Tag: SEO

SEO

3 Creative Ways to Give Your Content Efforts a…

Posted by randfish

We know that content is our doorway to earning countless SEO benefits for our sites. Admittedly, though, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut after one too many content marketing campaigns. 

In this 2017 holiday edition of Whitebeard Friday (see what we did there?), Rand offers three novel ways to add sparkle to your content creation efforts.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special Christmas edition of Whitebeard Friday. This week, I wanted to try and help with just a few tactical suggestions on some creative ways to pump up those content marketing campaigns.

I’ve seen that many, many folks in the SEO world, of course, naturally, are investing in content marketing because content is the path to links and amplification and search traffic. Sometimes those content campaigns can feel a little stale or repetitive. So I have some creative ideas, things that I’ve seen some people executing on that I think we might be able to leverage for some of our work.

1. Niche groups

First one, if you can identify in your community these sort of small but vocal niche groups that are . . . when I say your community, it doesn’t have to be people you already reach. It can be people inside the community of content generation and of topical interest around your subject matter. Then help them to amplify their voices or their causes or their pet projects, etc.

So I’ll use the example of being in the foodie and gourmand world. So here’s a bunch of foodies. But this particular tiny group is extremely passionate about food trucks, and, in particular, they really hate the laws that restrict food truck growth, that a lot of cities don’t allow food trucks to be in certain spaces. They have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get licensed. They are not permitted to be permanently in a place for a whole week. Whatever it is, whatever those legal restrictions are. So by serving this small group, you might think that content is way too niche.

The wonderful part is that content is the kind that gets amplified very loudly, very repetitively, that can help you earn links and traffic to this small community. If that community is small and loud and feels like their voices aren’t being heard elsewhere, you can build some great brand advocacy inside that group as well. By the way, I would urge you to be authentic, choose causes that you or your company also care about. Don’t just pick something at random.

2. Products and services

Second, if you can, try and seek out products and services that your audience uses or needs, but that doesn’t actually directly conflict with your business. Then create a resource that lists or rates or ranks and recommends those top choices. We’ve actually done this a few times at Moz. I have this recommended list of agency and consultant providers, but Moz does not compete with any of those. But it’s a helpful list. As a result of listing those folks and having this sort of process around it, many of those people are pumping up that content.

Now here’s another example. Foodie Moz, Foodie Moz sounds like a great domain. I should go register that right after this hat stops hitting me in the back of the head. I don’t know how Santa deals with that. So Foodie Moz presents the best cookbooks of 2017. Now, Foodie Moz might be in the food and recipe world. But it turns out, the wonderful part is cookbooks are something that is used by their audience but not directly conflicting with them.

Since it’s not self-promotional, but it is useful to your audience, the likelihood that you can earn links and amplification because you seem like a non-self-interested party is much greater. You’re providing value without asking anything in return. It’s not like anyone buying these cookbooks would help you. It’s not like you have some ulterior motive in ranking this one number one or that one number two. You’re merely putting together an unbiased set of resources that help your audience. That is a great way to get a piece of content to do well.

3. Content creators

Third, last but not least here, if you can, find content creators who have been very successful. You can recruit them, the people who have had hit pieces, to create content for your brand. In a lot of ways, this is like cheating. It’s almost like buying links, except instead of buying the links, you’re buying the time and energy of the person who creates content that you have high likelihood or high propensity for being successful in that content niche with what they create because of their past track record and the audience they’ve already built.

Pro-tip here. Journalists and media contributors, even contributors to online media, like a BuzzFeed or something like that, are great targets. Why? Well, because they’re usually poorly paid and they are desperate to build a portfolio of professional work. Some of these folks are insanely talented, and they already have networks of people who have liked their work in the past and have helped amplify them.

So if you can use a tool like BuzzSumo — that would be generally what I’d recommend, there’s a few others, but BuzzSumo is really great for this — you can search for, for example, recipes and see the most shared content in the recipe world in, say, the last three months. Then we can identify, “Oh, here we go. This person wrote the hardest recipe challenge gifts. Oh, all right. That did really, really well. I wonder if we can see who that is. Oh look, she does freelance work. I bet she can write for us.”

It’s like cheating. It’s a great hack. It’s a great to way to recruit someone who you know is likely to have a great shot at their work doing well, give them the freedom to write what they want, to create what they want, and then host it on your site. A great way to do content creation, for a decent price, that has a high likelihood of solid amplification.

All right, everyone, look forward to some of your thoughts and tactics. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas from all of us at Moz. For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, happy belated Hanukkah. I know that I’m filming this during Hanukkah, but it’s probably after Hanukkah that you’re seeing it. For those of you who are celebrating any other holiday this year, a very happy holiday season to you. We look forward to joining you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Online Marketing

Best Online Reputation Management

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

You’re already doing so much for your business. How do you successfully manage your online reputation, too?

You can do it and do it well. But if you’re already managing a lot, your best bet is outsourcing it to an ORM, or an online reputation manager. 

Your online image can determine how long you stay in business and if your profits grow year after year. The problem with that is that you can’t always control what customers say about you online, or even when a damaging business mishap gets out in the open. 

To help you put your best image out there, I’ve reviewed and done extensive research on online reputation managers, so you don’t have to. Finding the best ORM for you is easy once you know exactly what you need. 

The Top 4 Options For Online Reputation Management

  1. Go Fish Digital – The best ORM for managing reviews 
  2. Reputation Rhino – The best for individuals and small businesses
  3. Reputation Resolutions – The best ORM for crisis management
  4. Big Leap – The best for SEO and content management

How to Choose The Best Online Reputation Management For You

Unfortunately, there isn’t a singular “best” reputation manager that fits every business like a glove. If there was, then this guide wouldn’t be necessary. 

Different ORMs cater to different services. This can mean some are better than others at crisis management, online monitoring, online review management, SEO focused branded content strategy, or even supplying attorneys to advocate on your behalf.

First, are you building a new online reputation from scratch? Maybe you’re trying to improve a negative reputation? Or are you being proactive and investing in maintaining a good one?

You have to determine where you are on your reputation management journey. Then you can think about a few factors that can refine your search even more.

Business Size and Type

Your company size generally correlates with the size of your reputation. Obviously, the bigger and more varied your sales channels, the more work you’ll have managing how you look online.  

Your business’s size can also dictate the amount you’ll want to invest in ORM services. Some questions to consider are: What is your estimated current business reach? What types of distribution channels do you sell through or publish content on? Are you a service-based business, an organization, or an e-commerce store?

When choosing the best ORM for you, these are some key questions to consider before moving forward. If your business isn’t a complex enterprise, you won’t need a costly ORM that specializes in litigation, video removal, or a team of expert attorneys. 

Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy also determines the type of online reputation management you need. 

Do you primarily sell via a content creation strategy? Do you sell on multiple e-commerce platforms? Is your business big enough that it sells through on-air advertising? Do you already have a strong social media presence that drives sales?

Outlining how you primarily reach your customers is another way to narrow down your search. If you don’t, it might affect how well your ORM can deliver results. 

Long-Term Crisis Management

Think about the future of your business and its reputation. Sure, at some point you might need to put out a reputation fire that caught you by surprise ASAP. Or maybe you’re only getting started and want your name out there in the short-term in a positive light to drive more sales.

But do you have a long-term plan for managing reputation crises that will inevitably come up in the future?

This will determine which ORM can deliver on either your short-term or long-term goals. Each one is built differently to cater to your business goals, as we’ll see further in this guide. 

The Different Types of Online Reputation Management

There are tons of online reputation managers out there that offer a lot of the same services. But most of them fall into three main types. Most reputation management companies will provide an initial analysis and general monitoring of your reputation’s current state. 

After that, they start to get a little more specific in how they specialize.

Crisis Management

Crisis management usually takes more than a one-off approach to managing any brand’s reputation. You might need more than image takedowns, burying negative reviews with positive ones, or generating positive content. 

How an ORM handles a crisis can mark the difference between a business that survives through it or one that suffers those losses and ultimately closes its doors. 

ORMs that handle crisis management usually approach them from all angles, meaning deploying a long-term reputation management strategy and additional costs. 

Online Review Management

Online reputation management specializing in managing negative reviews tends to be a great fit for service-based businesses and e-commerce stores. 

Those terrible product reviews you read first on any product you find online? The right ORM can be effective in either removing them with their own set of tools and contacts or burying them with positive reviews over time. 

Businesses with reviews on Yelp, Amazon, or their own storefronts can benefit significantly from hiring an ORM effective in negative review management. 

Though, if you’re an enterprise-grade business that needs review removal as part of a broader strategy, you’ll want to go with a more varied ORM. 

Content Management

ORMs can focus on content creation as a reputation management strategy, surrounding your business with tons of positive branding.

They don’t necessarily have attorneys at your beck and call ready to take down negative media propaganda. But their laser-focus on SEO strategies that put the best reviews and mentions of you out there can be worth it if it means you’ll make a great first impression. 

This also improves your new and returning customer experience. 

A majority of your customers are using Google to search for your products or services. Making sure search results show the best content about you online is the way to go if you’re a content-focused business. 

#1 – Go Fish Digital — The Best ORM For Managing Reviews

I’ve listed Go Fish Digital as the best agency for managing reviews, and while that’s true, Go Fish Digital also wows with the option of full-service reputation management used by the likes of Geico, Ford, and Airbnb.

With Go Fish, you can gain thorough insight into your customers’ reviews and comments online. 

They work closely with huge review sites like Yelp to manage negative reviews by advocating for review removal on your behalf through their agency tools. They also work to get your best Yelp reviews to the top for more visibility. 

They’re exhaustive in their brand monitoring abilities and monitor all corners of the internet like Wikipedia and Reddit threads to create a plan of action in your favor.  

Go Fish’s review management works by pushing positive content to higher visibility with SEO, adjusting copy in public places where you’re mentioned, cleaning up Google autocomplete, and even promoting positive information about your business wherever your target audience is. 

As they create results, they keep you up to date with a relevant score you can see on their dashboard. 

To be clear, Go Fish is a reputable ORM that does not post false reviews for you. Still, their Yelp review management service is one of their strong suits.

Some of their best review management features are:

  • Managing negative Google reviews
  • Negative auto-complete cleanup often generated from those reviews
  • A dashboard that keeps you updated on your brand’s daily search results
  • Crafting a strategy for your business to encourage the best reviews possible
  • Creating and delivering a strong case on your behalf for negative review removal to the Yelp team

For pricing, you’ll have to contact them directly to get a quote. 

As with most ORMs, their prices change depending on the size of your business and the specific services you’re looking for.

Get in touch with Go Fish to get an initial quote. 

#2 – Reputation Rhino — The Best For Individuals and Small businesses

If you’re wondering who exactly needs reputation management, Reputation Rhino’s answer is ‘everyone.’ That’s why it’s the best ORM for solopreneurs and small businesses.

Reputation Rhino is a leading online reputation manager based in New York with clients like Disney, Microsoft, and Nestle. They offer a number of reputation solutions for almost any scenario imaginable, including ones that cater impressively to an individual and their personal brand.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, university, hotel, or contractor, Reputation Rhino helps you with Glassdoor, Yelp, and YouTube review removals, social media management, and even an SEO strategy to put the best parts of your brand (or yourself) front and center. 

Do you have terrible images that need to get removed from Google? They can do that. Do you need to fight against libel and personal defamation? Their team of public relations specialists can do that, too. These are services an individual or small business may not know how to do or not have time to take care of.

Their best ORM services for individuals include:

  • A personalized strategy to defend against smear campaigns
  • Suppressing negative online search results
  • Adding an extra layer of protection to your personal privacy
  • Eliminating news articles, forum comments, and negative content

As an individual or SMB, you might be nervous about investing money into an ORM. To help, Reputation Rhino offers a 30-day money-back guarantee that can ease your worries about whether they’ll deliver. If you need a more personal approach to reputation management, Reputation Rhino is happy to work with you individually. 

Their pricing starts at $1,000. But you’ll have to contact them for a personalized package. 

Get started with Reputation Rhino and request more information.  

#3 – Reputation Resolutions — The Best ORM For Crisis Management

Unlike other ORMs out there, Reputation Resolutions is the go-to agency for crisis management that can start working on your behalf in 24-72 hours.

A combination of their speedy response, team of attorneys, wide array of solutions, and seasoned professional team makes them the best ORM for enterprise-level reputation and crisis management. 

Maybe your business is an established corporation, but there’s been a sudden increase of negative reviews, you’re dealing with a handful of loud, angry customers online, or there is negative propaganda about you in the media. Ouch. Reputation Resolutions provides everything you need to turn a crisis around. 

Here’s a quick rundown of their top-tier crisis management features:

  • Cyber forensic investigation
  • News article removal
  • Court record removal
  • Thorough and ongoing reputation monitoring
  • Private information removal
  • Unwanted image removal

If you’re an smaller or mid-sized business looking for a management agency to simply take care of negative reviews, Reputation Solutions isn’t the agency for you. 

Alternatively, if you’re an established, well-known business in need of comprehensive PR management, attorneys, or copyright infringement services, then look no further than what Reputation Solutions can offer you. 

To get a pricing quote, email or call them for a free consultation, and they will learn more about you and tailor their services to your specific needs. 

#4 – Big Leap — The Best For SEO And Content Management

Big Leap’s ORM services are designed around one thing: content management. Their award-winning content marketing strategy centers around burying the negative and growing the positive.

This is fantastic news for you if you’re looking for an ORM that cares deeply about gaining customer trust through a long-term strategy. 

If your marketing strategy is mainly through content, you’re not as concerned about a sudden PR crisis, or Yelp reviews are mostly irrelevant to your sales success, then Big Leap’s trust-building approach can help you create results. 

They begin by scouring the internet for every mention of your business.  They do social media and search audits, along with a competitive analysis, to give them the bigger picture of where your reputation lies. 

Then they create a positive content strategy tailored specifically for you through brand-strengthening content and social media campaigns. As they execute their content strategy, Big Leap regularly reports back to you with updated results.

Some of their best ORM content management features include:

  • Brand name monitoring
  • Content strategy, creation, and promotion
  • Site optimization
  • Constant workflow updates on content strategy execution

Big Leap doesn’t list their prices publicly, but you can request a quote on their site. 

Conclusion

You don’t have to suffer from a bad reputation that only seems to be out of your hands. There are plenty of agencies out there that can help lighten your reputation management load once you’ve reached out and established a relationship with them. 

Online reputation management agencies can indeed offer a lot of the same services. But look closer to find what they specialize in. Hopefully, this in-depth guide helped shed light on which of the top ORMs can work for you.

Check out each agency on this list and get a quote from the one that fits you best to start managing your online reputation now. 

The post Best Online Reputation Management appeared first on Neil Patel.

SEO

How To Do Local SEO for Businesses Without Physical…

Posted by MiriamEllis

“My business makes local deliveries, but doesn’t have a storefront. How do I handle listings management?”

“I work from home. How should I be doing local SEO?”

“Are there any tips for doing local SEO for clients like NerdWallet or Credit Karma that serve all customers virtually?”

Queries like these about doing local SEO for businesses with nuanced, hidden, or no physical locations and with varied models of customer fulfillment are AMA FAQs and perennial topics on marketing fora. Attendees at the recent Moz Webinar on The ROI of Local SEO repeatedly asked about this subject.

Business owners and marketers who haven’t serendipitously discovered Google’s various guidelines are left wondering how to promote non-brick-and-mortar brands. Even where there’s awareness that such guidance exists, Google is continually evolving its stance. It’s easy to make mistakes, overlook updates, and miss out on opportunities.

The great news is, there are local marketing possibilities for almost every business type, but you have to know which pathway to follow, based on how the brand you’re marketing operates. In today’s column, I’ll help you identify your model along with the best opportunities available to you for being discovered by the maximum number of local customers.

Identify your business model

If you’re asking about how to do local SEO for something other than a brick-and-mortar brand, chances are, the business you’re marketing falls into one of four categories:

1. Service Area Business (SAB)

Most home services (plumbing, landscaping, housekeeping, etc.) fall into this category. You may or may not have physical street addresses that serve as headquarters or offices, but the defining feature of your business is that you serve nearby customers face-to-face at their locations, not at yours.

2. Home-based business

Your home address is your physical location, and you may either serve nearby customers at your house (like a daycare center), or go to nearby customers to serve them (like a dog walker), or you might do a combination of both (like a yoga teacher who teaches some classes at their home studio and some as private appointments at clients homes). The defining feature of your business is that you’re working out of your house.

*If you work from home but don’t ever meet face-to-face with customers for delivery or fulfillment of any kind, then you don’t fall under this category; you fall under category 3.

3. Virtual business

You conduct all transactions virtually, via phone, computer, shipping, and other remote means. Your business may be e-commerce (like the Dollar Shave Club), or offer digital services (like Credit Karma), or sell via print catalogue or other remote methodology. You may be operating out of one or more physical addresses and want to get the attention of customers in various regions or cities, but no customers ever come to your locations. The defining feature of your business is that you never interact in-person with customers.

4. Hybrid business

This category is a sort of catch-all that covers many variations.

One classic example is a restaurant with on-site dining where customers pay in person, curbside pickup where customers come to the location but may pay online, and delivery where customers pay online and drivers come to their homes.

Another variant would be a home services company like a security specialist with walk-in key grinding at a physical premise, at-home appointments for installation of new locks on doors, and e-commerce sales of security products.

Yet another hybrid would be a model like the Vermont Country Store, with its brick-and-mortar shops, e-commerce shopping, and huge volume of print catalog-driven sales.

Hybrid business models became more common in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, and there is no single defining feature of them. They are only united when all of them are looking for ways to increase visibility to customers in a specific local region.

In most cases, if the business you’re marketing is a hybrid, then your best bet will be to find the relevant opportunities in models 1-3, pair them with any applicable brick-and-mortar opportunities if those also match your model, and move forward with a very broad, hybrid strategy that seeks geographic visibility by every means possible.

Never do these things, regardless of your model

Before we begin listing out your model-based local SEO opportunities, now is the time to protect the brand you’re marketing from unwanted outcomes by avoiding missteps. No matter whether you’re trying to earn local visibility for an SAB, a home-based business, a virtual brand, or a hybrid, scratch these from your playbook:

  1. Don’t set up unstaffed virtual offices or P.O. boxes in an effort to fake locations for the sake of creating local business listings.
  2. Don’t set up strings of locations via the houses of staff, friends, or family members in an effort to fake operating multiple locations.
  3. Don’t set up listings for vacation homes, model homes, or empty properties. You can list the sales office of such businesses, but not the properties being rented or sold.
  4. Never, as a marketer, silently engage in violations of Google’s Guidelines. If you and a client choose together to risk a penalty or suspension for some reason, you’re agreeing to share the risk of potential disaster, but never undertake a forbidden strategy without the client’s knowledge.
  5. Be careful about over-promising results or agreeing to unrealistic goals when competing against brick-and-mortar businesses. Whether Google is genuinely biased towards locations that display their street address is a subject of long debate, myth, and speculation. What can be said with certainty is that it’s tough competing for local visibility with brick-and-mortar brands when you aren’t marketing a brick-and-mortar brand, so go into the work with informed expectations instead of unachievable aims, based on how Google appears to be handling results for your key search phrases.

Now we’re ready to talk strategy!

How to do local SEO for Service Area Businesses

Image Credit: Nacho

Abundant opportunities exist for service area businesses without public physical locations. In fact, updates to Google’s Guidelines in 2020 created a more favorable scenario for SABs. We’ll break your activities down into three sections: local, organic, and paid.

Local marketing for SABs

Your path to success begins in understanding Google’s requirements (which exist here and here) specific to SABs. You should read them in full, but I’ll excerpt the most salient points here:

In-person contact required

The guidelines state that SABs must make in-person contact of some kind with customers to be eligible for a Google My Business listing. However, during the pandemic, do not worry that your transition to contact-less services disqualifies you from inclusion. The business you’re marketing is still an SAB if it’s painting a house or delivering a meal while observing social distancing. Google likely needs to update its guidelines to make this clearer.

Hiding your address required

You’ll be providing an address to Google in the creation of an SAB listing. Even if it’s a home address, warehouse location, or other facility you don’t want the public to visit, you must have some sort of address. Then, Google’s guidelines state that you should tell them to hide the address when creating the SAB’s listing.

Google will automatically hide the address if you answer “no” to the question “Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office?” when setting up a new listing.

There are many reasons businesses object to this requirement. As mentioned earlier, it’s long been debated whether hiding an address impacts a listing’s local rankings, but whether or not it does, listings with hidden address listings lack pins/markers on Google’s mapped displays, compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. It’s a definite disadvantage in terms of visual impact. The lack of a published address may also influence whether customers trust that a business is truly local to them, and this could adversely affect calls and leads.

Nevertheless, it’s Google’s position that this business model should hide its address, and clear its address from the GMB dashboard if it previously published one.

Setting a service area allowed

Older GMB listings had a feature that let you set a radius depicting the service area. On new listings, however, you must enter cities or postal codes to depict where your SAB serves. You can enter up to 20 such points. The boundaries of such areas shouldn’t exceed about two hours of driving distance from where the business is based.

No study has ever found that what you enter as your service area impacts your local rankings in any way. If you choose to depict them, it’s for the information of customers.

More than one listing allowed for some models

If the SAB you’re marketing has multiple, separately staffed locations about two hours apart from one another, and with non-overlapping service areas, you’re allowed more than one listing. I highly recommend having a unique phone number for each office, if possible.

Joy Hawkins has done a praiseworthy job summarizing the confusion that’s historically surrounded this topic, given that Google had previously stated that SABs could only have a single listing per state while not appearing to apply this rule to franchises. The latest addition of the two-hour context has made the guidelines better and clearer.

However, don’t create multiple listings for the different services the SAB offers. For example, an HVAC company may not have one listing for heater repair and another for air conditioner repair. Google sees this as just one brand, and it’s eligible for just one listing.

Other notes for SABs

A few last things to know:

  • Google defines the large, emergent field of ghost kitchens as SABs, so all of the above guidelines apply to this model.
  • It’s up to you whether you link from your SAB GMB listings to your website homepage or to local landing pages on your website. The former may provide a rankings boost due to homepages typically having the highest Page Authority. The latter may be better UX for your customers.
  • Don’t overlook the chance to create service menus in your GMB dashboard, listing out all the different offerings the business you’re marketing provides.
  • Beyond Google, you’ll be glad to know that other local business listings platforms don’t make listing SABs so complicated in regards to hidden addresses. Unless a specific platform states otherwise, feel free to display your address on your other citations, if you like, and enjoy the opportunity to prove to searchers that you truly are local to them.
  • Moz Local can help you get listed on directories that allow you to hide your address, if you prefer to keep that private.

Organic marketing for SABs

No surprise here that every service area business should strive to publish the best possible website it can. Just like a brick-and-mortar brand, you want a mobile-friendly, secure website that provides a great user experience, has a strong internal link structure, persuasive consumer-centric content, and steadily growing Domain Authority based on inbound links earned over time. You want to get this site ranking as highly as you can for as many of your important search phrases as possible.

Where things become confusing for SABs in the organic marketing scenario typically relates to the concept of landing pages. This topic is constantly being discussed at SEO fora, and so we’ll break it down here.

It’s a best practice for brick-and-mortar models to create a unique location landing page for each of their physical stores. The goal of these pages is to serve a specific local audience with content that’s been specially designed for their needs related to a particular store location. These pages can rank well organically and can be used as the landing page URLs for a multi-location model’s GMB listings. SABs with multiple physical offices can also create these types of pages as proofs of local-ness, even if customers don’t come to the offices.

But the big question is: what if the SAB serves a large area beyond its own physical location? Should location landing pages be created for the locales an SAB serves?

The answer is, yes, you should consider creating SAB service area landing pages if you have something unique to showcase in each service city, and if you limit coverage to a reasonable geographic area.

For example, a house painter in the San Francisco Bay Area could create some really beautiful, highly-converting landing pages featuring houses they’ve painted in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo, and Mill Valley, even if they don’t have offices in each place. Each page could focus on different completed projects, historic information about design styles in each city, happy customers in each city, home maintenance tips based on the different microclimates of each city, etc. These pages could rank well and convert customers if developed with thought and care.

The two things I would recommend that SAB marketers avoid would be:

  1. Creating duplicate or near-duplicate service area landing pages because there aren’t actually unique features about the services or customers in association with the different cities.
  2. Creating vast numbers of these pages in an attempt to get a single location SAB to rank over a huge area, like a dozen counties or even a state.

Take an approach that makes sense for the customer, and focus on content that will answer their questions and meet their needs. Build a strong internal link structure to these pages, try to earn a few good inbound links to them, and track how they are ranking in the localized-organic results for desired keyword phrases.

Paid local marketing for SABs

Anyone who markets SABs knows that one of their key, historic pain points has been being unable to rank throughout their service area because of Google’s bias surrounding user-to-business proximity. Despite having a separate set of rules for SABs, Google continues to treat these models too much like brick-and-mortar storefronts, typically focusing their ranking opportunities around their given (but hidden) locations.

When your local and organic efforts are failing to earn the visibility you need throughout your focus service area, Google’s Local Services Ads program lets you pay to fill in the gaps. If the business you’re marketing is in a qualifying industry and geographic region, you can run these ads for the job types you want to do in the service area you want to cover, and pay Google for the leads they send. SABs can also simultaneously run Google Ads for additional paid coverage.

The downside to LSAs and Google Ads is that they require an investment (as opposed to the “free” visibility of local pack and organic results) and they increase local brand dependence on Google for revenue. Be sure you’re working hard to turn each Google lead into a repeat customer outside of Google’s lead gen loop. The upside to paid Google advertising is that it lets you pay for visibility you just can’t earn any other way. If it creates positive ROI for the brand you’re marketing, then it’s a worthwhile investment.

How to do local SEO for home-based businesses

Service area businesses may feel at a disadvantage because Google requires most of them to hide their addresses. For home-based businesses, the scenario is often the opposite: many owners of these models want to be sure their address is kept private and that and they don’t have confused customers showing up at their door expecting public premises.

But not all-home based businesses are the same in their requirements and opportunities. When marketing a home-based brand, ask the owner to select which of these scenarios fits their model:

1. I serve customers in-person at my home and want my address to be public

This could be a daycare center, pet groomer, horse boarder, private instructor, or similar model. In this case, the business should invest in street-level signage and take every advantage of marketing themselves as a brick-and-mortar business. There’s nothing holding this business model back.

If the business is by appointment only, Google prefers that you set no hours of operation on your listing. Based on your chosen GMB categories, however, you may be eligible for Google’s booking features. And, you can choose to mention in the business description field that access is by appointment only.

2. I serve customers in-person at my home and want my address to be private

Google doesn’t have clear enough provisions for this specific model, but basically you will be handling it as you would an SAB that needs to hide its address. Google wants you to clear the address from the Info section of the Google My Business dashboard. You can choose to add a service area.

If privacy is a special concern for a particular business, it’s important to know that if Google has any record of your home address, bugs or policy changes could lead to it being visible at some point.

Beyond Google, you can choose to list the business only in those directories that support hidden addresses. You likely will not be creating location landing pages for this model, but may want to focus your website’s content on hyperlocal city and neighborhood terms to seek as much nearby organic visibility as you can without an address.

3. I work from home and serve customers at their locations

This could be a plumber, accountant, housekeeper, or similar model where the home base of the business is the owner’s house, but they travel throughout a service radius for work. This model is just like a typical SAB, in that Google wants the address hidden and a service area designated for the listing.

It’s important to emphasize here that home-based SABs are not allowed on the Google Maps product and that Google’s workaround for this is that they can be included in Google My Business by virtue of hiding their addresses. Failure to hide the address could risk suspension and removal of the listing.

Beyond Google, feel free to either show your address if you’d like to on your listings, or only list on directories that support hidden addresses if privacy is important to you. And, just like other SABs, review the above section about whether your operations lend themselves to developing high quality, interesting landing pages to represent various cities in your service area.

4. I work from home and don’t serve any customers face-to-face

These waters became somewhat muddy in 2020 due to the public health emergency causing so many people to work from home, and so many models to replace in-person service with tele-appointments and other forms of remote communication.

In the past, virtual business models have been strictly excluded from having Google My Business listings. But so much has changed in the world due to the pandemic, and so I went directly to a Google rep to see how they may have adjusted their stance on this.

I asked how a professional like a therapist who used to have an office and see clients in person, but who is now working from home and seeing clients via telemedicine appointments, should be listing themselves. Since their model is now virtual, have they become ineligible for a GMB listing, or can they still be listed as a home-based business would have been pre-COVID-19?

Here’s the answer I received:

So, according to this representative, if the business formerly served customers in person and intends to resume face-to-face appointments when it hopefully becomes safe to do so in the future, then eligibility isn’t harmed. List the business as you would any home-based business, following the guidance shared above in this section. It would be a good thing if Google would update their guidelines to share this timely information.

However, if the business is fully virtual and has never served customers in-person, move on to the next section.

How to do local SEO for virtual businesses

Image credit: Charles Rodstram

E-commerce-only companies, purveyors of strictly digital goods and services, and large, national or international manufacturers and providers without storefronts all fall under the heading of “virtual business”. Questions most commonly arise in this sector from virtual brands that are frustrated by limits of competing fully with local, physical brands for online visibility.

To avoid wasting time and resources on dead-end strategies, it’s best to clearly outline what virtual brands can and can’t do to compete. And, we should also highlight grey areas.

Can’t do

Without offering in-person service, the virtual brand you’re marketing is ineligible for a Google My Business listing. Without having a physical address, it’s also ineligible. You may be able to list the business on some other directories, but in Google’s world, you cannot compete for local pack/local finder/maps rankings. Just cross it off the books.

Can do

You can compete for organic rankings with the content you publish and the links you earn to boost the Page Authority of that content.

You can compete for paid visibility via Google Ads with location targeting in regions that are important to you.

Grey areas

There are some cases in which a mainly-virtual business might qualify for a GMB listing, if they have a staffed headquarters that needs to be found, not by customers, but by associates like B2B partners. However, for virtual brands with national or international consumers, such a listing will not in any way help with competing for country-wide local pack rankings.

Localized organic visibility for virtual businesses

In recent times, Google reps have stated that 46% of searches have a local intent, and that it’s the location of the user that has a much greater impact on the search engine results they’re shown than other forms of personalization. For fully virtual businesses, none of this is good news, and Google heavy localization of their organic SERPs leaves e-commerce and other digital-only brands struggling to compete.

In a recent Moz webinar, an attendee asked how companies like CarInsurance.com can rank for searches formulated like “car insurance near me” when Google is most likely to give precedence to truly local businesses + major brands. The reality is, virtual businesses have to build all of the organic authority they can and find a way to localize some specific content as much as possible for the cities that matter the most to the brand.

A common approach that I can’t recommend is the development of thin, duplicate city-level landing pages for every city across the country. You see footers all over the Internet laden with links to dozens of city-level pages of very little value.

Rather, brands competing for extremely tough terms have to continuously invest in building authority to rival a Farmers Insurance or a Geico if they want to be seen as relevant by Google for prime organic visibility for head terms. And, where possible, create landing pages for top cities with truly top-notch localized information on them, sometimes adjusting optimization to target fruitful longer-tail terms.

This is no easy task, and it’s why so many virtual brands simply end up paying for placement instead of struggling for organic rankings. But take heart. The company our webinar attendee asked about, CarInsurance.com, is doing extremely well with this landing page for the longer tail search of “best cheap car insurance in San Francisco” when I search from my locale in the SF Bay The Moz Pro On-Page Grader shows what a strong effort has been made, and that there’s even a bit of room to do better with a few tweaks:

So find your geographic market competitors and audit them to discover where competition may be possible with the right mix of authority + winnable search phrases. Designed especially to help you understand which search terms to target for organic rankings in different geographic markets around the country is the Moz Pro beta of Local Market Analytics:

Local Market Analytics breaks new ground in offering you a multi-sampled view of your competitors in your chosen regions for the search phrases you most need to support with your best content. Be part of the beta of this exciting product in your quest to help a virtual brand compete with physical local businesses.

Summing up

There’s a fairly straightforward local marketing path for each non-brick-and-mortar model, but I predict that 2021 is going to be a year in which we’ll see further blurring of traditional, well-trodden lanes.

Clearly, more brick-and-mortar brands will adopt digital sales in the coming months to meet the demand for contactless fulfillment, becoming hybrids. Physical retailers will implement sophisticated e-commerce solutions on their own websites and tiptoe into Google Shopping with it’s “available nearby” filter.

Meanwhile, digital-only brands will continue to experiment with the Warby Parker approach of transitioning from full DTC sales to having physical stores, making them eligible for local pack rankings. I’d say 2021 looks less promising for such tests than the environment of previous years because of the obvious need to limit in-person shopping due to the pandemic.

And, also because of COVID-19, entrepreneurs who spent 2020 researching opportunities to support themselves by working from home may begin to enjoy their first hard-won successes in the new year. They will run the gamut of brick-and-mortar, SAB, virtual, and hybrid models, all from their living rooms.

The onus will be on Google to remain relevant by absorbing all this change and continually reevaluating whether their guidelines reflect current commercial reality or need new updates. Be on sharp lookout for new opportunities that may arise from guideline revisions and new Google features over the next few months.

For brands and their marketers, the task at hand is to identify the easy, medium, and hard local and organic wins based on the business model, and then supplement with paid inclusion where wins can’t be had in any other way.

Having trouble finding your wins? Contact Moz to learn how our SEO software can help. We’re wishing you good fortune in the year ahead!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Paid Ads

4 PPC Tools to Automate Your Ad Campaigns

The field of ppc (pay-per-click) is constantly evolving. If you use tools that automate some of the ad campaign processes, your campaigns may become more efficient and effective.

Pay-per-click automation tools allow marketers to automate some tasks by using third-party applications. These tools can save you time, improve campaign performance, and reduce wasted ad spends.

Rather than spending your time hovering over dozens of campaigns, you can focus on tasks like pinpointing areas for business growth, increasing audience engagement, and exploring new ad types that will benefit your sales funnels.

That isn’t to say automation is the key to the future, nor are we all going to be replaced by machines. Paid ad campaigns might always need humans to power them, but you can at least catch a break from constant campaign monitoring.

To start this off, let’s take a deeper dive into what PPC automation is.

What Is PPC Automation?

PPC automation refers to the system that charges marketers every time their ad is clicked.

PPC automation allows marketers to control their Google ad campaigns through machine learning, without spending hours tediously updating scope, timing, and targeting. By automating some of the systems and steps, you can leverage third-party applications to do the hard work for you.

For example, if you want your ad to stop running on a certain day, or if you want to change the target audience before the end of the running cycle, you can use PPC automation to control these details. This means no more activating, deactivating, and adjusting your ads by hand.

What a relief.

It also means you can shift your focus back to generating leads and growing your business and let the machine do the hard work for you.

PPC automation tools are a great way to optimize ad performance and focus your time on your larger marketing goals.

Why is PPC Automation a Popular Method?

PPC automation tools allow you to keep up with search engine marketing trends while also giving yourself the time to focus on optimization.

For example, when AdWords became Google Ads, many of the original tools and features were replaced. For a human, relearning these tools can be time-consuming and frustrating. For a machine, it’s instant.

Google actually suggests using PPC automation and smart ad bidding, as it saves you time and increases the performance of your ads.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you’re new to the paid ad world and want to launch your first PPC campaign.

You don’t know much about online paid advertising, but you understand how to target an audience and want a lower cost-per-click. With PPC automation, you can simply enter your campaign goals, choose your smart bidding strategies, and let the machine do the rest.

Even if Google Ads completely overhauls its system the next day, your machine will still know what to do. That means you can take the extra time to learn more about manual targeting or growing your online community.

ppc automation google ads

Pros and Cons of PPC Automation

Manual bidding can be a great asset to a campaign and offers unique ways of winning conversions and lowering ad cost rates. That being said, it only works when done correctly.

Humans often make errors that machines don’t. It’s not that we aren’t as good as they are, but we are more prone to making simple mistakes. The benefit of automated bidding and ad management is you don’t have to worry about those small, silly mistakes, like targeting the wrong audience. In contrast, leaving the work up to a machine can mean less personalization and some important details may be overlooked.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of PPC automation tools.

Pros of PPC Automation

PPC automation tools work best for long-term, ongoing campaigns. This is because to create a detailed automated system, you need to have relevant data to feed into it. If you’ve just started a new campaign with a new client and you don’t have any reference data to turn to, it might not be the best time to jump into automation.

That being said, once you get the ball rolling, PPC automation tools can save you a lot of time and money when maintaining and monitoring your PPC campaigns.

If a machine can do it just as well as we can, why not let it?

Cons of PPC Automation

Even though it might seem like a set and forget system, there are many details that go into the initial setup of automated PPC campaigns.

For example, you still need to determine which bidding strategies fit your business or what kind of results you want to target.

Also, even an automated campaign can have hiccups. It’s essential to continue monitoring your campaigns even if you choose to use automated PPC tools. The work involved in an automated PPC campaign could be less intense than a manual campaign, but don’t let this make you become a lazy marketer just because you think the computer is handling it.

If you’d rather something else handle your PPC campaigns, my agency is accepting new PPC clients.

Types of PPC Automation

PPC automation is a growing marketing trend and will only get stronger as our paid ad tools evolve. Getting familiar with these tools sooner rather than later will ensure your business can automate and optimize as much as possible.

PPC automation tools range in complexity and cost. You can find ways to automate pretty much anything – it’s just a matter of which steps you want to automate and how much work you are willing to put into your campaigns.

Here are 4 of the most basic ways to use PPC automation.

Integrations and Reporting

Reporting is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating parts of a PPC manager’s life. Think of all the hours spent compiling data, creating spreadsheets, and importing sources to create custom reports.

Automating your reporting systems through integrations can help make this process more efficient. No more manually exporting spreadsheets and no more comparing data.

Integration refers to the different apps and platforms you may want to pull data from when preparing reports. These could be platforms such as Google Ads or Instagram Insights.

When choosing an automated reporting software, be sure to check that it offers the integrations you will need.

Here are a few easy-to-use PPC reporting tools to help make your reporting easier:

Swydo

Swydo was built for PPC managers and is a simple way to automatically integrate data sets from various sources like Facebook Insights or Bing Ads.

Swydo can also help you monitor your clients’ key points of interest and translate them easily into your reports.

swydo ppc automation reporting

Swydo also lets you schedule your reports so they can be automatically sent to your team or clients, saving you an end-of-the-month scramble.

swydo ppc automation report scheduling

Swydo claims to help you increase client retention through their automated reporting systems. Pricing starts at $62.00 per month.

Reporting Ninja

Reporting Ninja boasts more than sixteen different integrations and has a range of reporting templates.

ppc automation report ninja

Plus, it includes cross-platform comparisons so you can combine data from multiple platforms into a single chart or graph.

ppc automation graphs ninja

Reporting Ninja can also help you create SEO and conversion reports on top of your PPC reports. Plans start at $20.00 per month, which includes ten reports.

Report Garden

Report Garden can help you create client reports, monitor budgets, and add new PPC campaigns, all in one app.

ppc automation report garden campaign

Their creative visual reports will help you look great in front of your clients or company leadership.

ppc automation report garden

They also have a range of interactive dashboards so your clients can see their reports in real-time.

Report Garden plans start at $250.00 per month for ten clients. Dashboards and reports are unlimited for your clients to access. Learn more about how automating reports helped this agency scale from 25 to 500 accounts with Report Garden on their blog.

Scripts

Scripts are Javascript code pieces that can tell your ads to perform certain functions based on performance data that you input. Scripts can help you customize specific parts of your campaign to automate and let you pick what data points to use and when.

For example, if you want to add ad schedules for a campaign, you might use a script that looks like this.

ppc automation google script

You don’t have to be a coder to use these scripts. Google has a whole library of code scripts you can use if you’re new to this method.

Scripts are a great way to do split testing, big management, and reporting. They can be used to automate internal or external functions and save you a lot of time in PPC account maintenance.

Custom Builds

Custom builds are certainly the most complicated area of PPC automation. These builds require some expertise, so you might need a developer to help you get started.

Custom builds are coded automations that allow you to customize almost anything in your ads. These builds will enable you to focus on unique metrics and create columns that can segment account data down to its finest points.

PPC Automation custom build column example

Google describes customization like this:

For example, to see the percentage of clicks you get from mobile devices, create a custom column that divides mobile clicks by total clicks. Or let’s say you’re a shoe retailer and enjoy a 40% profit margin for each pair of shoes you sell. To understand your total profit for each sale, ensure your conversion value column tracks revenue. Then, create a custom column that multiplies conversion value by 40% and call it ‘Estimated Profit.’

Comprehensive Software

Comprehensive software platforms allow you to customize, automate, and manage your ad campaigns in a more user-friendly fashion than custom builds allow. A comprehensive software would enable you to do everything we discussed above and more from one simple platform.

Here are a few of the best PPC automation software tools out there, so you can get the most out of your paid ad strategy.

WordStream PPC Advisor

WordStream PPC Advisor is a great pick for small businesses ready to jump into PPC campaigns but don’t have large budgets or big staff rosters to support them.

WordStream offers Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter integrations as well as report building, data analytics, and landing page optimization.

PPC Automation WordStream optimize search traffic screen

WordStream PPC Advisor plans start at $264.00 per month for 12-month plans.

Optmyzr

Optmyzr is a good choice if you’re running multiple PPC campaigns and are looking for a range of automation features.

ppc automation optmyzr

With Optmyzr, you can create, track, and report on your PPC campaigns. You can also automate scripts and alerts directly from the platform. Optmyzr offers integrations for Google Ads, Yahoo Ads, and Bind Ads.

Plans start at $499.00 per month for the pro version.

Google Ads Editor

Google Ads Editor is free for anyone using Google Ads software.

It’s a great platform for managing your Google ads to create, track, and edit your ads directly from the software. You can also make bulk changes, which is a big benefit when running multiple campaigns for a single client.

Here’s a short explainer video:

Although Google Ads Editor is great for managing your Google Ads, it doesn’t offer much integrations. If you’re running ads on multiple search engines or platforms, then you might find this software limited.

Semrush PPC Toolkit

The PPC management software toolkit offered through Semrush is a great asset to campaign planning, keyword research, and competitor research. This tool lets you easily see how you rank against your competitors and how you can modify your ads to out-perform them.

It also offers a range of SEO features like the Keyword Magic Tool, which can show you search volume data alongside suggestions for stronger keywords. (You can also pull keyword data from my tool, Ubersuggest.)

Semrush offers a tiered pricing plan, which starts at $99.00 for the pro version, $199.00 for the guru version, and $399.00 and up for the business version.

Still unsure if you can make paid advertising work for your business? Watch the video below to find out how you can get the conversions you want from paid ads.

Conclusion

Ready to launch a high-conversion PPC campaign?

Interested in using PPC to diversify your web traffic and boost your business?

With these great PPC automation tools, you’ll be able to tap into the benefits of paid advertising and start making conversions that matter.

What are some of the ways you’ve found success with PPC automation?

The post 4 PPC Tools to Automate Your Ad Campaigns appeared first on Neil Patel.

Online Marketing

How to Use Machine Learning to Improve Your Digital…

Machine learning is on the verge of transforming the marketing sector. In many ways, it’s already started. According to Gartner, 30% of companies will use machine learning in one part of their sales process by 2020.

What’s more, these companies are using machine learning to get ahead of competitors by tackling some of marketing’s toughest challenges, such as personalization, instant customer support, and big data.

In other words, machine learning isn’t just for computer scientists. Marketers should sit up and take notice. Below, I’ve covered five ways you can use machine learning to supercharge your digital marketing efforts.

What Is Machine Learning?

Before we get into the marketing side of things, let’s take a second to establish what artificial intelligence and machine learning are.

Artificial intelligence is simply any form of intelligence demonstrated by a machine instead of the natural intelligence displayed in humans and animals. When most people think of artificial intelligence, they think specifically of computers that replicate some level of human intelligence, like a chess-playing computer I mentioned in the introduction.

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that enables systems to find new and better solutions automatically by learning from mistakes and experiences. The more data and experience a machine learning algorithm has access to, the better it becomes in the future.

Machine learning systems can largely be divided into two subsets: guided and unguided. Guided machine learning systems are supplied with data sets and solutions by humans in the first instance. They are taught which patterns to look for initially and will then get better at identifying those patterns going forward.

Unguided systems are given access to unsorted and disparate data sets and are left to decipher patterns independently without guidance from humans. Unguided systems will create an algorithm and then look for ways to improve it going forward.

Using Machine Learning to Improve Your Marketing

We know that marketing teams don’t want for lack of data. Marketers struggle with making sense of all the data they have at their fingertips and then putting that data to use. This analysis is where machine learning comes in.

The primary reason to add machine learning to your marketing stack is that it can make sense of vast amounts of data much faster and much more effectively than humans.

Machine learning can use data to identify patterns and make predictions almost instantly. Marketers can then use these insights to optimize a huge portion of their workflow, from running more tests and improving their website’s UX to personalizing the customer experience and automating consumer engagement.

The long and short of it is machine learning can be used to improve just about every part of your digital marketing efforts. Below we discuss five of the most important ways.

Analyze Data Sets

However you use machine learning in your marketing efforts, the process will probably begin by analyzing data sets.

For instance, machine learning can be used to analyze and find user activity patterns on your website. Rather than sifting through data in your Google Analytics profile yourself, a machine learning algorithm could do the job in seconds, predicting future user behavior and identifying patterns that you can use to optimize your site.  

Sure, humans are perfectly capable of analyzing data themselves, but you can’t do it half as fast or accurately as AI-powered solutions.

Marketers can also use machine learning to gain a better understanding of their customer base.

Take customer segmentation, for instance. Dividing up your audience into different groups can make your marketing efforts much more effective, but it’s time-consuming to do so yourself. On the other hand, a machine learning algorithm could automatically segment your customer base based on actions and behavioral patterns that you couldn’t hope to identify.

Create and Optimize Content

You don’t need me to reiterate the importance of content in your digital marketing efforts. However, you may need clarification on how machine learning can improve what you write and publish and why using machine learning in your content marketing strategy is essential.

For starters, machine learning can help your articles rank higher in search engine results. It’s one thing to be a great writer; it’s another to write in a way that pleases Google, so it rewards you in the SERPs. You need to make sure you use all relevant keywords, discuss every relevant topic, and cover all of your bases in general.

That’s pretty hard to do without smart content creation tools like Frase.io, which uses machine learning to compare your content against Google’s top results and make sure you hit all of the relevant points.

Machine learning Frase

Second, you can have machine learning algorithms write content for you. Phrasee is an AI-powered copywriting tool that uses machine learning to create email subject lines and push notifications that its algorithm believes will drive the highest ROI.

Machine learning AI Copywriting

You can even use AI to help you curate content for your customers. Curata offers a machine learning content curation software that helps marketers find and publish the most relevant and engaging content for their audiences.

Machine Learning Curata

Increase Personalization

Personalization matters for consumers. Research by Accenture shows 91% of consumers prefer brands that remember who they are and provide relevant offers and recommendations as a result. What’s more, if they don’t get a personalized experience, over half of consumers are only too happy to switch to a competitor.

Here’s the good news: machine learning lets you deliver the most personalized customer experience possible. You can employ a machine learning algorithm that tracks user behavior on a granular level, learns what products they like, and creates a personalized homepage and recommendation list as a result.

Amazon, for instance, uses AI algorithms that take into account the purchase history of users, the items in their cart, and their viewing habits to offer the product recommendations that are most likely to convert.

The same algorithm could also generate personalized offers for every customer and email them to consumers when they are most likely to purchase.

Improve Marketing Automation

Better personalization is one way machine learning can transform how your brand engages customers, but it’s not the only way. AI and machine learning can also be used to better automate your marketing efforts and significantly improve customer engagement as a result.

Let’s say you automatically send an email to customers when they sign up for your newsletter or abandon their cart. While most brands will send a generic email, companies that adopt machine learning can tailor content and offers based on that consumer’s browsing history. If they looked at your brand’s range of dog toys before signing up for your newsletter, a relevant offer on chew toys would make them much more likely to re-engage with your brand.  

For SaaS brands, AI-powered marketing automation tools can analyze much larger and disparate data sets to better segment leads. This allows sales reps to prioritize those leads that are much more likely to convert.

Marketing automation is incredibly powerful. According to Invesp, marketing automation leads to an over 14% increase in sales productivity and an over 12% reduction in marketing overhead.

It’s entirely possible to do this without machine learning, but AI makes your automation efforts much more personalized and much more powerful.

Utilize Chatbots

Chatbots are a powerful customer service tool. Eight out of ten consumers who have engaged with them report a positive experience. If you run an online business, they are all but essential.

With chatbots, you don’t have to have a human on-hand to respond to consumers. Instead, machine learning-powered chatbots can automatically answer consumer queries with a scarily-high rate of accuracy. That’s because your chatbot will learn from your website’s content and the conversations it has with consumers to constantly improve the answers it provides.

Because the chatbot is continuously learning and improving itself, it will deliver an even better customer experience with more conversations. You may want to have your chatbot pass an incredibly complicated query onto a human at first, but soon the bot will become so effective there’ll be no need for a human to interject.  Eventually, you’ll have a smart enough chatbot to upsell the consumer, not just answer their questions.

Consumers probably won’t be able to tell they’re speaking to a robot, either. Some chatbots, like IntelliTicks, employ another branch of AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP), to have human-level conversations with customers.

What’s more, data gathered by AI-powered chatbots can be analyzed by another machine learning algorithm to generate insights that marketers can use to optimize their efforts going forward.

What is the Future of Machine Learning?

Things move fast in the world of machine learning. Expect advances in marketing AI to happen rapidly.

Improved unsupervised machine learning algorithms are in development right now, for instance. These algorithms don’t need input from humans at the start, making them much easier and faster for marketers to implement.

Personalization will become even more powerful, too. Machine learning algorithms will become better at discerning what consumers want for one, but the ways they can be integrated with online stores will improve, too. Soon, marketers will be able to customize every part of their sites for individual users, much like social media timelines are personalized for every user.

Finally, expect big advances in mobile machine learning. AI-powered digital assistants will become a more prominent part of our life, and marketers will have to develop strategies to contend with this. Mobile applications will also be able to integrate machine learning features in the same way websites can right now.

Don’t get overwhelmed, however. Before you start worrying about what the future holds, work your way through the suggestions I’ve made above first. You’ll then be ready for whatever occurs in the future.

Conclusion

It’s clear: machine learning can transform your digital marketing efforts.

Don’t rush into the world of machine learning, however. Adopting solutions without first understanding how the technology works and its role in your company will typically do more harm than good.

Machine learning is powerful, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Adopt one solution at a time, however, and you’ll be fine.  

Continue your education by reading my articles on AI’s role in SEO and AI-powered digital assistants.  

Which machine learning strategy are you going to implement first?

The post How to Use Machine Learning to Improve Your Digital Marketing appeared first on Neil Patel.

ecommerce

Best Inventory Management Software

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Getting the right goods to the right place, at the right time, and in the right condition is a crucial prerequisite for running a successful business.

But how is it supposed to happen if you end up selling an item that wasn’t actually in stock? 

Or the sold item gets misplaced?

This is why you must know where your inventory is, how much you have, and how to get where it needs to go. Even better if all this is possible without any extra effort from you.

Getting the best inventory management software for your business will make all of it a reality. 

And if that isn’t enough, the software tool can also help you reduce operating costs, increase revenue, and most importantly, ensure greater customer satisfaction.

But how do you know which platform you should choose?

That’s where we come in.

Our team at has curated a list of the best inventory management solutions for different types of businesses below. Read on to find out the best match for your company.

The Top Five Options for the Best Inventory Management Software:

  1. Cin7 — Best for Enterprise Resource Planning
  2. QuickBooks Commerce — Best for Wholesale Business
  3. Upserve — Best for Restaurants
  4. Zoho Inventory — Best for Multi-Channel Retailers
  5. Ordoro — Best for eCommerce Websites

How to Choose the Best Inventory Management Software for You

An inventory management software is more than a solution – it’s a savior for your business.

You can systematically source, store, and sell inventory, for both raw materials and finished products. It also covers the entire supply chain, from production to retail and warehousing to shipping, plus any stock movement in between. 

The good news is that the software is a one-time investment, but you need to make the right decision. To ensure this, keep the following factors in mind before making your final choice.

Business Type and Requirements 

Although inventory management software is versatile, only a few cater to specific niche industry initiatives and business models. 

Think about it: The inventory requirements of a wholesaler differ a lot from those of a physical retailer. 

Moreover, every business has its unique needs, and your business is no different. You have to be aware of the kind of features you require in software for your inventory process’s smooth functioning. 

Do you sell your offerings in-person or online? Is it through a website or online marketplaces–or a combination of the two?

A prospective software may offer several innovative features and support various sales channels, but if it doesn’t have the features you need or back the sales channel you currently use, buying it would be useless.

Possible Integrations

Many inventory management software tools can integrate with other platforms, which helps you save time and ensure smoother operations when it comes to inventory management. 

Before choosing a tool, find out whether the prospective software plays well with the other solutions you already use and pay for. 

Imagine you sell products on Amazon. Understandably, you’ll want to keep a record of your listed stocks in real-time. Make sure you cross-check that the solution you want to purchase can integrate with Amazon. If it can’t, move on and look for other options.

Process Automation 

The rule here is simple: Choose a software that offers as many relevant automated features as possible. After all, the whole point of getting inventory management software is to make our lives easier. 

Think through each step of your inventory management process to determine what could be automated and what has to be done manually.

For example, automatically reordering more units when you’re low on inventory. Or updating your inventory according to purchase orders and fulfillment. This, of course, will be done based on the settings you customize in the software you choose.

Customer Support

There’s no guarantee there won’t be any learning curve with the inventory management software you choose. Therefore, you may benefit from some expert advice from your software vendor in the beginning, after an upgrade, or when you face a glitch. Look for online resources, live chats, and other customer support tools they offer.

Make a point to choose a company that has a reputation for providing exemplary customer service. Don’t forget to read customer reviews and feedback before initiating a purchase.

The Different Types of Inventory Management Software

In addition to the above factors, you must also understand the different inventory management types to make the right choice.

From free and basic tool suites to ones that are more expensive and have super-accurate programs, inventory management software varies a lot. You can also categorize them according to their features, as some tools do nothing but list orders, while others facilitate sales departments to track and categorize orders, give dynamic product information, and carry out personalized branding.

But since it’s a software we’re discussing, we’ve listed the different inventory management software types depending on how the vendor deploys it. 

There are three kinds of inventory management software based on deployment.

On-Premise Inventory Management Systems

These systems include software covered by a single license and hosted on the client’s local server. This is the most expensive category, as they require complex setups and even hardware installation in some instances.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) Inventory Management Systems

These solutions have a monthly subscription and are hosted on the vendor’s server. The user isn’t responsible for any installation, updates, or maintenance.

Cloud-Hosted Inventory Management Systems

Cloud-based solutions are quickly gaining popularity because of their high level of affordability and universal access. Also due to these reasons, this system category offers free basic plans. Additionally, the user doesn’t need to update the software or perform any maintenance.

You’ll also find software solutions that have a hybrid deployment. In this case, you’ll have the option to choose between being an on-premise client or use a cloud-based interface.

#1 Cin7 – Best for Enterprise Resource Planning 

Cin7 can do more than inventory management–it’s a comprehensive cloud-based software that can integrate with other modules, including point-of-sale software, an e-commerce platform, and a warehouse management tool. 

We feel this solution is best for enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms because it features built-in modules for every aspect of your business that are a part of its subscription plans. It has a fully integrated point-of-sale (POS) system, along with plenty of B2B e-commerce features, manufacturing features, and a payment portal.

You also get inventory tracking, barcode scanning, and order fulfillment benefits that are standard with most inventory solutions.

Cin7 can integrate with more than 100 third-party applications, allowing you to run your business from a single platform, which is impressive. You can manage inventories across multiple markets and efficiently sell and distribute your products with minimal effort while your system remains up to date, thanks to its advanced demand forecasting and cross-channel syncing support.

Key Features

  • Inventory management
  • POS software support
  • Order management
  • Manufacturing and warehousing tools
  • Branch transfers

Pricing

Cin7 offers three pricing tiers based on your business size:

  • Starter
  • Advanced
  • Momentum

Prices start at $295 per month. You’ll have to contact the company for a more accurate quote for your business, though.

#2 QuickBooks Commerce – Best for Wholesale Business

This product’s name doesn’t ring a bell? We don’t blame you.

You may know QuickBooks Commerce by its former name, TradeGecko, and while the name might have changed, the software still offers everything you need for your wholesale business.

It allows you to easily monitor products as you sell, manufacture, and restock goods across all of your warehouses, sales channels, and locations. Plus, you can also set up a B2B e-commerce site, allowing all your clients to pay the agreed price. 

Additionally, there’s a built-in payment processor that enables you to add a ‘Pay Now’ button in your invoices, making it easier for your clients to make a payment as soon as they receive an invoice.

QuickBooks Commerce can simplify your supply chain and order management. Not only does it have a mobile app to help you sell on the go, but its barcode scanning feature also makes it easier to update items or modify sales orders.

The software automates several repetitive ordering processes as well. This includes custom workflow creation for all types of orders, sending trigger emails, Slack notifications, and so on.

Key Features

  • Inventory optimization
  • Multi-channel management
  • Reorder management
  • Warehouse management
  • Reporting/analytics
  • Product identification
  • Mobile access

Pricing

QuickBook Commerce has three plans payable monthly:

  • Essentials: $40
  • Plus: $21
  • Advanced: $45

Disclaimer: The above screenshot was taken when the website was offering a 70% discount for the first three months of purchase. It may not be applicable at a later date. 

#3 Upserve – Best for Restaurants

Restaurants have unique inventory needs, which is why they need more than a simple order management system–a challenge Upserve meets.

Upserve is a dynamic inventory management solution enabling users to track expiration dates and focus on specialty supply chain needs. It has been specially designed to fulfill the needs of a restaurant. 

For instance, you can create recipes for the dishes on your menu and customize each recipe with an accurate reading of the ingredients (and the amounts) used on the software. Once a customer places an order for that dish, Upserve will automatically deduct those quantities from the inventory levels for the ingredients used.

This feature also helps you decide the right prices for your menu items and identify where there may be excessive food waste.

Upserve has a built-in POS system, but you can only use their unique proprietary POS hardware to run it. Nevertheless, this isn’t a deal-breaker when you consider its inventory management properties, especially for restaurants.

Key Features

  • Real-time inventory tracking
  • Recipe costing
  • Multiple-location support
  • Vendor management
  • One-click ordering
  • In-app barcode scanner

Pricing

Upserve offers three subscription plans to its users:

  • Core: $59
  • Pro: $199
  • Pro Plus: $395

You also have the option to request a demo of the software.

#4 Zoho Inventory – Best for Multi-Channel Retailers

If you need advanced inventory management software for expanding business over multiple channels, Zoho Inventory is one of the best you can get.

It can streamline business operations, allow users to effectively manage inventory, purchase orders, sales orders, and shipments. It’s a GST-ready tool that saves your business GSTIN and auto-populates itself whenever there’s a purchase, sale, bill, or invoice.

The platform also offers integration with digital marketing sites like eBay, Amazon, Shopify, and Etsy. As a result, your sales team can manage online and off-line orders quickly and seamlessly.

What’s more, the tool comes equipped with an end-to-end tracking system that allows you to track the movement of every item from your warehouse to the sales point. Receiving real-time shipping rates and in-transit details is another advantage.

You can think of Zoho Inventory as an AI-powered system with several powerful features that can be customized to suit your business needs.

Key Features

  • Inventory optimization
  • Multi-channel management
  • Reorder management
  • Product identification
  • Reporting/Analytics
  • Mobile access
  • Retail inventory management

Pricing

Zoho Inventory has different plans to suit the needs of diverse multi-channel businesses. Currently, you can choose from four options payable per organization, per month:

  • Free Plan: $0
  • Basic: $39 
  • Standard: $79 
  • Professional: $199 

The above are annual rates. If you choose to pay monthly, the prices will increase slightly.

#5 Ordoro – Best for eCommerce Websites

Ordoro is an all-in-one solution for inventory management and shipping for your e-commerce business. 

You can integrate all of your online sales channels, assign barcodes to SKUs, manage purchase orders, and automatically update quantities on fulfillment of orders through the software. It’s designed to handle inventory updates for returned merchandise authorization (RMAs) as well.

It’s an excellent choice for sites that require vendor management features, thanks to its dropshipping capabilities. 

Ordoro allows you to manage–both manually and automatically–all dropship requests to vendors without your involvement. It has a vendor portal that enables suppliers to fulfill orders directly within the platform.

Implementing a non-traditional inventory management strategy is also possible with this software. There’s an option to strategically oversell your goods or limit the number of in-stock items visible to your customers to create an illusion of scarcity, encouraging people to place their orders sooner.

Key Features 

  • Barcode scanning feature
  • Built-in advanced analytics
  • Automatic inventory syncing
  • Multi-channel support
  • Inventory alerts/notifications
  • Kitting

Pricing 

Ordoro has three feature-rich plants, including :

  • Express: Starting at $59 per month
  • Pro: Starting at $499 per month
  • Enterprise: Request a quote

You have the option to schedule a free demo from the company as well.

Conclusion

Choosing the best inventory management solution for your business shouldn’t be taken lightly. Along with the pricing, feature availability, and benefits, you must also consider the people who will be using the software and their needs. 

Luckily, inventory management software is available in all different shapes and offer different functionalities to make it suitable for various businesses and industry niches. Just don’t forget to use our guide and recommendations to find inventory management software that works best for your business.

The post Best Inventory Management Software appeared first on Neil Patel.

SEO

The Correlation Between Authoritative Links and Ranking [SEO Study]

Posted by EricEnge

Over the past five years, our team at Perficient has conducted continuous studies to evaluate the lasting impact of links on rankings. These studies consistently show that links matter as a ranking factor, but they also show that Google is dialing up their emphasis on the quality/authority of those links. We can say this because of the strong correlation our most recent studies show between the Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) of linking pages and the rankings of pages receiving the links.

Each year, Moz has graciously provided us with access to their Link Explorer index, where we obtain the raw data to perform our analysis. In these studies, we perform Spearman Correlation analyses to show how the following variables correlate with ranking:

  • Number of links to the ranking page
  • DA of links to the ranking page
  • PA of links to the ranking page

Please note that Moz has never compensated us for including, or asked us to include, the DA and PA calculations — we have chosen to do that of our own volition. In fact, Moz staff only learned that we had done so in early October of 2020, even though we published the post with our findings on April 16, 2020 (to be honest, I was too busy to catch up with the Moz team and let them know). In short, there is no quid pro quo here.

Study methodology

Go ahead and jump down to the study results section if you just want to see how things turned out!

We have been conducting this study on a nearly annual basis since May of 2016. In 2016, we started with an initial query set of 6K queries, but have expanded to 32K queries over time. The queries were obtained by pulling keyword ranking reports for web sites in three different target market sectors, and then manually reviewed to remove any queries that were poorly formed or not relevant to that sector. The market sectors we looked at were technology, healthcare, and finance.

Here is the breakout of the size of the query sets across the five studies we have done so far:

  • May 2016: 6K queries
  • Aug 2016: 16K queries
  • May 2017: 16K queries
  • August 2018: 27K queries
  • December 2019: 32K queries

Each of the expanded query sets includes all of the queries from the prior studies, which allows us to track the results on a consistent basis all the way back to 2016.

In putting together this study, I also consulted with two experts in statistics: Paul Berger of Bentley University, and Per Enge, formerly of Stanford University. Because of the nature and structure of the data set, it was decided that the best approach was to calculate the quadratic mean of the Spearman Correlation for all the queries in the study.

I went with this approach because it uses the square of the correlation variables (where the correlation value is R, the quadratic mean uses R squared). This is important because the correlation variable R is useful to know, perhaps, but it does not allow you to make a specific statement about what it means in real world terms.

The R squared value, however, is more interesting. If you have an R squared value of 0.56, for example, we can say that 56% of the variability of the observed behavior Y (in our case, rankings) is caused by the test variable X (in our study, count of links, or DA/PA).

Here’s a visual on how this calculation process works:

Summary of the results

As part of the study, we pulled data on the growth of the Link Explorer index over time. Since we have data on the index size over three years for our 16K query set, we looked at this snapshot of the data to show how the Link Explorer index has expanded:

Growth of the Links Explorer Index

One of the core purposes of the study was finding the correlation between the number of links a page has and its ranking. Of course, the relevance and quality of the content are the most important factors in ranking — they have to be. That noted, here is the quadratic mean calculation result for how the quantity of links a page has correlates to its ranking:

Quantity of Links as a Ranking Factor

This score is a bit down from past years (the August 2018 score was 0.293, but still indicates that the number of links to a page correlates in a meaningful way with the ranking of that page).

However, we also took a close look at the correlation of Moz DA and PA with the ranking of a page. Here are the results that we saw for that evaluation:

Authority of Links as a Ranking Factor

This shows that Moz DA and PA are both better predictors of ranking position than the total link count. The scores of 0.328 and 0.307 are both very strong correlation scores in an environment as complex as organic search.

This is an important finding, as it lines up with what many of us in the SEO community have believed for a long time: that the sites you get links from matters more than the sheer number of links. In addition, it’s likely that most of the pages ranking in our query set that had a large number of links likely had a significant number of higher authority links as well.

Please note that the Moz team has let me know they are working on an update to the algorithm that powers PA, which will be released in the near future, and they believe that this will improve these results.

Conclusion

This data confirms that obtaining links from more authoritative sites has more value than obtaining a large quantity of links. Google’s perspective of what makes better links is likely more nuanced than a simple metric like PageRank (the Google metric that DA and PA are most similar to). This may include evaluation of relevance to the topic, and the overall quality perception of the linking site.

As SEO professionals, increasing our own site quality and authority remains one of our core responsibilities in helping our sites, or our client’s sites, grow.

You can see the full original Links as a Ranking Factor study here.

Important Note: Google does not have access to Moz’s DA and PA metric data and Google does not use Moz DA or Moz PA as a ranking factor.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

SEO

The Advanced Guide to Facebook Watch

In 2017, Facebook launched its answer to the burgeoning streaming video market: Facebook Watch. Through Watch, users could view both scripted and live video from professional networks, brands, influencers, and everyday people.

Facebook released Watch to a limited group of users, and for that first year, it flew pretty much under the radar. In 2018, they launched it globally, and the service took off like a rocket.

By 2019, Watch had 270 million monthly users, and by 2020, that number had shot up to over 1.25 billion, according to Facebook.

I covered Facebook Watch in a previous post when it initially launched. Since then, they have expanded their content offerings (even getting into the music space!) and added a ton of features for brands and marketers.

In this post, I’ll dive deep into how to use Facebook Watch for marketing, now that the platform has matured.

Content on Facebook Watch

Facebook is still experimenting with different content types by adding, subtracting, and tweaking to find the right balance for their platform. In 2019, Facebook’s head of global creative strategy Rick Van Veen told Variety,

We’re still figuring it out and learning. When you start a new platform, you’re going to have to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what works and what doesn’t.

Scripted Content

Facebook Watch Original Series

Facebook’s scripted content can be found under the Show tab. This section is where they’ve entered the ring with the likes of Netflix, Apple+, and Hulu. Here, users can find everything from comedies to critically acclaimed dramas to reality and talk shows.

“Red Table Talk,” for example, is a popular show starring Jada Pinkett Smith, where she brings on guests to discuss sensitive topics such as divorce and gender identity. Meanwhile, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame stars in “Return the Favor,” which won a Daytime Emmy.

Facebook Watch Red Table Talks

However, they’ve recently scaled back on their scripted content, canceling some of their popular shows in favor of live and sourced content from brands and users.

Live Content

Facebook Watch Live Video Content

Facebook Live predates Watch by a year. When Watch launched, however, Live was bundled in with the rest of the video content.

Types of videos on Live range from U.S. Senate committee hearings to live author readings and skiers showing off their tricks.

Small businesses have also rushed to Live, creating events and classes to increase revenue.

Music Videos

Facebook Watch Music videos

In August 2020, Facebook launched its new music discovery platform, Facebook Music. Here, users can explore videos by genre, trending topics, artist, and even mood. Currently, the app is only available in the U.S., India, and Thailand, but it’s already garnered a lot of attention.

For instance, Katy Perry debuted her music video “Smile,” the title track of her fifth album, on Facebook Watch.

How Facebook Watch Works

When you create a video on Facebook Watch, whether it’s a live event or a scripted show, you upload it to Facebook using their Creator Studio.

The Creator Studio is the hub for all of your business content for Facebook. From here, you can bulk upload videos, crosspost to different pages, schedule posts, consolidate engagement, and monetize. You can also use their in-depth analytics tools to monitor your content.

Facebook Watch Creator Studio Dashboard

On the videos you upload, Facebook places mid-roll ads. Forty-five percent of the revenue from those ads goes to Facebook, while the remaining 55 percent goes to you.

Helpful Hint: Facebook prioritizes longer videos (3+ minutes) and content that engages the audience and sparks conversation. They’re looking for content creators who respond to user comments and pin the best comments to the top of the feed.

How Your Business Can Benefit from Using Advanced Facebook Watch Features

In France, according to Facebook, national broadcaster M6 began creating videos for Watch. Their one-minute video views more than doubled in nine months and they acquired 6 million new follows organically.

Here in the U.S., says Facebook, Buzzfeed has increased their revenue by creating videos over three minutes across their Tasty, Goodful, Nifty, BringMe, Cocoa Butter, and Pero Like pages.

“We moved quickly and increased our payout from total in-stream ads by 20% compared to the previous half,” Maycie Timpone, Executive Director, Video & Publishing at BuzzFeed, told Facebook.

Facebook Watch has become a powerful tool in marketers’ pockets. Let’s take a look at a few ways Watch helps you increase revenue and attract new followers.

Hyper-Personalized Content

Facebook is all about personalized content, and Facebook Watch lets you upload videos right to your target audience. Your videos will also appear in specific categories, such as “Shows Friends Are Following.”

Facebook will also categorize your videos by genre, topic, and even mood.

Recently, Facebook introduced Topics to mobile users. Topics allows users to further customize their video feed by choosing categories that interest them.

Facebook Watch Topics

Show Pages

Proper Tasty on Facebook Watch

Show pages allow users to interact with show creators and fans. They can leave comments, ask questions, or even engage in interactive video content. Just like any other Facebook page, they can like, follow, and share pages with friends.

Real-Time Engagement

This feature is particularly helpful with live video. Viewers can react to, share, and comment on a video in real-time.

Real-time engagement is a great opportunity to get initial feedback on your video and engage with your audience by asking and answering questions and becoming part of the conversation.

Facebook Watch Parties

Facebook’s number one goal is to bring people together. It’s why they added groups a few years back, to allow people with similar interests to find each other.

With Facebook Watch Parties, viewers can bring a group of friends together to watch videos and chat about them in real-time.

Video creators can make content tailored to watch parties to boost engagement.

Playlists

Playlists allow video creators to group videos and post them to their pages. Videos play consecutively to boost views.

Marketers can use playlists for video series or to group videos by topic.

Optimizing Your Facebook Watch Videos

You may be creating killer content for YouTube already, but optimizing Facebook Watch videos is a little different. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Facebook video content:

First, Make Sure It’s Original

Pulling content over from YouTube or even your website won’t work for many reasons. First, the aspect ratio may be wrong (more on that next). Second, original content exclusive to Facebook will keep people coming back, allowing you to take advantage of Facebook’s monetization tools.

Pay Attention to Aspect Ratio

Facebook gives video creators specific aspect ratios for all pages on both Facebook and Instagram.

You’ll want to follow those guidelines, but in general, make sure your video is shot for mobile. The vast majority of Facebook users access it via mobile, and more than half of ad revenue comes from mobile-first video ads.

Add Captions

Eighty-five percent of videos on Facebook are watched without sound. So, adding captions to all of your video content will naturally boost engagement.

Include a CTA

When you upload a video, Facebook allows you to add a CTA at the end. Whether it’s an invitation to watch more videos, check out a product, or simply like your page, adding a CTA can increase engagement and even boost conversions.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Uses and Features of Facebook Watch

Recently, Facebook has added a bunch of cool new features that marketers can take advantage of. Let’s take a look at them.

ThruPlay

ThruPlay is a default setting and one you should keep on. With ThruPlay, if your video is shorter than 15 seconds, it will post it to users who are more likely to watch the whole thing. If it’s longer than that, it will deliver it to users who generally watch videos longer than 15 seconds all the way through.

Paid Online Events

Paid online events are a function of live video and have become an essential tool for businesses. Brands can create, host, and promote an event all in one place. They can also set a price and collect payment easily.

Helpful Hint: Facebook normally collects a fee for a paid online event. At least until August 2021, however, they have waived their fees.

Fan Subscriptions

Creating the ability for fans to subscribe to your video page boosts engagement. It also allows you to foster customer loyalty through exclusive offers and content for subscribers.

According to Facebook, it also allows you to predict revenue monthly.

Stars

Another feature is Stars, a tool that allows fans to support your work. Users can purchase stars to send to you. For every star a fan sends to you, Facebook gives you 1 cent.

(Think “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and the hearts he had to earn on his videos.)

The more you engage with users, the more likely they are to send you stars.

Facebook is still rolling out this program to a limited number of users, but you can sign up to show your interest.

A/B Testing Tools

On the back end, Organic Video Post Testing allows video creators to test between two and four variations of a video at a time. Videos are distributed to your target audience, but they’re not posted to your page. The video with the most engagement after a period of time is then posted to your page automatically.

In-Stream Ads

According to Variety, Facebook takes in 22 percent of U.S. digital ad spend. Before Watch, ads that appeared in newsfeeds and the right rail kind of got lost in the mix, right?

However, as pointed out previously, ads that would usually get lost in Facebook feeds get a lot more attention when they appear in the middle of a video.

Mining Audience Data from Your Facebook Watch Viewers

When it comes to analytics, Facebook Creator Studio is a veritable treasure trove. Here are some of the cooler stats you can mine from your dashboard:

Views

There are so many different ways you can parse these metrics. For example, if you want to see the number of minutes viewed, you don’t have to settle for a lump sum. You can break it down by minutes viewed on your page, in shared posts, and crossposts.

You can also see how many views were over three seconds long or how many people viewed the whole video, depending on what comes first.

You can also filter by auto-played vs. click-played and paid vs. organic.

All of the views are measured over a 28-day period.

Audience Engagement and Retention

To get a quick overview of your posts, you can look at the number of reactions, comments, and shares for videos with at least 100 views.

Facebook Watch Post Engagement

You can also go way beyond that. You can see audience demographics, and you can filter by fans and non-fans to know who you’re truly reaching.

If a video is performing well, you can choose to boost it right from your dashboard.

To dig even deeper into each video, Facebook shows your viewer retention through the entire length of the video. Line graphs like this one show you exactly where viewers dropped off in your video so you can make adjustments.

Facebook Watch Video Retention

What’s really neat: when you hover over the line graph, each point of the line displays your video’s corresponding frame.

Finally, you can measure each post against other posts to assess which types of videos and content are working well (or not) for you.

Negative Feedback

Just as important as the positive metrics are the negative ones. Facebook can show you negative comments, as well as how many times people hid your video from their feed or reported it as inappropriate.

Click-Throughs

Finally, Facebook can differentiate between clicks to play your video, clicks on links embedded in your video description, and clicks on your CTA.

Increasing User Engagement Via Facebook Watch (and Why This Matters!)

We’ve talked about all the levers you can pull with Facebook Watch, but how do you use them to increase user engagement? Here’s how to use all their cool features to do just that:

Take Advantage of Real-Time Commenting

Comments give context to all those reactions and shares, but you probably knew that. Of course, you can use them to improve your content by creating more of what gets positive comments and less of what doesn’t.

More importantly, you should be responding to comments, not only on your videos but also on your pages. Show your fans that you’re paying attention, and they will be engaged followers.

Spark Conversations

Instead of simply reacting to conversations already happening, create and direct the discourse yourself. Invite fans to comment on specific elements of your videos, share their tips, or ask questions.

If you’re a part of the Star program, this is a great way to encourage people to send some your way.

Use the Subscription Function

Subscriptions are a great way to create that velvet rope effect. Create an exclusive space for fans to get updates on content before anyone else. Offer content and giveaways for subscribers.

Make them feel special, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Put That Mined Data to Good Use

As you’ve seen, Facebook gives you a wealth of analytics about your videos, right down to the minute viewers stopped watching your videos.

Use that information to compare and tweak content, experiment with longer or shorter videos, or introduce and keep track of new content.

Don’t Neglect the A/B Testing Functionality

While it is time-consuming to create more than one video, A/B testing multiple versions of videos will only increase your engagement, and you can’t deny how easy Facebook makes it.

Since they don’t post anything to your page until the end of the testing period (which they do automatically), you really have nothing to lose.

Conclusion

Facebook Watch has had explosive growth and attracted the attention of brands, celebrities, small businesses, and influencers. The sheer number of viewers and the amount of ad revenue on the table makes creating original content for Facebook a no-brainer.

The real trick is pulling the right levers to create engaging videos that get reactions, shares, and comments. If you can get subscriptions, even better.

Dive into your Creative Studio to look at all the advanced tools Facebook offers.

How will you use Facebook Watch to build your audience and boost your revenue?

The post The Advanced Guide to Facebook Watch appeared first on Neil Patel.

Online Marketing

Stock Photos are Dead: Create These Blog Images Instead

Illustration by Laetro

The use of images in your blog posts is a no-brainer.

Images are an easy way to break up chunks of text, add context, or give your readers a more accessible medium through which to digest your content.

With the growth of written content online, it’s harder to have your content be unique from others. Writers need to adapt to the changing landscape.

How can you continue to engage your audience when so many bloggers have written on the same topics—and will continue to do so?

The answer is original imagery.

Blog Image Trends: Why Stock Photos Are Dead

With more content available on the web every day, it’s more important than ever to stand out.

While finding ways to put a unique spin on your blog post topics is critical, there are only so many angles on one subject. You need other types of content, such as photographs and illustrations, to make your mark.

Unfortunately, stock photos just don’t cut it anymore when you have the resources and time to make an impact.

stock photos are dead- use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

This reason is in part because blog images don’t only live on your blog. They make the rounds on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest whenever your posts are shared. Chances are, your users have seen similar stock photos many times already, and they’re bored with them.

With so many articles to read, videos to watch, and social media news to ingest, the average reader won’t spend hours looking for the best article on your topic. They’ll choose the most visually appealing option nearly every time.

This is backed by visual content statistics, such as those collected by Venngage. When surveying marketers on content that helped them reach their marketing goals, original images performed best 40% of the time compared to stock photos at 13%.

So before you use stock photography in your next blog post, ask yourself:

Will my readers interact with the same stale image they’ve seen numerous times when researching this topic? Or will they choose to interact with an original image that more perfectly captures the content?

Top Reasons You Should Use Interactive and Original Images on Your Blog

Your goal as a digital marketer is to increase conversions.

So how do you do this even better than you already are, given the changing online landscape?

There are plenty of ways to drive traffic to your website. But what’s more important is driving the right traffic—the users who will engage with your content.

Images can help. According to BlogTyrant, images can up conversions by over 300%.

stock photos are dead - use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

But keep in mind the kinds of images you use can have an impact on your conversions, too.

For years, stock imagery was the norm. But, it’s time to move away from those pictures.

Why? According to a study done by Marketing Experiments, readers are 35% more likely to convert when presented with a non-stock photo.

Original images offer authenticity stock ones can’t provide. They offer your readers a peek behind the curtain, allowing them to see a deeper side of your content.

Unique blog image content can offer other benefits, including increased customer trust and brand recognition.

According to Brain Rules, a slogan alone only sticks in the minds of 10% of people. When related imagery is added, though, retention rises to 65%. That’s an increase you can’t ignore if increasing brand recognition is on your radar.

Original image content has an often-overlooked SEO benefit, too, and that’s the improvement of Google’s E-A-T score. The E-A-T score lets Google assess content quality based on these three standards:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness
stock photos are dead, use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

How can original imagery improve your E-A-T rating?

Whether you shoot and edit photography on your own or you work with a digital illustrator, your unique imagery will have a personal spin. If done right, this will become a vital part of your personal brand strategy.

You show expertise by including images that clearly demonstrate you understand your content.

You show authoritativeness by having consistent, unique branding people recognize immediately.

You show trustworthiness by providing information through images that are accurate and increase user’s knowledge.

A strong personal brand will bump all three elements of an E-A-T rating.

Placing Images on Your Blog

Images, just like text, can also be perceived as “fluff.” Because of this, you need to know when to use pictures on your blog to optimize user experience and benefit your SEO.

You should use images to do three very specific things.

Break Up Large Chunks of Text

According to a study by Microsoft, the average attention span of heavy screen users is a mere eight seconds.

That means you have eight seconds to captivate your audience—and large blocks of text may make them click away pretty quickly.

However, you don’t have to write two sentence posts to make them take fewer than eight seconds to read. Instead, employ clever tactics to keep your readers engaged.

breaking up text in blog images
Illustration by Laetro

One tactic is to introduce other media, such as photos or digital illustrations. This creates a less intimidating reading experience while also making the post more visually appealing.

Explain a Concept

Some concepts are too abstract or complex to explain effectively in writing, especially if your audience isn’t strictly experts in your topic.

Custom diagrams and visuals can help readers understand the material.

Enliven the Content

As much as you like to think your content is witty and engaging, some topics just won’t interest readers for very long. You can use original visuals to add some life to otherwise “dull” content in these cases.

When Should You Use Custom Illustrations or Photos?

The cost of custom graphics may be prohibitive for some bloggers, but it is possible to find some middle ground.

Use custom illustrations and photography sparingly. Ask yourself where they make the most sense and insert them accordingly.

If you’re creating a landing page for a new product or service, for example, this would be the place to splurge. After all, you want this content to stand out from your competitors—what better way than with a custom graphic?

You can also utilize custom illustrations to drive a point home or explain data.

Whether a comic strip panel, a diagram, or a flow chart, you can use custom illustrations to share ideas with your readers in a way words simply can’t.

When Should You Create Interactive Graphics?

You can take your blog’s imagery one step further with interactive graphics.

Interactive graphics are custom graphics that support reader interactions like mouse pointer movement, clicks, or keyboard input.

This form of original imagery is commonly used in infographics, though other display types include side-by-side comparisons, flow charts, and graphs.

The most obvious use for interactive graphics is to catch the reader’s eye.

Perhaps more importantly, they can also be used to break complex information down into bite-sized chunks. For example, take a look at this nifty interactive graphic that shows users how Google search works without becoming overwhelmed.

Examples of Successful Blog Images

There are plenty of ways to use images on your blog.

Here’s one creative example from Oberlo:

Examples of successful blog images

Instead of one lengthy infographic, the content creators chose individual infographic “slides” to answer each question on their post about social media statistics.

This use of graphics achieves two things:

  1. It makes the information easy to digest.
  2. It makes it simple for readers to share information on social media.

As mentioned above, one of the benefits of original blog imagery is the personal branding aspect. When you use a particular style consistently, it becomes synonymous with your brand.

Copyblogger provides an excellent example of this:

Copyblogger example of blog image

Their featured images consistently use quotes overlaid on eye-catching images. They work as a watermark of sorts, as anyone who sees their imagery elsewhere will be able to identify them as belonging to Copyblogger immediately.

And what about interactive content? Your options are only limited by your imagination.

Take a look at this comprehensive timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

marvel examples in blog images

As you scroll through the timeline, new images and text content can be seen. This example tells a complex story in a linear, non-intimidating format.

What to Use Instead of Stock Photos

You know you should be using unique imagery on your blog. But what should you use instead of stock photos?

There are plenty of options for every budget and skill level.

Take Your Own Photos

You don’t need a professional setup to take photographs for your blog. Even a smartphone camera can be used to take your own photos.

Depending on the amount of time you have and your budget, you can edit these photos on your phone or by using software like Photoshop.

Edit Stock Photos

Not all stock photos are bad, but you must be purposeful in the ones you choose.

It’s best to choose stock images that haven’t been used too often. How can you know. Using Google’s reverse image search, you can search images to see how many results they get. The less, the better.

Even more than that, though, you can make tweaks to existing stock photos to give them a new look.

Some quick edits include:

  • Flipping the image horizontally
  • Adding a text overlay
  • Adding an image effect or filter
  • Cropping the image (from rectangle to square, for example)

The easiest edits can be done using free or low-cost online tools or your computer’s in-built image editing software.

Use Online Tools and Software

Tools exist which enable you to edit or create images in any format and style. You can use these tools to edit stock photos, as mentioned above, or build imagery using digital assets.

Many tools like Lucidpress even have pre-built templates to inspire your designs.

Use Custom Images

Images are so much more than photographs, and you don’t need to rely on photography alone to add visuals to your blog.

Custom images can also include digital assets, illustrations, and iconography.

How to Get Original or Interactive Blog Images

It’s never been easier or more affordable to get original and interactive blog images.

When it comes to hiring a professional, you have options. You can easily find freelancers on sites like Fiverr or Upwork or use a service like Design Pickle.

If you know of a digital artist with a style you like, you may be able to commission them. They are often more expensive than the freelancers you’ll find on the websites mentioned above, but they’re great if you need a specific style.

For bloggers strapped for time, there are services you can hire to do the heavy lifting. The service may be a creative agency or a blog content specialist. Either way, you provide details, and they’ll commission work on your behalf.

Do you have more time than money? You can also create blog images using tools like Canva, Pixlr, or PicMonkey. For a more professional finish, you can invest in a creative suite like Adobe Creative Cloud.

How Much Do Original Blog Images Cost?

As with most services, there are options for almost every budget.

If you hire a freelancer for a one-off gig, then the price varies based on the number of images, the complexity of the work, and how you plan to use the final product.

In some cases, you may be able to get a discount when you buy in bulk.

Commissioning a professional is likely to be the most expensive option. Unless you have money to burn, this should be reserved for high-impact projects, like illustrations for sales landing pages or campaign launches.

Tools to Create Blog Images

Whether you’re on a limited budget or just want to let the creative juices flow, you can opt to create your images.

There are free and low-cost options, such as Canva and PicMonkey. These tools have limitations, including watermarks, if you don’t opt for premium memberships. You also need to be sure all assets used in your design are copyright-free.

For 100% original work, you may find creative suites like Adobe to be the best bang for your buck. With access to tools like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, you can create and edit various blog illustrations, diagrams, and original photography.

There are plenty of tutorials available online for creating graphics using Adobe Creative Cloud—so if you’re unable to pay a designer for their services, you don’t have to just guess about how to do this.

If you’re in a time crunch, there are even services that offer quick turnaround times on unique illustrative designs. With tools such as Laetro, you can have a one-of-a-kind illustration in only 24 hours.

Conclusion

There’s no need to scroll through page after page of stock photos to find the right images for your blog post. You can create original blog images, whether by yourself or with the help of a professional.

Original blog imagery, including photography and graphics, can take your blog posts to the next level. It also helps build your overall brand and take your marketing to the next level.

With plenty of options at your fingertips, from free tools like Canva to paid software like Adobe to freelance artists, there’s no reason not to use original images on your blog. 

Which of the tools mentioned above are you most likely to use to create images for your blog? Or do you prefer ones we haven’t mentioned? Let us know!

The post Stock Photos are Dead: Create These Blog Images Instead appeared first on Neil Patel.

Entrepreneurship

Best Time Tracking Software

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Why is time tracking still a source of stress for employees, supervisors, and management?

There are only two reasons, really.

They’re not using time tracking software.

Or, they’re using a solution that doesn’t fit with their business. 

There is no third reason. 

I can say that with total confidence because there are so many good time trackers out there to utilize.

Because no one should suffer any longer, I’m going to share the top five time tracking software options on the market today. 

The Top 5 Options for Time Tracking Software

  1. Clockify – Best Reporting Features
  2. Time Doctor – Best for Employee Monitoring
  3. Toggl Track – Best for Holding Everyone Accountable
  4. TSheets – Best for GPS Monitoring
  5. Tick – Best for SMB Time Management

How to Choose the Best Time Tracking Software for You

If you have searched for time tracking software before, there’s one thing you’ll notice right away.

All of the popular products deliver way more than simple time tracking.

Trying to keep track of all these additional features would be difficult, but they break down into four highly-recognizable areas:

  • Scheduling
  • Reporting
  • Accounting
  • Monitoring

Does your time tracker need to be connected to some or all of these areas?

Finding the best time tracking software is all about knowing how you want it to sync with your business. Let’s dive into the core features in each area.

Scheduling

When employees clock in, time tracking software automatically logs their hours. In most cases, users fill out a timecard that says what project or client they are working for.

All of that information gets tracked in a timesheet.

In this example timesheet from Clockify, you can see how all the time entries are automatically mapped out over the week.

Some time tracking software comes with built-in scheduling tools that let you assign shifts and alert users when there’s a change in plans.

Time tracking software that’s light on native scheduling features usually has tight integration with the best project management solutions.

Look for the product that has what you need out of the box or connects with the tools you already use to manage your schedule.

Reporting

Time tracking software will let you monitor productivity and forecast budget problems well in advance. 

The products I like pull all your data into clear visualizations. 

In this example from Toggl Track, it’s easy to see how work is progressing and the impact that has on revenue:

Good tracking platforms also let you drill down into the specifics of each client, employee, and project. 

The more advanced tools will let users and administrators add more detail, but all of the products on this list come with tools that will help you stay on budget.

Accounting

A lot of companies use time tracking software to streamline payroll and invoicing. By integrating with services like Quickbooks and PayPal, these tools can handle the job in a few clicks.

You can forget about long spreadsheets and good ol’ human error. Whenever you generate an invoice or make a payment, there’s a clear record of the work that was done.

Monitoring

Some time tracking software comes with monitoring features that let you check up on employee productivity. 

These include location-based monitoring—such as GPS tracking—which ensures that employees are where they are supposed to be. 

Time tracking software can also be downloaded to a specific tablet or desktop that serves as a time clock kiosk. 

Like a punch card system of old, the kiosk lets employees enter a PIN or takes a picture to prove they clocked in on time.

There are also digital monitoring aspects to time tracking software, which can record the websites and applications a user visits while they are clocked in. 

Some products also take screenshots at random intervals, to ensure that people are staying on task.

One quick, important word about monitoring and tracking software.

Before you deploy your new solution, have an open conversation with employees about what’s happening and why. Find alignment in the fact that tracking and monitoring will protect employees as much as the company.

The Different Types of Time Tracking Software

Time tracking software really breaks into two separate categories. One important thing to note is that both types of software have integrations for payroll and billing.

Time Clock Software

If you are looking for basic time tracking functionality, time clock software is a good place to start.

These are great products for companies that need to track remote workers, as they can clock in right from their phone.

For consultants, freelancers, or small business owners who really just need to keep track of billable hours, time clock software can be a solid, cost-effective solution.

Project Management Software

Once scheduling and reporting features are added to time tracking software, it becomes a really powerful tool for project management.

Premium subscriptions for products like Clockify are going to come with everything you need to plan, budget, and execute a project. Others, like Tick, work best when integrated with tools like Basecamp, Trello, and Asana.

Working time tracking software into your project management workflow can be a huge time-saver, and it gives decision-makers excellent insight into productivity.

#1- Clockify — Best Reporting Features

Clockify is a wonderfully simple solution for time tracking and project management. The free version is generous and its paid plans are very reasonable.

What I really like about Clockify is how easy it is for users to get a bird’s eye view of their time entries for the day, week, or month. 

Once they clock in—which they can do from anywhere—they see a complete list of their time entries.

From there, they can easily check if anything is missing or incorrect. Without having to open a new window, they can edit times and add information or tags to projects. They can also use the time sheet to quickly confirm that everything is correct each week.

The reporting features in Clockify are quite good, bolstered by users’ ability to put so much information into their timesheets. 

Administrators can get a real-time view of project budgets and see exactly what each person is working on.

There are many different reporting filters available to slice the data however you like. Get a quick read of how things are progressing for every individual, team, and client.

Clockify is loaded with features to help users stay on track like:

  • Idle detection
  • Time audit
  • Required fields
  • Alerts
  • Bulk edit
  • Offline mode

The free version of Clockify allows unlimited tracking, users, projects, and reports. It has all the great viewing and editing capability that make Clockify easy to use.

The paid plans, which are still a bargain, come with features that give administrators more control over who can see what, as well as advanced alerting and reporting features. 

Here’s a breakdown of the Clockify pricing:

  • Plus: $9.99/month
  • Premium: $29.99/month
  • Enterprise: $9.99/month per user

Integrations with Salesforce, G Suite, Freshbooks, and more than 50 other web apps make it easy to use Clockify for scheduling and payroll.

Shortlist Clockify if you need a budget-friendly time tracking solution with really helpful reporting features. 

It’s not at the level of ERP software, for sure, but compared to other time tracking software, Clockify is fairly robust and really easy to navigate.

#2 – Time Doctor — Best for Employee Monitoring

Time Doctor has rich monitoring features. It’s a full-service time tracker that you can use for payroll and project management, but where it really steps away from the competition is the employee monitoring.

Once employees download Time Doctor, they create tasks and begin tracking time. Supervisors can see what tasks people are working on, as well as get insight on mouse and keyboard activity. 

They may also enable screen shots taken at random intervals to confirm people stay on task.

Website and app monitoring is another really helpful facet of Time Doctor for both users and supervisors. You can quickly generate reports that show exactly how much time each person is spending on a website or application. 

For supervisors, reports surface unproductive behaviors. With Time Doctor, you can set automatic alerts when users spend too much time on problematic websites and apps, or block them all together.

Moreover, users can better understand their work habits and where they are losing time. 

There’s a lot more than just monitoring features included with Time Doctor, as it can handle:

  • Timesheets & payroll
  • Project management & budgeting
  • Offline time tracking
  • Productivity analysis
  • Daily, weekly, monthly reports

Pricing for Time Doctor breaks down as follows:

  • Basic: starting at $7/month per user
  • Standard: starting at $10/month per user
  • Premium: starting at $20/month per user

There is no free version of Time Doctor, but you can sign up for a 14-day free trial. 

#3 – Toggl Track — Best for Holding Everyone Accountable

Toggl Track has a surprisingly feature-rich free forever version. For a freelancer or a consultant, this free time clock software can be used to track and invoice all their billable hours.

It’s an excellent app for personal accountability. To maintain focus, there’s an idle detector, automated reminders, and Pomodoro timer, which may change the way you work forever.

For teams, the paid plans are a little more on the expensive side, but that is because it’s able to collect and report so much information.

I especially like Timeline, Toggl Track’s background tracking feature, which records time entries for any app or website you use for more than 10 seconds. It’s an easy way to see how you’re really spending your time, and you can configure alerts to suggest tracking for specific actions, such as every time you join a certain call.

Automated alerts let you know when projects are nearing their estimated completion or are in danger of running over budget. 

You can also automate email reminders for users who aren’t tracking their hours.

Toggl also has a really useful time auditing capability that helps you detect incorrect or unassigned time entries. 

Some of the other features that help users save time include:

  • Time tracking across all devices
  • Chrome and Firefox browser extensions
  • Team access levels
  • Project templates
  • Google Calendar integration

Some nice features, like time audits and being able to set required fields, are only available with paid subscriptions of Toggl Track. 

There are three tiers to choose from:

  • Starter: $9/month per user
  • Premium: $18/month per user
  • Enterprise: Contact Toggl sales for a custom pricing plan

The appeal of Toggl is that it really helps people hold themselves accountable. Between the automation and the robust monitoring, everyone is reminded of how they are spending their time. 

#4 – TSheets– Best for GPS Time Tracking

TSheets is a great choice for employee payroll, especially if you have many people working in the field. It’s a favorite for property developers, construction companies, and other field service-oriented businesses.

It’s totally fine for shift work and salaries, but the GPS tracking features are where TSheets shines. 

Employees clock in from the mobile app and managers can see exactly where they are in the Who’s Working window.

You can use geofencing to set specific areas for employee clock-in and they can upload pictures and a digital signature to confirm that everything’s done.

The real-time GPS data is also a boon for company coordination. 

Quickly figure out who’s closest to the job-site for optimal deployments. Any changes to the schedule will trigger alerts to let everyone involved know about the new plan.

Some of the other really handy features include:

  • Drag-and-drop scheduling tool
  • Time clock kiosk
  • Facial-recognition time clock
  • Overtime tracking
  • Reporting and forecasting
  • Alert by text, email, or push notifications

TSheets has dozens of integrations on their App Marketplace, but I want to note that Quickbooks is made by the same company, Intuit. So, if you are using Quickbooks, know that TSheets is going to plug right in.

Pricing for TSheets is very reasonable:

  • Premium: $8/month per user, plus $20 base fee
  • Elite: $10/month per user, plus $40 base fee

Premium doesn’t have geofencing, digital signatures, and the advanced reporting features, but it has literally everything else.

In terms of a project management app, TSheets doesn’t let you get too granular, but you’ll be a master of the entire platform within a week. For workers, there’s not a lot of education needed to use it, which makes getting buy-in a lot easier.

#5 – Tick — Best for SMB Time Management

Tick is project-based time tracking software. It integrates nicely with tools like Trello, Asana, and Basecamp, helping managers keep projects on time and on budget.

In Tick, you create projects made up of tasks. Then, employees select the appropriate project and task, entering time from their desktop, mobile device, or even their Apple Watch.

You can set budgets for individual tasks within Tick, so managers have a better idea of where time is being lost within the larger project.

You can also create recurring projects, which can close at the end of the month and auto-duplicate for the next one. This is great for individuals and companies that use retainers or provide routine services for their clients.

The reporting capabilities in Tick are helpful for budget analysis and forecasting. Searching through data is really easy, by client, employee, project, or billable versus non-billable. 

A lot of users like Tick’s auto-fill search, because they don’t have to browse for what they need.

Quite simply, Tick simplifies time management. With very little work on the user-side, those in control of the budget can make decisions based on accurate, real-time information.

Other key features of Tick include:

  • Set running timers
  • Assign people to projects
  • Chrome extension
  • Invoicing and payroll integrations
  • Easy-edit time entry
  • Bulk move time entry

A word about these last two features: It used to be that editing time entries in Tick was a real pain. They’ve since updated it so you can edit time directly in reports, as well as move all entries from one task or project to another.

Tick pricing is based on the number of projects you can create:

  • 1 Project: Free
  • 10 Projects: $19/month
  • 30 Projects: $49/month
  • 60 Projects: $79/month
  • Unlimited Projects: $149/month

With every tier, you get unlimited users, clients, and tasks. It’s super affordable for any business. 

I mean, if Tick saves you 2 hours, it’s already paid for several months of service.

I really recommend this product to teams that are using Trello, Asana, and especially Basecamp, which has really tight integration. It also integrates with Zapier and more than 750 other web apps.

There’s a 30-day free trial of Tick. If you think it could work for your business, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Summary

I don’t like to just hit expectations; I always want to over-deliver.

But my work has to be on time and on budget. It’s not possible to sustain a consistent level of service without a clear sense of how my time is spent.

The same holds true for both blue-collar moving companies and white-shoe law firms. Time is money.

Take control with time tracking software. 

Individuals and small businesses should check out Clockify, Tick, and Toggl to see how far they can get with a free forever product.

Looking at those three options and thinking about larger teams and paid plans, Clockify is going to offer the best in-house reporting features. This can be really helpful for teams that are trying to track revenue and expenses across many projects.

For time management, SMBs are going to find that Tick has everything they need within an intuitive interface. It delivers a similar experience as Toggl at a lower cost. Choose Toggl if you want employee monitoring features, which you won’t get with Tick.

If you really need robust employee monitoring features, Time Doctor is the product for you. You get a lot more insight into how users are spending their time that you will with other time tracking software.

In the field, TSheets outperforms the competition. The GPS tracking features work beautifully, and the mobile app keeps remote workers up to speed.

The post Best Time Tracking Software appeared first on Neil Patel.

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