In May of 2018, Google announced that bail bonds would join the ranks of business-non-grata along with guns, cryptocurrencies, and marijuana. According to David Graff, Google's senior director of global policy, the company bowed to pressure from activist groups who felt bail bonds unfairly targeted poor and minority communities. Facebook quickly followed suit, announcing that they would no longer allow advertising for bail bonds, either.
With these new challenges in online marketing, you may feel like it's the end of everything but billboard advertisements for the bail bond industry. But, all is not lost!
Engaging those in the online community just got a little more difficult, but it also got less expensive in many ways. You no longer have to pay for every wandering click that happens by. Many of those clicks cost, but never resulted in a bond being written. And, with Pay-Per-Click advertising, the minute you didn't pay your ad bill, the leads dried up immediately. PPC required a consistent monthly investment.
New Solutions For Online Marketing
What you'll pay for online engagement now and for the foreseeable future, will have more to do with time investment and patience. While some of the most important solutions will involve paying industry professionals, the long-term costs of advertising could end up being better for your bottom line. And the results will be longer lasting.
The key to being found on Google without the use of Google Adwords is to ensure that your website will show up in the organic search results. If you've been following the discussions about the end of Google and Facebook ads, you've probably read a dozen or more articles about organic search results and the importance of SEO. This is a brief recap, but you can find a more thorough overview of Search Engine Optimization here.
“Great SEO isn't a hat trick! It's hard work that requires time to build results, but the results last!” - Kate Walker of Get Better Traffic
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is a process of taking elements of your website that speaks directly to search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and ensuring that your website is sending clear and concise messages about what questions your website can answer for search engine customers.
If you think of search engines as a big-box store full of different items for sale, then internet users are the search engine customers. Search engines are interested in providing the very best “user experience” for their customers so that they'll come back to them again next time they have a need for additional information. To do this, Google and other search engines use a variety of signals to determine which websites are offering the very best user experience for their customers and rewarding that website with top billing search results. Good SEO considers all of the signals that search engines use to determine a great user experience and don't just load every page up with keywords in an attempt to capture traffic that way.
Great Bail Bond Optimization
Truly great SEO service will consider your industry needs and the needs of your potential clients to help you optimize your website and deliver the very best user experience to your customers and let Google know that you're doing it in the process.
Bail bond companies like Mr. Nice Guy Bail Bonds in Santa Ana have been investing in search engine optimization for several years, leaving them better ready to face the current “NO-AD” environment.
How To Choose A Bail Bond Service SEO Agency
When interviewing potential SEOs or going over SEO proposals for your bail bond agency, look to see that they are considering all of the potential areas that Google considers important.
- On Page Optimization
- Technical Optimization
- User-Friendly Optimization
- Mobile Friendly Optimization
- Domain Authority or Back Linking Strategies
- Local Authority
While companies refer to these areas using different terms, you want to ensure that they are considering both on and off page means of improving your website standing with Google and other search engines, they should be able to give you an overview of the ways that they address these areas if you ask them outright, even if their terms don't match those used here.
For local businesses like bail bonds, having local authority is one of the most important areas of focus and sometimes require the most work. But, having local relevance is vital to showing up in local search results in maps, addressed in a section below.
Create A User-Friendly Website
It is important to ensure that your website is user-friendly and answers all of the questions that a potential client might ask. Some people feel that withholding information, in order to force a phone call is a good way to make contact with new customers. But, there's just too much information available. If potential clients don't get the information they need from your website, they'll keep searching. When you fully answer questions, you build trust with potential clients, making it more likely that they'll come to you when they have bail bond needs.
Make it Easy!
Ensure that your website makes it easy for clients to take the appropriate action. Place “Click-To-Call” and “Click-To-Email” buttons at the top of the page. Make sure everything about your bail bond website is intuitive and that people in distress aren't having to look around to try to figure out what to do next. In those moments of trouble, be the answer to all of their potential questions.
Optimize for Mobile Users
The majority of internet users are now finding your business using their mobile phone. This is probably not shocking information for most people. We all use our phones to find the nearest pizza joint or Mexican restaurant. Google has recognized this fact and is now giving preference to websites that are Mobile Optimized Websites Rank Better On Google
Beginning in March of 2018, Google started using the mobile version of websites to determine the organic ranking of search results. This means that older websites or websites that haven't invested in mobile-friendly layout and content will be penalized in search engine results as faster, more nimble websites take the first few organic spots in rankings. If your website has seen a recent drop in rank, you may be experiencing a mobile-first penalty and need to look at what you can do to make your website more mobile-friendly.
Dominate the Local Search
Google's new focus on mobile results is a recognition that the majority of your customers are looking for you on their phones. If you've used your phone lately to “google” a local business, you know that the first thing you see on the results page is the “Map Pack.” This mini-map shows you three business where you can just click to call right from your phone screen. Many users will never scroll beyond this helpful little map to find what they're looking for. Increasing your visibility in the “map pack” is the key to increasing calls and writing more bail bonds.
Map Pack Domination
In order to show up in that top three “map pack” for bail bond searches in your area, you have to ensure that you dominate the map pack search results. To do that, you first have to have a Google My Business (GMB) listing and then you have to optimize both the GMB and your website to dominate the local search results. Optimizing your website to dominate local search results requires a specialized approach. It is more than just SEO and requires knowledge about how to make your business the most relevant search result for queries in every part of your service area. Investing in long-term local search optimization, while not cheap, will have lasting results for your company that Google Adwords could never have delivered.
Using Your Blog Effectively
Many websites have a blog and use it to highlight the different products and services that they offer. Blogs are also useful in creating pages that target specific search terms that your company hopes to capture in search results. However, this is not the only, or even the best, use of your blog forum.
Use your knowledge about your target consumers to create blog posts that are genuinely useful to your potential clients.
Don't make every blog post an endless promotion of your company. While every post can contain promotional content, truly great blogging finds the pain points of your ideal customer and answers those pain points with a solution.
Who Is Your Typical Client?
Sure, you bail people out of jail. But, does this make the incarcerated person your typical client? Or, is it actually the grandparents, wives, girlfriends, and parents of the incarcerated who are most likely to utilize your services? Beyond getting their loved ones out of jail, what information would they find useful and helpful?
Offering information that is genuinely helpful to your community helps build trust and makes your company top-of-mind when someone finds themselves in need of bail bond services.
Genuinely helpful, readable articles are also what makes great “sharing” content on social media. A good blog article is tweet and insta-worthy, giving you content to use in further boosting your online presence.
Social Media Marketing Solutions
With the end of Facebook Ads for bail bonds, it may seem pointless to even think about using social media to promote your company. But, nothing could be further from the truth. This change forces the industry to re-think how they engage in the social landscape, but certainly doesn't preclude using social media to gain online visibility.
Engage in Your Online Community
Ensure that your company has an online presence in your local Facebook community. Use this platform to explain your place in the community and the ways that your company helps, rather than disadvantages those that you serve. Your company is a reflection of the people who work with and for you. You and your employees have interests and involvements in the community that extend beyond bail bond services. You're involved in the community around you and understand the needs of those you serve. Use that knowledge and that involvement to engage your company in helping to fill the needs of your community and share that with your online community, as well.
Maintain An Active Facebook Page
Not being able to place paid ads on Facebook does not mean that your business Facebook page suddenly has no purpose. This is an area where using your blog effectively becomes even more important. Your business Facebook page can promote the articles that you've published on your blog, helping to build a community around the causes that you and your company care about.
Have a Regular Facebook Posting Schedule
It is important to use your Facebook page to engage the people in your community. To do this effectively, you should post things that aren't just “selling” your services. The idea is to share or post things that are funny, interesting, or helpful. Ideally, you will share things that will inspire people to share your post, potentially increasing your page followers and online visibility overall.
The Dark Side of Business Facebook Pages
The downside to business Facebook pages is that the algorithm is not kind to business page engagement. The current Facebook algorithm shows a business page post to approximately 2% of the people who “follow” that page. If the engagement with those initial users is high (in other words, if those who see those posts like, comment, and share the post) then Facebook will show the post to a few more “followers.” However, if those initial 2% don't immediately engage with the ad, no one else will ever see it unless they visit the page intentionally.
For businesses outside of “prohibited industries” like bail bond services, this problem can be overcome through advertisements and “boosted posts.” But, bail bond industries are now being forced to think outside the box. This is where building your own community page can be a huge advantage!
Community Pages Engage Your Community As A Whole
Anyone can start a yard sale page or group based on your location. Perhaps those in your community are particularly interested in current events or local concerts and artists. Buy-and-sell groups are popular almost everywhere, with everybody! Whatever the interests of your “target audience,” Facebook will still let you create a community page based around those interests. If done properly, you can even advertise to build interest and participation in your group.
The Facebook algorithm is much more friendly to group posts and will show new group posts to a much higher percentage of the members of the groups than they do “followers” of business pages. And, Facebook group pages can utilize advertising that your bail bond page can't.
While you will have to be more subtle about your advertising, you can build your group page membership and then put your bail bond logo and banner as the welcome banner once you're finished with advertising. Then, every time someone visits your group, there you are, a virtual online billboard for every single member. The trick is not placing your bail bond banner until you've finished advertising your group, to avoid having Facebook deny your advertising efforts.
Why Build A New Community Page?
If you're thinking, “Facebook has enough groups, especially buy and sell groups. There's no need for any more,” you're missing the point. Many people are members of multiple buy and sell groups in their area. Some groups focus on specific things like animals or vehicles. Others prohibit items like weight loss products or work-from-home advertisements. Some groups advertise themselves as “no rules.” Because of the wide variety of buy-and-sell groups, people are usually open to considering joining another. And by building your own, you control what your members see and can post your business advertisements to your group members, while not allowing competitors to do the same.
Once you've built your group and begin to see membership grow, you'll need to both monitor and participate in the group. You could offer daily inspiration quotes or funny memes that people will share outside of the group, inspiring others to also join. You can share the news articles and helpful content that you're creating and sharing on your blog.
Responsibilities of Managing A Community Page
To manage a really successful community page, you need to be actively engaged in the page beyond just promoting your own business. Some people go so far as to review every post that is submitted. While this level of oversight might be a little over-the-top, you do need to consider what your policies will be for your page and what your involvement will be in its oversight.
Social Media Marketing Specialists
One way to successfully and responsibly nurture a community group is to hire someone to oversee it for you. Social Media Marketing specialists can offer a variety of services that can be helpful to your bail bond service company, in spite of the advertising limitations Facebook has imposed recently. These services include post curation and scheduling, Facebook message response and lead forwarding, Facebook group creation, growth, management, and oversight.
Finding And Keeping Your Customers Online
Even if Google and Facebook won't take your money to advertise, your customers are still there, looking for your services. Learning to think outside the box about the way you reach your customers will be key to the long-term success of your bail bond company.
More Information About Bail Bond Marketing
If you'd like more information about how your company can pursue better online visibility in today's environment give us a call.