Convert with Inbound Marketing

September 24th, 2014 by

So far in our series on inbound marketing, we have discussed why it matters, what tools are involved, and began looking at HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology. At this point, you might be wondering, “How does a visitor to my website eventually become a guest at my inn?” Well, in my previous post, I explained that the first thing you need to do is attract visitors to your website. From there, the objective is simple: establish contact. When you establish a method for contacting a visitor, he/she becomes a lead.

convert-01So how do you go about turning your visitor into a lead?

Convert Through Action

You can’t have something for nothing. If you want your visitors to leave contact information, offer them something in return. This is a first step in building trust and can be the beginning of a good relationship. Remember that you’re not necessarily trying to get them to just book a room right away (don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely when a visitor does). But in the big picture of your business, that’s the not the point. The point is to give visitors a reason to return to your site to explore it further, and also to reveal why your site might be useful or relevant.

A visitor rarely comes to a website randomly. There is almost always a cause. Maybe it was a blog post. Maybe it was a photo gallery. Maybe a social media post was shared and they wanted to see what your business was about. Perhaps it was part of Cost-Per-Click (CPC) advertising, such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads, or even a referral visit from a link on another website. Whatever the case, something drew that visitor to your site. It’s hard to tell at this point what exactly drew the visitor, but it’s not hard to find out if you offer a chance to connect through your site. For instance, offer a subscription to your blog via RSS feed. Or, perhaps, offer a newsletter subscription, which is an excellent way to gain contact information as a call-to-action.

A Call-To-Action (CTA) is simply a statement on your website that asks or invites the user to take a specific action. For instance, a good CTA might be “Get Our Latest Newsletter” or “Subscribe To Our Blog.” Or, perhaps, “Download Our Recipe Book.” convert-04Clear and appropriately placed CTAs transform a mundane website into an engaging user experience. Without CTAs, a website is as good as a pond with no water flowing through it. Eventually, it stagnates into uselessness.

What happens when a visitor clicks a CTA? They are taken either to the downloadable file you’re offering or to a landing page.

Convert Through Exchange

A landing page is a solid method for obtaining an email address for follow-up communication and to begin to establish a relationship with the visitor, thereby transitioning him/her into a lead. A landing page typically contains your logo, a contact form, and a download button for whatever you’re offering. But the idea isn’t to gain a list of email addresses to spam. Instead, the idea is to have a method to contact individuals and offer more useful pieces of information. For instance, suppose you are an innkeeper and one of your biggest guest draws is your menu. People who are drawn to the food at your inn are also probably interested in all things food. Compiling recipes and making them available as a downloadable e-book is just one example of something to offer. Follow-up with the individual by offering, for instance, seasonal recipe e-books, etc. Think creatively about how to approach the individuals you draw to your website and how to establish contact with them.

Feel free to contact us for help setting up CTAs and landing pages.

Convert Through Your Contact Book

Having a many email contacts is an awesome thing. But managing them can be very troublesome and, honestly, quite time-consuming. Here is the great conflict: knowing how to reach those contacts and managing them in logical groups must be done. So, to have successful conversion into a lead, you must either devote the time to segmenting those contacts into logical groups or paying someone to do it for you.

Why does this have to be done?

It’s important to segment the contacts that you gain through your CTAs because interests vary. Therefore, what one individual might find interesting, another might not. Knowing the difference helps you tailor how to follow-up with each of them.

convert-03For example, let’s say you gain 20 contacts from your CTAs. These 20 contacts all chose to download something or subscribe to something different. But among the 20, there were individuals who seemed to be interested in common subjects, such as wine, food, hiking, fishing, or history. But suppose you didn’t care to segment them. So you end up sending emails to all 20 individuals about a wine tasting even when only a handful were interested. Those who weren’t interested in wine would be more likely to mark your incoming messages as spam and begin to ignore you completely because you were no longer inviting them into information of interest.

There are many tools available for segmenting contacts or for managing contacts. One such tool is Highrise. In it, you can fill out business-card like contact information for your contacts and tag them in categories that can then be used to filter groups of contacts. Such tools are excellent investments if you have several contacts you want to segment.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of gaining your site visitors’ contact information, be sure that as you seek to convert them into leads that you’re continuing to attract them with useful resources and relevant information. Remember that the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that you’re invested in caring about the buyer, not in simply selling to the buyer.

Convert with Care

Think about it. Conversion is simply turning something from one state into another. Remember that conversion is not the same as closing a sale (we’ll get to that in the next post).

For our purposes, conversion is connection. Because inbound marketing is meant to be permissive, there is no other viable method by which you can go on to make a customer out of a lead. Further, there would also be no way to delight a customer. Connection

Consider the following when converting a visitor to a lead:

  • Be willing to give more than you get: This sounds strange and possibly insane. However, it is a strong approach for gaining not only a customer, but also an advocate.
  • Be creative: Take time to think about what to offer those who visit your site. Who is it that you’re trying to convert into a lead? Who is your ideal or target buyer? Look at your competitors’ websites and see what they’re offering in the way of CTAs.
  • Be real: A surefire method for losing website visitors is by manufacturing utterly useless junk for downloads. Don’t inundate your site with flimsy CTAs that are simply meant to get contact information. Visitors will be able to detect the difference. Make the content you provide useful, relevant, and entertaining.

To Convert Is to Connect

HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology calls this phase “Convert.” While that’s good, for our own terminology we’re going to adopt the term “Connect”. That’s what this phase is all about: connection. When you have attracted, or invited, someone to your website, communicating and connecting with them is the first step toward forming a solid relationship. Imagine if you invited guests to take a look at your inn before they decided to lodge there. But once they arrived, you never spoke to them, never got to know them, never made them feel you cared on any level. I expect that in a short time you’d find yourself out of business.

I said it before, “Inbound marketing’s total methodology is meant to be buyer-focused. Caring about what motivates, interests, and inspires your ideal buyer is a good key to attracting them to what you offer to help solve their problem or reduce their pain point.”

Ultimately, the goal of the “Convert”, or as we’ll call it, the “Connect” phase of the inbound marketing methodology is simply this: to prove that you care enough to engage. Join us for the next post in this series, “Close with Inbound Marketing”. If you’d like social media alerts of when we publish the next post, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Or, if you have an RSS reader, click to subscribe to our blog.

Currently, InsideOut Solutions offers blogging and email marketing services to help you improve your inbound efforts. Click below to contact us and find out more about these services.

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Attract with Inbound Marketing

September 12th, 2014 by

Thanks for joining us again as we dig deeper into the world of inbound marketing and what it can do for your business as we take a look at the first of the 4 phases that make up inbound marketing’s methodology.

Flower Blooms, Curb Appeal, and Fast Food Logos Have This In Common

If you said “What are things that attract?” then you are right. Flower blooms are colored specifically to attract insects and birds that feed on the sugars of the flower (and also aid in the pollination process). Curb appeal is essential as part of a visually attractive presentation on a neighborhood or street. Instead of seeing tireless cars parked on cement blocks and trash strewn about, one would expect to see beautiful landscaping and a manicured lawn that invites positive attention from passersby. Fast food logos are oriented both in structure and in color to invite your appetite, and, as a result, your patronage. Yellows, oranges, and reds are all very popular appetite-inducing colors, so they become very attractive visual elements when you are hungry.

So it is with inbound marketing. The very first phase of its methodology, according to HubSpot, is attract. That’s not just a rule or an idea. It’s an integral part of how inbound marketing begins to work.

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In the first post, Inbound Marketing: Is It Something You Need?, we recalled the cold sales calls of old, which often interrupted dinner and family time. Notice that there was nothing attractive about that scenario. Nothing inviting.

To attract is to invite. You want to invite visitors to your content to help them solve problems of all sizes. This concept is important because attracting visitors isn’t the same as converting them. That’s a different stage down the road. At this point, you want to enter into a relationship with them and invite them to learn more about their problem and about how to solve it. That’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing: with inbound marketing, the visitor is invited to learn more, not have a product immediately shoved in his/her face.

Attract With Content

How do I draw visitors to my site? The answer is simple: awesome content. In the previous post, Inbound Marketing Tools: Reach the Customer, I mentioned the tools of inbound marketing. Those tools are meant for creating content that attracts and engages visitors.

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How does a blog, for instance, attract visitors? When you write a blog post, that page is indexed for search engines. SEO, relevancy, regular publication, and other factors determine your visibility in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Frequent posting alone is not enough to increase the visibility of your content. Also, blogs are shareable, and in this age, everyone who is on social media shares either their own or others’ content, including blog posts. If you write repeatedly and in such a way that users find your information useful or helpful or entertaining, they will return for more. It’s likely that, in the end, if you post consistently, you’ll invite attention via the search engines and via social media.

TIP: InsideOut Solutions offers a monthly webinar on blogging to its Clients. Click here to get more information.

Basically, to attract visitors, create content that is honest and engaging. Be real. It’s important during the “attract” phase to gain the trust of your visitors. That means writing what you know about, not what you THINK you know about. Credibility goes a long way toward gaining a solid following of visitors. And the end goal in all of this isn’t necessarily to make those visitors buy whatever you’re selling, rather to provide them a safe place that answers their questions or speaks to their pain points.

Attract Your Ideal Buyer

Focus on Content that Interests the Buyer

Consider what your ideal buyer wants to learn or know more about. If you operate a B&B or an Inn, consider focusing your content on topics such as local events, artisans, regional foods, or seasonal features like foliage or animal migrations. Don’t make every blog post about how awesome and comfy your rooms are. Nothing is less attractive, or boring, than someone talking solely about him/herself.

Writing posts consistently is good, but distributing them via social media is even better. Links from your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages are excellent ways to reach not only your current set of followers/friends, but also to reach beyond. Remember that social media is just that: social. A clever and helpful blog post is more likely to be shared and talked about.

80/20 Rule on Social Media

Not only is social media an excellent place to distribute your blog posts,  it’s also a great method for sharing content and engaging in real conversations with your ideal buyer. Sadly, the temptation for many individuals is to abuse social media to only focus on what they offer. It’s an imbalanced approach.

However, the “80/20 rule” is a widely accepted approach to social media marketing. This simply means you spend 80% of the time posting information that is interesting, educational, or informative for your ideal buyer and 20% of the time posting information that is more sales-oriented, exclusively about the offerings of your B&B or Inn.

Attract-03

Draw in visitors with interesting pieces of content from experts about the things they might care about (like local events, artisans, etc.). For instance, you could use Facebook to refer to an article about a local vineyard. Or you could tweet about an upcoming event. Your content doesn’t need to be 100% original. Do your research and locate trusted sources that create compelling and engaging articles, and then share them. Such content is often referred to as “curated,” which means that it is good, valuable, and reliable information from an expert source.

Care More About Your Buyer Than What You’re Offering

Once you care about what your ideal buyer cares about, you will be speaking their language, meeting them where they’re at, so to speak. Two people who can speak a common language engage in a relationship more quickly than two people who don’t.

Inbound marketing’s total methodology is meant to be buyer-focused. Caring about what motivates, interests, and inspires your ideal buyer is a good key to attracting them to what you offer to help solve their problem or reduce their pain point.

Ultimately, the goal of the attract phase of the inbound marketing methodology is simply this: to prove that you care enough to help. Join us for the next post in this series, “Convert with Inbound Marketing”. If you’d like social media alerts of when we publish the next post, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, and Linkedin. Or, if you have an RSS reader, click to subscribe to our blog.

Currently, InsideOut Solutions offers blogging and email marketing services to help you improve your inbound efforts. Click below to contact us and find out more about these services.

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Inbound Marketing Tools: Reach the Customer

September 3rd, 2014 by

So, you’ve determined that inbound marketing is for you, and that it’s an investment that can help you attract new customers and grow your business. Now we move from the “why” to the “how” to learn that it’s the tools of inbound marketing that are practical in reaching those new customers.

The Link Between Making Breakfast and Inbound Marketing

For those of you who offer breakfast as part of your services, consider this scenario: You get up early. You preheat the oven. You get the pans out. The kitchen counter is lined with food to be cooked, ingredients to be fashioned into something good. All of this is meant to become a beautiful, delectable breakfast for your guests. You leave the kitchen in the hopes that all of those things will work together to become that breakfast. But when you return, you find them all precisely where you left them. There is no piping hot bacon or sausage, no golden pancakes, no buttery biscuits, no fluffy omelets. Everything is where you left it. The food and ingredients cannot make themselves. The same is true for inbound marketing: it is not practical or proven until its tools are engaged and applied on a regular basis.

The Tools of Inbound Marketing

Truth be told, you want your site visitors and prospective customers to have a satisfying experience. They’re more likely to return and visit your site longer if they like the content or find it useful. Understanding who you want to visit your site and who you want to target as prospective customers is important to figuring out which tools you pull out of the toolbox. Some might be more helpful than others. Whatever tools for inbound marketing you decide are best, you must give them time and attention.

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Websites

If InsideOut Solutions designed your website, you’re already doing well in this area. Whether to have a website these days is no longer even a point of discussion since the world is doing a large portion of its business on the web. Since customers are searching for what they want, it is essential to have a website that shows what you offer. Also, a good website that invites attention is part of what your inbound marketing strategy should include. Remember that you don’t need to go door-to-door or buy expensive time to interrupt people in their car or on their couch. Those same people are using the internet to find what they want on their terms and in their own time. A beautiful, clear, and functional website is a key way to lead them down the path to you.

Blogging

Blogging is a method of adding content to your site. This content is in the form of articles written by you. The benefits of blogging regularly are:

  • Indexed posts: The more you have, the better opportunity you have to get found online. Properly optimized blogs have a tendency to increase your rankings in search engines and, importantly, also widens your visibility in search for keywords.
  • More leads: Draw prospective customers to your site with relevant, smart blog articles and invite them to return by consistently publishing quality information. HubSpot reports that 43% of companies have acquired a customer through a blog. 43% isn’t a number to sneeze at.
  • Increased trust: Once you have valuable content that site visitors want, they’ll come back to you for more. This increases the chances that you’ll turn those visitors into customers, and that you’ll gain advocates for your business. Remember that just because a visitor doesn’t become a customer doesn’t mean they won’t become an advocate.

Social Media Marketing

How to approach this inbound marketing tool is a struggle for some individuals. They might blog a lot, for instance, but fail to ever really distribute the content they create. Blogging is not an if-you-build-it-they-will-come tool. You can write the most prolific blog articles ever, but if you fail to distribute them to an interested audience, they’ll collect internet dust for years. Social Media Marketing is basically using the existing tool of social networking. All the major social media brands (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) are built on networks of people. Call them friends, followers, circles, or whatever you like. But people talk and share and think together on the internet. Smart inbound marketing uses this interconnectedness to achieve a new kind of word-of-mouth marketing. While we won’t explore in depth the advantages of each social media channel in this post, it’s important to note that without proper and timely use of social media marketing, you’ll end up adrift in a vast sea of nameless websites. And your users would likely have better luck finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Landing Pages

Landing pages are self-defining in name and function. Are you wanting to promote something on your website, but not necessarily have the visitor see your main page yet? A landing page is a strong method to accomplish this. Typically, this page is designed to get information from the visitor (usually name, contact info, etc.) and for you to provide something in return (additional information, content, contact, etc.).  The goal should always be, with any content, to establish trust and a bridge of communication. Invite the visitor to learn as much as he/she wishes, and use solid, valid content like landing pages to give them something in return so that they trust you and want to return for more.

Email Marketing

Some may think that email marketing is just another word for spamming. On the contrary, it’s a strategic method of reaching out to and keeping track of individuals who have provided email addresses (at the landing pages, for instance). As with all the other tools, email marketing is all about timing. Coordinated with landing pages, email marketing seeks to provide prospective customers information that they’re seeking. Send emails to them with content that builds trust, meets their needs, and speaks to their pain points. For instance, if you know a lead is constantly reviewing vintage wine selections and you’re sending them craft beer newsletters, you’re not going to invite further interest and your off-topic emails are likely to send them off to a competitor.

Handle With Care

All of these inbound marketing tools are meant to be tailored, handled appropriately and with consideration of your prospects. If you’re only preaching about what you’re selling, you’re not going to build much of a following. Buyers want engagement, learning, trust, and relationships. This is true across all industries. Understand that no one comes out of the gate as an expert with inbound marketing tools. But investing your time in learning about them and using them increases your chances of generating more leads and eventually customers. Join us for the next post in this series, “Attract with Inbound Marketing,” to find out what flower blooms, curb appeal, and fast food logos have in common.

Currently, of the inbound marketing tools, we offer blogging and email marketing services. Click below to contact us and find out more about these services.

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Link Building for SEO in 2014: Starting a Campaign

August 26th, 2014 by

This article is the second part of my series on Link Building for SEO in 2014. If you aren’t familiar with link building basics, I recommend you read part 1 – Link Building for SEO in 2014: The Basics.

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Link building for SEO is far from dead; like everything else involved with search engine optimization it must evolve with increasingly sophisticated search engine algorithms.

How to Start a Link Building for SEO Campaign

The first step in starting a link building campaign for SEO is the same as any internet marketing campaign: define the strategy or strategies you want in order to meet your goals.

Choosing strategies is not a completely straightforward task.  The reason for this is because search engines do not share the formulas for the mathermatics of their link value metrics.  Even so, link building SEO professionals tare able to use their experience to provide some general guidelines on important “link signals” used by the search engines.

What to Avoid When Link Building for SEO

When it comes to SEO, it’s just as important to know where you should not put your link building efforts as it is to know where you should.

Buying Links Is Risky at Best

While it is impossible for them to detect and discredit all paid links, all major search engines actively strive to remove the influence of paid links on their search results. Websites that are found to be buying links or participating in link schemes risk severe penalties that will drop their rankings into oblivion, meaning the link you pay for will not pay off for either SEO or referral purposes.

Earning Editorial Links as Part of Link Building for SEO

Natural (i.e. not paid or otherwise received) links are the most valuable kind of link to receive when it comes to the search engines.  To earn them, you need to focus on creating great content that is link-worthy.

You Have (or Should Have) a Blog – Use It Effectively

All WordPress websites built by InsideOut include a blog and it’s not because the website is built in WordPress.  We know from experience that effective blogging should be the priority of internet marketing efforts because it creates the fresh content search engines reward and gives you a great platform for earning natural/editorial links as part of your link building for SEO strategy.  All of our WordPress website include an SEO plugin for pages and posts that will make your efforts at optimization easier.  Our managed web hosting service include free blogging webinars to help you get going and refine your efforts.  We also offer a blog writing service to provide you with content if and when you need it.

There other ways to generate great share- and link-worthy content on your website besides your blog, including:

Specials & Packages are a great way for bed and breakfast inns, boutique hotels, dude ranches and other distinct lodging to offer content that is link-worthy.  If you have a static set of specials than rarely, if ever, change, it’s time to step up your game with regularly changing offers that deal-finders and other sources can link.  If the effort to manage these offers on a standard website page is too time-consuming we offer a Specials & Packages plugin for WordPress websites that allows you to write up the special, make use of our images or upload your own, set as an ongoing or specific date range, set to display 2 weeks or 1 or 2 months prior to start date, enter pricing details and add/modify/delete specials categories.

Recipes are a highly-searched, shared and linked topic for our clients that offer dining service.  Are your recipes remarkable and/or award winning?  Integrate them into both your blog and your website with our Recipes plugin for WordPress.

More Link Building for SEO Advice to Come

This article gives you a starting point for what not to do and how to go about earning editorial links in your link building strategies.  The next post focuses on enhancing your efforts at link building for SEO with outreach and other considerations.  Contact us if you want help in getting your link building strategy off the ground.  We offer the plugins and services mentioned in this post as well as consultations and ongoing services for link building and other SEO-related services.

 

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More Responsive Web Design Examples from InsideOut Solutions

August 25th, 2014 by

August was a busy month at InsideOut for launching responsive website designs and each has its own story.

responsive web design examples

Responsive websites remain in demand at InsideOut Solutions.

Read on to learn how we worked with our clients on new B&B websites for a renovated inn on beautiful Tripp Lake and a family-oriented inn on Cape Cod as well responsive web design upgrades for the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky and a charming inn in historic Port Townsend, Washington.

All of these responsive web design examples use HTML5 and CSS3 to adapt their layout to look their best no matter what device is being used and each has a “sticky” navigation menu that travels down the page with the visitor as the scroll though the page content.

Responsive Web Design Examples – New Website Designs

Wolf Cove Inn (Poland, Maine)

Wolf Cove Inn websiteRoy and Suzanne became the new owners of Wolf Cove Inn on scenic Tripp Lake last December.  Two things they were sure of: they would close the B&B through the winter for renovations and they would launch a new website with a new web host.  We welcomed Wolf Cove Inn as a managed web hosting client at the end of January and got to work on updating their old website to reflect recent changes while also starting work on their new custom website.  Since the inn was under renovation, the inn owners, their photographer Christian Gianelli, and our design lead Beth Edwards had to be flexible and creative in getting and using photos over a period of months as renovations were completed.  Graphic design manager Jim McCauley converted their bitmap logo to a beautifully rendered vector file so that it could be used online and also for any print materials.

Woods Hole Passage Bed and Breakfast (Falmouth, MA)

Woods Hole Passage websiteInsideOut Solutions representatives Pat McCauley and Jack Waknitz met with Woods Hole Passage Bed and Breakfast owners Martha and Julie at the PAII 2014 Innkeeping Conference & Trade Show to discuss their need for a new website design and a managed web hosting solution from InsideOut Solutions.

Martha & Julie wanted to showcase the unique family- and kid-friendy nature of their Cape Cod B&B and Beth Edwards crafted a website design that does just that with a clean, fun, yet elegant design that always looks its best no matter what device is used to view it.

Responsive Web Design Examples – Upgrades to Existing Designs

Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky (BBAK)

Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky websiteInsideOut Solutions has been the designer, developer and host of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky website for the past five years.  During that time, BBAK has worked with us to make regular improvements to the website by adding new features for their member B&B inns and adding a WordPress blog.

By the start of summer they were ready to take their website to the next level with a responsive web design upgrade, which included upgrading the navigation menu to include sub-page drop-downs and adding Google maps of in location’s to the site’s regional pages.

Blue Gull Inn (Port Townsend, WA)

Blue Gull Inn websiteBlue Gull Inn loved the WordPress website design we launched three years ago, but they also knew its aging code needed to be brought up to current standards. Our responsive website design upgrade, which included rebuilding the back end in HTML5 & CSS3 and the addition of “sticky” navigation took less than a month to finish and was the perfect fit for their elegant B&B in historic Port Townsend, Washington.

Is It Time for You to Get a Responsive Website Design?

The newly launched responsive websites for Wolf Cove Inn have given these clients a strong platform to ramp up their internet marketing and the upgrades to the BBAK and Blue Gull Inn websites will prolong their useful lives.  Is it time for you to take your website to this next level?  Read June’s post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Inbound Marketing: Is It Something You Need?

August 22nd, 2014 by

Inbound marketing is a buzzword, but it’s not a new concept. Industry analysis proves that it leads to a greater return on investment (ROI) for all business sizes. This has given the various aspects of inbound marketing increasing traction in the past few years.

Trusted sites like HubSpot and Moz publish vast amounts of education and trends analysis. Each demonstrate that inbound marketing is a profitable approach to gaining and keeping customers.

What is inbound marketing? How is it different from outbound marketing?

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Inbound marketing is earning the trust of today’s consumers to attract them to your website and convert them into leads. The goal is to convert the leads into customers by following the inbound marketing process.

Inbound marketing’s methodology according to HubSpot comprises 4 sequential phases: 1) attract; 2) convert; 3) close; and 4) delight. The very idea of this process revolves around how to engage the consumer and earn trust. Compare that with outbound marketing, which seeks to interrupt the consumer to sell a product. Often, only the product or service is the focus of outbound marketing. In outbound marketing’s philosophy, the consumer isn’t meant to engage in a meaningful, transactional relationship with the brand except to continue buying it because of numerous interruptive ads or calls.

For example, do you remember sitting down at the dinner table years ago? All the food was piping hot. The family, tired from a long day, was ready to eat. Inevitably, the phone rang. If you were lucky, it was a family member or friend that you could delay. If you weren’t lucky, it was a salesman, who barely allowed you to say “hello” before bombarding you with a scripted pitch and preventing you from getting a word in edgewise to tell him “no thank you.” If you weren’t bold enough to hang up, you probably had to endure about ten to fifteen minutes of escalating sales pitches as you declined from one to another. When at last the salesman admitted defeat, you could return to your cold dinner. This scenario defines the gist of outbound marketing.

Fast forward to today. Inbound marketers aren’t cold calling you as dinner begins to interrupt your meal or your life. Instead, they’re inviting you, when you’re ready, to come to them. Inbound marketing enables a company to make itself known and available. So if you’re looking for a great B&B to visit, you enter some search criteria in Google and away you go. You read blogs. You navigate the site and review various rooms. You study the menu and the wine selection. Sometimes you sign up on email lists to get information about the B&B, or local events and attractions. You narrow down the choices of where you want to stay and consider the experience you want. Finally, you decide where to spend the weekend. Then, inbound marketing influences that B&B to delight you as a guest and continue delighting you after you’ve left the destination by engaging you in social media, informing you about future specials, all in a non-interruptive way.

Ultimately, inbound marketing’s primary focus is on engaging and delighting an inquisitive consumer.

So, why should you invest in inbound marketing?

According to HubSpot’s “2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report,” 54% more leads are generated by inbound marketing versus outbound marketing. More leads means a greater potential of converting them into customers.

Can I really afford to invest in something new?

inboundmarketing_whatyouneed-01If you currently invest in outbound marketing, you know it’s expensive. However, data shows inbound marketing saves money in generating leads. According to HubSpot’s report, marketers that spent more than $25,000 per year “saved an average of 13% in overall cost per lead . . . versus those relying on outbound strategies.”

Realistically, not all business owners are able to spend over $25,000 per year on marketing. However, the widely accepted recommendation for B&B inn owners is to spend at least 10% of your gross revenue on it. As a business owner, one goal is to maximize your ROI. If you’re going to spend the 10%, inbound marketing is currently the preferred method for greater ROI. For you, that means rooms that are consistently occupied, and potentially the reduction or even complete disappearance of the “slow season.”

Join us for our next post which will highlight the tools of inbound marketing, and how they might be used in the hospitality industry.

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Link Building for SEO in 2014: The Basics

July 30th, 2014 by

Link building as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy continues to evolve along with changes in search engines.  A prime example of this is covered in my April article about how Google now penalizes guest bloggers for creating spammy links.

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There’s a world of value for your internet marketing when you use proven strategies in link building for SEO.

This month I will address the basics of how you can update your current strategy or how to get started with link building for SEO so that you can be on the right track with building links from referring sites.

What Is Link Building for SEO?

Search engines have given links a value as “votes” as part of their algorithmic formula for importance and popularity since the late 1990s.  This formula has become more sophisticated over time, incorporating metrics like authority, spam, and trust on both sides of the link.

Link building is a strategy that increases the SEO value of published content by gaining inbound links.

Link Building for SEO ≠ As Many Links as Possible

Back in the late 90s through early 2000s, the strategy for link building was typically to get a link everywhere you could.  The old “as many links in as many places as you can get” strategy of the 90s and early 2000s is well behind us and it’s time to focus on building links that will actually help the SEO value of your website.

Link Value

There are many “link signals” search engines use that comprise the overall value of a link.  Google and other search engines don’t publicly share their relative weight, but logical assumptions can be made by experimentation and looking at trends in patents that were applied for by the search engines.

Web Popularity

The more traffic and user interaction a website, the more links from that site matter. Earn authority and trust from the search engines by targeting popular sites.

Topic Popularity

A link from sites that is relevant to your business have more weight than general or off-topic websites.  For a B&B inn, dude ranch or other distinct lodging provider that means earning links from popular websites for those topics, such as bedandbreakfast.com or duderanch.org, will have more weight thank links from general travel or tacitly-related sites.

Link Anchor Text

One of the strongest signals the engines use in rankings is anchor text (i.e. the words in the link). For a B&B inn in Chicago, the anchor text “Chicago bed and breakfast” will be worth far more to the search engines than “click here” or other non-keyword text.

TrustRank

Internet reviewers estimate that close to two-thirds of web pages are spam.  Search engines have systems to measure their trust rankings by weeding out this irrelevant spam.  Most search engine researchers agree trust systems are based on the number of “hops” (links) away a website is from the source of the link.  The higher the trust ranking of the website, the higher its value.  High trust domains include government websites, universities, etc.

Your Place in the Link Neighborhood

A lot of the spammy links on the internet are reciprocal (i.e. spam links to spam and that spam links back) and search engines will review any reciprocal links you have, so be sure to only do reciprocal links with sites that have high trust rank.

Link Freshness

Research into links has shown that the value of a link decreases over time, making it important to seek new links from your sources and to seek new sources as well.

Social Sharing Signals

Search engines recognize the influence of social media share from Facebook, Twitter and others as an indicator of popularity.  Just how much is up for debate, but prompting visitors to share what they like is essential to both SEO and Social Media Marketing (SMM).

The Basics of Link Building

Because search engines protect their algorithms for link signals, link building remains an art, rather than a science, and is made up of three major acquisition components.

1. Editorial Links

Also called “natural links,” editorial links that are earned with no action by the author/marketer and are typically the result of publishing great content that others want to reference with a link.  For most, the best way to earn editorial links is via desirable content posted on your website’s blog.

2. Manual Links

Also called “outreach links,” manual links are typically created by submitting sites to directories, paying for listings on a website or contacting content publishers such as bloggers to request a link.   emailing bloggers for links, submitting sites to directories, or paying for listings of any kind. The SEO often creates a value proposition by explaining to the link target why creating the link is in their best interest. Examples include filling out forms for submissions to a website award program or convincing a professor that your resource is worthy of inclusion on the public syllabus.

3. Self-Created Links

Also called “non-editorial links,” the opportunity for self-created links exists on a huge number of websites via blog comments, user profiles, forum signatures and posts, and much more.  While these are typically low-value links, they do offer potential positive impact when considered in aggregate.  Search engines are quick to penalize site that use spammy tactics so be prudent in using this method.

More Link Building Advice to Come

This article gives you the basics.  The next post in this series focuses on the various strategies to link building for SEOContact us if you want help in getting your link building strategy off the ground.  We offer consultations and ongoing services for link building and other SEO-related services.

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New Responsive Website Design for a Longtime Client

July 29th, 2014 by

Responsive website design, whether as a new design, a redesign or an upgrade to an existing website, is the hot topic of 2014 at InsideOut Solutions.  We’ve been busy this month with a responsive website design for the bed and breakfast association of America’s Dairyland – wonderful Wisconsin.WBBA responsive website design

Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association Responsive Website Design

The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association (WBBA) loved the functionality of their site, but were seeking a new look on a budget.  The solution was found via upgrading the look and feel of the “public face” of the website, leaving the robust back-end administration, code and functionality the same.  The upgrade in this redesign also includes new, larger photos and sticky navigation.

Do You Need a Responsive Website Design?

The responsive website design upgrades and redesigns for WBBA and many others have enabled these clients to prolong the lives of their current website for several additional years.  Is it time for you to take your website to this next level?  Read last month’s post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Introducing Google My Business – Move from Places or Google+ for Business

June 29th, 2014 by

If you have been using the Google Places or Google+ Pages dashboard to manage information about your business, then you have or soon will see that your account has been automatically changed to the new dashboard for Google My Business.Google My Business

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business was developed to make it easier to manage information about your local business information and that your business will easily found across the Google platform, including Google Maps, Google Search, and Google+.  This change by Google does offer some new and enhanced features which is accessed from the Google My Business dashboard.

Keep reading →

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Summer Blooms with Responsive Website Upgrades from InsideOut Solutions

June 27th, 2014 by

Several InsideOut clients received responsive website upgrades this month.  Last month’s article on Responsive Web Design details what Responsive Web Design is, and if it’s right for you, whether you should redesign or simply get a responsive website upgrade of your existing website.

The following clients contacted us to discuss responsive web design options and made the decision to retain their current design and enhance it with a responsive website upgrade.

Recently Launched Responsive Website Upgrades

responsive website - The B&B Team

The B&B Team®

As Inn Consultants and Brokers since 1993, The B&B Team® has watched internet trends closely, developing keen eyes as to when they follow new trends.

When Google began recommending Responsive Web Design as their preferred method of rendering web pages, they knew it was time to upgrade their WordPress website.

responsive website - Club Continental

The Club Continental

The Club Continental wanted to extend the life of their site.  It was 3 years old, but they loved the design and their visitors did too.

After hearing of the benefits of Responsive Web Design, they decided to upgrade, and in the process extended the life of their current WordPress design.

responsive website - NMBBAresponsive website - Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association

New Mexico Bed and Breakfast Association
and
Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association

Both of these B&B associations were looking for an elegant way to present their websites on mobile devices without having to reinvent the wheel.

The answer for both was to upgrade their current websites to responsive designs, complete with “sticky” navigation and cutting edge HTML5 and CSS3 code.

responsive website - Old Parkdale Inn

Old Parkdale Inn

Longtime InsideOut clients, the innkeepers at Old Parkdale Inn have always kept stride with the ever changing standards of website design.  They were concerned that their website load speed was lagging behind and had heard how HTML5 and CSS3 can speed things up.  They chose to have an responsive website upgrade, got their speedy site and much more.

Do You Need a Responsive Website Redesign or Can You Upgrade Your Current Website?

Check out last month’s blog post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us to discuss the best plan for you to keep your website current with this important development and other evolving web standards.

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