In the table below, U.S. Ranking, % U.S. Traffic and Average Monthly U.S. Traffic (unique visitors) data are sourced from Alexa. Businesses should strive to get business reviews on business review websites that are going concerns, review sites that people know about (and go to) and that are relatively friction-less (sites consumers have log ins or can go in easy to leave a review).
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 158.03 million US ranking (Alexa): 1 Business reviews for: any business
Google My Business is a free tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Google My Business puts business data on Search, Maps and Google+. Google customer reviews show up in search and are known to bolster SEO, so they are essential to the credibility of all businesses. Your business should aim to be on Google’s snack pack in order to be readily found when consumers perform a local search.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 85.57 million US ranking (Alexa): 3 Business reviews for: any business
Facebook is a social networking platform where users can create profiles, upload photos and videos, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and follow their favorite businesses and brands. Since customers are connecting more with brands online, It is pertinent that your business is actively monitoring your social media mentions on social media platforms at all times. Facebook is gaining momentum towards being one of the most popular business review sites. Most users on the site already have a Facebook account, so the process to leave a business review is relatively friction-less.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 85.44 million US ranking (Alexa): 4 Business reviews for: e-commerce related transactions
Amazon is a popular go-to business review site for e-commerce products. For companies who do any amount of e-commerce, Amazon is a key source of information. While Amazon as a review website is more targeted and fitting for Amazon marketplace partners, it is a worthy site to note, especially for retailers about what customers like about certain products and how the service aspect of transactions were handled.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 40.47 million US ranking (Alexa): 52 Business reviews for: any business
Yelp is a review website where users can publish reviews about local businesses. Yelp has become a name synonymous with business reviews, as the site has over 102 million reviews and counting. As the world’s largest outlet for online customer reviews grows, it might be time for all small businesses to start caring about what consumers are saying online; and more specifically, about their Yelp reviews.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 28.27 million US ranking (Alexa): 88 Business reviews for: any business
TripAdvisor is an travel website company where users can leave business reviews of places they’ve visited. Users can also book rooms, find flights, discover to do and reserve tables at participating restaurants. TripAdvisor operates websites internationally in over 25 countries.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 10.5 million US ranking (Alexa): 402 Business reviews for: any business
YellowPages is an online internet yellow pages directory owned by YP. YP is a local marketing solutions provider that focuses on helping local businesses (and the communities within) grow. Companies can manage their reviews on the review site after claiming a free business listing on their page.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 6.15 million US ranking (Alexa): 824 Business reviews for: any business The Better Business Bureau aims to help people find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust (bbb.org).
Based on a business rating review system, BBB educates consumers and assists people in finding trusted businesses. The Better Business Bureau tries to protect consumers from fraudulent business or scammers. Company profiles on BBB contain a short company bio and a history of complaints made about the business, as well as an A – F rating.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 6.48 million US ranking (Alexa): 1,002 Business reviews for: any business
Manta is an online small business service directory, search engine and review site that provides small businesses with the information to network. The site helps small businesses connect and grow through their community where users can buy from, partner with, and connect to companies.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 5.44 million US ranking (Alexa): 1,150 Business reviews for: service related businesses
Angie’s List is a service listing and review website that offers user-based rankings and reviews of service professionals in local areas. Because Angie’s List is a paid review site, it is known to be less filled with rambling reviews from customers and spam. Members grade companies using a report card scale from A-F on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality, and professionalism. Angie’s List is divided by categories such as house, auto, health, pets and services.
Average monthly US traffic (Alexa): 3.67 million US ranking (Alexa): 1,561 Business reviews for: any business, mostly restaurants
Foursquare is a local search and discovery service mobile app. The app helps users discover new places/businesses through other Foursquare business reviews. Users can let friends know where they are and find out where their friends are. In any case, with 55 million monthly active users, Foursquare is a powerful force to monitor customer loyalty and feedback.
Have you heard that improving your SEO will help you get found online more easily? You’ve probably heard that implementing keywords into the content on your website, blog, and URL are key strategies for improving your SEO ranking. However, including the wrong keywords or too many keywords can be just as detrimental.
Although you may not always notice them, keywords play an integral role when it comes to helping a small business get found online. So let’s get to it by breaking down the long and short (tail) of it.
Do Your Own Keyword Research
Keyword research should never be a one-time commitment, but rather an ever-changing process that involves a strategy and a comprehensive understanding of your business and your industry. Including keywords that are specific to your business and industry will help to ensure that the right customers are being driven to your door rather than just any customer. Although we want to increase our customer base, we don’t want to target consumers that may not find the value in our business.
Using the Right Keywords
Short-tail keywords, or keywords composed of very generic keywords, might seem appealing because they’re searched more often than long-tail keywords, however, they’re also a lot more competitive. So, unless you’re writing content for a large organization, like Apple or Macy’s, and consumers are likely searching specifically for your product, you don’t want to enter into a sea of competitors with big brands that have even bigger pockets.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, may not be as frequently typed into a search engine—think, “Egg” vs. “Poached Egg with Avocado and Bechemel”. By including more long-tail keywords into the content on your page, you’ll attract a larger number of customers who are likely to search for any combination of those long-tail keywords.
Location-based keywords are keywords that directly relate to your business’s physical location. For example, if your business is a bakery in a popular neighborhood in Charlotte, NC, you’ll want to include not only Charlotte, but also the name of that specific neighborhood. By doing so, you’re more likely to target visitors in your area rather than across town who may or may not ever make it to your location.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Speaking of misleading customers that may not find value in your business, adding practically any keyword under the sun is referred to as keyword stuffing and is largely considered a taboo in the digital marketing world. Like with any other digital marketing rule of thumb, less is more and quality will always conquer quantity. Ideally, a website’s content should include keywords in a natural way. However, by inputting keywords into a few sentences and repeating them over and over, you’re stuffing your content with keywords. Even if they’re good keywords, it’s still too much.
Now that you’ve read through these tips, you’re ready to become an SEO expert too!
We have only been a BigCommerce Certified Partner for a short period of time, but we have learned so much, and to be honest, Shopify pushing firearms companies off their platform was one of the better things to happen to us. Not to minimize the pain and financial loss of those businesses that are still struggling. But BigCommerce offers way more than Shopify ever could at comparable or slightly higher (at the Enterprise Level) pricing.
We have a few clients on Enterprise and several on the more generic Standard, Plus and Pro subscriptions. The full range of what BigCommerce hs to offer is miles beyond what Shopify can do for you. And some of the biggest feature are not even listed. Like Freedom.
Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce doesn’t make any money off merchant processing. Their revenue stream is based on their SaaS (software as a service) platform and vendor relationships. The biggest issue with Shopify was increase per transaction rates if you didn’t use Stripe. Yes they call it Shopify Payments but it’s actually Stripe. And Stripe is overtly anti-gun.
With BigCommerce you can show up with damn near any merchant processing scheme there is. The list they support is massive and growing daily. On at least one occasion we had them onboard a processor (though it took some time) specifically for that client. Granted that client was billing millions a year and were on the high-end of the Enterprise plan, but their willingness to do business of the usually cookie cutter service offerings was refreshing.
The other marked difference with BigCommerce is the functionality that is built in and does NOT require apps. Both BigCommerce and Shopify offer extended functionality via third parry apps, like custom shipping rates and rules (ShipperHQ), postage printing and shipping management (Shipstation and Ordoro) and other options like mapping and return authorization.
But the list of base features, even on the BigCommerce Standard package, far outreaches Shopify. At the Plus level ($79 a month USD) you get things like Customer Groups, Abandoned Cart Saver and Stored Credit cards built right in, no need for an app. At Pro, you can tack on Google Reviews, Faceted Search, a super powerful way of letting your customers search your products lists, and a custom SSL that reflects your domain, not a shared one as on Standard and Plus.
The other MAJOR reason we guide our customers to BigCommerce is something almost no one understands outside the SaaS vertical. PCI Compliance. PCI is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. The group sets and maintains credit card security standards. Regardless of how your website is bolted together, you have to meet certain criteria in order maintain a relationship with your merchant processor. BigCommerce handles all the PCI compliance issues with their merchant plugins (free) and the entire yearly process of vetting and confirming your compliance is eliminated.
We all accept that there is risk, certainly it’s something that those of us in the firearms sector understand as part of the business. Most times it revolves around what we do and sell, and less around how we operate. Shopify recent policy update has left more than a few businesses in Canada and the US reeling. And for us here at Telos, it didn’t come as a surprise. We have been getting ambiguous answers from Shopify since day one and have recently been advising our clients to move off it ,both in term if risk and in terms of cost savings.
THE ROOT OF THE MATTER
So you need an ecom store. Obviously there are thousands of choices out there for solving that problem. ALL of them involve some risk, but as we have seen recently, there are risks that are very different in practice.
So just what do SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors offer to a business?
TECHNICAL SERVICES – All the geek stuff get offloaded to the provider. SSL, Security patches (or lack thereof), bandwidth, scaling up in peak times, and overall form and function of the website all happen in the background. But it’s not all roses and candy. These folks are not 100% perfect at their jobs. Shopify has regular outages that impact stores of all subscriptions rates, and you PAY for this type of convenience. In addition, many providers are following the Apple model of “we build the base and let others sell apps to add functionality. At first blush that sounds great, until you have to pay %$50 a month for some basic functionality that should really be included i the base version.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS INTEGRATION – Many options to plug into shipping, POS and other brick and mortar system exist, IF you have their hardware and software. There are connections to accounting software (via paid third-party apps) and inventory control and tracking are available, but rudimentary compared to more robust (and more complex) systems like Magento (see below)
FLEXIBILITY – Fantastic integration, but only if their system meets your needs. Often there is not a ton of flexibility when it comes to customization, and when it does, its costs money. There are thousands of templates available to change the look and feel, but again, you must have some basic code knowledge to get them to work with your changes, or you have to hire a code geek to really make it perfect.
RISK – You are, as we have seen recently, at the whim of the corporation and its policy. You have no real contract, and even a the Shopify Plus level where you negotiate your platform fee, you never see a contract that outlines what rights you have and how you are protected. ProTip – You aren’t protected, the vendor is and you are risking your livelihood on its policy.
So what is the alternative?
Self hosted options range from shared server space on GoDaddy, to dedicated servers hosted in data centers in Canada, running licensed software where you have a contract and will not be bullied around.What does this look like?
TECHNICAL SERVICES – You need the proverbial “Guy”. A third-party company, and local geek you know and trust, or combination of the two ,you need someone who can set up a server and install software, patch it, understand backups, restores, versioning and be able to respond in a reasonable amount od time when something blows up. And it will.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS INTEGRATION – Often these self hosted systems can have complex and very robust inventory systems, as well as POS integration and third-party credit card processing options. Once it’s all plugged in and working ,you are good to go with little to no monthly payments for the functionality
FLEXIBILITY – Where you would pat monthly for an app to give some extended functionality over the base system in SaaS, in a self hosted system (Magento, WooCommerce ,PrestaShop etc) you buy the module once and get 1-2 years of support, new version upgrades (often automatic, particularly in WordPress based systems) for free, and very little in the way of issues. Major base system upgrades however might require paying to get to the latest supported version, but overall the cost is equal or less that SaaS apps.
RISK – The risk shift from strategic to technical. You are 100% in control of your software and systems. Assuming you have hired the right “guy” or company (shameless plug) you are in control of if, when and why you upgrade. No policy changes can impact you, and you service cannot be shut for anything less than non-payment in most cases. But if the site goes down, or if there is a security breach, it’s on you.
So why don’t more businesses choose to go self hosted? Because its technical, and scary, and it’s easier to roll the dice with SaaS.
Shopify is a platform we have been working with for a few years now. We have had many assurance from Shopify to our clients at all levels that they were not anti-firearms, and as long as you could source third-party credit card processing, you were good to go. FYI…Shopify’s internal processor is STRIPE, and they have always been anti-firearm anti-gun.
The recent policy change went from “No High Capacity Mags” to ,among other things:
a semi-automatic firearm that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine, with one or more of the following items:
magazine capable of accepting more than 10 rounds
rapid fire trigger activator or trigger crank
threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer
grenade or rocket launcher
flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer
pistol grip (or in the case of a pistol, a second pistol grip)
forward pistol grip
This makes it impossible to sell pretty much anything but shotguns, and alienates practically every firearms related store in Canada and the USA.
We try to guide our clients to the best solution, and from a strictly technical perspective, they are one of the most robust solutions out there. There ARE other solutions available. They can be more or less expensive that Shopify depending on your current Shopify subscriptions, but they put you and your business solidly in control of your web environment.
Telos Alpha has begun severing tis relationship with Shopify, and will no longer be a Shopify partner once we have migrated our current clients off the Platform.
Keywords. you probably hear about them every single day, multiple times and filter it out. Either because your just don’t understand what the hell the are, or don’t care.
But ignoring them will kill you.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as we discussed in Part One is about people finding you in search engines. The search engine has little programs that “crawl” your website an index everything, then that index is stored at the engine. When someone searches, it looks at that data with a very particular eye (the algorithm) and pulls relevant returns from the vast ocean of websites on the internet. What people type into Google etc are “keywords”.
So how are SEO and keywords connected?
At the most fundamental level, you need to have to words that people would use to search for you product or service, on your website.
Yep, that’s it. SEO 101 is figuring out what your customers would type into a search engine to find the product or service you are selling, and putting those keywords in you website in product descriptions, about pages and blog pages. The term “keyword” can be misleading here, as they can be composed of several words.
For instance, lets say you sell grommets. If you made them you might have the word grommet on you page by default. So your keywords could be:
But to really convince Google that you are an expert in the grommet field, you should have some more descriptive language in your product descriptions like:
Canadian custom grapple grommets
super strong grommets
So you product description might look like:
“ZerpCo. grommets custom grommets are the state of the art in custom grommet technology. Cerkoted grommets are our speciality, with 48 hour turn around times and a 1 year guarantee. If you are looking for Canadian custom grapple grommets, these are the right grommets for you.”
This is a simplified example, but you get the idea. Make sure your language matches the language your customers are going to use to find your products in a search engine. This not only forces you to really study your product copy and get a real grasp of the product or services key advantages, but it makes your pitches stronger and more powerful on other mediums, like brochures and print advertising. Now there are more advanced keyword approaches, but this is 101 remember? Get this done FIRST. Before you start to worry about keyword generators and back linking.
And yes, it takes time. Unless you have a SME (subject matter expert) that you can outsource to….oh wait…insert shameless plug here…that’s what we do. Or we can guide you on how to do it yourself, which will always result in better results.
Because who knows your products better than you do?
That day has come, after months (sometimes years) of prototyping, consulting, R&D, and in manny cases in the firearms industry, destroying several iterations of your shiny new product, its time to get the word out and get them into production and out the door in nice little boxes.
But unless your market, no ones know about it. And no matter how fantastic the product is, if no one knows about it, how can they purchase it?
These days we in the firearms sector can’t advertise on Facebook or pretty much any social media site. Most of us have decent number of social media followers, so what do we do to get attention and get the word out about our fantastic new firearms product? There are a couple of answers.
Video is my far the most engaging format for posts on social media, regardless of platform. Instagram has just opened up their video platform to 60 minute videos, jumping form 15 seconds. Very telling change don’t you think? You may have noticed several new SaaS (Software as a Service) offering on Facebook that will take you images, and create a video slideshow, just to get the post recognized as a video on Facebook and get it better distribution. I hate that personally. A slideshow isn’t a video ,the two are drastically different. Perhaps thats the director in me getting bitchy, but, well, rant over. For now.
Video can tell a complex story in a very short time. If its engaging, it can do ore than just intro you new product, it can drag you page stats and follower number up drastically, and get you into new networks. They are reusable in many case (if well produced with some forethought) and can be shot in a single day to product several videos, maximizing the ROI of your marketing dollar.
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS
A bit trickier than simple social media marketing, but very powerful, and often completely free (outside shipping your product to a reviewer and back) as its an “impartial” journalistic review. These relationships take time to build and develop, but believe me. These content producers need things to write about and will work with you to review your products. THe drawback is you dont control the narrative, so the review can be damaging. You need to initiate relationships with a mind to developing them long term ,and well ahead of product launch. In some cases the :buildit and they will come” thing actually works and you get folks calling you to review a product, but that pretty much only happens when you are running a planned and co-ordinated pre-release campaign with, you guessed it, lots of pictures and video WELL prior to your launch date.
The following are just two videos we did for S&J Hardware for their Grey Ghost Universal Shotgun. These had pretty much no other info with them other than the video and the campaign motto “Get ready to get Ghosted”, and got record breaking views and engagement numbers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It also resulted in a net gain of over 400 new likes on the page that had 4k followers, a 10% uptick. In 5 days.
Success is about strategy, and strategy is about planning. As a small firearms business ,you may not know how to do this. Thats where we come in.. Reach out. Have a quick chat with us, and we can quide you on both process and execution of a plan to get everyone to know about your fantastic new product.
One fo the wonderful things about the Internet Economy is getting and working with clients from other countries.
Out relationship with Valkyrie Combat has blossomed into a couple more fantastic relationships.
First off, we spent four intense and amazing days with Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts at their P.A.R.C. facility. Three 270 degree, 100 foot bays and one massive flat range, with a mountain backdrop and elevated targets made for some fantastic film opportunities. The mountain is riddled with goat trail straight out the middle east and hand dug cave mines that date back to the early 1800’s. Getting images of PFC Instructors running Valkyrie Combat modified Glocks was both challenging (these classes are hi-tempo and intense) and infinitely rewarding as we were immersed in the culture that both Valkyrie Combat and Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts embrace.
Brain Hartman -Executive Vice President / Chief Instructor
PFC is not just its facility however. The Instructor Cadre are out of this world dedicated to the mission. That mission is increasing survivability of each student they interact with. They do this by constant, relentless examination of process and action. Progressive in the name isn’t just an afterthought. The only things that stays the same is the constant review and vetting of doctrine against new ideas, techniques and tactics. If it works better, and can be proven so, then the training changes.
I have shot on many ranges with many training companies and this one is fundamentally different. Many companies use the words “real world” in their training. PFC is the first company where I have seen that, in every course, on every day, in action as more than a marketing line.
They are not a firearms training company. The closest I can come to a proper description is a Gunfighter Survival School. They are truly a life saving, not a life taking company.
Returning to the networking storyline, we had the pleasure of getting connect (over a few beers) with Jason Daub, Head of Production from AviSight. AviSight is a pioneering (see what I did there guys LOL) UAV and manned aerial company that works across verticals and retrofits UAV to fit the needs of their customers. They don’t wait for it to get invented, they design the solution, get the parts (often off the shelf), write the code and get the solution built.
Jason has a film background, and his pilot for the day, Richard Meeker, is a friend of Valkyrie Combat and made the intro and arrangements to get them on site to shoot with us. They were kind enough to come out and film with two fine pieces of aircraft (a DLI Inspire Pro and a Phantom 4 Pro) and get some fantastic footage. They also brought a FLIR chipped DJI 13mm thermal camera and captured some AMAZING footage with it as well. Stay tuned for that series of films.
The last two weeks have been simply amazing, and we are looking forward to working with Jason, Richard and PFC again in the future.
Bottom line? Working with people who are passionate, and approach their passion with a heads up, focussed attitude is an honor and a privilege. It makes us want to do better, up our game, and drive forward.
There was a meme floating around Facebook once. It was an infographic of all the gear used in the production of a rock and roll song.
It started with the rental of expensive guitars even more expensive vintage amplifiers and microphones. Then the inevitable decision between recording to analog, with all its inherent (and wonderful) flaws and vulnerabilities, which make it fantastic. Or going digital with provides a level of clarity and stability.
Expensive rental of Studio space. High hourly wages for engineers and production staff and an epic amount of money for a producer and someone to master it all down. Then to put it either on vinyl, which is the new rebounding tradition or send it to CD format.
The last part of the infographic was the most revealing however, because after all that money and cost to make a fantastic product that has a depth and breadth of meaning and emotion, its delivered via MP3 format on a device with skeptical audio abilities. And finally to your ears on a pair of headphones that cost $0.99 to make in China.
I found in many scenarios film is very much the same thing. I see guys running around doing videos for firearm companies with Red Epics and close to $70,000 worth of hardware. What’s the point if it’s all going to the YouTube channel. Even in 4k uptake is reasonably slow at this point and most people are going to watch it on their mobile device which isn’t going to deliver 4K anyway.
The picture in this post is my “Run and Gun” setup. It runs about $12,000 (half of that is a Chronos 1.4 high speed camera) for the entirety of the setup, not counting tripods or Steadicam gear. It fits in the two cases you see.
This rig also happens to include a full set of Sony lavalier mics, LED lights, a TASCAM digital audio recorder and enough batteries to shoot for two days straight.
Everything I need for a complete shoot practically anywhere including a blue screen rag would only add two more cases to this. In fact I’ll take a picture of the entire set up when I get back home.
The moral of this story is? Be careful what you’re paying for when you’re paying for media content generation. In many cases you’re footing the bill for someone’s technology obsession and not paying for the skill and knowledge that are required to produce a good product.
Not unlike gear in Law Enforcement and Military, the right tool for the job is key and ensures mission success, but it is the knowledge of the operator that should be getting the most attention.
Don’t judge a book by its cover or by how much gear it’s packing into the shoot.