Where To Focus Your Marketing Efforts in 2017

If you didn’t like the results you had with your marketing in 2016, great news, you can change it in 2017.

 

As the great Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. “

 

Great marketing is the result of constant evaluation and improvement.  Most marketing efforts suck in the beginning, the difference between poor marketers and great ones is that they learn from their mistakes.  Unfortunately, many small businesses never learn from their marketing mistakes.  They keep doing the same marketing tactics year in and year out, often at the advice of the people selling them advertising, and learn little in the process.  This lazy approach to marketing often leads to a failed business, or worse, a mediocre one survives just enough to drain the life out of the business owner.

 

When it comes to online marketing, business owners tend to get misguided advice from lots of different places on what they should be doing.  From social media, to SEO, to Pay Per Click advertising, business owners end up chasing their tail, going from one thing to another often with little results to show for it.

 

The good news is that a new year is also the opportunity for a new start.  Why not make 2017 a great one for your business?  Who cares what didn’t go well the year before, the plans you had that never came to fruition or the goals that were never reached.  The only thing that matters now is that you are ready to take your marketing to the next level in 2017.

 

There are lots of different things to focus on when it comes to marketing and lots of different channels to pursue.  I have listed below the ones I believe are vitally important for every business owner and should be the focus of their marketing efforts in 2017.  I didn’t include social media as a channel to focus on in 2017, not because I don’t think it’s important, I just think that for the vast majority of businesses, social media activity fails to impact the bottom line and leads to hundreds of hours of time spent that could have been used more effectively somewhere else.

 

Copywriting

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” –  Leo Burnett

When it comes to your website, your email marketing, your print ads and when you speak to people in person, it’s the words that sell.  Yet most business websites have poor copy that doesn’t inspire or sell.  They have advertisements that fail to get people to take action and unclear value propositions.

 

While how your website looks is important, it is the words that will sell.  Yet most people focus on the look and treat the copy as secondary, sometimes even outsourcing it to the designer, who is not a copywriter.

 

If you want to have a big impact on your marketing in 2017, learn how to write compelling copy for your audience.  And it all starts with knowing who your target market it, who are you speaking to?  Once you understand who your audience is, write them a love letter.  Not a real love letter, but copy that has the same passion as a love letter.  Let them know why they are so important to you, why you appreciate them so much, and why they should be with you.  Let them know you will never let them down and how important they are to you.  Copy like that sells.

 

Understand why people buy from you.  Conduct research and surveys with your current customers or ones just like them, find out what makes them buy from a business like yours.  Once you have that information, create value propositions and calls to action that speak to this.  You want to make a connection with your audience, but you first need to understand what is important to them.

 

You don’t have to hire a copywriter to make great copy, but you do need to learn the essentials of copywriting as well as a lot of practice.  If this sounds like too much work for you, then either hire someone to do it with you or be content with your current results.

 

Good blog for copywriting:

CopyHackers

 

Email Marketing

Social media gets all of the attention, but smart marketers know the money is in the list.  The email list that is.

 

Study after study shows that email marketing produces a much better ROI than social media, yet most businesses will spend endless hours on social media and spend little time and effort on building an effective email marketing campaign.

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree.

Venture Beat 2015 Study

You only own two things online, your website and your email list.  All of those followers you have on social media belong to that social media platform, you can’t download them, you can’t bring them with you to another platform and you can’t speak directly to each of them whenever you choose because platforms like Facebook and Instagram limit how many of your followers you can reach without paying them.

 

Your goal should be to get people to your website and get them on your email list.  From there, for just a few dollars a month, you can communicate with them whenever you feel like and nobody can take that away from you.

 

When it comes to online marketing, email marketing is usually at the heart of any serious conversion funnel.  Building your email list over time will build your revenue over time, study after study confirms this.

 

If you aren’t using email marketing software, that’s the first step.  I recommend Mailchimp for basic email marketing, and Sharpspring if you are looking to get into marketing automation with advanced email marketing features.

 

So if you want to improve your marketing efforts in 2017, concentrate on growing your email list and writing compelling and engaging emails that you send on a regular basis.

 

Conversions

Conversion optimization is when you continually test. measure and improve your sales and marketing funnel.  If your current funnel is producing a 1% conversion rate (which is average for an ecommerce store), then working on improving it to 2% can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Conversion Rate Improvements Funnel

When you focus on conversions, you study each of the steps in your sales and marketing funnel to find out where the “leaks” are, meaning where and when people are dropping out and losing interest in what you are offering.  Sometimes fixing even just one “leak” can lead to a big impact to your bottom line.  Conversion optimization is sort of a science where you study every aspect of your funnel and seek to continually improve it.

 

For a business owner, it starts with measuring all of your marketing and advertising campaigns.  If you spend $500 on a Facebook ad, how many visits to your website did it produce and many sales were made?  Once you understand these numbers, you can work on improving them, which can be better targeting, better ad copy or a better landing page.  As you dive deeper into what is happening in each step, you will start to see areas for improvement and ways to improve your conversion rate.

 

Good blogs on conversion optimization:

ConversionXL

Unbounce

 

Direct Marketing

“A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.” – Charles S. Lauer

Direct marketing is action oriented marketing where the goal is for people to take some sort of action after seeing your advertisement.  Success for a campaign is tied directly to how many people take you up on your offer, whether that’s a sale, phone call or online form.  You see direct marketing all the time in the form of mailers (think ValPack), the Home Shopping Network, Infomercials, and online sales pages.

 

Every small business should have a direct marketing mindset when it comes to marketing their business.  It makes you much more diligent with your marketing dollars and ensures that you are earning a return on your marketing investments.  It also forces you to really think and analyze your marketing and advertising strategies, where many businesses prefer the “spray and pray” approach to marketing, where they eventually run out of money and stop marketing altogether.

 

Before you begin any marketing campaign, whether it’s online or offline, make sure you set specific goals ofr your campaigns and ways to track and measure its success.  This is the only way you will ever improve your marketing skills.

 

Remarketing

Remarketing is an advertising method where you add a tracking code to your site that allows you to track and advertise to people after they have left your website.

 

Many ecommerce stores practice since the average conversion rate is about 1% for ecomm stores and remarketing allows them to bring people back some of that 99% that didn’t buy.  Go to a site like Zappos.com and then search the web or go to Facebook after leaving their site.  You will begin to see ads appearing from that brand, often showing you the exact product you were looking at before you left.  What’s happened is that a tracking “cookie” was placed on your computer or device and that website can now serve ads to you on Facebook or other 3rd party websites for a period of time that they determine.

Example of a Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing works great for a number of reasons.  It essentially allows you to continually market to them after they leave your website even though they never gave you an email address or other personal information.  It works great for businesses that have a longer sales cycle or a product or service where consumers spend a lot of time comparison shopping.  Remarketing allows you to stay top of mind with consumers and let’s you reach them with additional messaging that may bring them back to your website.

 

The best part of remarketing is that it has a great ROI since you are reaching people who are already somewhat familiar with your brand and have expressed interest in the past.  Remarketing allows you to improve your overall conversion rates and lets you get more mileage out of your other marketing and advertising campaigns.

 

Facebook Ads

At 1.79 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (500 million), Twitter (284 million) and Instagram (200 million)—combined. (Source: CNBC)

Facebook Ads present an enormous opportunity for small businesses to do some laser targeted advertising.  There is no other advertising platforms that allow you to get so specific with your ad targeting.  Pretty much anything you can think of is a targeting option when it comes to Facebook ads.

 

Want to target men aged 40-50 in California who recently purchased a motorcycle and love the Beatles?  Yes, you can target them.  Looking for baby boomers who recently moved to a new home in Colorado and have a habit of making high-ticket purchases?  Yes, you can target them.  The sky is the limit when it comes to you targeting options.

 

So how do they do this?  First off, they know your interests and likes based on everything you do on Facebook.  Joined a breastfeeding group?  You are now in an advertising bucket for new moms, breastfeeding, etc.  Every time you join a group, like a fan page or like/share a post, you are giving Facebook valuable data on what your interests are.

 

They also take your email address, phone number, schools you have attended and match it up with 3rd party data providers who give them a windfall of information about you once they can confirm it is you.  Ever wonder why Facebook asks you to confirm where you went to school or takes a guess at something personal about you?  It’s because they have 3rd party information about you and want to confirm it with you.  Scary stuff if you use Facebook but great for advertisers.

 

Like we spoke about in the copywriting section, the more you can target and focus your campaigns, the more successful you will be and Facebook gives you the best targeting options anywhere on the web.

 

Read: Powerful Facebook targeting options

Get focused with your marketing in 2017

Hopefully, this article gave you some news ideas and inspiration for your marketing efforts in 2017.  Most of the above are interconnected in some way, especially with the copywriting, so doing them in conjunction with each other will make each of them more effective.

 

If you want to really get good at marketing, be stingy with your ad dollars, scrutinize everything, and be prepared and test and measure everything you do.  This is the only way you will cut out the marketing fat, improve your marketing and really grow your business.

 

Cheers to a successful 2017 for your business!

Why Most Businesses Fail At Online Marketing

The majority of businesses that engage in online marketing fail at it.  Despite the promises from marketing agencies, social media gurus or popular marketing blogs, most just can’t seem to get it to work.  It doesn’t matter if it’s SEO, social media or paid advertising, they see little to no results for their time and money.

Why is this?

It comes down to not having a proper marketing strategy in place.  Online marketing has many moving pieces that need to work together, you can do one thing really well, but if the other parts are not performing, the whole system doesn’t work.  Creating a rock solid marketing strategy isn’t hard, it just requires you to really think about the customer journey online and what information/trust/guidance they need at each step and to provide it for them.

When it comes to online marketing, most businesses focus on tactics, not the overall strategy.  Learning how to create Facebook ads or running your own Google Adwords campaigns are tactics.  Tactics are important but can (and eventually should) be outsourced so you can focus on the overall strategy and not spend all of your time on tactics that others can probably do better.  When it comes to online marketing, businesses have a bad habit of focusing on the minutia and not the overall marketing strategy, if they have one that is.

If your only tool is a hammer, you’ll tend to see all of your problems as a nail – Abraham Maslow

If the only marketing tactic you know how to do well is social media, you’ll tend to try and solve your marketing problems with more social media because that’s what you know and are good at.  But what if your value proposition is all wrong?  What if your offerings are not lining up with the audience you are targeting?  What if your website is failing to convert visitors into leads?

More social media won’t fix any of that.

Effective online marketing involves many moving parts that all need to work together in order to turn a visitor into a lead/customer for your business.  If you only focus on one part and not see the bigger picture, you’re going to continue to see poor results.

 

Why Your Online Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working

A business owner will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building out the perfect retail location or office and then turn around and buy a $800 website to represent it.  Your website represents your business online and has a potentially much larger reach than any physical location, yet most businesses still look at their website as an expense rather than a critical marketing investment for their business.

Worse yet, most of the time businesses rely on the web designer to do the copywriting and marketing as well.  That’s like having the architect who designs a house also build it and then try and sell it themselves. They are different parts of the process that require different skill sets and it very rare (unless you hire a larger agency) to have all of these skill sets in-house with a small web design company or freelancer.

Think about how the sales process looks like in real life for your business.  For most businesses, especially more complex sales like financial services and real estate, this usually involves several conversations, some education and a few weeks to a few months before a sale is made.

As you can see above, the entire process can take quite a long time and involve several communications before any deal is made.  Several of these steps may happen online before you ever get a chance to speak to this person, but most likely they are missing from your website.

A cold visitor to your website, who doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall, will be met with calls to actions like, “Call now for a free consultation”, or, “Schedule your free quote today”.  Where’s the education?  Where’s the value?  Where’s the “why” you should even stick around for another 10 seconds and see what you have to offer?

Asking a cold visitor to your website to call you or schedule some kind of free consult is a high threshold offer, meaning it is a high commitment request and people will be hesitant to do it.  Who wants to give their personal information to a stranger, let alone schedule a meeting or phone call before they feel like they can trust this person and won’t get hounded until the end of time with spam emails and dinnertime phone calls.

Same goes for ecommerce, only about 1-3% of people will buy on the first visit, what plan do you have for the other 97% that come to your site but aren’t ready to buy?  And if you are driving traffic with paid advertising, not having a plan for that other 97% is a surefire way to lose lots of money on your advertising campaign.

 

Lack Of Online Marketing Strategy

Most online marketing strategies (I use the term “strategy” lightly)  have nothing to offer people unless they are ready to contact you right away or buy from you with little information to make them feel comfortable taking the next step.  So what is that, maybe 1% percent (at best) of your visitors who are ready to commit with so little information?

What about the other 99% of people who are looking for the same thing but need more information, education, and trust before they are willing to move forward.  These people are usually left to find someone else that can show them the value and trust they are looking for.

 

You Can’t Take Shortcuts with your Online Marketing

If you want to convert online visitors into customers, you need to recreate the sales process people normally go through in order to become a customer.  You can’t take what usually a 5 step marketing and sales process and turn into 2 steps online.

You wouldn’t go to a party and ask the person you’ve spoken to for 5 minutes to have sex or marry you, that would be violating social norms in our society.

So what do you do?

Think about that customer journey for your business, break it down step by step, and write out what does this person need to feel comfortable enough to move to the next step?

You may not be able to replicate each step right on your website, but what you can do is get people to opt-in to your email list by giving something of high perceived value and then nurture them with a drip email campaign.

The main point is to think about the marketing and sales process for all of your visitors, not just the 1% ready to buy on the spot.  You will always have your go to offer ready for the 1%, the call now or fill out this form call to actions, but think about secondary offers you can make for those people that are interested, but just not ready to buy yet.

Developing a marketing strategy that focuses on all of your visitors is more work and requires more thought and planning, but wouldn’t it be better to target 100% of the visitors you work so hard to get instead of just 1% of them?

If you liked this blog post, please retweet!

A Local Lead Generation Strategy That Works

 

Having a reliable and consistent source of leads is the lifeblood of any small business. Without new customers,  the business will decay and eventually die. Unfortunately, is the eventual fate of many small businesses.

Leads for a business is like oxygen, lots of it fills you with energy and life, not enough and you start to labor.  None at all and you die.

So we know that creating a steady stream of new leads is very important, so how do we get them without breaking the bank?

Read below and find out.

For a small business owner, the first thing is to never spend money on marketing until you have a well thought out plan and understand the medium you will be advertising on and the outcomes you expect to receive.  If a salesperson walks through your door and tries to pitch you a coupon mailer or directory listing, never (ever) buy it on the spot.  I’ve seen so many businesses get roped into some overpriced print ad or direct mailer because the salesperson over promised on everything just to make the sale (and commission). You’ll almost always regret a purchase like that and it’ll start you on a path of being weary when it comes to spending money on advertising.

 

“Today it’s important to be present, be relevant and add value.” – Nick Besbeas

 

The reason I love online marketing so much is that it is transparent.  Whether you do paid advertising, SEO or social media, it is relatively easy to see what results you are getting from your efforts.  Website analytics packages like Google Analytics, can give you rich detail as to how people came to your website (Facebook, organic search, Google Adwords, etc), what they did while they were there (time on site, pages visited, etc), and if they completed any of the goals you are tracking (contact form, online purchase, email signup, etc).

So when we talk about creating a local lead generation strategy, many of the strategies we will talk about are online.  The good thing is that if you have a solid online strategy, it’ll also help with any offline marketing you do as you can also direct your offline marketing efforts to your website or landing page.

 

Getting Started

There are a few things you need to have in place before starting your local lead generation strategy.  Once you have these things in place you’ll be ready to start driving relevant local traffic to your website.  In this lead local lead generation strategy, your website becomes the hub for all of you activity, both online and offline.

 

“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg

#1 Target Audience

The very first thing you need to establish is who your target audience will be.  While your business may have lots of different audiences, each of them buy for different reasons and the first step is having some sort of understanding as to why because it will part of your messaging.

You may have one segment of your audience buy from you because of your pricing, value structure, or because they really want someone they can trust.  It’s important to know these things because they will be the value propositions you use in your marketing.

It’s like trying to sell a car to a family based on the speed and performance when they are really interested in the safety features of the car.  It makes you look tone deaf to your customer and you lose the opportunity to motivate them to take the next step with you.

The easiest way to get this information is to ask your customers.  Ask after they make a purchase and periodically survey your customers to find out why they became a customer.  Just as important is to survey people who didn’t buy from you and learn where you need to make improvements.

 

#2 Your Value Proposition and Offer

Once you have a pretty good understanding of what motivates your customers, you can start creating your value proposition.  A value proposition is your statement as to why people should consider buying from you.  It should correlate with the information you gained as to why your current customers buy from you.  It should be customer centric, so focus on what the customer will gain.

Developing Value Proposition Graphic

Your offer is exactly that, the offer you are making to them.  It may be in the form of a discount, a free trial or some kind of consultation.  It’s the bait you are using to get people to take action.  The offer should be related to the value proposition you have in place, so if your value proposition is based on the quality of your work, then you might offer a one on one consultation.  If your value proposition is based on being budget friendly, then you may create a discount coupon as your offer.

When it comes to running a local lead generation program, in many cases you will be targeting a specific audience during specific campaigns, which is why it’s important to have an understanding as to why certain sub-sets of your customer base buy from you.

 

#3 Landing Page

Once you know why your customers buy from you and you have your value proposition and offer in place, you can create a landing page where people will “land” when they come to your site.

So what is a landing page? A landing page is a page where people start on your website.  If you are running an ad or posting to social media, it is where they are directed when they click on the ad or post.  In organic search, it is the page that shows up in the search results, which could be your homepage, a blog post or one of your service pages.

Learn more about creating effective landing pages here.

Local Business Landing Page Example

Source:Nifty Marketing. http://niftymarketing.com/optimal-local-landing-page-infographic/

For existing pages on your website, review them to make sure they have all of the necessary elements to convert a visitor into a lead.   Think of each page on your website as a standalone website, if someone only visits that page, will they have all of the necessary information they need in order to take the next step with your business?

In some cases, you will be creating a new landing page from scratch, especially when it comes to running paid ads.  Other times you will be directing people to an existing page on your website.  When it comes to organic search, I like every page on the website to have all the elements of a landing page since you don’t have total control over what pages people land on like you do with paid ads.

I like to have a contact form on every page of the website, or at least a button with a call to action that links to a contact form.  Since you are a local business you should also have your phone number and address, even embed a Google Map on the page for easy directions. From running local lead generation programs for almost 10 years I’ve learned that the more opportunities you give people to take action, the more often they will take action.

Here are some services that help you easily build custom landing pages.

Unbounce

Lead Pages

Thrive Leads (WordPress)

*For WordPress, many modern themes have visual page builders that letyou create landing pages without coding knowledge

 

#4 Sources For Local Traffic

This is not a comprehensive source of local traffic, but these are ones that I personally use and have found great results with.  Some of the options are free and some are paid.  We aren’t going to go in depth into each one but if you find some that are of interest, click through to the link and find out more.

 

Google Adwords

With Google Adwords, you can create local search ad campaigns that target a specific area around your business.  You can create separate campaigns for different services or products that you offer.  Google Adwords is great for local lead generation as you can setup campaigns that target a local area and have those ads triggered when someone searches for what you are offering.  It doesn’t get much more targeted than that.

Google Ad Sample Formats

In Google Adwords you have the ability to create text, image and video ads that you can target to your local area.

To get the most out of the local aspect, you can connect your Google My Business page (see below) and create what’s called a location extension for your ad, which shows your location info pulled from your GMB page.

 

Facebook Ads

Facebook has so much information on its user that it’s scary.  The Facebook ad platform allows you to target users by demographics, interests, and behaviors.  You can combine all of these to create some laser-focused targeting with your ads.

Sample Facebook Ad

Image Carousel Facebook Ad

You can target users using a radius around your location or service area as well as specific local targeting options such as Proximity Ads and Offer Claims.  You can even upload your own customer email list and target them with ads on Facebook. You can read more about the powerful targeting options available to you here.

 

Remarketing

Remarketing is having the ability to advertise to a person after they have left your website.  When someone visits your website, your remarketing code drops a tracking cookie on the user’s device.  Once this cookie is placed, you now have the ability to reach these individuals across the internet with your online advertising long after they have left your website.

Remarketing is a great way to get extra mileage out of your other marketing efforts as most people won’t convert on the first visit.  It is also great for products/services where there is a lot of competitor comparison shopping, repeat purchases or when you have an extended sales cycle.

When To Use Remarketing

Google Adwords and Facebook Ads have the largest and best-remarketing platforms on the internet.  You can target people using text, image and video ads as well as sponsored posts when using remarketing for Facebook.  The ROI is usually very good compared to other advertising options and the costs are fairly low since you are targeting a relatively small group of people.

 

Print Advertising

I’m not a big fan of offline advertising compared to the online advertising options available, but they can be effective if done right and can still be incorporated into your online lead generation strategy.  Under print advertising, I am lumping together direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads.

If you have a good landing page setup that includes a strong value proposition and offer, then you can drive offline people to your landing page with offline ads.  Once they are on your landing page, they become part of your overall online lead generation strategy where you can capture their contact information, become part of your Remarketing campaign or take any other action you ask people to take when they are on your landing page.  The point is, once they are on your website you have several options available to you for converting them or getting information to reach them in the future.

Here are some great copywriting tips from a master.

 

Local Website Content

This falls under the category of Local SEO, where you “localize” your content to focus on your immediate trade area.  Localized content can be blog posts, you homepage as well as service/product pages on your website.  Beyond SEO, quality local content is great for targeting a local market on social media.

Local content can be talking about specific neighborhoods in your area, talking about past projects you have done that mention your local area, creating local guides, as well as mentioning your local area on your homepage and service page copy.  It’s not about stuffing keywords onto your page but to incorporate local references into your copy naturally.

Local Content

As you create more and more content concentrated to your local area, the search engines understand that your website is about a specific area and will (eventually) start to give your content some preference for searches in that area.  Very specific local content also has the advantage of having much less competition.

While this tactic won’t create leads for you right away, it is a solid long-term strategy that can generate leads for you month after month once it takes hold.

 

Google My Business

A GMB page should be your first stop when it comes to a local marketing campaign.  It’s 100% free, easy to setup and will give you local visibility in Google and will drive traffic to your website.

The GMB listing is triggered when a local search is performed in Google.  You’ll know it’s a local search result when the Google Map appears in the search results with those little pin drops that represent local businesses on the map.

A GMB listing will show visitors where you are located (or the service area you cover), your hours of operation, a description of your business, images, as well a link to your website.

Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is accurate and that you have completed every field, including adding photos of your business.

 

Bing Places

Bing Places is the free Bing version of Google My Business.  While Bing only represents about 15-20% of the search market, it is still a great source of traffic and well worth the time to create a local listing with them.

The features are very similar to GMB and can give you some great visibility in the Bing search engine without spending a dime.  Same as GMB, make sure you fill out the listing fully and completely for the best chance to be seen in the local search results.

 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is often overlooked as social media has gained in popularity when it comes to communicating with your audience.  Yet study after study finds that email marketing produces a much better ROI than social media and just about every other marketing channel.

The challenge for small businesses is usually building an email list and then figuring out what to send people.  There are many strategies in getting people to join your email list, but adding a very obvious sign-up box (or popup notification) on your website as well as getting email addresses offline is a first step.  If you are consistent and give people a good reason for joining (coupon, discount, free guide, etc), then you should be able to build a solid email list over time.

If you are new to email marketing, you can use an email marketing platform like MailChimp, which offers a nice free account to get started.  If email marketing will be a cornerstone in your overall marketing strategy, then using marketing automation might make sense.

 

Get Started

Yes, that was a lot to take in but it should give you a solid start in creating a local lead generation strategy for your business.  The key is to have a plan before you get started and to know who your target customer is and what would motivate them to buy from you.

Small businesses usually don’t have big marketing budgets so it’s important to plan things out in advance so you don’t waste your precious marketing budget.

Have questions about creating a local online lead generation strategy for your business?  Contact us here.

Why Conversion Optimization will help your Business Grow

Conversion Optimization For Business Growth

When you’re looking at your business’ website statistics, the first thing you’re probably interested in is the amount of traffic you’re getting.  How many hits?  How many repeat visitors?  How many minutes are they spending on the site?  You check these stats because you want to know what’s successful and what needs work.

 

Your site’s conversion rate is even more important than the number of hits it receives.  “Conversion rate” refers to the percentage of visitors who take some sort of action while visiting your site (for example, ordering a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a program).  Your website could receive a million page views, but if no visitors purchase your product, there’s something wrong.

“Conversion optimization” or “conversion rate optimization” (CRO) is the process of improving the ratio of visitors who take some sort of action on your site to those that merely view it.  Your goal is to “convert” viewers into participants.

 

How can you find out your site’s current conversion rate?  Pull up your stats and divide your total number of conversions by the number of site visitors.  If your site has had 1000 visitors, and 10 of those visitors have taken the sort of action you want them to, then your conversion rate is 1%.

 

How do I improve my conversion rate? 

So, here’s the question of the hour:  How do I improve my conversion rate?  It’s not a simple answer because the solution differs depending on all kinds of factors, such as the source of your traffic, your target viewer demographic, the action you are trying to get them to take – but here are a few basic areas to examine:

 

1 – Call to action. Is the next step visible and quickly understandable to the viewer?

Call To action Graphic

2 – Proof. Do your customers have a reason to trust you?  Sure, you’re telling them it will benefit them to make that purchase, but they’ll be more likely to bite if you include testimonials from previous customers.
3 – Clarity. Can your users quickly find what they’re looking for?  Is it intuitive?  Study elements of other web pages to see where they usually occur.  A “Log In/Sign Up” button is usually located in the upper right corner of the page.  The business’ contact information should be at the bottom of every page.  How many clicks does it take for the user to reach their goal?
4 – Aesthetics. This should be obvious, but too often it’s the reason a potential client leaves the site before doing anything.  They google what they’re looking for; a link to your site is the first result; they click it, and there’s something wrong.  It doesn’t even have to be a glaring problem, like red text on a red background.  Elements like the colors you use, the placement of the CTA and other important aspects of the page can affect how that page converts.

It could be something as minor as a header bar someone coded incorrectly, which is now too short for the content, so a few words are off.  That’s all it takes to destroy someone’s trust and quickly go back to the search to check out your competitor.  If your site doesn’t look clean and competent, you won’t get conversion results regardless of how high your search engine rankings are.

 

This is just an introduction to conversion rate optimization: what it is, why your business needs it, and a few things the process involves.  The next step is to dive a little deeper into the process: You can learn from a tutorial, download a conversion optimization program to give you relevant statistics, or even find a specialist to provide guidance for your individual case!  The journey will be different for everyone, so get creative and enjoy it!

Nick Rojas applies his entrepreneurial experience as a business consultant for startups. He marries hands on expertise with a passion for marketing, sales, and financial growth strategies to help business owners achieve new heights. Follow Nick on twitter @nickarojas

How Much Should I Spend For SEO?

How Much Does SEO Cost

How much does SEO cost?  That’s the first question that comes to mind for people considering hiring for an SEO campaign.

The problem is that when you start searching online or start calling SEO agencies, pricing is all over the map.  A company in India will quote you $150 a month and promise you the moon while an SEO agency might quote you 2K a month with no promises of SEO glory. So how do you make sense of it and know who has the potential to deliver a lot of SEO value for your business and who is just full of crap?

The term, “SEO”, or search engine optimization is a loosely used term.  Wed designers claim to do SEO on your website when they are designing it, social media experts will claim they are doing SEO for you when they work on your  social media campaigns, even online directories like the Yellow Pages will sell their listing to businesses as an “SEO solution”.

Are all of these offerings actually SEO?  Partially, but not really.  The search engines use hundreds of different factors in determining how a given page will rank in the search results, so only focusing on a few of these factors will likely return poor to mediocre SEO results if other factors the search engines use are not being considered.

So today we are going to discuss what SEO really is, how pricing works (at least for me), and what you should know when looking to hire for an SEO campaign.

What is SEO?

SEO is when you work on optimizing your website or web pages in the hopes to rank them high in the search engines results when someone searches for a given search term.

So how do you do this?  In a nutshell, SEO is 3 things.  I like to call it “TLC”, which is a simple explanation.

Technical – The technical part of SEO is having clean code on your website so the search engines can find things easily and your website loads nice and fast.  It is also optimizing meta data on your site (information usually only the search engines tend use) like you Title Tags, ALT Tags for images and structured data markup language.  You probably don’t know what most of this stuff is, but a good SEO does and will optimize them according to the SEO strategy that has been set.Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credibility

Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credible your website becomes in the eyes of the search engines.  Links to your website is the #1 single biggest ranking signal the search engines use.  It is also the single hardest SEO activity to do well, which is why many people selling SEO services disregard it completely.  Links can be from blogs, the media, social media, local organizations, etc.

Content – Your written content, your blog, service and category pages, will most likely make up the bulk of your content.  But content is also video, images, PDF documents, etc.  The more content you create for your website, the more opportunities you have to rank in the search engines.  A good SEO person or agency will have a good understanding of what type of content needs to be created as part of your SEO strategy.

So the way I usually explain “TLC” is like this.  A good piece of content will give that page an opportunity to rank in the search engines.  Links will help boost that page towards the top of the search engine results and the technical aspects will make it easy for the search engines to find and index your content as well as giving your web page a boost in the rankings if you have optimized your page with proper meta data and structured data markup formatting.

And what brings all of this together is having an SEO that has experience, knows how to do research and can formulate a proper SEO strategy for your business.  Otherwise, you may spend all of your time and resources barking up the wrong tree, which happens quite often and why many people feel that SEO does not work.

How SEO is Priced

SEO can be priced in a few different ways.

Monthly Retainer – You pay a set fee each month for an SEO agency to deliver agreed upon work each month.  It usually encompasses a range of SEO activities that you have agreed upon to be delivered each month as part of your SEO strategy.  This is usually how most comprehensive SEO campaigns are priced since an SEO campaigns will likely last at least several months and involve lots of different kinds of work.  You may not start with this payment structure right away, but reserve it once you trust your SEO agency and are ready for a longer SEO campaign.

Hourly – I hate metering my time, I find it ruins the client relationship when they are always watching the clock and I am always having to keep track of time.  You find this less and less as an SEO pricing model, but some still use it, especially when it comes to SEO consulting projects.  You may choose hourly if you are brining someone in for a specific purpose and you have an idea of how long it will take to complete.

Project Based – This is when you have a specific SEO project with a start and stop date in mind already.  The price would be based on the entire project, start to finish.  Maybe you just opened a new location and need someone get it some local SEO visibility, you may agree to a customized  3-month SEO project for a set price and specific deliverables.

Contract Services – This is where an SEO agency offers a set list of deliverables for a fixed price.  An SEO agency might offer a Website Auditor Competition Analysis report, for a fixed price.  Usually these offerings are smaller parts of what would make up an SEO campaign, not a full SEO campaign.

 

How SEO Pricing is Determined

I can’t speak for other SEO agencies, but in general, this is how I price my SEO services.

The first thing you have to understand is that you are buying time and expertise.  SEO is time-consuming, technical and tedious.  It also requires good strategy as it is easy to waste a lot of time and money if you are focusing on the wrong things.

These things are taken into consideration when it comes to pricing SEO.

Your Market – Are you looking to compete worldwide, an entire country or just a region/city?  Is it a major city like New York or Toronto or a smaller one?  There will be big differences in competition and the work involved depending on what market you are looking to compete in.

Your Goals – What are you looking to improve?  Specific products or service offerings or are you looking to improve everything?  You may have 10 different services you want to rank #1 for but only have a budget to optimize 1-2 of them.  SEO involves optimizing individual pages on your site, not just your website as a whole.  So when you say you need SEO, you have to think in more specific in terms than your website as a whole.  An ecommerce store might focus on certain product categories or a law firm may focus on specific legal services they offer.

Your Competition and Your Website – How well are your competitors doing from an SEO perspective?  If they have been optimizing their websites for several years and you are just starting out, it will require a much larger budget than if you were all starting out brand new.  Think of it like a race.  If your competitors started a marathon and are running a 10-minute mile and you start 2 hours after them, how long will it take to catch up to them if you are running a 10-minute mile as well?  Or worse, a 12-minute mile?  Exactly.  So if your competitors have been doing SEO for 2 years now and spend 3K a month with a quality SEO agency, your 1K budget may not get you very far.  You may have to scale down your ambitions so that 1K a month can get you results.

Your Industry – Some industries are much more competitive than others.  If you are in the finance or legal industries, competition is fierce and you will usually have to pay top dollar for quality results.  Everything is in relation to your competitors and how your website stacks up against them.  Some industries spend lots of money on SEO in general, while others may not.

Pricing Examples

These are just some examples based on previous projects and speaking to business owners who pay for SEO services.

Plumbers – A plumber in Toronto might pay 3-4K a month for local SEO while a plumber in Columbia, SC might only pay 1K a month because the city is much smaller and with less competition.

Mortgage Brokerage – A national mortgage brokerage might pay 12-20K a month for SEO services for a nationwide campaign while a local mortgage broker in Boise, ID might pay 2K a month for that city.

Physical Therapy Clinic  – In NYC, you may be paying 2-3K a month for SEO services but 1-1.5K a month in a smaller city like Providence, RI.

These are just some examples, but you can see that industry and the size of your market play a role in costs.  SEO agencies also have different pricing structures, so you may have to get a few quotes to get an idea on pricing, just be sure the deliverables are similar.

Some Questions to Ask

What exactly do you plan to deliver as part of the SEO campaign and can you show me examples of your work?

This will give you idea of what type of work they will be delivering and give you a chance to ask questions you may not have thought of. Ask to see an example of a monthly report if possible.  Will they be doing link building?  Will they be creating content for your site or will you?  Will they be fixing the technical issues on your site?  Find out exactly what they will be doing as part of their SEO services.

Who will be working on my SEO campaign?

While they may not be able to tell you the exact person who will be handling your account, you should get an idea of how they structure their SEO operations and will give you an idea if entry level hires (and sometimes interns) will be working on your account, or more seasoned SEO veterans.  This usually has to due with the size of the SEO agency you hire as well as your budget.  A small monthly budget with a larger agency usually means you will be stuck working with a new hire that knows little more about SEO than you do.

What will communications and reporting be like?

Will you receive a monthly report with little insight or will there be monthly or quarterly phone calls to discuss strategy?  Communication is a big issue and one of the main reasons people become dissatisfied with their SEO agency.  If you are having trouble with communications before you sign on, it may not get any better after.

What will success look like?

You should agree on what metrics will be used to determine the success of the SEO campaign.  It might be organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, or a combination of user metrics and rankings.  Just have an idea so you can monitor progress.

Things To Keep In Mind

Seo takes time.  It is not like paying for advertising, you most likely will not see immediate results, but when the results do come, they will be long lasting.  If you decide to invest in SEO, you need to commit for a minimum of 6 months, but 12-24 months realistically.  SEO is a long term strategy that can bring long-term results.

SEO is not cheap.  You pay a pretty penny for good SEO because it can return some serious ROI once it gets going.  The cheapest option is almost never the best option.  If you are planning on spending $200 a month on SEO, do yourself a favor and spend that $200 on a fancy date with your spouse or loved one, you’ll get a much better ROI on your money than paying for garbage SEO services.

SEO is not a mystery.  It’s not rocket science, but it is doing a lot of little things right on a consistent basis.  Make sure whoever you work with isn’t a one trick SEO pony that only does social media or only writes content, these are components of SEO, but it is not SEO.

 

Still have questions about SEO?  Contact me here.

Crush Your Competition by Exploiting the Arbitrage in Your Industry

Marketing Arbitrage

Are the businesses in your industry using all marketing options available to them to their full potential?

The answer is no.  And in many industries, the answer is, “not even close”.

If you take the time to study your industry and your competitors, you will find that there are numerous examples of marketing arbitrage ready for you to exploit.

What is Arbitrage?

Arbitrage is a term traditionally used with financial instruments like commodities and stocks.  There are sometimes differences in the price someone is willing to pay for a financial instrument and what people are selling them for. Arbitrage is the exploiting of this middle price area where you simultaneously buy and sell that financial instrument and make a profit off of the price difference between the two.

You use arbitrage all the time.  A simple example is going to a garage sale where you see an antique table selling for $10.  You know it is worth more, so you buy it and then resell that table on Ebay for $50.  You took advantage of the arbitrage in what the table was selling for and what it was actually worth.  In this case you made a cool $40 because you were able to spot the arbitrage where no one else was.

If you are in a service industry like mortgage brokers, real estate agents, cleaning companies, you probably know of several companies offering to sell leads to you for a price.  These companies are already taking advantage of the marketing arbitrage in your industry.  In this case, they know they can get a lead at a certian price and then sell it to you for a much higher price.

So now that you understand what arbitrage is, do you see how this can be applied to marketing?

Marketing Arbitrage

Marketing legend, Jay Abraham, was the one who introduced me to the concept of looking for marketing arbitrage opportunities.

I’m primarily an internet marketer, that is what I sell and where I spend most of my time.  But I also own another business where we spend plenty of time and money on traditional marketing so finding marketing arbitrage opportunities is not just for online marketing.

You can find marketing arbitrage opportunities in many areas, like where businesses are marketing, how they package/position their product or bringing ideas from another industry into yours.

Finding the  Arbitrage in Your Industry

In some industries, marketing arbitrage is easy to spot.  Many traditional industries are still stuck in the stone age,  thinking that a Yellow Pages ad or a roadside billboard places you in on the cutting edge of marketing.

Lawyers, especially older firms, are an example of an industry still living in the past.  I personally know of two lawyers who have been paying for Yellow Pages ads for over 25 years just because that is what they have always done.  Neither of them have a website.  Yes, no website.

Car dealers still spend the vast majority of their advertising budget on billboards and newspaper ads.  They still go with the outdated  motto of, “people are coming through the door and buying cars so it must be working”.  What a waste of money and what an opportunity for the car dealer down the street who is ready to venture into new marketing territory and to think differently from their dinosaur peers.

On the flip side, you have many internet first companies spending 100% of their resources with online marketing, which is why you are seeing some internet companies starting to use more traditional methods of advertising, they are looking for areas of opportunity in their industry that are not being exploited.

While many of the arbitrage opportunities we are speaking about revolve around marketing, you can find opportunities in the actual product/service, technology and how you deliver your product/service.

If you want to spot the opportunities, then you need to study what your industry and competitors are doing to market themselves.  Search online, subscribe to competitor newsletters, buy the local papers and look through the ads.  Buy their products, call their companies, let their sales reps give their pitch to you (or a friend) You need to know what your competitors are doing (or not doing) before you can find the arbitrage and exploit it.

Some questions to ask.

  • Where are they spending their time and marketing dollars?
  • Who are the innovators in my industry and what are they doing differently?
  • Who really impresses you with their marketing?
  • What was the last big change or innovation in your industry?
  • Are the businesses in your industry marketing the same way they did 10 years ago?

What you will usually find is that there are a handful of first movers who are always on the front line of news things, some do it very well and some are still trying to figure it out.  The majority of your competitors though are still stuck in the status quo, going along with everyone else like a school of guppies.

Some industries innovate faster than others, but many are just waiting for someone to come along and turn the industry upside down.  In your case, you don’t have to turn your entire industry upside down (unless you want to), just your local market.

Examples

Diamond Candles

Candle making is thousands of years old.  It’s an industry, for the most part, that has been left unchanged aside from new scents and candle shapes.  Unless you sell bulk, it doesn’t really make sense to sell online since anyone can go their neighborhood box or dollar store and buy a candle.

Diamond Candles came in and turned the candle industry on its head.  And they did it with no budget, no prior experience in candle making and no connections in the candle industry.  I believe last year, they had revenues of over 20 million dollars selling candles online and they have only been in business a few years.

So what did they do differently?  

They looked at a complacent industry and looked for ways to bring innovation to it.  They used the classic “combining” creativity technique and brought together two industries.  Candles and jewelry.  Every candle has a ring inside it, with some of them having a diamond ring inside it.  So when you purchase a candle from them, you get the suspense of waiting to see if there is a diamond ring waiting at the end of your candle.  People have gone nuts of this concept and has spawned dozens of copycats and variations on this concept to the candle industry.

If you want to learn more about the creative technique of “Combining” along with dozens of other creativity exercises, read the book, “Thinkertoys”, by Michael Michalko.  It is the best book I have found on creativity.

Uber

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has left the taxi industry virtually unchanged in 50 years.  They still use the same radios, pricing system and equipment they have always used, despite numerous opportunities to bring innovation into their industry.

Along comes Uber, who said, “people getting frustrated not being able to hail a cab, yet there are thousands of people driving around in their cars who would love to make some extra money”.

So what did they do differently?

They combined technology and an untapped workforce to democratize the taxi industry, allowing just about anyone to make some extra money whenever they feel like it.  They also made a lot of enemies and pissed a lot of people off along the way, but like it or not, that’s how you innovate.

Is your industry underutilizing technology or other resources that you can exploit?  I bet if you do an hour of brainstorming you will find at least one gold nugget on your list of ideas.

Similar to Uber, Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry and has turned anyone with a rental property or a spare bedroom into a hotelier.

Some Arbitrage Ideas For You

There are hundreds of opportunities waiting for you, but below are some ideas and examples to get you started.

Online Marketing

I have a client who uses Google Adwords for their Pay Per Click marketing.  Problem is that virtually all of their competitors are on Google Adwords, with a single click costing over $20.  But when it comes to Facebook Ads, there is only one other competitor on there, leaving the entire platform wide open for us to dominate it and at a fraction of the cost of Google Adwords.

Look for online marketing opportunities in your industry that your competitors are ignoring or don’t really understand.  This could be SEO, paid advertising or email marketing, the point is to look for the gaps and opportunities you can leverage.

Sales

Are your competitors only using outbound sales practices like cold calling, door knocking, email marketing?  If they are not using inbound marketing strategies then that is a golden opportunity for you to leverage your expertise to become the thought leader in your industry.  Think of Dr. Sears for pediatrics or Seth Godin for marketing.

On the flip side, if everyone is focusing on creating content and waiting for the leads to come to them, go out and initiate some outbound sales practices and account based marketing for your business.  The key is, if the norm in your industry is to do “X”, then go and try “Y”.

Product/Service Innovation

If you offer a service, look at productizing some of your offerings.  If you have a product or service, think about how you can bring a product or idea from another industry and apply it to yours, just like Diamond Candles did.

Create value propositions that will make your competitors too scared to match.  An unconditional money back guarantee is something most businesses are afraid to offer, but can increase sales by 10x.  The truth is, and why most retailers like Amazon offer them, is that the rate of return is minuscule compared to the increased revenue they get by doing something others are afraid to do.

If you want to listen to how it’s done from an expert, click here to listen to Tony Robbins interview Jay Abraham.

If the standard warranty for you industry is 1 year, make yours 5.  You’ve seen this in the auto industry over the last few years where standard 3-year warranties have become 10-year bumper to bumper warranties.

If people come to your business, then go to their homes.  If your product comes in a certain size, offer more sizes.  Use healthier ingredients in your products or just offer more of it at the same price as your competitors.  Start a generous loyalty program or awesome value adds with every purchase.  The thing is to look at what your competition is not doing, or doing poorly, and leverage it to your advantage.

Partnerships

Make strategic partnerships in your community.  Other businesses, non-profits and local government are all ways to stand out from your competitors.  Most of your competitors probably don’t have the time to do this kind of business development, but strategic partnerships can not only grow your business, they can also give you leverage in your community that your competitors can’t easily copy.

Find the arbitrage opportunities in your industry

Now that you know what arbitrage is, examples of how other companies used it and some ideas to get you started, where is the arbitrage in your industry and how will you take advantage of it?

The Business Owners Guide To Local SEO

 

According to a recent study by BIA/Kelsey, nearly all consumers (97 percent) now go online when researching products or services in their local area.

The question is if they search for what you sell, will they find you?

You can’t be in the running if you aren’t in the race.  And the local SEO market is a pretty big race.

With the advent of Google My Business (formerly Google Places) and the introduction of the local SERPS (Search Engine Results Page), Google has made a move to local in a big way.  Why did they do this?  Because they realized that most searches conducted online have a local intent, meaning people are looking for something close to their geographic area.  It makes sense, if you’re searching for “Pizza” and you live in Charlotte, what good would a pizza joint in Denver do for you?

 

So how does local SEO benefit local business owners?

In a big way.  In the past, you were competing with a very large pool of competitors, whether they were located down the street, or across the country from you.  Now, if a search occurs that has local intent such as “Cupcakes in Charlotte”, or “Cupcake shops near me”, Google will not only try and localize the results for the searcher, they will display a listing of Google My Business pages along with an area map. Not only that but with location technology, especially on mobile, even if you search for “Cupcake Shops”, Google will assume you mean cupcake shops near you and will return local search results for your area.

Your free Google Plus Business page has effectively leapfrogged ahead of dozens of businesses, some of which have spent quite a bit of time and money trying to climb the search engine rankings.

This levels the playing field with you, the small business with a small budget, versus big business, with very deep pockets and resources.  Is your business taking advantage of this?

If you’re ready to put in some time and effort to improve your search rankings in your local market, below are some of the most important things to get you started in the right direction.  While this isn’t a complete list, if you do these things, and do them well, you should be able to see some marked improvement in your rankings.

While this isn’t a complete list, if you do these things, and do them well, you should be able to see some marked improvement in your rankings.

 

Optimize Your Website

Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)

There are some simple things you can do to your website that can have a big impact in how the search engines view your site.  If you’re a local business, you want to make it clear that you’re a local business.  You do this by including your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) prominently on your website.  This is not only beneficial to your visitors, it helps the search engines determine your geographic location and the local market your serve.  In addition to placing your NAP on your contact page, consider placing it in the footer area of your website so it appears on all of your pages.

Website Title

What’s the title of your website?  You can see the title of a site quickly by looking at the browser tab on which the website is opened.  Most of the time, people will use the name of their business.  While this is ok, what’s really effective is when you name the title of your website to what you actually sell, or what service you provide.  Adding your city or town name in the title is also very effective in “localizing” your website.

If you’re a gluten-free bake shop in Charlotte, instead of making the title of your website, “Annie’s Bake Shop Inc”, consider naming it, “Gluten Free bakery in Charlotte”.  You can add your business name at the end if you like, “Gluten Free Cupcakes Atlanta | Your Business Name”

Homepage Title Tag Example Local SEO

Create Localized Content

Create content on your website that is localized to your area.  It will send clear signals to the search engines that your site is about a particular area and it will also be more relevant to your readers.  For example, if you were a real estate agent, instead of blogging about generic real estate tips, talk about:

  • The best neighborhoods in your area for families, singles, retired people, etc
  • New construction projects in your area
  • Interview local businesses and government officials for your blog

Create a theme on your site around what your business does and what area it serves.  Become a local resource for your industry, people will respond better when the content is personalized to their specific area.

 

Google My Business and Bing Places Pages

Creating your local business pages on Google My Business and Bing Places will give you an additional web property other than your website to rank in the local search engine results.  For local results, the local listing (also knows as the map listing) sits above the organic search listings.

Why not have one horse in the race when you can have two?  Better yet, as you can see in the example below of one of my clients, they are listed 3 times in the search results (Google Adwords is the one at the top) in the search results for almost every search term important to their business.

Make sure these listings are filled out 100% completely with accurate information and that your business category is correct.

Local SEO Listing Example

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews play a big role in local SEO, both from a search engine standpoint and from a customer standpoint.  Almost everyone checks out reviews before buying a product or service these days.

Google has it’s own review system that is shown in the local search results.  You will see the 5-star rating system under a business (the 5-star system does not become active until you have at least 5 reviews) and Google also pulls in reviews from third party sites.  The 3rd party review sites that Google uses depends on your location and industry.

Examples of Local SEO Google 5 Star Rating System

Here is a good article explaining how to find good review sites for your business.

 

Citations

Citations are mentions of your business across the web.  These mentions may or may not be active links back to your website.  The reason Google makes citations a factor in local search is that they realize that Joe’s Pizza may be the best pizza in the city, but Joe is not very good at SEO or link building.  So they include citations, or mentions, of Joe’s Pizza as a ranking factor.

Citations are broken down into two categories, structured and unstructured citations.

Structured Citations

These are citations where the information or organized in a set format.  Your business listing on Yelp or the Yellow Pages is an example of a structured citation.  Great sources of structured citations are online directories that service your city or industry as well as review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Foursquare.

Unstructured Citations

These are mentions of your business in an unorganized format.  Think of a local newspaper or blog mentioning your business in an article or on social media where people are talking about your business.  Getting interviewed by the local media, getting a lot of social media attention, and guest posting on other blogs are all great sources of unstructured citations.

When you are getting citations for you business, it is very important to keep your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) consistent across the web.  The NAP you have on your website should be the same anytime you create a new citation.  If you website has your as “Joes Pizza”, don’t start creating citations that refer to you as “Joes Famous Pizza”, “Joes Pizzeria”, “Joes Pizza LLC”, all of these variations causes confusion with the search engines (and people trying o find you) and can lead to you missing out on the credit for those citations.

 

Links To Your Website

In traditional SEO, links play a huge part in how your rank in the search engine results (SERPS).  While not as critical in local SEO, they still play a role.

Many links will come naturally as you get citations for your business, but there are other great local sources for you to find links for your website.  Many local associations and businesses will gladly add you to their site if you help them as well.

  • Sponsor a local sports team or youth league
  • Join the Chamber of Commerce or other local civic associations
  • Sponsor a contest for a local blogger
  • Other local businesses
  • Host a contest and let the media/bloggers know about it
  • Trade associations and suppliers

As you can see, even if you know nothing about link building, if you get yourself out there it’s not that hard to get some links back to your website.

 

It’s Not Rocket Science

As you can see, doing local SEO isn’t a big mystery.  Yes, it’s tedious and you need to be organized and methodical in how you approach it, but it’s within the reach of every business owner.  So go out there and start getting some local rankings and watch what some good local SEO can do for your business.

How To Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy For Your Business

 

Do you have a digital marketing strategy in place for your business or are you still trying to figure out how to make this whole online marketing thing work?

A digital marketing strategy is more than being active on social media or running Facebook ads, it’s about creating a layered and comprehensive online marketing strategy suited for your business that is aligned with your business goals.

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels online?  Do you try one online tactic (because an “expert” said you had to do it) after another with little results?  Do you have a game plan?

Most businesses run their online marketing campaigns in silos.  They run a Facebook ad campaign here, send out a newsletter there, and have someone write some blog articles hoping that will “SEO” them to the top of the search engines.

Wrong.

While you may find some success with each of these tactics, these are just that, tactics.  All of your marketing should have a purpose along with a predefined outcome.  All of your different marketing strategies should be working in unison with each other to create that layered, comprehensive digital marketing strategy that will generate regular leads for your business.

Digital Marketing Strategy Map

Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy

A digital marketing strategy is when you have a clear picture of what your goals are, who your audience is and how you are going to reach them.

It’s a layered approach where you use several different online mediums to reach your ideal customer.  It’s knowing what messaging you should use for each medium and understanding where each of these potential customers are in the buying cycle.

It’s understanding what value you need to offer potential customers at all stages of the buying cycle to keep them interested, engaged and eventually, ready to become your customer.

A proper digital marketing strategy will keep the top, middle and bottom of your sales funnel so full that your sales team will fall in love with you.

Who is your audience?

The first thing you need to be clear on is who your audience is.  You may have several different types of customers and will need to create profiles for each of them.  This is important because knowing who your potential customers are will determine what mediums you will use to reach them, which we will discuss below.

How will you reach them?

Once you know who you are targeting you will need to determine to best place to reach them.  Are they on Facebook?  Do they use Pinterest?  Are they actively searching online for a product/service like yours?  Asking and answering these types of questions will help you determine where you should be spending your time and money.

There are so many opportunities to reach your audience online it’s scary.  Social Media alone offers dozens of different platforms and advertising options.  You want to take a layered approach so you can reach your audience across different channels as well as reaching them at different stages of the buying cycle.

Putting Together a Digital Marketing Strategy

The options listed below all have a single thing in common, your website.  When it comes to the online space, your website is the only property you fully own.  It’s where you can create the perfect environment to convert interested visitors into customers.  Pretty much all of the channels below will involve sending people back to your website, where you will have landing pages setup that have specific messages and offers for each of your different customer types.

A great digital marketing strategy will draw traffic from a wide variety of sources.  It will use a mix of Search Engine Optimization, paid advertising and email marketing that will draw generate leads in all stages of your sales funnel.

A typical sales funnel will look something like this:

Digital Marketing Strategy Sales Funnel

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will provide you with some of the best ROI out of all your marketing strategies, if well executed.  The reason  most businesses don’t go this route is that it can take several months of work before you start to see returns on your investment.  And most businesses have been burned in the past by some company making “first page of Google” promises that they couldn’t deliver on, leaving people sour on the idea of doing SEO.

The best thing about SEO is if you target the right search terms and can get good rankings for them, it will deliver traffic and leads month after month, long after you have paid for the initial work.

A good SEO strategy can cover all part so your sales funnel.  You can target people just starting the buying journey with Q&A questions and product reviews, as well as end of funnel people who are looking for specific products/models to buy.

Local SEO

Local SEO, is similar to traditional SEO, it concentrates on a specific geographic area and places a focus not only on your website’s organic rankings, but also on 3rd party sites as well to drive leads.  Google My Business, Bing Places, online review sites and directories are examples of 3rd party websites where you can optimize you presence and generate traffic for your website.

A solid SEO/Local SEO strategy can typically get you listed twice on the first page of Google, one for your local listing (AKA the map listing), as well as your traditional organic search ranking.

Social Media

Social media has become a core marketing strategy for many businesses though most have yet to figure out how to generate paying customers with it.  Social media has two components, the organic use of social media and the paid advertising opportunities.

Using social media organically to grow your following to generate leads is still an option, though the platforms like Facebook are making it harder and harder for businesses to grow organically.  It can also be time-consuming as you typically need to keep a constant presence in order to gain traction and visibility.  Organic growth is still viable, but some paid advertising layered on top is what usually what makes it work for most businesses.

Paid advertising on social media is probably where the biggest opportunities lie, especially with Facebook.  The types of targeting available with Facebook Ads is unmatched on any other platform.  LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter all have their own advertising options as well and has made social media an awesome place to spend your advertising dollars where you can reach highly targeted audiences.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Google Adwords is the king of pay per click advertising, where you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.  Facebook also offers pay per click advertising and is quickly becoming a favorite among advertisers.  With pay per click advertising, you can serve ads to individuals based on what they search for (typically how Google Adwords serves them) as well as demographic, behavior and interest targeting (how Facebook targeting works).  It’s basically the opposite of traditional advertising where you send a single message to a mass of people, hoping someone might be interested.  With pay per click advertising, you can create specific messaging and offers based on the type of user you are targeting or what they typed into the search engines.

Pay per click advertising works great alongside an SEO strategy as it allows you to “fill in the gaps” where you are not getting organic rankings for certain search terms.  Google has also been giving paid ads more and more visibility in the search results, at the expense of organic search listing.

Remarketing

Remarketing is when the ad platform you are using (Facebook, Google Adwords, etc) drops a tracking cookie on someone device when they visit your website.  With this tracking cookie in place, you can now advertise to them after they leave your website. In the case of Facebook, you can now serve ads to them on Facebook and partner sites of theirs.  With Google Adwords, you can advertise to them on thousands of Google partner sites.

In the case of Facebook, you can now serve ads to them on Facebook and partner sites of theirs.  With Google Adwords, you can advertise to them on thousands of Google partner sites, giving advertisers a very wide reach in serving remarketing ads.  Ads can be in the form of image banners, text ads, video ads and various Facebook ads and post types for Facebook remarketing.

Remarketing will reach a smaller audience, only people who have visited your website, but typically returns a high ROI compared to other advertising options.  Remarketing works great for products/services where people are comparison shopping or where the sale is more complex and requires a longer sales cycle.

Display and Video Advertising

Google Display Network (part of Google Adwords) is the biggest platform for image banner and video marketing and has thousands of partner sites where you can serve ads based on demographics, interests, and behaviors.  Facebook is also becoming a great pace for video advertising.

Think of display banners as tiny billboards, except you have the ability t show your ads to highly relevant people instead of anyone and everyone, like a typical roadside billboard.  While not as targeted as Pay Per Click advertising, it can give you a wide reach with a targeted audience.  Think of it as the middle ground  between pay per click ads and traditional mass advertising.

Mobile Marketing

More people search the internet now from their phones rather than a computer.  The crazy part is that many businesses do not have a mobile-friendly website, let alone doing any sort of mobile-specific advertising.  Yes, by not having a mobile strategy in place, you are immediately giving up on half the people on the internet.

If you’re a local business or a brand with multiple store locations, mobile is a goldmine for marketing, especially with Local SEO and in the advertising space.

Imagine have a storefront and serving ads to people as they walk down your street.  Yes, you can do that with Facebook proximity ads.  Someone is driving home from work and needs to order a pizza from the car, a mobile Call Only ad with Google Adwords or a high ranking local listing is perfect for getting in front of them at just the right time.

If you do not have a mobile friendly website, that is where you probably need to start if you want to develop a mobile marketing strategy.

Email Marketing

Most online retailers, when asked what is the one marketing channel that delivers the best ROI for them, will answer email marketing.  Building an email list can be one of the most profitable things you can do for your business.  Where else can you communicate with thousands of customers and potential customers at will for $25-$75 bucks a month using email marketing software?

Many people abandoned email marketing as social media gained prominence, despite that fact that study after study concludes that email marketing returns a far higher ROI than social media.  Go figure.

 

Getting started with a digital marketing strategy

Do you need to do everything above in order to create a great online marketing strategy?  No, you don’t.  What you want to do is select the right marketing mix in order to reach you audience through different mediums and across marketing channels.

Creating a layered marketing approach with a purpose will ensure that you reach the right audience, at the right time and with the right message.

5 Easy Things Every Business Can Do To Increase Conversions On Their Website

How Increase Conversions on Website Small Business

Having trouble getting website visitors to convert into leads for your business?

Join the club.

The majority of small business websites do a terrible job at creating a compelling website experience where people become engaged and will want to take action.

Most of the time they simply don’t ask people to take action or they fail to make it clear what actions people are supposed to take.

Here’s a test for you.  When someone visits your website, if you could have them take any one action on your website, what would it be?  Now look at your website, is that action crystal clear to people that visit your website?  Is your website set up to move people towards that conversion action?

If not, then you need to think about the end result you’re looking for people to take on your site and start creating your website experience to support it.

Below are five relatively easy, but powerful changes you can make on your website to start turning it into a lead generating machine for your business.

Create a Powerful Value Proposition

A value proposition is a statement telling visitors what value you can bring them if they do business with you.  When people land on your website, the first thing (the only thing actually) they want to know is, how is this business going to help me and make my life better?

Value Porposition Example

A value proposition is not a catchy headline or a self-gratifying statement ( we are #1 in sales), it is a value based message, letting people know what they stand to gain if they decide to do business with you.  It can be a combination of your headline, supporting statement and value based bullet points letting people know all of the value your are ready to give them.

Evernote Value Proposition Example

You can read more about value propositions and how to create them here.

You can read this for help on writing a great value proposition.

Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse

The easiest way to create more conversions is to make an offer where people are thinking, “Hell, Yeah!”  Create an irresistible offer where the benefits far outway the costs of choosing your business over any other.  How do you do this?

  • Make it very clear the end result the customer will receive
  • Take away the risk of this type of purchase
  • Make the benefits far outway the risks of choosing you
  • Make it a no brainer

 

Incredible Offer Example By Small Business

So what are some things you can offer?

  • No questions asked, money back guarantee or a double your money back.
  • Lifetime warranty, or warranty far longer than your competitors
  • Extended free trial period
  • A value-add that has a large perceived value to a customer but low cost to you
  • Get a second product or service free with purchase
  • Free training or free resource access with purchase

These are just some examples, but you get the point.

Ebay Money Back Guarantee

Look at what your competitors are offering and then make an offer that puts them to shame.  Afraid to offer a money back guarantee or rock solid warranty?  If you deliver what you promise, the vast majority of people will never take you up on your offers, but will feel comforted knowing they are there when they make the purchase.  Even if you do have a few people that want a refund or call you on your warranty, the increase in business you get by putting yourself out there will far outway the occasional person who wants a refund.

And if you do have a lot of people wanting refunds or requesting multiple warranty calls?  Then stop what you are doing and go fix your business because it’s broken.

Want to learn how to create irresistible offers?  Learn from the best.  You can also read more about creating irresistible offers here.

Place a Contact Form and Call To Action Right On The Homepage

Turn your homepage into a conversion-centric landing page.  Too many business websites bury their contact form in a single place, their Contact Us page.  Why are you making it so hard for people to contact you?  Make it easy for people to contact you by placing contact forms throughout your website, along with strong calls to action.

Example Small Business With Call To Action

And if you can’t place the form on your homepage, then at least have a call to action and a button that will direct people to your contact page or to take some sort of action that will move them closer to contacting you.

The two easiest places to add a contact form is right on your homepage as well as all of your secondary pages, which usually has some sort of sidebar waiting for you to add some value to it.

Example Website With Contact Form on Sidebar

One mistake many website owners make is to assume everyone is starting their visit on the home page.  If you have a lot of pages on your site, especially if you have a blog, then many visitors will be starting on a page other than your homepage.  So what do you need to do?  Look at every page on your website and make sure each page has everything people need to know about your business and an easy way to contact you.  Essentially, every page on your website is a landing page.

Add Testimonials and Social Proof

If people are coming to your website from an ad or an organic search, chances are they do not know you or your business.  They don’t about your high level of integrity or the awards you have won over the years, you need to let them know that it is safe for them to trust you.  How do you do this?  By adding trust and credibility elements to your website such as:

  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Links to 3rd party review sites
  • Trade associations you belong to
  • Industry awards you have won in the past
  • Media outlets that have interviewed you

 

Landing Page with Customer Reviews

Let people know that is safe for them to trust you.  Most of the time businesses bury their testimonials on a dedicated testimonial page…..that is not very effective because you are assuming every visitor to your website will visit that page.  If you look at your Google Analytics, you will see that is not the case.  Best practice is to spread out your testimonials, customer reviews, awards, etc across you entire site, especially important pages like the homepage and your service pages.

Man Packs Landing Page Example

Learn more about the power of social proof here.

Get Clear With Your Copywriting

Copywriting.  While the design and images on your website will get people’s attention, it’s the words on the page that will turn them into leads.  Don’t be wishy-washy with your copy.  Good copywriting for a business website should be clear, specific and value based, so the reader knows exactly what benefits and outcomes they will be getting by doing business with you.

Your website should talk about 3 things:

  • The features of your product/service (size, ease of use, technical details, etc)
  • The benefits people will receive by using it (how using it will help them)
  • The outcomes people will have by using it (How their life will be improved by using it)

Unfortunately, most businesses never get past the features, which is the weakest part of the value chain here.  People want to know the benefits they will receive, and more importantly, the outcomes.

Here’s an example using an Apple iPod Touch.

Features

  • Comes in 5 colors
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • 32 megabytes of storage

Benefits

  • Bring you entire music library with you wherever you go
  • Take stunning pictures while on vacation
  • Enjoy hi-definition stereo sound for a full music experience

Outcomes

  • Capture precious family moments anytime the moment strikes
  • Relax while listening to your favorite music in hi-definition, you’ll feel like you’re at the concert
  • Create customized playlists, to push you through that last grueling mile on training day

If you want to create powerful words on your site that will engage readers, focus on the benefits and outcomes your product/service can offer.

You can read more about creating great copy for your website here.

Start getting more conversions on your website

If you do the above 5 things for your website, you will be ahead of 99% of all other business websites on the internet.  Think about that, not just your competitors, but all business websites.  Start a plan today to start turning your website into the lead generating machine you always dreamed it would be.

10 Reasons Online Marketing Is Smarter Than Traditional Marketing

Online Marketing Outperforms Traditional Marketing

Is traditional marketing dead?  Sort of.

There will always be a place for traditional marketing such as direct mailers, newspaper ads, etc……but using traditional marketing as your only source of marketing is as dead as the companies that continue to stubbornly refuse to embrace the internet.

It’s like being alive in 1925 and still thinking automobiles are just a fad.

Proves ROI for Your Marketing Dollars

Online marketing, especially when using Marketing Automation, will let you track a user from the moment they click on a specific marketing campaign you are running……..all the way until they become a paying customer.  Sometimes this will all happen in a matter of minutes, other times it will happen in a matter of months.  It gives you a clear picture of how your online marketing campaigns are impacting your revenue.

When you run a television commercial or a radio spot, how do you prove ROI?  If you’re like most business owners, you hope for an uptick in business following the ad campaign and attribute any additional business to that campaign.  If you have a direct marketing mindset, you may include channel specific offer codes, which will give you, at least something you can track

But what if you have an extended sales cycle?  How do you trace a sale today back to a specific television ad you ran 6 months ago?  You can’t.   With online marketing, you can.

71% of companies planned to increase their digital marketing budgets this year – Webbiquity (2015)

Better Matches Consumer Behavior

Traditional marketing is also known as interruption marketing.  Just when somebody is very engaged in an activity, like reading an article or watching a TV show, you “interrupt” them with your ad, which they often find non-relevant and annoying.  Consumers today are very savvy, they do not want to me marketed to, they want you to be there when they are ready to see what you have to offer.

Seth Godin Death of Traditional Marketing

Well run online marketing campaigns place your business in front of a consumer at the moment they show interest in what you have to offer.  They are the most engaged at this time and offers you the perfect opportunity to introduce them to your brand and the value you can bring to them.

Online marketing allows you to reach consumers when they show signs of buying and the most open to your marketing messages.

Adults 50 years old and above represent the Web’s largest constituency, comprising one-third of the total 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S. – Abobe CMO 2014

More Cost Effective

Two things make online marketing very cost effective compared to traditional marketing.

Search Engine Optimization.  90+% of consumers do research online before making a purchase.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing method where you get your website ranked high in the search engine results.  Once you get your rankings, you do not have to pay each time someone clicks and visits your website.  A quality SEO campaign can produce tens of thousands of visitors each month to your website for free.  It’s like paying for a television commercial once and then having it run free of charge for the next 3 years.

Targeted Marketing.  Would you rather pay for a magazine ad based (and priced) on it reaching 50K people, but only 100 of them may be interested in what you have to offer, or would you rather just pay to market to those 100 interested people?  That’s the difference in spending $300 on a targeted online ad campaign vs paying thousands of dollars for a mass advertising campaign that reaches the same amount of interested people.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. – Search Engine Journal

Deep Segmentation

With mass advertising, you create a single marketing message for everyone.  Not really an effective strategy.  People buy your products for different reasons, online marketing allows you to create different marketing messaging for each of your different customer segments.  Why highlight how cost effective you are to your wealthier customer segment who are more interested in your higher end features?

Online marketing allows you, all the way down to a one on one level, to communicate with your customers with the benefits they find most valuable.  This type of marketing segmentation creates more relevant marketing communications and higher conversion rates.

60% of all Internet activity in the US originates from mobile devices and about half of total Internet Traffic flows through mobile apps. – CMOcouncil.org

Real Time Results

A good marketing strategy isn’t something you create once, it’s something that is continually improved upon over time.  Online marketing allows you to see the results of your campaign in real-time, allowing you to make changes on the fly based on the data coming in. If you see something working very well, you can double down on your winner and drop your losers without having to wait until your entire ad budget is gone.

With mass advertising, television ads and direct mailers, you have to try and get it right the first time as there are no changes once production starts.  Online marketing allows you to be nimble, making changes as you go so everything isn’t riding on getting it right the first time.

72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR. – NewsCred (2014)

Campaign Testing and Optimization

One fo the greatest benefits of online marketing is having access to a wealth of data, helping you make smarter marketing decisions.  Testing your marketing campaigns, using multiple variables, can help you determine the right message that resonates with your potential customers.

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, allows you to test different headlines, offers and designs to see which ones consumers are responding to (and which ones are turning into revenue).  These side by side, real-time comparisons allows you to make decisions faster and save you from wasting money on poor performing ads.  The nice part is that they are run simultaneously, on the same audience, so there is little bias in the results.   It would be like running two newspaper ads side by side at the same time to see which one people respond better to and dropping the poorer performing one without having to pay for it.

Content marketing in 2015 generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less – Hubspot

Wider Reach

Most traditional advertising options are local or regional in nature, unless you are a major brand and can pay for nationwide coverage.  So you have to pick and choose your markets. With online advertising, you can segment locations all the way from the entire country (or planet), down to a specific neighborhood in a city. You can choose specific cities across the country or even specific neighborhoods in each city.

This slicing and dicing of where you want to advertise allows you to advertise only in the areas that will give you the most bang for your buck, without the waste.  It’s like being able to choose only the cable channels you want to watch, instead of paying for a bundle with hundreds of useless cable channels.

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. – The Annuitas Group

Better Targeting Options

With traditional advertising, you will usually get vague, generic demographic data like gender, age and income information from the media outlets selling these ads.  While it gives you a general idea of who is reading or watching, it doesn’t necessarily give you detailed information or signs of interest or buying intent.

Two things you can do with online advertising that you can’t do with traditional advertising:

  • You can run Pay Per Click ads, where you only pay whens someone searches for what you are offering and then clicks on your ad, which leads them to your website.  This is advertising based on buyer intent (I want to buy), which is what the entire Amazon.com platform is built on, people searching to buy stuff.
  • You can create highly targeted ad campaigns based on demographics, interests and behaviors. Facebook is the king fo this so I will use them as an example.  With Facebook, I can run a specific ad campaign (I’m a motorcycle dealer) that targets males aged 40-55, that live in Charlotte, NC that are belong to one or more motorcycle member groups and have purchased a motorcycle in the last 3 years.  I can actually dial down a lot tighter than in this example, but you get my point.

 97 percent of consumers go online to research products and services locally – BIA/Kelsey

More Interactive With Consumers

People want to engage with the companies and brands they love, not read one-way marketing messages.  Online marketing allows consumers to engage with brands in a way traditional marketing cannot do.  You can speak to your customers directly via social media or answer questions from potential customers. You can offer visitors to your website free downloadable guides or free tools they can use to help them make smarter buying decisions.

Traditional Marketing Image

The ways you can engage your customers and potential customers are endless and gives you the opportunity to deliver value to people on an individual level. This type of personalized experiences is what consumers love and what they are coming to expect from all of the companies they do business with.

 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance.  – MarketingSherpa

It’s the Present and the Future

The internet is here, online marketing is here.  It’s only going to become more so in the future as people move more and more from paper and scheduled viewing to bytes and on-demand viewing.  You be hard pressed to find anyone with a traditional Yellow Pages book in their home (under 75) just as you ar finding less and less people subscribing to cable television.

People want to read, watch and buy when they want and how they want.  The internet is the only medium that lets companies reach these people when they indicate they are interested.

37% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation to generate leads

So, is traditional marketing dead?

No, it’s not dead, it actually can play a very important role as part of a bigger marketing strategy that uses online marketing as its cornerstone.

The most important thing is to understand where consumer behavior is heading, which is online,  and to make sure your company’s marketing strategy is evolving along with the times and that your marketing dollars aren’t destined for the recycling bin.