Marketing to couples has transformed immensely over the past decade. While most couples still have the same mentality about weddings, the way we reach them is drastically different. It is undeniable that the introduction of the Internet has changed nearly every business and how it reaches customers.
This is particularly so for the wedding industry, where effective marketing has always depended upon beautiful images and inviting content, as well as excellent referrals. Success in the industry today means connecting these enduring marketing components with the best online marketing practices.
The tactics and strategies for effective online marketing, however, also continue to change. Even what worked five years ago is likely to be outdated today. That’s why it’s essential to stay on top of the latest online marketing practices. This will ensure that your business is being noticed by as many couples as possible.
So what should you NOT be doing? It can be overwhelming. To help you, here are the 15 most common online marketing mistakes, and how to fix, or avoid them altogether.
One: Not Taking Advantage of Local Visibility
Solution: Creating and/or Claiming Google, Bing, and Yelp Listings
Most wedding business owners don’t realize that when it comes to online searches, Google uses an entirely different algorithm to rank results that appear in the Google+ Local/Maps results. They also don’t realize that Google aggregates data from other main directory providers to determine what information to show for local results.
For local visibility, it essential for wedding businesses to incorporate these search algorithms and aggregation methods into the crafting of their online marketing practices. A wedding business can manage this by creating and claiming/optimizing local listings on the most important directory sites.
Two: Using Too Many Variations of Business Contact Information, aka NAP
Solution: Create a Consistent NAP and Make it Easy to Copy and Paste
In the online search world, NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone Number.” Another way that Google determines how to rank local businesses for online searches is to look at how consistent the Internet information is related to your business name, address, and phone number. Using varying formats of your official business name, listing your address differently in various directories (ie: using N. vs. North, Suite vs. Ste, Street vs. St., etc), and showing inconsistent phone numbers in relation to your business name, can be detrimental to your local rankings and therefore, your overall online marketing endeavor.
The best practice is to pick a NAP format and stick to it wherever you place information about your business. Your NAP should be exactly the same, or as close as possible, when listing it on websites, on new directory profiles, and on any other online location where the three pieces of data are found together. Save it as a template on your desktop so you can easily copy and paste it whenever needed.
Three: Not Seeking Reviews from Happy Couples
Solution: Reach-out and Make it Easy For Happy Couples to Give You Reviews
Having reviews connected to your business’s location-based search results is important not only for better ranking, but also for creating more credibility for your wedding brand and business. Given how important these reviews are, it’s surprising how many wedding business owners simply do not put any effort into seeking out reviews from their happy couples.
This can also be an extremely important element for reputation management, given the fact that unhappy customers are much more likely to leave negative reviews on their own, than happy customers are to leave positive reviews when not prompted. What people say about your business is huge part of your online marketing success, or failure.
So, be proactive and get the reviews you need to be successful. More often than not, happy couples are willing to leave reviews of their experience with your wedding business when asked. The key is to reach out to current or past customers in the right way and give them the easiest instructions for doing so. This could be as simple as mentioning it to customers at the store upon payment and giving them a small handout with the profile links, or sending them an email or handwritten thank-you letter to do the same. For more tips about simple tactics to help increase the number of reviews for your business, click here.
Four: Ignoring the Importance of Website Format to Your Online Marketing
Solution: Format Your Website By Combining Appeal With Usability
While some websites may have great visual elements for the visitor, they might not be visible to search engines at all. Websites created entirely with Flash or image-based elements essentially have invisible content to search engines. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your website is built in the proper format that allows search engines to effectively read through your site and rank it properly for wedding-based search terms.
Website format is also important for visitor usability. Getting searchers to click on your website is one element of online marketing, but the next element is getting those visitors to stay on your site and follow calls-to-action for conversions.
Websites should have a modern appeal and have easy-to-use navigation. Content should not only be relevant and include local terms where necessary, but should also be presented in a format that is easy-to-read when glancing over the page. Wedding business websites should also include strong, relevant, captivating imagery. This will not only gain the attention of couples, but leave an impression of your brand, and the products and services you offer.
Do not forget that it’s also crucial for your website to be mobile-friendly for visitors who click to your site on handheld devices. As more and more couples search for wedding resources on-the-go, you need to be sure that they can easily navigate your site even on a small screen. For more tips and advice about mobile sites, click here.
Five: Having Under- or Over- Optimized Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Solution: Make Your Title Tags Specific and Meta Descriptions Accurate
When it comes to online marketing, the elements of your website that search engines crawl, and what is also displayed to Internet users, are crucial. These elements are known as title tags and meta descriptions, and are used to tell search engines and visitors what the site is all about. When done right, they play a big role in helping your site get noticed by search engines and the actual searchers themselves. For this reason, each page should have its own unique title tag and meta description.
If you are not familiar with title tags already, you can picture it as the larger, bold face text that appears above each link in the search engine results. This text also appears at the top of the browser tab, in addition to the HTML coding of the side (where the search engines view it). Major search engines factor in title tags highly when determining how to rank a site.
Title tags should be less than 70 characters and should describe that specific page using a readable format that also includes search terms and geographic areas when applicable. Check out a new title tag preview tool that can help you ensure that your tags meet the new 2014 revisions for Google search results.
Meta descriptions are the snippet of text that show beneath each link that appears in search engine results. Although this text isn’t used by search engines to determine rankings, it is very important to provide accurate descriptions of the page. This is so searchers will be more likely to click on the link above. Meta descriptions should be less than 150 characters. They should also include a unique description of the page, along with a call-to-action for the searcher.
When title tags and meta descriptions are under-optimized (by not using relative search terms and geographic areas, accurate descriptions, or not enough text in general) or over-optimized (using too many characters, too many keywords, etc), it can take an unnecessary toll on the site’s rankings and click-through rates.
Six: Using Only Generic Website Content
Solution: Use Your Website Content To Promote Your Niche
Just like website format plays a role in getting online search visitors to stay on the site, website content is also vital to effectively promoting the products and services you offer.
One of the biggest mistakes wedding business websites make is not having enough of the right text on their website. The right content will effectively tell potential customers who they are, what they offer, and why they stand out from the competition. Other websites often copy content directly from similar websites that might not be direct competitors. Both instances can be harmful to helping your website get noticed in the search results.
A general rule of thumb is to place at approximately 300 words of content on the home-page of your site, as well as any sub-pages that you would like to rank for their specific products, services, or locations. This content should include relevant terms to weddings and your specific niche in the industry. Additionally, including a few geographic terms and descriptions in the content will help both search engines and visitors get a better idea of where you are located.
For more information about best practices for on-site content optimization for online marketing, click here.
Seven: Using Too Many Keywords On-Site
Solution: Have Content That Keeps the Reader In Mind
Just as having website content that isn’t optimized well enough, having content that is over-optimized can be just as harmful to your online visibility. In the past 2-3 years, Google specifically has cracked down on websites who use “keyword stuffing” as an online marketing tactic for their website content. While this tactic may have been effective 10 years ago to boost rankings, today it essentially has the opposite effect. For more information about keyword stuffing, click here.
The ultimate rule when it comes to site content is to create content with the reader in mind, not just the search engines. As such, relevant search terms and geographic descriptions should only be used in a natural, readable format. In fact, the ideal optimized content should not be noticeably optimized at all.
Eight: Leaving Website Content Stagnant
Solution: Create and Maintain an Onsite Blog
Search engines (especially Google) love new, “fresh” content. If your site has not been updated, or new content has not been added in several months or even a couple of years, chances are you are missing out on a lot of potential online marketing opportunities. Because it’s not always easy or feasible to update content on the main navigation website pages, having an on-site blog that is regularly updated is the best solution to keeping content fresh.
Blogs should be hosted on the site’s domain, not an external domain like Blogspot.com or WordPress.com. Writing content regularly for the blog (once per month at minimum) that covers relevant wedding and bridal topics are a great way to not only keep content signals fresh for your site, but also to create new pages and opportunities for your site to rank for more descriptive search terms.
Nine: Not Considering Online Competitors
Solution: Analyze the Results of Google Searches for Terms Related to Your Business
Making sure your website is optimized as it should be on-site is the first step to improving online visibility, but it does not stop there. Websites that do not analyze their online competitors will certainly fall behind and lose impressions to those sites that are keeping up with the leaders.
Analyzing online competitors in your particular wedding industry niche can be as simple as doing a few Google searches for terms that your own business ranks for. Look at other sites that are ranking higher on the same page. First analyze the content of their title tags and meta descriptions to discover any new keywords or search terms that you are not already targeting. Next, look at the quality of their website content and design, as well as the state of their Google Places profile (if one is available) and their social media social media following.
A quick analysis of online competitors in your wedding industry niche can be an easy and inexpensive tactic to discover how you can improve your online marketing efforts.
Ten: Ignoring the Value of Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Solution: Connect Your Online Marketing Practice with Visibility Insight Tools
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are both free web-based tools that are available to any website owner. Unfortunately, many wedding businesses do not take advantage of the insight that Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools can provide for improving their online visibility and site usage. These tools should be an essential element of your online marketing practices.
Google Analytics will provide insight that shows what type of visitors are coming to the site and how they are utilizing the site as a whole as well as the individual sub-pages. Webmaster Tools shows specific terms that visitors are using to find the site and also will alert website owners of any structural issues that might prevent the site from reaching its best potential rankings.
Eleven: Using AdWords Without Direction
Solution: Seek Support from Free AdWord Resources to Get the Most of Money Spent
Google AdWords and AdWords Express can be a great way to create a supplemental traffic flow to your site in addition to visitors from organic and local search. Some wedding businesses, however, make the mistake of putting money towards AdWords campaigns blindly. They operate without first seeking out some guidance or direction that will help them get the most bang for their buck. While thinking they are stretching their online marketing efforts further, businesses may instead be very easily hemorrhaging marketing dollars without getting many conversions or leads in return.
If you do not have the budget to hire an AdWords specialist or agency, you have other options. You can self-manage your online wedding advertising campaigns by taking advantage of the free educational guides that Google has published to help get your campaign started. From there, utilize AdWords customer support. AdWords has team members ready to help you improve your campaigns to make sure your advertising dollars are getting put to good use.
Twelve: Not Seeking Out Opportunities for Backlinks and Brand Exposure
Solution: Create Shareable Content, and Also Seek Out Ways to Share
Even if you have a perfectly optimized and designed website that uses all the right terms, your site will not get much attention if people are not linking to it. Seeking out opportunities for backlinks and brand exposure is important not just to help your rankings. It also drives referral traffic to your site with potential customers.
Link-building is perhaps one of the hardest elements of enhancing online visibility. At little as four years ago, effective link-building campaigns were made up of tactics like creating keyword-stuffed articles and social bookmarks.
Today, things are drastically different. Google only likes to consider backlinks to your site as credible when they come from a relevant and authoritative source. The backlinks should also provide some value for searchers through relevant content or data.
So how can you build links and increase brand exposure for your wedding business? The options are nearly endless, but a good place to start is by creating valuable, sharable content on your blog and social media that people will naturally want to share and link to.
Work with business associates in the wedding industry who may have their own blogs that they would like to feature you as a guest author on. Other business associates may have a “Preferred Vendors” page that you could easily be included on. Look for online marketing opportunities for your products or services to be featured in “real wedding” blog posts. Also, keep tabs on what your competitors might be doing to improve their brand exposure, and mimic their tactics when applicable.
Thirteen: Not Utilizing Video
Solution: Create Videos to Enage Customers and are Reachable by Search Engines
Optimized videos can be a great tactic to improve online visibility as well as keep visitors interested in what you have to offer. Posting informative and well-created videos on YouTube that are optimized for your local area and with relevant search terms in the description and tags can help it appear in search results for relevant queries. These videos also create great opportunities for sharable social media content that can increase followers and exposure on the respective channels.
For more information about properly optimizing YouTube videos for online marketing, click here.
Fourteen: Failing to Understand Why Social Media Matters in Online Marketing
Solution: Use Social Media to Attract New Customers, and Rank Higher in Searches
As a wedding business, if you are not already utilizing social media well, you are falling far behind your competitors. Social Media is a cornerstone of effective online marketing. Furthermore, in today’s climate, it’s not enough to have a Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram account that just simply exists. It needs to be updated and utilized in a way that helps your business stay in touch with past and current customers, as well as attract new customers and potential customers.
Social media shares and signals are becoming increasingly influential in organic and local rankings. This is because major search engines recognize that social shares, unlike links, are not necessarily easily fabricated. There are endless tools and resources available to help your wedding business become more established in the social media space. Get started now (if you have not already) before it’s too late!
Fifteen: Being Inconsistent Due to Frustration
Solution: Embrace the Fluidity of Online Marketing and Your Business Will Succeed
When it comes to successful online marketing, consistency is paramount. Businesses that look at SEO, local optimization, and social media as one-time events, typically end-up frustrated after a short period of time. They do not see the results they were expecting, and just give up entirely. The truth is that online marketing is an ongoing, ever-changing process.
Consistency is key for blogging, for outreach, for competitive analysis, for social media, and more. Plan from the start to be consistent, even during the times when it may seem like it’s not making a difference, and you will see much more success in the long run.
Photo Credit: The Outbound Engine Blog