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How do you know if you picked the right or wrong SEO (Search Engine Optimization) company? Remember from earlier posts to this series (I changed it from eight to four posts) that we talked about what to look for in a reputable SEO company: localization which will represent the counties and regions that your lawn care or landscape business serve; adding a blog to your garden center or irrigation website to draw in new prospects; and the five things you should be looking for in a reputable internet marketing company.

Now, we’re going to wrap up this series by talking about the five things that some SEO companies employ which should trigger warning bells in your mind:

  1. They use spam or telemarketing. Yikes! Cold calling and spam email are disruptive and annoying. A reputable SEO company will allow you to find them. “Internet marketing is one of those industries that is doing very well even in our recent, tough economy,” noted Steve Wolgemuth, YDOP CEO and an expert in SEO. “If a company has to resort to cold calling that might be a warning sign. You probably hate spam and being cold-called as much as the next person. If a company is callous enough to still use this type of solicitation that should tell you something about the company’s culture. Run.”
  2. They won’t take your calls. Grab a ticket. Literally. Have you ever called only to be put on hold as the fifth caller? And the company believes it’s being “considerate” because you can leave a message for them—which they may return in a few days. “Ticketing systems contribute to geek utopia and make perfect sense to the employees. But you’ll probably need a real person on the phone at some point, and you better be able to get it. By the way—don’t call every week,” Wolgemuth advises.
  3. They guarantee results. “We promise you first line and page one on Google,” an SEO firm promises. Wolgemuth points out that, according to Google, those types of promises can’t be made: “That either means they plan on running AdWords and buying you page placement, or they plan on optimizing you for keyword searches that are easy to earn, but never are used by searchers, such as ‘Internet Marketing Company in Lancaster named YDOP.’ Google warns against using companies that make guarantees. Don’t hire anyone who does this.”
  4. They don’t have an outlined plan. It’s the first day of your service. Do you know what your SEO firm’s plan of action is? Some companies don’t have a solid plan to help you with your SEO needs. “There is no excuse for ambiguity. A good Internet marketing company has a detailed tactical agenda that they can show you before you sign off and write the first check.”
  5. They don’t have in-house expertise. “Many web shops feel as though they need to offer SEO services, but are having trouble delivering the service, so they outsource this work, often to inexpensive, shady vendors in Third World countries. With Google’s recent algorithm changes, you risk a ranking penalty if an SEO company tries to use short-term ranking strategies. Make sure you hire a company that does white hat SEO work and they do it in-house. Make sure you can actually talk to the people that will be working on your SEO before you sign the contract,” says Wolgemuth.

If you’re seeing any of these five red flags popping up as the sales person continues to talk, turn and run away. Digital marketing is too important to let some shysters pocket your money without providing you the return that you expect.

Has this four-part series helped you get a better grasp on your green business’s digital marketing needs, as well as the professionals who can help you solve them? Please share your comments below.

 

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I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of investing your marketing dollars toward more digital outlets, as well as focusing on localizing your green business (lawn care, landscape, hardscape, outdoor living, and irrigation) on the Internet.

Now, it’s time to investigate what you need to consider before you sign on the dotted line. Here are five tips to keep in mind before you commit to a particular digital marketing company or consultant because they’re NOT all the same:

  1. Check to see if the intended company’s client base is similar to yours. Granted, you probably won’t find a company solely dedicated to the green industry. Yet, they should do at least 50 percent of their business in local search optimization—the kind of SEO you need to invest in to reach your targeted audience.
  2. Know who’ll be handling your website content. You need to ask your potential vendors if they outsource their work, and if so, to whom? I’ve worked for agencies as well as directly with landscape design-build and lawn care companies. If your intended company hires out, do they put jobs on bid sites where writers and others bid for jobs? (The lowest bidder usually gets the gig. But can they do the work?)? Additionally, some companies outsource to developing countries (where English is a second or third language). Again, cheap labor that probably doesn’t understand your ideal clients, your region, or even what you do.
  3. Make sure that you own all of the creative content on your website. Some companies will own your work even if you decide to change vendors. So if you like your website design or writer, too bad, you can’t take that stuff with you. Double check the web shop’s “Offer of Services Agreement,” to make sure that you own the website property and can take it with you if you decide to change web vendors.
  4. Make sure that you can go into the website to add or change content. Steve Wolgemuth of YDOP (www.ydop.com) recommends WordPress because it’s user-friendly and you can easily take your WordPress content with you.
  5. Don’t believe the page one Google guarantee. I confess that I’ve made this mistake with clients when I was first starting out. But no one, I repeat, no one can guarantee you where you’ll rank on Google. You can only use the recommended tools to beat out your competition when it comes to Google placement. But Google’s algorithms have the last say where you’ll be placed—no matter how good the SEO.

I love what Steve advises: “Don’t ask for guarantees as this isn’t possible. After all, it’s a race against other competitors who may be investing heavily to outrank you. Do ask the company’s sense of what you might expect and when. Ask for stories of comparable work they’ve done and what outcomes they ran into. Find out how often you’ll receive reports and what will be measured.”

Hopefully, these five tips will help you as you decide who to hire for your digital marketing needs.

If you’ve hired an internet marketing company or consultant, how successful was your website? Did you get more prospects coming to your virtual door? Tell me your story.

 

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5 Reasons Why I Recommend Near-User Marketing®

Have you digitally localized your online business? This question is the second most fundamental question that you need to ask yourself after you’ve decided to forge ahead with digital marketing.

Most people would agree that localization is important and it should be obvious to any business owner venturing into digital marketing. Yet, I’ve found that a lot of my clients don’t realize the importance of elevating their platform to include their region, counties, and even states where they do business. And some of them are paying a lot of money for content that’s being recycled to other lawn and landscape companies in their region.

There are many Internet marketing consultants and agencies who know how to effectively localize your lawn care or landscape business. But I personally favor Near-User Marketing®. I’m not trying to sell you a product or service with this blog series. Instead, I want to introduce you to a method that I love because it’ll get Google’s attention, and hopefully, help you move your lawn care or landscape business up through Google’s rankings to convert your prospects into paying customers. Near-User Marketing® is a tool, and here are five reasons why I believe your lawn care or landscape business needs it:

1. It gives your website special consideration on Google: Near-User Marketing® is more specialized than regular SEO. According to Steve Wolgemuth, CEO of YDOP (http://www.ydop.com/), “Near-User Marketing® recognizes the opportunity to intercept with nearby web searchers on Google’s local search engine results.”

2. It gives you an opportunity to deeply engage your fans, followers, peeps, and readers. You can put a call to action at the end of one of your social media posts, such as “Download this coupon for 10% off your next mow,” or “Use this code when you buy this garden product from our website.” You’re letting your audience connect with you on social media and getting them closer to committing to becoming a regular customer.

3. It allows locals to find you. For the past several months, I’ve been preaching that the traditional Yellow Pages ad is dead. Instead, Google and other search engines have taken its place. “Today, about 1/3 of all searches done online have a local intent. That means the searcher is looking for a product, service, or place within traveling distance to them,” Wolgemuth says.

4. It allows you to have a strong online presence in your local area. This not only helps you to be found,” Wolgemuth states. “But increases the chance that they’ll click through to your website, and that they’ll trust that you’re the business to call.”He also points out that there are several things that the garden, lawn care, landscape, hardscape, and casual living businesses have in common:

  • Mailers, print ads, radio, billboards, and newspaper ads aren’t as effective as they once were, and you’re probably realizing that you need to shift your perspective when it comes to your business’s digital marketing goals
  • Your prospective customers—especially Millennials and GenXers—don’t use the Yellow Pages anymore. You may not like how pre-occupied your youngest prospects are with their iPads, iPhones, etc. But the reality is that this is the medium that you need to harness for them to find you. And you’re behind the times if you’re unwilling to invest in getting your business online. No matter what your opinion is about Facebook or Instagram, they’re effective outlets to targeting your audience.
  • Everyone seems to give you a different spin on Internet marketing. You need to be wise when it comes to hiring an Internet marketing consultant or agency, as well as web developers and content creationists, like writers and videographers. I’ve heard that some lawn care and landscape businesses are spending too much money on digital marketing only to find that their service provider doesn’t deliver on the goods or doesn’t know anything about strategic localization.
  • “Strong advice: Focus on ‘owning’ your local presence online, including a strong search presence, a great, local website that converts, a great mobile strategy, and a review/reputation management plan,” Wolgemuth says.

5. It’s a program that may help you with your localization efforts: Near-User Marketing® uses all of the digital marketing tools available to get your business put on Google’s map—both figuratively and literally—such as SEO, local search optimization, social media marketing, content marketing, online branding, etc. Yet, it uses different strategies and approaches to get your website online and noticed by the people in your region.

Look, this information isn’t meant to sell a product or service to you. I hope that it helps you make a more educated decision before you’re “wowed” by a slick salesperson at the next green trade show you attend. If anyone promises you that if you pay for their services, they can guarantee that your website will land on Google’s first page, run the other way. There are content marketers out there who will charge you an exorbitant fee only to not deliver on their promises.

How are you using digital marketing and localization to garner more prospects?

 

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For the past 15 months, I’ve been writing blogs and web content for various clients in the casual living, lawn care, and landscape design-build industries. It’s fun getting to know my clients and helping them with their online content—especially when they see their return on investment with their websites’ improved Google rankings.
But one thing I started noticing about my clients was their need for an overall digital marketing plan. And since Internet marketing is still young, it’s hard to find the right company to do all you need it to do for your marketing dollars.
In the fall of 2013, I began to looking into HubSpot and other software programs to see if I should be certified to use them in order to help my clients’ with their Google analytics—especially after I noticed that the green industry was very underserved in this area. After getting some great advice, I decided that HubSpot was not where I needed to focus. Instead, I needed to get to know an Internet Marketing Agency that I’d feel comfortable introducing my clients to for their various online needs.
To make a long story short, I finally had the opportunity to meet Steve Wolgemuth. Actually, I interviewed Steve about seven or eight years ago for Lancaster (Pa.) Business Monday about his horse farm. At that time, his Internet Company, YDOP, was newly born. Today, YDOP (http://www.ydop.com/), in Lancaster, Pa., is a successful Internet Marketing Agency that coined (and trademarked the term, “Near User Marketing®.”
I only specialize in one piece of the web content pie: I write blogs, e-newsletter articles, website content, as well as a bunch of other written communications for green businesses. However, when it comes to content marketing, there is so much that you can do from podcasts, to videos, to Google ads, etc. I only touch the surface and I know that you need someone that can address all of your digital marketing needs.
That’s why I’m dedicating the next seven blog posts to Near User Marketing® and YDOP to help you see the big picture and how your business can benefit from it.
Your turn: Have you ever hired an Internet Marketing Agency to help you with your online presence?

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