Category Archives: Online Marketing

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How to Build A Website that Generates Leads

How to Build A Website that Generates Leads written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

In today’s day and age, every business owner knows they must have an online presence to be competitive. But not everyone understands how to optimize that online presence. Your website is the heart of your business’s online existence, so ensuring that it’s designed to maximize lead generation is critical to securing long-term success for your company

How do you create a website that is easily found, catches a prospect’s eye, and keeps them around long enough to decide to give your product or service a try? Let’s take a deeper look at how to build a website that generates leads.

Make it Easy to Find

The obvious first place to start is in designing a site that is easy to find. You’re not going to generate any leads from a site that is in hiding.

The first step here is making sure that your domain name makes sense for your business. If you’re not able to secure your first choice, what are your alternatives? Pick a domain name is memorable, easy to spell, and is something prospects and clients will be able to easily associate with your company.

From there, you’ll want to keep track of how people are finding your site in order to understand which social channels are driving traffic and who’s talking about you online. You can then use that information to be more strategic about where you place your marketing efforts in order to drive traffic to your site.

And you mustn’t forget about SEO in this discussion. If your site isn’t ranking on the first page of Google results, you’re missing out on catching the eyes of a lot of prospects. Keyword research is a critical part of ensuring that your business is actually being found by people who are in the market for the goods and services you offer.

You’ll also want to undertake an SEO audit of your website to make sure that your current content isn’t hurting your search rankings. Screaming Frog offers services that allow you to check your website’s current SEO status: find broken links and crawl errors, analyze how existing pages rank for SEO terms, check site speed, and more.

Give Visitors a Way to Reach Out

When a visitor comes to your site and they like what they see, you want to be sure that you’re providing them with a clear, easy way to get more information from your business. Getting strategic about where and how you ask for information from prospects can help you to generate even more leads from your existing site.

The first step is to put forms on the pages that get the most traffic. Make sure that these forms ask for as little information as possible and that they auto-populate; bogging prospects down with a million questions is a surefire way to scare them off.

You’ll also want to be sure that the forms you create make sense in the context of the other information on a given page. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, don’t put a form offering a free white paper on website design on a page that’s about print work that you’ve done.

You should also provide users with as many ways to contact you as possible. Make your phone number and email address easy to find, and consider incorporating a chat function into your site’s design. No one wants to have to go on a search mission across all of your website just to find a way to ask you a simple question.

Build a Variety of Landing Pages

Creating highly specialized landing pages is one of the keys to generating more promising leads. In fact, research from HubSpot has shown that business with 30 or more landing pages on their website generate seven times more leads than those websites that only have one to five landing pages.

The best landing pages are those that keep it simple. Depending on where the traffic is coming from, you can create a specific messaging that speaks to that particular subset of your prospect population. Make sure that your succinctly outline the problem your business can solve, and that there’s a clear way for prospects to reach out—a call to action button or a simple form—and leave it at that.

Landing pages that are cluttered with too much information or that do not clearly demonstrate your company’s value proposition can leave prospects feeling confused and returning to their Google search to consider one of your competitors. If you’d like to see some examples from a variety of industries, HubSpot has some great ones here.

Create an Eye-Catching Homepage with a Clear CTA

While each of your specific landing pages should have tailored messaging and calls to action, you’ll also want to be sure that your homepage has a general call to action that serves as a catch-all for anyone who might want to learn more about your business.

This CTA shouldn’t be for a specific product or service; after all, this is the page on your website that the general population is most likely to see first, so you don’t want to single out only one of your numerous offerings on this page. Instead, give visitors the chance to learn more about your business. A CTA that asks prospects to subscribe to your newsletter or try your service for free are great ways to catch the attention of the widest swath of visitors possible.

Once you get to know these prospects better and have a deeper sense of where their specific interests lie, then you can begin to target them with more specific offers through email marketing and audience segmentation.

Use Content to Generate Leads

Having a website that’s filled with rich, valuable information is what will keep prospects on your site and entice them to come back for more. This means that your website needs to go beyond answering the basic question of how your business can solve a prospect’s problem. It must provide in-depth content on the topic that establishes your business as an authoritative voice in your industry, and provides prospects with the assurance that yours is the team for the job.

Creating valuable content and sharing that content regularly on your site is a critical part of the lead generation process. In order to do so, you need to establish a content strategy. I have advocated in the past for a strategy that organizes your content thematically. If you pick a different area of interest each month and offer a deep dive into related topics on your blog, you’re creating value for your prospects and continuing to offer interesting content regularly that will keep them coming back.

Once your blog has become a go-to source of information for your prospects, you can target them with offers for related white papers or your newsletter that’s dedicated to a relevant topic. This helps to move these prospects further down the marketing hourglass, as you begin to establish your brand as one that they know, like, and trust.

A poorly designed website will do nothing to generate leads for your business. When you begin to think strategically about all of the elements of your website—from SEO and keyword search to blog content and calls to action—you can build a website that is fully optimized to generate leads for your business.

Why You Need Inbound For Outbound Marketing and Vice Versa

Why You Need Inbound For Outbound Marketing and Vice Versa written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

In recent years, outbound marketing has gotten a bad rap. It’s seen as expensive, time consuming, and it feels like a relic of the past. And the numbers bear this out: in 2017, HubSpot’s State of Inbound report found that 71 percent of businesses worldwide are focused primarily on inbound marketing.

But I’d argue that there is real value in outbound marketing, when it’s done correctly. In fact, you can develop a sort of symbiotic relationship between inbound and outbound marketing tactics in order to create an even stronger overall marketing strategy.

Here, we’ll look at why you need inbound for outbound marketing (and vice versa) and what you can do to strengthen your approach in both arenas.

Tailor Your Inbound Approach Based on Outbound Success

Nowadays, people are trained to tune out most traditional outbound tactics. Television commercials are muted or skipped over entirely, direct mailers are tossed in the trash without a second glance, and radio stations are switched as soon as ads begin playing.

So what information can you glean from an outbound campaign that is successful? If you begin to generate responses to an outbound campaign, you’ll know that you’re onto something. Your messaging was powerful enough to cut through the noise and grab the attention of someone that wasn’t actively seeking out the good or service you offer. And that’s valuable information.

You can then take that knowledge and use it to strengthen your inbound approach. Revamp your call to action on your website to reflect the messaging in your outbound campaign. Create blog posts that are related to the topic you presented in the ads. Adopt a similar tone in your social media posts. Understanding what it was that grabbed a stranger’s attention can allow you to bolster your relationship with those who already interact with your brand or who happen upon it via inbound channels.

Use Outbound to Identify the Strongest Prospects

Tracking responses to outbound marketing can also allow you to gauge who your most promising prospects are. If someone goes out of their way to react to your outbound efforts, it’s likely that they’re very enthusiastic about your business. This is a prospect with a high likelihood of conversion, and if you then open up a dialogue by presenting them with the appropriate inbound tactics, you have a good chance of winning them over.

These are the people you should be reaching out to with targeted offers and discounts. Make sure they’re encountering your paid ads on social media so that your business remains top of mind. Send them a free white paper and ask them to sign up for your bi-weekly newsletter that’s filled with valuable content. You’ll feel confident that you’re getting the greatest return on your inbound investment because you’re going after your most highly engaged prospects.

Catch Customers at Any Stage of the Marketing Hourglass

Outbound and inbound marketing come into play at different stages of the marketing hourglass. Typically, outbound strategies are deployed at the top of the hourglass, where new customers are just getting to know and like your brand. Inbound strategies become useful a bit further down. Because inbound allows you to develop a two-way conversation with prospects, these techniques can be valuable in the trust and try phases of the hourglass. This is where prospects will want to gain a deeper understanding of your brand, and perhaps hear from you or from your clients about what it is that you excel at, and why a prospect should give you a shot.

However, the customer journey is never a straight line, so you have to be prepared for the fact that existing customers will sometimes encounter your outbound marketing efforts and brand new prospects who aren’t familiar with your brand may discover your inbound approach before they ever see one of your ads. This means that you need to be thinking about how to create both inbound and outbound campaigns that are appealing to prospects and clients no matter where they are on their journey.

Your outbound approach should not only be a catchy introduction to your brand, it should also have a voice that aligns with the rest of your marketing, so that your existing customers feel that what they already understand to be true about your brand is just being further confirmed by any outbound efforts they come in contact with. Similarly, your inbound marketing strategy should be accessible enough that a stranger can happen upon any tweet, Instagram post, or paid search item and be able to easily glean what your business does, and what you might be able to offer to them.

Use Inbound and Outbound to Tell Your Story

If you’re only focused on either inbound or outbound marketing, you’re missing out on the opportunity to provide a holistic picture of what your business does, what your value proposition is, and how you stand out from the competition.

Outbound marketing only allows you to present a small sliver of the solutions you can provide to prospective clients. A good outbound campaign can tell a story in a direct mailer or a commercial, but outbound media are by nature briefyou’re limited to a 30 television commercial, one page mailer, or 15 second radio spotso prospects can’t get the full picture. And you can bet that in today’s digital world, even if you’ve gotten their attention through outbound tactics, they’ll be doing some digging on your business before converting.

That’s why pairing an outbound with an inbound approach is crucial. Your inbound marketing efforts, like social media and curated content on blogs or in white papers, allows you to tell prospects a broader story about who you are and what you do. Your social media accounts should have a clear point of view and should demonstrate your guiding vision and principles for your business. Your content should prove your deep industry knowledge and confirm your status as a thought leader.

Prospects want to trust you, and in order to trust you, they have to feel like they know you. The outbound will put you on their radar screen, but the inbound will open up a dialogue between you and the prospect, helping to prove to them that you’re the best company for the job.

A marketing strategy that focuses only on inbound is missing out on valuable opportunities. Pairing inbound and outbound marketing strategies allows you to create the fullest picture of your brand for prospects and clients alike, and gives you the greatest shot at winning new business and maintaining the trust and loyalty of existing customers.

A Small Business Guide to Paid Content

A Small Business Guide to Paid Content written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

If you’re a small business out in the world today, it can feel like your competition is everywhere. The ubiquity of the internet means that anyone, anywhere, can turn to any provider to get the goods or services they need. In an environment like that, what can you possibly do to stand out from the crowd?

In the past, advertising was the cornerstone of any plan to get your company’s name out there and to attract new business. However, with giants like Google now committing to filtering ads, and with customers being turned off by loud pop-up videos and irritating banners blocking a site’s content, focusing exclusively on advertising is becoming a less sustainable marketing model for businesses.

So what’s the alternative? Here we’ll take a look at paid content: what it is and what it can bring to your business.

Why Turn to Paid Content?

Content marketing is essentially a way for you to create deep connections with customers, establish yourself as an industry expert, and thereby drive sales. This content can be anything from blog posts to podcasts to e-newsletters.

Whatever form the content takes, it’s critical that it’s high-quality, informative, and results-driven content that really solves a problem your potential clients have. If you prove through your content that you understand their needs and that you have a means to meet them, you can become their go-to source for whatever good or service you provide.

The challenge, then, becomes getting that content in front of the right people. You know that old adage “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Same goes for content creation. You can be turning out some really impressive work, but if no one’s seeing the content you’re creating, it’s not doing anything for you.

Leveraging Distribution Platforms

Getting your content out there to a broader audience is exactly why some companies turn to distribution platforms. These platforms allow you to set a budget and timescale, and from there they work to put your content in front of a targeted audience that will find it the most interesting and useful. We’ve discussed this approach in the past, and while there are a lot of platforms for you to choose from, some of the most popular are covered here.

Content Distribution PlatformDistribution platforms will provide you with analytics, so you’re able to see which content is getting the most traction and can tailor your approach as you learn more about your audience. The greatest downside to these types of platforms is that the content still lives on the margins of web pages. Often located below the site’s content, they look like paid content, which may turn some potential readers off.

Sponsored Content on Trusted Publications

If you’re concerned about the look of content on a distribution platform, you may want to consider sponsored content instead.

While perusing your favorite online magazine or newspaper, it’s likely that you’ve come across a story that’s sponsored by a brand. Perhaps it’s a mattress store that’s written an article about the importance of a good night’s sleep. Or an athletic goods company that’s published a piece about how the proper running shoe can help marathoners beat their personal records.

These types of posts are imbedded in a publication and are designed to mirror the look, feel, and tone of other articles, but in reality, they’ve been paid for by marketers. This kind of paid content is beneficial in a few unique ways. First, it allows you to target the readers of whichever publication best aligns with the target audience for your good or service. It also provides an air of legitimacy for your advertising; if the reader trusts the publication, they’re likely to also trust your content that they find on its pages.

Facebook Posts and Google Searches

Similar in concept to the sponsored content approach, you may also consider placing sponsored posts on Facebook or paying for Google search ads. This is another form of native advertising, which again allows your content to blend in with its surroundings.

Google Search Ad

If someone happens upon a Facebook ad as they’re scrolling through their newsfeed, or sees a search result at the top of their Google results, they’re less likely to be put off in the same way they might be with a more obvious marketing tactic. Since these ads are intended to look like a part of the larger platform, readers don’t feel they’re being “sold” a product or service.

The New Approach to Influencer Marketing

When you think of influencer marketing, it’s possible that your mind jumps immediately to the Kardashians or another celebrity with a massive social media following. But the trend in influencer marketing is changing, and many marketers are now moving away from the celebrity endorsement.

In fact, in a recent study by Collective Bias, 70 percent of millennials said they’re more likely to buy a product that’s been endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger, rather than a celebrity. This is good news for smaller businesses, who can’t afford the seven-figure endorsement price tag that Kylie Jenner commands.

If you’re a small business, think smaller scale. Target influencers who are important to those in your desired network, and reach out to them. If you have a compelling pitch and are willing to send them a free sample of your product, they just may cover your business on their blog or give you a shout-out on their social media platforms.

There are a lot of small businesses out there, creating content and competing for the attention of potential customers. While this can make the world of content creation feel overwhelming, if you focus on creating quality content that really helps your target audience, and find ways to get this content in front of an ever-broadening audience, you can make the content creation approach work in your favor to drive revenues and expand your business.

EMaaS: How Email Marketing Can Be Your Agency’s Most Profitable Service

EMaaS: How Email Marketing Can Be Your Agency’s Most Profitable Service written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Enjoy today’s guest post from David Mihm.

Thanks to John’s generous promotion of my content over the years, many of you probably know I’ve spent most of my career in search engine optimization.

Although many of my colleagues in the SEO world were surprised when I transitioned into the adjacent world of email marketing a year ago and launched Tidings, I hope you’ll understand why after reading this column.

For a variety of reasons, some of which I’ll detail at the end of this post, I see SEO as an increasingly difficult proposition for both small business owners and agencies serving them. Meanwhile, small business owners consistently rate email marketing as one of the top three performing channels, and unlike SEO, it’s not a black box and isn’t subject to algorithmic fluctuations.

I‘d never really paid much attention to it since I didn’t offer it as a service in my consulting days, nor does my previous employer (Moz) offer it as a product. But from first-hand experience, I can tell you that neither of those is a good reason to ignore its effectiveness!

My own experience sending a newsletter has been eye-opening, and while social media garners most of the mainstream headlines these days, email remains as powerful as ever, and it’s well-positioned to be an effective offering into the foreseeable future.

Here’s just a sampling of the many reasons I’m bullish on email.

Minimal Hard Costs

We all love low-cost, high-value service offerings. Costs don’t get any lower than free, which, conveniently, is exactly the monthly price of a number of email service providers.

Mailchimp, MailerLite and SendinBlue offer free plans, and many other providers charge under $10/month, depending on your number of subscribers.

The minimal hard costs of email are a big contributing factor to its high margin as a service offering.

Minimal Technical Costs

Email has four main technical prongs: capturing email addresses, managing lists and campaigns, “designing” your campaign, and delivering your campaign–all of which are usually included in your Email Service Provider plan.

CANSPAM-compliant address capture and list management are probably the two biggest reasons to use an ESP in the first place.

Address acquisition products like Privy and MailMunch make it incredibly easy to tie your website, landing pages, and social campaigns directly to your email lists at your ESP. The management interface provided by most ESPs is more than adequate. And all major ESPs place a premium on deliverability.

Campaign “design” is potentially the most technical aspect of the bunch. (As an aside, a personal pet peeve is the industry’s use of the verb “design” in conjunction with “campaign.” I see so many businesses of all sizes getting hung up on a campaign’s design and not focusing enough on its content, which is what really drives campaign success. But I digress.)

Given that more than 2/3 of email gets opened on phones, using a responsive email template in your campaigns is essential, and I don’t mean to downplay the technical difficulty behind creating that template.  It’s incredibly challenging to account for dozens of widely-used but outmoded email clients like Microsoft Outlook. And there are a range of new dynamic and interactive technologies that larger brands are using to great effect.

Generally speaking, however, each major ESP offers at least one effective, responsive template (including ours at Tidings), so it’s another zero or near-nil cost.

Minimal Time Costs

Email is also relatively cheap in terms of time cost. Unlike social media where daily or even hourly presence performs best, email allows you to duck in and duck out as you have time.

For most small businesses, a weekly or even monthly newsletter helps you stay top of mind with your customers and drive engagement with events happening around your business or important topics in your industry.  

As simple as that sounds, sending a newsletter is intimidating for a lot of businesses! We surveyed 300 U.S. business owners last fall and found that 50% of small business owners aren’t yet sending one, and for the ones that are, 63% of them spend more than an hour to do so.

While the complexity of the ESP campaign interface is a contributing factor, the biggest hurdle for most businesses is coming up with content.

Regular newsletters are a great opportunity for agencies to solve this problem for small businesses. Chances are that many of you are already doing social media and content creation for your clients. And even if you’re not, many clients are probably doing a solid job with their own social accounts.

But organic reach continues to shrink on major social channels, and fewer and fewer people are seeing that content unless you’re paying to put it in front of people. Newsletters offer an easy way to extend the reach of those efforts on an organic basis.

Tidings’ whitelabel platform offers you a turnkey solution to extend the reach of your social campaigns to email, as well as one-click RSS integrations with any public feed. More people seeing your work or your clients’ work with no additional effort is as easy a win as they come!

Predictable and Concrete

Back in my SEO days, one of the hardest parts of my job as a consultant was convincing a client to be patient as their search results gradually improved, and proving how successful my efforts were.  More businesses today understand the value of SEO, but most best practices are still hard to feel paying off at a gut level, it still takes time for them to work, and it’s still difficult to attribute success to any specific tactic or set of tactics.

Clients still appreciate seeing themselves rank #1 for a vanity keyword, but it can take years to get them there (if you get them there at all) and with Google’s increasing personalization and monetization of the search results, ranking #1 organically ain’t what it used to be.

Seeing their own newsletter — and the conversations and leads that it generates — resonates instantly that you are delivering a valuable service. In fact, for many clients, it could be your “foot in the door” on top of which you sell other less concrete services like SEO.

Synergy with Other Services

It’s low-cost. It’s concrete. But the other reason email makes such a great foot-in-the-door offering is that it helps make so many other marketing services more effective.

An email address is the cornerstone of customer intelligence services like FullContact, not to mention more robust CRM programs like Hubspot. Retargeting and remarketing via customer email addresses stretch a client’s paid ad budget as far as it’ll go. And an email address is essential to unlock lookalike audiences as an additional paid acquisition channel.

But you have to deliver something of value to the customer in order to capture their email address — buying lists violates most ESP terms of use, not to mention many anti-spam laws.

As I hopefully convinced you above, many of your clients don’t have time or wherewithal to create something of value on a consistent basis, which is where your agency or consultancy comes in!

With the two major platforms becoming largely pay-to-play for local businesses, email offers one of the best remaining opportunities for organic visibility — and actually makes paid visibility cheaper and more effective. Both of which help your client’s ROI and your bottom line as an agency.

Enables Future Upsell Opportunities

Regular newsletter content is a high-value deliverable in its own right. But it’s just the first step in building a complete email marketing program over time — with many more opportunities for deeper client engagement.

Helping your clients craft a welcome email sequence for subscribers, or a drip campaign for prospects, are no-brainer opportunities.

Segmentation and personalization are emerging as two of the easiest ways to improve the effectiveness of content delivered to existing subscribers.

And deeper analysis around which content is most effective and which subscribers are deserving of extra attention or personal follow-ups (our free Email Intelligence Briefing can help with these questions) can lead to even more profitable email programs.

Your Last Best Option?

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook’s ongoing reduction in organic visibility, Google’s evolution of the local SERP, and the shift to voice search will combine to create an existential threat to agencies that serve smaller-budget local businesses over the next 2-3 years.

Agencies simply can’t charge the margin to place paid ads that they can charge for organic work, and while basic SEO blocking-and-tackling such as site architecture, Title Tags, and citation building will always be important services, their impact for local businesses has declined over the past decade, due to algorithmic sophistication, increased competition, and decreased organic real estate.

To grow or even maintain your client base, it’ll be critical for you as an agency to offer additional services that are just as effective and scalable as these techniques were a decade ago.

Email, meanwhile, is not going away as a top-performing channel.  In fact, with a Return-On-Investment of 44:1, marketers consistently rate it as THE top performing channel. That ROI has actually increased since 2015 according to Campaign Monitor, and it’s particularly true for B2B companies.

Email remains a powerful driver of new business and one of the best ways to encourage referrals. But the time it takes to put together an engaging, mobile-optimized email campaign makes it difficult to pull off for many small businesses. If you’re not already doing so, I hope your agency or consultancy decides to step into this arena, help your small business clients take advantage of the power of email, and grow your business at the same time.

To learn more about how email can help to benefit your business, be sure to visit Tidings. (Yes, I believe so strongly in Tidings that I’ve used an affiliate link!)

About the Author

David MIhm

David Mihm is first and foremost an advocate for sustainable digital marketing techniques for small businesses.  In 2012, he sold his former company GetListed.org to Moz, helping over 3 million businesses get better visibility in the local search engines.  He’s a co-founder of the Local University conference series. David now runs Tidings and his weekly newsletter, Minutive.

Why Link Building is the New Networking

Why Link Building is the New Networking written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch About Link Building

Despite what you may have heard, link building is not some technical SEO-type of under-the-hood tactic. It is the new networking, and no matter what Google does to try to devalue backlinks, they remain an important factor in terms of your site showing up when people search for the things that you want them to find you for online.

The Game Has Changed

Certainly, the game has changed. There are a lot of SEO folks that charge a lot of money and do a lot of “evil things” in the eyes of Google to generate links because they’re so important.

Here’s what you need to remember: People link to things worth sharing. It really is that simple. It’s not some black hat SEO practice or way to trick people into linking to you. You’ve got to work at this.

You’ve got to create something that people want to link to. That’s why I say it’s the new networking because people want to share great content. They want to share it with their audiences, networks, and visitors.

If you give them something to share and target the right people for links, you’re going to acquire the links that you’re going to need to rank, or at least outrank, your competition.

Keep an eye on your competition

The first tactic that I want to talk about in terms of link building is to keep your competitors close. To find the best resources for where you might find great links or people that might want to link back to your content, search and review your competitors, and find out who’s out-ranking you.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the person in your town that you go head-to-head with as a competitor. This is anybody who is out-ranking you for the search terms that you want to rank for whether that’s locally or nationally.

Find those people. Do some searches on some of the things that are important terms to you and you’re going to find a handful of competitors or other high authority sites that rank already and that have links.

How do you find those links? I use tools like SpyFu and Ahrefs. What these tools do is allow you to go to any website or any URL and see who is linked to this site, who is sending traffic to this site, and who is linking to their content.

I like to look at the last 30 days because you want to look at recent activity. It might not be that relevant if somebody linked four or five years ago. Look at the recent activity and start finding the content they link to and then start thinking about how you could make a pitch to this website or influencer in a way that would make them want to link to you.

For example, if you see that a particular site links to a lot of guest posts or writes guest posts, think about pitching them on a similar idea. Take an article from a competitor that has written something and really expand on it and make it better. Introduce them to somebody in your network that might be a good contact.

There are tremendous relationship-building tactics that you can do once you start identifying some of these sites that link to competitors. In many cases, they’ll be very motivated to link to you if you’re producing good, relevant content.

Get added to roundups

I don’t see a lot of people doing this, but this is one that I think can be quite easy and quite effective as a way to both get links and also get people sending traffic to your content. About once a week, I get a request from a content marketer who is working on something called a roundup-style blog post.

What they do is they’ll go out and they’ll try to round up a bunch of experts, tools or resources and create a post, because as it turns out, people love roundup posts. They’re like list posts but with more detail and a little more depth. The search engines like them better as well.

They can also draw a lot of shares and links which are two of the main reasons that I think people produce these roundup posts. Let’s say a post features 20 or 30 experts. The hope is that each of these experts is going to spread the word.

It’s a great link building strategy to find sites that routinely assemble these roundup posts, particularly if it’s in your niche or industry. Network to have them quote you, link to a post that you have or include you in their next roundup article.

To find these roundup posts, just turn to Google. If you were trying to find people that do roundup posts, say for link-building, you would just type in Title, Column, Roundup+link building, and you would find a bunch of roundup-type of posts or a list of sites that run roundup posts.

Once you find a suitable list, you’ll want to spend time networking. Don’t just simply reach out and say: “Hey, include me in your next post.” Follow them for a couple of weeks. Read up on them, comment on them and share them.

Do all the things that equate to networking as it’s an effective way for you to start getting noticed and start building strategies. I’m much more likely to link back to a person, pay attention to what it is they’re doing, or in some cases, think about including them in something that I’m doing or sharing a link to some of the content that they’ve written if they’ve shown prior engagement.

Network with local businesses

This is one of my favorites because it’s just solid business content relationship-building and referral building, and it covers so many areas. It’s particularly effective for local businesses and new business owners that are trying to find people in their community.

One of the things you’ll want to do as a business development and business-building strategy is to start networking with local businesses, particularly those that could be potential strategic partners.

Think about also building an online platform with them. If there’s somebody you work with, buy from, or network with that’s local, think about ways that you could link to and from each other.

Let’s say you’ve produced a great ebook. Think about all the strategic partners that you might be able to share that with and let them co-brand it and send it out to their entire network. Think about writing testimonials for each other.

Think about that business that you love and do business with, and write an unsolicited testimonial which becomes great content. They’ll want to put that on their website and in many cases, they’ll give you a link back. If you expand that whole tactic, there’s no reason you couldn’t be doing eight, ten, or twelve of those a month to start drawing links back to your site.

Don’t forget the organizations you belong to either, including:

  • The Chamber of Commerce
  • Your local chapter of your business organization.
  • BNI groups
  • Charitable foundations
  • Alumni chapters

All of these are great ways for you to get links back to your site. One of the benefits of being able to support charities in your community is that in many cases they will create sponsor pages. Those will automatically generate high-quality links back to your site.

Don’t Forget Local Print and Offline Options

Many print publications have online press release portals for local news. Find these sites and learn how to submit press releases to them. Do this every month and you’ll soon start to see some nice links coming from highly relevant, local sites.

There’s no question that link-building has become a hand-to-hand combat of sorts. But again, it is very much like effective networking, if you think a little bit outside the box with some of these tactics. People aren’t just going to shower you with links because you buy them or because you sign up and list your article in a directory. Those days are over.

Today, Google wants to see what feel and look to them like handcrafted, organic links between businesses that support each other through content producers that are writing and producing great content.

Use these three strategies to really ‘up’ your backlink quotient.

If you enjoyed this post take a look at our Ultimate Local Marketing Guide.

 

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What You Need to Know About Google Local Services Ads

What You Need to Know About Google Local Services Ads written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Oh, in my truest Bob Dylan voice, the times they are a changing for local marketing and SEO.

Local search is one of the last places left for Google to wring a little more ad spend out of small businesses.

The local map listing today is pure gold for mobile searches for certain types of businesses and Google knows it so they are expanding their Local Service ads accordingly.

Google recently expanded their Local Services ads (formerly known as Home Services ads) to include 17 cities, with plans to expand to 30 cities by the end of 2017.

Current cities include:

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Riverside, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Chicago, ILLocal Service Ads
  • Boston, MA
  • Detroit, MI
  • New York, New York
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Dallas, TX
  • Seattle, WA

The categories that currently qualify include:

  • Locksmiths
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC
  • Garage Door Services

With the expansion of these ads coming up fast, I thought now would be a good time to discuss exactly what they are so that you can consider them for your business or your client’s business moving forward.

What are Google Local Services ads and how do they work?

Google Local Services

With Local Services, you have the ability to advertise your business on Google and receive leads directly from potential customers. Local Services ads appear at the top of Google Search results (see above) when people search for the services in a given area. Once you click on “50+ plumbers serving Los Angeles,” you will be taken to a separate results page where you’ll see a list of all of the participating local services businesses. You’ll also see a drop-down menu of relevant services next to a zip code search box. We’ll discuss later on how to optimize your chance of getting found in the first three spots on the first page of Google and not just in the list on the full list page.

local services ads

People have the choice to call a business or send a message by clicking on the ad. By using the Local Services app, businesses can reply to messages, manage leads, track bookings, manage campaigns and budget (it’s easy to turn your ads on and off depending when you want them), view an ad’s performance, and review ratings (ratings can come from Google My Business or through Local Services). Businesses can personalize their profile page and select the areas and predefined services where their ad will appear.

To be clear, the ads you run are simply a way to get leads. It’s still your job to turn them into customers.

Businesses that want to participate need to apply and go through a verification process (including meeting certain insurance and licensing requirements) and each employee must go through a background check, so be prepared that you likely won’t be able to get these ads up and running overnight. Once a business is screened and approved, they will receive a Google guarantee badge which builds trust and ensures Google will cover claims as high as the job invoice amount if a customer isn’t satisfied.

Benefits of Local Services ads

Hearing that the beta version of these ads was a success isn’t really a surprise, and the fact that Google is planning to expand significantly by the end of the year suggests the many benefits these ads provide to the businesses who use them. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Increased exposure
  • The ability to connect with customers at the moment they’re looking for services you provide (which, in turn, can lead to higher conversion rates)
  • Access to an easy-to-use management platform
  • Receiving the Google Guaranteed badge (which, along with Google reviews help to build trust)
  • Limited wasted time, as customers choose you (no chasing)
  • Increased odds of turning more leads into customers

How much does this cost?

The beauty of these ads is that you only pay for leads related to your business and the services you offer. The actual costs may vary depending on the type of lead, your location, and the type of job needed. You only pay if you receive a message or phone call through the platform.

You also won’t waste time with spammy leads because if one of your leads isn’t legitimate, you can dispute it with Google (you may not always get your money back, but it’s worth a shot!). The other nice thing about this payment plan is that you’ll never exceed your monthly maximum budget. If for whatever reason you get leads that exceed your monthly budget, they will be credited back to you.

Your cost is easy to manage. You can set a weekly budget based on the number of leads you want to receive, and you can always track your progress in the app by viewing your payment and charge history.

How to get the most out of Google Local services

Google won’t say specifically what factors go into their rankings, but there are some speculations out there that could help. I’m a big fan of building up your total online presence, so if you’re like me, the best practices below shouldn’t be all that surprising and should be things you’re already considering in other aspects of your marketing:

  • Focus on quality
  • Focus on increasing your 5-star ratings and reviews
  • Respond immediately to your messages and phone calls (failing to do so may lower your ad ranking)
  • Maintain consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) across directory sites online
  • Optimize your Google My Business Listing
  • Stay in good standing with Google. If they receive numerous complaints about your business, it will likely work against you.

In addition, Google is a business after all, and they want to make money, so increasing your weekly Local Services ad budget isn’t the worst idea. Your proximity to potential customers’ locations may also impact your rank (Google wants to provide a good experience for the user, not just your business).

Only time will tell what these ads will become, but if you fall into one of the categories and locations, I’d recommend testing them out.

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How to Claim Position Zero on Google

How to Claim Position Zero on Google written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

For businesses today, reaching that coveted #1 spot on Google is still a main goal, and as ideal as that position is, there’s now another spot that marketers should strive for that is referred to as “position zero” or a Google featured snippet.

You may have seen the Google featured snippet appear in search results and have just not been aware of what exactly it is, so I wanted to take the time to not only walk through it but also give some helpful tips to help you get there.

What is a Google featured snippet and why should you care?

The point of featured snippets is to engage the user on search engine results pages (SERPs) and provide the best answer to a user’s questions. The way Google does this is that they have the ability to detect pages that can answer the user’s question (I mean, it’s Google, what can’t they do?). Google will display what they believe is the top result on page one of search results, above organic search results, in the form of either a paragraph, list, or table. The snippet will also include a link to the page, a page title, and the page’s URL.

While snippet information is often pulled from the first page of Google, that isn’t always the case, as sometimes answers can be pulled from page two, three, or even further down.

The image below is an example of what I’m talking about. When you type in “effective social media plan” into Google, the below snippet will appear and will aim to answer your question without you even having to click through to the website where the answer lives.

effective social media plan

If you haven’t guessed, these snippets provide amazing opportunities for marketers to get ahead of their competition. It allows businesses to:

  • Increase their brand’s visibility
  • Increase the click-through rate of the page the answer lives on
  • Increase traffic to their website
  • Boost credibility and authority
  • Increase exposure on mobile devices (these are the results that show up in voice-activated inquiries)

Here’s one we landed for a client.

Jackson Tree Service

Now, the real question is, how do you get there?

Tips to appear in a Google featured snippet

My tips below aren’t necessarily the only assets that can get you to position zero, but they can certainly help.

1. Know your audience

Now, this tip should be at the root of all of your marketing efforts. You must know your audience inside and out in order to effectively reach them. As part of that, you need to have a good understanding of what they’re searching for online and the types of questions they’re asking so that you can properly address them.

2. Do your keyword research

Back to SEO basics. If you’ve never conducted keyword research, this is a good excuse to begin (as is anything related to search results, really). It’s believed that the majority of featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords. Since the purpose of featured snippets is to answer a question, I’d recommend starting your keyword research with question-based search queries, as well as queries with an informational intent (like the “effective social media plan” example above).

To brainstorm keywords to get started with and an idea of what your audience is looking for, I often recommend:

  • Exploring online forums or Quora
  • Reaching out to your sales or support teams to see what types of questions they get asked
  • Browsing Google and looking at “searches related to ‘search term’” at the bottom of SERPs or “People also ask” questions that you’ll find in other snippets. Additionally, as you type search terms into Google, it will start to auto-fill related search terms that people have typed in, which can also provide good topics for brainstorming.
  • Interviewing existing clients and prospects and jotting down the types of questions they ask
  • Monitoring questions on social media

3. Create high-quality content that answers questions

If you’ve already honed in on a solid content strategy, then chances are you’re already writing posts that cater to your audience’s problems, wants, and needs. But when it comes to content creation with the intent of getting to position zero, you may want to go more in-depth with the answers and make it clear that you are answering a question.

In terms of going in depth, you are not the only person writing about your topic online, I can almost guarantee it. So, to stand out from the crowd, don’t just skim the surface of an answer. You must go in-depth because that’s what will make your answer the best out of all others out there and will increase your odds of getting the snippet.

The feel of the content shouldn’t differ much from your standard blog posts. They should still be high-quality, entertaining and/or informative, and focused on your audience.

I can’t stress the importance of your audience enough. At the end of the day, the content is for them. While getting featured in a snippet is great and all, don’t make it too obvious that that is your intent with the post.

Q&As seems to be a popular format for getting Google’s attention. They’re user-friendly and clearly and concisely address common questions. This is by no means the only format to consider, but it may be a good starting point.

4. Don’t neglect SEO best practices

While not all of the snippets are pulled from page one of Google, the vast majority of them are, so you can’t neglect SEO best practices.

  • Implement on-page SEO tactics – Understand on-page ranking factors and be sure to implement them on your site. Don’t forget about schema markup as well. This is still an often underutilized tool.
  • Enhance your total online presence – Pay attention to inbound links, your citation and directories profile, social media profiles, online reviews, and of course, your content creation.

5. Focus on formatting 

The name of the game here is to get Google to easily find your excellent response, so formatting your content appropriately can play a big role in getting chosen for this spot. Consider using:

  • Numbered lists
  • Tables
  • Bullet points
  • Charts

The list goes on, but remember the three ways a snippet can appear (paragraph, list, or table) and try to format your text in a way that would fit those categories.

With all of this being said, even after all of this hard work, it may not guarantee you the position zero spot. Even if you don’t reach that position, do not look at it a loss. You’ll still gain a ton of value by working through these processes, including upping your content game and improving your SEO efforts overall, which is a big deal. Position zero would simply be icing on an already awesome cake.

Are you working to get to position zero for your company? What efforts are you implementing?

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Why Live Video is a Must and How to Get Started

Why Live Video is a Must and How to Get Started written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

If your newsfeed looks like mine these days, then you’ve likely seen live videos showing up more and more. Live video is all the rage, and guess what, it’s here to stay.

People love live video. You can almost guarantee views on this type of content no matter what it is that you’re recording. My buddy, Joel Comm, once live-streamed himself frying bacon, something seemingly mundane…and it received thousands of views!

But here’s the thing, even though most live video will receive some sort of attention, to truly get the most out of it for your business, you must follow best practices and ensure it falls in line with your overall marketing strategy and business goals. (Um, like everything in marketing!)

Why You Need to Use Live Video

Did you know that people spend more time watching live videos than pre-recorded videos? How about these stats compiled by Livestream and New York Magazine?

  • 80% of adults prefer to watch live video from a brand than read a blog post
  • 82% of the adults surveyed prefer live video from a brand over social media posts

So, why is live video so enticing for businesses to pursue? Here are a few of the many benefits:

  • It’s extremely interactive and engaging – While you’re live streaming people are able to “like” and comment on your video, which you can see in real time. This can help you gauge which topics generate the most response. Additionally, you are able to talk to your followers in real time and answer questions on the spot, which will help you personalize the broadcast for viewers and establish a connection with them,
  • Build’s relationships – That connection that you can establish with your audience is key. The more a person feels an emotional or personal connection with your business, the more likely they’ll be to trust you and eventually become customers.

Live video can come in really handy for:

  • Q&As – These formats are great for driving high levels of traffic and engagement.
  • Interviews – Let people experience these interactions live and be there in the moment with you (this is especially valuable if your interviewee is someone of interest and value to your audience)
  • Training – Have a how-to that’s easier to show than explain? Use live video to teach!
  • Company announcements or breaking news – Instead of using a press release or other written content to let your audience know about something big going on with your company, use live video! This will allow them to see your emotional response and just how big the news is, which will make them more invested in the announcement.
  • Showing behind-the-scenes – People love getting the inside scoop, and giving that to them provides a more personalized connection.
  • Provide insight into live events – Many times people want to go to events but simply can’t attend due to various circumstances. If you’re attending, give your live video audience a peek at what’s going on at the event to make them feel like they’re there.

Live Video Best Practices

In the same survey mentioned earlier in this post, they found that 67% of viewers say quality is the most important factor when watching live video. To get this quality, be sure to apply the recommendations below.

  1. Focus your time and effort on one or two of the live streaming platforms. This will prevent you from spreading yourself too thin.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Let’s be honest, your first go at this may not be a slam dunk, but that’s OK! The more you did it, the more comfortable you’ll get with your style and presentation (not to mention your comfort level with all the settings and visual add-ons that can come along with it).
  3. Keep your notes nearby. Before you start your live video, you should have an outline in your head of the direction you’d like to take it and the objectives you’d like to achieve. I find it helpful to keep notes nearby. These shouldn’t be read into the camera, but they can come in handy if you need a quick reminder of the topics you’d like to cover and should be used to quickly refer to (but again, they should NOT be used as a script).
  4. Be authentic. Let people see the human side of you and your business. If you mess up, no biggy! Acknowledge it, laugh it off, and keep going. For example, while a quiet setting is ideal and most professional, if a car happens to honk in the background or a phone rings, don’t give it a second thought. This is a live video and things will happen. People will understand, so as long as you don’t make any bloopers a big deal, they won’t either.
  5. Use tactics to engage your audience. To further increase the amount of views for a video, use a captivating headline and enticing description.
  6. Share the video. Once your video is complete, you should have the option to post the recording, which I highly recommend to increase views and engagement.
  7. Respond to comments. If a person thinks their comments will be addressed, they’ll be more likely to stay tuned into the video longer (plus it’ll make them feel special if you give a shoutout or response live, furthering your connection with them).

Platforms to consider

There are numerous platforms out there that you can use, including:

And also check out tools that are cropping up to help make the most of these platforms. I like belive.tv as you can use it to do interview style live shows with a guest.

No matter which platform you decide to use, the tips above apply across the board. Do your research to identify a platform that will work best for your business.

If you’re having trouble brainstorming ways to fit this into your content mix, keep in mind that you don’t need to always reinvent the wheel. You can repurpose content! For example, you can take a blog post that received a lot of traffic, or was great for generating leads, and turn it into a video. You’ll be able to convert it into an extremely engaging piece of content while potentially reaching a new audience (not everybody will take the time to sit down and read a full blog post, but it seems people will take the time to watch live video).

At the end of the day, live video allows viewers to connect with your brand in ways that other types of content can’t. So, if you haven’t started to experiment with it yet, it’s time you start.

Is your business using live video? What tips would you add to my notes above?

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A Comprehensive Guide on How and Why to Use Google Search Console

A Comprehensive Guide on How and Why to Use Google Search Console written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

We do strange things for love, and when you love your business you find yourself making all sorts of little weird changes to your website to boost that Google Search ranking slightly higher. The thing is, in a world where search results are customized for each individual user, it’s sometimes tricky to tell whether or not your efforts are really paying off. Luckily, Google provides you with a powerful tool you can use to take a look at your rankings, track keyword performance, and spot content that has the best chance of making it to page one. It’s called the Google Search Console.

If you’re dipping your toe in the deep SEO waters, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide on how to use the Google Search Console, plus what it can tell you about your website.

Getting Started with Google Search Console

The first step towards accessing the powerful tools at your disposal through Google Search Console is to verify your domain. Basically, Google wants to make sure that you are indeed the owner of your website. There are a few ways to do it, so just go through the steps and you’ll be up and running in no time.

The next step is to dig into what properties you list using “Add Property,” and how you organize them. It might seem granular, but it’s worth it to go through and list any and all versions of your domain: http://yourdomain.com, http://www.yourdomain.com, https://yourdomain.com, and https://www.yourdomain.com. If you have any subdomains that you want to be able to play around with, you also should add those here (and any variations), so things like http://blog.yourdomain.com for your blog, or http://www.yourdomain.com/es if you have a Spanish-language version of your site, for example.

If this is starting to look like a lot of domains to handle, you’re right, and Google has made a tool to help you. If you click “Create a Set” you can group your domains into “Property Sets.” This can help you segment off particular areas of your website to see how they’re performing as a group, like all your inventory listings, for example.

Digging Into the Search Analytics Report

Since the main reason we’re here is to find out what’s going on with search and our website, let’s get down to brass tacks and crack open the Search Analytics Report. Immediately, you’ll notice there are a bunch of different ways to view this data. Google presents you with filters for Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position, and then you can separate the data out further with an array of options to view by queries, pages, countries, devices, search type, and time range. It’s important to note that Search Console only shows the last 90 days of searches, so it’s all about recent trends.

So, that’s a lot of options, but what can all this data tell you? The great thing about Google Search Console is that it shows you the actual search queries that lead someone to click through onto your site. That means you can see what’s working, and what’s not.

Understanding the Numbers

You also have a few different stats you need to understand. “Clicks” shows the number of clicks to your website per search query, but keep in mind it doesn’t account for everything— you’ll quickly notice your clicks per query don’t add up to the total clicks number it gives you.

“Impressions” is the number of times your website came up on Google results. This might include a lot of times when you came up for a weird search query (like if someone is looking for a client you have listed on your website) or showed up on the 8th page, which might as well be not at all. Still, you should understand these numbers as your site’s potential to broaden its reach.

There’s also “CTR”: click-through rate. This number tells you what percentage of impressions resulted in a click through. Remember, there are a ton of different ways that your website can make an impression without necessarily being relevant, so a low number isn’t necessarily that bad.

Finally, there’s “Position.” This number shows you where your website appears in an average user’s search engine results page (SERP). We’re talking about organic results, so shopping, images, videos, etc., but not AdWords. There are 10 results per page, so any number below 10 means you’re on the front page and doing pretty well.

Putting the Data to Use

The first thing you want to do with all this information is take a look at how customers are actually finding your website. Using the Search Query Report, you can find out what people are searching that gets you on a SERP, and then use that data to make a plan for how to do that better.

You might be surprised by how you’re popping up on the radar. Use these search terms to guide content generation that will help you perform stronger in the future. Maybe consider reworking the titling of key pages so that they index stronger and score a higher position. We all have a lot more to do than sit around and think up content all day, so working backwards is hugely helpful because it lets your prospects tell you what they want to see.

Targeting Search Queries

The Search Console also helps you sort through search terms to figure out which have high CTR and which have room for improvement. Some terms are just going to be irrelevant, but anything with an unusually high CTR is a promising possibility for generating traffic and business. Terms with low CTR probably need some help, either because the listing is bad or the term is competitive.

Figure out what queries you’re interested in, and then crack open a fresh incognito tab (so you get a more average Google experience) and search these terms. Look at your listing and see what’s going on. How does it read? How do the other listings on the page look? What can you do to stand out? Finally, what does Google think the searcher is looking for based on what’s on the SERP?

Taking a Look at Landing Pages

One of the most powerful things that you can do in Search Console is to break out queries by landing page. This helps you look at specific parts of your website to see how people are finding them and how you can give them a boost. If the terms don’t seem all that relevant but have a high CTR, then you may have discovered a new angle to optimize for. If on the other hand, the terms are general, then you need to do some work on how to land it more firmly in a niche or work your SEO tactics to help give it a boost.

Use Google Search Console Reports

Search Console also gives you a series of reports that can help you to catch obvious errors in your site that will help it perform better. Browse through Search Appearance HTML Improvements to help you sort out your tags and meta descriptions. In Search Traffic, there are Manual Actions, which tells you if you’re doing something that’s against Google’s rules and might be negatively impacting your presence. There’s also Mobile Usability, which lets you know which pages might have issues on mobile like clickable elements being placed too close together. Finally, there are some options under Crawl that are helpful. Use Crawl Errors and Site Map to help you understand if your site is speaking robot effectively.

Hit the Road Running

There’s a lot to take in, and the data is constantly updating since it tracks the last 90 days of search performance, but Google Search Console is a powerful tool you should be using to help you improve your search performance and make the tweaks you need. Looking at the right data can help you understand how prospects are finding you, where you need to do better or make more content, and how to get started. Take advantage of the robust dashboard and check in with Search Console whenever you’re looking at ways to make your website perform at its peak.

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