The Westmark Group Blog

Technology always finds a way to evolve, simplifying our lives and giving us more opportunities to grow our businesses.

For commercial and residential real estate companies, it has never been more crucial to keep up with the times. Keeping up with latest trends means customer retention and more potential buyers. It’s time to crack down on real estate marketing.

Here are some quick tips to help you keep up and continue to grow.

  • Get Mobile-Optimized (as soon as possible). An astounding number of people have traded in their old desktops for the latest smart phones and tablets. A study done on Facebook showed that by 2017, 51% of people were using their cell phones for all of their online transactions. So make sure your website is mobile-optimized, and create an app if you haven’t already.

 

  • Get Involved. A study in Adweek predicted that people spend over five years of their lives on social media. Five years! People are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter every single day, and it’s a part of their routines. As a real estate agent or agency, social media is one of your best friends. Brand yourself. Mingle with the online world. It will bring in clients and it will make you more personable.

 

  • Get Private! With everything that is bought and sold online, people are becoming more and more conscious of their privacy. The Washington Post Conducted a study in 2014 that said 7 out of 10 business practices do things that put people’s personal and financial data at risk. You can avoid this by protecting your clients with updated software and making sure your site is secure. Look to hosting companies for help if you need it.

February has been cold, but thankfully with the right relationships you can fight that bitter chill still hanging around! The Westmark Group is proud of the relationships it has formed working with businesses, and we’d love to introduce you to one of those businesses as they provide the fuel and equipment needed to keep your home comfortable!

With our February feature we’re going to introduce you to OSI Comfort Specialists. The company was originally founded in 1936 in Rockaway Beach by Mr. Levi. This was during the Great Depression, a time when neighbors helped neighbors out as best they could. It was during this time Mr. Levi was known to carry oil in snowdrifts to his customers homes. The business was in the blood and as time passed Mr. Levi’s son, Irving, joined him in the business. This continued with Irving’s sons Martin, Richard and Alan joining the businesses as well. When Richard’s son, Michael, joined OSI he became the 4th generation of family to become part of the business.

OSI Comfort Specialists success is based on 70+ years of experience, the high standards they set, investing in expertise and hiring the right personnel for the company. Their vision and understanding of new technologies allows their customers to have the best advantages for their home comfort needs. From utilizing the most modern equipment and the best maintenance practices their customers can consume less fuel while enjoying the most comfortable homes. Along with equipping your home with the right equipment OSI Comfort Specialists will also maintain it, deliver your fuel automatically, guard you from unchecked costs while also providing price protection and service plans.

The OSI Comfort Specialist team is comprised of technicians who are courteous, knowledgeable, thorough and neat. They are highly trained and install equipment to meet the standards set forth by the manufacturer ensuring optimal performance. Your home comfort needs will be greatly exceeded when using OSI Comfort Specialists.

We are grateful for the relationship we have formed working with OSI comfort Specialists over the past few years. The dedication to their customers and the high standards they set in the business are bar none. It is a pleasure to work with them and watch their amazing business continually grow! Be sure to check out their website to learn more about OSI Comfort Specialists, especially if you are looking for home comfort services and energy products!

January is off to an amazing start, and a major part of that is because of the amazing businesses and people we get work with! The Westmark Group is proud of its relationships formed with these businesses. We would love to introduce you to one of those businesses and share who they are with you!

For our January feature, we’re going to introduce you to Bregman Veterinary Group. Originally starting out in the 1970’s in Coney Island, it was there that Dr. Jack Bregman opened his first small animal practice. You could say practicing veterinary medicine runs in the family blood as sons Eric and Allan eventually followed in their father’s footsteps. Through their hard work, passion and dedication to providing the best care possible, they have built a foundation of great relationships with pet owners and their furry patients. Over the years this passion for care has grown to two animal hospitals in New York, two in Florida and two nuclear facilities.

With their growth, Dr. Jack Bregman has moved on to practice at their Florida locations while  Dr. Eric and Dr. Allan are still here in New York. Dr. Eric Bregman is a certified Radiation Officer and is licensed to administer radioactive iodine to treat feline hyperthyroidism. He is currently the Alternate Delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association representing NYS and is active in the New York City Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Allan Bregman is a Category II USDA Accredited Veterinarian and is well versed in performing and documenting International Health Certificates. Dr. Allan serves as the treasurer of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. He is also a member of the Executive Board of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. In addition Jack, Eric and Allan are all USDA Category II veterinarians.

We are honored by the relationship we have formed working with Bregman Veterinary Group over the years. The dedication to their clients and love they have for providing unprecedented care for animals has made it a pleasure to watch their practice grow into what it is today! Be sure to check out their website to learn more about Bregman Veterinary Group, especially if you are looking for a veterinarian!

livestreaming

The beauty of social media is the ability for all of us, the users, to generate original content. With the development of live stream video rolling out across a variety of social platforms, another world of creation has been born. From Facebook and Instagram live video to Snapchat Stories, it was recently reported that 89 percent of people who watched live streams have watched content from brands at least once. For brands, this way of connecting with the consumer is raw (think behind-the-scenes footage) and innovative. While Facebook Live is touted with being the most popular

platform for people to view live video streams on, other social platforms – both owned by the social media giant and standalone apps have taken note. Below, we review the various live streaming platforms.

 

Periscope: Periscope was created solely as a livestreaming app. You could argue they were ahead of their time when the developers introduced Periscope, but since the introduction of the below livestreaming services, Periscope failed to update with the changing times. The app started out at number 23 on the overall iOS app charges this past January, but currently sits at number 441. Owned by Twitter, Periscope lacks the easy-to-use features. The app has failed to maintain momentum largely because after it was acquired, the apps ability to remain independent of other social platforms was lost. This in turn caused Periscope to have no user base to build off, and instead was just an added feature for Twitter users. It is entirely up to Twitter to reinvigorate Periscope, who can be credited as one of the first apps to enter the livestreaming space.

 

Facebook Live: The only thing you need to do to “go Live” is your phone and a good internet connection. Part of what makes Facebook Live so appealing is how easy it is to stream a video. With little effort, you can record anything. If you “follow/subscribe” to people your friends with or one of the brands you have “liked” on the social platform, you’ll receive a notification when the person has gone live, and you can tune in simply by clicking the notification. For example, as we write this, we’re watching CNN’s livestream Eagle Cam in Southwest Florida, as we wait for two eagle eggs to hatch, all because we follow CNN on Facebook. What’s also neat about Facebook Live is that your livestreaming content is available long after you have shut down your camera. You can go back and look at what’s been recorded live whenever you want. In the event that your audience wasn’t able to see the content live, they too can go back and look at what was recorded. That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of livestream – you can watch a variety of things in real-time.

 

Instagram: Instagram rolled out live-streaming on their app just last month, but already it is taking over live content creation on mobile.  Unlike Facebook live, the content you livestream for your followers is gone once the user is done recording. The content will completely disappear altogether. While Instagram has been largely known for copying many of the features Snapchat is credited with creating, it doesn’t seem to be hurting the company for lack of original creativity Maybe

 

Snapchat: You can’t livestream using Snapchat, but we’re including it here because Snapchat has been a large part of the evolution of user-generated content. Instead of going live, you can create a series of content that can feature videos and images, and will play in a loop. While this content isn’t live, similarly to instant content that is livestreamed, you cannot edit your photos or videos once they’ve been published to your followers. For the immediate future, Snapchat plans on remaining as a photo/video sharing app, but there are rumors that the company plans to make livestreaming part of their app. From a brand perspective, there is the option for companies and the like to be featured in the “discover” page of the app. From here, brands can better target their audience by reading the data that suggests what users look at through the app.

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Interface of Snapchat’s Discovery page, courtesy of Tech Crunch.                                  

From TV to live streaming, we as consumers have been trained to watch a screen. Livestreaming is quite literally at our fingertips now, which makes what we watch and what we record instantly accessible. Since live streaming via social platform was introduced, we have seen monumental growth across all platforms offering the feature. Whether you use it to stay up to date on the latest brands, tune in for the breaking news aspect, or simply use it to livestream your child’s first steps, we’re positive social live streaming is here to stay.

 

customerserviceWe have all experienced the frustration of calling a customer service hotline only to “interact” with an automated person – sometimes for over a half hour. It is a nuisance when the problem you’re dealing with can’t be solved through an automated technology, and frankly, it’s annoying when you try several times to get through to a real person and fail. What happens next?

For Millennials, who hold close to $200 billion in purchasing power each year brands will continue to go out of their way to be there. For instance, when the item doesn’t work as it should, a package doesn’t get delivered at the right time, or an account issue comes up, brands utilize social media to resolve the issue. Plain and simple, social media has taken customer service to an entirely new dimension.

Recently, an employee of The Westmark Group ordered a salad from Sweetgreen, a popular salad chain. When she got back to the office to start eating her salad, she discovered the one thing no one likes to find in their food – a hair! She immediately took to Twitter, mentioning Sweetgreen in the tweet that explained her problem (even including a picture). While this might seem like putting too much effort toward an issue that frankly, happens more often than we’d like to think about, Sweetgreen immediately responded via a private message to begin resolving the issue

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A swift 10 minutes later, the issue was solved. Our employee found herself in a pleasant conversation with the person on the other end of the screen and mentioned that she had been a Sweetgreen customer for many years. The customer service representative immediately followed up the discussion with crediting our employee $15.00, in addition to asking for her address to send a little something extra. All of this for a hair in a salad might seem a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s really genius. The customer service representative was trained on how to handle what was a very public tweet, in a professional and unique manner. A few days later, our employee received a handwritten note and a Sweetgreen t-shirt.

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You might be asking yourself, why are we telling you this story? This is but one of the many examples where social media connected a person to a brand they already had a favorable attitude toward. Instead of the relationship being sabotaged because of one bad experience, their use of social media saved the brand from losing a loyal customer. As a business owner or employee of a brand, you never want to have issues between your products and your clients, but it happens, that’s the reality. Should you find yourself in a similar scenario, where you are instructed to provide the solution, remember what it feels like to be on the frustrated end of the problem. One person’s problem can give your brand the opportunity to not only save the day, but create strong brand loyalty if it is handled right!

spendingsocialmedia

Social media is paying off. Those are the findings of a recent study performed by Forrester Research Inc., which show that 76% of retailers are planning to spend more on Social Media Marketing this year than they did last year. The findings demonstrate that social media, which many may dismiss as trite or unnecessary, is actually growing faster than any other digital marketing strategy.

The sudden upswing in investment is most likely a result of new-and-improved advertising options, like Facebook’s dynamic ads option, which allows retailers to advertise products that are available in a user’s local area. Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter have also made tremendous strides this year, both in number of users and improved updates.

As for SEO, the report suggests that it will also see an investment boost this year, but not as much as social media will.

So, why are organizations from Denny’s to NASA deciding to invest more on social media? We have a few ideas:

  • Improved customer relationships: Social Media allows brands to demonstrate a clear, genuine commitment to customer satisfaction. By promptly replying to questions, addressing concerns, making relevant jokes, and engaging with their audiences, brands can convert simple customers into die-hard brand advocates.
  • Increased audience reach: A lot has changed in the marketing world over the past century, but word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful selling tools in existence. Customers trust each other far more than they trust corporations, and are therefore far more likely to make a purchase based on positive referrals, reviews, and posts. Likes, shares, reblogs, and retweets can help spread the word about your brand like wildfire, which will convert into cold, hard sales.
  • Better brand performance monitoring: Social media allows retailers to discover what customers are saying about their products, their brands, and their competitors, uncensored and unimpeded. This allows marketers to keep their fingers on the pulse of the ever-shifting conversation about their brands and address concerns as they arise.
  • Highly customizeable ads: Social media ads, like those on Facebook, can target users according to highly specific factors such as location, education level, industry, purchase history, and “liked” pages. When your ads are only being shown to those who already have an interest in what you have to offer, they are far more likely to convert into solid leads and sales.
  • Cost-effectiveness: In terms of ROI, Social Media offers an astonishing bang for your buck. For example, a boosted post on Facebook may cost $0.12 per click, when it could cost $1 or $2 (or even $50) on Google AdWords, depending on the keyword used. When such a minimal investment can reap a huge payoff, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are upping their Social Media investment.

If these aren’t enough reasons why your company should invest in social media marketing, don’t worry; we’ve got more. If we’ve managed to convince you, give us a call. We have the skills, knowledge, and industry experience to craft a Social Media strategy that truly converts and grows your business.

linking

Link building has always been a crucial component of SEO. Now, with Google’s latest Penguin update, it’s more important than ever to build valuable, strong links, lest your website be penalized in search engine rankings.

When it comes to internal link building, it’s easy. Simply build several high-quality, well-written landing pages and blog posts which all pertain to your industry. Once you have posted all your content, link everything you’ve written to everything else, whenever you see a reasonable opportunity to do so.

External links are equally simple: just embed outbound links within your content which lead to high-ranking external websites, and reap the SEO rewards.

But inbound links are another story entirely. Inbound links are earned when another website links back to yours. They are much harder to achieve because, while you are in total control over your own website, you have no control over what someone else decides to post. However, there are many strategies which you can use to acquire inbound links. Here are just a few.

List your site in a trustworthy directory

There are many online directories that provide no real value to users, and Google excludes all of them from its search results. However, there are a few online directories that Google still values. These directories offer an excellent place to post a link to your website and provide useful information about your company to consumers.

Give a testimonial

Spamming websites with useless testimonials and posting links back to your own site will only get you penalized by Google. However, there’s nothing risky about leaving a valuable, coherent review about a product or service you have used on a site related to your business. This usually works because two parties benefit: the contact receives a new testimonial, and you receive an inbound link. As you will learn as you read through this list, inbound link building is all about scratching someone’s back so that he or she will scratch yours.

Just ask

Think of your friends, relatives, partners, and clients with a blog or website. Ask them to post a link to one of your blog posts or landing pages. Be sure to ask for an in-content link, rather than a link in the sidebar or footer. Be warned, however, that if the link comes from a website that is irrelevant to yours, it will have little positive impact on your rankings and may even trigger a Google penalty.

Write a (good) guest post

Many sites and blogs are more than happy to accept and publish free content; if the organization maintains a regular blog schedule, that’s one less piece of content they have to pay for. However, as with the rest of this list, don’t cut corners. The post should be relevant to the website, professional, and interesting. Additionally, the subject should not be your company and how great it is.

Recover your dead backlinks

Maybe your site was relaunched, and not all content was successfully moved. Or maybe another webmaster posted a link to your site that was misspelled. Whatever the reason, there may be many broken links to your website across the internet that return 404 errors. In this case, tools like LinkJuice can help you identify and fix the broken links.

Turn mentions into backlinks

If someone wrote about your brand or product, but neglected to link back to your website, simply reach out and ask the webmaster to do so. Most webmasters will be happy to help, as they themselves understand the SEO struggle.

Build a Successful Linking Strategy with Westmark Group

There are literally hundreds of additional ways to build inbound links, but we simply don’t have the space to discuss them all. If you have any more questions about link building or SEO in general, don’t hesitate to reach out and touch us—we’re always happy to be a resource for new business owners.

usingsocialmedia

Many businesses—especially new ones—seem to view Social Media as a necessary evil. It may seem risky, or unnecessary, or like your 14-year-old niece could do it. But anyone who makes those assumptions is making a big mistake. Social Media is a major power player in the world of Digital Marketing, and a marketing strategy that lacks it is simply incomplete.

Here are the top reasons why your business should be using Social Media Management—and no, your niece probably shouldn’t be the one doing it.

It’s a major player in your digital marketing strategy

Think of a baseball team. You have a pitcher, a catcher, three basemen, and some outfielders. The team works together as a whole, with no player more important than the other. If your team lacks a Social Media Coordinator, or at least a strong Social Media strategy, you haven’t covered all your bases.

Many business owners want to see results from Social Media and Social Media alone. Those that do are failing to see the big picture—the fact that Social Media supports the entire Digital Marketing strategy, from Public Relations to SEO. As awesome as Social Media is in itself, its most important function is existing as a key component of your entire team. How, you ask? Keep reading.

It drives your traffic

Sure, organic traffic is great—that’s why SEO experts take great care to optimize blog posts and landing pages with well-researched keywords. But why post content and hope that your target users will find it, when you can place it directly in front of them? Social Media has massive power in this respect. A single link posted on a site like Reddit can generate tens of thousands of visitors in one day, and posting a blog to Facebook can bump its rankings from dozens to hundreds. Ideally, Social Media is Content Marketing’s best friend, and every blog that your marketing team creates should immediately be distributed across all applicable channels. Without Social Media, you’re just throwing content into the void and hoping something sticks.

It boosts your SEO

Content Marketing is one of the biggest components of SEO, so it goes without saying that Social Media helps your SEO rankings increase, too. When your pages receive consistent traffic, search engines like Google will rank them much higher, and your entire website will benefit.

It allows you to build real relationships with your target market

Social Media offers something that marketers have never been able to do before: the ability to actually communicate, in real time, with consumers. Social Media marketers can read their audience’s tweets, posts, updates, and comments exactly as they occur. That kind of real-world insight is invaluable when determining how to build your brand and give the people what they want. As an added bonus, interacting with your clients on a daily basis helps to build your brand as a positive, friendly presence in their daily lives.

All the cool kids are doing it

At this point in the game, not having a social media presence is like pulling out a flip phone at a company meeting about the importance of technology. It’s embarrassing, and more than that, it’s telling. Your clients—and competitors—do notice when you don’t have any social media strategies in place, and will perceive your brand as outdated, unfriendly, and behind the times. In order to stay competitive in the 21st century, Social Media is just a requirement of doing business.

A Social Media Marketing company that drives results

If you’re ready to push past your competitors and take the Social Media world by storm, give us a call. We’ll help you develop a Social Media marketing strategy that drives your web traffic, improves your search engine rankings, and shows the world what your brand has to offer.

penguinblog

For months, SEO experts have suspected that something fishy was going on in Google-land. Now, after months of playing coy, Google has finally rolled out its latest algorithm update, which the SEO community has dubbed “Penguin 4.0.” If your marketing strategy includes any kind of Search Engine Optimization, it’s vital for you to understand how the update will affect your search engine rankings, your conversions, and ultimately, your sales.

Back to Basics: What is Penguin?

If you’re new to the world of search engines and SEO in general, allow us to back up. In the days of old—2011 and prior—the internet was a frustrating place. Sites could, and did, achieve higher search rankings by using scummy tactics like populating entire pages with links or churning out useless, poorly-written content.

Google’s first major algorithm update, Panda, changed all that. It dramatically overhauled the way Google evaluated search quality, penalizing sites that posted spammy content and rewarding those that offered rich, valuable content. A year later, Google unrolled Penguin, which aimed to do the same as Panda, only with links. Suddenly, sites with low-quality links were penalized, and sites with strong inbound link profiles were rewarded.

Since then, Penguin has seen a few minor updates—but Penguin 2.0 and 3.0 were nowhere near as significant as the 4.0 version. Below are three of the biggest changes.

Penguin 4.0’s Top 3 Updates

Here’s what’s different in the SEO world now that Penguin 4.0 is here.

  1. Constant refreshing. Before, if a website uploaded spammy or manipulative links, it could be weeks or months until the faux-pas was caught by Penguin’s crawlers. Now, Penguin is refreshing itself constantly, meaning that guilty sites will be caught and penalized almost immediately. On the flip side, those who are attempting to remove a Penguin-imposed penalty won’t have to wait until the next refresh to restore their rankings and seek a second chance.
  1. No more full-domain penalties. Previously, Google used spam indicators to flag entire websites as worthy of penalty. For example, if a webmaster built a low-quality link pointing to a landing page, the entire domain’s rankings would tank across the board. Now, individual pages will be penalized, and the website as a whole will remain safe.
  1. Full incorporation into Google’s core algorithm. This latest update integrates Penguin into dozens of other separate algorithms that all function together to evaluate a site’s value. This integration will doubtlessly make Penguin more smooth and efficient.

So, What’s it to Me?

Ultimately, Penguin 4.0 means two very important things:

  • Black Hat SEO users will be caught and punished more quickly.
  • Black Hat SEO users will be forgiven more easily.

Now, hopefully, your marketing company isn’t using any Black Hat SEO tactics in the first place. In that case, you don’t have anything to worry about. Google wants you to play by the rules—so play by the rules, and you’ll have nothing to fear.

Mainly, the new update offers an impetus to check your link building practices. Are your links leading to high-authority sites that will lend you valuable credibility? Are you using appropriate anchor text and embedding your links in well-written, well-researched content? Will your target audience find your links useful? This update will help SEO experts analyze their current practices and take their optimization techniques to the next level.

In other words, SEO experts simply have all the more reason to take time and care when building websites, aiming to tell their brands’ stories via data-driven content, research, and industry knowledge. Another plus? This huge change in the SEO world means that the demand for quality link building services will only increase in upcoming years—great news for marketing companies and their clients. If you do make an SEO mistake, real-time updates mean you will be able to quickly fix the violation. Eventually, Black Hat SEO techniques will slowly become obsolete, which is exactly what Google wants in the first place.

phone with coffee
A study from Lithium Technologies illustrates the dissatisfaction customers have when they interact with brands via social media, and specifically when they reach out to ask a question or stress their concern with a product.

It’s one thing to unlike a company’s Facebook page or unfollow a brand on Twitter, but it’s a whole other issue when the consumer decides to express their discontent by posting negative reviews or going off on a Twitter rant.

Timing is of utmost importance. Customers generally become distressed when they feel they are not valued by the brand and the time between when the outreach is initiated to when they are responded to, increases. According to the study, more than half of unsatisfied customers will take negative actions to show their dissatisfaction in you, the company. This is the last thing you want, as a company owner. Your attention automatically refocuses to remedying the situation and performing crisis communication to the displeased customer. Essentially, if not handled swiftly, this form of discontent can quickly erupt into a PR disaster for a brand.

However, there is an upside to handling the complaint or overall interaction in a timely manner. Not only will the customer have a favorable attitude of your brand, they are more likely to purchase additional products from your company. Most of all, when customers have a positive experience with you, or when you have resolved an issue for them, they are that more likely to recommend you to their friends and spread the word about how a complaint or negative experience was handled appropriately, resulting in a favorable mindset of the brand.

Involvement on Twitter and Facebook are merely instantaneous and take only a couple of seconds to have an everlasting impact. This is a two-way street. If we act speedily and with purpose we have the ability as marketers to transform the social customer service experience for brand as a whole.