The Importance of a Balanced Review Diet – How one Company got 75 Reviews in one Month

The Importance of a Balanced Review Diet – How one Company got 75 Reviews in one Month

It was our operations manager who discovered the problem. One of our biggest clients, a large tire and auto repair facility in West Los Angeles, had over 500 Yelp reviews but only 22 Google reviews. I decided

to reach out to the owner and explain the situation to him. Having over 500 Yelp reviews, he was no stranger to the concept of getting reviews. So he immediately understood when I explained to him why it was important to have a more balanced review profile. After all, one of the reasons he partnered with us was to help his auto and tire repair shop get more business from online searches.

The owner wasn’t different from many of our other customers. He knew how important Yelp was and spent years building his 500 plus reviews. While he knew that Google had its own review platform, he didn’t realize how important it was. If you’re trying to rank higher on Google, their review platform is the most important platform in the world. If you want to rank on Google, it’s a good idea to play the game that Google has made. Google’s review system is based on its “Google My Business” platform. And getting more reviews on GMB is just the start. GMB is a full-fledged social channel for businesses. Business owners would be wise to participate in all aspects of it, not just the reviews.

Google rewards businesses that use their platforms. Their reviews are arguably the most important. The reason they are important is they’re a search ranking factor. They are also important for converting people into customers. It can look fake if a business has dozens or hundreds of reviews in one place, and almost none anywhere else. Having a balanced review profile is the end game.

So what is a balanced review profile? A balanced review profile is a natural pattern of reviews. People use a variety of platforms to find and interact with businesses. It makes sense that they would also write reviews in different places. These reviews can be anywhere from Trust Pilot to Yahoo, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Super Pages and many more. The big three for most businesses are Google, Yelp, and Facebook. 

The takeaway is that if you’re a small business trying to get more reviews, don’t put all your review eggs in one basket. Ask for reviews on “The Big Three” and when you get each of them sorted and balanced out, then start asking for reviews in different places to keep them more balanced. The more places your business has reviews, the better.

The more review diversity a business has, the better it is for their search engine rankings. It’s also better for their consumers. Most people use a variety of different places to find what they’re looking for. It’s important to have reviews in as many places as possible, as long as it makes sense for your particular type of business. For example, an attorney might want to get many reviews on avvo.com. Reviews on avvo.com don’t make sense for a tire dealer.

Which, brings me back to the customer this story is about. One of the things we do for our customers every month is to send them a review flow report. Our review flow reports show every single review ever written about a company. We like to see our customers getting at least a few reviews every month. I was blown away when I read the review flow report a month later for the tire and auto repair facility. They received 75 reviews on Google in one month! That amounted to an average of 2.5 per day. We have customers that struggle to get 2.5 reviews per month. Here’s this amazing business owner who was getting up to 5 reviews per day. Within two months they had well over 125 reviews, and their review profile was becoming more balanced each day.

Naturally, their Google rankings surged to an all-time high. I might mention that the owner of the tire and auto repair shop had a little help. They used a review management platform that made it easy to get reviews. Nimbus Marketing offers the same type of review management platform. For $75 per month, our system automates the review process. If you’re interested in learning more about automating your review process and getting more reviews per month, reach out to us at [email protected]

Learn why online reviews are so important for your online marketing strategy. 

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

How to do SEO Yourself in 2020

How to do SEO Yourself in 2020

Are you an SEO newbie who is hell-bent on learning how to do SEO yourself? Whether you are self-employed, a business owner, or at a new marketing position, SEO is a valuable skill for your toolbox. The thing is, the SEO landscape is frequently changing, so you’ll need to keep up with modern techniques. This list is up to date and helps you prioritize your tasks as well.

If you want to learn how to do SEO, start with Keyword Research

Do keyword research. The first thing search engines do is to establish relevance. The keywords you want to rank for must be as strategic as possible. Keyword research is only as good as the person who does it; If you’re not prepared to learn how to do high-quality research, hire someone great and pay as much as possible to get your keyword research.

Why? Because without excellent keyword research, you’ll be flying blind. If you don’t research the value of the keywords you’re targeting, you might get page one for a keyword that doesn’t result in any rewards. Conversely, if you target keywords with high competition, you may not stand a chance at ever ranking on the first page. The goal of keyword research is to find the highest volume and lowest competition keywords possible.

Its also important to make sure that you are targeting keywords with purchase intent if your goal is to get more sales. What this means is if you’re trying to rank a sales page for a keyword that users are using for education, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for more sales. So focus on the user intent of your keywords to make sure they align with your goals.

Once you have prioritized your list of strategic keywords, use your keyword list to optimize your website, social profiles, blog articles, directory listings, and much more. Try to commit your most valuable keywords to memory and use your keywords when you’re commenting on forums and blogs or anywhere else that can be found online such as replies to customer reviews and blog comment replies.

You should also use your keywords in your social media posts, emails, and chats, among others. Even if the digital medium you’re posting on isn’t crawled by Google, like emails, the exercise of using them everywhere possible is a great habit to make. The goal is to make your business synonymous with the keywords your’e targeting.

Website Optimization Is The Next Step

Try your best to optimize every aspect of your website. There are many signals you send to Google with your website. These include the title tags for your website, the way you use your H tags, your image alt tags and file names, your paragraph content, and more.

On-page optimization is the first place you should start once you’ve determined your keyword list. The reason for this is that your on-page optimization establishes relevance to your keywords with Google. If Google doesn’t know your website is relevant to a keyword, they won’t rank it for that keyword. The usage of synonyms and keyword variations on your website is another great way to establish more relevance. You may also want to find LSI keywords and Entities to include on your website as frequently as possible while still keeping your content readable.

Don’t forget About Your Content

Make sure your content is readable and relevant and ensure there’s enough content. Try to make your content more readable by including bullet points. Its also helpful to use bold and italic texts as well as resource links. This helps readers who skim content. User experience elements like bullet points are a search engine ranking factor, but more importantly, you want your users to read your content, not just Google. Check out this blog posting checklist for more in-depth advice on creating content.

Say Hello To Sitemaps

You need a sitemap. Sitemaps help users and robots alike by literally providing a map to the pages on your website. There are two ways to do this, by using an XML sitemap, or creating an HTML sitemap. On WordPress and other common website platforms you can find plugins like Yoast or Rankmath. These plugins help with multiple elements of your optimization, including sitemap creation. With a plugin like this you can easily create an XML sitemap. These are great if your site is changing pages often because they update as you change your website. HTML websites don’t update automatically, so you’ll need to update them yourself whenever they change.

Check Your Website Speed

Google says page speed is a ranking factor, and of course, they weren’t telling the whole truth. What they meant was the time to first byte (TTFB). TTFB measures how quickly a web server can respond to a request. It gets kind of technical here, but the idea is faster is better. A site like bytecheck is great for finding out your TTFB.
Its important to optimize your web page load time, because this is a user experience factor. User experience is just as important, if not more important than rankings. Without a fast user experience, you could end up wasting those #1 rankings. A site like GT Metrix will measure all page speed factors, and even grade a website against the average.

Build High-Quality Links and Citations

Links (also called “backlinks”) have always been the most important, or one of the most important factors for search engine rankings. Google views links to your business as endorsements. The more endorsements you have, the better your site must be. But be careful!

Endorsements from seedy websites will hurt your reputation with Google and can cause you to lose ranks instead of gaining them. Imagine if a known mobster started talking about how great you were. That wouldn’t be good for your reputation, would it? There are services like Rhino Rank that you can hire to get links placed on your website.

If you have the time, a service like HARO, Help a Reporter Out is a great way to get links to your business. Reporters post to HARO looking for people with certain experiences, and if you can respond quickly enough and contribute to their article, you can a link.

Citations are mostly for local businesses. A local citation is a mention of your business’ name, address, phone number & website on another website. There are a few kinds of citations like local citations, general citations, niche specific citations, and unstructured citations. Its important that all citations have consistent information.

Be on the lookout for our upcoming citation guide for a comprehensive guide to building citations. In the meantime, sign up for the biggest directory websites like Yelp, BBB, Chamber of Commerce, and of course, Google My Business. Make sure all the information you use is the same on each website.

Work On Your Blog

Google loves new content, and your blog is the easiest way to publish new content. Additionally, keeping a consistent and useful blog is a great resource for potential customers. Start out by writing about the basics of your business’ industry. If you’re in furniture, talk about how to identify quality or counterfeit furniture, for example. Once you’ve covered the basics, move on to new topics. If you can think of a topic that no one, or very few people have written about, that is ideal, as long as its something that people are actually searching for. You can find out what kinds of articles people are searching for on many websites such as Answer the Public. Professional tools like SEMRush do even more. It might be hard to find topics that have not been written about  if your industry is already mature or highely-competitibe, but you can still think of a new angle to approach a topic.

Plenty of posts talk about how to choose exercise clothing, but there might not be many people writing about how to choose exercise clothing for pregnant women. Even if there’s less traffic on a more niche topic, it’ll be easier to rank on the first page of search engines. Its better to get a little traffic from a smaller keyword than no traffic from a bigger keyword. Fresh content will do something else for your website, it will establish relevance to your industry. The more you talk about your industry, especially with a keyword strategy, the more Google knows what your entire site is about.

Promote Your Blog

If you find one that applies, you can use your blog articles in HARO responses. Otherwise, be sure you’re sharing your articles on all your social media profiles. You can use press releases to promote your blog posts as well. Even if it doesn’t seem too newsworthy to you, you can pay a press release service to send it out.

Take Advantage Of YouTube

Linking an active YouTube channel for your brand is a powerful signal to Google. Its also great for customers. Video has 7 times the engagement, on average, compared to written content. You don’t need to create viral or groundbreaking videos, just post videos of your work, or of advice you have to give, or anything that might be helpful to your potential customers and the general public. These videos can be optimized like anything else on a web page, and with videos showing up in search results, it gives you another opportunity to dominate the first page for the keywords your’e targetting.

Remember when talking about your products or services, to focus on the the benefits as well as the features, and not just the features. People don’t buy a new security fence just to have a fence. They buy it for the security, or the privacy or to beautify their home. They might buy it for peace of mind. Don’t brag, but instead be humble. Anyone can say they’re #1 but showing that you’re #1 goes much further. Finally, make sure to list your business name, address, phone number, and website are included in the description of each of your videos. You may also wish to include links to your social media accounts and your other videos.

Test, Measure, Test, Measure, Ad Nauseum

It’s Marketing 101. Everything you do should be tested. Then you measure it, and create a new test based on the results. This is especially important with SEO, so you know that your hard work is paying off. You can sign up for services like Ahrefs or BrightLocal to track your rankings, and services like Callrail or Callsource to track your phone calls and form fills.

As far as rankings go, if you’ve got more time than money, you could do the checks yourself manually right in the search engines, but these may be a bit skewed. Just searching the keywords is time consuming, and Google will tailor the results to your location. Sometimes its best to leave testing and rank tracking to the professionals.

If you’d like more information, please check out our other article on how to get your business to the top of Google

 

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

The #1 Way to Destroy Your Company’s Reputation? Argue with Customers Online

The #1 Way to Destroy Your Company’s Reputation? Argue with Customers Online

Reputation Management is crucial to an online marketing campaign. Customers look at your star-rating to see if you’re reliable, and often they’ll look at individual reviews too. Replying to reviews shows potential customers that you’re engaged, and care about the quality of your service. What happens though, when you’ve got an angry customer writing bad reviews about your company? The one thing you shouldn’t do is respond angrily, even when the negative review has nothing to do with you, or it’s false. Here you’ll find a cautionary story, showing how arguing with a customer never helps and could potentially reflect negatively on your company.

A good story starts at the beginning

We were about six months into an online marketing campaign for a holistic health care center. Everything was going well until we got some bad news from our customer review monitoring system. Our client had just received a bad review that could ruin her reputation management on Yelp.

The review was unreasonable 

The review itself seemed a bit unreasonable. So the business owner responded to the review and told the customer how irrational they were being. This conversation escalated into an argument that spiraled out of control. There were accusations, threats, and name-calling on both sides.

It’s understandable to be upset when you get a bad review that’s partially or entirely unfair. It’s only natural to try to defend your company’s reputation. But by doing this in a public forum, it can cause a much bigger problem than just the negative review itself.

Never sink to their level

When you argue with a customer on a public forum, it looks terrible. Though the customer’s expectations may be out of line, as a business owner, you have no choice but to keep calm and show that you care. From a potential customer’s perspective who may have just wandered into the online argument, the situation looks like trouble. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. Potential customers just see trouble and its very easy for them to just steer clear of the whole mess and look elsewhere. From their perspective, the upset customer who write the bad review could be in the right. The casual onlooker has no way of knowing. All they can see is that 

there is a situation where the business owner is not offering great customer service to an unhappy customer.

That potential customer has no way of knowing who’s right and who’s is wrong. All they can see is an argument that will leave them thinking to themselves,

what if I’m unhappy with their service? Is this business owner going to argue with me and call me names too? For this reason, in delicate situations such as a scathing review, the business owner needs to take the higher ground. A study done by BrightLocal  shows “22% of customers are driven away with just one negative review”

confrontation can ruin your reputation management
Poor reputation management shows in low star-ratings

When they go low, we go high

What needs to be demonstrated is a reasonable business owner doing whatever it takes to make a customer happy, no matter how unfair the customer is being. Saying things like, “we’re sorry you were unhappy with our service” or “we want to offer you a refund”, or even “we apologize for your bad experience and we’d like to provide you with a free service to make things right. It may sound counter-intuitive to pander to a customer who’s being unfair, unreasonable and downright abrasive. However, it’s the only logical choice when responding to a negative review on a public forum.

Not all stories end well

I wish I could say this story has a happy ending but it doesn’t. Despite our advice that the business owner delete the comments and replace them with only kind works, empathy, and an offer to make the customer happy, the business owner defended her position and refused to budge. She insisted that she was right and that the customer was crazy. The owner would not back down. Her Yelp profile now has a permanent record of her sinking to an unreasonable customer’s level by arguing and name-calling.

They say the customer is always right. While I don’t agree with that in some cases, when it comes to reviews, a company’s online reputation is at stake. Arguing online with a customer who writes a bad review no matter how unfair is a great way to destroy your company’s reputation.

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

How to Choose a Great Online Marketing Company

How to Choose a Great Online Marketing Company

How To Choose a Great Online Marketing Company

No matter if you are new to the world of digital advertising and SEO or an experienced veteran, we are going to help you figure out how to choose a great online marketing company. If you are looking to grow your business by being found more often and converting more of the people who find you into customers, choosing a great online marketing company is the best way to do so.

We aren’t going to bore you with the obvious things you should do, such as:

  1. Google things like “choosing a great online marketing company” and read as much as you can
  2. Read reviews on marketing companies that look interesting
  3. Look at marketing company websites to get an idea of the services they offer and what the company is about

We understand that these things are obvious. What you might not know is there are more advanced and more important ways to find a digital marketing agency made of gold. The information we are going to discuss goes way deeper. We are going to dive into the nitty gritty of what really MUST be done if you are to weed out the fools good and find the company that is going to take your business to the next level.

Why the Treasure Hunt?

What should a top online marketing company do for you? An online marketing company’s primary job is to help their clients get more customers by increasing their presence and quality on the internet. That means, but is not limited to, making sure their customers will show up on the first page of search engine results and converting into potential customers as often as possible. If an online marketing agency truly helps your business, it will result in more visits to your website, more website visitors filling out your contact forms, and more phone calls from new customers. Whether this is done with SEO (search engine optimization), Local SEO (seo for specific narrow locations), PPC (pay per click advertising), or Website Optimization, or some combination,  a great online marketing company will know what to do, and when to do it. They will do their homework and perform keyword and competitor research before doing anything else. Most importantly, they will prioritize their tasks based on strategy that is formed out of their research and experience.

Digging deep to find the gold

It can be easy to fall into the trap of just going with the first “likely” company you run across. But that’s not going to get you the best results in the long run. Don’t treat this process as an inconvenience. Finding a great online marketing company could be the best thing that ever happens to your business. But there’s a deeper secret about this treasure hunt you’re beginning as you look for the right marketing team. And that is that the treasure isn’t just getting the right marketing company, it is also reaching more customers. You want a marketing team that can demonstrate they are delivering you more new customers on a regular basis. This will justify the investment you make with them.

Doing your homework while looking for a great online marketing company might take a lot of effort, but the right choice will pay off. Not only can you expect better and more consistent results, you will avoid costly mistakes that will result in lost time and money. Don’t settle for the first company that looks “okay.” You want a company that has an excellent track record of helping their customers. Doing some digging is going to be necessary. While you are on the hunt for your golden online marketing agency, take notes. Jot down things you like and don’t like about each company. If you speak with people at the company, remember to include notes on how kind they were, how well they listened, and how professional they were. Its important to like, respect and feel understood by the people you regularly work with.

Identifying a digital marketing agency’s services

The first thing you need to figure out is what services a potential company offer. There are seven basic types of services that a digital marketing company can offer. They are:

  1. Branding – ensuring your company has a distinct brand presence.
  2. Content Marketing – presenting information written specifically for your target customers.
  3. SEO – getting your company found in the search engines
  4. PPC – paid advertising such as Google Ads and Facebook ads.
  5. CRO – optimizing websites and other sales methods to increase their effectiveness
  6. Local SEO – getting companies found in the local search results, or maps listings
  7. Website design – creating a great centerpiece and hub for your online world

You may not need all of the services a great online marketing company offers. Its best to let them decide what type of online marketing will work best for your company. That is one of the things you pay them for. In fact, perhaps the most important thing that a great digital marketing agency will do for your company is prioritize. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of things that can be done to help your company succeed online. But which thing is going to be deliver the best return on investment? A great online marketing firm will know what to do, and in what order to do it.

For example, lets say your website needs an overhaul and your search engine rankings need improvement. A great online marketing company may not worry about your website at first. Why? Because what does the condition of your website matter if nobody is finding it? Wouldnt it make more sense to work on rankings first? Of course it would. Especially since search engine optimization takes time to do, and to take effect. So a great digital agency would probably get a jump on the SEO or Local SEO for your company, and after a few months get started on improving your website.

Reviews Do Matter

We are not going to get into this topic too deeply. It is worth an entire new article dedicated to that topic. But here is a quick summary:

  1. Choose a company that has at least a dozen reviews. Too few reviews may mean they do not have much experience or good enough customer relations.
  2. Choose a company that has reviews in multiple places. Yelp,  Google, Yahoo, Facebook are just some of the places that people normally write reviews.
  3. If possible, choose a company that has at least one bad review. This may sound illogical, but there are good reasons for this.

Be careful of companies that have dozens or hundreds of reviews, and not one of them is negative. While it is possible that a great online marketing company has a perfect track record, it is unlikely. Nobody is perfect and companies make mistakes. Not to mention that there is a huge problem with companies buying fake reviews online. Google is particularly bad at spotting fake reviews.

Go back to those reviews you found about the prospective companies you are considering. Take note of the qualities past customers praise, as well as any negatives that get mentioned. Don’t let the negatives totally over-rule the prospect: you don’t know (yet) what might lie behind them. But pay attention to what the complaint is about.

One of the best ways to find out how good the customer service is at a particular online marketing company is to look for bad reviews and study the responses from the business owner or manager. If they are defensive, argumentative or otherwise less than professional, it is probably a good idea to steer your ship clear of the scoundrels.

Counting the loot – talking to their current customers

You’ve done some preliminary research on your best prospects and now its time to contact them and start asking some important questions. Stay on top of the discussion, and don’t get swept up in their salesmanship. Begin by asking them for references for current customers and their contact information. Any good marketing company should be proud to have you call their references. If they are truly great at what they do, their customers will be happy to tell you. When you call their references, be respectful of their time and make it short. Simply ask them three questions:

  1. How long have you worked with them?
  2. Are you happy with the results they have delivered for your company?
  3. Would you recommend them?

These three questions will tell you most of what you need to know and take about a minute of the reference’s time.

Divining the real treasure – reviewing their reporting and research

A great online marketing company has clear, detailed, and accurate reporting. One of the best ways to evaluate the quality of their work is to ask them for samples of specific reports. These include:

  1. Monthly campaign progress reports – this should include information on website traffic, search engine rankings, and list all tasks performed on a line-item basis
  2. Keyword research report – most online marketing campaigns should start with professional keyword research. They should have samples of their keyword research readily available.
  3. Competitor analysis report – SEO and online marketing strategy should always be based on what is working for the top competitors.
  4. Call and form-tracking report – great online marketing and SEO companies track leads, not just traffic and rankings

Review the copies of the reports they send you. These reports can be tough to understand. If you are interested and considering hiring a great online marketing company that stands out, set up a phone call to discuss the reports they send you. They should be happy to answer any questions you have.

Unpacking the treasure chest – evaluating their case studies and portfolio

Most great online marketing companies have an entire online marketing portfolio page dedicated to their case studies. Spend some time reviewing these case studies. They may be hard to understand, but you will get an idea of the quality of their work. Just the fact that they put their work right out in the open says quite a bit about their transparency. You may or may not like the work they performed. But at least their case studies have helped you make an informed decision about whether to hire them.

A good portfolio or case studies page should demonstrate before and after screenshots of their website designs and overhauls. They should also demonstrate the before and after of their traffic, rankings, and phone calls and form fills where applicable.

Cashing in the jewels – setting your expectations and discussing your goals

Once you have found a great online marketing company, you can open the treasure chest of possibilities. You can discuss your expectations and specific goals, preferred communications methods, and talk about timelines and KPIs (key performance indicators). You can also discuss your dreams and fantasies. There may be things you have always wanted to do for your business and website, but haven’t been able to manage yet. For example, you may wish to expand your service range, or go from a local company to a national brand. A great online marketing company can help you achieve your goals and reach your dreams.

You and your team may also wish to be more of a part of the online marketing efforts. Discussing this desire right from the start is the best time to present it to your new online marketing company. Making your online marketing a cooperative effort may help keep the efforts of the marketers and your team fresh,energetic and always on-point.

It is important that you stay engaged with the company you chose. Make sure to have regular monthly meetings to discuss progress and strategies. There are many online marketing companies that put on a great “dog and pony show” to get you to sign up. But once they have your money, they often “disappear” or become lazy. So stay on top of them so that you know what steps they are regularly taking on your company’s behalf.

Its also important to understand that you and your team have an important role to play in your online success. You need to deliver outstanding products and services for your customers, and make a big-time effort to get as many great reviews as possible and post to your social media on a regular basis. These are two of the things that even the best online marketing company cannot do as well as you. Success online really is a team effort.

Keeping the ship afloat – staying up to date on the latest online marketing techniques

Building your online presence is not a “one and done” activity. As online searching changes and technology advances, you need to work with marketers who are experts at understanding the way people search, use websites and make purchase decisions.  An engaging and lively internet presence combined with plenty of top search engine rankings and a healthy and active website is a treasure you want to protect and grow. To achieve that end, you need to discover the treasured business asset of the very best online marketing company.

A great online marketing company will stay on top of changes in online marketing. The way that people search for products and services are changing every day. With the growth of voice responsive devices and applications like Siri, Google Home, and Alexa, the way that people get information will change even more in the coming years. Its important for you and your team, as well as your digital marketing agency, to make sure that you continue to educate yourselves. This will ensure that you have a healthy online presence that will continue to land you new customers for years to come.

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

How To Turn Your Google Accounts Into Fort Knox

Online services become more important to everyday life with each passing day.  Your email accounts are the keys to all your online kingdoms. Your Facebook page, Twitter stream, and even your bank are all registered using one or more of your email accounts. If you’re selling goods or services, email is often the most important avenue for your online marketing strategies. It’s common for the average email user to use the same password across most or all their accounts to make them easier to manage. However, using the same password on multiple accounts can set you up for disaster.

Gmail is one of the most popular email providers in the world. Because Google uses the same login information for all their services, keeping your Gmail account safe is vital for internet security. If you’re using Gmail and associated Alphabet accounts for your business or personal email, use these handy tips to secure them properly.

Check Connected Apps and Sites

It’s convenient to connect various applications, websites, and cloud services to your Google account. It makes it easier to log in, and easier to collect important information in one place. However, having many connected accounts increases the amount of damage that can result from a security breach. The first step on your path to a truly secure Google account is to review all your accounts on the Connected Apps page.  Be sure to remove any services you don’t use anymore. This will limit login access to your account, and that will lower your security risk.

Look at Device Activity

You probably use multiple devices to work on your various Google accounts. This is especially true if you use your email account for your online marketing strategies. Visit Recently Used Devices. From this page, you can view a list of all the computers and mobile devices that have access to your account. It’s smart to revoke permissions from any device that you don’t use for your account anymore. In addition to reviewing and managing access to your account, the Recently Used Devices page also lets you choose when and how you get email and text alerts for suspicious activity.

Use Two Factor Authentication

Two Factor Authentication is the best way to secure your Google accounts. When you use two factor authentication, you make a fundamental change to the way your account is secured. You still use your regular password, but Google also archives a second identifier like your mobile phone number. A mobile phone number allows Google to send you a PIN that verifies a second layer of login security on your account. This is very helpful if you travel often, and need to log on to your accounts from different devices in faraway places. On your everyday computer, logging in and out of your Google account still will only require your password.

Use Passphrases Instead of Passwords

Passwords strategies are as numerous as passwords. Everyone, whether an expert or a novice at computer security, has a favorite method for writing and remembering passwords. The most common method is to mix up numbers, letters and symbols, and to use both upper and lower case letters. Complex passwords made from random letters, numbers, and symbols are much harder for hackers to crack, but they’re no good if you can’t keep track of them. Instead of using a single, convoluted password, try using a passphrase. Passwords like “S3l3ct10n” are more difficult to remember than “My Glasses Have 2 Tinted Lenses!” Any password that contains dictionary words is less secure than a purely random set of characters. However, a long passphrase is more secure than a short string of random characters, and easier to remember.

Use a Password Manager

If you have too many passwords to remember easily, try a password manager like LastPass, Dashlane, or Zoho Vault. These services plug in to your browser, and they automatically fill in usernames and passwords across all of your sites. These services are invaluable for online marketing strategies where your usernames and passwords can really stack up. Each of these services offers a free plan, and they’ll work on almost any browser, so you’re sure to find one that works for you.

Your connected Google accounts contain a treasure trove of valuable information. Hacker understand that access to your email account can mean access to all your accounts. Smart password management on your email account is the first step to make all your accounts as secure as Fort Knox. Luckily, with many different security features available, securing your account is easier than ever before.

Planning & Budget: The Keys to Effective SEO

There are many considerations one must take into account when deciding to hire an SEO marketing firm and start an SEO campaign. But foremost among those considerations are two very important points.

First, have a plan. And second, have a budget!

Without those two foundations in place, you are more likely to waste time and money than you are to reap the benefits of a top-notch SEO campaign.

Effective SEO takes time

Start with understanding that SEO is a long-term strategy. A good rule of thumb is that it will take four to six months to start seeing results, and six months to a year for those results to become substantial. The reason is, the first month there is generally a lot of discovery, auditing, and planning taking place, and not much implementation. The second-month implementation begins, but it takes time for search engines to recognize the changes, so virtually nothing happens to results until the tail end of the second month.

When results start appearing in the third and fourth months, they’re going to be minimal. By the sixth month, things should be starting to move along nicely, but it will likely be closer to 12 months before the real payoff starts. It’s in the second year that you will harvest your investment.

The other truth you need to understand is that good SEO is not cheap. The old saw, “You get what you pay for” is never truer than when applied to your SEO budget. Depending on how much you want your SEO firm to do, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $5000 a month, or more. Some companies have budgets in the tens of thousands of dollars for SEO, but if you are serious, you should be prepared for a minimum of a 12-month startup with a cost ranging from a low of $6,000 to as much as $60,000. And beware of those who will tell you they can produce results quickly and for less money. The truth is, good SEO takes time, and a mindset that is looking for instant results will not serve you well.

Given those basic truths and with an understanding of them, you can start to prepare your budget. The first thing you need to do is decide on which metric you will pursue. What are you going to measure and why? One of the best places to focus is on your traffic – how many unique visitors make their way to your website. This metric generally converts to leads, new and increased sales, and several other types of asset conversion.

Set your goals

Next, set a goal for your SEO campaign. What kind of increase do you want to see? Are you looking for increased sales? If so, how much of an increase are you looking to make over the next 12 months? It is up to you to determine what success looks like to you! And once you have that goal, decide just how much hitting your goal would be worth to you? Then, go one better and decide how much a larger increase, say as much as 50 percent growth, would be worth it. Given those two perspectives, you are then ready to start working out a specific budget. Knowing what hitting your goal is worth to you and your company helps put your SEO budget into a fine perspective and allows you to see beyond that initial investment to the bigger picture.

Remember, SEO is a highly cost-effective strategy for long term success, but only when you enter into it with eyes wide open and the right foundation in place. If you take the time to make a comprehensive SEO plan, what your competition is doing, SEO-wise, won’t matter nearly as much from your position as the leader in your field.