» Is Your SEO Up to Par for 2018?

This post was written by Mike Anderson, Associate Director of SEO at WeddingWire.

These days, most purchases start with a search.

Customers turn first to Google or Bing to find what they’re looking for, which means if you want to be found, a strong search engine presence is a must. In fact, 81% of people perform some kind of search before making a large purchase. (1)

But in order to land high in Google’s search engine results, you first have to make your website and content easy for Google and customers to understand.

As we kick off 2018, follow the steps below to make sure that your SEO is up to par to gain online visibility, increase your website traffic and ultimately, your sales.

Find relevant keywords to focus on

The first step in optimization is to figure out what keywords you want to rank for. To help find keywords, there are a number of free tools available such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer and the SERPs Keyword Research Database. If you have an account with Google AdWords, their Keyword Planner is a great option as well. Each of these tools allows you to find popular search queries and export keywords you like.

Tip: When conducting your keyword research, try to search for keywords as your customers would. If you were looking for a DJ in your town, what would you search for?

Optimize your website

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to incorporate them into your website. Try to be strategic. Make sure keywords are included in the following elements of your website:

  • Title tag – keep it to 50-60 characters and use your target keywords at the beginning. Treat it like a headline – your title tags should be compelling to your audience and include your brand name towards the end
  • Meta Description – these are limited to 160 characters, Make sure they give an accurate description of the page, include your target keyword(s), and are intriguing enough that users will want to click through
  • H1 – this is the heading of a page. It should be kept to about 20-30 characters, and describe the page’s topic. It will often be similar to your title tag, and likely be the title of a blog or article on the page, which means it should stand out and include the keyword that page is targeting. Use only one H1 tag per page.
  • H2s – these are your subheadings, which can be used to break up the content on a page. Don’t include your target keyword in every one, but try to use it once or twice.  

Tip: Try to optimize your homepage for 2 to 3 broad keywords and use sub pages to target more specific, service-related terms. Also, don’t forget to make sure your site is optimized for mobile use. More than half of all searches are done on mobile devices!

Make sure your content is unique and engaging

Once you have optimized your website, it is important to focus on your content. Content quality is widely regarded as one of the most important SEO signals, and speaks volumes about your website’s reputation. By posting quality photos, engaging articles, and useful resources, your clients will want to link to your website. Content freshness is also an important ranking factor, so remember to post new content every so often.

As you begin writing, keep in mind, content should be formatted in a way that keeps readers engaged.  Use short blocks of content to make it easily skimmable, and use a combination of bullet points and paragraphs. Remember to also include links where possible and natural, both to other pages on your site as well as to other relevant websites.

Tip: If you’re looking for article ideas, refer back to keyword research tools to see what things your clients are searching for. Or take a look at your competitor’s social media profiles to see what topics are most popular with similar audiences.  

Optimize your business profiles

While your website is an important asset, it’s critical to ensure that your business information and content is accurate and well represented on other sites as well. Make sure that your Google My Business listing is claimed and features accurate information. The same goes for local directories like Yelp, YP, Apple Maps. Also, if you have signed up for WeddingWire, make sure to add a thorough description of your business and high-quality photos.

As you are filling out your profiles, remember to fill in as much information as possible. The more you provide, the easier it will be for customers to find you. In addition to address and contact information, try adding a relevant category to your Google My Business profile, mention any areas your business specializes in or choosing a high quality profile photo to use in your listings.

Tip: To run a quick analysis of your local listings, try Moz Local, which offers a free scan and score.

Grow your social communities

In addition to your site and your online profiles, social media is also an important part of your online presence. Being active on social media can help grow your online audience, and more importantly, drive more leads. But it can also help your SEO. Studies have shown that social linking itself does not add much SEO benefit. But related signals – such as business reviews and links back to your site from bloggers – can make a big difference. Regular posting on social networks can also help you see what content resonates with your clients, giving you ideas on what other topics would be good to write about. The larger your audience becomes, the more likes, reviews and links you receive.  

Tip: Make sure you provide information about your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites you appear on.  

Also, consider boosting some of your posts. Because business pages have limited organic reach, boosting will gain a significant amount of exposure and visibility. When choosing which posts to boost, remember to pick ones that promote your own content and are especially helpful to your audience. Also consider boosting anything designed to collect contact information, such as free downloads and giveaways.

Take it from Google

Google offers a number of resources to webmasters interested in bettering their sites and their search engine rankings. Their official webmaster guidelines is a great resource to learn about recommended best practices and discouraged activities. The company also has multiple spokespeople that answer community questions and give updates on changes to Google’s algorithm.

Tip: Check out Google’s webmaster guidelines to learn more about SEO best practices. Also, try following John Mueller (@JohnMu) on Twitter for the latest updates.

SEO isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

So take the time to find the best keywords. Incorporate them properly and naturally into your site and content. Optimize your online presence with the correct information, and reach out to influencers in your industry.

Once you’ve done so, the pay-off will be a higher rank in search engines, more exposure, and more leads.  

Sources
(1) Retailing Today (2014)

» Why You Should Always Think Mobile in Your Marketing

This article was written by Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire.

In 2018, a mobile-friendly website is no longer a trend or a nice-to-have – it’s a necessity for conducting business, especially in the wedding industry. More than ever, couples are using smartphones at all hours of the day to keep the planning process moving, from searching for wedding professionals to finding inspiration for the big day. Your mobile website might be the first-and-only impression a couple sees of your business, so it’s vital that your site provides a great user experience and highlights important information that will turn prospective clients into a bookings.

The tech landscape is fast-evolving, and not so long ago simply having a great website could put you ahead of your competition. But today, it’s no longer enough to give you a competitive edge. No matter your industry, you must be aware of the new platforms and tools used by your audience. If the majority of your audience is using mobile (and they are!), you should make the investment in mobile optimization and prepare for the Google mobile-first index.

Millennials are programmed to think mobile

As we know, smartphones have significantly changed consumer behavior and their impact on the wedding industry is no exception. Roughly 90% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 25-34 own a smartphone, meaning that the majority of engaged couples are active on mobile devices.

Today’s society is accustomed to instant gratification, and the same holds true for couples in the wedding planning process. Smartphones allow couples to search for information during their commute, while at the gym, or pretty much anywhere at anytime of the day. It’s critical to provide the content they’re searching for when you have their attention! If a couple can’t find the information they’re looking for on your site, they’ll quickly move on to the next.

Mobile optimization is essential

Gone are the days when a business could get away with displaying their desktop layout on mobile. The moment a prospect needs to magnify text on their smartphone, you’ve lost a client – and if they’re willing to stick around, you’re certainly not providing the amazing experience your brand deserves. Instead, your business should have a responsive website, meaning that the content on each page adjusts to the device being used, so you can provide the best experience no matter how visitors are viewing your site. If you just redesigned your website and it’s not responsive, no need to panic! Until you’re ready to fully optimize your website, take the following actions to improve how your site appears on mobile without a responsive template:

  • Keep your color palette and branding consistent
  • Stick with a simple layout and avoid multiple pages
  • Resize your font and images to be mobile friendly
  • Reduce the amount of text displayed
  • Use large clickable buttons for calls-to-action

Understand how customers interact with your mobile site

Each week, couples spend over 30% of their time planning their wedding from a mobile or tablet device, which is about 40 minutes a day. During this time, couples are searching for things like wedding checklists, planners, colors, themes, websites, venues, budgets and more. Couples feel that these searches are less “risky” actions to be taking on mobile.

While all businesses need to have a strong mobile presence, it’s important to recognize if the product or service you provide is better suited for a desktop or mobile interaction and adjust content accordingly. While a couple might not create their wedding invitation on a mobile device, they will certainly browse for design inspiration on mobile. Think about what is most valuable to your clients and how you can deliver a great experience, while highlighting the most meaningful content (like providing contact information or sharing inspiring imagery). A good mobile experience does not need to replicate your website but should offer content that makes prospective clients want to take the next step.

Be ready for mobile-first SEO

By optimizing for mobile, you are setting yourself up for mobile-first search engine optimization. Now that mobile searches outnumber desktop searches, Google has been working on a rollout that will create and rank search listings based on the mobile version of content rather than the desktop experience. This project is most likely to launch sometime in 2018 and could negatively impact your search rankings over time if your site is not mobile friendly. You must ensure that your mobile site is at parity to your desktop version.

Having a mobile presence for your wedding business will change the way potential customers interact with your business for the better! Keep these advantages in mind and you’ll reach more couples and keep them coming back to your business.

Sonny GangulySonny leads WeddingWire’s B2C/B2B marketing strategy, customer acquisition, and community development. Sonny is a widely acclaimed speaker, giving over 50 presentations across the globe each year on technology, marketing and strategy. Sonny holds a B.A. in Economics with a focus in Management and Marketing from The University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

With the amount of competition in the wedding industry, just getting website visits from your local market can be a big win! Once a couple makes it to your site, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead. It’s easy to get swept up in your own desires and ideas when building a website, but ultimately you need to think about how couples will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

Your website is a channel that can continually be optimized, just like any of your marketing channels! Read on for six easy ways to optimize your website for generating leads and inquiries.

Reduce form fields

When it comes to creating an easy experience for website visitors, reducing the length and number of fields used is one of the easiest ways to boost conversion rates. The fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the more likely they are to submit a lead. Inevitably, though, shortening your contact form can be a trade-off – shorter forms generate more leads, but longer forms generate higher quality leads. The key is to give a lot of thought to which fields you truly need and which fields you can forego during this initial contact. At the very least, you’ll want to acquire their name, email, phone number, and wedding date; the rest depends on your service category and routing needs. Just remember: Keep it simple!

Prioritize form placement

If you want your website visitors to submit a contact form to get in touch, give your form top placement on your website. While today’s web users are familiar with scrolling past the “fold” to learn more, placing your contact form above the “fold” guarantees that they’ll see it regardless of their next action. In fact, Education Guru Alan Berg suggests adding a contact form to each page of your website to guide visitors towards submitting an inquiry. Whichever option you choose will ultimately depend on the layout and design of your website, but whatever you do, don’t hide the contact form by placing it too far down on your homepage or creating multiple steps to get to it.

Utilize your reviews

Your WeddingWire reviews are easy to find and evaluate on your Storefront, but if a potential client is looking at your website they should be able to find them there, too. When deciding whether or not to submit a lead through your website, couples are looking for proof that you provide a high quality service and that your past clients were happy with the results. If a couple is reviewing your website, you’ve already made it through several stages of consideration and offering rave reviews from other couples will make the decision easier for them. Select a few of your best reviews and add them to your website to show couples that your service is the best choice. Make sure they are located close to your contact form so a happy client is one of the last things they see before deciding whether to contact you.

Show off your awards

Awards are one of the best ways to lend outside credibility to your business. After all, you can say how awesome your business is, but your opinion isn’t impartial until someone else verifies it! Showcase what sets you apart from your competition by featuring your awards near your form or in the header or footer of your website. Unlike other awards in the wedding industry, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences with wedding professionals. If your business is prestigious enough to be among the top five percent of wedding professionals on WeddingWire, we’ll provide you code so you can easily feature the award on your website for all visitors to see.

Test your calls-to-action

Could the generic text on your button or contact link be the factor that’s driving down conversions? Or perhaps the color of your contact button blends with the rest of your website and is too hard to read? Test the color and text of your call-to-action or submit button to see if your conversion rates differ. Try changing your formal ‘Contact Us’ text to ‘Get in Touch!’, or use a contrasting accent color on the form button to attract more submissions.

*Quick Tip – only change one element at a time (text or color) so that you can track which change makes the biggest impact.

Track and analyze changes

All of these changes will be hard to measure if you don’t have enough information to see what’s working! Tracking the number of inquiries you receive each month is easy enough to analyze, but that’s only looking at one piece of the puzzle. It’s important to also use Google Analytics or another website analytics platform to track how many visitors you receive, how long they’re staying on your website, and how many pages they visit before submitting an inquiry or leaving your website. Keeping an eye on all of these things will help you understand the behavior of your website visitors to make changes that will improve conversion rates and increase time on the site.

Every website is different, and it may take some time to find the right combination that works, but just give it some time. You aren’t likely to see changes in leads overnight, but that doesn’t mean your updates aren’t working! You can always ask for feedback from friends and industry peers, or ask a client to explain what they did or didn’t like during their research. Happy optimizing!

» Helpful Tips to Avoid Digital Disasters

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

In today’s world, unfortunately there seem to be many chances for technology-related problem’s to occur – such as password compromise, information loss or spam attacks. While these issues may seem stressful, there are ways you can take simple steps to help avoid them for you and your business.

Here’s an overview of easy ways to help avoid common digital disasters:

Register Your Domain

The foundation of all-things-internet is the domain name. When you register a domain name, there are four functions associated with it.

  • Registrant – Website Owner
  • Administrator – Website Manager
  • Technical – Usually Webmaster
  • Billing – Accounting

Roles may all be held by a single person; however, it’s not recommended. It’s preferable to have at least two people with full control of your domain.

Domains are renewed annually; however, you can register them for more than one year (especially your primary domains).

Your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.) will notify you, periodically about pending expiration of a domain. The best way to prevent expiration is to link a credit card to the domain and make calendar reminders to check in on its status every so often.

Good news — even if a domain expires, there is 30-day time period to redeem your site and get it back in business.

Pro Tip: Anytime you change webmasters or other personnel on file with your domain registrar, do not forget to update it! Failure to do so can lead to domain problems.

Protect Your Hard Drive

A typical hard drive lasts about three years. The best way to protect your business and personal files and information is to replace it at or before three years to be safe. If you don’t, here are some other pre-emptive measures to keep your business running.

First, it is mandatory to have an external hard drive wired directly to your computer. If the computer has a 500 gigabyte hard drive, it would be wise to have a 1 terabyte external drive.

Second, it is wise to have a wireless backup drive, located in a different part of your home or office. As with the first backup, make sure the capacity is larger than the original computer.

Third, have an external drive backing up by broadband to the cloud. There are several popular products, such as: BackBlaze, Carbonite, and others. This final group is extremely important, especially if you are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood. There is nothing worse than permanently losing data. Saving key documents securely in the cloud is the best way to make certain it doesn’t happen to you.

Set Strong Passwords

Over the last few years hacking is on the rise. The more obvious hacks are big companies such as Target or Yahoo! among other high profile companies and groups.

Don’t think just because you are a one-person operation that you are somehow immune to such intrusion or danger. Whether talking about email, websites, credit cards or anything else, it’s time to take action and be cautious.

The best methods of self-protection are services such as 1Password.com or LastPass.com. These tools will help you generate different passwords for each of your accounts – which you should update often. With just a little effort, you won’t have the need to use the same password for multiple accounts. Plus, you won’t have to simply rely on commonly known information like the names of your dogs or family members!

Focus on Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization requires daily awareness and upkeep; SEO is not a one-time operation. When you build and launch a website, it will only be the first effort to create search engine optimization for your site. It should be monitored and updated often to establish the best performance for your business.

For those of you who use WordPress for your website or blog, one of the best tools is a plug-in, Yoast SEO. It is one of the simplest devices to recognize and apply good SEO practices – no high level of expertise required!

Protect Your Mobile Phones

The device we use most often is our cellular phone. Every year, companies such as Apple, Samsung and others make new versions of their phones – and they are not cheap — often with new models in the $750 range.

Of all the disasters striking a phone user, the worst is the immediate loss (or theft) of their phone. The shock of such a loss is quite jarring.

The iPhone has a feature (for iPhones, iPads, and computers) called FindMyiPhone. You can track down your phone, shut it off, or otherwise take it out of commission should it become compromised with your personal information accessible.

Remember, There’s No Need for Paranoia!

The best approach for safety is a good defense. Making sure you use these tactics will keep your business thriving, and prepared for unforeseen issues that may arise in the future.