The Only Option Is to Move Forward

Every now and then, I end up getting caught up in conversations with friends about the old days. You know… The good old days. I know I’m not the only one who can get pulled into (or starts) the topic. It’s a total issue of the disease of ME and my inability to see what’s looking me right in the face (the beautiful now and the hopeful tomorrow). Worst of all, we’re all suffering from it.

The past was fun though, right? It was good.

Even when the past was full of regret and pain, we still can’t seem to let go of it. We still have trouble moving forward.

A photo posted by TrustWorkz (@trustworkz) on

Reflection is essential to every business person’s path to success. How can you move forward without looking back at where you came from?

The big difference between reflection and over reminiscing is that one leads to wisdom and the other leaves you paralyzed.

Wherever you are in your business, it’s time for you to reflect on the past and commit to moving forward. Your ability to see and adapt to the future could be the difference between keeping your doors open to your community or closing down another small business that could have survived.

Times are moving fast. Really fast!

Small business owners are having Snapchats, Instagrams, and Facebook messages thrown at them every single day. Today it’s this, and tomorrow it’s that. 

At TrustWorkz, we primarily work with family entertainment centers (FEC) across North America. I absolutely love working with them, and it’s partially because I know that they make such a huge impact in all of our local communities (Seriously, go thank your local roller skating rink owner).

While we build a variety of different packages, specific to each FEC, we have an internal company philosophy about our customers; There are no small customers. Even when we build a “small” marketing package for a customer, I know that we’re going to bring them big results. While it feels amazing to bring new FECs into our family of progressive partners, it kills me to see others losing money by ignoring the Internet evolution, choosing not to understand it and wasting precious dollars on it, or acting so stubborn that they can’t even ask for free advice (something we are always happy to provide).

Unfortunately, many of the people that don’t talk to us, or any other marketing savvy person in their life, will miss the amazing future opportunities.

What’s the biggest reason? They’ve always done business this way… Why change?

Business owners that are living in the past will completely miss a message like this that Gary Vaynerchuk so accurately stated on Instagram.    

2nd screen my ass A photo posted by Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) on

If you want to grow your business, the only option is to move forward. Don’t get so caught up in the good old days that you lose site of what’s to come. It could be the difference between your biggest year or the last year for your business.

When they wake up, they’ll see that youth fades and glory days deceive.”

– Anberlin, ‘Audrey, Start the Revolution

Search Will Continue to Grow as Mobile Takes Over

Mobile UX

Thoughts on SEO, Mobile UX, and Content Marketing

Search engines are evolving, and they’re still a few steps behind mobile growth and adoption. But hey, they’re trying.

Google, Microsoft, and Apple are charging full steam ahead when it comes to creating mobile devices and enhancing their experiences for consumers. While the mobile divisions of these businesses are paving the way for new UX opportunities, the search engine side of Google and Microsoft are following a few steps behind (but still on the right path.)

Future Search Trends Still Revolve Around Humans

As we enter the last quarter of 2014, we can clearly see where some search trends are headed.

  • We saw some major updates come out of Google this year. Updates focused on local search and mobile UX. The Pigeon update, which focused on local search, seemed like a step in the wrong direction as it rewarded aggregates (Yelp, Citysearch, YP) more than actual local business sites. You could also look at it as an opportunity for small businesses to actually build and optimize their site. A small business site in a sea of Yelp listings on Google search could really stand out! A major update is also on the horizon that will, bring “tears of despair” if you haven’t acted on Google’s web spam warnings in the past. Brace yourself for the Penguin 3.0 update. 
  • Microsoft recently put more energy into their own virtual assistant, Cortana (rival of Apple’s Siri and Google Now.) Expect more emphasis on the linguistic user experience and voice search. Apple’s big iPhone 6 launch date has been confirmed, and I’m sure that we’re going to learn about major updates to Siri as well. Start thinking beyond the “device” and start thinking about the experience. Natural language search is going to continue to grow, as we communicate and experience our devices more than we simply “use” them.
  • Content marketing is going to continue to be seen as a necessity as natural language search and mobile searches continue to increase in demand and use. Our search behavior has changed dramatically over the years, and our search engines are acting accordingly by delivering results based on topical (conversational) relevance versus exact keyword matching. Content creators will need to focus on making truly useful and resourceful content. Blogs will continue to add value – don’t forget the giant Hummingbird update from last year. Context is king.

Things are changing at a rapid pace. As I wrap up this post, I can’t help but think about how different things will be in a year or two from now. Apple is sure to release the iWatch this year, which will undoubtedly continue to push the wearable tech industry even further. Search will continue to be more personalized, more human, and easily made over complicated by industry experts. If you’re a marketer or a small business owner, remember the human on the other end of the Wi-Fi connection that you’re trying to reach. You should make it through these troubled optimization times just fine.

Keep These Search Trends in Mind

  • Get your mobile strategy together. I’m dead serious about being mobile friendly. You can’t leave 2014 without a mobile solution. I see Google and Bing increasing the weight of mobile friendly web design in search engine results in the very near future. After a recent webinar we hosted with our friends in the family entertainment industry, it’s pretty clear that businesses think their website is mobile friendly, but truly is not at all. I suggest starting out with mobile responsive design for most small and medium sized businesses.
  • Create useful content. Aim for topic optimization and authority, but don’t abandon an actual keyword strategy. You still need these to map out your goals and strategic planning.
  • There are no shortcuts in SEO. Well… There are, but prepare to cry yourself to sleep when your site is aggressively devalued or slapped with a manual penalty as Google continues to update its algorithms.
  • Blend your content marketing with images, video, and podcasts. Dynamic pages typically create a better user experience. Don’t believe me? Look at GIF and video updates that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and Pinterest of made.
  • If you’re a local business, you have many ranking factors to worry about with local listings and traditional organic search results. You need to seriously consider hiring a professional Internet marketer on staff, outsourcing to an agency, both, or heavily investing in your own knowledge to keep up with all of these changes. Google and Bing are trying to improve the local search experience for your clients, but this has lead to more work for businesses that want to keep up and benefit from inbound marketing.

 

Photo by Jay Wennington via Unsplash

Do You Even Google+ Authorship, Bro?

google authorshipA guide to what the heck happened to Google+ Authorship in June 2014

In late June 2014, Google dropped their Google+ authorship photos and follower counts from their search results… The Internet marketing world shook… Well, kinda.

You can look into the update from many perspectives. All Most of which are extremely interesting. After reading over most articles about the update, many Internet marketers are worried about the decrease in click through rates from the loss of authorship photos. While I have noticed an increase in traffic since adding authorship to my personal site, I don’t have enough data to verify their opinions. However, I’m leaning towards popular opinion that I’m going to notice a negative result on desktop. Mobile is a different issue, and I don’t think I will see a major change.

Here are some great Google+ Authorship articles on the topic. Read them, and develop your own opinion.

  • Search Engine Land: Google Drops Profile Photos, Google+ Circle Count From Authorship In Search Results – “Mueller said that the “click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.” For some reason, I highly doubt that, but webmasters can be the judge of that as this gets rolled out.”
  • Search Engine WatchGoogle to Remove Author Images from Search Results - “While usability and eye-tracking tests have shown that having an image appearing in the search results increases click-through rates and attracts users’ eyes to a result a searcher might otherwise overlook, Mueller commented that Google’s “experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.”SEO consultant Kristine Schachinger is one who disagrees with Mueller’s assertion.
  • Moz: Google Announces the End of Author Photos in Search: What You Should Know – “In his announcement, John Mueller said they were working to clean up the visual design of search results, and also to create a “better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.”

    This makes sense in the way Google has embraced mobile-first design. Those photos take up a lot of real estate on small screens. 

    On the other hand, it also leaves many webmasters scratching their heads as most seemed to enjoy the author photos and most of the web is moving towards a more visual experience.

How the update looks now…

Google Authorship removal

Overall, the update is a bit frustrating for all of us who have fought hard to move our clients towards connecting their site with Google Authorship. However, I believe that this truly does bring up an entirely different point from click through rates. As Cyrus pointed out on the Moz blog, Google’s John Mueller was focused on mobile UX. While there are probably many reasons behind the update, I would look at this as a strong reminder that mobile is a major focus point of Google. The big question for small businesses is, how do you expect to survive online in 2015 without a proper mobile solution?

 

4 Folks from Atlanta You Should Follow Today

If you live in Atlanta, then you know that it has grown dramatically over the years. As someone who was born and raised here, I have to say that I love the direction that we’re going (for the most part.) The city is attracting some amazing folks, and allowing opportunities for these people to shine. I wanted to highlight a few professionals that you really ought to follow and possibly schedule a coffee date.

Here are a few ATLiens, both native and transplants, that you should really get to know.

Amazing Atlanta Businessmen and Women to Meet

  • Lindsay Trinkle: There are few people that I actually send mass emails out to my team to learn about. Lindsay is one of them. We probably crossed paths during our teenage years at church, but I finally had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay in college. Lindsay is heavily involved in the Atlanta startup culture. She is currently working with Atlanta Tech Village, is Program Director for Atlanta Ventures, and has recently taken the position of Marketing Director for Voxa.

  • Van Baird: I met Van through one of the greatest guys I know, Drew Sheintal. Immediately, he had earned some credibility with me because of Drew. However, Van has made a major splash in Atlanta over the past few years. He has become a name that I can frequently toss out and connect with someone over. Van has always made himself available to me over the years for financial, business, and personal advice. He has been a reliable friend and mentor, and someone that I hope you get to meet someday.

  • Jake Dudley: What a cool guy! Most people who meet Jake might be thrown off at first. Why the heck does this guy ooze altruism!? I ended up meeting Jake through the Business Radio X show that I did with Van Baird. Jake is the kind of guy that you pray and hope to do business with someday. I truly believe that his greatest joy comes from connecting people and watching sparks fly. Meet with Jake. I promise, you won’t regret it!

  • Travis Ekmark: Yeah, he’s my brother, but I really think that you should meet him. My bro has an amazing design firm called Brothers (no, I’m not involved). Travis and his team are an extremely impressive group of designers. I honestly believe that digital marketing is going to need people who are able to create amazing experiences for their users. Travis and has team exceed at UX, taste in coffee, and keeping it real.

 

Go forth and follow!

Breathing Life Back Into Marketing

limitless

There are brands and products that change the world everyday, but some of them may receive more attention than others. It’s easy to point to something like Apple’s iPod and iTunes service, and see how they changed the way we consume and create music, movies, TV, and more. The iPod evolved into the iPad and the game changing iPhone. The product itself isn’t what changed the world though. It was their story.

Coca-Cola is exceptional at telling their story. They understand something that resonates much deeper with people than just a clever ad. Their strength is that they create experiences for people, which remind us of why we love drinking Coca-Cola in the first place. See the video below of how they served ice cold Coca-Cola along with notes of appreciation to migrant workers in Singapore (Read about it via Fast Company). The company placed the emphasis on humans, thus creating a human to human experience between consumers and the company.

Why Small Businesses Have the Biggest Opportunity

Many entrepreneurs are driven by money, and that’s a great thing that should be celebrated. However, money is not the only thing that matters in life, and I believe that it will often lead to a lack of focus on what truly matters when building a company: People.

The one thing that will help your business grow, give you reason to wake up excited about going to work, or both, is the people that your business touches everyday. It’s time for small businesses to think BIG. I’m not talking about expanding into new cities, or going international. If that’s your dream, then good for you. Make it happen. When I say, “Think BIG”, I’m referring to the impact that your business makes everyday in your local community, with your employees, your family, and the people outside of your community that hear about your story. It takes empathy, from the top down, to create a business that changes the world (even if that world is population 2,000 people.)

When we think about marketing our businesses, we often think about turning over sales as fast and as economically as possible. We’re constantly looking for that glorious ROI. The small business that’s ready to think big, is looking for something different. Their biggest opportunity is the experiences that they create everyday in their home, their schools, and with their staff and customers at their place of business.

If you’re a small business owner, I truly believe that you have the greatest opportunity here. You have so many spheres to interact with and pull together on a daily basis. It’s time to create new stories, share them, edify your neighbors when they’re in need, and raise awareness around your community. The Internet has gotten a bad reputation recently for its ability to create a space of selfishness. I think that the true power of the Internet is how we can use it to amplify the message of others, effectively edifying and refreshing ourselves, our families, and our community.

The true marketing opportunity for you, as a small business owner, is how you can use your digital footprint to share stories about your community, people that you work with, or why your service or product brings a smile to the face of people. There is greatness that lies within every good business, which is just waiting to be tapped into and shared. The Internet provides you with an amazing opportunity to share that message, even if it’s with just your town via your businesses’ blog. Even if you haven’t incorporated a digital marketing strategy into your business, the good news is that great businesses are already being talked about. There’s a conversation, a photo shared, or a Vine video published filled with smiling faces and rave reviews. You can start by joining the conversation and showing your gratitude to the folks who are already talking about your business.

Putting Your Mission to Good Use for Your Business and Your Community

The world is starving for loving, human experiences. Even though you’re creating a company, you and your people are the glue that holds that brand together. It comes down to having a group of humans that truly believe in what you believe, and live out that message to your customer base and local community. This means that the vision for you company must be spread, beginning with you and your management team.

Marketing your company doesn’t just have to be about creating an FAQ section on your website that will rank well in Google. That’s a small piece to the puzzle of digital marketing. The opportunities don’t begin and end with search engine rankings when it comes to creating a fantastic web presence. Whether you are tackling your company’s marketing by yourself, or you work with an agency, it’s essential that you do not hold back from creating and sharing human to human experiences that you, your staff, and your company create everyday. Tell your story, and let people know why you love providing them with your services or product. Make them believers in what you do by sharing with them why you do it first. I think that, for the most successful companies, it will point to people, and the people who you hire and serve are everything

 

Photo via Northfoot Adventures on Flickr