14 Best SEO Plugins for WordPress Sites in 2017

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Editor's Note: Alex Levitov curates the online publication Beautiful Life. Today he joins us to comment on the importance of SEO for a stable web presence, and to count the best SEO plugins for WordPress blogs in 2017.

 

Designing and handling a website is no easy task. There are certainly many user-friendly drag and drop website builders and customization options available nowadays; but at the end of the day, it is SEO that makes all the difference in traffic.

Your website can have a great design and incredible content, but if it does not rank highly for your target keywords on any of the popular search engines, traffic will still be hard to come by. The truth is, SEO can make or break a website.

A high SEO score automatically brings your site higher traffic and gives it better visibility. Fortunately, for entrepreneurs who use WordPress to manage their site or blog, there are plenty of simple plugins to help with the job of optimizing SEO.

Today, we are sharing our top 14 picks for SEO plugins in 2017, listed in no particular order -

1. Yoast

Yoast easily ranks among the best WordPress SEO plugins by offering all the basic features required to optimize your website to the fullest. Other than regular functions such as a keyword searcher and integrated editor, Yoast offers XML sitemap generation and submission, Google Analytics, on-page analysis, real-time tracking and so much more.

On-page analysis allows you to instantly gauge the position and ranking of any given content on your WordPress blog. It also gives you a preview of optimized content before it is published. You can even add and manage social media links and URLs for better web presence. Free, flexible, and easy to use, Yoast is great for beginners and professionals alike.

2. Akismet

Akismet for WordPress is an SEO plugin that is completely free, open source and easy to handle. The software will help you to clean out spam comments and safeguard your site against malicious content. Spam comments are usually submitted to your site by users and other websites either to exploit visible space for promotional purposes, or to deliberately hijack your content - either way, the effect on SEO is not desirable.

With Akismet, you can check the source and history of all comments and user profiles that have visited or connected with your website. The plugin provides a free trial version for personal blogs and a paid version for commercial sites.

3. Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps boosts page ranking and SEO of your WordPress web pages by submitting your website information to all popular search engines including Bing, Yahoo, Google and others. It generates quick reports stating the intent and structure of the site to enable quicker and easier access to search engine scrapers.

A good website builder with SEO features will offer built-in XML mapping features, but if you’re using WordPress, special plugins are the only way to go. XML Sitemaps supports all WordPress custom URLs, and issues a prompt notification to search engines every time you publish a new post or add a new page. You can also use the plugin to add internal links, get better indexing features, and insert rich snippets without compromising the speed or efficiency of your website.

4. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

Google Analytics Dashboard is an indispensable tool for any webmaster, but especially for online marketers. It is primarily used  to help gauge the overall reach and performance of your website by reporting exactly where you stand with respect to many values, such as traffic, bounce rates, and more.

Google Analytics Dashboard creates detailed reports of your site's problem areas, and loose sections of content that need improvement. The tool enables users to track traffic sources, number of visitors, acquire new channels and optimize pages based on these insights. All in all, this plugin is a must-have for anyone who wants to optimize their WordPress site.

5. Premium SEO Pack

Premium SEO Pack is a good choice for any established WordPress sites that could benefit from advanced solutions for enhancing the visibility of their content online. SEO Premium Pack makes it easier to create quality websites and get higher rankings on search engines. The plugin also includes features for improving content monetization.

Using the minification option can quickly boost the speed, user-friendliness, and SEO appeal of a website. The plugin will also help to identify and remove 404 errors as well as 301 redirects.

6. All In One Schema Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets enables you to enhance the description of your website that appears on the results page of any search engine. Using the plugin, you can customize fonts, add color, images, star ratings, pricing, authors and many other details to make your site stand out from the crowd. Rich Snippets is a quick, efficient way to bring in more visitors by giving your site a better, more professional appearance in search results.

7. SEOPressor

SEOPressor is another powerful WordPress plugin that lets you customize and optimise your content for better SEO. Here, you can find the most useful keywords related to a topic, analyze the readability of content, and make it easier to index for search bots. A keyword search tool is integrated into the plugin and assists you in creating high-quality content. You can then score the content and analyze its overall appeal to readers.

8. WP Meta SEO

WP Meta SEO is a perfect tool for both professional and casual bloggers. For starters, the dashboard is loaded with functionalities that allow you check the page ranking and reach of content. Secondly, the plugin enables you to customize meta titles, descriptions and other technical aspects of your website easily. Finally, WP Meta SEO allows users to edit content in bulk: multiple items can be corrected for common errors, and analyzed for suggested improvements.

9. SEO Ultimate

SEO Ultimate is for all the web developers, coders and software experts out there who love tweaking the basic HTML5 coding or CSS stylesheets of a website. With this WordPress plugin, you can customize meta descriptions and control open-graph. The tool also enables rich snippets, 404 monitoring, and auto-linking functions. It improves the overall appearance of a website and increases the click-through rates in Google search results.

10. W3 Total Cache

If you are having trouble bringing up your SEO rank, it may have something to do with poor website design. While an SEO rank is determined in part by the popularity and performance of a website, page loading speed and user-friendliness are also major factors that Google emphasizes since users tend to click away from sites that are poorly optimized in these areas. W3 Total Cache improves the overall performance of a site by making it score well in the technical aspects of SEO.

11. Rankie

Rankie, while not a normal SEO plugin, is nevertheless an important tool for monitoring and boosting your SEO page ranking. It gives you valuable feedback and stats about the overall performance, reach and exposure of your site on a weekly or monthly basis.

This data is fairly insightful, and very useful for developing SEO friendly content as well as improving old content for better SEO traction. Rankie also tracks keyword usage, which will help site owners to navigate the best way forward in terms of writing and publishing new content.

12. SEO Squirrly

One of the best ways to generate more traffic is by posting fresh, authentic, and trendy content. The SEO Squirrly plugin helps you with just that. Keywords are the core of an SEO strategy: including popular and relevant keywords not only boosts the readability of content but also increases page ranking. Squirrly optimizes a website by checking for keywords in important sections of the content such as title, URL, sub-headings etc. It also tracks all aspects of your SEO marketing strategy and gives you a weekly report on how you’re faring.

13. Redirection

404 errors, exceptions and redirections are some of the worst nightmares for a web developer. No one wants to spend time on a platform that doesn't give easy and immediate access to desired pages. With the Redirection plugin, you can tighten up the loose ends of your WordPress website.

This SEO plugin is especially helpful for users who plan on migrating content from a former WordPress directory or any former website. The custom "pass-through" redirection function, for instance, lets you pass through a URL into another site or file. It also collects all the 404 error logs and maps them with 301 redirects, ensuring that your website runs as smoothly as possible at all times.

14. AMP for WP

Gone are the days when a majority of people used desktop computers for Internet searches; today, most of them use smartphones for browsing websites. Your website has to be compatible with other devices and platforms to make the most of a wide viewer base. To this end, the AMP for WP plugin is an indispensable SEO solution that enhances the speed and design of your WordPress website immensely.

The Custom AMP editor also allows you to personalize your site, add content, and change fonts for mobile devices with just a few clicks. The plugin also comes with solid Google Analytics integration for better performance tracking and management.

To learn more about optimizing your WordPress site for SEO, check out our classes on the following topics:

SEO For Business Owners

The Primary Social Media Platforms: Blogging Platforms

Search Engine Optimization: How Understanding Your Analytics Gives You The Edge

Convert More Website Visitors into Customers: Best Practices for Usability and Analytics

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 

Realtor Checklist for Digital Marketing Success [Infographic]

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Digital technology has revolutionized every sector of business and industry from the top down; real estate is no different. However, thanks to deeply rooted traditions, some realtors find it hard to bring their marketing strategies from catalogs and yard signs to the Internet. While hesitance to embrace new methods might make sense to some real estate agents, consumers are increasingly expecting a more digital experience, which is the best reason for real estate agents to be forward thinking

According to recent statistics,

  • 80% of home buyers go online to find new properties
  • 83% of home buyers want to see pictures of a property online early in the research process
  • 42% of home buyers looked online before signing a contract

This information demonstrates a clear and convincing trend: modern house shoppers want and trust realtors with a web presence.

To help you infuse your realty business with a digital marketing strategy and web presence, we have created an infographic checklist with everything you need to remember for success.

To receive this information, simply provide us with your name and email address below!

 

How to Make Your Website Faster and Keep More Visitors [Infographic]

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Editor's Note: Kara Whitaker is an author with Ghergich & Co. She joins us today to discuss the dangers of page latency, and what you can do to fix a slow website. A version of this article first appeared at AppDynamics.

 

The internet is a tremendous resource with lots of competition. Unless you have the right combination of search terms, appealing graphics and interesting information, it's easy to get passed by with nary a click. But once you have all of these elements, there's still a simple danger that webmasters and marketers tend to overlook: poor loading time.

According to statistics, the first few seconds can be the most important factor in your website's visitor retention and bounce rate:

  • Decreasing your load time by 1 second can increase conversion rates by 27%
  • More than 50% of visitors with mobile browsers will abandon pages that take more than three seconds to load
  • 1 in 5 users who leave your website will never come back

The moments that pass after a prospect hits enter and before your website appears are absolutely invaluable, and as a result, optimizing pages so they load faster is imperative for any viable web presence.

Why Visitors Leave (And Never Return!)

Think about the last time you abandoned a web page; more than likely you were underwhelmed by how quickly the page loaded. Your patience tested, you decided to leave and spend your precious time somewhere else.

Almost every time this happens, one culprit is to blame: too much page weight. Page weight is a measure of all the elements required to render a webpage in a browser. A client's computer, phone or tablet has to download images, scripts, custom fonts, text and more before everything is correctly loaded.

As we have shown, the more seconds you make visitors wait, the more you risk them leaving your site for good. By following bad design methods or hiring a developer on the cheap, it's easy to fill your site with bloat that it doesn't need. If you don’t fix your page weight, you might enter the pantheon of sites that consumers abandon by a rate of one in five.

In order to evaluate where your page weight should be and how it can be improved, you should evaluate where you currently are. There are a number of different tools that can help you do that before taking steps to fixing the problem.

To help you along the way, we have prepared a simple infographic for reference. Here are the main points first:

Fix Hefty Images

Audio-visual content is usually the most hefty element of any website in terms of bandwidth and filesize. When uploading images to your site, make sure of the following:

  • Don't use larger images than you need to; a button that appears as 100 x 100 pixels doesn't need to be stored as 500 x 500. If you are worried about losing resolution when you need it down the road, store larger images locally, and keep the smaller ones on your site.
  • Use good compression methods to cut down the filesize of images by orders of magnitude. Most modern photo editing software - including Photoshop - has a way to do this, and there are also free tools like Image Optimizer.
  • Compression can even be built into your website so that files can be sent in a smaller size, and expanded on the client side of things. Enable gzip on your server if you haven't already.

Reduce HTTP Requests

Every time a client's browser has to download a new resource with a new link, this adds loading time. Over the long run, the lag can build to unacceptable levels - there are a few ways to mitigate this problem:

  • Avoid pages with redirects; keep links on your website up to date so clients can access any page - especially the landing page - directly. If their browser has to jump somewhere else, this doubles the time it takes for the final page to load.
  • Concatenate CSS files - CSS is the code your website uses to load styles and formatting. Many websites have multiple CSS files for different purposes, but this is poor practice since it adds more elements that a browser has to access before a page loads. By concatenating CSS scripts, your website will only need one large CSS file to load all your style elements.
  • Use image sprites - much like CSS, many websites store separate images when they can actually be included in one file. This generally won't work for large, important images; but by using a single sprite that includes all of your web icons, you can cut down on the number of files a browser has to load.

Optimize Your Network

Sometimes loading times are bad for the simple reason that your clients are separated from your website by thousands of miles, and their devices just aren't good enough to access your site quickly. There are some simple fixes -

  • Use a content delivery system that will stripe your website's heaviest elements across servers around the world. This will ensure that clients are always close enough to load them quickly, without the added burden of latency.
  • Trim page weight for mobile users - a very important market segment - by using responsive web design; make sure that your website has a mobile version at the very least so visitors with smaller, weaker devices are not hampered by a website designed for desktops computers.
  • Use browser caching so that when visitors navigate to different parts of your site, they will not have to reload the same elements again. This will also ensure that repeat visitors have a much faster load time, depending on how long their browser cache lasts.

With that said, here's a simple infographic with the most important information and resources you need to get started. Feel free to download and share with colleagues or friends -

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Convert More Website Visitors into Customers: Best Practices for Usability and Analytics

Landing Page Optimization for B2B Marketing

Engaging with Mobile Marketing: Create Responsive Designs

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

Social Media Marketing For a Millennial Audience

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Editor's Note: Luisa Brenton is a former brand developer, and currently works as an educational blogger. Today she joins us to discuss how brands can more effectively tailor their social media marketing strategies to a millennial demographic.

 

Whenever developing a marketing strategy, brands should spend time considering their target demographic. Unsurprisingly, selling products and services to millennials requires a very different approach than launching a generic social marketing strategy and waiting for results.

While every individual is different, two rules generally apply to millennials: first, they want to feel your brand has a vested interest in them before they commit to any services that you might provide. Second, they differentiate themselves from other consumer generations with high interactivity and an open nature towards new technology and customer engagement.

From these two facts, it's obvious that catering to the needs of a millennial target audience through social media is important. And while this can sometimes be a difficult task, it's not impossible, and not nearly as hard as some commentators pretend. In this article, we'll look at some important aspects of consumer psychology with millennials in mind, and how they can be applied to your social media marketing strategy. Let's get started -

Digital shopping

Millennials are known for shopping online instead of using retail stores for their needs. They would prefer to order a product with a few easy clicks than wait for it to arrive in the mail. This means that an e-commerce website for your company is a must if you hope to target millennials as your primary customer base.

The generation in question values interactivity and versatility, and pushing that message on social media is a great way to attract them. For example, consider including direct links to your online store in any published content on your blog (you do have one, don’t you?). Similarly, including content that promotes digital shopping and featuring a blog on your website which showcases the possibilities of digital shopping will make your brand stand out in the eyes of your customer base.

New feature adoption

The millennial generation is defined by the adoption of new technologies. They were born at the dawn of a technological revolution, and this is a motif to reference in your social marketing outreach. 

The truth is that most of us carry smartphones wherever we go. Use that to your advantage and focus on new, unexplored marketing strategies that will attract a new generation of consumers to your brand. While you might have detractors in the form of an older demographic and people who are accustomed to more traditional means of marketing, the millennial generation will embrace it wholeheartedly.

Platform doesn’t dictate information

Information should be the same no matter what platform you publish it on. This is a stance that millennials have largely taken when it comes to receiving marketing messages and consuming content online in general.

This means that the information in your Facebook ads shouldn't be different from that in your Instagram posts, and video commercials shouldn’t have fundamentally different content than email marketing messages. Any form of marketing that you employ should focus around the same key message that you have developed before your campaign started. If you aren't sure how to develop an effective message, hiring a writer can be helpful.

A unified message - whether it is published to LinkedIn or Tumblr - should sound and feel genuinely the same. This is one way to attract the millennial generation with your social media marketing and ensure that your credibility stays high and safe from any doubts.

Social media engagement

Posting content on social media and hoping for the best won’t be enough if you want millennials to buy and use your products. Customer engagement is still a fairly new subject on the digital marketing playground, but it certainly makes a difference.

For example, responding to customers via private messages, live Q&A, and comments on posts will publicly will raise the awareness of your brand by allowing you to discuss products and questions that your audience might have. Best of all, millennials around the world will be more willing to accept your product as adequate for their needs and ways of thinking.

Even something as simple as using emoticons on social media to answer a customer query can help you to establish a friendly tone with your audience and ensure that you are seen as positive and communicative. Showing a level of interactivity and willingness to treat people like equals is crucial to the millennial generation, and something that shouldn’t be overlooked in your social media marketing.

Simpler is usually better

You might think that detailed and complex marketing content with huge amounts of data can help you win over new customers. But as a matter of fact, the more irrelevant content you include in your content, the more likely you are to divert your audience to a different brand. This is because customers - especially millennials - want simplicity and directness without any sales pitches that might sound forced or generalized.

Simplifying your marketing message and including any detailed content behind a click barrier is always a smarter way to promote new content. This will ensure that people who want to know more do so by clicking on a link, leaving others with an overview of the content you are trying to promote, but not forcing anything on them.

Paid marketing content

Contrary to common opinion, millennials are open to both advertisement and paid, promotional content. In fact, relying too much on organically marketed content can backfire if it is not upfront about its intention to bring in business. Paid content ensures a level of curation from your side, and anything they see will look professional and properly targeted.

Hiring a marketing expert and creating original content may not be in your predicted budget, but if you want to attract millennials, this is an aspect of marketing to consider seriously. Facebook and Instagram ads use demographic data to ensure the maximum effectiveness of any content that reaches users, meaning that they can be used to easily target millennials and give them the content they would prefer to see in their feeds.

Conclusion

Best practices for reaching the millennial generation will continue to evolve just like the generation itself. But while newer generations will always have different worldviews than the ones that came before, some basic rules of social media marketing will always stay the same.

Make sure to include test groups in your marketing strategy and try pushing new content to controlled groups of millennials before publishing them to anyone else. By acting on informed strategy rather than assumptions, you will save money in the process and ensure that your brand gets even more recognition from the people you want to reach most.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

 

How to Market to Millennials, a Practical Guide to Instagram and Snapchat: How Grubhub Rocks the Apps for Millennials

Fundamentals of Business Blogging

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

4 Reasons Social Media is The Future of Customer Care [Infographic]

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Editor's Note: Josh Wardini is a community manager for Websitebuilder, where a version of this article first appeared. He joins us today to discuss the way that social media is transforming customer support with a simple infographic that explains it all.

 

Social media has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon reaching every corner of the international free market economy. By harnessing social media, brands big and small have managed to reach more customers from a vast array of backgrounds, countries and regions than ever before.

One of the biggest changes ushered in with widespread adoption of social networks is a gap in the way that customers interact with brands. In conventional customer care, businesses relied mainly on call centers and a small army of representatives to handle inquiries over the phone.

In the still-developing online economy, formal storefronts do not exist; nevertheless, customers looking to make a purchase continue to require customer care.

In response to this need, many of the world’s largest brands have recognized that social media is the most effective way to interact with and support customers. In the future, more will adopt this strategy until it becomes the industry standard for customer support.

In the following infographic, we summarize statistics on social media use and customer support preferences to help you make the best decisions for your brand.

Here is a four point summary:

1. Social Media Adoption

Social media is one of the fastest growing forms of technology in the past 30 years. Its adoption rates far surpass the adoption rates of conventional media forms, and most other new technologies. Seven in ten Americans use social media daily, and in the last 10 years saturation has gone from 5% in 2005 to 69% in 2016.

With so many users and potential customers on social media, brands have a growing and potentially unlimited reach.

2. Customer Preferences

90% of users have communicated with a brand on social media. In studies, 34.5% of respondents expressed a strong preference for this form of customer care. At 24.7%, website and live chat came in second, while email cam in third at 19.4%. Preference for conventional telephone support has dropped to less than 16.1%, showing the public attitudes have radically transformed.

Brands hoping to reach clients where they're at should listen and respond accordingly.

3. Software & Innovation

With software companies now creating products to help businesses better interact with their clients, the innovation is finally catching up to demand. Social business software is expected to be a $37 billion industry by 2017. These new products will continue to help streamline the online customer care process, and bring down support tickets as frequently asked questions are handled with machine intelligence and databases.

4. Decreased Cost

On average, it costs $1 to solve a customer issue on social media, while conventional call center interactions cost 6 times as much. Furthermore, social media agents have proven to be 167% more efficient, which marks significant savings for a brand while increasing the overall effectiveness of their customer service program.

Learn more about the growing predominance of social media support with the infographic below. Feel free to save for future reference, or pass it along to your colleagues!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Developing a Social Media Customer Service Plan

Measuring the Value of Social Media Using Simple Analytics

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

Perfecting Digital Content Strategy for Real Estate Professionals

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Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur, Industry Training Director at The Online Marketing Institute, is an educator and digital evangelist who has helped brands define and implement powerfully effective digital strategies. He joins us today to discuss how realtors can improve their content strategy to gain the interest of prospects. Don't forget to join our upcoming webinar to learn more.

 

Nowadays, the search to buy or sell property tends to begin on the Internet. A few words typed into the search box can yield so many pages of "useful” results. But given the piles of information returned by search engines, what can you do to make sure your brand reaches those who may be looking for it?

For real estate professionals, this struggle is an important aspect of maintaining an online presence. When every other part of your brand is properly tailored for prospects, being found and seen is the deciding factor in the formation of new business relationships.

Here are seven considerations that can increase the visibility of your content to potential clients, and keep them coming back to your company for more:

1. Getting Attention

Attracting interested visitors begins with your ability to grab and keep their attention. Headlines, formatting and image usage can influence the behavior of readers, and raise sign-up rates for relevant offers. What keeps a consumer engaged are the following factors –

  • Is your content relevant to what they want– is the information useful or important?
  • Is your content engaging – is it interesting to the seeker of information, and does it invite questions or offer food for thought?
  • Is the information you provide up to date?

2. Using Multimedia Content

A message can be delivered by words, pictures, and video. Supplementing text with images is a good idea, because overly wordy or difficult articles often prompt visitors to look elsewhere for the information they want.

Adding powerful images or infographics help to keep readers engaged. Top it off by using video to deliver a summarizing conversational snippet. Focusing on a multimedia content strategy will draw in more readers, and aid them in retaining information.

3. The Right Length

Studies have proven time and time again that Internet readers click away from articles that are too long or too short. Avoid “walls of text” without any breaks, and steer clear of making redundant or unnecessary points. Be especially wary of paragraph size: what looks small on a desktop computer can look exponentially larger on a mobile device.  

The sweet spot for an article is three to five paragraphs of useful information broken up by one to three pictures. You can also add a 30 – 60 second video to further personalize your message and keep readers interested.

4. Maintaining a Presence

Your digital channel strategy should prominently include your website and social media. Maintaining an active account on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will not only give prospects an opportunity to learn more about your brand and keep up with the latest content, but gives them an extra channel to ask questions or express concerns.

Those you seek and serve will also appreciate content published to YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bear in mind that these visually oriented websites have different purposes: YouTube is a good place to publish ‘edutainment’, or content that is both educational and entertaining. Instagram is for “oh-wow” moments, and Pinterest is where people look for tips, mainly in the form of condensed infographics.

5. An Appealing Structure

Your communication style should incorporate a proven five-step formula.

  1. A powerful and intelligent headline will grab attention instantly, and make your content stand out.
  2. Discuss features of your product, services or solution - these are important, distinctive qualities that could be listed on a package.
  3. Describe the function of these features, or the purpose that they are meant to serve.
  4. Explain the benefit of your value proposition. This is where features and functions become practical: how will they help your prospects’ lives?
  5. Finally, use a call to action to motivate a decision in your readers to sign-up, buy, or get more information.

6. Thinking About Psychology

Consumer behavior is driven by three simple attributes that you should understand if you want to communicate with them effectively. These are need, value, or aspiration. A need is a basic necessity that has to be fulfilled. Value is a deal that the consumer finds valuable, but might forgo if they are not motivated to act immediately. Aspiration is what the consumer dreams about in abstract terms.

These categories often crop up in the buying cycle, and they’re useful for thinking about how to market yourself and your services - what might be a need for one consumer could be an investment value for another and completely aspirational for someone else.

Integrating Better Content

As the above tips should demonstrate, increasing the value of your brand for web searchers isn’t rocket science. A little digital pixie dust can help your content rise to the top. This includes making sure that the content you create is relevant to the seeker, that you use the right words to optimize your content, and that through effective calls to action you are able to generate engagement and user feedback.

To help you create personalized digital magic for your brand, the Online Marketing Institute is hosting a webinar on November 16th. Register for free to learn more about key digital channels including social media, search, email, mobile, and the power of interactive multimedia content. Our approach to learning will focus on ideal practices to help you become digitally visible, assist with engagement (from attracting to qualifying), and getting the buyer/seller to interact with you.

A Realtor’s Guide to Digital Selling: Leveraging The Web to Find Buyers

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Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur is the OMI Training Industry Director, digital consultant and successful real estate agent. To celebrate our new Real Estate learning series and upcoming webinar, he joins us today to discuss how realtors can use the power of the web to boost their business.

How can you leverage the power of digital media to attract buyers to your property listings? As a real estate professional, you already work hard to connect buyers with sellers - earning their business is even harder, and your time is limited. The digital storefront, on the other hand, is always open. Buyers peruse online listings 24/7, and sellers are always looking for the best way to make an impression. Both buyers and sellers are looking for three things:

  1. A trustworthy brand
  2. Relevant advice
  3. Easy access to information

Starting with your profile, here are some ideas that can enhance your digital presence to address clients’ needs, and win their business:

Profile Do’s

Build and maintain a website that clearly identifies your value proposition – think of it as a digital business card that tells the consumer:

  • Who you are
  • Your expertise
  • The area(s) that you serve.

Your site needs content that can engage readers – think useful, important, and entertaining.

Leverage social media channels to describe yourself – good platforms include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A LinkedIn profile should provide a succinct overview of who you are as a business, your experience, and your value proposition. A good Facebook presence is similar, but expands to include content like images and articles - being a Facebook brand constitutes a balance of professionalism and personality.. Twitter is also a great way to be found online - tweet useful information, follow people relevant to your business, and learn the art of tagging (#hashtag) key content.

The content you share doesn’t have to be original, and you may have little time to create it - but consider curating and publishing relevant articles that your prospective clients will find useful. Mix up your content with text, pictures, and even video: good multimedia content goes a long way to keep people engaged, and raises your visibility in the digital world.

Collect leads by offering something of value, and using a form on your website called a lead form to capture the contact information of prospective clients. Your value or incentive could include valuable information on buying or selling; the lead form you create should be as simple as possible – contact information, area of interest, and permission to get in touch via digital channels (allowing them to opt into your messaging).

Email leads as soon as possible, and use your messages to learn more about their needs. Keep emails short, and include a short survey (one or two questions) that will allow them to share additional information about their requirements. If it makes sense, send out two to three messages spaced at regular intervals, each containing information that builds on the last.

Because so many consumers now use smartphones, your strategy to connect with them should be “smarter.” Ensure that the content you share is brief and your website is responsive. Just because the consumer has a phone with them at all times does not mean that it is okay to message them excessively. Make every interaction simple, engaging, and useful.

Stay in touch with those you serve by providing a useful amount of information on a regular basis. Determining frequency can be a challenge, but an ideal goal is to ensure that every question asked on your digital channels is responded to within a day. This encourages prospects and clients to ask questions, and reduces your posting burden.

What Drives Success

Successful digital brands ensure that the information they share is current, that they have conversations to nurture a relationship with the consumer, and that they are timely in responding. Being responsive does not mean that you have to monitor your digital assets around the clock: a well-defined strategy of organizing the right information, automating responses to frequently asked questions and adding a personal touch goes a long way in driving digital success.

Consumers seek approachable brands that inspire confidence and earn trust. You build confidence by providing relevant information and showcasing your thought leadership. Trust comes from good customer experiences and (digital) word of mouth. Being approachable comes from a combination of a number of factors, including your ability to respond quickly and personably.

Listings abound and buyers are out there looking. As a real estate professional you work hard to connect the buyer and seller. You are busy, and there are so many hands to shake/contacts to make.

  • How can you leverage the power of digital to attract buyers to your listing?
  • How do you get sellers to list with you?
  • How do you answer their questions/concerns 24x7?
  • How do you bring them in/convert them?
  • How do you nurture these relationships forever?

To find answers to these questions and to learn more about using the web to boost your real estate business, join us for a FREE webinar on digital best practices and dramatically increase your success.

Automation vs Personalization in Your Marketing Campaigns

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Editor's Note: Dario Supan is a content marketer and editor at Point Visible. Today he joins us to discuss the twin paradigms of automation and personalization, and how to balance them in your marketing campaigns.

 

With advances in technology and especially in Artificial Intelligence, marketers today are faced with an ever-increasing list of tools and algorithms that exist to speed up daily operations. The goal of this article isn’t to argue whether automation is required; it's usually obvious to anyone that has ever worked on a larger marketing campaign that some level of automation must be employed.

But there is a question worth asking: should marketers automate everything they can, just because they have the ability to do so? This practice tends to come with a compromise - the more automated your campaigns, the less personal they become. As a result, the level of automation you should use depends on how personal you want your campaigns to be.

Automation in Marketing

Automation has made its way into the marketing world because it brings a tremendous number of benefits. Not only is automation a chance to free up internal resources and minimize costs, but it’s also a highly effective method for preventing human error. Furthermore, consumers want automation: a recent report by research company Forrester confirms that many consumers want self-service options available to them, so that they do not need to interact or engage with a brand if they don't have to.

There are also many ways in which automated marketing processes can benefit a business. Perhaps the most obvious advantage comes in the form of big data and predictive analysis, utilizing information captured from consumers and prospective customers to predict spending habits, interests, and future needs. With automation, this sort of analysis is without question quicker and more accurate than depending on human guesses.

Similarly, lead nurturing can also benefit from automation. A prime example includes email marketing campaigns where information and offers are sent automatically to a predefined list. Automation in marketing is so advantageous that email marketing firm Emailmonday reports half of all companies now make use of automated marketing in one form or another.

Automation Limitations

While there are many areas of marketing in which automation can be beneficial, there are issues surrounding the notion of fully automated processes. It is important to consider the idea of marketing evolution, and how processes that are effective in one context may fail to work well in another.

By default, automation results in a loss of personalization. Automation means you're working with scripted responses to resonate with individuals on a deeper level, using technology that is unable to deviate from linear, programmed processes. This doesn't always work out.

Interestingly, although many consumers are seeking self-service options in some areas, they are also looking for personalization in others. Adweek reports that more than half of all consumers want a customized experience.

The reason?

Customized experiences make customers feel valued, and may result in improved brand loyalty.

Personalization in Marketing

There are specific areas of marketing where fully automated processes are limited in their overall impact, including social media management and outreach campaigns.

Social Media Management

Let’s dive a little deeper into social media, because it's a large part of marketing nowadays. There are many tools that can be used to automate everything that happens on your social media pages from tracking, scheduling, and publishing your content, to automated message responses. 

One real-world example to look at is Oreo, who sent an automated Twitter reply to a user with an offensive username; a username which was then quickly plastered across Oreo’s feed. This was a silly and probably costly mistake which could have easily been avoided through human action.

Getting it right, on the other hand, is Smart Car USA, who made headlines for correcting a Twitter user who claimed that a single bird poop would total a Smart Car. Smart provided a detailed mathematical response showing the actual number of birds required to wreck a car, and the original poster confirmed that Smart did a great job.

Human Limits

As we can see, “human touch” can never be replaced. However, as your business grows, you obviously can’t reply to everyone. Sooner or later, you will have to use some sort of automation. 

As using tools to automate parts of your processes is unavoidable, the real dilemma is what level of automation you should use.

Take scheduling and promoting posts on social media for example: do you want to use the same featured image across all social channels? Are you reaching out to everyone with the same message? Are you sharing posts at the same time of day?

You can automate the whole process and not make a single change, but this may have a negative impact on your engagement levels and CTR as your target audience often consists of different groups of people that have different interests and needs.

How far should you take personalization then? Answering this question really depends on the niche you are in, your brand authority, quality of content and so on.

Luckily, this is where A/B testing can help tremendouslyTake some time to test how personalization affects the metrics you are focused on, and adjust your workflow to meet the preferences of your audience.

Outreach Campaigns

Moving onto outreach campaigns, it is essential to remember that this form of marketing relies almost entirely upon human interaction, rather than automation.

Smart Insights highlights this fact with their published outreach email open rate statistics. As anticipated, outreach emails addressed to both a first and last name are statistically more likely to be opened than those addressed to the first name only or last name only, showing the power of personalization within this specific area of marketing.

Chances are, you're using some of the available outreach tools already; finding opportunities and managing a high volume of email traffic is close to impossible without one.

The fastest (and laziest) approach is just to make a list of blogs/people you want to contact, and reach out to everyone with the same message.

Or you can put some effort in, and personalize your outreach template with things like:

  • Name of the person you are reaching out too
  • Name of the blog you want to be featured on
  • Adjusting the topics/areas you can cover depending on the content they usually cover
  • Adjusting the pitch if you know for sure they are accepting guest contributions
  • Adjusting the tone depending on the level of the authority the site you are reaching out to has
  • Referring to some of their previous work you liked
  • Scheduling the time of day when the pitch is going to be sent

What it comes down to is this: do you want to send 100 generic pitches in 20 minutes or 20 personalized ones in an hour?

You are still using a tool to automate your outreach efforts, but you are also in control of the level of personalization that will be included. The second approach can often end up being more time-efficient, especially when you want to connect with high-authority sites.

Remember not to take this too far. Researching every site to find a post you can refer to often isn’t worth your time but many other things on the list are.

Again, test and update your workflow according to the results you are getting. There is no perfect recipe that works for across every niche.

Finding the Right Balance

There are arguably some areas of marketing where personalization isn’t required, and by steering clear of available automated processes, businesses could be preventing themselves from further growth and development opportunities.

In terms of prediction and data analysis, technology is often the preferred choice. However, in terms of B2C interactions, some degree of personalization is essential. It’s all about finding the right balance and learning how automated processes and personalization can both be used together to create the most effective and efficient marketing strategy.

Businesses may want to think of automation and personalization as two parts of the same unit, rather than as separate and distinct aspects. Automation can be very beneficial in learning what a customer wants; it’s a support system that enables us to offer the best personalized marketing through all stages of the sales funnel.

At the end of the day, to find the best solution, testing is key. All the research and statistics provided by companies and firms won't help you to meet the unique needs of your own audience - but understanding the general rule will help to find the specific one.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management

Social Media Strategy for Business

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.