How to Rank Higher In Local Search

How to Rank Higher in Local Search

Are you a “local” business? Do you do business in a specific geographic area? Do you serve tourists who come to your community?

If so, Local SEO results can be critical to your online visibility, your foot traffic, and to your very livelihood. So, how can you improve your local search visibility? 

Recently, Moz released its annual Local Search Ranking Factors, which provide some insight into what you need to do to rank higher in this all important arena of search. Below you’ll find some important takeaways.

Local Pack vs. Localized Search Results

There are two distinct arenas of local search: the local pack and localized search results. To understand this better, let’s review the areas where your business can appear on a search results page:
  • Organic Results – the “meritocracy” of search results. These were the original search results, the “10 big blue links” that described most search results pages from the early days. These may include localized search results depending on the type of search performed.
  • Local Pack – when Google believes the searcher may be looking for a local solution, the map with three local listings and a “More Places” link will appear.
  • Paid Search – when Google feels there’s “commercial intent” in the search, they will show up to four ads (or sponsored links) at the top of the page, and sometimes up to four more at the bottom. 
SERP Breakdown
 
There are more elements to certain search results pages, including a Knowledge Box, People Also Ask, Shopping Ads, and more. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on how to appear higher in the Local Pack.

How Are You Doing in Local Search?

You might be curious to see how you’re currently performing in local search. One thing you can try is to do appropriate searches in Google and see how you rank. You can also use some free or paid tools we’ll look at in a minute.
 
If you’re going to be doing your own searching, make sure you’re logged out of your Google account. Go to Google.com and if you see your photo or initial in the top right corner, you’re logged in. If you see a Sign In button, you’re logged out. 
 
When you’re logged in, Google is going to serve up customized results, which you don’t want. You want as “clean” results as possible, so make sure you’re logged out. I often use a separate browser entirely to do these type of searches.
 
Try doing several searches that you’d like to rank well for. 
 
Search showing local results
 
If you do a search and no local results appear, it may be that Google doesn’t feel there’s local intent for that search, so they won’t show any results. 
 
Search showing no local results
 
You can also use a number of different paid services that will track your local search visibility, such as WhiteSpark or Rank Ranger.
 
If you’re not appearing in the top three results for local search, if you can only be found by clicking on “More Places,” then you’re basically invisible for that search.

How to Improve Your Local SEO

Once you have a good sense of how you’re ranking and where you want to improve, it’s time to get to work. So, what is Google looking for (at least right now?)
 
According to the Moz annual report, there are a number of factors that will determine your visibility in local search. 
  • Google My Business
  • Links
  • Reviews
  • On Page
  • Citations
  • Behavioral
  • Personalization
  • Social
Whew! That’s a lot of factors! So, what does this mean to you, and what are the “low hanging fruit” to improve your chances of coming up in that Local Pack for your ideal customer’s search?

Start Your Local SEO Journey with Google My Business

Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is—not surprisingly—critical to your local search visibility at Google. 
 
It shows up in both Google Search… 
 
Google My Business Results in Google Search
 
and Google Maps.
 
Google My Business Results in Google Maps
 
You’ll need to create or claim your business on GMB if you haven’t done so already. Just visit Google My Business and follow the instructions there. You’ll want to complete as many fields as possible.
 
Here’s a video that will walk you through the process.
 
 
Make sure you upload plenty of photos and videos to your GMB account.
 
You’ll also want to start using Google Posts multiple times a week. They are similar to posting to Facebook or tweeting, but for GMB. We go into more detail about Google Posts here

Get Inbound Links from Local Websites

Inbound links—links from other websites to yours—are always important for improving your search visibility, but links from local businesses can improve your chances for better local search results as well.
 
Getting inbound links is often a tough slog. It requires research, outreach, and tedious follow up. 
 
Personally, I like to put my efforts into guest blogging opportunities with local blogs and links from local organizations and news sites.
 
To get local guest blogging opportunities you might try to find local blogs that are relevant to your business. Inns or restaurants might look to see if the local CVB is accepting guest blog posts. A pet store might look to see if there’s a popular local dog owner blog that accepts guest blog posts.
 
To find blogs like this, go to Google and search on “[geographic area] + [topic] + guest blog post.” For example:
  • New York fashion guest blog post [NYC barbershop]
  • San Antonio general contractor guest blog post [Texas lumber yard]
  • Colorado travel guest blog post [Denver ski resort]
You would create a post for that blog and in “compensation” you would be able to create links from the post back to your site.
 
Also, there’s a good chance you belong to local organizations like a Chamber of Commerce or a state or regional professional association, like the Maine Manufacturer’s Association or the San Diego Psychological Association. 
 
You can also try to get linked from local news sources. Many newspaper, tv, and radio studios will often link out to your business if they quote you for a story or interview you for a segment. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has a good article on how to get local press coverage.

Get Reviews to Improve Your Local SEO

Next up are reviews. Hopefully, you’re already getting positive reviews from customers, but you’re going to want to make this part of your regular follow up after the sale.
 
Typical Reviews
 
You may be tempted to write glowing reviews for your own company, or ask friends to do it for you. 
 
Don’t.
 
Google has a long history of uncovering “bad behavior” and punishing it, and fake reviews are definitely bad behavior.
 
Instead, get in the habit of asking customers and clients what they thought of you, perhaps with a follow up survey. If you get a four or five star review, or the equivalent, you may direct them to Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or another similar review site to leave a review.
 
If you get one, two, or three stars, or the equivalent, do what you need to do to repair the relationship (if possible). If you can get their opinion of your business to a four or five, it might be worth asking for that review again.

What Are Citations and How Do You Get Them?

Citations are mentions of your business across the web, primarily from local directories. Your goal is to have your NAP information consistent across all of these different directories. NAP stands for:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
Google is persnickety about your NAP being identical across the web. That means “ST” and “St.” and “Street” are all different. They have been chilling out lately, but it’s still a good idea to try and be as consistent as possible.
 
There are plenty of services out there that can help you with citations. Here at flyte we use Moz Local, and Yext is another popular choice. These services can both help you determine how well you’re doing currently and help you improve your citations. 
 
Example of Moz Local Results
 
Although Citations have dropped in overall importance since last year, it’s still a critical piece to your local search optimization.

Where Can You Dig Deeper Into Local Search Factors?

If you’re not feeling overwhelmed, and you want to dig deeper, you can check out the original 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors at Moz. There’s also the accompanying blog post by Darren Shaw that has further insights. 

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all these tasks (and the myriad of other tasks we didn’t cover in this post,) and you’d rather they all just go away (or that someone who actually likes this stuff would handle it for you,) we’re here to help. 
 
Just fill out our contact form and we’ll be happy to do a complementary review of your site and search results to see if we can help. Talk soon!
 
Rich Brooks
Locally Sourced

How Algorithms Skew Your World View

Rob Caldwell Giving Me Double PistolsThink you’re getting the whole picture when you’re online? Think again. Algorithms–mathematical equations–help determine the ads, search results, and social media posts you see. And the ones you don’t. 

This week I took to 207 again to discuss with Rob Caldwell the invisible algorithms that may be changing your world view…and you don’t even know it.

Here are some notes from my research:

What is an algorithm?

  • A mathematical equation that follows a formula, often to help predict behavior or future activity
  • Frees up our time doing mundane or incredibly complex tasks

Can you give us some examples?

  • Algorithms are everywhere in modern society. 
    • When Netflix recommends a movie to you
    • When you’re matched with someone on a dating site
    • Some police forces use it to predict where criminal activity will take place
    • Roomba uses it to clean your house
    • Stocks are traded based on algorithms
  • But today, I wanted to talk about how algorithm skew the way we see the world, especially online

How are algorithms used online?

  • Ads: online services like Facebook and Google collect incredible amounts of data on us. 
  • Based on how old we are, our gender, where we live, how much money we make, when the last time we bought a house or a car or a pet, our political beliefs, our job title, what sites we visited, what searches we performed, it can serve up more targeted ads to us. 

Where else do algorithm impact us?

  • A lot of people think that all search results are the same, but they’re targeted to each of us.
  • Bill Belichick example.

This seems helpful and benign. Where’s the problem?

  • Think of how much information Facebook has on us. Your status updates, your likes, your comments, your shares, your searches, your friends, your interests, when you start typing something and delete it, and everywhere you log in with your Facebook login, and match you with offline data as well
  • Facebook is trying to keep you on the platform, that’s their job, so they feed you posts they think you like. Pro-Trump? You’ll see Pro-Trump posts from all your friends. Not a fan? All of your friends’ posts will be trashing him. You start to see a very skewed view of the world. An echo chamber. 

What can we do to avoid the algorithm effect?

  • Remember that algorithms aren’t inherently evil and they do serve an important purpose
  • Be aware that you are being impacted by the algorithm, so question what you see
  • Read the other side’s news sources.

Additional resources on algorithms:

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Are You Measuring the Right Things?

Are You Measuring the Right Things

What gets measured gets improved. But what if you’re measuring the wrong things?

Recently I was having lunch with a friend who works in the banking industry and he was telling me about FCR: First Call Resolution. 
 
This is a metric used in customer service which measures the percentage of times your company can solve a customer problem on the first call, eliminating the need for follow up calls. It cuts down on time and cost for customer service and hopefully provides a better customer experience.
 
My friend said he was in a meeting where some consultants were talking about FCR. He asked if that included contact the customer had with the bank through the website or any of their other social channels.
 
People looked at him like they didn’t know what he was talking about. As if the only way a customer could interact with the bank was by phone.
 
I went a step further, wondering what would happen if you solved the customer’s problems at your website or a social media channel. What if your content, your how-to videos, your mobile app, etc., could prevent the customer service call in the first place?
 
What if you could get to NCR: No Call Resolution?
 
This would actually hurt your FCR. Because you’d be solving all the relatively easy, common problems that customers run into. The ones you could regularly solve on the first call. 
 
Instead, your customer service reps would be left dealing with the more difficult-to-please customers. Navigating the thorny problems that might take multiple calls to resolve.
 
Maybe there was a time where FCR was a good metric to pay attention to, but perhaps that time has passed. At least, it’s no longer the only metric banks (and other companies) should be paying attention to.

Are your metrics vanity or value-based?

In social media, we often get excited by “vanity” metrics. How many people like your Facebook page. How many views your video got on YouTube. How many connections on LinkedIn you have. 
 
But what value do these numbers hold? Your Facebook page won’t get many organic views no matter how many people like it. Bots and trolls inflate follower numbers on Twitter and Instagram. I have over 6,200 connections on LinkedIn, but if I’m being honest, maybe only 100 of them provide any value to me or vice versa.
 
For some, these vanity numbers do provide value, especially if you’re looking to be an influencer. Vanity metrics can demonstrate social proof, but only if they’re real and can be authenticated. Lately there’s been a push back on looking strictly at numbers of followers to measure influence, so perhaps we’re moving into a post-vanity-number world. (He hopes.)

Is a bigger email list always better?

Everyone involved in digital marketing talks about how to grow your email list, but is that always in your best interest?
 
Recently I discovered that email delivery rates are affected by open rates. In other words, if you have a large list of subscribers who don’t regularly take action on your emails (opens, clicks), it can lower your delivery rates. More emails will end up in the promotions tab (in Gmail) or will be dropped straight into spam.
 
Perhaps a slower, more organic approach to list building is in order.
 
After all, it’s better to have a list of 10 people who buy from you than 1,000 subscribers who never even open your email.

How many hits do you have?

When I first started building websites, it was common to display a Hit Counter at the bottom of your home page to show how popular your page was.
 
(Yes, I’ve been doing this that long.)
 
Soon it became common knowledge that the hit counter was counting every “hit” the server received, which included images. So, if you had a home page with five images, that rang up six new hits. Ten images? This one goes to eleven.
 
Obviously, there was no value to this metric, and it was replaced with real traffic reports like Google Analytics
 
Thankfully, people recognized that there were more important things to measure and moved on.

So, what should you measure?

This can be tricky. Your customer service department might be rewarded on how few complaints they get. But your sales team might be rewarded on how many new customers they sign up. Unfortunately, more customers means more customer service calls (probably.)
 
Also, we need to be very aware that what we measured yesterday may have little value today. FCR is a good metric until you realize that your customers are interacting with your brand in new ways that may make FCR irrelevant.
 
For me, I have top line metrics like how many leads our website generates, how many proposals we send out, how many work agreements get signed, and how much we sell over the course of the year.
 
I also have bottom line metrics, like net profit
 
And, of course we have vanity metrics like the size of our email list or podcast subscribers. These may indirectly lead to both top and bottom line metrics. Several of my Agents of Change podcast listeners have hired flyte for their digital marketing. 
 
As we move forward, we’ll add new metrics like repeat customers and monthly retainers; numbers that measure whether we’re doing a good job and supporting our clients’ growth.
 
After all, what gets measured, gets improved. 

GDPR: Gathering All The Data

GDPR Compliance

By now you will have heard of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or you’ve been seeing more Privacy Policy update emails from companies and influencers that you follow. If you’re a Google Analytics property owner, you’ve seen it in your email regarding your Google Analytics.

This isn’t something that will break your site but it is something to stay on top of. With GDPR enforcement expanding rapidly, it’s easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole. To help, we’ve compiled a list of resources that will guide you through this ever-changing update.

Simply accepting terms and conditions in your Google Analytics doesn’t take care of GDPR (though it is a recommended action). It’s more about data collection and privacy policies. You will want to read (and listen) to the resources below so your business can stay compliant.

There are many moving parts to the GDPR Regulations. There is no one-click solution for 100% compliance. We’re working on our own sites to get them up to date with these new regulations.  If you have questions and would like to talk to someone from flyte, feel free to contact us.

How to Use Facebook Groups to Grow Your Business

How to Use Facebook Groups for Small BusinessShould you invest your time and energy in building an audience with Facebook Groups for your business? In this post we’ll look at the pros and cons and see what some marketing experts are saying about how they leverage Facebook Groups.
 
With all the changes that have happened recently at Facebook (and I’m not talking senate hearings or Russian bots), you may be wondering if Facebook is even worth your time anymore.
 
Whether you believe in Facebook’s commitment to prioritize connecting people to people, or you believe that this was just a long con to get companies to advertise on their platform, one thing is clear: it’s very difficult for businesses to get organic reach on Facebook anymore. 
 
Recently, I interviewed a few marketing experts on my Agents of Change podcast who run Facebook Groups. This included Marc Mawhinney of The Coaching Jungle, Chris Brogan of The Secret Team, and Josh Stanton of The NEW Screw the 9 to 5. I also interviewed Brian Fanzo, Facebook marketing expert. I did this for two big reasons.
 
One, I wanted to understand different ways in which we could protect our businesses–and our reach–from the recent Facebook newsfeed changes. Facebook Groups seemed like a safe harbor. 
 
Two, I was considering changes to our own Agents of Change Facebook Group. It had been a private group for conference attendees, but I was considering opening it up to all entrepreneurs and marketers who wanted to understand more about digital marketing. 

Why Facebook Groups?

One of the big problems as mentioned above, is that Facebook business pages just don’t have the organic reach they once did. It’s probably still beneficial for your company to have one, just don’t expect your posts to show up in too many of your fans’ newsfeeds.
 
A Group is a little community of (potentially) like-minded people focused around a topic or idea. They’re kind of like “Topic Tables” at a networking event, or even splintering off with some friends at a big conference so you can catch up and have a more focused, meaningful conversation.
 
That being said, Facebook isn’t the only game in town. Why not build a group on LinkedIn or on your own website? A big part of the reason is that Facebook comes with its own built in audience. Chris Brogan likes that his audience is already familiar with the platform.
“I guess the reason I like the Facebook technology is that there are a billion plus users on it so it’s not like I have to explain a lot. – Chris Brogan
Marc Mawhinney likes the authority that a Facebook group can give you.
“The reason that I like Facebook Groups is you’re building a community where you’re recognized as the expert, you’re the leader in there, and people get to know, like, and trust you.” – Marc Mawhinney 
 
Having a built a built-in audience, having an audience that’s familiar with the technology, and being able to establish yourself as an expert are just three good reasons why a Facebook Group may be right for your business.

Getting Started with Facebook Groups

For every successful Facebook Group, there is a hundred, nay, a thousand unsuccessful Groups. (Picture pixelated tumbleweeds and virtual ghost towns.)
 
To avoid this same fate, do a little upfront work. 
 
Be clear on your objectives
Why are you starting this group? How will it serve your business needs? Are you looking to monetize this group? Establish yourself as an expert? Support an existing product or service? Groups with a narrow focus tend to attract a more rabid, engaged audience.
 
Be clear on your audience
Who are you serving? Who will join and participate in this group? Is this the audience you want for your business? (If you’re not clear on this, check out my interview with John Lee Dumas on Unleashing Your Business Avatar.)
 
Include a keyword in your group name
People often search for topics in Facebook: “Beekeepers,” “Red Sox,” or “Paleo,” in your name can help your audience find you. (Assuming these are relevant to your brand and your business.)
“If people are searching in the Facebook search bar for anything to do with your group…make sure that… there’s some kind of relevant keyword to your particular niche.” – Josh Stanton 
Determine what type of group you’re going to run
Your choices are public, closed, or private. 
 
Public groups are open to everyone. While that sounds like a sure-fire way to attract an audience, what it really amounts to is a free-for-all. 
 
You’ll attract people alright: all the wrong people. Spammers, scammers, and people looking to leverage your audience for their own purposes will all flock to your public group.
 
While there are benefits to public groups, they’re probably not the right fit for your business.
 
On the other end of the spectrum are private groups. Private groups can’t be found and require an invitation to join. There are benefits to private groups: they’re good for private conversations among friends and family (like for an upcoming wedding or Bat Mitzvah), and they are good support mechanisms if you have a private course and you want to private a forum for those customers. However, because they are so secretive, they’re probably not the best place to build that audience you’re looking for.
 
Lastly, there are closed groups. Closed groups are not as standoffish as they sound. It just means that you get to set up a velvet rope. For most business purposes, closed groups are “just right.” 
 
People wishing to join the group must request access. Depending on how you set your group up, anyone in the group can approve a request (good for building your group quickly), or you can reserve that ability to yourself, other admins, and group monitors (good for focusing on quality of quantity.)
 
Facebook Group QuestionsYou can even include up to three questions as part of the vetting process!
 
Create some ground rules: many groups post some group rules in the group description or in a pinned post (a post that sticks to the top of the group page.) As the group administrator, you have full control over the rules of group and how you wish people to behave.
 
Your rules may include obvious things like treating each other with respect, but they may also ban any self-promotion from members, including linking to websites or PMing (private messaging) other members who ask questions with solicitations.
 
Since many people start groups to sell to their audience (a completely legitimate purpose), they are very specific that only they will be allowed to sell in the group.
 
Remember: this is your group! It takes time out of your day to manage this group, so don’t feel bad about the rules you need to set up to run a successful group for your business!
 “Make it really clear that this is your group and that you will be pitching your products and selling your products and offering people a chance to take you up on those. – Josh Stanton 
Create an attractive banner.
 
Facebook Groups are free to run. That means there are millions of them out there. If you want yours to stand out, you need to make it look like you’re invested in its success. One way to do that is with a well-designed banner.
 
Facebook Group Header images are currently 820 x 428 pixels in size, although 48 pixels on the top and 49 pixels on the bottom are covered or invisible. So, design something that’s 820 x 331 and then add the top and bottom margins to fill the frame. 
 

Growing Your Facebook Group Audience

Unless you’re a celebrity (Internet or otherwise), you’re probably going to have to hustle to grow your group. Here are a few ways the experts say to promote and grow your group. 
 
Grab a URL
 It’s easier to promote yourbusinessgroup.com than facebook.com/groups/mybusiness, and certainly it’s easier to say the former at a cocktail party. For that reason, bite the bullet and get an easy to remember domain name that will redirect to your Facebook group. For $15/year it’s a no-brainer.
“I recommend that you grab a domain. With mine I bought thecoachingjungle.com, which forwards to the ugly link. So if I’m on a podcast like this it’s much easier to spit out that URL as opposed to the ugly Facebook one. – Marc Mawhinney 
 
Promote it everywhere
Got a podcast? Make your Facebook Group your sponsor. (That’s what Marc does.) 
 
Tweet out a link to your group on a regular basis. Make it your bio link on Instagram. Post about it on LinkedIn. Put it in your email signature file. Do a weekly roundup of the conversations in your group and post them to your blog (assuming they’re not sensitive in nature and your members are cool with that.)
 
Although I’m not a fan of driving traffic from your website to any social media platform (social traffic should flow from your social platforms to your website), if your Facebook Group is going to be an important part of your sales funnel, you may want to include some links to it within your site.
 
Create premium content
Create some content that’s only available via the group. Facebook Live videos are one example, but it really could be anything that’s only available to members. 
 
Make sure you promote this outside the group, however, like through your own personal feed. To access it they’ll need to request membership in your group. 
 
Expect to most of the heavy lifting early on
While many of the experts I spoke to now have admins, moderators, and assistants lending a hand, in the early days they had to do everything themselves.
 
You’ll be doing a lot (most of?) the talking in the early days. When you break a thousand or so members you may see it taking on a life of its own, but until then, keep pushing the boulder up the hill! 
 
Plan on posting multiple times a day to your group…yes, multiple! If you do theme days (more on that below) announcing the theme day can be one of the daily posts. Not only that, those posts can be automated and recycled.

Getting More Engagement in Your Group

Facebook’s newest shift is to reward true conversation and engagement. While that’s fairly evident in your newsfeed, it also is true in groups, as Josh points out:
“The growth of the group is really dependent on the engagement of the group. So if you have a really highly engaged group – people are posting, people are commenting – even if there’s hardly any people in there, Facebook is going to serve that up in the “recommended groups” section in the sidebar.” – Josh Stanton 
 
In other words, it’s key to get people talking in the group. Besides posting multiple times a day to engage members, what else can you do? 
 
I’m glad you asked. 
 
Tag people in the posts and in the comments
People get notified when they are tagged in Facebook, so you can leverage this to your own nefarious ends. (Just kidding: don’t be nefarious.)
 
This is what Marc had to say on the subject: “One of the things that works really well is I’ll tag people into posts and comments. So let’s say for example that someone has a questions that’s right up your wheelhouse and I know that Rich is a guy that can answer that, I’ll tag you into the comments. I know people who are experts on webinars and I’ll tag them into it. I know people who are in the book writing world and so on, so if I ever see someone posting on the wall and I know someone else who can add to that conversation, I’ll tag them in and they’ll jump in.” 
 
Create theme days to stimulate conversation 
Many group owners rely on “theme days” to focus conversations around a specific topic. While theme days will depend heavily on the type of business you own, here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Share your content: ask people to post a recent blog post, podcast episode, or other content they’re especially proud of.
  • AMA (Ask Me Anything): ask the group owner anything on your mind
  • Suggest a guest/speaker/topic: good if you have a podcast or event
  • Share a book: suggest a good read in your particular niche
  • Self-promotion: choose one day a week to allow people to toot their own horn. This also provides a little bit of a vent for those people who are just dying to talk about how awesome they are.
Thank people as they join your group
Regular postings where you tag new members to the group, is a great way of making people feel welcome when they first join, and giving long time members a heads up of “new blood.” If they see a friend has joined the group, they’re likely to chime in.
“One way to look at any group management is that you sort of have to be the host of the party, but you have to imagine that the party is full of fairly awkward people who aren’t always exactly sure that they’re really fully invited.” – Chris Brogan 
 
Crack down on bad behavior
 
Nothing seems to derail a good group than bad behavior. It’s akin to how broken windows and graffiti bring down the value of a neighborhood.
 
If you allow people to start promoting their own work, and creating links out of the group and off of Facebook to promotional material, (assuming that’s against the group rules,) that will only push others to do the same, creating a vicious circle of worse and worse content, lower engagement, and poor value for members.
 
Many group owners I spoke to have a zero-tolerance for bad behavior or breaking the rules. This can include linking out of the group, “stealing” customers, self-promotion and more. One slip up and many group owners toss the people right out. However, they often share that if the person messages them directly, apologizing and if it seems like it was an honest mistake, they’ll let them back in with one more chance.
 
While this may seem harsh, this is your group and you get to set and enforce the rules.
 
While you may not see all the bad posts, especially in a very large group, Facebook makes it easy for other members to report posts to admins and owners, and many member will want to keep to the original rules of the group. 

Monetizing Your Facebook Group

The experts I spoke with didn’t all have the same approach to how—or even if—you should be monetizing your group.
“I sell like crazy to my group.” – Marc Mawhinney
One thing to keep in mind is if you do plan on selling from your group, do it from day one. If you tell people they’ll never be sold to in your group, you’ll definitely get your share of hate mail if you decide to change tactics later on. 
 
One important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t charge people to be part of your group. That goes against the Facebook TOS and you will get busted.
 
However, there are still many ways to generate revenue from a Facebook Group. 
 
Include it as a value add to another product or service
Many people sell courses and include a Facebook Group as a place to get additional help or interaction. While they’re not charging for the group per se, it’s only available to people who have purchased the course (or other product or service.)
 
These groups are often private, although they can be closed as a way of encouraging other sales.
 
Use your group as part of your sales funnel
This is a fairly common tactic, where owners provide a lot of free, valuable content within the group, but regularly promote an online course, coaching service, or product to their members. 
 
Alternatively, you can provide other free giveaways as incentives to build your email list. 
 
A newer tactic is using your Facebook Group to grow your Facebook chatbot subscriber base.
 
You don’t have to sell to your group
Many people, even business people, don’t sell to their members. At least not directly. By providing a safe environment to learn and discover, you establish yourself as a credible expert on the topic or niche. It’s only a matter of time before some members start reaching out to you for consulting or other services.

The Downsides of Facebook Group

As stated before, there’s a big time investment in making your group a place where people want to hang out. That’s time that could be (better?) spent writing blog posts, recording podcasts, meeting with prospects, writing proposals, and closing deals. 
 
One big problem of Facebook Groups is the problem with Facebook: you’re building your empire on leased land. You have no real control over the platform. Facebook could decide tomorrow that they’re de-emphasizing groups, or banning them, or charging for them.
 
Facebook marketing expert Brian Fanzo has a theory on this: “This is something probably to pay attention to: by the end of the year we’re going to start to see less of the Facebook Group updates in our newsfeed. We’re actually probably going to go into those groups to see those [updates]. If you are a Facebook Group owner and you want to get your Facebook posts that are inside of the group into the newsfeed, you’re going to probably start spending  ad money to do so.”
 
Remember: Facebook is a business. And it’s not your business. Fanzo adds, “don’t be surprised if we start seeing ways for Facebook to monetize Facebook Groups, because today at this moment they don’t have a monetization plan with that.”
 
Another problem is that the conversations and content that you’re cultivating in your group could have been going on at your own site, building your own content and SEO
“One thing I don’t love about [Facebook Groups] is that you’re building up Facebook’s content…you’re building up Facebook’s platform. – Josh Stanton 
 
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the time investment, the potential future financial investment, and the fact that you’re working so hard to support Facebook’s business model is worth the benefits of running your own Facebook group.

One Last Thought

“The most important thing you tell someone who’s getting ready to start a group like this is that if they don’t work towards making the members of the group the hero and giving them heroic actions they can take, the group won’t last very long.” – Chris Brogan 
 

Next steps

If you’re interested in learning more and getting started with your own Facebook Group, I strongly recommend checking out the full interviews that I did that informed this article. There’s a lot of additional great thoughts, strategies, and tactics that will help you run a successful group.
What questions do you still have about Facebook Groups? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see if we can’t get you an answer from the experts!
 
Or, if you have a Facebook group you’d like to share with us, put the link in the comments below. 
 

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Getting Started with Podcasts: How to Find a Podcast to Love

How to Find, Subscribe, and Listen to Podcasts

Do you feel like you’re missing out on the podcast craze? Not sure how to listen to a podcast, download one, subscribe, or even find a podcast that focuses on your passion? 

Recently, I was on the set of 207, the evening news program on the NBC affiliates here in Maine, talking about how to get started with podcasts. Where to find them, how to download them, how to listen, and even talked briefly about starting your own.

You can watch the interview down below and check out the transcript as well. (more…)

How to Share Your Google Analytics (Without Sharing Your Google Account)

Do you want to know how to share your Google Analytics with someone but don’t want to give them access to your Google Account? There are a lot of reasons why you should keep even your most trusted web developer or SEO agency away from your Gmail and YouTube search history (did you really watch that many cat videos?)

As you may know, here at flyte we’re pretty fond of Google Analytics and set our clients up with this great, free traffic reporting software. Often, new clients (or prospects) already have Google Analytics set up on their current sites, but we need to review their reports so that we can uncover problems and identify opportunities so that they can generate more traffic and leads at their site.

In fact, sometimes even if a client provides their username and password, we still can’t log in. That’s because of Google’s enhanced security features. They want to ensure that it’s the client logging in, so a login from a new computer arouses suspicion. 

So, to keep your data safe and make it easier for someone else to access just your analytics here’s what you need to do…

(more…)

What is Bitcoin? Cryptocurrencies Explained for Beginners

What is Bitcoin?
Still struggling to understand what Bitcoin is? Have you heard the term Cryptocurrencies, Litecoin, or Ethereum in the news and had no idea what people are talking about?
 
Well, recently I went on 207, the evening news program on the NBC affiliates in Maine, to talk about Bitcoin and the other popular cryptocurrencies. Here’s that segment.
 
 
Whenever I go on TV, I try and provide the hosts with the type of questions to ask me. It makes their jobs easier and it keeps me from being surprised with a tough question on air! Here are my notes that I used to prepare for the segment.
 
So, by the end of this segment will our viewers be ready to invest in Bitcoin?
  • No! I’m not a financial advisor and my biggest takeaway for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency would be to do your own homework and due diligence before investing.
OK, let’s start with the basics. What is Bitcoin?
  • Bitcoin is one type of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses encryption techniques to generate specific amounts of the currency and verify the transfer of funds. It’s usually done without a central bank or government.
  • There are many other types of cryptocurrency, including Litecoin and Ethereum. Many have unique qualities to them. Think of these as different currencies or precious metals you can invest in. Bitcoin is sort of the gold standard here, but investing in any cryptocurrency has risks, and it’s much more volatile than the stock market.
If there’s no central bank or government behind it, how is it safe?
  • There’s a technology called blockchain that encrypts all the transactions. Proponents of cryptocurrency say this makes it safer than current currencies as credit cards and cash can be stolen. 
So how do we get a Bitcoin?
  • You can “mine” for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Just like someone would mine for gold, you can contribute your computer’s processing powers and that can unlock bitcoin. However, you need a very powerful computer with a top notch graphics card to really have any  luck at it. There are videos about getting into mining and we can put them on the website.
How else, if we’re not going to mine?
  • Again, like any precious metal, currency, or real estate, there are exchanges where you can buy and sell bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Coinbase is a popular one.
How real is this? Is this a scam or the wave of the future?
  • Again, I’m not an investment expert. I would treat this like any other investment: due diligence. I have been doing a lot of research myself, and it does seem like there’s a possibility that some of these cryptocurrencies could take off. Already, there’s already services out there that take Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and make it them easier to use and spend. Imagine if Amazon decides to take a cryptocurrency as payment, or decides to create their own. 
  • It seems logical that the future of money is digital, and cryptocurrency could be the answer.
In addition, here are some resources you can include in your “show notes”

So, what do you think? Is cryptocurrency the future or is it just another Dutch tulip bulb? Will you be investing in it, or are you already?

Let me know in the comments below!

Rich Brooks
Cautious Investor

Facebook’s News Feed Bombshell (And How to Protect Your Business)

The Facebook News Feed Bombshell

Facebook is making major changes, severely cutting down the access businesses, brands, and media have to the Facebook news feed. This means your feed should see more posts from friends and family, but what does this mean for your business?

The official reason Mark Zuckerberg gave for this was because Facebook’s all about bringing people together. Whether you believe that, or Facebook is looking for new ways to squeeze businesses for money is completely up to you and your world view. It’s probably somewhere in between. If people go to Facebook and aren’t getting the experience they desire, they’ll go elsewhere, which is bad for Facebook.

In their recent press release, the head of Facebook News Feed admits that “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.” Replace may with absolutely 100% will and you get a good sense of what your company’s future on business may look like.

Despite some recent reports I’ve seen, Facebook says that they are not removing all Page content from the feed, just prioritizing friends and family and Page posts that “generate conversation.”

They also state that they’ll continue their crack down on what they call “engagement-bait”–posts that aggressively ask you to like, comment, or share (possibly by telling you that puppies will be killed if you don’t or Jesus wants you to)–by demoting them.

What do the Facebook news feed changes mean to you?

In short, less organic (free) visibility. 

They’re not saying your access to the newsfeed will be completely cut off, but I envision a car parked on a garden hose when I think of the the future of organic posts for business reaching the newsfeed.

On some level, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. While a few years ago, Pages could expect 80% – 90% of their fans seeing their posts, recently it’s been as low as 1% – 3%. This is Facebook just twisting the spigot ever so much more to the right.

What changes should you make to your marketing?

Let me start off by saying I can’t predict the future, and Facebook is free to continue to play around with their news feed algorithm in ways that may benefit your business in the future. But here are the immediate changes we’re making at flyte for ourselves and our clients.

Alter your organic posting strategy. It’s been years since the Facebook marketing gurus told us we had to post 3 – 5 times a day to be relevant (thank goodness for that, right?) I’d make organic posting even less of a priority for your business, especially if you’re in B2B. 

Bob's BurgersI’d focus on less “posting to be seen” posts and instead craft posts that encourage engagement and conversation without crossing the line into click- or engagement-bait. 

If you’re a sandwich shop who regularly posts daily specials, maybe try posting a new sandwich and ask for clever names for the sandwich. (Think the Burger of the Day at Bob’s Burgers.)

This should encourage more people to try and out-clever the last person and start a conversation, at least by Facebook’s definition.

Do more video, and do it live. Facebook said it: “live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.” 

Facebook rewards video with more eyeballs. Whether you want to do a regular “show”, or just occasionally turn on Facebook Live on your phone or computer, you’re apt to reach a wider audience than with any traditional post.

Get more aggressive with ads. You should already be advertising on Facebook if you want to reach your ideal customers. You can target based on interest, geography, gender, pay, job title, and a thousand other interests that will make you want to cover up your webcam with tape.

We actually have a free Free Facebook Ad Planner that you can download here

Play the Daily Double with Facebook Video Ads. If you really want to increase your reach and engagement while driving traffic back to your website or landing page, start to explore Facebook Video Ads. I recently did an interview with David Patton, Digital Marketing Strategist at TechSmith, on how they’re using Video Ads on Facebook to generate more sales of their Camtasia software. You can listen to that interview here.

Explore chatbots. When people do want to reach out to your company on Facebook, it’s great to respond to them quickly. However, that’s not always possible. With chatbots you can handle some of the more common questions and concerns with automated chatbots that will provide answers, direct people to the right department, or even get cheeky with your customers.

Start a Facebook group. A lot of marketers are finding that they can avoid the news feed trap entirely by creating a group on Facebook. There are a lot of benefits here, including curating the group and the fact that new activity in the group often appears in group members’ notifications, increasing your visibility.

Post more Facebook events. Create events off your Page and then invite your friends. Often updates to an events page will show up in an invitee’s notifications unless they’ve sent their regrets. Events can include a wine & cheese tasting, a workshop, a webinar, or anything else that seems valuable.

Like a lot of things on this list, don’t abuse this opportunity at risk of being muted or unfriended. Don’t invite people on the other side of the country to the grand opening of your local barber shop. 

Post as yourself. As a small business owner or marketer, you often are the face of your business. To avoid the “penalties” around Page posts, post as yourself. Your company is never going to get the reach and access you can achieve when you share something about your business in your own profile.

However, if you are constantly posting on your personal profile about your latest sale expect that Aunt Suzie (among others) may start muting you or even unfollowing you. 

A little goes a long way.

Explore other platforms. Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to reach your ideal customer. Your audience may be on:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram (admittedly, owned by Facebook)
  • Reddit
  • YouTube, or
  • a hundred other platforms, discussion forums, or channels where your ideal customers congregate.

And don’t forget blogs (like this one), or podcasts (like The Agents of Change, where you can get great free digital marketing information delivered free to your favorite device once a week, or paid search to drive people to your latest ebook or white paper.

Do things that are extraordinary. We were just discussing this internally the other day. Learning Facebook Ads or Google Adwords is a skill that anyone can pick up given enough time and interest. Knowing how to run these ads isn’t–or won’t be–the deciding factor of whether you get noticed or not.

The trick is in creating something that worth talking about. Most PR professionals will tell you not to write a press release unless you have something that is newsworthy. So, stop sharing mediocre content, stop running 10% off sales, and start doing something that will get people talking. 

Next Steps

You don’t need to do all of these things to stay in front of your audience. At a minimum I’d suggest focusing on Facebook ads and exploring other digital advertising opportunities as well as creating more valuable content at your blog and optimize it for the search engines.

If you need any help with your Facebook marketing, or you want new ways to generate more leads and sales for your company, let us know.

Rich Brooks
You Can Find Me In The News Feed (Maybe)

How to use Campaign URL Builder for Better Reporting

Google's Campaign URL Builder

Google’s Campaign URL Builder is a free tool that allows you to better track where your highest value traffic is coming by using UTM codes. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, it isn’t. And in this post I’ll show you how to set up these codes so you can generate more leads at your website. 

Google Analytics is an amazing tool that provides a lot of information on how people discovered your site and what they did once they were there. But it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

For example, it might tell you that some portion of your traffic came from your email newsletter, but which email newsletter? Or it might tell you that someone who registered for a class came from Facebook, but was it from a post on your business page, something you shared on your own profile, or a Facebook ad campaign you’re running?

If you’re just getting started with Google Analytics, this level of detail may make your head swim, but if you’ve been using Google Analytics for a while and you want start getting granular with your data, start getting more detail about exactly what’s working and what’s falling flat, you’ll need to use UTM codes.

What are UTM codes (and what does UTM stand for)?

A UTM code is a simple code that you can add to any URL (webpage address) to pass additional details to your reporting software, Google Analytics in this case. 

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Does that clear things up? 😉

Urchin was the software Google bought way back and turned it into Google Analytics. Why is it still called Urchin Tracking Module? I don’t know…why is the Utah basketball team still called the Jazz?

How do I create UTM codes?

Google offers a free Campaign URL Builder that you can use. 

Google's Campaign URL Builder

Start by entering the Website URL you’re trying to drive traffic to, such as https://www.theagentsofchange.com/podcasts/

Next, enter a Campaign Source. This is the source where the traffic is coming from. It could be a specific website, a newsletter, directory, and so forth. Source and URL are the only required fields, but you can include information in any field you want to track that information.

Campaign Medium is the medium that the traffic came from…examples include email, banner, or social. 

Campaign Name can be used to specify or group campaigns, such as “earlybird” or “photocontest.”

Campaign Term can be used to specify paid search terms.

Campaign Content can be used to “differentiate similar content, or links within the same ad. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which version is more effective.” That’s according to Google. Talk about granular!

As you enter more data into the fields, the URL Builder will begin to build your URL. For example, if you enter:

Campaign URL Builder in Action: Building UTMs

Google will create a long, ugly URL like this:

Campaign URL Builder: Results

You can then use that URL how you would use the original URL. In this case, I would use that URL in our email newsletter for the 225th episode of our Agents of Change podcast. 

Pro Tip: In the case above, we can put the URL behind a link or button. But if for some reason you can’t and you don’t want to show the long, ugly URL, you can use a URL shortener like bit.ly or I like PrettyLink, a WordPress plugin.

Where do UTM codes appear in Google Analytics?

Your UTM codes can be found in a number of places in Google Analytics. In Acquisitions > Campaigns > All Campaigns is one place to start looking.

Campaigns in Google Analytics

Here you can see the name of different campaigns you ran, how many sessions they drove, goal conversion rate, and even the value of that traffic (if it’s tied into a monetary goal.)

By choosing Source or Medium above, you can sort reports by the traffic source or medium as well.

We’ve got a primer on how to set up Google Analytic goals if you’re interested. 

You could also go into Behavior > All Pages and then choose a specific page you’re interested in. Selecting a Page in Google Analytics

From there, you could choose a Secondary Dimension. In this example, we’ll choose Source, to see where the traffic to our registration page is coming from.

Selecting a secondary dimension in Google Analytics

And now we can see our results.

Sources for a given page in Google Analytics

 Be consistent with your UTM codes.

If you’re going to be creating a lot of UTM codes, or if you’re working as part of a marketing team, consistency becomes critical if you want to generate meaningful reports.

Without consistency, you might find that one person enters medium as “banner,” while someone else calls it “banners,” and someone else wants to tag their vertical banner as “skyscraper.”

While that may not seem like a big deal, it makes running reports more difficult. The best solution is to create a Google Doc that spells out the appropriate name for each item.

UTM spreadsheet

Last thoughts on Campaign URL Builder

Here are some last thoughts from having used Campaign URL Builder for several years:

  • Not every link you create needs a UTM code. Only track the things you really want to measure.
  • Don’t use UTM codes on internal links (links from one of your web pages to another.) This just overwrites the real data Google Analytics is collecting and results in worse reporting, not better.
  • Bookmark Google’s Campaign URL Builder in your favorites bar for easy access. 
  • Use a URL shortener if you can’t hide the UTM code behind a button or inside a link. It’s just messy otherwise.
  • Create a spreadsheet of your UTM codes for consistency in your reporting.

Any other thoughts on Google’s Campaign URL builder? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Rich Brooks
Tracking You