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Simple Spam Fighting: The Easiest Local Rankings You’ll Ever Earn

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Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: Visit Lakeland

Reporting fake and duplicate listings to Google sounds hard. Sometimes it can be. But very often, it’s as easy as falling off a log, takes only a modest session of spam fighting and can yield significant local ranking improvements.

If your local business/the local brands your agency markets aren’t using spam fighting as a ranking tactic because you feel you lack the time or skills, please sit down with me for a sec.

What if I told you I spent about an hour yesterday doing something that moved a Home Depot location up 3 spots in a competitive market in Google’s local rankings less than 24 hours later? What if, for you, moving up a spot or two would get you out of Google’s local finder limbo and into the actual local pack limelight?

Today I’m going to show you exactly what I did to fight spam, how fast and easy it was to sweep out junk listings, and how rewarding it can be to see results transform in favor of the legitimate businesses you market.

Washing up the shady world of window blinds

Image credit: Aqua Mechanical

Who knew that shopping for window coverings would lead me into a den of spammers throwing shade all over Google?

The story of Google My Business spam is now more than a decade in the making, with scandalous examples like fake listings for locksmiths and addiction treatment centers proving how unsafe and unacceptable local business platforms can become when left unguarded.

But even in non-YMYL industries, spam listings deceive the public, waste consumers’ time, inhibit legitimate businesses from being discovered, and erode trust in the spam-hosting platform. I saw all of this in action when I was shopping to replace some broken blinds in my home, and it was such a hassle trying to find an actual vendor amid the chaff of broken, duplicate, and lead gen listings, I decided to do something about it.

I selected an SF Bay area branch of Home Depot as my hypothetical “client.” I knew they had a legitimate location in the city of Vallejo, CA — a place I don’t live but sometimes travel to, thereby excluding the influence of proximity from my study. I knew that they were only earning an 8th place ranking in Google’s Local Finder, pushed down by spam. I wanted to see how quickly I could impact Home Depot’s surprisingly bad ranking.

I took the following steps, and encourage you to take them for any local business you’re marketing, too:

Step 1: Search

While located at the place of business you’re marketing, perform a Google search (or have your client perform it) for the keyword phrase for which you most desire improved local rankings. Of course, if you’re already ranking well as you want to for the searchers nearest you, you can still follow this process for investigating somewhat more distant areas within your potential reach where you want to increase visibility.

In the results from your search, click on the “more businesses” link at the bottom of the local pack, and you’ll be taken to the interface commonly called the “Local Finder.”

The Local Finder isn’t typically 100% identical to the local pack in exact ranking order, but it’s the best place I know of to see how things stand beyond the first 3 results that make up Google’s local packs, telling a business which companies they need to surpass to move up towards local pack inclusion.

Step 2: Copy my spreadsheet

Find yourself in the local finder. In my case, the Home Depot location was at position 8. I hope you’re somewhere within the first set of 20 results Google typically gives, but if you’re not, keep paging through until you locate your listing. If you don’t find yourself at all, you may need to troubleshoot whether an eligibility issue, suspension, or filter is at play. But, hopefully that’s not you today.

Next, create a custom spreadsheet to record your findings. Or, much easier, just make a copy of mine!

Populate the spreadsheet by cutting and pasting the basic NAP (name, address, phone) for every competitor ranking above you, and include your own listing, too, of course! If you work for an agency, you’ll need to get the client to help you with this step by filling the spreadsheet out based on their search from their place of business.

In my case, I recorded everything in the first 20 results of the Local Finder, because I saw spam both above and below my “client,” and wanted to see the total movement resulting from my work in that result set.

Step 3: Identify obvious spam

We want to catch the easy fish today. You can go down rabbit holes another day, trying to ferret out weirdly woven webs of lead gen sites spanning the nation, but today, we’re just looking to weed out listings that clearly, blatantly don’t belong in the Local Finder. 

Go through these five easy steps:

  1. Look at the Google Streetview image for each business outranking you.
    Do you see a business with signage that matches the name on the listing? Move on. But if you see a house, an empty parking lot, or Google is marking the listing as “location approximate”, jot that down in the Notes section of your spreadsheet. For example, I saw a supposed window coverings showroom that Streetview was locating in an empty lot on a military base. Big red flag there.
  2. Make note of any businesses that share an address, phone number, or very similar name.
    Make note of anything with an overly long name that seems more like a string of keywords than a brand. For example, a listing in my set was called: Custom Window Treatments in Fairfield, CA Hunter Douglas Dealer.
  3. For every business you noted down in steps one and two, get on the phone.
    Is the number a working number? If someone answers, do they answer with the name of the business? Note it down. Say, “Hi, where is your shop located?” If the answer is that it’s not a shop, it’s a mobile business, note that down. Finally, If anything seems off, check the Guidelines for representing your business on Google to see what’s allowed in the industry you’re investigating. For example, it’s perfectly okay for a window blinds dealer to operate out of their home, but if they’re operating out of 5 homes in the same city, it’s likely a violation. In my case, just a couple of minutes on the phone identified multiple listings with phone numbers that were no longer in service.
  4. Visit the iffy websites. 
    Now that you’re narrowing your spreadsheet down to a set of businesses that are either obviously legitimate or “iffy,” visit the websites of the iffy ones. Does the name on the listing match the name on the website? Does anything else look odd? Note it down.
  5. Highlight businesses that are clearly spammy.
    Your dive hasn’t been deep, but by now, it may have identified one or more listings that you strongly believe don’t belong because they have spammy names, fake addresses, or out-of-service phone numbers. My lightning-quick pass through my data set showed that six of the twenty listings were clearly junk. That’s 30% of Google’s info being worthless! I suggest marking these in red text in your spreadsheet to make the next step fast and easy.

Step 4: Report it!

If you want to become a spam-fighting ace later, you’ll need to become familiar with Google’s Business Redressal Complaint Form which gives you lots of room for sharing your documentation of why a listing should be removed. In fact, if an aggravating spammer remains in the Local Finder despite what we’re doing in this session, this form is where you’d head next for a more concerted effort.

But, today, I promised the easiness of falling off a log, so our first effort at impacting the results will simply focus on the “suggest an edit” function you’ll see on each listing you’re trying to get rid of. This is how you do it:

After you click the “suggest an edit” button on the listing, a popup will appear. If you’re reporting something like a spammy name, click the “change name or other details” option and fill out the form. If you’ve determined a listing represents a non-existent, closed, unreachable, or duplicate entity, choose the “remove this place” option and then select the dropdown entry that most closely matches the problem. You can add a screenshot or other image if you like, but in my quick pass through the data, I didn’t bother.

Record the exact action you took for each spam listing in the “Actions” column of the spreadsheet. In my case, I was reporting a mixture or non-existent buildings, out-of-service phone numbers, and one duplicate listing with a spammy name.

Finally, hit the “send” button and you’re done.

Step 5: Record the results

Within an hour of filing my reports with Google, I received an email like this for 5 of the 6 entries I had flagged:

The only entry I received no email for was the duplicate listing with the spammy name. But I didn’t let this worry me. I went about the rest of my day and checked back in the morning.

I’m not fond of calling out businesses in public. Sometimes, there are good folks who are honestly confused about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Also, I sometimes find screenshots of the local finder overwhelmingly cluttered and endlessly long to look at. Instead, I created a bare-bones representational schematic of the total outcome of my hour of spam-fighting work.

The red markers are legit businesses. The grey ones are spam. The green one is the Home Depot I was trying to positively impact. I attributed a letter of the alphabet to each listing, to better help me see how the order changed from day one to day two. The lines show the movement over the course of the 24 hours.

The results were that:

  • A stayed the same, and B and C swapping positions was unlikely due to my work; local rankings can fluctuate like this from hour to hour.
  • Five out of six spam listings I reported disappeared. The keyword-stuffed duplicate listing which was initially at position K was replaced by the brand’s legitimate listing one spot lower than it had been.
  • The majority of the legitimate businesses enjoyed upward movement, with the exception of position I which went down, and M and R which disappeared. Perhaps new businesses moving into the Local Finder triggered a filter, or perhaps it was just the endless tide of position changes and they’ll be back tomorrow.
  • Seven new listings made it into the top 20. Unfortunately, at a glance, it looked to me like 3 of these new listings were new spam. Dang, Google!
  • Most rewardingly, my hypothetical client, Home Depot, moved up 3 spots. What a super easy win!

Fill out the final column in your spreadsheet with your results.

What we’ve learned

You battle upstream every day for your business or clients. You twist yourself like a paperclip complying with Google’s guidelines, seeking new link and unstructured citation opportunities, straining your brain to shake out new content, monitoring reviews like a chef trying to keep a cream sauce from separating. You do all this in the struggle for better, broader visibility, hoping that each effort will incrementally improve reputation, rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Catch your breath. Not everything in life has to be so hard. The river of work ahead is always wide, but don’t overlook the simplest stepping stones. Saunter past the spam listings without breaking a sweat and enjoy the easy upward progress!

I’d like to close today with three meditations:

1. Google is in over their heads with spam

Google is in over their heads with spam. My single local search for a single keyword phrase yielded 30% worthless data in their top local results. Google says they process 63,000 searches per second and that as much as 50% of mobile queries have a local intent. I don’t know any other way to look at Google than as having become an under-regulated public utility at this point.

Expert local SEOs can spot spam listings in query after query, industry after industry, but Google has yet to staff a workforce or design an algorithm sufficient to address bad data that has direct, real-world impacts on businesses and customers. I don’t know if they lack the skills or the will to take responsibility for this enormous problem they’ve created, but the problem is plain. Until Google steps up, my best advice is to do the smart and civic work of watchdogging the results that most affect the local community you serve. It’s a positive not just for your brand, but for every legitimate business and every neighbor near you.

2. You may get in over your head with spam

You may get in over your head with spam. Today’s session was as simple as possible, but GMB spam can stem from complex, global networks. The Home Depot location I randomly rewarded with a 3-place jump in Local Finder rankings clearly isn’t dedicating sufficient resources to spam fighting or they would’ve done this work themselves.

But the extent of spam is severe. If your market is one that’s heavily spammed, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the problem. In such cases, I recommend that you:

  • Read this excellent recent article by Jessie Low on the many forms spam can take, plus some great tips for more strenuous fighting than we’ve covered today.
  • Follow Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal, and Jason Brown, all of whom publish ongoing information on this subject. If you wade into a spam network, I recommend reporting it to one or more of these experts on Twitter, and, if you wish to become a skilled spam fighter yourself, you will learn a lot from what these three have published.
  • If you don’t want to fight spam yourself, hire an agency that has the smarts to be offering this as a service.
  • You can also report listing spam to the Google My Business Community Forum, but it’s a crowded place and it can sometimes be hard to get your issue seen.
  • Finally, if the effect of spam in your market is egregious enough, your ability to publicize it may be your greatest hope. Major media have now repeatedly featured broadcasts and stories on this topic, and shame will sometimes move Google to action when no other motivation appears to.

3. Try to build a local anti-spam movement

What if you built a local movement? What if you and your friendlier competitors joined forces to knock spam out of Google together? Imagine all of the florists, hair salons, or medical practitioners in a town coming together to watch the local SERPs in shifts so that everyone in their market could benefit from bad actors being reported.

Maybe you’re already in a local business association with many hands that could lighten the work of protecting a whole community from unethical business practices. Maybe your town could then join up with the nearest major city, and that city could begin putting pressure on legislators. Maybe legislators would begin to realize the extent of the impacts when legitimate businesses face competition from fake entities and illegal practices. Maybe new anti-trust and communications regulations would ensue.

Now, I promised you “simple,” and this isn’t it, is it? But every time I see a fake listing, I know I’m looking at a single pebble and I’m beginning to think it may take an avalanche to bring about change great enough to protect both local brands and consumers. Google is now 15 years into this dynamic with no serious commitment in sight to resolve it.

At least in your own backyard, in your own community, you can be one small part of the solution with the easy tactics I’ve shared today, but maybe it’s time for local commerce to begin both doing more and expecting more in the way of protections. 

I’m ready for that. And you?

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





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Marketing Strategies

WordPress vs Wix vs Brandcast: 4 factors to help you choose between them

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You’ve put off your website redesign for too long. 

You’re losing leads and your brand looks dated and out of touch. It’s time to create a new website that will help you attract leads, close deals, and grow your business.

The question is, however: which website platform should you use?

There are so many website platform options these days that it can be hard to choose which is best for your business. 

Different platforms deliver different benefits, so it’s important to understand how your business goals align with the capabilities of your website solution.

This guide will help you understand the top metrics of website success and compare the three popular website platforms, WordPress, Wix, and Brandcast, in terms of them.

Factors to consider when choosing a website platform 

There are a lot of ways to measure the success of a website. 

If you care most about traffic to your site, you may want to optimize your website’s SEO performance or perhaps you care most about converting visitors into leads and want to optimize your website’s conversion strategy. 

You may even just care about elevating your brand and need a beautifully designed website that reflects who your company is.

Whatever the goals of your website are, reaching those goals can be impacted by the website platform you choose. 

There are generally four factors to consider when evaluating your website solution:

  1. Speed of Build Out
  2. Scale
  3. Control
  4. Design

Speed of build out

How fast you can launch your new website greatly impacts the return on investment (ROI) it will deliver. 

Some websites platforms allow you to launch a new website very quickly while others require lots of development and design hours. 

The amount of time and resources you can invest here may vary from company to company, but regardless of individual circumstances, the more hours required to launch a website, the more website costs your project likely accrues, which eats away at future profits your website can deliver.

Understanding the speed capabilities of different website platforms will help you decide which platform is best for your needs.

Scale

Scale relates to both the size and complexity of your website as well as the number of websites you want to launch.

Some companies require only simple websites with a few pages, like a home page, an about page, and a contact page. 

Others, on the other hand, require complicated site structures with many interconnected pages for multiple brands, regions, products, or services.

The size of your website project should heavily influence which website platform you go with.

There’s also a question of the number of websites you need to launch. 

Some companies require only one main dot com; others require many websites for different brands, divisions, or products. 

Take AAA, for example. They have offices all over the world, each that needs to maintain their own individual website while maintaining brand standards.

Using multiple website solutions to launch each of those websites becomes a complicated, brand-compliance nightmare.

If producing a lot of websites is a priority for your business, then you’ll want to select a website platform that will easily scale with you.

Control

Websites are online living documents.

They’re meant to change over time, partly because your company’s messages and offerings naturally change over time, and partly to meet internet new conventions, like SEO guidelines or ADA compliance practices. 

If making those changes are too difficult, then maintaining your website becomes a challenge.

Depending on how often you need to update the content and design of your website and your skill level, you’ll want a website platform that best fits your needs.

Design

Great design can make all the difference between a website that performs and one  that flops.

Your website is often your first touchpoint with your buyers and should reflect both the value you provide as well as the quality of your brand so your design needs to be up to par. 

For some companies, like sole proprietorships or other small businesses where there aren’t a lot of resources to spare for the design and maintenance of a website, this can be accomplished with simple, customizable templates. 

Other companies require custom layouts, graphics, and interactions. This is especially true for large enterprise with defined brand standards that must communicate a consistent, approved message with their website.

Knowing what level of design you need for your website will help you pick the website platform best suited to make your website stand out.

Now that we know what factors you should be looking at, let’s compare three popular website platforms and see how they stack up 

WordPress vs Wix vs Brandcast 

We’ll use a simple star rating system. Three stars means the platform exceeds in an area, whereas one star means it’s lacking some features or functionality.

WordPress

WordPress is one of the most ubiquitous website platforms, powering 34% of all websites online today

The secret to its success? It’s an open-source platform, meaning that anyone can download its source code and start creating custom websites, either from scratch with custom code or using editable templates.

Speed

When it comes to launching something quickly, WordPress is less like a Ferrari and more like a city bus; it’ll get you where you need to go just like it does with lots of other people, but not necessarily quickly.

The reason for this is because WordPress often requires a lot of custom development. 

It’s open-source, so while there are a lot of resources to help you build a WordPress site, you (or the developers you hire) may need to start from scratch and build the structure of your site.

You can move a little faster with WordPress when you use its template gallery, but depending on the kinds of elements you want to include in your website, like custom animations and interactions, it’s going to be difficult to fully avoid at least some time spent working in the code, which can slow your launch date.

Scale ★★

You can build almost anything on WordPress, from your main dot com to an online publication and even a full eCommerce platform.

Since it’s so adaptable, WordPress is great for building large sites with lots of content, so you never feel limited by what you can do with a single website.

However, if you want to launch lots of websites and are on a budget, WordPress isn’t the ideal solution.

Each site you launch requires additional payment and hosting, which makes scaling challenging if you’re a large brand with the need for multiple domains. 

Control ★★

With WordPress, you have complete control over the look and feel of your website, especially if you opt for custom development. This is because WordPress allows you to code your own website from the ground up, to look and respond exactly how you  want.

Even if custom-coded, editing WordPress site content is also very straightforward. 

Using WordPress’ content management system (CMS), non-technical users can edit copy and images without touching any code. 

Image Credit: pagely

This makes updating product pages or publishing blogs more efficient for marketers who may not have a development background. 

There is also a large number of customizable templates to choose from on WordPress, so even if you don’t have design resources handy, you can still create a well-designed experience that looks uniquely your own.

There’s a catch though. 

A lot of big changes you want to make to the design of your website may require the help of a developer. While simple design changes like font sizes and colors are easy enough, making structural changes to the layout of your website means editing the code of your website.

Design ★★★

Because you can edit the code directly, WordPress sites are fully customizable, allowing for stunning designs that fully communicate your brand’s value while captivating visitors.

You’ll still need a developer to bring your web designs onto the page since WordPress doesn’t have its own design studio, but as long as you’re prepared for that, you can make your website look however you want.

Wix

Wix is another popular website platform, with more than 154 million active users worldwide

It’s less robust than WordPress, but it makes up for that with a simple interface that allows users to rapidly publish websites.

Speed ★★★

Wix’s builder makes use of a drag-and-drop editor that allows users to quickly build out websites without needing to code. 

wordpress-drag-and-drop

Image Credit: VisionFriendly

Users select the kinds of elements they want to bring into their website, reposition, and resize the elements, and publish with the click of a button.

With a large template gallery full of beautifully designed websites, Wix is a great option for the small business or eCommerce company that wants to get a website out right now.

Scale

If you’re building a large site or multiple sites, Wix isn’t the best solution. 

Like WordPress, it charges by the domain, meaning companies must pay separately for each website they launch.

While Wix’s drag-and-drop interface is great for creating smaller sites with a few pages, it isn’t so great for designing large websites with complex structures. 

Its top tier plan offers only 35 GB of storage (comparable to the internal memory of the average smartphone), meaning you’ll have to consider other hosting options if you plan to have a lot of content and resources on your website, especially if your hosting your own memory-heavy content like videos.. 

Control ★★

You don’t need to know how to code to make adjustments to your Wix website. You can edit copy and design straight from the editor, which allows non-developers to create new content and change existing content with just a few clicks.

While its visual interface is great for smaller companies looking to get online fast, Wix isn’t very customizable as a trade-off, limiting the ways that larger companies can represent their brand online.

Design

While Wix allows users to create websites from a blank canvas as well as edit templates, it doesn’t allow for more complex custom designs. 

You can create simple interfaces and add custom colors, fonts, and images to your websites, but beyond that, users are pretty limited in the kinds of unique experiences they can create.

For many companies, this is okay; the functional benefits they get from Wix outweigh the limitations on custom design. 

Using Wix will allow you to launch a website quickly with minimal customization. If custom design isn’t as important to your brand as being able to control the look and feel of your website, then you’ll love the ease of use Wix offers.

If you need to create a large number of websites, utilizing existing templates and designs, then Wix may not be the best option for you.

 

Brandcast

Brandcast is an enterprise web design platform that allows users to create custom web experiences entirely in the cloud. 

This includes websites as well as other digital touchpoints that map to the buyer journey such as web books, sales proposals, customer relationship portals, and more.

Unlike WordPress and Wix, Brandcast has a visual design studio that allows users to design beautiful, engaging websites from scratch for any device size. 

Speed ★★

Because of its visual design studio, Brandcast users can build websites fast. 

Like Wix, it allows non-developers to quickly drag-and-drop website elements onto a page, but with the added benefit of being able to import designs from Sketch or PhotoShop without losing anything in translation.

In addition, once pages and elements are designed in Brandcast, they can be turned into templates that can be reused and repurposed over and over. The more you use Brandcast, the faster you become.

brandcast-templates

Don’t have designers? No problem! Brandcast has a gallery of easy to use templates that you can make entirely your own with logos, colors, and custom fonts, allowing you to create a web experience that will engage your buyers and elevate your brand.

For some businesses that just want to get up and running with a website template (many smaller businesses, for instance) will find that Brandcast is a little too complicated for what they need. 

It’s great for designing something custom quickly, but for businesses that just want to use a website design already made for them will find Wix and WordPress better suited to their needs.

Scale ★★★

Brandcast charges one annual fee that allows you to launch an unlimited number of websites.

This makes Brandcast a great option for large companies with multiple brands, divisions, or products that need to launch a lot of different websites all from one platform.

While it’s a great option for larger companies looking to launch a lot of web-based experiences, Brandcast isn’t the best option for smaller companies looking to only launch one website. 

With its annual fee and flexible platform, Brandcast is a better solution for companies that want to launch many different web experiences all from one platform.

Control ★★

With Brandcast, you have complete control over the look and feel of your website. 

Whether it’s updating copy, adding new pages, swapping images, or changing layouts, you can customize your website down to the pixel without touching a line of code.

Best of all, Brandcast’s studio makes it easy to customize your website for multiple screen sizes, helping you be better optimized for mobile. 

Just set the screen size you want to design for and make adjustments to your layout so that your website looks good on any device.

All of this requires that you have access to some kind of design resources, however. 

That means it works well for larger companies who have internal designers or regularly hire for such work out-of-house, but smaller companies that want to just get online with templates may find Wix of WordPress a faster solution

Design ★★★

If you want to make an impact with the design of your website, then Brandcast is the platform for you. 

Its studio editor is modeled after traditional design tools, like Photoshop and Illustrator, allows designers to create jaw-dropping experiences entirely on the cloud, so you can go from design inception straight to execution.

Take back your website

With these factors in mind, you should now have a better understanding of how to proceed with your website redesign.

Choosing a technology partner that best suits your needs will help you create and maintain a website your buyers will love while maximizing the speed, scale, design, and control you need to attract more leads and close more deals online. 





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‘Tis the Season for Reporting (And a New Mini Guide)

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Posted by Roger-MozBot

How is it already reporting season again? Time to generate those dreaded end-of-year SEO reports that take hours to create and mere seconds for your client to skim through and toss to the side. We’ve all been there. But here’s the thing: it’s absolutely necessary! Not only for you and your team to track progress, but to prove value to your clients as well.

Reporting for SEO can feel like a time-black-hole. You have an infinite amount of data that you have to sort through and piece together to tell a story. You know that you saw something, somewhere at some point that proved a strategy worked, but of course, now that you need it you can’t find it and now you’ve been looking for it for an hour and you just want to get back to the SEO part of your job.

What if we told you we could help you create reports that matter to your team and your clients in less time with better output? Today we launched our newest brainchild, the Mini Guide to SEO Reporting, our free guide to help you create the most effective SEO reports for your business.

Give it a read!

Okay, so maybe it’s not the MOST mini mini-guide that ever did mini. But in comparison to the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, it’s definitely a munchkin! We like to think it’s chock full of easy-to-read chapters and plenty of actionable-insights, a few of which we’d like to share with you now.

1. More data, more problems

The idea for the mini guide was born after we noticed a trend in SEO reporting — they’re often cobbled together and extremely time intensive. Many SEOs rely on multiple platforms to gather all of the data needed to make recommendations and track progress. So, when they want to report back to their clients, they have to go to all of the different platforms to collect the necessary data. This makes everything ten times more complicated because many of the platforms use differing jargon and have different data exporting processes, and when it comes time to piece it all together, it’s extremely difficult to maintain a consistent tone or a clear story to follow.

That leads us right into the first actionable insight: your reports need to be KonMaried. Well, kind of. In reporting, you can’t quite ask if a data point brings you joy, but you can ask if a data point is meaningful. You need to ask yourself, your team, and most importantly your client which data points are meaningful to your SEO campaign. Once you nail down the must-haves, stick to them! You can always reassess later, but filling up your report with irrelevant data makes it less appealing to the client and easier for them to gloss over. Plus, narrowing down some of the data you have to report on will allow you to spend more time on SEO and less time on reporting.

To get the conversation started with your client, we created a downloadable one sheet with thirty must-ask questions about reporting.

2. The TL;DR report

We know that most people who get their hands on our reports don’t read them front to back, but we want to make sure that they get all of the important insights — that’s where the TLDR, or wins/losses, report comes in.

In the mini guide, we recommend an “at-a-glance” type report that is simply a bullet list of insights like:

  • What goals were met
  • What goals weren’t meant
  • Any discrepancies that need to be considered while reading the rest of the report
  • One-sentence explanations of the most important findings for the reporting period

This easy to read format will ensure that all of the information you need to get across, gets across. You can think of this section as a summary or a table of contents. The rest of the report will simply go over the data that backs the claims you make in the TLDR report.

A very important note to be made here is that there will be losses, and you need to be upfront about that with your clients. Don’t fudge the data because that will set you up for an inevitable break in your relationship with the client (maybe bring fudge with the data instead — a client with chocolate is a happy client). It’s much better to be transparent about the strategies that are simply not working or the goals that aren’t being met.

Likewise, if you are having trouble with setting or achieving goals, we also go through a step-by-step process on goal setting for clients. It takes into account everything from the client’s SWOT and competitive analyses to what it means to create a SMART goal.

3. Simplify the complex

Keeping things easy-breezy when reporting is especially tough when it comes to technical SEO. Though technical SEO is extremely important, it can seem rather bland to clients (especially when they are not up to scuff on the terminology). In the mini guide, we go through some of the ways you can simplify and improve the reporting you do on technical SEO.

First things first: you need to make sure your clients know what you’re talking about, so use their language! It may be slightly different for each client, but having this foundation set is critical for keeping clients engaged and eager about the improvements you are making.

Once the foundation is set, we suggest covering what you’ve done and what you’re planning on doing in context of their respective impacts. When listing these action items, be sure to explain the benefits that can be expected. Just because someone understands what a meta description is doesn’t mean they’re going to understand than an optimized meta description can increase click-through rates. Some of the things you do in a reporting period may be expected or something you’re checking off of a list, but other things may be the result of running into an unforeseen issue — be sure to address both! This helps to establish trust and show your client that you’re staying on top of their SEO, even if they aren’t 100% sure what to expect.

Give it a read

That’s it, no more spoilers. To get the rest of the juicy details you’re going to have to read it for yourself!

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Marketing Strategies

7 Request for Approval Emails to Make Client Communication Easier [Templates]

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When you’ve got an important email to write, it can seemingly take hours. You write, revise, delete, and agonize over every word, link, and even your email signature

And if you are selling your staff’s time in the form of the billable hour, this can be a huge waste of resources. 

While we’re talking about one-on-one communication, it’s a worthwhile pursuit to create a library of canned email responses or templates that your team can use for specific activities or in response to clients. It ensures that the communication from your team is clear and consistent, makes it easier to respond to requests more quickly, and removes the uncertainty that junior staffers feel when dealing with a difficult situation.

Below you’ll find a starting point for building out your library of email templates that can be customized. Use these to make your client communication more efficient.

Request for Approval Examples

1. Reply to a prospect’s proposal.

Next steps

Hi [First Name],

Thank you for your interest in [Agency]. We’ve worked with many companies that have struggled with [Key Challenge]. You can read up on the successes of our previous relationships here [Link] and here [Link].

We don’t create proposals at this point in the process as we’re a results-driven agency, meaning we need to better understand your business, challenges, and needs to be able to determine if and how we can help. Because of this focus, we only take on a certain number of new accounts per year — those clients who we are confident we can produce results for.  

I’d love to schedule a call or in-person meeting to learn more about your marketing and sales goals for the year, your current marketing activities, and how our agency could work to improve results for [Company Name].

Here are a few dates and times that would work for us.

  • [Date and Time]
  • [Date and Time]
  • [Date and Time]

Looking forward to chatting.

Best,

2. Respond to a client requesting out-of-scope work.

>
RE: Additional Content Projects

Hi [First Name],

Thanks for sending over the information on the additional content pieces you would like us to create prior to the launch of the new website. It’s a great idea, and I think they will add a lot of value to visitors who are unfamiliar with your brand and products.

I’ve gone ahead and updated the scope of work [Link or Attach] to include these two new content projects, which you will see reflected in the revised quote. The price for the additional content offers comes to [$X,000]. Take a look, and let me know if you have any questions. Once you approve, I’ll add those two projects to [Project Management Tool] where you’ll be able to review and track the timeline for completion and approvals.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

3. Request project-related approvals from a client.

>
Website Redesign Comps

Hi [First Name],

I hope you’re ready!

The team just finished up the design comps for the redesign of the homepage, and I’m so excited to show them off to you. I think you’ll find that while the two versions are very different, they both solve the problem of your visitors failing to understand how easy to implement your solution is.

But first, we want to highlight a few things from the approved creative brief to set the stage:

  • [Target audience]
  • [The problem the design should solve]
  • [The action viewers should take]
  • [The emotion/feeling people should have when viewing]

Now, here are the design mockups with an accompanying description of why we made certain decisions.

  • Version 1 [Link]
  • Version 2 [Link]

After viewing these, please let us know if you have any opinions on the following for each design:

  • What’s memorable?
  • Which do you think will appeal more to your target audience?
  • Is the messaging in line with the needs/challenges of your visitors?
  • Is the call to action compelling and clear? Could we do anything to improve this?
  • Which one do you think will perform better with your target visitors?

As we mentioned in our last meeting, we think it would be valuable to do a heat mapping test on these two version to determine which converts at a higher rate. Here’s a [Link] to the description of the project and price for that test.

If you’d like to have a call to discuss this, click here [Link to Online Booking Calendar] to schedule time on my calendar.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

4. Follow up on a project with a client.

>
Following up on the design comps

Hi [First Name],

I wanted to follow up with you to see if you have any feedback on the design comps I sent over late last week. Please let me know if you have any suggestions/questions or inform me of your approval of one of the designs.

To meet the requested launch day of [Date], we will need at least [# of Days or Weeks] for development and testing. If I don’t receive your approval by [Date], we’ll have to push back beginning on Phase II of the project, which will impact the final delivery date.

I’ll follow up by phone if I don’t hear from you by tomorrow morning.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar
 

5. Politely push a deadline,

Important information on the website launch date 

Hi [First Name],

I’m checking in with some news on the project. Everything looks really good right now, as you saw during our check-in last week, but we actually encountered a problem that will impact the original launch date. We’re not going to be able to meet the original due date because of [List Reasons]. While this is something we discussed was a risk factor that could impact the launch date during the project scoping, we were hoping it could be avoided. We’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact, including [State Actions Taken].

Based on the timeline of the vendor, I’ve adjusted the milestones, including your review and approval dates, in [Project Management Tool]. The new final delivery date is set for [Date].

I apologize for any negative consequences this may have on your schedule. I’d be happy to discuss how we can help to reduce the impact of any issues due to the change.

Please give me a call to discuss this further if you’d like, or you can schedule a time with me here [Link to Online Booking Calendar].

Best,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

6. Request a testimonial from a client.

RE: June Results

Hi [First Name],

I was very happy to see the results of the analysis of the website redesign’s impact on Q3 marketing and sales — as I’m sure you were.

On that note, I was wondering if you would give us permission to showcase the project on our website. And if so, would you be able to write 4-5 sentences that describes your experience working with us: What did you like about working with us? What results have you seen? Why will other clients like you enjoy working with our team? We’d love to feature the project, your testimonial, and your name/headshot in a call out on our site. If you’d like some inspiration, here are a few examples [Link] of kind words from previous clients.

Let me know if you have questions or need more information. We really enjoyed working with you on this project.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

7. Request a positive online review or recommendation.

RE: Website Design Wrap Up

Hi [First Name],

I was very happy to see the results of the analysis of the website redesign’s impact on Q3 marketing and sales — as I’m sure you were.

On that note, I was wondering if you would be willing to spread the word about your work with us and your results on social media, Yelp, Google, Facebook, or other review sites so that we can continue to grow our audiences. If so, here’s a few things you can do to help us:

Post a Tweet, Facebook update, or LinkedIn post about your new redesign and tag us.

Write a review about our work together on Google or Yelp.

Post about your redesign on your other channels, while giving us a quick mention.

This is purely voluntary, but we’d greatly appreciate your word of mouth recommendation! Let me know if you have questions or need more information. It’s been a pleasure working with you!

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

Sending a Great Email

Whenever you send an email, be sure that you’re coming off as professional and polite, even if you have to get a certain job done quickly. Canned responses are great for accomplishing all of those things. 

Now that you’ve learned how to draft one, here’s a guide to programming and using them in Gmail. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published July 12, 206 but was updated on Dec. 12, 2019 for comprehensiveness.





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