Blog - Houle Brothers LLC Home // Blog - Houle Brothers LLC

Customer Appreciation – How an Autoresponder Can Help

How an Autoresponder Can Help You Show Customers You Appreciate Them

Imagine for a second you’re ordering a pizza. You have open your favorite takeaway website, and you’re choosing all of the toppings you want on your cheesy treat as we speak. You enter your details, top up your glass of soda, and hit pay. But wait… you’re faced with a blank screen. Did your order go through? Was there an error somewhere? Is anybody even running this site?

Thankfully, the screen reloads and you’re given your online receipt. Your meal is on its way. There’s also a telephone number to call if you have any concerns. That was a close one. No one likes being left in the lurch!

I’m sure you wouldn’t wish that blank screen horror onto your worst enemy! Yet, unwittingly, you probably do. Ok, not with pizza, but with other such issues your customers find important.

What Issues Do We Mean?

When a visitor to your site signs up to your marketing emails or gets in touch with you in order to have you answer a serious query of theirs, they’re showing signs of investment. They’re invested in what you have to offer, and they’re willing to know more about you and your products.

But what happens if they touch base with you, but there’s no response, maybe even for days. What if you have no marketing email scheduled until the weekend, or what if you and your staff are enjoying Christmas break and aren’t at the computer. Does this customer have to wait in order to receive some kind of acknowledgement for their action? Surely you’d agree that’s not very professional!

Autoresponders – Taking Your Place

By using what’s known as an event-based autoresponder, you can send a pre-written message to a customer, depending on a certain action they’ve taken, meaning they’ll never have to wonder if their request registered or if anybody even runs the site anymore. For example, say Mrs. Smith from Kansas City decides your gardening newsletter is too good to pass up on, and she enters her email address into your capture form. Your autoresponder will see this, and send Mrs. Smith an instant reply, relevant to her action. In this case, the reply would thank her for her time and attention, and perhaps direct her to other pages of yours she may find interesting.

Need another example of an autoresponder’s ability to help make customers feel important? What about the customer service reply feature. If somebody contacts your dedicated help email and asks for more information on something, or would like to complain about something, your autoresponder will thank them for their email, let them know your team are working on it, and maybe direct them to your site’s FAQs for them to read in the meantime.

Of course, your autoresponder can say anything you’d like it to. This simple, yet effective tool makes all the difference when it comes to your image. So ask yourself, “when my site’s visitors make the effort to get in touch with me, am I making them feel as important as possible?” If not, it’s time to try out every online marketer’s favorite tool!

The Importance of Engaging Social Media Content

The Importance of Engaging Social Media Content

Ever wonder if that increase in social media followers you received one weekend was down to the great content you put out the week before? While there’s no way to know for sure, chances are that it was.

Social media can at times be complex to navigate. However, there are certain things you can do in order to achieve your desired outcomes. One of those things you can do, assuming your desired outcome is to encourage interaction on your pages, is provide engaging content.

We’ve looked at the content thousands of online businesses have shared over recent months. It’s no surprise the ones sharing great, engaging content are doing much better overall than those that aren’t. Here are some of the reasons we think great content is so important for you, as well as everybody else!

The Amount of Online Competition

At the time of writing, Instagram has over 300 million active users. Facebook has 1.4 billion active users. Twitter around a similar number.

As you can see, that’s an awful lot of competition you’re up against.

The amount of time the average person will spend viewing your content, therefore, is somewhere in the seconds. If you don’t hook them straight away and give them something that interests them, then not only are they clicking away from your page, they’re also never coming back.

Communicating a Message

Social media was built for communication. People are using it to this day to communicate all sorts of things. A belief in a cause, is just one such example of something they communicate. An interest in a person or product would be another, while their opinions on an issue would be a third thing.

Your social media content also needs to be sending out a message. If you’re producing run-of-the-mill content, you may not be communicating any meaningful message, and if you are, it’s probably not getting through.

What message do you need to communicate? Whichever one you want. Communicate your belief in your product. Tell people you have a special offer. Just make sure you’re communicating effectively.

Greater Efficiency

The businesses succeeding on social media are the ones that have campaign goals. Rather than just post for the sake of posting, successful businesses want their posts to achieve something.

What is this something they want to achieve, you ask? Well, it’s usually increased brand awareness or improved sales.

Successful businesses know that to achieve these goals, they first need people to view their content and pass it on to friends and family. They know that when more people view their content, more people pass through their sales funnel. That equates to greater revenue. Often, well thought-out content kills two birds with one stone. It improves brand awareness by establishing a business as a trustworthy player in its field, and it increases the number of people buying a particular product.

4 Ways to Increase Social Media Likes and Shares

4 Ways to Increase Social Media Likes and Shares

Not sure if you’ve heard, but social media is now a pretty big deal.

Everybody knows that sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but they have another use, too. Believe it or not, such platforms are also great for your business.

Likes and shares not only help you reach a wider audience, they also help you improve your brand strength and even rank higher on Google.

If you’re struggling to get customers to interact with your business on social media or would just like more likes, shares, retweets and follows, the following four tips are guaranteed to help.

  1. Provide Great Content

Newsflash, business owners, social media users have no desire to make you rich. None at all. It’s not that they’re against you, they’re just for themselves.

Look at the most successful businesses on social media, ones such as Virgin and Budweiser, and you’ll see these companies aim to provide followers with value. By value, we mean posts that are humorous, creative, artistic and informative. You don’t have to give away a puppy like Virgin did to be successful, but focus on what you can offer your followers, rather than what they can offer you.

  1. Find Your Sweet Spot

On a platform as big as Twitter, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The temptation, therefore, is to try to shout louder and more frequently than your rivals. This is a mistake. Overkill is one of the most common reasons for social media failure. Bombard your customers with posts and they’ll unfollow you faster than you can say “stop, I’ve realized the error of my ways.”

For reference, 5-7 tweets a day is usually ideal, but this does depend on your niche. It’s worth noting, don’t tweet garbage just to get into the sweet spot, and don’t can great posts either.

  1. Have a Relationship With Friends and Followers

The great thing about social media is how easy it is to communicate with just about everybody. It looks rude, therefore, if somebody communicates with you, but you don’t communicate back.

You’ll encourage more people to participate in any campaign you run if you’re responsive. Thank those who post on your social media pages. Follow them back. Reply to messages with witty responses. Answer questions and provide more info if it’s requested. It really is the least you can do.

  1. Run Contests

Everybody likes free stuff, especially those on social media. Who wouldn’t want to exchange a simple Like or Follow for a free gift?

Running contests is a great way to encourage more people to engage with you and help spread your message. The great news is that prizes don’t need to be fantastic either. You could offer a Christmas gift basket filled with chocolates and you’d find your contest was successful. As it costs no time or money to enter, you’ll find participation levels are surprisingly impressive.

If possible, give away free samples of your product. This will allow you to enjoy exposure on news feeds across the world once your page has been shared by a lucky hopeful.

3 Ways to Make a User Friendly Website

Construct a User Friendly Website3 Ways to Make User Friendly Website

Having a user friendly website is more in demand than ever before. According to recent studies, visitors are 67% more likely to buy a product from a site that is easy to use. Yet, as convincing as these statistics are, too many people are ignoring them. Instead, they opt for static websites, or websites that bombard users with color, information, or calls to action.

Making your site a more user friendly website isn’t too difficult. You’ll probably need to make a few changes to your current setup, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll reap the benefits instantly.

Here are 3 great ways to make your website more user-friendly.

  1. Perfect Your Navigation

 Quick question for you: How do you encourage users to spend time on your site? By providing great content, and by making this great content easy to find. While we’ll get onto content in a minute, this tip is all about site navigation. By making your site easy to navigate around, you’ll tempt visitors into giving you some of their precious time.

You can improve your site’s navigation by strategically placing links to your best content in places they’re likely to be seen. You can also do this by cleaning up your site’s layout. Navigating it should be a simple process. A user should be able to find what they need without even thinking about it. 

  1. Focus on Speed

 McDonald’s has made a fortune out of giving people what they want, and fast. Even if you’re not selling hamburgers, you should at least take note of their success and realize people no longer want to wait for things unless they absolutely have to.

If your site is slow to load, unfortunately, users are going to click away from it and get what they need elsewhere. Thankfully, you can speed up loading times fairly easily by reducing the amount of media included on your site’s pages. Large pictures, videos or flash effects add seconds to your loading time.

Another way to speed up your site is to compress files such as images. By saving pictures under a different file type, you’ll reduce their size, and thus the time they take to load.

  1. Opt for Relevant, Readable Content

Unless you own an online gaming site, people are coming to you for help solving a problem. This means they want to access the good stuff and read it without distractions. Whether you offer solutions to problems through text, video or offline services, the following advice is still relevant to you.

Don’t distract users by using complex color schemes, pop-up adverts or whacky text. Try to include as much white space as possible and eliminate broken links. Break up text as much as possible by using headlines and bullet points. This ensures it’s likely to at least get read.

Why not ask a friend to visit your site and give you their feedback on how easy it was to find a particular piece of information? This will give you an insight into how your users feel when clicking through to your homepage.

What is a Responsive Website and Why is it Important?

What is a Responsive Website?

You probably heard of responsive websites and wondered what a responsive website is.   Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “why is responsive design important to me?”  Well, Responsive Web design is making your site look the same and easily readable no matter what type of device you’re using.  But the answer to why it’s important is much deeper.

When Google announced that static web pages would be deprived of its highest rankings, web designers everywhere jumped for joy. Suddenly, everybody with a uniform website was faced with the prospect of upgrading or falling behind.

While such a move might sound conniving on Google’s part – as if they’d just invested heavily into the web-design industry or something – the search engine’s hands were tied. As the demand for responsive websites grew, Google was forced to cater to this demand by taking decisive action.

Today, having a site that adapts itself to a user’s device is essential. There’s more than one reason why this is, which is why we’re going to have a look at them all individually.

The Rise of Mobile

 The year 2015 was the year that mobile searches officially took over from desktop searches. According to Google, more users this year browsed the web on their mobile than they did on a fixed device.

Such a change in user habits can’t go unheeded. Unless you want to say goodbye to half of your potential audience and risk sliding down Google’s mobile search results, you need to be fluid, and your site needs to be responsive.

An Increase in Focus on User Experience

The way consumers use the web has changed. Past practices have found themselves out of date pretty quickly. New, evolved ways of doing things have taken their place. This has led to web owners paying more attention to user experience.

Any site that changes size, pixel resolution, and markup to suit the consumer using it is going to be more successful.


It’s a fair to assume you’d get pretty annoyed if your local grocery store changed its layout every time you went in there. By the same merit, web users get pretty frustrated if their favorite sites look and act different depending on the device they’re browsing on.

In some cases, a website can be completely unresponsive when viewing it on a mobile or tablet. As you can probably guess, this is usually enough to chase off a user for good. Research has shown that once a consumer leaves for another site, they very rarely come back. If somebody loves what you provide, allow them to enjoy it regardless of how they’re accessing the web.

Keeping Up With the Times

You may be completely put off by the idea of re-investing your time, money and energy into creating a responsive website, but unfortunately, this is just a necessary evil. Think of it as the web’s version of color television. While fortunes are being spent worldwide to keep up with the latest habits, this transition phase is ultimately something that will make the web better.

Chances are, you use mobile to browse, at least some of the time, and will benefit from the very thing that’s currently inconveniencing you. We say don’t fight the change!  So next time you think “What is a Responsive Website” or wonder why responsive websites are important, you should instantly redirect your attention to making your website responsive immediately.

Writing a Social Media Marketing Plan

PlanAs the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

On social media, creating a marketing plan is just as important as it would be elsewhere in the business world. While you may be investing less money into your campaign compared to advertising for example, you won’t want it to be ineffective.

Thankfully creating a plan doesn’t take too long. It involves a few minutes of detailed thought, and some analysis of your current position. If you’re thinking of making a social media marketing plan, here are several headings you need to include.


As with everything in business, you need to know what your objectives are. The same applies when using social media.

Define whether you want to increase revenue, boost followers or improve brand image.

Your Audit

Before you can get to where you want to be, you need to know where you are.

You’ll need to perform a social media audit, evaluating the quality of your profiles, what social media platforms you currently use, and your current customer engagement level.

Steps to Improve Your Accounts

Chances are, there will be several things your accounts need in order to be sufficient for running a campaign. Maybe you need to improve the images, or maybe you need to add more details about your business.

Whatever needs improving, write it down in order to ensure all of your profiles get improved.

Your Content Plan

Rather than post at random intervals, it’s better to have a plan. This plan will help you target your posts to your audience, and will ensure that what you post has a purpose.

Your content plan should not only detail what you plan to share with the world, but it should also deal with what you aim to achieve by posting it. Are you looking for shares? Likes? Comments?

Your Content Schedule

To ensure your profiles stay looking business-like, you’ll want to outline a content schedule. This helps you to keep your profiles looking active, and also helps you ensure you don’t bombard your followers with info.

Each of your social media profiles will require a different schedule, so make sure to include this step for every profile you have.

Be Prepared to Evaluate Later Down the Line

While a social media plan will help you become more successful when marketing on the various platforms, having one is not a guarantee of success.

To make sure your campaign runs as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to adjust as you go. While your objectives will always stay the same, the type of content you share, the reason for sharing it, and your sharing frequency may all need to change. This shouldn’t be a problem. You can alter your plan as you go.

The analysis stage is always important. After several weeks, always check to ensure your content is helping you meet your objectives. If not, feel free to tweak your plan.

Why Local SEO Often Spells Increased Profits

MoneyWhile it is a dream of many to rank number one on Google for a profitable term like “law”, sadly, that’s just not a reality most will ever experience.

That’s actually ok though, because there is still plenty of money to be made by ranking highly on your local search results page, where your target market is going to see you. As far as SEO is concerned, there are numerous ways to make it pay, and it just so happens that placing yourself where those local to you will see you is one of those ways.

What is Local SEO

If you own a business that sells products or services to your local community, you’ll probably have wracked your brain trying to think of ways to promote your products or services to them.

One great way is to let them find you. If, for example, somebody is searching for “Bay area haircuts”, surely you’d want to be visible to the person searching this term, especially if you’re offering haircuts to those in the Bay area.

This is local SEO.

Being visible means you have a high percentage chance of making a sale, higher in fact, than in most other forms of marketing.

Why Local SEO is so Important

Local SEO takes search results one step further. Depending on the search term, Google may even return local search results to a user even if they haven’t entered a location into the search bar. For instance, the user may just type “best Italian restaurant”, yet still find your site of your business’s contact details because you’re local to them.

This intuitive feature Google offers is helped by the mobile device. As the search engine giant will be able to determine where a user is when searching via their device, the results become more tailor-made.

As a striking number of people now use the local search results they receive to make a purchase, it’s more important than ever before to ensure your company shows up on a user’s screen whenever they enter a search term relevant to you.

Optimizing a Site to Appear in Local Search Results

If you feel as though appearing in the local search results in your niche will be good for business, you’re probably right.

The easiest way to optimize your site to appear in the relevant local results section is to create a Google+ Local page. On this page you can enter your business details such as name, address, and telephone number. This info will be shown to your potential clients who will then be able to make an informed decision as to whether your business sounds right for them.

When creating this Google+ Local page, you’ll want to keep in mind the usual SEO techniques. For example, reference keywords in both titles and body text areas, and keep information consistent.

What are Autoresponders and How Can They Help You?

Auto ResponderWhen it comes to customer service, you can’t be too careful. Even something as innocent as an email could make or break your continued relationship with a customer or client.

In today’s world, people like things done quickly – and that includes communication too. While fast communication isn’t always possible given you’d need to be at the office 24/7, there are ways around this particular problem.

Many businesses small and large have turned to autoresponders to help them manage this communication with clients.

What is an Autoresponder?

An autoresponder is a piece of software that sends a predetermined message or reply to any particular email address.

If you’ve ever sent a message to customer service on one of your favorite sites, you may have received an email back instantly, thanking you for your message and letting you know somebody will deal with your concern soon.

This is an autoresponder at work.

How to Use Autoresponders

As you can imagine, having a piece of software that replies in a predetermined way can save you a lot of time, and can even preserve your reputation as a business that provides good customer service.

Customers may send emails to you and worry they haven’t been received. When an autoresponder is in use, this worry diminishes as the confirmed reply indicates you’re working on replying to their message.

Autoresponders can also be used for email marketing. By loading up your marketing emails into your software, you’ll be able to pick when you want them to be sent, and to whom, meaning you can let the campaign run on autopilot.

Ideal for Small and Large Businesses

Regardless of the size of your business, an autoresponder can prove extremely useful. Smaller businesses won’t have the manpower to reply to customer emails all the time, so will rely on the software to inform these customers the issue is being dealt with.

Larger businesses may find the amount of customer communication they receive is too vast to handle, so may need more time to work through messages. Again, the autoresponder will allow the business to inform those who have messaged as to what’s happening regarding their comment or concern.

Whether your business is small or large, you’ll also benefit from the email marketing features found on an autoresponder. Why have somebody manually send out emails when the software can run the campaign for you?

Potentially Money Saving

While an autoresponder can be great for improving your reputation as a customer service oriented business, it can also save you money.

First, you’re unlikely to lose customers due to poor communication. Second, you won’t need to pay staff to watch over the email accounts at all hours.

If you’re having trouble managing communication, an autoresponder could be just what you’re looking for.

5 Reasons Why You Need a Good Website

Good WebsiteIf you own a small business but aren’t yet online, you’re missing out on a wealth of opportunity.

Even if you are online but don’t have an effective website, you may still be missing out on many of the benefits gained by having an online presence.

A good website doesn’t have to cost heaps of cash, but it does need to be well thought out. Here are 5 reasons why you and your business need a good website.

  1. More Revenue

A good website is likely to generate you a healthy amount of revenue. With many of your customers now online, being online with them allows you the chance to make more sales. Of course, simply having a website doesn’t guarantee you anything, which is why your site needs to be functional, and goal oriented. A website is a lot like a shop. Just because you open one, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be successful.

  1. Greater Market Share

If you aren’t on the web, or if you have a poorly designed website, your customers will shun your business in favor of your competitor. Not only will this cost you sales or sign ups, it will also damage your market share. If you operate offline too, then chances are any customers lost to your competition will remain lost, even when buying from a physical offline shop.

  1. Better Reputation

A business can communicate a lot to their customers with a website. Not only is a good website a chance to showcase your products or services, it’s also a great chance to communicate your message to your audience. A well-made website will include an About page, contact details, and more information about the business and how it operates. You’ll also get to share any great testimonials left by past clients.

  1. Expanded Reach

There is nothing like the internet for reaching a global market. With a few clicks of a button, your brand can be visible to the whole world. Those in Tokyo and Sydney can view your products or services, or get to know your business and what it offers. But your website needs to be designed well for this to happen. If it’s not user friendly or misses out on key features, nobody will be interested in viewing it.

  1. Endless Exposure

Unless you run a huge operation, chances are your business closes for the evening and remains closed until the next morning. Know what doesn’t close? A website. If you’ve created yours well, customers will be able to order from you, email you, find out your prices, and check out your store’s actual location (if you have one), all while you sleep. A website is the equivalent of having a 24/7 advert running for you.

The Web is the Future

Last year, more than $300 billion was spent online. The latest statistics show this money was spent by 70% of the world, who now have access to the web.

As incredible as the above figures are, those numbers are still growing. It’s never been more essential for a company to embrace the online world, and use it to enhance their business and its sales figures.

The Importance of White Hat SEO

SEOEmploying good SEO is essential if you want to rank highly on Google. This SEO can be done yourself, or with the help of experienced professionals. Either way, it needs to be clean and ethical.

The punishments for using black hat SEO methods (methods that are employed only to gain an edge over the search algorithms) are stiff. Site demotion, blacklisting, and even deindexing can all take place if you don’t run and market your site in a fair and moral way.

There are several black hat techniques used by many site owners unwittingly. Those we’ve mentioned below are all big no-nos and can do far more harm than good if you decide to use them.

Keyword Stuffing

Google’s latest updates mean quality comes first, at least when it comes to the search engines. In 2005, it was common to see search results display sites with content filled only with keywords. This technique known as keyword stuffing was designed solely to trick the algorithms into believing a certain site was more valuable to a user thanks to the amount of targeted words being used.

Now, keyword stuffing is a major online sin. While keywords are important, try to target just two per article, and ensure a density of no more than 3%.

Duplicate Content

It can be expensive getting freshly written content made for your site. A good article or blog post can cost around $50, depending on your niche. Why pay that, when somebody has already written a wonderful article and posted it to another site?

Well, Penguin and Panda updates mean duplicate content is now a punishable offense. If your site is full of content already posted on other sites, your chances of ranking highly are slim to none.

Ad Scraping

Advertising is a key way to make revenue from an online site, so that by itself isn’t bad. The problems come about when a site consists of very little else but ads.

The problem with a site like this, from Google’s point of view, is that it serves you well, but not your visitor. Google don’t like ad scraping, and neither do site users, which is why it’s best avoided if you want to be a successful online business owner.

Link Farming

Backlinks are important, but not so important you should damage your site in order to attain them.

Link farming is the name given to a cyclical rotation of backlinks, where sites advertise each other in order to improve each other’s ranking. While in theory, this may sound like a rather clever idea, in reality, it’s deceptive, and akin to fraud. It’s like giving out a fake reference, which is why the search engines hate it, and look to clamp down hard on anybody doing it.

Good Behavior is Its Own Reward

As you can imagine, there are many sites on the web using black hat SEO techniques to try to game the system. While these techniques can sometimes pay off, at least in the short term, they’ll almost certainly cause you problems in the long run.

Ranking highly on the search engines is so valuable for every business, which is why it’s best to make sure your SEO techniques are white hat, and above board. Don’t trade quick results for a sustainable venture.