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As a business owner, you direct every action you take at improving your bottom line. Marketing, especially, is a portion of your budget that should spur positive growth and increase revenues. In the digital age, SEO comprises a large chunk of your marketing efforts.

SEO efforts leading to positive cash flow is exactly what business owners want. Unfortunately, SEO ROI, or the return on your SEO investment, isn’t exactly the easiest metric to calculate, especially when you compare it to the ROI for print ads or social media ads. This guide will discuss ROI, ROI meaning in SEO, and how to calculate SEO ROI for your business.

What Is ROI?

In general terms, ROI is the return on your investment – the amount of financial gain you can attribute to a specific action or set of actions. Typically, analysts reflect ROI as the gains produced by a particular investment as compared to the cost of making the investment in the first place. The profit left over after you remove the initial amount of the investment is your ROI.

For example, let’s say your company decides to invest in an ad campaign that costs $1000 to produce and get off the ground. Since you’re looking for the gains inspired by the campaign, you must find the average monthly profits and isolate any excess gains you could attribute to the campaign. Over three months, you see increases of $400, $500, and $450 over the average profits of your company. Calculating ROI in this case results in:

(Change in profits – Cost of campaign) / Cost of investment

Or

($400 + $500 + $450 – $1000 / $1000 = .35, or a 35% ROI

ROI is an important concept to understand because it goes beyond even sales numbers and revenue to compare the costs of increasing your revenue. Even if your campaigns and other investments are bringing in business and money, if they’re costing you too much in the process, you likely need to reevaluate so you can produce revenue more efficiently. Calculating ROI using a marketing ROI calculator is one of the most important moves you can make so that you have all possible information available to you when it comes to making an investment decision.

ROI Meaning in SEO

When it comes to SEO, however, ROI is much more difficult to quantify for the average business owner. SEO service providers like to point out how many impressions your business page has made, or how well your relevant keywords perform on the average organic search for your product, but as a business owner, you want to know one thing – how has that translated into conversions? What measures should you be looking at to determine your SEO ROI?

First, it is important to understand the key goals of your SEO efforts. Your goal may be to rank number one for certain keywords, or to improve your inbound links from other pages. However, neither of these goals necessarily leads to profits.

If the keywords you rank first for are too vague or broad, you may not be increasing your click through rate at all. For example, if you sell syrup for shaved ice and rank high for the keyword “ice,” you won’t meet the needs of many or most of the users searching for ice. Similarly, if you drastically increase site visitors with inbound links, but those visitors come from a site with little relevance to your own, your new visitors will not likely produce profit.

What are your conversion goals with your SEO efforts? These could depend on the type of business you operate. Are you a service provider intent on building a customer base that subscribes to your newsletter? Are you a retailer focused primarily on increasing sales? Are you a business that thrives on referrals, subscriptions, or registrations? Measures of your SEO ROI must determine your efficacy in achieving SEO conversions.

Calculating SEO ROI

Before you can meet your SEO goals, however, you must of course drive traffic to your site. After all, you can’t expect to increase sales, referrals, or subscriptions if you can’t get new users to view what you have to offer. While site traffic isn’t the only measure of ROI for SEO, it’s likely the first you’ll need to calculate to determine whether your SEO efforts are effective.

The most basic goal of any SEO campaign is to make your web page appear higher on the search engine results page, or SERP. According to a compilation of studies outlined by Forbes, nearly 85% of Google search users click on a SERP result versus an ad. Nearly 68% of those choose one of the first five links. Clearly, ranking high puts you on the right track.

However, you must rank high for the right keywords; as mentioned before, ranking high for a keyword that is too general doesn’t lead to many click throughs. So, although ranking high is the most basic goal of SEO, increasing your click through rate is the most basic component of calculating SEO ROI. In the same vein, referral traffic from inbound links that are highly relevant to your product or service is another basic component of calculating SEO ROI.

Next, you’ll need to determine how many of those specific click throughs or referral links led to achieving your SEO goal – conversions. If your ideal conversion is for a user to join your mailing list to stay up to date on your next service offerings, how many of your SEO-produced click throughs led to a sign-up? If you’re a retail company, how many inbound links went on to make a purchase? Tracking your conversions through the network of links, referrals, and clicks takes time, but it is the best way to get a true sense of how effective your SEO really is.

Once you have a good handle on tracing your conversions to their sources, you can note how many conversions came from your SEO campaign and the change in conversions over time. Since the effects of your SEO efforts may have left an impression on future clients yet to convert, you can note the increase in traffic to your page as a result of SEO. Ultimately, calculating an estimate of the monthly traffic you require for SEO to make a difference in your conversions and using a marketing ROI calculator can help you get a feel for your SEO ROI.

The post How to Measure SEO ROI: What You May Be Missing appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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As a successful business marketer, you know the importance of optimizing your keyword selection within your pay-per-click ad campaigns so that your web page appears within the search engine results page (SERP) for relevant searches. Just as important is maintaining good search engine rankings so that your web page appears prominently on the SERP. A prominent location can help you increase your click through rate, as people who are looking for a business like yours are most likely to select one of the first few results on a SERP.

However, there is another key feature of the first result on a Google SERP that makes users more likely to click on it – the inclusion of site links. Optimizing your website to increase the likelihood Google will show site links is a great strategy to increase your click through rate. What are site links? Why are they so important? What are some best practices? Read on for a brief guide to site links.

What Are Site Links?

Site links appear as smaller sub-listings underneath the page title, URL, and page description on the SERP, usually when the user has searched for a brand. Considered a type of ad extension, site links provide a set of clickable links so your users can choose a specific area of your site to navigate to. This is especially useful when the user enters a brand or site name, but may not want the homepage.

For example, a user searching for the Widgets-R-Us brand may want to view widgets provided by the company, view shipping policies, or learn about the company’s history instead of viewing the homepage. Accordingly, site links show the user a few options for direct navigation other than the homepage itself. In this way, site links benefit both user and site owner.

Why Are Site Links Important?

The user benefits from site links because of the increased ability to navigate directly to the chosen site area directly from the SERP instead of needing to first navigate to the homepage, locate the correct page area, and then navigate to it. The user reaches the best landing page possible in a shorter amount of time. Thus, site links take the extra clicks and wait out of the navigation process, bringing the user to your page much more quickly.

You benefit for many of the same reasons – because the uncertainty of whether your site will meet the user’s needs, the user can quickly determine which of the featured landing pages may hold the content they seek, making it much more likely he or she will click in the first place. The user is more satisfied by the content after the click through, as well, since he or she navigated to the ideal landing page right off the bat. Quickly satisfied users are more likely to convert into consumers as well.

However, the primary SEO effect is even more simple. SERP results with site links are not only first on the list, but also more than twice the size of a regular result block. In addition, the user is aware on some level that Google trusts your site enough to provide extra links to it. Trust and prominence, then, are the names of the game; in fact, some experts credit site links with nearly a 65% increase in click throughs.

Site links also provide you with the opportunity to feature what you think is the most important information users should know about your product, service, or brand. For instance, your about page can provide crucial information about your brand that could lead to an eventual sale. Or, your site links could drive traffic to deeper pages on your site that provide the vital information critical to closing a sale or producing a lead, such as a toolkit, product guide, or other information the user cannot glean from skimming your homepage.

What Are Some Google Site Links Best Practices?

Unfortunately, getting Google to show site links is not as simple as simply requesting them, or choosing to pay a CPC for them. Google only shows site links for sites when they could prove useful to the user. However, if Google feels that your page may not provide relevant content for the user’s query, or if your site has a poor structure not conducive to site links, Google may not provide site links. It is important, then, to address your site to optimize for site links.

Some best practices include:

  • Make sure your site is well-structured. In order for Google to produce site links from your page’s content, it must be able to understand all the sections of your pages and how each relates to the others. Your homepage is the most important page, and the basis for all the others. The others should then proceed in a logical order from the homepage.
  • Add a sitemap. Adding a sitemap.xml file to your search console helps the Googlebot grow a better understanding of your site, including the structure of your site as mentioned above. The pages you mark as important in the sitemap may become the subject of site links.
  • Make sure your site has crucial components. Ensuring your page has the most logical page components for Google to include as additional site links increase your chances of having site links added to your SERP result. These include About, Contact Us, Products pages, and Search, among others. In addition, make sure all these pages have the classic, proper names for easy identification by the automated process.
  • Include internal links. If other pages on your site link consistently to the pages you deem the most important, such as product pages or About pages, Google may recognize their importance as well. This has a double benefit, since it may increase the likelihood of site links as well as helping ensure your most important pages are those featured on your site links.
  • Rank first. Overall, the most important factor in getting site links is ranking first for your brand. If you have an easily recognizable brand, engage in good site practices, and provide useful content for your users, who continue to click through, ranking first for your brand may not be difficult. However, if you have a more common brand name, or one easily misconstrued for a common product name or common noun, you may have more trouble.

The post Google Site Links: Best Practices for Your Business appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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If you are serious about your business’s marketing efforts, you are consistently posting new, high-quality content. You should also optimize such content to help your users solve a problem in their lives, provide more information about one of your products or services, or otherwise serve some purpose that furthers your business. Similarly, you should be consistently monitoring your web page and its existing content, ensuring all of its components run as smoothly as possible and updating those that do not.

However, what happens if your changes contain code or other elements that negatively alter the way Google reads your page? After all, things look fine on the surface and your web page appears better than ever. Could the changes you can’t see with the naked eye be affecting your SEO? As it turns out, the answer is yes.

Googlebot Indexing

In order for potential customers to find your web page via a Google search, it must be visible in the Google index. All this means is that Google knows your page is out there, functional, and ready for return as a potential web search result block on a search engine results page. However, to make this determination, your page must be 100% visible and accessible to Google.

To determine this, Google sends Googlebot – a web crawler, also known as a bot or spider – to scan the contents of your page. Googlebot and other web crawlers exist to constantly gather information about web pages and relay the information they find back to an entity; Googlebot, of course, relays the information it finds back to Google, which either indexes a page or not based on Googlebot’s findings.

Googlebot receives the URL for your page from a list, then scans and retrieves its contents, including all text, code, plug-ins, and other elements that make up your page. Googlebot also analyzes any links your page makes to other pages. Once it finishes the analysis, the bot sends all the information back to Google, which indexes all pages Googlebot can “see.”

After indexing, Google proceeds to rank your page based on the more familiar aspects of speed, quality, and relevance. However, if Googlebot cannot see your page, it does not index it properly and Google may not rank your page. If Google does not index and rank your page, your potential customers will not receive your page as a suggestion in a Google search, thereby damaging your traffic and eventual conversions.

Why Can’t Googlebot Access Your Page?

Despite the fact that users see your web page as a collection of text, photo, video, and other content they can read and interact with, Googlebot only sees your page as a set of individual components of code. Instead of a photo, Googlebot sees the HTML file for that image. Instead of a flash component, Googlebot sees the coding for the component. If you have components of your page that Googlebot cannot see or access, it reports the information back to Google.

Multiple situations can cause unreadable page components. For example, if you have components of your page that use CSS, JavaScript or Flash, you could be a victim of bad coding. Or, the links could be incorrect or blocked by robots.txt. Alternatively, your site could rely too much on Flash or over complicated dynamic links, preventing Googlebot from viewing the page as it actually is.

URL Inspection Tool (Previously Fetch and Render) Can Help

As a site owner, and a human, you can see the contents of the page as you meant them. However, you cannot see the behind-the-scenes coding or read errors that may prevent Googlebot from seeing your page. In fact, you may not even know there is an issue until you begin experiencing a sharp, unexplained, drop in your clickthroughs.

Fortunately, Google provides a tool to help you determine how Googlebot sees your page so that you can identify and solve any issues that arise and ensure Google indexes your page. You can request what is essentially a practice crawl of your site, and ask Google to render it to view your page as Google views it. Google used to call these tools “fetch as Google” and “fetch and render.” However, Google fetch and render is now the URL Inspection Tool. It provides the same information about Google’s indexed version of a webpage. Here’s how to use the tool:

  1. Verify. First, sign into your Google account and verify that you have website authority. Only then can you access the URL Inspection Tool feature. This step will record your ownership information for the page into Google’s systems. Download an HTML verification file the page provides you, and then confirm its successful upload by clicking on a supplied link and then indicating “verify.” The new HTML file should remain in place even after you verify that you own your site, to ensure that your site remains verified.
  2. Access. Second, you’ll need to access the Google Search Console. Under Domain, the Console will prompt you to enter a URL for analysis into its a search bar. Input your site’s URL and click “Continue.” You can also paste your URL under “URL Prefix” if you only want to inspect URLs under the entered address, rather than your entire domain. Like Google fetch and render, the URL Inspection tool will analyze the URL based on Google’s last bot crawl.
  3. Crawl. Google will crawl the provided URL and either tell you that your URL is on Google and is visible in search results or that your URL is not on Google. If your site is not indexed, you will receive a reason why, along with recommended solutions. Following these tips can help you fix common issues that may be making your web page uncrawlable.
  4. Inspect. When you run Fetch and Render/URL Inspection Tool, you will see an inspection report showing you how it renders to Google. If the Googlebot rendered page appears as blank or erroneous, you likely have issues within your page’s coding that prevent Googlebot from reading it fully. You then have an opportunity to address any crawl errors on the Search Console homescreen.
  5. Repair. Select “Crawl Errors” to see the errors returned from previous crawls of your site. As mentioned, there are multiple types of errors of varying severities that may be affecting how Googlebot views your site. Note that if your page does not conform to Google’s quality and security guidelines, your page might not be visible even if you receive the “URL is on Google” memo. The tool does not see content removals or temporarily blocked URLs.

The URL Inspection Tool has other features as well, such as inspecting an indexed (not live) URL, viewing a rendered version of the page, and accessing loaded resources lists. Once you’ve diagnosed your errors, you can fix them to ensure that Googlebot is able to access your site. If you need assistance with this, your SEO provider can help you continue to optimize and ensure proper interaction between your site and Google. Then, Google will have all the information it needs to index and rank your site so you can get back to business.

The post Google’s URL Inspection Tool: Replacement for Fetch and Render (How to Guide) appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Persona development is useful in nearly every phase of product development and sales, but takes on key importance during marketing. What is persona development? How can it help you reach more customers? Most importantly, how can you do it?

What Are Personas?

A persona is a fictional person developed to act as a representation of your business’s ideal customer. Gleaned from the information you gather about the users you’re reaching, as well as the users you want to reach, personas take the form of a composite of the features you want to target with your marketing efforts. Persona development provides friendly examples of the ideal customer to promote discussion, collaboration and insight in multiple ways throughout the stages of business.

During the development stage, designers use personas to identify common user needs to drive product design that addresses them. Later, marketers use marketing personas to target their decision making and provide content the ideal audience will find useful. Useful content geared toward the ideal customer greatly increases the prospects of that customer taking notice of your brand.

Where to Begin

Marketers describe these personas as composites, thumbnail sketches, and user profiles – all good ways to represent the value of the persona to a marketing team. However, how do you begin creating them? Your first step should be determining what information you need to fill out a persona profile.

Many services offer templates for persona development, but building your own is fairly simple and can help you gain deeper insight into the areas you’d like to target. A basic template for a marketing persona should include:

  • Name. The persona should feel like a real person, representing the needs and wants of a very real subset of your target market.
  • Occupation. Include information about the company’s size as well as the persona’s role and salary.
  • Demographics. The more details, the better. The deeper you get into your persona’s character, the more you can identify with and anticipate the needs of the population it represents.
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Location
    • Education level
    • Family information
  • Goals. What are your persona’s goals in business? While spending time online? When approaching your website? Imagining your persona’s goals can help you dig into addressing how your company can help them meet those goals.
  • Challenges. What problems does your persona have? How could your product, service, or website help meet those challenges?
  • Values. What traits of a business interaction does your persona value?
  • Turnoffs. What aspects of the sales process tend to push your persona away? How could you avoid those aspects?
  • Ideal marketing message. Based on all the above information, you’ll develop a short marketing blurb geared toward meeting your persona’s needs.

In addition to the essentials, consider other traits that may be useful to your industry that you may want to include across persona templates. Perhaps hobbies offer insight into a customer’s valuation of your product. Maybe political leanings affect the degree to which a customer would use your services. Include any additional details that may help provide insight.

After you’ve identified the information you need to fill out your persona template, you’ll need to decide how many personas to build. Insiders suggest anywhere from three to seven different personas. No matter which number you begin with, make sure you build personas for your most-reached group, your most-converted group, your ideal customer you’re not quite reaching, and any smaller segments of the population you feel you could reach more effectively.

Gather Your Information

You have free rein to make up your persona’s name. However, where do you gather all the other information to fill out your persona’s profile? The answer lies in multiple sources across your business’s network of resources.

  • Analytics. Your website analytics can provide a wealth of information regarding your customers. Demographic analytics can reveal the age groups, sex, income level, and more of both the users you’re converting successfully as well as those you desire to extend your reach. Google Analytics contains a great deal of demographic information in the “Audience” section.
  • Surveys and interviews. Surveys can reveal broad trends across your users to quickly glean information regarding user problems, values, and turnoffs. Many businesses choose to use brief surveys from services like Survey Monkey to gather data tricky to obtain through analytics. However, interviews that delve even more deeply into these issues can drive you to form personas that truly represent the goals of a segment of your user base. Performing interviews on multiple levels, including sales, customer service, and with the customers themselves, increases the breadth of your insights.
  • Social media. Aside from the analytics you can perform on your social media interactions, you can actively engage with your audience to determine their problems, goals, values, and turnoffs. Or, pay careful attention to interactions on your social media pages to gather information regarding these same aspects from the information your customers volunteer.
  • Use your team. As mentioned earlier, personas play a role in multiple stages of product development and sales. Gather team members from all stages, including customer service, sales, and development, and brainstorm about what makes your users unique.

Fill Out Your Persona’s Profile

Using trends you’ve noticed from your research into your audience, fill out your persona’s profile with information that fits the user type you’re targeting. Consider the common struggles, hopes, goals, and values specific to a middle-aged mother, a young businessman, or a senior using Medicare; your persona’s goals should make sense regarding the demographics you’ve chosen.

Again, use your team’s diversity when considering the details of each persona. Insight at various levels of the customer experience as well as insights gleaned from your team’s own experiences, can help you build realistic personas and engage your team in developing processes that address their needs. If team members at multiple levels feel invested in your marketing personas, it is a short step toward investment in engaging the personas at a later date.

Use Your Personas

Once you’ve developed your marketing personas, act on them. Provide content via social media and on your website designed to engage your personas and address key goals. Empathize with your customers as they proceed through the sales funnel and address common frustrations or optimize user values to increase conversions. Personas represent real people you are attempting to reach – use them to guide your decision making moving forward.

The post Persona Development: How to Create Your Customer Personas appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Most business owners know the value of search engine optimization, or SEO. However, franchise SEO has additional considerations small business SEO does not, such as determining how to organize franchisee web pages and ensuring your SEO efforts point directly to the page you are trying to target. Read on for an SEO how to guide just for franchises.

1. Realize the Value of SEO

SEO, or the process of optimizing your franchise’s visibility for users searching organically on a search engine, helps users find your website. More specifically, SEO looks toward increasing positive traffic to your site by making sure your site has properties Google wants. If your site ranks higher than those in similar markets, it stands to reason more users will click through to your page or visit your franchise.

You could choose to focus on traditional, outbound lead techniques such as mailers and other print or audio ads. However, these techniques boast only a 1.7% conversion rate as compared to SEO’s 14.6%. In addition, SEO efforts cost an average of 61% less than traditional campaigns. With figures like these, it’s easy to see why SEO is important for businesses.

Franchises experience unique challenges when it comes to SEO, mostly due to the presence of multiple locations. For each location, the goal is to be first on the list when a local user searches for the service or product your business offers. Not only that, but you also must make sure each of your franchise pages includes the essential information local clients need when they do locate your franchise’s site, without duplicating other franchise content.

2. Understand the Components of SEO

Before you can fit SEO to your franchise and differentiate your content, it is important to understand the key components of SEO:

  • Keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases users enter when searching for content or products online. If you can include commonly used keywords for your niche on your franchise pages, user searches for those keywords will lead them directly to your page.
  • Page load speed. Recently, Google began to rank pages for speed based primarily on the load speed of their mobile content. A too-slow web page can drop your rankings, causing users to miss your page. Additionally, users experiencing slow web pages will naturally bounce off your page in search of something more efficient.
  • Frequent, high-quality content. Publishing content frequently is a way to ensure your franchise’s pages do not appear static or abandoned. However, you must also ensure the content is high-quality; it must exist to help users, provide information users can trust, and be fresh, well-written content.
  • On-page SEO. Google and other search engines use algorithms, crawlers, and human analysts to constantly monitor your page’s information in places like headers, meta descriptions, as well as your quality, relevancy, and trustworthiness.
  • Off-page SEO. You need a good understanding of the other places that link to, review, and provide other mentions of your franchise.

3. Perform an SEO Quality Audit

An SEO quality audit will pinpoint shortcomings in any of the above areas. Tools exist online for business and franchise owners to perform their own audits. However, many prefer to begin a franchise SEO quality audit with a professional service.

4. Address Deficiencies and Make Improvements

Now you must address the deficiencies highlighted by the audit. Franchises, in particular, often fall victim to a certain few SEO pitfalls:

  • Duplicate content. It is important to develop unique local franchisee pages even if you use a template to promote consistency across all your franchise’s pages. If too much content is the same, Google will penalize all pages holding the same content. Instituting a blog with unique content for all your franchisee pages, or consolidating franchise information onto a single page you can link from the franchisee page are two solutions to duplicate content.
  • Excessive linking. When a web of franchise locations link to each other, the main franchise website, and so on, search engines can interpret the practice as suspicious and indicative of unethical link exchanges. Removing simple links and replacing with a plugin to provide a tool to find the proper franchise locations resolves this issue.

5. Do Keyword Research

Keywords should reflect what someone in your target audience would search for if they want to use your services or product. First, consider your audience demographics such as age, sex, education level, and income level. Then, make a list of action queries like “buy cheap [product] near me” as well as a list of learning queries like “best rated [product] 2018.” Plug your queries into the Google Keyword Planner to get ideas for more, and then into Google Trends to see if more or fewer people are searching for them. Many franchises use a franchise SEO service to determine highly effective keywords.

6. Build Content

Once you’ve determined your audience and keywords, you can begin building high-quality content using the keywords to get your franchise’s website to rank in a search for those keywords. Content marketing often includes on-site content such as FAQs, product features, and more. Or, consider adding a blog to address topics your audience will find useful, and include your targeted keywords to continue to add value to your web page.

A blog can cover a wider variety of topics in an effort to help your users, and can earn high-quality links back to your site. However, it is essential to remember that your content must be useful and high quality, or users will assume your product is as low-quality as your content. In addition, each franchisee website must feature its own unique content or you risk duplicate content flags.

7. Develop a Social Media Presence

Links to your franchise’s website from a well-established, active social media page can help increase your rankings as well as drive traffic and conversions to your site. In addition, social media gives you the content to directly engage with your potential customers as well as provide accurate location information about each franchisee.

Overall, multi-location franchise SEO proceeds like most other SEO, with one major difference. Each location should use its own SEO tactics in conjunction with the franchise’s SEO. This will ensure optimal SEO for all franchisees while avoiding the most common pitfalls of franchise SEO.

The post Franchise SEO: A How To Guide appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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What Is a 301 Redirect?

In the simplest terms, a 301 redirect is code that tells the search engine you are using that the page you’re trying to reach has been permanently moved. It also signals that you want the search engine crawler to index the new page you’ve put in place, while taking the obsolete page out of the index. This is done so that duplicate content doesn’t cause your pages to be seen in a negative light.

When executed correctly, the redirect will help you keep the rankings your page has earned, while preventing duplicate content that would be created by keeping the new and old pages indexed at the same time. This helps create the best, most accurate outcome in the eyes of Google (and other search engines) when they crawl your page.

A great metaphor by which to understand 301 redirect pages is to think about the process of moving houses or apartments. When you move, you forward your mail for a while, but eventually everything comes to your new address exclusively. That’s what a 301 redirect does for traffic on the web. It’s a system put in place to make sure all traffic and visitors are driven toward the right information, while giving search engines the info they need to understand your pages.

The number 301 is special because it belongs to an important set of numbers in browser operations, called HTTP status codes. These codes are issued by the server to the browser and are meant to help users and programmers solve errors and ensure that the server is communicating properly with the client.

When 301 Redirects Are Needed

There are several instances where adding a 301 redirect is the best solution. Here are a few examples:

  • You want to reorganize your site, including removing or editing the directory.
  • The root domain is changing.
  • Someone linked to your site incorrectly and visitors who follow this link are led to a 404 page, which you want to capitalize on.
  • You want a URL that is more attractive and recognizable, i.e., a “vanity URL.”

So how do you properly implement a 301 redirect? The implementation varies somewhat depending on what software you are using, but it’s still fairly simple across the board. Here are 2 ways to set up a 301 redirect:

Redirecting Using IIHS on a Windows Server

If you are using a Windows server, you will need to use an Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager to create your redirect. Here are a few easy steps:

  • Access your IIS in the Administrative Tools in the start menu.
  • Locate the panel that lists all of your active sites. Select the site.
  • When modules appear after selection, look for the URL Rewrite module.
  • If the URL Rewrite module is absent, you will have to stop and install it.
  • Open the URL Rewrite module. Select “Add Rules.”
  • Go to “Inbound Rules” and select “Blank Rules.”
  • Select “OK” to begin editing your Inbound Rules.
  • Name the new rule something to the effect of “redirect.”
  • In the Match URL Panel, set the URL in question as “Matches the Pattern.”
  • Continue with regular expressions. Specify what you are redirecting.
  • In the Redirect field, click “Permanent,” which will give you the 301 code.
  • Click “Apply” to save changes.
  • Save everything to a web.config file, so you can edit again later as needed.

Redirect Using .htaccess in Apache

Apache is a popular host server. If your site is built on the WordPress platform, it’s already using Apache behind the scenes. When you need to implement a 301 redirect in Apache, you will use .htaccess. Here are a few simple steps:

  • Allow override in the Apache configuration file.
  • Locate the .httaccess file, which is typically in the root web folder for the site.
  • Create the .httaccess file if it doesn’t already exist in the root folder.
  • Open up the FTP and login as you normally would to your site.
  • Work your way through until you are in the root web folder.
  • If you don’t see it, enable your FTP browser to view hidden files.
  • Edit, but opt for an HTML editor rather than Notepad (use anything UNIX).
  • Add a line to the .htaccessfile that tells it to 301 redirect.
  • Leave a blank line at the end of the file, or add an endline character.

For a 301 redirect for just one page, you will type:

“RedirectPermanent /old-file.html http//:www.domain.com/new-file.html”

For a 301 redirect of an entire domain you will type:

“RedirectPermanent / http://www.new-domain.com/”

Other Methods for Creating a 301 Redirect

If it’s not possible for you to access the .htaccess file or server admin panel, it’s still possible to create a 301 redirect. This process works in any programming language that allows response headers to be edited. If you’re working in PHP, Java, or any other language that allows you to change the response headers, adding makeshift 301 code is as simple as adding the appropriate code at the top of each page to enforce a permanent redirect.

301 Redirects are an excellent way to send web traffic to the pages you want end-users to see, rather than merely displaying a 404 page. Also, it’s a great trick to save you from losing page rank that you have earned. Though the process for implementing a redirect is a little different for each server or language, the idea is fairly straightforward. If you still have concerns about losing page range when you implement a 301 code, know that fluctuations may occur, but they will only be temporary. Ultimately, creating a redirect will drive the traffic to the places you want it, benefiting your site and brand.

If you have further questions about 301 redirects, or require marketing or SEO auditing services, contact us today. We are happy to serve you and your website.

The post How to Set Up a 301 Redirect – and Why You May Need One appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Today’s digital world requires that all businesses have an online presence. Without that online presence, you lose out on potential clients, advertisement opportunities, the ability to enhance your social media presence, and more. The digital phonebook that connects all of the online activities of businesses and consumers around the globe is the Domain Name System or DNS.

DNS (and domain names in general), provides opportunities for digital marketers to connect with potential clientele and increase cash flow. However, there are crucial best practices that should be followed when engaging in DNS-related marketing strategies.

What Is DNS?

DNS is essentially a directory that translates server domain names into IP addresses. Instead of manually typing in the numeric IP address for every website you want to visit, the DNS automatically converts the site name for you. DNS allows computers and networks to communicate with one another. In addition, DNS also provides services such as verification, authentication, and record configuration.

For example, say you want to visit the website of your favorite café to review their menu. You open your web browser, type the site’s URL, and hit enter. In between the time you press enter and the website loading, the DNS translates the URL name into a numeric IP address. It then directs your browser to that IP address – and the result is the web page you’re looking for. Instead of memorizing thousands of IP addresses just to use the web, DNS acts as a translator for users.

How Is DNS Used in Marketing?

Digital marketers use web-based activities to drive customer engagement, boost brand visibility, and increase cash flow within their company. These strategies include email campaigns, social media engagement, and traditional advertising techniques, as well as combinations of any of these approaches. Reverse DNS lookup can enhance all of these strategies.

You usually have access to analytics and other insights when engaging in web marketing campaigns. These sources often allow you to look up the geographic location and IP addresses of users who engage with your website and web content. By seeing what types of people view your content, you can update your marketing practices. In addition, you can see how your marketing emails are performing and how users engage with content on your website.

Examine Email Delivery

Worried about your marketing emails automatically going to recipients’ spam folders? Understanding how reverse DNS lookup works can help you prevent this from happening. Servers use reverse DNS lookup to determine if an email is spam. If these servers determine your email (and the IP address it comes from) is spam, it is sent to the recipients’ spam folder and you lose potential customers as well as wasted resources for the email campaign.

However, optimizing your DNS so that your emails don’t get flagged for spam requires specialized IT knowledge. Connect with your company’s IT administrator to determine if your emails are going to spam and to optimize your DNS.

Monitor User Activity

DNS tools allow you to see how visitors engage with your website when they visit. You’ll be able to see which sections users tend to frequent the most. In addition, you’ll be able to see if there is any content on your site that is not attracting user attention – for example, if users tend to click on a certain page without staying on your landing page.

Make sure you monitor user activity on your website using reverse DNS lookup tools. If you find that certain pages are ineffective in retaining web traffic, update these pages. If your landing page isn’t generating traffic or if users skip the landing page for another section, update this page to include sought-after information.

In addition, user activity can help you determine what aspects of your business potential customers are attracted to. Say that you run a DJ entertainment service that caters to multiple types of events. You perform a reverse DNS lookup and discover that most users interact with your page on Wedding Services more than your page for School Dances. Based on this data, you might want to put more emphasis on the wedding aspect of your business.

Check Your Rankings

Sometimes, several sites share the same IP address. This usually happens when you have multiple sites related to your business website, such as a forum site and a blog site in addition to a corporate page. While having multiple sites may seem like an innovative idea, this creates competition in search engine results and can penalize your site by giving you a lower ranking in search results.

A reverse DNS lookup can help you identify if another site or group of sites you run have the same IP address as your main site. If a reverse DNS lookup finds that you are sharing an IP address with multiple sites, consolidate your sites into a single domain and provide links to each one from your main page.

Maintain Your Database

If you’ve been in business for a few years, you probably have a long list of go-to contacts for sales outreach and customer engagement. You may have collected the names of thousands of customers to build a mailing list database.

However, email and IP addresses change quite frequently and this contact information can become outdated in as little as a year. Marketing databases become outdated by a rate of 22% per year due to outdated addresses and people unsubscribing from these emails. As a result, your database becomes ineffective in driving marketing campaigns.

Make sure to use reverse DNS lookup tools to generate new leads from customers who are engaging with your content. You can set up tools to automatically generate leads from site traffic and email clicks using DNS lookup technology.

Update Your DNS

Just like your customers’ IP addresses and DNS data is vital to your marketing campaign, your DNS data is important to your customers. If you move servers, get a new website address, or do anything else that affects your DNS, it’s important to update your information immediately. Vizion Interactive can help you update your DNS data when you change your IP address so that your customers always land on your newest content.

Want to learn more about the Domain Name System and other digital marketing strategies to boost your brand? Connect with Vizion Interactive and enlist the services of one of our marketing experts today. We provide expert digital marketing services to businesses looking to boost their brand in SEO, email marketing, analytics, and more.

The post 5 Best Practices for DNS That You Need to Know appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Our digital world places a huge emphasis on social media presence and brand personality. Users prefer companies that have a consistent online identity. In addition, more potential clients are turning to search results, reviews, and social media numbers to choose which restaurant to go to for lunch or which florist to hire for an upcoming wedding.

If your company doesn’t have a Twitter or Instagram account or a Facebook page, this signals to customers a lack of credibility and human presence. This lack of presence can limit web traffic and cash flow for businesses. As a result, social media is more important than ever before.

However, just like all things on the internet, social media marketing techniques are subject to changing trends. We’ve curated a list of the top Social Media Marketing (SMM) predictions that you need to know to stay ahead of the curve in 2019.

Live Streaming Capabilities

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have introduced live videos to their platforms in recent years. This feature allows users to broadcast videos live to their followers, increasing authenticity and user engagement.

Many businesses are using these live stream features to pursue a number of marketing strategies, such as:

  • Showcasing a new line of products before official release, increasing anticipation.
  • Giving a behind-the-scenes tour of the office or manufacturing process.
  • Performing a tutorial/review of a product, increasing visibility and providing advertising in a unique, informative manner.
  • Streaming a company event or launch, increasing community engagement and showcasing your business environment.

These live stream videos add a human component to a business’s online presence. You’ll be able to see your followers comment and react to you in real time. Often, social media platforms will send a notification to your followers when you go live, increasing your audience. Your followers will be able to view your live video even after you’ve cut the stream.

SMM trends predict that businesses will continue to “go live” in their marketing strategies. The rising prevalence of this technology can provide creative opportunities for brands to market their goods and services to their social networks.

Visual Marketing

Live streaming takes advantage of a growing preference among consumers: visual-first marketing over text-first marketing. Video content, in addition to live stream content, is a major segment that you will need to focus on to stay ahead of the curve in 2019. Creating video content is also a common strategy to increase and cement brand personality – a vital component of SMM.

YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all have video-sharing capabilities, each with unique features. Twitter allows you to create and post videos directly in a Tweet. Instagram also allows you to post videos directly on your feed, as well as on Instagram Stories and on its new video-sharing feature IGTV. Facebook’s Watch feature allows users to create video series to share with other users. Video advertisements and sponsored posts are featured prominently across all platforms, allowing users to visit and engage with your accounts directly and easily.

Despite video-sharing across other social networks, YouTube remains the top video-sharing platform on the web. YouTube links are embedded throughout the web and across multiple social media platforms. Curating a company YouTube channel or creating advertisements to play in front of high-traffic YouTube videos are common ways that businesses are using the platform for SMM purposes.

The Power of Stories

While traditional social media posts are still popular, the rise of Story features across platforms is becoming a vital tool for digital marketers. Social media users are looking for live and in-the-moment content more than ever before. The Stories feature, common on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, allows brands to engage with their audience in real time.

Take Instagram, for example. Over 200 million Instagram users use the Stories feature every month – and that doesn’t take into account how many users view these stories every day. That’s millions of potential customers, clicks, and followers. Brands often use stories to increase brand identity and customer engagement, using Stories features such as:

  • Polls to ask their followers questions about a new product, current events, and more.
  • Influencer takeovers by inviting a celebrity or social media star to run their Stories for a day, drawing in an untapped fanbase to drive sales and engagement.
  • Q&As to answer customer questions about a product, the company, and other related queries.

Users are becoming tired of pre-packaged content and standard posts. These stories increase the human factor of brands, incorporating more life into a company’s social media presence. This trend will likely be a major influence on digital marketing in 2019 and beyond.

User-Generated Content

Organic marketing and word of mouth have long been foundational sales practices. With social media platforms enabling idea-sharing and content generation among the public, this strategy has become easier than ever before. Through photos, videos, check-ins, Tweets, memes, and other user-generated digital content, companies can receive free marketing from trustworthy sources: real people.

For example, your company can search Twitter for any mention of your product or service and retweet positive reviews. On Instagram, encourage your followers to use a hashtag for a chance to be featured on your company’s feed or Story. These same strategies can work on Facebook as well. This user-generated content is an easy way to get customers involved in your company’s marketing strategy and increases your visibility on social networks.

The Rise of Influencers

Social media platforms have launched the career of musicians, models, comedians, and other content creators from around the internet. From YouTubers to Instagram models and other types of social media influencers, these people have a strong grasp on a growing marketing demographic: Generation Z.

Young people are driving sales and trends across multiple sectors. These same young people are also deeply involved in internet culture, following many influencers. These influencers are a simple way to connect with this demographic and increase your brand’s popularity among young people. 2019 SMM trends predict an increase in brands reaching out to these influencers for brand deals, sponsored posts, or account takeovers.

SMM will increase in the next year, and these techniques will likely be incorporated into many company’s operations. To learn more about leveraging social media for your marketing needs, contact Vizion Interactive today.

The post 5 Social Media Marketing Predictions to Watch in 2019 appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Digital marketing will continue to be a watchword for businesses in 2019 and beyond. Though trends evolve over time, one thing is certain: it’s essential for every business to have a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Seventy percent of B2B marketers say that their organization’s content marketing is more successful than a year ago.

To help you reach your own digital marketing goals next year, Vizion Interactive asked some of the industry’s top experts how to approach digital marketing in the New Year. Here’s what they had to say.

“My advice for businesses in 2019 is to “take it personal” and invest in avenues that allow for a more personal connection with their customers. Those avenues include identifying the influencers that have your audience’s ear and finding ways to engage with those influencers in an authentic way.”

Curtis Midkiff, Sr. Advisor, Social Business Strategy, Southwest Airlines

“Start with a concrete statement about the behavior you want and how you’re going to measure it. Otherwise, you’re just pivoting around the solution to an unknown problem. Too many marketers fall in love with making the most clever campaign, because that’s what we reward. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the behavior you change. Sometimes, boring changes behavior.”

  – Matt Wallaert, Chief Behavioral Officer, Microsoft

 “I think the biggest thing that sites and SEOs are missing are the opportunities for schema markup. So many sites don’t take advantage of marking up their sites. On-page SEO has come back, as well, and many don’t take advantage of the classic HTML type of markup, using Headings, Lists, Tables, and Images/graphics.”

  – Bill Hartzer, SEO Consultant

 “In 2019, renew your commitment to providing your audience with truly useful content that educates them and helps them become your ideal customer. Walk them through a process, teach them about an industry and provide them with resources that make their lives easier. Brands who do this – provide useful content for their audience – will be top of mind as a solution whenever those customers face a challenge!”

 – Melanie Deziel, Founder of StoryFuel and brand storytelling keynote speaker

 “I think it’s really important to understand that most of the time when we’re putting messages out there they don’t have those key components that people actually need. I refer to it as the minimum viable message. It’s like we put minimum viable products out there to test them and see how they work, but we tend to just put out these long form pieces of content, or these fully baked ad campaigns without actually making sure that they have these pieces that people must have in order for those messages to make sense.”

  – Tamsen Webster, Founder of The Red Thread

 “I would just encourage everyone to ask themselves: ‘How is our brand significant in the lives of our loyal users?’ because that is best answered through qualitative research. Big data tells us a whole lot about what our customers are doing but the secret of brands are why they’re doing it and why they’re loyal and that’s the secret to going beyond just being relevant to them to actually being irresistible and so I would just say start the new year by asking that question and see if you know, and if you don’t know the answer then you need to go find out.”

  – Cynthia Round, Brand Strategist, Metropolitan Museum of Art 

 “Businesses should really rely on newsletters and eBlasts more than focusing so much on social media because that’s always kind of out of our control. We experienced at National Geographic, Facebook was a partner for us, the algorithm changing constantly and newsletters are something you can control and that to me is where you have a very loyal audience. I think Facebook’s great for the back-and-forth conversation but I think in 2019 people really need to spend more time thinking about newsletters, doing a/b testing, and investing more in there as opposed to just social media.”

 – Andrea Leitch, Chief Marketing Officer, Oklahoma Aquarium

 “I think company culture core values and that intersection of core values and marketing is an important place to focus. We’ve spent so much time on social media and digital marketing focused on purely marketing, but a lot of times we haven’t done a good job at looking at it internally for better internal communications, better relationships between employees and better communications of that core value message being told externally. Marketers are getting more involved in this as well but the unemployment rate right now is so low that when you’re competing for the best and brightest talent, your company’s marketing story, your company’s culture and core values are really part of that as well when you’re competing for high-value potential employees against other employers. You really have to incorporate all of these areas of your company and the values and the mission and the culture as well.”

 –Eve Mayer and Levi Sauerbrei, Consultants/Speakers

 “Moving into 2019, everything’s going towards mobile so even the content that we’re not producing new, but the content that we’re trying to kind of give a facelift to, the content we’ve already published, we really need to think about the mobile user and design the content that we’ve already created for desktop users to facilitate the mobile user and what that means is really creating content that gives an immediate answer. It makes it very quick and easy to digest as well as something that they can digest on their mobile devices, which is video. Everything’s moving to video and taking what used to be text and now making it video.”

  – Ashley Ward, Evangelist, SEM Rush

 “I would advise businesses to go back to the basic. Just focus on what the user really wants and really needs and if you really understand your user then you know you’re crafting the right kind of product or experience or service for him. So just keep in mind that the user is first and in general, try to do the right thing. It’s one of our leadership principles, so it’s funny when you do the right thing either for moral reasons or for ethical reasons, you an also end up helping your business.”

  – Lily Bather, Interaction Designer, 7-Eleven

“It’s all about ROI. Make sure that you have real (good) measurements for success for everything that you’re investing in, be it SEO, PPC, Email, etc. When you see that something is overachieving, think about how you can invest more in those channels. Likewise, if something is underperforming, consider what you might do to move money from the “losing” bucket into the “winning” bucket.”

 – Mark Jackson, President and CEO, Vizion Interactive

“Trust will be a big factor in marketing in 2019. With GDPR, high profile data breaches, social platforms being criticized over so many transgressions and perceived as having “creepy” algorithms in 2018, companies need to make sure they are baking in ways to instill trust with their target consumers. This might mean reviewing internal processes to ensure data is being used correctly and as transparently as possible, but also making sure consumers are being educated on how to ensure their personal information is being safeguarded and not used in nefarious ways. To build trust, we’ll also see an increase in companies using people as mark of their marketing campaigns in the form of the personal brands of employees within the company, and well-chosen influencers who they partner with to carry the brand message. People trust people way more than they trust a logo, so having people-power as part of your marketing mix will pay dividends as your target audience identifies with the human faces of your brand and keeping wanting to come back for more.”

 – Mel Carson, Founder ~ CEO ~ Principal Strategist, Delightful Communications

Takeaways:

Digital marketing, for 2019, is less about connecting with the latest trend and more about understanding your target customer – and crafting content that engages them with your brand:

  • Influencer marketing will continue to be a cost-efficient option for businesses in 2019. This allows target customers to relate to a brand and lends an air of authenticity. A survey by Collective Bias found that 70% of Millennials admit peer recommendations swayed them.
  • Going back to basics means knowing your targets. For some businesses, conducting a full target market analysis in the New Year could prove beneficial.
  • A mobile-first approach will continue to be a valuable use of marketing dollars, especially when you consider that the average consumer spends five hours a day on their smartphone.
  • Authenticity and ethical marketing will be dominant trends in the coming years. Not only do consumers tend to stop buying from companies they find unethical, a collective public interest in ethical behavior will trickle down into business marketing.
  • Measurement of your marketing goals is essential. Without a concrete plan for evaluation, you could be wasting money that could be better spent elsewhere.

2019 will be the year of ethical, authentic marketing experiences that drive value to your target customer. If you pursue digital marketing manner, conversions and sales should follow naturally. Are you ready to make it your best year yet?

Contact Vizion Interactive for a FREE SEO or PPC consultation today and we’ll also gift you a Starbucks gift card!

The post 12 Experts Weigh in on Digital Marketing Success in 2019 appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Social media is an almost unavoidable part of modern life, and the number of active social media users increases every day. Social media dates back to the 1990s with the dawn of the internet and sites like Myspace and LiveJournal, but today the social media landscape’s major players include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. Social media has changed dramatically in the past decade, and a bit of a retrospective may help show us what’s coming in the future.

Social Media Expanded to Businesses

When social media sites first started gaining traction, they primarily focused on private users who wanted to make new friends or connect with real-world friends online. Sites like Myspace became hubs for teens and young adults to share their thoughts with one another while LiveJournal took off as the top choice for private blogs and online journals. Slowly but surely the value of social media marketing began to appeal to more than just private individuals.

Internet users from the 1990s will probably remember the proliferation of music pages on Myspace. Users could host a “theme song” that played whenever someone visited a page, and it would link back to the artist’s homepage. This became a fantastic way for fledgling bands to cultivate their fan bases and garner the attention of record labels and producers.

Video games were another major driving force behind social media. Imageboard sites and game forums became gathering spaces for video game players all over the world, and game developers noticed this and started realizing the potential of engaging with their customers directly. Today, the video game market has ballooned to a nearly $100 billion market value and online engagement continues to be a major player in the video game industry.

Marketing professionals quickly took note at how fast word can travel through the early social media sites. When Facebook first launched as a college students-only site where new college students could stay connected with their friends from high school and forge new relationships with their new college classmates, the exclusivity became a major draw; people inherently want what they can’t have. Facebook eventually allowed high school students to make profiles so they could more easily keep in touch with their friends from older classes and then eventually opened membership to everyone, including businesses.

Now, a business without a Facebook page may as well not be in business at all in many respects. Facebook still dominates most of the social media market, especially when it comes to business presence. Social media has empowered brands with the ability to talk directly to their consumer bases instead of hoping to gain their trust and business with legacy marketing methods and advertisements.

Driving Revenue and Enhancing Customer Experiences

Social media is a powerful marketing tool because modern consumers don’t like ads. They automatically ignore them or tune them out, and social media allows marketers to engage with their consumers on a different, more relevant, and more relatable level.

People are generally more likely to trust a brand after receiving a personal recommendation from a friend or relative, and research shows that online reviews have a similar effect. When a company creates a social media following and people outside that following start seeing positive experiences and valuable interactions stemming from that following, this creates interest and discussion around the brand and attracts new followers and ultimately, new customers.

Social media has not only grown to the point where marketers can reach their ideal customers directly, but it also empowers them with the ability to create more meaningful experiences for those customers. Social media today allows customers to voice their concerns, offer criticisms and suggestions, and receive timely feedback on customer service issues.

Making Brands More “Human”

Modern consumers value authenticity more than previous generations, and most consumers prefer to spend their money on brands that appear more relatable and human than traditional marketing outlets allowed. Instead of monolithic, faceless corporate entities, consumers today can have meaningful conversations with actual people. This naturally boosts consumer confidence and creates more valuable interactions.

Social media has also provided marketing professionals with a powerful outlet for storytelling. The concept of stories is unique to the human experience and brands capitalize on this by telling their own stories and relaying their values in relatable ways. Ultimately, social media has evolved over the past ten years to the point where engaging with companies can almost feel like engaging with other people.

Creating Conversations Instead of Ads

The ability to talk to consumers directly is profoundly valuable, and having a good interaction with a customer on social media will provide a better return on investment than the most polished, professional, focus-group-tested advertisement ever could.

Social media naturally encourage dialogue, and new features and content curation tools allow users to tailor their social media experiences to their exact preferences. Again, modern consumers instinctively tune out obvious ads. More often than not, an online shopper knows exactly what he or she wants before even starting the shopping process.

The Rise of Video Content and Live Streaming

Video content has grown more prevalent and important over the past decade. YouTube effectively allowed the rise of alternative media, and now more people than ever are eschewing traditional TV programming to watch their favorite streaming services and content creators on YouTube and other social media platforms. Live streaming has also taken off in a big way, empowering brands, influencers, and content creators to provide their audiences with a view of them real in the moment instead of scripted, impersonal videos.

Making the Most of Social Media in the Future

Social media has changed and will continue to change society. The last decade has seen some incredible breakthroughs and changes that work to the benefit of marketing professionals and consumers alike. Social media has broken down many of the communication barriers between different consumer groups as well as between individuals. The social media marketers who capitalize on the human side of social media are sure to be successful in the future. Small businesses now have access to much more of a marketing reach than they had in the days before social media, and most platforms are further refining the tools available to marketers and developers.

Ultimately, social media today is not exactly what it was ten years ago, nor will it be ten years from now. Social media marketers need to pay close attention to changing trends and attitudes and learn which facets of social media work best for their niches to succeed in the long run.

The post How Social Media Has Changed in Ten Years appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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