How To Use Hashtags To Grow Your Online Social Presence

Hashtags are a really useful tool for small businesses. You can use a hashtag to extend your social media reach and to engage prospects and like minded networkers. Used right they will help you build your following, your posts will reach a far wider audience, you will get more leads, and boost productivity. In this post, you will learn how to use hashtags to grow your online social presence.hashtag, hashtags

What is a Hashtag?

In social media a hashtag is the hash or pound sign (#) followed by a word or key phrase that is used to categorise what your post is about. For example, if you are posting about social media, you might use the hashtag #socialmedia or #socmed. When you post to social networks using a hashtag, this then becomes searchable i.e. you can click on it to see all posts that use the same hashtag and it makes it more likely that people will find your post.

A Few Things to Know About Hashtags

  • Never include a space in your hashtags. If there’s a space, then it won’t be searchable.
  • You can include numbers and capital letters in hashtags. Capitals often make the hashtag more readable and understandable.
  • Use hashtags that are short and sweet. Trying to fit a whole sentence into a hashtag makes it incomprehensible and reduces its reach.
  • You can (and should) have your own hashtag. One that you use to brand your posts.
  • Hashtags are hugely important on Instagram and are key to building your following.
  • Be extra careful when using hashtags on Facebook. Don’t use too many (2 is enough) and don’t use them too often.
  • Don’t use made up hashtags that mean nothing unless you are trying to be funny (this can backfire and be a waste of your time).

Hashtag Data by hashtagify.me 

To decide which hashtags to use, first think about what you are posting about and then consider which words you would use to describe your post. For example when we share this post we might use hashtags like #socialmedia and #marketing.

Once you have determined the most appropriate word to use you can dig deeper using tools that help you to determine the most popular ones to use.  Hashtagifyme allows you to search for a hashtag and view related hashtags and their popularity. Choose the ones that are most popular to get the widest reach.

hashtag, hashtagsInstagram Hashtags

Using hashtags is a central component to building your following and engagement on Instagram. This app allows you to use up to 30 tags – if you try to use more you won’t be able to share your post.

The optimum number will depend on your audience and your posts but a general rule of thumb is to use between 5 and 10 (test and try this to see what works for you!). Upload your photo then enter your hashtags in the caption area.

More sophisticated users often enter a few tags in the caption area then more in the comments (there’s also a way to hide them to make your posts look cleaner but still make them searchable by adding line breaks). It’s a good idea to save a list of hashtags you frequently use so that you can simply copy and paste them from your phone. Instagram has a useful feature when entering hashtags that allow you to see how often these terms are used.

Twitter Hashtags

Twitter can be a really confusing network and most people really aren’t sure how to use it effectively. Hashtags can really help with that as they help to organise constant streams of updates and help you (and your audience) find the nuggets of information they are really interested in. Use a relevant hashtag before relevant keywords to help your Tweets show up better in search. You can use them anywhere in your Tweet and popular hashtags often become trending topics. A general rule of thumb is to use 2 – if you use more then engagement will decrease.

Using hashtags efficiently and effectively can be a great way to increase your social media productivity. Remember to use them efficiently and effectively according to which platform you are on.

This post is an adaptation of a blog post that Mhairi Petrovic of Out-Smarts Marketing wrote for SMEI

Website Bounce Rate and the 8-Second Rule

website bounce rateYou have seconds to convince a first-time visitor to stay on your website. Approximately 50% of them leave within those first 8 precious seconds for a number of reasons, but there are ways you can reduce your website bounce rate.

Your website should make the best first impression so that it convinces visitors to stay.  Keep them on your site and lower your website bounce rate with these 4 tips:

1) Speed Up Website Load Time

There are a number of sites that can measure your website’s load time. The quicker your website loads, the less likely a first-time visitor will leave. A couple of sites we recommend are Pingdom and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Pingdom has a free tool to test your website’s loading time.  It’s simple and easy. Enter your website’s address, select a location and Pingdom analyzes it, gives you a performance grade and identifies in a detailed report what may be slowing down your website’s load time.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is also free and just as easy. You type in your website URL, click on the analyze button and wait for the results. You will receive two performance reports;  one for desktop and another for mobile both of which have their own a PageSpeed Score that ranges from 0 to 100 points.  Side note: your website should be optimized for mobile devices – which includes both smartphones and tablets – otherwise your website may not show up on Google Search results on mobile.  The reports give advice on what to fix and how to fix it to make your website better and lower your website bounce rate.

2) Define The Purpose of Your Site

Your website should solidify your online identity and your services and/or products should be clear and obvious. The top left hand corner is the most important part of your site – use it to showcase what you do and define your purpose so that visitors get it instantaneously. Showcase what you do and who you do it for.

3) Simple Website Navigation & Layout

Keep your website simple, make it intuitive to use and design it to be desktop and mobile responsive. These elements will keep first-time visitors on your site longer and make them less likely to bounce (leave after visiting only one page). Have all information about your products and/or services on your website.

Another way to reduce your website bounce rate is if you keep getting asked the same questions, then it is a good idea to make that information available on your website too because people would rather move onto another competitor’s website to find the answer than to call up your business.

You should have two sitemaps – one for Google (XML) and the other for people. It is paramount that people can find the content they are looking for on your site easily, so don’t overwhelm them with links. Too many links and menu items can cause confusion and result in people leaving your site if they have to keep clicking around to find what they were looking for. Pages should be linked from the menu or from inner pages (to help Google crawl them all).

Include easy to find contact information on every page of your website. Having an address, phone number and email in plain sight makes visitors feel that they are dealing with an actual business.  

4) Give Website Visitors Reason to Come Back

Provide dynamic content such as blog posts, images, videos and etc. Use a blog to set yourself apart by showcasing you’re an expertise in your industry and how you will deliver on their expectations. If you can offer valuable information like giving free advice this results in trust and  goodwill. It will bring visitors back to your website and increase the likelihood that they will retain your services.  

Videos are great for boosting conversions and return visits too. Use videos to highlight a new product or explain your business. Make sure though to keep videos short – less than 2 minutes – so visitors stay to watch.

Differentiate your website and business by having a distinctive logo and by sharing consumer reviews so that visitors don’t go searching for reviews about your company on other sites that you don’t have control over.  

Lastly, update your site often. An active and fresh website will not only make first-time visitors stay, but come back again and again.

Conclusion

Take a moment to look at your website from the perspective of a first-time visitor or better yet, have a friend do it. Identify what your website may be lacking from what we’ve outlined above. Implement some of these tips to reduce website bounce rate and see if it convinces more visitors to stay on your website longer than 8 seconds.  Some of these changes will be easy to put into action and others you may feel are too technical. If that’s the case, contact your web developer or give us a shout – we’d be happy to help.

About the writer: Gloria Botelho is a practicum student from the Digital & Mobile Marketing program at Simon Fraser University. Gloria lives in East Van and is obsessed with cats, flowers, street art and all things Portuguese. You can follow her on Twitter @glorbot and on Instagram @gloria_boria.

Google Adwords Express and Adwords

Did you know that there are two versions of Google’s advertising platform Adwords? There’s full blown Google Adwords and Google Express. They are both really similar but Adwords Express is designed to make it easy for you to set up your ads. Managing your ads easy is because you don’t have to – it’s all automated.

If you don’t have a website then Google Adwords Express is the way to go as it allows you to advertise your Google+ page on Google and Google Maps. It might also be the right solution if you have a small budget, want to spread a wide and targeted net and you don’t have a clue about (or don’t want to learn how) to manage your bids. But beware, with Express Google decides the keywords your ads show up for and you have no insight into how much bids cost.

Benefits of Adwords:

  • Pay when someone clicks on your ad
  • Full control in choosing keywords, bidding on those keywords, and how your account is structured
  • Targeted by geography – can reach people anywhere
  • Access different ad formats and reports on Google, Google Maps, and partner sites.

Benefits of Adwords Express:

  • Pay when someone clicks on your ad
  • No control in choosing keywords, bidding on those keywords or how your account is structured
  • Advertise on Google, Google Maps, and partner sites.
  • You can reach people anywhere

If you want full control over the search words your ads appear for, or if you want to manage how much you bid for those keywords then Adwords is the best option.

Adwords Express is a way to test the waters and to find out how Google’s advertising platform works but if you are serious about advertising on Google, full blown Adwords is the only way to go. Adwords can be quite complex but it’s easy to learn yourself if you have time to dedicate to it, if not consider outsourcing (hint – we do that!).

Switching From Express to Adwords

When you are setting up a new advertising account Google really wants you to set up an Express account so it is easy to set up Express accidentally. If you started out with Express and now want to move to the full blown Adwords to take advantage of full functionality, the best way to switch from Adwords Express to Adwords is by calling Google support.  Here’s a link that will help you with that.

If you set up Adwords Express by mistake you can cancel the account by clicking on the Settings Cog at the top right of your screen after login then clicking on preferences in the left hand sidebar and scrolling down to the bottom of the page where you will see the ‘Account Cancellation’ option. However if you do this then try to set up a fill blown Adwords account using the same email address you might not be able to. Best to call support!

Using Adwords Express and Adwords Together

Using both of these at the same time is not recommended, there are no benefits from doing so and it will make it more complicated to keep track of everything and to manage your campaigns.

 

 

 

 

Google Analytics Set Up

This is an update of a post about Google Analytics that was originally published in 2009. To see the original, click here.

Google Analytics is the best way to track traffic to your website. It will tell you where in the world your visitors are from, the route they take to your site, how long they stay, whether they convert and much, much more. Analytics is free to install so if you haven’t already done so, what are you waiting for:

Google Analytics - Set Up

1. First of all you will need a Google account. If you are using gmail you can use those login details and if not, sign up for an account then proceed to check in with Google – click on the sign up button to get started.

2. Choose the ‘Website’ option.

3. Enter your Account Name. URL, timezones, industry category and click the applicable data sharing terms then click on the blue Get Tracking ID icon. Accept the terms for your location (using the drop down).

4. You will be taken to the tracking instructions. There are 3 ways to make sure Google knows to track your site.

  • You can copy and paste the website tracking code into each page on your website
  • or use the code to create a php file and add a little code to your template
  • or you can use Google Tag Manager.

The way we prefer is to insert the code into the header section of your site in the <head> section before the <body> tag.

Once you have it set up and its been tracking traffic for a few days, you will find all kinds of valuable information that will enable you to improve your SEO,  your online marketing efforts and make educated decisions:

Your traffic: where it comes from (both geographically and from other sites), how often people visit, how long they stay and which pages they visit and more;

Your content: which pages they land on and where they go from there, which content drives the most traffic etc (or the least);

Your goals: track your online marketing goals including conversion rates, funnels and Adwords campaigns.

Tips

  • Filter out visits from you or your employees as they can skew your results.
  • Set goals – Analytics allows you to set goals pertaining to your traffic. You should use these to track success.
  • One of the things I like best about Analytics is the ability to view data in different ways – remember to use these capabilities to view graphical representations of your data.

Having problems installing Google Analytics or no time to do so? Just let us know. This is just one of the many services we provide.

Reasons To Be Cheerful October 2016

A-maze-ing Laughter - Yue Minjun - Sculpture

A-maze-ing Laughter – Yue Minjun – Sculpture

For those of you who have been longstanding followers of this blog, you will likely remember our Reasons to Be Cheerful posts. It has been over three years since our last one. It’s not that we’re not cheerful it’s just that we’ve been kind of busy growing.

The whole point of the reasons to be cheerful posts is to share websites, tools, apps, blogs and other cool stuff we use or have discovered lately. After 3 years, we have quite a long list but we won’t dump them all on you at once!

Canva

We use Canva regularly, and have done for ages, to create images on the fly. You can upload your own photos and images or access the Canva repository images (they don’t cost much usually $1), add great graphics and text and best of all Canva has preloaded templates for social media, Facebook posts, blog graphics and more. This is a must have in any marketer’s toolbox.

Designrr

Every small business owner wants to write a book right? Or at the very least an ebook. Often the content and design are the only things holding us back. Designrr is a great tool that make this happen. You simply grab a URL (i.e. a blog article you have written), choose a template, tweak, tune and publish.

MentionMapp

MentionMapp makes discovering Twitter’s gems easy. It visually displays people, places, events and conversations so you can see the connections, track conversations, hashtags and trending topics all in one view.

Barracuda

Find out if your website has been impacted by Google’s algorithm changes using this Penguin Tool.

Twitter Analytics

Most Twitter users don’t know this exists! If you are using Twitter for your small business it is important to track your top tweets, impressions, mentions and followers. Twitter analytics is a great tool to let you do so.

Wishpond

If you are looking for a marketing platform that is affordable, easy to use and has all the bells and whistles you need to manage campaigns across multiple platforms, Wishpond is the one. Its a great alternative to Infusionsoft at a much lower price point. Use it to build landing pages, manage social promotions, website popups, online forms, lead activity tracking, lead management, lead intelligence, marketing automation, email marketing and measure success with marketing analytics.

Square

If you want to accept credit card payments for your small business then Square is great. It’s easy to set up an account, they send you a dongle that you attach to your phone or device to accept payment (or you can do this manually too). You link Square to your bank accounts and you’re ready to go. Even better, it’s much more cost effective than traditional tools since there’s no monthly fee and the percentage they take is smaller.

Starbucks App

We all need caffeine to get us through the long days as entrepreneurs right? The Starbucks apps is not new but using it to order your coffee and pick up without waiting in the queue is. It’s particularly useful at conferences when you have a short break and long wait for your latte. I really shouldn’t be sharing this one….