Why “Free” Software Isn’t Really Free

We talk a lot about some of the flaws of WordPress that aren’t always immediately apparent. Today we will be exploring some of the factors that make WordPress seem like a great FREE option but actually come with a steep hidden cost.

Let’s start with that word, FREE. I am capitalizing it for emphasis. WordPress is about as free as it would be if you got a free Big Mac. While technically, yes it’s free, you are going to pay for it later in ways you didn’t think about.

We have put together the graphic below comparing some of the seemingly “Free” parts about WordPress to features of our Community Content Engine for Local Publishers. The same graphic also applies to our IMPACT Marketing Suite software for local businesses. From the infographic, you can see how costs really start adding up for that “Free” WordPress site.

cce-vs-wordpress

Installation: WordPress is a simple installation but it sill takes time to learn how to install it. You must have a dedicated server set up or understand how to set it up on a hosting site. This can be a bit challenging if you have no idea how to host a website. This doesn’t necessarily take more money, but it takes time if you need to learn. Our CCE is ready to go and you don’t need to install anything or host it. You can start creating and adding content right from the start.

Setup: Here is when we start getting into “free” territory that free isn’t really free. Let’s start with themes. There are some themes available that are free. But if you want a high-quality theme that doesn’t look just generic you are going to pay for it. These can cost anywhere from $59-$500 or more for a high-quality theme. If you don’t have a great understanding of how to work with themes you will also have trouble creating a good design. At this point it could cost hours of time to learn how to best use a theme and you may still be stuck having to hire a designer at anywhere from $500-$5000 to create the look that works for you. Free isn’t looking so great at this point.

Plugins: Plugins are an extremely powerful part of WordPress and they are one of the big factors that can let you do what you want to do. Many plugins are free but many of the most useful ones with specialized features come at a monthly or a yearly cost. To get the most out of the plugins on your site like great contact forms, events, and good social sharing tools, it will start somewhere around $100 a year and possibly much more for more advanced features.

Maintenance: WordPress and plugin developers make constant updates to their software and when that happens you can have issues with those plugins breaking or potentially also lose functionality of your entire site. This can cost you hours of frustration trying to figure out what needs to be upgraded and you may be dealing with an entire site that is broken. At that point, you can go the developer route that can once again run you from few hundred to potentially thousands to get your site running properly. Ouch, always make sure to keep those backups up to date.

Security: WordPress is one of the most popular website builders for setup process and free open source software. The problem with open source software though is that anyone has access to it. It has become a popular target of hackers and malicious code creators. While security might not be a top concern for you a problem could end up costing you hundreds to repair and possibly affect your entire database of contacts.

Support: You are on your own. You can spend hours online researching why your site is having problems and potential fixes. There is a wealth of information about WordPress online, but again it takes time to sift through what you will need. There is also a ton of outdated information that may not work with newer versions. This leaves you another option; you guessed it, hire an expert (see the trend that is going on?).

Final thoughts on WordPress: Yes, it is an extremely powerful platform but to have a well designed, high functioning website will cost you much more in the long run than you believe. Even if you are doing everything yourself you will likely end up spending at least a few hundred dollars for themes and the plugins you want, plus the countless hours learning the software. You also need to think about exactly how many hours you want to pour into learning and mastering some of the tasks that are necessary on WordPress. How much do you value your time and can you really afford to spend that is necessary to create a great website?

How the CCE and IMPACT will make your life easier: We have created a comparably powerful platform that allows you to get up and running quickly, have a beautiful site, and begin posting content right away. It is SEO and Mobile optimized and you don’t have to worry about ongoing updates. We are also here and have your back for any support issues you may have. This means you can use your website for what it is designed to do; tell your story, create prospects and help you make sales. Should you need any help, we have amazing resources and are available at any time. All of this starts at $25.00 a month for the IMPACT Marketing suite for local businesses and affordable options for local publishers. Speak with a community manager to learn more today.

5 Myths Most Print-Only Publishers Believe About Digital

There are a lot of things to consider when creating your online presence for your publication. However, we have worked with publishers in over 80 markets nationwide and we hear a few different excuses for not making the transition to digital far more often than others.

Myth 1: Digital Will Cannibalize my Print Product

We understand that you might be afraid that you will see a decline in print readers by improving your web presence. This is a common reaction. However, it just isn’t true. By using a Print-to-Web strategy, you will begin driving readers to your website and compliment your print product. As a result, your website becomes an extension of your brand.

Rather than cannibalizing your print product you will be increasing your reach and delivering more value to your readers. You should also see your website as a two-way street; you have the opportunity to use web traffic to grow print subscribers as well because you are able to gain trust from digital readers who you can then market your print product to.

There is also a huge difference in cost of digital versus your traditional print product. Digital has far less overhead and fixed costs. This means it has the potential to be much more profitable than your print product long term. We have mapped out a way to reach $100,000 in digital revenue by tweaking the way you currently sell ads and giving you a systematic approach centered on community sponsorships.

More and more people are going online to consume information. By postponing the conversion to digital you are risking becoming irrelevant in your market and creating a disconnect in your community. Locals want to know what is going on in their community and they want to have convenient access to that information. Your website should be the go-to site for that information. If they don’t find that information from you, they will find it elsewhere and you should be worried  about that as the biggest threat your print product.

Myth 2: We are Already Doing This With Another Company

Most companies are offering a fairly standard approach to digital. Simple banner and simple sidebar ads. These options are a start but simply not enough and lose sight of what digital is actually capable of. By approaching digital ads in a similar form as print ads, you are limiting your potential for revenue.

We suggest offering a wide array of options that can include: community sponsorships, social promotions, sponsored content, premium directory listings and more. You will be putting yourself in the best position to win over the long term. These are different ways to make both one-time as well as recurring revenue and there is an option for any advertisers budget.

Locable is also offering a novel approach. We are the only platform that offers the IMPACT marketing suite; a tool that publishers can use to generate revenue and create more value for potential advertisers. With IMPACT you are also able to create community content whenever a business or organization creates an event or signs up for the directory. All this contributes to your publication as a community resource. You should not be trying to replace your print revenue streams, but instead look to create as much diversity in your advertising options as possible.

Myth 3: My Market is Unique and My Readers are Print Only

It’s great that you have a loyal print following, but you can’t stop there. Even if you have a daily publication, you are missing out on the attention of your readers between issues. Look at your website as an extension of your print brand that is able to fill in for times that you don’t have a current issue out. You also have the opportunity to gain the attention of new readers online that you can’t get in print. You have the chance to engage the community in a two-way dialogue between issues that is simply not possible. We like to say that you need to reach your readers on multiple days, in multiple ways.

No matter what you believe, your readers and even more potential readers are spending time online and you need to reach them there. It’s difficult to find reliable sources of local news and events online. Local publications are in a unique position to fill this need. People get excited when they can connect with their local community in everyday life.

Local businesses are also trying to reach customers online and many have existing digital marketing budgets. These are advertising dollars that businesses will spend that you are missing out on by not offering a digital product.

Myth 4: Digital Didn’t Work for a Competitor

That’s great news for you! Seriously, think about it: If that competitor went out of business in print, would you think that print didn’t work? Of course not! You would think they couldn’t sell their print product. That is almost certainly why they were unable create a successful digital product. Digital is working all over the country, in order to be successful online you must have a proper strategy in place to sell digital. This is why we advocate for the community sponsorship method to get your digital business on sure footing before you launch(or re-launch)

Take the focus off things like traffic and page views and sell your publication as a community resource that will grow over time. If advertisers buy into the vision that you are creating something that brings value to your community, they will be much more likely to stick with you over time. This gives you enough revenue to profit from your digital product from day one. You will then have the freedom to grow your site organically and fulfill the vision.

If your competition had trouble creating a profitable digital product they were probably approaching it wrong. Their failure doesn’t diminish your chances of success; it actually means you can take advantage of the audience they missed out on. Learn from what your competitors did and take away insights, but don’t think that their results are the only possible outcome.

Myth 5: We’ve Got Burned By a Company That Claimed Instant Success

If a company is claiming instant success, you should stay away. Building an effective digital presence will take time. However, pre-selling community sponsors can help to cover the cost of digital upfront. While this won’t create a huge return overnight, it does help to ensure that your digital product won’t lose money. Eventually, your digital product has the potential to be far more profitable than print because of the lower cost of overhead.

A great digital presence takes commitment; you should not view it as something that will provide instant success. Publishers that make the decision to stay print-only are running the risk of becoming irrelevant, they are limiting their potential for income, and worst of all they are doing a disservice to their community by not being available to their readers in multiple places. So while a great digital presence may take some time, the long-term value will be worth it.

Digital is a Huge Opportunity for Local Publishers

By providing digital services to advertisers, you are doing them a favor by giving them a new way to reach customers online. Local advertisers don’t have many local options when it comes to online advertising. Much of the landscape is filled with complicated media that takes a significant time to learn and high competition. Advertisers are often out there on their own with no one to guide them through the process. This is where you can deliver huge value by educating them(yourself or through a digital partner like Locable) on how digital advertising will help them grow.

Advertisers know your traffic is highly localized and engaged with the community. This is a hugely important group of people for them to reach. In a BIA/Kelsey forecast small and medium sized businesses are going to spend over $12 billion dollars on digital advertising this year alone. Businesses do care about reaching an online audience and as a local publisher you are in a special position to deliver. Don’t get left out.

 

For more information on how we can help you break through these myths, apply for the Locable Publisher Network. We will check if your publication may be a good candidate to help build community online and get back to you with a full overview of the program. Let us know in the comments if you have any other reason for postponing the move to digital.

 

Using Community Sponsors & Sponsorships to Drive Revenue

Today we are exploring how community sponsorships drive revenue for your publication. Community Sponsorships are a pillar of our approach to reaching 100k in Digital Revenue. They are a simple concept to sell local businesses that focus on supporting your publication as a resource to create community online. This means you will be approaching digital with a revenue first mindset and cover your costs online as quickly as possible. Community sponsorships can include a number of revenue opportunities on your site, but by offering it as one package, they are simpler for your prospects to understand. We explore these concepts in the video below:

1:58 What is a Community Sponsor
6:05 Why Use Community Sponsors?
6:40 Why Fewer Options Make Choices Easier
8:15 How You Can Recognize Community Sponsors to Add Value
11:00 Upgraded Listings and How They Benefit Community Sponsors
11:38 How o Bring in Up to $5,000/month in Revenue
15:25 How to Sell Community Sponsorships
17:30 How to Close Community Sponsors
19:15 Our Revenue First Growth Process
20:10 How Community Sponsorships Helps Solution Selling
21:05 How to Use Seasonality to Grow Revenue
23:20 How to Use Systems to Improve Sales
25:10 How to Set Realistic Goals and Cover Costs
29:32 Final Thoughts and Summary-Deliver Value!

Thinking About Adding a Paywall? Think Again

Many newspapers are struggling to find a way to be profitable on the web. This has led many publishers to experiment with using a paywall to help grow digital revenue. We believe this is a critical mistake and will hurt circulation and readership long-term even if it creates a small short-term boost in revenue.

We advocate toward trying to find local advertising partners that will create long-term relationships along with increased revenue and then focus on growing your digital audience to best serve your advertisers.

Time spent reading newspapers has declined 25% over the past 4 years. Paywalls create another impediment for readers to reach newspaper content. This will cause an even steeper decline in readership.

Our print-to-web strategy not only grows your online following with your print product but using your online audience to grow in print as well.

Overall only low single-digit percentages of visitors choose to pay the monthly cost for a subscription. Newspapers need a purpose to convert readers into members and make content that is noteworthy for the community to make it a better place to live and work.

The Difference Between Print Readers and Online Readers

There are a few key differences between print readers and online readers. This is why you can’t treat print readers and digital readers the same. Print reader’s will typically spend time flipping through your physical publication.

Digital readers may visit your site because they see an interesting article, at that point they could possibly engage with that content by leaving comments or sharing/commenting on it on social media. If readers are very engaged by the content they will continue reading other interesting content they find on your site.

Your goal is to get readers to engage with as many pieces of content on your site as possible. Paywalls disrupt this process many ways. By limiting the amount of content a reader can see on your website, you are limiting how they use other resources like your business directory or events calendar. Overall that means you be providing less value overall which is exactly the opposite of what you want to accomplish.

Limiting Your Reach

One of the greatest downsides to using a paywall is that you will be limiting your reach. Your most loyal followers won’t have a reason to share your content. Even if they are a paid subscriber, they might not want to share an article for fear that it might get blocked by your paywall when their friends try to read it. This hurts chances of getting a lot of shares (and traffic) for your content.

Additionally, your advertisers want to reach as many potential customers as possible online and a paywall restricts how many people would see their ad. In this way creating a paywall, is doing a disservice to your advertisers as well.

Local publications need to be cornerstones of their community in order to thrive online. They need to have highly local stories that engage readers in the community. Unfortunately, publications that decide to use a paywall end up alienating their community. They are actively making it harder for interested members of the community to get local news and engage online.

Our Community Sponsor Method

We advocate the approach of trying to go after more advertisers rather than focusing on the extremely small percentage of users that convert after hitting the paywall. According to the Newspaper Association of America, the average is about 0.5% of unique users convert to paid subscribers after hitting a paywall.

The average advertiser could be anywhere from 10-20 times or more in revenue compared to the average subscriber. This means you wouldn’t need to get the huge traffic numbers that are necessary to convert enough subscribers to create a sustainable publication. We are also revolutionizing the way local publications think about advertising online and we have mapped out a clear path to $100,000 in revenue from diversifying your digital offerings to advertisers and approaching digital advertising from the mindset of attracting community sponsors first.

Additionally, by letting your entire community view everything you have to offer online, you will be able to give readers a sample of your content and work on different ways to convert digital readers to print subscribers. This is more effective than trying to create a pay wall because you are bolstering your print product.

Bringing it All Together

If you are currently using a paywall we hope this article has given you some food for thought about why it isn’t such a great idea. If you are considering putting up a paywall, we hope you will evaluate your choice further. According to the American Press Institute, most newspapers don’t even survey readers before adding a paywall. We think this a huge mistake and will ultimately impair the ability to build community and it will turn off readers. You will lose out on opportunities to help your advertisers in creative ways and the chance to try to convert digital readers into print subscribers. If you are a genuinely local publication when it comes to paywalls: just say no.

What are your feelings on paywalls? Let us know in the comments.

Directory Listings and Why Your Business Can’t Live on Yelp Alone

Directory listings are essential for any local business owner but can be tricky to manage. At first glance, it may seem like you want to be listed in as many places as possible to give your business the most chances to get noticed but in reality choosing the RIGHT places is much more important. Online directories are also where almost all your online reviews typically live so they serve an important role in managing your online reputation.

Listings on the “big” sites such as Google Places, Yelp, Bing and Yellow pages are important, but you can’t count on them as the only place to list your business online. You should definitely be listed on 1 or 2 industry specific listings, such as Healthprofs.com for health professionals, and you should strongly consider listing your business with your local publication as well.

In this post, we will explore some of the limitations of Yelp, since it’s the most commonly understood by small businesses, and how you can benefit from being listed in your community publication in addition. Let’s start with Yelp…

Limited Demographics

Yelp has a large audience and is very popular in many areas. However, it still has its limitations. According to Quantcast, about 50% of Yelp users are under the age of 34 and they have the highest affinity for Food & Drink. That means even though a lot of people may use Yelp they may not be looking for services in your industry.

You’re Not in Control

Yelp limits the level of control you have over your reviews. They have an algorithm that automatically filters some reviews and it believes that not all reviews are created equal. They frequently filter good reviews and discourage business owners from asking for reviews. While this makes sense for fairness, it makes it tough for business owners to build an online presence. If you are just starting out and you ask for reviews from your best customers, many will get filtered out.

On Yelp, potential customers may not even see a description of your business because customer reviews are shown first. Even a good review might not display the information about your business you would like to pass on to the customer. This means one bad review can really hurt business because it’s the first thing people see.

Bad Review
Bad review above business description…not good

Now that you understand some of Yelp’s limitations you can see why it shouldn’t be your all-encompassing web strategy. It’s a powerful tool for a local business and you should have a listing, but these limitations can cause problems. Like Facebook, Yelp also has the ability to change their algorithm at any time. You could be sitting at the top of search results one day, and then buried the next. To avoid this look at other directories that you have more control over.

 

The Power of Your Local Publisher

There are some huge benefits to featuring your business in the directory of your favorite local publication. Local publications are great because of three factors: content, context, and credibility. Let’s explore how your business can benefit.

Content

The most important reason to choose a local publisher is the publication’s content. It is high quality, localized content that is relevant to your community. This is huge as a business owner because you know the people reading it are great potential customers for your business. This results in attracting higher quality customers to your listing.

Context

A well designed local listing will allow the business to control the narrative. For example, on sites powered by Locable’s Community Content Engine, the first thing people will see is your business description written by you. This is something you can’t control on Yelp. Below your description, they will see any customer reviews you have as well as any related events that are in the calendar. By flipping the order, you create context and reviews are used as reinforcement rather than information.

IMPACT Directory listing
Local Publisher Directory, business description first

In addition if you are ever featured by the publication, they can link directly from the article to your business listing. That way when people read about your business, they will quickly find your listing and have the ability to go straight to your website. The will help raise your rank on Google.

Credibility

Local publications are one of the most trusted sources of information in a community. Therefore your business will enjoy the added credibility that comes with being associated. Having a directory listings with your local publisher is not only a way to showcase your business but also show support for your community. Readers frequently include movers and shakers, exactly the kind of people who you want to know about your business. This kind of added exposure can provide real results for your business.

 

Yelp vs. Community Publications – Final Thoughts

As we have said, we believe both Yelp and Community Publisher Directories are essential to your online success but here are a few other considerations:

Audience: Community publications will tend to have a more community-oriented demographic while Yelp listings may be somewhat limited to the demographics we covered earlier.

Cost: Premium directory listings with your local publisher are usually much cheaper than a premium Yelp package. Yelp can start anywhere from $200-$600 dollars a month depending on your industry. In a local publication, premium listings are typically $50 dollars or less a month, much more affordable for the average business owner.

Bonuses: It’s also possible you might be able to get a published article about your business, in which case you have the added benefit of readership from that article. This is the type of coverage simply not possible with Yelp. Local publishers may also be able to provide you with a badge to showcase your affiliation on your site.

 

Next Steps

Do some research on your favorite local publication and how they handle online directories. Many local publishers offer free listings for local businesses, including all members of the Locable Publisher Network. After you have created your free listing, check what it takes to upgrade to a premium listing and ask what benefits you will receive. Will you be able to get a story on their website or in print? Are there any badges you can put on your site with reviews? These are all sources of credibility you can only get from a local publisher, so they are important questions to ask.

Now let’s hear from you! What is your opinion of online reviews? Have you had any success with them? Let us know in the comments.

How To Drive Readers To Your Website With Locable’s Print-to-Web Strategy

Print-to-Web Strategy is extremely important to focus on as a local publisher. You want to continually drive reader’s back and forth between your print and digital content. Over time this will help build your following on both platforms. In our training below we break down the essential steps of creating a successful print to web strategy and what it entails.

In this training you will learn:

2:34 Print-To-Web Overview
4:10 Popular Places to Promote Your Website in Print
10:09 The Digital Side of Print to Web
12:58 Types of Online Content
17:13 How to Use Online Exclusives to Drive Reader’s to your Website
20:00 Why Guides Are Awesome For Content
21:11 More Examples For Online Extras
27:55 Tips For Creating Online Extras
29:05 How to Tag Online Extras to Curate Content
29:50 How Online Extras Help Your SEO
31:05 Why Planning Ahead Will Help You Win Long Term
32:33 Why You Have to Have Conversations About Web

If you are pressed for time, check out the slides of this training below:

 

What has been working for you in your print-to-web strategy? Are there any types of content we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

3 Reasons you Must Cover Topics Beyond News

News should be a very important part of your content strategy as a local publisher. Especially in a local context, readers take a sense of pride in being informed of what is going on in their community. With digital, you have the opportunity to cover news stories quickly and efficiently to create more content.

With that said, there are many different forms of editorial content you should cover to dig deeper into your community. Great sources of content that go beyond news include: feature articles on local businesses, local guides, rundowns of events going on locally, and inviting community bloggers to write guest articles.

By covering stories that are more than just local news, you are taking advantage of some of the biggest opportunities in your market. Here are a few clear advantages that come from covering stories beyond the news:

Community

We are firm believers that local print publications are the cornerstone for creating a sense of community locally. By engaging readers through unique local stories, you will help to establish you publication as that cornerstone.

Show readers that your publication is more than just a way to pass time; that reading it is a way to be a better local citizen. Shine a light on parts of the community that other outlets may miss by covering local events and organizations not covered elsewhere. In doing so you will be providing a valuable service to readers.

Variety and Reader Interest

Features, community events, and local guides are all great types of content that will help drive readers to your publication. Larger publications often shy away from this content or don’t do it justice. By covering a broad variety of topics you will be able to draw many different types of reader’s and keep them interested.

Some readers may come for very specific reasons i.e. one group may be interested in local restaurant reviews, but others may be more concerned with kids guides for the season. Try to appeal to as many groups as possible. You are giving yourself multiple ways to win more traffic by providing diverse types of content.

Creating many different stories is also important because you never know what type of content will do well on the Internet. A report on health inspections of local restaurants resulted in over 30,000 views for one of our publishers in a community of only 50,000 people. That is huge for a local story. This is local information that is publicly available, but no one was covering it and not in that way. It’s not necessarily news, but by presenting it effectively the story reached a huge audience. Think about the content you can create that isn’t covered locally but still has mass appeal.

Long Term Value Created

One thing that news stories don’t help with is long-term traffic. News stories come and go quickly, and after just a few days they will provide little to no traffic for your site. Content like community guides, or features can be updated and continually promoted on your website. That means that your content will be providing value for you long term. It can be shared on social channels contextually i.e. share an article about best Irish Pubs leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, or shared multiple times year round i.e. a rundown of children’s activities to do locally.

Most news stories can only be shared once, but “evergreen” content can be shared over and over with your audience as long as the information is still relevant. This means you can drive more traffic to your site with almost no extra effort.

These are just some ideas that you can use going forward. There are nearly endless opportunities to cover local content in unique way that goes beyond news. It is one of the biggest opportunities for a local publication, because these are the stories readers love that aren’t covered anywhere else. Keep an eye out for stories that will fill a unique void for the community. If a story you want to cover goes beyond news and it fills one of these categories, you will be in great shape!

What is one example of a story that went beyond news that has been successful on your site?

Publisher Teardown: Connecticut Kids and Family online

In Locable’s Publisher Teardown Series we’re breaking down a website and providing some analysis so you can learn different components of what makes a successful local publisher site. We take into account factors such as design, content, and social sharing to help highlight some of the things publishers should be mindful of on their site.

Today, we have a local publisher teardown of the website for Connecticut Kids and Family magazine. We want to emphasize that our publisher teardowns are meant to be educational and informational to help you make sure you’re thinking about important parts of a successful web strategy and avoid some of the common pitfalls.

We are going to take a look at a few different factors that help create a great web experience for your readers and keep them coming back for more.

Design
Pic 1Site design and color choice pop out first. Wow! Those are some really bright colors. While the bright pastels do convey the lightness and fun of a children’s publication, they are also tough to look at after a few minutes. This definitely isn’t going to help keep readers on your site for very long. We would recommend going with a more neutral look for background colors and header.

Screen shot 2015-07-23 at 4.10.25 PM
Two different kinds of navigation

Navigation is also an issue on this site. They have two different forms of navigation with the colorful graphics on the home page below the more traditional navigation bar. If a reader gets to the site and was looking for event info and the blog navigation is in two different places. It’s easily confusing readers can get lost or frustrated quickly.

We would also recommend trying to steer away from graphics that aren’t clearly labeled. It is a good idea to have an event calendar and newsletter button, but just make sure they are clearly labeled. As a graphic only, if the reader isn’t looking for them, they are easily missed.

Content Placement

Probably the biggest problem with this site is the content organization. From the homepage, it’s pretty difficult to locate where actual content is located. You can navigate to the online magazine but this takes you to an online flipbook. It loads slowly and even worse, normal font is almost unreadable once it’s open. If you try to read more than a few pages, it will most likely crash your browser. Most readers likely won’t bother with it at all, meaning they won’t be seeing any of the print content from the publication online.

flipbook
Flipbooks are bad news…

The blog is better for content and you can actually read along, but it feels like an afterthought on the site, and it can only be reached from the troublesome graphics we talked about on the homepage. There is a message from the publisher on the homepage but it is hidden under graphics, advertising, and sponsored events. They do have some great guides that would be valuable to readers, but they are hard to find buried toward the bottom of the site.

Events and Directory

directory
Good business information is a puls

The events directory is one of the best parts of this site. Although the design looks dated, there are many events in the calendar and it is easily searchable by location and date. This calendar would be outstanding if the design was updated.

The business directory is a different story. There is a pretty extensive list, however it is not easily searchable and it’s difficult to find a business if you are looking for a specific category. As a result the directory won’t be a destination for readers and they won’t be able to easily find information about local businesses. This is really a disservice to local businesses, especially those that advertise with your publication because readers won’t be able to find them. Once you do reach a specific business listing you are able to find the important information like address, phone number, website, etc. so that is a plus.

Use of Pictures

For a website focused on kids and family, there is a huge lack of pictures of kids and family on their site. It is very hard to find any coverage of the events they are listing. You don’t fee a sense of connection to places and events in the community because there is almost no visual reference. Text and graphics are important, but sometimes you need pictures of real people and places to connect with readers and that is sorely lacking on this site.

Advertising Placement

advertising
Just part of the ad overlaod

Add subtitle textThis site is also suffering from too much advertising. Local publications have a duty to showcase their advertisers, and getting them business should be a top priority. At the same time publisher’s need to respect their reader’s. Advertising should be present to get the attention of those interested, but it can’t be the main focus of your site. No one wants to visit a site that feels like a giant ad.

Social Sharing

There is almost no place on this site for reader’s to engage or share things they like. Because content is almost non-existent on the main site, it will be especially hard to share anything. However, even with the helpful and engaging content like events and contests, there is no easy way to share them. This will prevent how much the message will spread online and it takes away from reader engagement.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this publisher needs a lot of help. The online part of their tagline “In print…online…and on the go!” is severely lacking. It’s a shame because they have a huge Facebook audience that is obviously trying to receive their content. Their site is really preventing them from fully engaging with that audience. This could result in thousands of dollars or more in lost revenue because of less traffic and advertisers that simply won’t want to advertise online. With some simple design and navigation tweaks and a solid content strategy would go a long way toward creating a huge online asset and extension of their brand.

A Clear Path To 100k In Digital Revenue For Local Publishers

A lot has changed for local publishers over the past 10 years. Technology has displaced the traditional methods most publishers use to generate the majority of their revenue and  rendered other methods moot (Craigslist and classifieds for example). While we strongly believe that print is far from dying, those publishers that fail to adapt to the changing media landscape will be left behind.

So what does that mean?

It used to be that a traditional print ad or banner ad online delivered enough value, in the form of new customers, to keep your advertisers happy but as technology has evolved marketing has become way more complex. As a result, business are facing greater and greater challenges in setting themselves apart from their competition.

Forward thinking publishers will realize that while the underlying goals of a business haven’t changed, they are facing a new set of challenges as a result. Publishers that learn how to solve these problems for their advertisers will be able to weather the storm and even thrive in the new media landscape.

So what does this new landscape look like?

In a word, diversification. Traditional print ads will still make up the core for most publishers but being able to leverage existing technology, like the IMPACT Marketing Suite, to help tell a unique story and increase reach across multiple channels simultaneously provides tremendous value to your advertisers, strengthens your relationships with advertisers and provides long-term stability for your publication.

Below outlines how you can combine banner ads, native advertising, digital services and listings to make 100k per year in digital revenue. While getting to this level will take time, we suggest starting with Community Sponsorships so that you are profitable from the beginning and then build on that by combining different elements into packages that solve specific problems for your advertisers (Community Sponsorships are one example of such a package as it includes a directory listing, a banner ad and a sponsored article among other things).

A Clear Path to 100k in Digital Revenue for Local Publishers

3 Reasons You Need a Great Website, Even if You Own a Referral Business

One thing we hear often from business owners is that they aren’t concerned with their online presence because most of their business comes from referrals. We think that is great! Referrals are very important for any business. However, in order to set yourself up for long-term success, you must think about a broader strategy and your online marketing needs to be a top concern.

Referrals are Changing

In the past, referrals were simple. Here is an imaginary example of how things used to work: If John had a landscaping business called “John’s Lawns” and Bob was a happy customer, he would give John’s name and number to Rachel. Then Rachel would call John. While today this is still true at times, more often there is an added step in-between.

Now, after Rachel receives a referral, she goes to visit John’s website before making a call. What services does John offer? What is his pricing? Does he have good reviews? A referral is not worth what it used to be. With so much information on the Internet, even referral customers are expecting to find you there. Word of mouth is great and a referral from a trusted source is always helpful, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Here are 3 reasons why referrals aren’t everything they used to be, and why you need to build a good website:

  1. A Customer’s First (or Second) Impression

Let’s take the example of Rachel above. She might have gotten an awesome recommendation. She is confidant, and she is going to call John. She is so excited that it has got her thinking about getting new sprinklers in addition to finishing a few projects in her backyard. So she wonders if John offers sprinkler installation and tries to check online. But when Rachel reaches John’s website (which takes some digging on Google results just to find), she has no idea any of the services he offers. There are no pictures of past work or any client testimonials. It turns out that John does offer sprinkler installation and he is quite good at it. Only Rachel has no way of knowing this. She starts rethinking her decision…

Rachel does a little more online research and finds another company with a beautiful website, clear examples of past work, and great customer reviews. They clearly and concisely list the service they offer which includes all the projects she had in mind along with sprinkler installation. They have an easy to submit contact form along with a prominently displayed phone number. This get’s Rachel thinking that maybe John isn’t as good as she had been told, and she ends up going with his competitor.

You might think this is an extreme example but the scary thing is, how would you know? There is no way to measure how many prospects don’t call you once they reach you website. You simply can’t know who had trouble finding your website and give up. As more people start their search on the internet, it is critical to have a presence online that won’t be a liability.

  1. You Need Insurance For the Future

One hazard of referrals is that they rely on new or existing relationships in your network that must be constantly maintained. Great relationships are important and should be treasured, but you need to have a fall back plan. If you start to lose touch with people or make fewer new contacts, your business could end up in serious trouble fast. Having a great website is like having an insurance policy in place if your network begins to dry up as a source of business. When you are building up a web presence you are leveraging your current relationships in order to build up content and reviews on your site.

3. Automation

This leads us to automation. Eventually your website and online marketing that go along with it, will become more automated. You can carry out simple tasks that will continue to build your business. This is essential if your goal is to build a business that will be profitable over time. If your business is built on referrals and something happens to you and you can’t perform, it will be a huge hit to your business. By using online systems, you will have a much more automated process of creating new business. When you need a break, this will allow you more time outside your business than before. You will also have some hard numbers to show prospective buyers if it ever becomes time to sell your business.

Conclusion

Don’t get us wrong, referral business is awesome. You should be jumping for joy if the majority of your customers are coming from referrals. You are definitely doing something right. However, we hope through this post you have gotten an idea of how you can be doing better and how you can protect your business for the future by building a great web presence. A great way to get started building this presence is through the IMPACT Marketing suite. It is designed to help you build the kind of web presence that sets you up for long-term success while only requiring a minimal amount of time. Learn more here.