages.ca/locations/British-Columbia/Victoria

Shop Victoria
Free
http://www.shopvictoria.ca/businesses

BBB
Free/ Paid
http://www.bbb.org/vancouver-island/accredited-business-directory

Google Places (Google My Business)
Free
https://www.google.ca/business

Yelp
Free
http://www.yelp.ca/victoria-bc-ca

VIATEC
Paid – Membership
http://www.viatec.ca/business-profiles/results

wp-perform

Is Your WordPress Website Performing As Well As It Can?

Is your website just a pretty place on the web, or does it actually work for you? Is one of the primary purposes of your site to attract potential customers and convert them into leads through a contact form, request a quote form, etc? If so you should know your conversion rate, track it on a regular basis, and make attempts to improve it.

A conversion rate, when speaking generally about a website, is they percentage of visitors who come to your site that complete whatever you are trying to get them to do. This is usually calling you, filling out a form, requesting a quote, purchasing something, downloading an ebook, etc. Conversion rates are looked at any level of marketing, from a strategic blog post, to a ad campaign, to a landing page; however, in this post we will be speaking about a general conversion rate for websites.

A sites conversion rate is should be the primary metrics looked at to measure success when doing any marketing initiatives that involve your website.

What is a Good Conversion Rate

Depending on what industry you are in you should expect to see a conversion rate of 1-10%. Now that is a big range, so here are some more specific numbers from a report by WordStream:

  • Median – 2.35%
  • Top 25% – 5.31%
  • Top 10% – 11.45%

The purpose of this post is not to get into how to improve your conversion rate; instead, it is meant to show you if there is opportunity to increase it based on averages.

Finding Out Your Conversion Rate

Ideally, your conversion rate can be tracked through your Google Analytics. You must set up goals for the actions that you consider conversions. For 90% of businesses a conversion is a contact form submission, or a phone call. These actions can both be tracked in Google Analytics, but it needs to be set up.

STOP – If you do not have Google Analytics installed on your website, stop whatever you are doing and do it now. RIGHT NOW. It takes 2 minutes, seriously. Use this article from Google to help you.

If you have Google Analytics, but are not tracking goals, you can still figure out your conversion rate.

Conversion over Total Traffic = Conversion Rate

  1. GET CONVERSIONS – Take a 30 day time period, and figure out the total number of emails/ form submissions on your website. Also take in consideration how many phone calls you think came from people visiting your website (new customer calls). This will give you your total number of conversions.
  2. GET TRAFFIC – If you have Google Analytics installed on your website getting traffic will be easy. If you did not have installed before reading this (because you have obviously listened to me and installed it by now), then you need to either wait 30 days or go to your hosting provider and see if they can give you traffic numbers.
  3. GET YOUR CONVERSION RATE – Now you can divide your total number of conversions by your total traffic and get your conversion rate.

Is There Room For Improvement?

Now that you have your conversion rate you will want to do a few Google searches and see how you stack up against other websites in your industry.

Very often there is. The next thing do do definitely depends on your current situation, but may include a user experience audit. This is where you go through common user journeys and find things that can be improved.

IdeaZone Tip: Each important page on your website should have one primary goal. Whether it is filling out a form for a quote, signing up, or requesting a callback. There should be a clear call to action trying to get users to complete that goal.

In a different post we will go over how to take the next step and improve conversions. If you are interested in receiving a free website audit please click the link below. We will complete a one hour review of your site, and have a meeting to go over it, as well as answer any questions you might have. We will even buy the coffee!

seo

Getting Started With SEO For Your WordPress Website

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a controversial and commonly misunderstood marketing tactic. SEO is a very real, and accepted tactic that bring incredible potential to many businesses.

What Really Is SEO?

SEO is not about stuffing keywords into your pages and buying links. It use to be, but if you do that now you will hurt your website. SEO is now about having a good usable website that works for all devices, and creating relevant, quality content that relates to the search terms you want to rank for. Google has an algorithm that ranks websites based on a criteria of over 200 ‘ranking factors’. These range from things like your page speed, to the use of a keyword in your page title (and 198+ in between).

SEO and WordPress

WordPress is one of the best platforms to optimize for when it comes to SEO. Much of the difficult, technical work is taken care of by default when you use WordPress. In addition, there are plugins to help you optimize for many of the important things Google looks at.

The most popular and best plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast. We install this plugin by default on all websites we build at IdeaZone. We train our clients on how to do it, and offer additional help if they require it.

Getting Started With SEO For Your WordPress Site

So you have a WordPress website and Yoast downloaded. Now what? SEO needs to be done strategically. What is the point in trying to optimize for a certain keyword, if people aren’t looking for it?

Step 1 – Assess your current situation

The first thing I do anytime I am introduced to someone looking for help with SEO is to find out what they are currently ranking for. There is an awesome tool called SEMRush that can tell you what you (and your competitors!) are ranking for. It’s not perfect, but usually catches important keyword. All you have to do is copy/paste your home page URL into the tool, ensure you pick the right country, and go!

Step 2 – Is SEO right for you?

SEO is not right for all businesses, but it is right for many. All you have to do is think logically: would I search for this type of product, service or company on Google? Or is that not likely. Start to brainstorm a list of things you think people would search in Google. Try to build a list of 5-10 keywords at least.

Step 3 – Find out how many people are searching for these keywords!

Google has a tool, called a Keyword Planner, that allows you to find out how many people in a certain geographic location search for a particular keyword monthly. Here is the process to follow:

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/adwords. If you already have an Adwords account then sign in, if not you can sign up for free using a Gmail account (you don’t have to run ads unless you want to, don’t worry).
  2. On the top navigation bar find Tools > Keyword Planner
  3. Choose ‘search for new keywords and ad group ideas
    Keyword planner how-to SEO
  4. Enter one keyword you think someone would look for (ie. web design Victoria)
  5. Enter your home page URL. Google will then scan your page and provide you with other keywords it thinks you could target.
  6. Choose the geographic location you want (we have just chosen Victoria, BC in this case)
    keyword planner
  7. Click ‘Get Ideas
  8. You will now be able to search through ideas Google suggests based on that one keyword and the content on your website. I suggest looking under the ‘Keyword’ tab as the results tend to be more relevant.
    Keyword planner - finding keywords
  9. Start a list/ excel document with the keyword and monthly search volume.

Step 4 – Complete an SEO audit and create a plan

The next step I would take is do a complete review on the state of your SEO, and create an actionable plan on what needs to be done. I am not going to get into explaining how to do this, as it would take a really, really, really long time. And you likely would not be able to effectively do it for the first time. I suggest hiring a professional digital marketer with experience to help you audit and create a plan, and then you can assist with the delivery.

  1. Receive a high level overview of the state of your SEO
  2. Find out the competitiveness of your specific situation
  3. Learn if SEO would be a good strategy to focus on for your business
  4. Get quick wins/ recommendations to improve your SEO
responsive3

Google’s Mobile Update – What you need to know

In the multi-device world we live in, it’s important to ensure your website is presented well on devices of all sizes. From our experience with small to medium sized businesses, a website can expect to receive 20 – 50% of its traffic from mobile devices. Many North Americans name their phone as their main device to access the web; in fact, mobile searches will exceed desktop searches by the end of the year, Google predicts.

Over the past few years Google has been looking at the mobile experience of websites more closely. Google has recently announced that they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Unlike other Google updates that target specific countries, keywords searched, or anchor text, this update will affect all mobile searches, in all countries, for all keywords. This update happened on April 21st, 2015.

Wondering if your website is mobile friendly?

Google has a tool that can tell you:

  1. If your website classifies as mobile-friendly (and thus were not affected by the update)
  2. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will explain what is not mobile friendly.

There are options for how you build a website that works for all devices. You can have a responsive website, or a separate optimized mobile website. Before April 21st, Google would generally rank websites on mobile phones the same as they ranked on desktop. That has now changed. If your website ranks on the first page for a given search term, you may not rank in the same position on a phone. The extent of the effect will depend on your individual situation and the competitive situation.

 

In 2012 IdeaZone started with responsive design, and in 2013 we made it a standard to build all our WordPress websites using responsive design. We understood the importance and value for our clients.  For IdeaZone clients wondering about their mobile-friendliness please send us a message.

If you have any questions about the mobile-friendliness of your website don’t hesitate to contact us.

More information:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

http://moz.com/community/q/google-s-mobile-update-what-we-know-so-far-updated-3-25

iz-long

IdeaZone, Bold and Daring Design

I was recently asked where I saw IdeaZone’s design style moving in the future, and replied that I wanted us to move backwards – back to our roots. On further reflection, I realized that it was not IdeaZone’s design origins for which I was striving, it was my own.

I have found myself thinking of my early days in this industry, before anyone started seriously talking about this new medium called the ‘inter-web’.

In 1993 (yes, I am that old), renowned graphic designer Richard Urysz brought me into his firm. His company, Designamite, was a creative design firm that specialized in corporate branding and point of purchase advertising. I wish I could say that Richard hired me based on my outstanding design skills, but I suspect it had more to do with him being tired of watching the father of his two grandsons struggle as a freelance graphic designer.

Richard provided bold and daring design, laced with tongue-in-cheek copywriting, and his work was far beyond outstanding.

One night, over too much beer and bourbon, Richard told me that he felt that the internet would be the world’s next point of purchase medium and that we needed to move in that direction. I felt that trying to push a highly graphical message through a 14.4kbit/s (the best at the time) modem was crazy. Richard insisted that one day, every business would be featured on the web. We might even have online services that would stream our audio and maybe even video.

He might have been accused of being a visionary.

Designamite shortly became one of the first design firms in BC to feature a client’s company online. It was a daring and innovative marketing move that proved itself to be immensely successful.

Designamite folded. Richard and I parted ways, but continued to work closely together. Richard went on as Creative Director at PCNCG, while I founded J. Valade Studios (soon to merge with IdeaZone). In the early years, I felt that Richard’s designs were much too bold for the internet, while my team kept things subdued and comfortable for our small business clients.

The friendship that Richard and I shared went far beyond our working relationship, lasted much longer than my marriage with his daughter, and was steeped within the industry that defined us both.

The technology that drives the internet is finally there. WordPress, with the right editors and plugins, allows us to bring bold and daring graphic design to the internet.

THAT IS WHERE I WANT IDEAZONE TO BE.

I want IdeaZone to be bold, laced with tongue-in-cheek copywriting, and far beyond outstanding. I want this company to reflect the heart and soul that Richard and I originally brought to this industry.

Richard was more than just a friend. He was a mentor I looked up to and respected. I owe my career to him and I wish him the best in the next life.

hdr

False HDR Effect From a Single JPG Photo with Photoshop

What is HRD Photography… or High Dynamic Range Imaging?

“High dynamic range imaging or HDR Photography is a set of methods used in imaging and photography to allow a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. HDR images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.”

In the simplest terms, HDR Photography will blend together three versions of the same photo. One at normal exposure, one at a lower exposure and one at a higher exposure. This creates a high dynamic range that produces an outstandingly vibrant picture.  Most new cameras come with HDR options built in. Even my Samsung Galaxy SIII has this option provided that you manage to keep your hands from shaking long enough. If not it will produce an outstandingly vibrant blur.

But what about those older pictures in your archives.

It is possible to create a False HDR Effect using Photoshop.

I have looked at a number of different techniques for this and the following is my favourite because the effect is a little more subtle and most of the steps can be done with keyboard shortcuts.

The photos on the left are the originals with the adjusted photos on the right… click to enlarge.

HRD Photography HDR Photography by Jon Valade

HRD Photography with Photoshop Effect HRD Photography with Photoshop Effect

Photography by Jon Valade Photography by Jon Valade

HDR Photography using Photoshop HDR Photography using Photoshop

 Instructions

To create your False HDR Effect using Photoshop, follow the instructions below:

  1. Take your original image and move it from the background to a layer called ‘Original’. Since I will need to create multiple layers with the same image I did this by selecting the image and pasting it into the new layer… this keeps the original image in the buffer to easily paste it a few mre times.
  2. Create a new layer above ‘Original’ and call it ‘Desaturate’. Paste the original image into the layer and change the Blending options to ‘Overlay’
  3. Desaturate the layer (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate) or (SHIFT + CTRL + U)
  4. Invert the layer (Image > Adjustments > Invert) or (CTRL I)
  5. Add around 40 pixels (tweak to your liking)  Gaussian Bluer to the layer (Filter > Bluer > Gaussian Blur
  6. Create a new layer above ‘Desaturate’ and call it ‘linear’
  7. Change the blending option to ‘Linear Light’
  8. Adjust the opacity of ‘Linear’ to somewhere between 25% and 65%

Save it and be fabulous…

iz-long

Jon Valade Presenting at WRCUP 2013

I have been asked to Join Richard Clement to present a session at this year’s WRCUP Conference at UVic.

Richard and I will be spending this time critiquing websites for journalism students.

From the conference’s Facebook Event page…


Our conference will take place from March 22-24th at the University of Victoria. We are looking to bring dynamic speakers from Victoria’s vibrant journalism community to our conference. Accommodation will be provided by the Strathcona Hotel, right in the heart of downtown Victoria. A short 15 minute bus ride on public transportation will bring you from the hotel to campus. Victoria has an amazing number of local brew pubs, nightclubs, and other venues sure to keep any cuppie satisfied for the night.

For more information, please go to: http://cup.ca/?page_id=1594


Click for information rom the Canadian University Press website.

Click for the conference Facebook page

Tips and Tools Sheet