5-Step Checklist for Revamping Your Small Business Online Presence

According to Adweek, 81% of consumers conduct research online before buying something. You almost certainly already know this and pivoted your business storefront online years ago, but unless you are remarkably vigilant of the latest trends, your online presence could probably use an upgrade.

Changes continuously sweep across the internet, social media, Google, and the content marketing world. Your online business presence must change too, or you risk receding into obscurity, stagnating with an out-of-touch website or, god forbid, a MySpace page. Most small businesses aren’t maximizing their online presence. Less than half of small businesses advertise online, pay attention to Search Engine Optimization, or have a social media presence, and a quarter of small businesses don’t have a website at all.

For those who wish to gain a competitive advantage, consider this 5-step checklist for revamping your online presence before 2017:

  1. Re-assess and Segment Your Target Market

Before you make any actual changes to your online presence, it’s important reconsider your target market. Identify the common characteristics of your target market. Then segment that market into specific groups of people. Without segments to focus on, you will never have a highly-focused and effective campaign.

For example, an online clothing store has segmented their market – men’s and women’s – to push customers down the sales funnel toward their desired destination. Customers are looking for something specific from you – so direct them to that segmented goal.

  1. Listen to and Engage with Your Audience

Now that you have your target market segments, engage with them and conduct some experiments. Find the best channels to interact with your potential clients. Social media platforms often break down along demographic lines. Do you have a professional, career-oriented customer base? Try LinkedIn. Focused more on female creatives? Try Pinterest. Once you’ve zeroed in, engage with your audience, track their online activity, and set up Google Alerts to figure out how to best design your online presence to match your audience’s tendencies.

  1. Optimize Your Landing Pages for Conversions

The main goal of improving your online presence is to maximize conversions, turning a casual visitor to your website into a customer. Your landing page is therefore mission critical. Most site visitors spend only up to 8 seconds before leaving your landing page. This means that you must use the most effective design tactics possible to keep your visitor’s attention and readily satisfy their needs. Also remember that every page on your site is a possible landing page – not everyone will enter your site through the front door.

  1. Don’t Forget About Mobile

There are still many small business websites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices. This should be a major concern. To make the most of your online presence, make sure you hire a web designer who works in responsive design, who can create a flexible website for both desktop and mobile.

  1. Take Advantage of Google

Your business may not show up on Google Maps unless you’ve claimed your Google My Business. If you haven’t done this yet, do this immediately. Google accounts for more than 70% of all desktop searches. If you’re not maximizing your use of everything that Google has to offer, you are invisible to many potential customers.

How To Get Great Online Reviews

Great online reviews are important to consumers and businesses. With today’s fast pace and the ubiquity of internet access, consumers consult online reviews before making purchasing decisions. Reviews can literally sway you towards or away from a product or service. Whether these reviews are on Amazon, Google, Yelp, or a medical doctor review site doesn’t really matter. What is important for businesses is understanding that buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. People trust online reviews almost as much as personal recommendations.

No matter how hard you try, you will get some bad reviews. They are inevitable. Somewhere along the line, a customer will have a bad experience and will voice their displeasure to the world. While you can’t stop this from happening, it’s not the bad reviews themselves, but how you deal with them that has the biggest impact on future buying decisions.

The most effective way of reducing the negative impact of negative reviews is to increase the number of positive reviews.

Getting your customers to give you good reviews can be tricky.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Get Great Online Reviews

When it comes to getting good reviews, there’s one thing that makes a huge difference. Deliver an exceptional customer experience. Happy customers will help you grow your business.

Ways To Get Positive Online Reviews

Here are five legitimate and effective ways to get positive online reviews.

Ask The Right Customers

Your customers might love you and be thrilled to be doing business with you, but you’re not at the center of their world; they are. They aren’t spending their free time coming up with ways to help your business. If you want that help, you need to ask for it.

But if positive online reviews are what you’re looking for, then you need to be asking the right customers. The right customers are the ones who are getting the most value out of your product.

If you know some of your customers are referring other customers, then first reach out to the referrers for a review.

Ask at The Right Time

The best time to ask for an online review is when the value that you’ve delivered to the customer is at the top of their mind, making it easy for them to recall what happened and write an honest review.

Ask the Right Way

Want to lose your credibility as a business with a single word?

Send an email asking for “good” reviews. Or “positive” ones. Or any other adjective that suggests that you might be trying to tell your customers what to write, even if it isn’t true.

How to ask for a review (in an email)

Hi _________,

Thanks for coming in the other day. I appreciate your making time to see us.

If it’s not too much trouble, I have a quick request: could you please leave an honest review on (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, blog, etc…) Here’s a link.

Even a sentence or two would be hugely appreciated. If it helps us get more awesome customers like you, it’ll let us keep making (your business) better for you.  J

Thanks, and if there’s anything I can do to help you, don’t hesitate to let me know.

If You Get Ignored, Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Again

If your request for a review didn’t even get opened, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a customer doesn’t want to help you. You may have caught them at a bad time, or your email might simply have gotten lost in the fray of the average bulging inbox. Remember that ultimately customers with great experiences will want to give you a good review. It’s just a matter of timing. So don’t be afraid to ask your great clients two or three times if you get ignored.

Make It Easy for the Reviewer

Perhaps the most important step in getting great online reviews is making it easy for your reviewer to give you a great online review. Make sure your directions and expectations are clear and concise and if possible be sure to include a link directly to the online review form.


How To Deal With Negative Online Reviews

Online reviews are important to consumers and businesses. With today’s fast pace and the ubiquity of internet access, consumers consult online reviews before making purchasing decisions. Reviews can literally sway you towards or away from a product or service. Whether these reviews are on Amazon, Google, Yelp, or a medical doctor review site doesn’t really matter. What is important for businesses is understanding that buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. People trust online reviews almost as much as personal recommendations. Online reviews are critical in getting customers to research a product or service.

Just look at some of these statistics about online reviews:

  • 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Source: BrightLocal)
  • 70% of consumers say business service reviews (recruiting services, agencies) are as or more important than reviews of personal services (home contractors, babysitters). (Source: Capterra)
  • Customers spend 31% more with a business that has “excellent” reviews. (Source: Invesp)
  • 40% of buyers form an opinion of a business after reading just 1-3 reviews. (Source: BrightLocal)
  • 72% of buyers will take action only after reading a positive review. (Source: BrightLocal)

So what should you do when you get a negative review?

Respond Promptly

Promptly responding to a negative review shows the customer that you care and value their opinion. A prompt and personal response may also help you get a second chance from the customer that had an initial negative experience with your company, service, or product.

Take the Issue Offline

If it’s possible, try to replay via email or phone. For example, Yelp gives business page owners the opportunity to respond via email. If you are able to resolve the matter to the customer’s satisfaction, leave a brief comment in the public timeline.

Be Polite and Don’t Take the Review Personally

A negative review might piss you off and lead you to respond with harsher words than are necessary. Take time to collect your thoughts and respond by saying something like “Thank you for your valuable feedback. I would love the opportunity to speak with you about your experience. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.”

It’s more important for a business or service provider to take the high road and appear conciliatory to customer concerns than it is to establish its side of the story. The customer will always win any argument about their experience.

If, after talking to the person, you find there is a valid reason for his comments, take proactive steps to remedy the situation. When warranted, provide restitution in the form of a coupon or discount.

Monitor Your Online Presence

In order to respond to reviews, you need to know what customers are saying and where they are saying it. Either do this yourself, or hire an expert to monitor for you.

Understand How Rating and Review Sites Work

Each customer rating and review site has a unique algorithm that filters and ranks reviews.

Yelp recommends reviews it think will be most helpful to the Yelp community based on three factors: quality, reliability, and the reviewer’s activity on the site.

Tripadvisor ranks businesses based on star ratings.

Take Negative Reviews Seriously

In most cases, people who leave negative reviews aren’t out to defame you. They merely want to express their opinion about the experience. Take these reviews seriously because they may reveal an area of your business that could benefit from an improvement.

Encourage Customer Reviews

To offset the impact of a negative customer review, encourage customers to leave reviews.

Put signs or table toppers in your place of business for review sites you want to promote. Add a note to invoices or receipts asking customers to leave a review. If you email customers, ask them to share their feedback. These are subtle ways to encourage reviews from good customers.

Share Reviews with Your Employees

Make sure everyone in your company is aware of the reviews you’ve received, both positive and negative. Not only will that help you prevent a negative review in the future, but it will also build a customer-centric mindset among your employees.

Write Great Headlines: Suck Your Readers In

Write great headlines and you will suck your readers in. The headline is the most important part of your content. The second most important part is your introduction.

Your headline compels people to click on your post, but your introduction draws them in so that they actually read the post.

If you’re sick of not getting a high level of engagement on your posts, this is probably the main cause.

Think of it like this:

  • Write Bad headlines – low traffic
  • Write Good headlines, bad intro – High traffic, high bounce rate (people leave), low time on the page
  • Write Great headlines, great intro – High traffic, low bounce rate, high time on page

Aim for the third scenario – write great headlines.

To help you achieve the third scenario, I’m going to show you 4 of the best types of introductions you can use in your content.

1. Embrace the fear of failure

Great introductions (to anything) connect with the reader on an emotional level. Emotions drive action. In this case, the action we want is for the reader to keep reading.

Fear is one of the strongest motivating emotions, and people will go to great lengths to prevent that fear from coming true.

How to write your own fear-inspired introduction:

Create it in three steps:

  1. State the fear of failure or cause of fear – Do this in a straightforward manner.
  2. Illustrate the fear – Describe the fear and make the reader picture it.
  3. Transition to a solutions – The whole point is to hook the reader with fear and then provide a solution that eases that fear. Write about how your content will help them.

2. No one wants to be left behind

Another big fear is the fear of missing out. The fear of missing out is what drives the frenzy over buying lottery tickets. No one wants to be the one who misses out if someone within your group of friends miraculously wins. The fear of missing out can be applied in a few ways:

  • Fear of being left behind – in niches like SEO, if you don’t keep up with the latest information, you can become obsolete.
  • Fear of missing out on fun – no one wants to miss out on fun.
  • Fear of missing out on an opportunity – people tend to be more interested if something is only available for a limited time or limited to a certain quantity.

3. Use AIDA to captivate visitors

You may have heard of AIDA before.

It’s one of the most famous copy writing formulas there is because it’s so effective.

First, what does AIDA stand for?

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

To start off, you need to grab the attention of your readers. How do you do that? Typically with a bold or surprising claim.

If you can use numbers—great, but they’re not required. The only goal here is to catch the attention of your reader. It may be a sentence or two that seem unrelated at first to your topic.

Interest is similar to attention, and you certainly need to maintain attention, but this is where you tie your attention-grabbing introduction to the subject of the post.

To induce desire, all you need to do is make the benefits of your content clear.

Now, what about actionthe last part of the formula?

You can interpret and use it in two ways.

First, you could get a reader to take an action right at the end of your introduction. Maybe you want them to get a pen and paper or open a spreadsheet. Or maybe you want them to answer a question and come back to it at the end.

If this applies, go for it.

The action in this formula typically refers to the end of the content, though. So, in your conclusion, you should make it clear how a reader is supposed to apply what you just taught them.

4. Benefit First – Show Me The Money

If your readers are impatient and just want you to get to the point and do it fast, then consider starting off with the biggest benefit of your content.

This is how you will attract attention, and if the benefit you promise is big enough, they will invest the time to read through your content.

For example, you could start an article about website redesign by saying:

If you redesign your website, you could make $3,000+ per month within 6 months.

Assuming you’ve got your audience right, they’ll be glad to dig a bit deeper to find out if your claim is true.

After that opening claim, you want to expand on and back up your claim. To continue the example:

I know this because I’ve redesigned many websites and those sites have earned me $3,000+ per month on average.

That statement lends credibility to the initial claim. Finally, you should close the introduction by explaining how the reader will get to the solution. In this case, something like this would work:

I’m going to show you what you need to know to move forward so you can start generating additional revenue.


Don’t spend tons of hours working on content and then just slap on a weak introduction. Make sure it sucks readers in and hooks them.


Facebook Bots: What Are They, Who Uses Them & What You Should Do About It

In April, Facebook announced the launch of the Messenger Platform – a new service that gives businesses the ability to build custom facebook bots in Messenger. This has extreme marketing potential because the facebook bots functionality would already be built into an active user base. Facebook Messenger has about 900 million monthly active users worldwide.

As Zuckerburg said in his keynote, “No one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service they want to interact with.” To understand the full potential, we have to define a few things.

What is a Bot?

Sounds like robot, but a “bot” is a generalized term to describe any software that automates a task. What’s special about the facebook bots you can now build on Facebook Messenger is that they’re created using Facebook’s Wit.ai Bot Engine, which can turn natural language into structured data. This means that the bots can learn and essentially “get smarter” with each interaction. This is a type of artificial intelligence (AI).

If you build a Facebook Messenger Bot, will people use it?

The answer is maybe. Users can search for companies and bots inside Facebook Messenger by name, but companies are definitely going to have to promote these bots. For more information on this, read find and contact businesses on messenger.

Examples of Branded Facebook Messenger Bots


The example Mark Zuckerberg lauded in his keynote was the ability to send flowers from 1-800-Flowers without actually having to call the 1-800 number. A user, Danny Sullivan, subsequently tried it by sending flowers to Zuckerberg himself and documented the five-minute process here.

The bot took Sullivan through a few floral options and then confirmed shipping details.

Wall Street Journal

With the Wall Street Journal bot, readers can get live stock quotes by typing “$” followed by the ticker symbol. They can also get top headlines delivered to them inside of Messenger.


HP created a bot for Messenger that lets users print photos, documents, and files from Facebook or Messenger to any connected HP printer.


Facebook IM

Facebook is releasing its own Messenger bot, a personal assistant name “M”. M can answer a wide range of requests — from restaurant recommendations, to complex trivia, to last-minute hotel rates in the city.

Its flexibility is due to the fact that M is actually a bot-human hybrid. As Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer told Recode: “It’s primarily powered by people, but those people are effectively backed up by AIs.” While the bots act as a first line of defense in fielding questions, the difficult questions are quickly routed to human assistants.

Should You Build A Bot?

This is a hard question to answer, but you can start with the following questions:

  1. Do you have a clear use case?
  2. Is your audience on Facebook?
  3. Can you support inbound inquiries from Messenger?

Do you have a clear use case?

One big reason that many companies failed when building business apps is that they saw it as just another version of their website. They didn’t take the time to study how being on a mobile device would change the types of interactions their customers would want to have with their company. Some tasks are just not well-suited for mobile. So when you think about building a Facebook Messenger bot for your company, remember to think like your customer. How would they use it? What do they want to achieve?

Is your audience on Facebook?

If you have an audience who uses Facebook heavily in their personal lives, they’re likely to adopt Messenger as a communications tool. And how they use Messenger may expand beyond how they use Facebook.

Can you support inbound inquiries from Messenger?

This, for me, is the most important of the three questions. Don’t open a communication channel with your prospective and existing customers if you can’t support it. Even with the automation of a bot, you’ll still need to prioritize time to 1) promote it 2) monitor any questions your bot can’t answer and 3) keep tabs on the overall customer experience you’re creating with it.

If you’ve thought through the above three questions and think you’ve got a good foundation for a Facebook Messenger bot then dive in. There’s certainly a benefit to being an early adopter in this space.

How to Sync Multiple Google Calendars to Your IPhone or IPad

Google Calendar is one of the best online calendars. I use it for work and play but recently had some trouble syncing the calendars I have view-only access to with my iPhone and iPad.  Follow these instructions and you will be fully synced in no time.

Here’s how to get all of your Google calendars working on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. First, make sure your Google calendar is synced. The process is the same on all devices.
  2. Go to Settings. Then open Mail / Contact / Calendars.
  3. Next, select Add Account and Gmail. If you have already added your Gmail account, then instead of Add Account, choose Gmail from the list.
  4. Toggle the Calendar switch to On.

Next you must choose which calendars to sync to your phone or tablet:

  1. To do this, you need to visit www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect
  2. Make sure you are signed into your Google account. On this page you will see a list of all your calendars. Beside each calendar there is a check box.
  3. Tick the check boxes of the calendars you want to sync with the iPhone or iPad.
  4. Shared calendars that you don’t have administrative control over need to be selected individually, and the default setting is “Off”. This means that when a new calendar is shared, you will have to go back to https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect and configure again.
  5. Click save.
  6. Open the Calendars app on your iPhone or iPad and wait for it to sync.


Use Answer The Public for Small Business Marketing

Answer The Public’s tool is completely free and has become an integral part of my content strategy. We use it to determine the topics and questions surrounding the primary keywords that we want to rank for. We then try to answer as many of these questions as we can with our content. This way, when Google is looking at which websites have the best information regarding the topic, we’re not only more likely to rank, but we also are more likely to convert visitors because we answer the most important questions they have.

Answer The Public is extremely easy to use. Just go to http://answerthepublic.com/ and type a category or keyword and make sure you have the correct country selected.



A PIN is Better Than A Fingerprint For Protecting Private Data on Your Phone

A PIN is better than a fingerprint for protecting private data on your phone. Most modern smartphones now have fingerprint scanners. They are great for adding an extra level of security to your phone and make it really convenient to log into accounts and pay for purchases. But it turns out that in the United States, they don’t help you maintain your privacy in front of law enforcement.

In October 2014, a Virginia court ruled that suspects can be asked to unlock their phones using their fingerprints. Apparently this wasn’t tested until this February, when a judge in Los Angeles issued a warrant requiring a woman accused of identity theft to unlock her iPhone with her fingerprint.

The key in this case is that had the woman used a pin instead of her fingerprint to lock her phone, she wouldn’t have had to unlock it for the police. This is because the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from incriminating themselves during legal proceedings, prevents government agencies from forcing people to turn over memorized codes. However, a fingerprint or any other biometric identifier, can be collected.

There are several ways to fool fingerprint scanners, including the use of tape, so if someone could find you, they could make a copy and use it to access your phone.


How To Make Your Small Business Look Big

There are clear upsides to having a small business. You are agile and can change directions on a whim. You don’t have to conduct focus groups or wait through months of testing. You’ve got autonomy, since no other company owns or controls you. Of course you’re not competing directly with the biggest firms in your industry, but there are a few tools that can help your small business look bigger online.

How To Make Your Small Business Look Big

Build/Redesign Your Website

Last year the U.S. Small Business Administration estimated that 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website. Without an online presence, your small business can go unnoticed by potential customers. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create a small business website that looks like a big business website. In fact, many small businesses actually have more impressive websites than big businesses because they take advantage of the fact they are agile, nimble, and have autonomy. A new website is an achievable goal.

Plan Strategically

Strategic planning isn’t only for big corporations or non profit organizations. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. What’s the vision?
  3. What are the obstacles?
  4. What are my resources?
  5. What’s my strategy?
  6. What are my tactics?
  7. What will we monitor and measure?

Establish A Marketing Budget

Procter & Gamble spent nearly $3 billion in marketing in 2014! That’s more than any other company in the world. While no small business can even dream of matching that, there’s a cost to getting your product, service, or brand in front of potential customers and clients. How much do you need to spend to look big? It depends on your business and whether you are selling direct to customers or direct to businesses. On average, companies spend about 6 percent of their revenue on marketing.

Don’t Rely Exclusively on Social Media

Social media is all the rage these days and it’s true that it shouldn’t be overlooked. At the same time, it makes no sense to rely exclusively on social media. Some people do it because it’s mostly free. Success depends a lot on the industry and your target audience. If most of your target audience is on Facebook, then spend some of your time there. If you’re in a professional business and you need to connect with professional colleagues, I’d recommend LinkedIn. If you run a restaurant and you want to show people how great your food looks, try Instagram, which is also a great tool for connecting with teenage consumers. See which sites the big brands in your industry use, and use that as a guideline.


Cyber Security – Will Our Risk Decrease If We Have Fewer Devices?

This is a good question but I don’t think it’s immediately a cyber security question. There is definitely a correlation between the number of devices you have to manage and potential risk. And it’s possible there’s a cost savings by having a laptop instead of multiple devices as there are fewer computers that need to be serviced. But I think your actual cyber security risk goes up when you give people mobile devices. Laptops can be used in many unsafe places and their versatility might actually increase security problems.

The real answer is the educational one. If people make the right choices, then cyber security risks can be minimized.

Here are some pointers to help you create an action plan to strengthen your company’s defenses against hackers:

1) Failure to cover cyber security basics – software and operating system updates

2) Not understanding what generates corporate cyber security risks

3) Lack of a cyber security policy

As part of their cyber security policies, companies should:

  • identify risks related to cyber security
  • establish cyber security governance
  • develop policies, procedures and oversight processes
  • protect company networks and information
  • identify and address risks associated with remote access to client information and funds transfer requests
  • define and handle risks associated with vendors and other third parties
  • be able to detect unauthorized activity.

4) Confusing compliance with cyber security

5) The human factor – the weakest link

6) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy and the Cloud

7) Funding, talent and resource constraints

Think of this security layer as the immune system of your company that needs funding and talent to ensure that you don’t experience severe losses as a consequence of cyber-attacks. A good approach would be to set reasonable expectations towards this objective and allocate the resources you can afford.

8) No information security training

Employee training and awareness is essential when covering your base in terms of information security.

Another quick look at the most common file types that hackers use to penetrate your system and trigger attacks that can lead to data leakage tells you what types of actionable advice you could include in your employees’ trainings on cyber security.

9) Lack of a recovery plan

Being prepared for a security attack means to have a thorough plan of what can happen to prevent the cyber-attack, but also minimize the damage if is takes place.

10) Constantly evolving risks

Polymorphic malware is harmful, destructive or intrusive computer software such as a virus, worm, Trojan or spyware that constantly changes, making it difficult to detect with anti-malware programs. That is why you should take into account that your company might need an extra layer of protection, on top of the antivirus solution.

The first line of defense must be ensured by a product that can act proactively to identify malware, block access to hacker controlled servers and stop data leakage, but also keep your system protected by patching vulnerabilities (usually, applications that are not up to date, such as Flash or Java).