Everything you ever wanted to know about hashtags but were afraid to ask your teenager.
Do you just need to know how to best use hashtags for a specific social media platform? Or how you can use them effectively for your small business, or how to avoid becoming the next social media horror story? If so, use this table of contents to jump to the section you need. Otherwise, read on!
You see other people and businesses tossing around hashtags like #business, #entrepreneur or #marketing, and in your mind it’s as accessible as juggling chainsaws.
There’s probably no easier way to tell a digital native from a digital naïve than their ability to use hashtags. Trying to use hashtags when you don’t understand them sounds as natural as cursing in another language.
Whether it’s during Q&A at social media conferences, in the comment sections of other posts, or in emails, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about how to use hashtags in social media, and answered most of them in this comprehensive guide.
Now, there are already a lot of great articles on how to use hashtags. However, most of them aren’t geared toward small businesses and entrepreneurs (more on that later). So, I wanted to put together an exhaustive guide for small business owners and marketers for using hashtags in social media as it stands today.
Can’t find your website on Google? If you aren’t showing up on the first page of Google then you’re missing out on a major traffic and revenue source for your business. To fix this you’ll need to engage in some search engine optimization (SEO). Below you’ll find eight important factors and insights from some of the biggest experts in SEO and content marketing today.
1. Your New Website Needs SEO…and Time
I’ve talked to businesses who launch a brand new website with a new domain on Tuesday and wonder on Wednesday why their site doesn’t appear on Google.
Newer sites don’t tend to rank well on Google. You may have to dig deep into Google’s search results to even find your website for a branded search term (the name of your company, key players, the brand name of your products, etc.)
You can’t expect to rank well right out of the gate, especially when your competition may have been producing high-quality content, getting inbound links, and optimizing themselves at the search engines for years.
You wouldn’t expect to play in The Masters right after you bought your first set of clubs, would you?
The first thing you’ll want to do is to see if your website even exists in Google’s index. To do this, go to Google and do a search for “site:yourdomain.com” where yourdomain.com is, well, your domain. Make sure there are no spaces before or after the colon.
If there are no results, “your search – site:yourdomain.com – did not match any documents,” then Google doesn’t know you exist and you’ll never rank…well or poorly. You’ll need to determine why Google hasn’t indexed you. Be sure to check the Crawl Issues section below.
Here's the fallout: the indexation of your latest content marketing efforts could be delayed hours, days, or even weeks!
One solution is to leverage a key Google initiative called dynamic rendering. Dynamic rendering allows you to serve one version of your website optimized for the human experience, and another, stripped-down version optimized for Search Bots to crawl, understand, and index in a timely manner.
The benefits of this initiative are numerous. Search Bots load pages faster and see more content, front-end development stays intact for the user experience, and you can rest assured that your latest published content has entered into Google's index to appear in search results.
If there are results, it means Google is aware your site exists and you can work on improving the overall ranking and visibility of your site. Keep reading….
2. You’ve Got Crawl Problems That Are Hurting Your SEO
Whether your site ranks poorly in Google or not at all, the problem may be due to crawling issues. In short, it’s difficult or impossible for Google to visit, crawl (read), and index (store) your site, you won’t rank.
It may be that you have a technical problem that’s keeping you from ranking. (You got thrown out on a technicality.)
One way to determine if this is a problem is by visiting your Google Search Console. If you’ve never set up your Google Search Console, you can do so by visiting search.google.com/search-console, clicking Start Now, and then logging in with your Google Account credentials.
Once logged in, click “Coverage” in the left hand menu, which will show you all the pages on your site where Google ran into trouble.
If there are pages listed in the error reports, it means that they won’t appear in Google’s search results. You or your web developer will need to address the problems and fix them.
One problem may be that you have inadvertently blocked key pages from Google’s index with something called a robots.txt file. This is a list of pages that you don’t want Google to crawl and index.
Sometimes, developers hide pages while they’re under development so the unfinished pages don’t get indexed by Google.
Sometimes, they forget to un-hide them. 😳
Other times robots.txt files are misconfigured, accidentally hiding entire sections of websites from Google.
You can help Google crawl more of your pages by submitting an XML sitemap…one that’s automatically updated so you don’t have to keep resubmitting it every time you update your website.
If you’re on WordPress, we recommend the Yoast SEO plugin that offers this functionality.
Other technical issues that might hurt your search visibility include:
Your site is not mobile-friendly. Google uses a “mobile first” approach to indexing sites, so sites that aren’t optimized for mobile won’t rank well. To test your own site use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.
Your site is slow. If your site is equal in value to a competitor’s site, but your page load-time is low, it can hurt your visibility. You can view your page’s load times in Google Analytics or use this tool by GTMetrix.
Your site is not secure. Google wants your site to be encrypted, meaning it should start https, not http. Ask your web developer or hosting company for help.
There are generally two good times to verify with Google Search Console; the first is immediately after your site launched, the second is right now.
Think of verifying with Google Search Console like getting the search engine’s cell phone number. Verifying your site with Google Search Console opens up a communications channel with the search engine; you get to tell Google about new content on your site, and the engine will tell you about any problems it finds crawling your site.
3. You’re Not Speaking Your Customer’s Language (Keyword Research)
If you confirmed Google is aware of your website (step 1) and that technical or crawl problems aren’t the issue (step 2), then it’s time to examine whether you’re using the same language as your customers.
Maybe you’re using technical terms but your audience isn’t familiar with the jargon. You’re writing about your vocal stylings while they’re searching for a wedding singer. Or you’ve coined a term that differentiates your business…but no one is searching for that term.
Another problem could be that you’re targeting a keyword that’s too broad, such as travel or coach. Those terms are so broad they open you up to competition from anyone in the travel industry or anyone looking for business, life, or batting coach. Instead, you might do better targeting a narrower niche, such as Maine family adventure travel or leadership coaching for non-profit professionals.
If you’re not sure you’re using the words your customers use at Google, you’ll want to do some keyword research. Keyword research is market research, and it’s a critical component of ranking well at the search engines.
First, brainstorm words and phrases that your ideal customer may use at Google. To help me generate more potential keywords I use five perspectives:
Choosing the right keywords isn't easy. But it's the key first step of any SEO campaign. In my experience, most people struggle to rank because they choose keywords that are way too competitive. If you want to show up at the top of Google, choosing low competition keywords can really help. Especially for new sites without a lot of backlinks yet.
There’s no point optimizing your site for a phrase no one is searching for, and if you’re going up against a lot of well-entrenched competition, you need to know that to manage your expectations and know if you should “niche down”, like in the example of Maine family adventure travel vs travel.
At flyte, we use a number of agency-level SEO tools that help us uncover the best opportunities for our clients. But if you’re just doing this yourself, or you just need some quick research for a blog post, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner.
Put in a few related keywords:
And Google will return the average monthly searches and the competition for those phrases as well as related phrases that might perform better.
The competition is for paid search, not organic SEO, but there’s usually a lot of overlap.
Here you can see that Google suggests lingual as a good, high volume, low competition search term.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to set up a free account for Google Ads to access the tool. However, Google will give you more detailed information if you’re spending money on ads. So, set up an ad and let it run with a budget of a few dollars a day while you’re doing your research.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of other businesses who may have a head start on you, and are already targeting your best keywords. Sometimes that means going after “mid-funnel keywords.”
The best converting keywords in almost every industry have gotten too competitive to invest time and effort into. Recently, Google has made matters worse by increasing the number and visibility of the ads on the search results pages. I recommend optimizing for mid-funnel keywords that trigger less advertising but still have purchase intent.
And if you don’t have a lot of authority built up at your site (more on that later), consider focusing on longer, less competitive keywords.
Without a lot of links from other websites, your site isn't considered authoritative by Google, so you'll need to target less competitive, less popular phrases. These are usually the longer 4- and 5-word phrases (or even longer). Even low authority sites can rank quickly if they target really long, specific phrases.
4. You Didn’t Optimize Your Site for the Search Engines (Keyword Placement)
Even if you know the keywords people are using, it’s critical to put them in the right places.
Look at every page on your website as an opportunity to get found by your ideal customer when they need you most. Each page should address a specific keyword or group of keywords you’re targeting. Once you know what keywords you’re targeting for a given page or blog post, here’s where you need to put your keywords:
Title Tag: Just about every SEO expert agrees that this is the most important place to put your keywords. This actually appears outside your webpage, and is also the “big blue link” in Google’s search results.
Meta Descriptions: Like the title tag, meta descriptions don’t appear on your web page. And many people believe they have little to no direct impact on your search ranking. However, this is what often appears below the big blue link in the search results, so consider this a free classified ad that might get someone to click on your link.
Headers and Subheads: If you know HTML, these are your H1 – H6 tags (although let’s just use H1 – H3.) These header tags are bigger and bolder than your regular body copy, and they’re what people use as they scan your page. (What, you thought they were reading everything? Only Google does that.)
Body Copy: The rest of the text. Make sure your keywords appear in the first sentence or two, and then as needed throughout the page. You don’t need to use the exact phrase ad nauseum; Google understands that realtor and real estate agent are related.
Alt-tags: These tags “hide” behind images, giving Google an idea of what’s in the images on your site. Descriptive, keyword rich alt-tags can help you get found in Google’s image search and can drive more traffic to your site.
Intra-site Links: These are links from one page to another. Rather than linking “click here” or “read more”, get descriptive.
5. You Put All Your Products or Services on One Page
This one is a killer.
Google and the other search engines prefer pages with a narrow focus. They are hungry for rich detail to determine if they should recommend your page (or your competitor’s page) to your prospects. You need to help them out.
Instead of listing your five service areas on the same page under the header “Services” create a unique page for each service. Give each page a unique page title, strong header, go into more detail about the service in the body copy, consider adding photos or video, and create links to all the other services pages.
If you’ve got dozens of services (or products) you may choose to highlight the most important (or lucrative) and bundle the rest onto a single page. If you can’t think of how you can create unique content for each service (think 300 – 500 words minimum), then consider writing up a case study of someone you helped to round out the page, or include a testimonial.
6. Your Website Needs More Backlinks and Authority
If you’ve eliminated site age and technical problems, and you’ve optimized for on-page SEO (steps 3 – 5), and you’re still struggling at Google, it’s time to look at your backlinks.
A big part of Google’s ranking algorithm–how they decide which websites and web pages appear first–is the trust and authority that a site has. Google needs to trust you, and trust can require time, consistency, and references.
Links from other, relevant websites can quickly boost your authority and credibility, just like references in the real world. And just like in the real world, the more trustworthy, the more authoritative, and the more relevant the person offering that referral, the more impact it has.
If you’re a local business, getting links from other local businesses, local guides, and local organizations carry more weight.
If you’re a restaurant, links from other hospitality and tourism sites, foodie blogs, and lists of top restaurants carry more weight.
If you’re in the B2B space, links from vendors, customers, and industry blogs and magazines, carry more weight.
Here are some ways to find websites that are likely to link back to you:
Go after membership and certification groups. If you are paying membership fees, it’s likely that the organization is willing to link out to you. Make sure those links are pointing to your home page.
Search out guest blogging opportunities. Do a Google search on “(your vertical/industry) + (guest blog/guest post.)” I.e., “retirement planning guest post,” or “knitting guest blog.”
You’ll find a list of blogs that are actively searching for guest bloggers. Visit the site, review the editorial guidelines, and submit your article.
ProTip: If you use a tool like Ahrefs SEO toolbar you can get information on the blogs/websites looking for guest posts. Sites with high DR–domain ranking–are usually most valuable.
Writing blog posts that will get accepted to high-quality blogs takes time and effort. One trick is called the “evil twin post.” That’s taking a blog post from your own website and writing it from a reverse angle.
“Five Ways to Nail That Job Interview” becomes “Five Things That Will Sink Your Next Job Interview.” Just turn “1. Dress for Success,” into “1. Show Up in Sweats.” And so on.
Get booked on relevant podcasts. Blog posts take a long time to research, write, and polish. A more time effective method might be to get booked as a guest on relevant podcasts. Just make sure that the podcast has a show notes page where they can create a link back to your business.
To find appropriate podcasts, you can search Apple Podcasts or other podcasting platforms for your topic. Look for podcasts that have guests, visit their websites, and use the contact form to reach out.
Find the sites that are linking to your competitors and approach them. If businesses or organizations link to your competitors’ sites, it’s likely they’re open to linking to yours as well…assuming you have valuable content to share.
This is key; if they’re linking to your competitor because your competitor has a detailed blog post on how to tighten an inclined food-grade conveyor belt with an embedded video that shows a breakdown of all the steps and the tools someone needs for the job, and your site simply states you have conveyor belts, don’t expect that link.
How do you know who’s linking to your competitors? Moz has a powerful tool called Link Explorer that allows you to see who’s linking to any website…yours or your competitors.
In this case, drop your competitor’s domain into Link Explorer and you can find out who’s linking to them.
You can see the linking domain, the linking page, the anchor text (what words are linked), the Page Authority, the Domain Authority (similar to the Domain Ranking), and more. This becomes a short list of websites you can approach looking for links.
By the way, this is a freemium tool, meaning that Moz will provide a little bit of information for free, but for more sites you’ll have to upgrade to their paid account.
Create link-worthy content. This one is tough. How do you know what other people will find so valuable that they’re willing to take the time to link to it? If you’re in the B2B world, don’t overthink it. Jeffrey Kranz has already done that for you.
When you’re writing an authoritative article, you cite your sources—and you're not alone. So if you want more backlinks, become a source that other writers want to cite.
One way to do this is by publishing a list of statistics on a topic that your audience wants to know more about. You can pull statistics from separate sources, or if you really want to go the extra mile, conduct some original research with your customers and proprietary data. That's the stuff that writers will link to again and again.
Fundera is one of my favorite examples of this. Four of the six most linked-to pages on their site are lists of stats!
Do a little “digital sleuthing” to connect with digital gatekeepers. Sometimes, getting the attention of a webmaster when you’re looking for links takes a little extra work. After all, many webmasters get requests for links multiple times a day. In an interview with Jason White on our Agents of Change podcast, he shared his technique of “digital sleuthing.”
As he mentions later in the interview, it’s not the most scalable solution ever, but when you absolutely, positively need that link, it could help.
Build authority by becoming an authority. Or, at least by having authoritative content creators write for you. Because backlinks aren’t the only way Google judges authority.
Google wants to surface high quality content in their algorithm, and one way they can confirm content is high quality is by making sure the source behind the content, whether it be the author or the website itself, has the right expertise, authority, and trust to be publishing such content.
Think about it… you wouldn’t want a freelance SEO copywriter with no experience in the medical field providing information on a reputable website for how to treat a disease or ailment, would you? But there aren’t really algorithms that can do that.
So instead, Google hires human raters across the globe to ensure that content that surfaces after their algorithm updates are the most reputable and trustworthy sources. This is referenced as E-A-T, expertise, authority, and trust.
Make sure each piece of content you publish has an expert and authoritative name and credentials behind it, and take the time to build out author biography pages that highlight awards, recognitions, or experience.
Perform "name search" research in Google Search for your content contributors to make sure they show up in other reputable publications, because it's something the quality raters are looking out for.
It's hard to "fake" authority, so if you're starting out from scratch, you can start by guest posting on your industry's popular websites, get involved by speaking at conferences, check for awards and recognitions in your industry and apply for them, and even publish a book or an ebook to help boost your online presence and grow your backlinks to help increase your authority.
7. You Didn’t Optimize Your Business for Local Search
If you have a local business–you serve people in a physical location or service a geographic area–then you’ll want Google to place you in the Local Pack.
Optimizing your business for local search is different than optimizing your website for organic search, but there are overlaps.
Much of the work is in making sure your NAP info–Name, Address, Phone Number–is identical across online local directories, getting positive reviews, and maxing out your Google My Business listing.
But there are some things you can do on your site to improve your chances of appearing in the Local Pack.
Optimize your site for your location(s). If you have just one location, work that into your copy. Include your physical address on the bottom of every page. Embed an Google map on your contact and/or directions page. Consider adding it to the footer on every page. Use a local phone number, not an 800 number.
Create a page for each location. If you own three ice cream parlors in three different locations, give each its own page. Optimize each page with location specific titles, headers, photos, hours, address, directions, nearby businesses and attractions, and so on. Include an embedded Google map.
Go after local links. Just like in organic SEO, you’ll want to get relevant links, and in this case, that means links from nearby businesses, guides, and organizations.
Claim your business' Google My Business (GMB) page and update it with all of the info Google suggests, particularly the category and photos
Link your GMB page to the most relevant URL on your website (e.g. if you are trying to rank for "pizza in seattle" link to your "pizza in seattle" page)
Get customers to review your business on Google and other review platforms that rank well in Google for your target searches. For example, if you are a local hotel, you'd probably want to get some reviews on TripAdvisor. If you are a restaurant, you'd want reviews on Yelp. If you are an event planner, you'd probably want a listing on The Vendry's virtual events page
Make sure your site is "mobile friendly" (e.g. loads fast and looks good on a phone)
For extra credit, create a weekly Google My Business Post. They take about 1 minute to create and can often help attract clicks from people already searching for your brand.
There are plenty of other tactics you will want to employ, but these are some of the most important, and easiest, to get started with.
8. Your Competition is Simply Beating You
No one wants to hear this, but sometimes you just don’t deserve to be the first result…or even appear on the home page.
If you simply list all your products on a page, and your competitor, with similar offerings, has category pages, pages for each product, measuring charts, how-to videos, and so on…well, they should rank higher than you!
If this is the case, then it’s time to do some competitive research.
Go to Google and see who’s beating you for your desired keywords. Not just your real world competition, but the sites keeping you from the top of Google’s results.
If you use a tool like Ahrefs you can then see what keywords your competitors are ranking for, and which pages are optimized for that search term. Visiting those pages will give you a sense of what you’re up against.
You can also use Ahrefs Content Explorer to see what type of content they’re creating.
You don’t want to copy your competitors, you want to beat them. Look at the content that’s outranking you on their sites, and see how you can make it better, deeper, clearer, and more valuable.
Let's say you've already covered the basics. Your page and content on it is relevant for the keyword you are targeting. Your site has one of the highest domain authority's and you are authoritative in your niche. But it's STILL not ranking?
Well, it might be because your article is not (what I call) "topically complete". For instance, a topically complete article about New York City likely should mention Central Park, The Empire State Building, etc.
You can find topic gaps in your content by trying a tool like the TF-IDF tool. (Note: TF-IDF is not a ranking factor but it is helpful for analyzing content!)
Plug in the keyword you want to rank for and either your URL or paste in your content. The tool is going to tell your 1,2 and 3 word phrases NOT in your content but present in the content of the top 20 results in Google. Do NOT just blindly stuff these into your content, but scan them looking for any that represents a missing topic in your article, and then make sure to update your article to include this topic. The update could be a sentence, a section or anything in between.
You can do the above manually (and for free) by reading through every article ranking in Google for your keyword too, but sometimes a tool is worth the time saved!
The purpose of this post was to help you uncover why your website doesn’t show up in Google.
Is it a technical problem, like the age of the site or a crawl issue?
Is it an on-page issue, that requires keyword research and unique pages for each offering?
Is it a matter of trust and authority, and you need more inbound links?
Is it that your competitor’s site is just better than yours?
Or, is it a combination of a few of these items?
Hopefully, this post has given you guidance on the changes you need to make to your own site to improve your search rankings, visibility, and traffic.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or don’t know where to begin, we can help. Reach out today and we’ll help you get to the top of Google first page.
Although the impact varies, almost all businesses have been hit by COVID-19. Some have been knocked down, some have been knocked back, and a few have even been pushed forward.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to businesses and entrepreneurs in many different industries and verticals over the past four to six weeks, consulting with them on ways to pivot, to keep their doors open, or to reopen when things normalize.
Together, we’ve uncovered some important takeaways the coronavirus, remote working, and stay-at-homes orders have made evident. Whether you choose to recognize them and alter your approach is up to you.
Your Digital Presence Is No Longer Important, It’s Critical
There’s a good chance your doors are closed right now. People aren’t coming in and out of your shop or office the way they did last year at this time. Even if you are “open for business,” your customers are staying at home.
They want to review your offerings remotely. They want to get all their questions answered and all their objections overcome from the safety and security of their own homes.
Of course you have a website, but can people find you on Google if they don’t know your company name, only what they want or need? Does your site guide your customer through the entire buying process without you needing to get involved? Does it address all your ideal customer’s concerns as adeptly as your competitors’ sites do?
If you find it lacking in any of these categories, you’re losing business now, when you need it most.
This may be the perfect time to perform a digital audit. Here are just a few items that you should consider:
Review the copy on your website. Is it still relevant and on brand?
Fill out your own contact forms and read the copy on your thank you pages and in your autoresponder. Does it still resonate?
Is it easy to sign up for your email newsletter? Do you offer a compelling reason? (You do have an email newsletter, right?)
Dive into your Google Analytics and determine how people are finding your site and what actions they’re taking when they arrive. Are there any weak spots that you can improve?
Are you active on all the social media platforms linked to from your website? Is the branding and voice at your social media profiles consistent with your website?
Your Message Needs to Change
These are challenging times, but for some people, they’re downright terrifying. Some people are scared because they’ve lost their jobs. Some people are scared because they or a loved one have a job, but they are risking their lives for low pay. And others are scared because they own a business and the pandemic may cause them to lose everything.
The thing is, you can’t know where every member of your audience is mentally or emotionally right now. Pushing a message of “buy, buy, BUY!” isn’t going to work. It’s going to come off as tone deaf and get shared around as a message from a company that “just doesn’t get it.”
People want to hear that you’re part of the local economy. They want to support businesses owned by their neighbors, not by a giant, faceless, conglomerate.
People want to know that you’re doing your part. That you’re keeping your employees and your customers safe. That you’ve altered your production line to manufacture hand sanitizer or PPEs. That you’re donating a certain percentage of your sales to support front line workers.
People want to see that you’re going through an experience similar to theirs. They want you to pull back the curtains and show that you’re sheltering in place, that you have set up your home office, or that you’re taking every precaution to stop the spread. They want you to be empathic, vulnerable, and hopeful.
Can you manage all that?
E-Commerce Isn’t Optional Any More (But There Are Options)
I used to segment business websites into two categories: lead gen (generation) or e-commerce.
Sure, some lead gen sites had an order form and some e-commerce sites had some lead gen built in, but either you were looking to generate leads for future business or you wanted people to “buy now.”
We have entered a time where people are looking to self-serve from home. They don’t want to wait for a call back, they just want to shop at your site and have a product delivered or a service scheduled. They’re comfortable using their credit card or other payment method online. (Are you taking Venmo yet? ACH?)
Businesses that can’t take payment on their sites are at a disadvantage to those that can. Friction has always hurt sales, and a lack of secure, online payment options is sandpaper to your success.
However, there are options to how you can jump into e-commerce.
Shopping Cart: The shopping cart is what most people think of when they think of e-commerce. Categories, product pages, add to cart, etc. If you have a lot of products or SKUs, this is the way to go. There are plugins for WordPresslike WooCommece, as well as platforms like Shopify where you can build your shopping cart experience.
There is some work to be done here for setup, including loading in your products, getting a security certificate, making sure you have a PCI compliant host, and connecting with a gateway processor.
Order Form: This is a good solution if you just have a few products (physical or digital) or you need to get something up in a hurry. Many online form builders (we like Gravity Forms for WordPress) can be integrated with a payment gateway to securely allow people to buy on your site and can be set up relatively quickly.
Like the Shopping Cart option, you’ll want to get a security certificate and be set up on a PCI compliant host.
Offsite Payment Solutions: If you don’t want to invest in a security certificate or can’t move to a PCI compliant host, using an off site processor might be a quick solution. With PayPal, Square, or similar solutions, you can have the transaction take place on another website so you don’t have to invest in anything additional on your site.
The customer experience isn’t as elegant or seamless, and some people still blanch at using PayPal (even though they can use their own credit cards), but it will do in a pinch.
3rd Party Delivery Service: For those in the restaurant industry, using a service like DoorDash or UberEats can give your customers a secure way of shopping with you, without any additional work on your end. You also get additional visibility on their platforms and apps.
However, these 3rd party services take a big bite of your profits.
Online Marketplaces: Many companies are happy to sell through Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and other online marketplaces. They direct their traffic to these platforms, or capture a certain amount of business from shoppers who are already there.
Of course, these are busy marketplaces, so there’s a lot of competition and these marketplaces can take a big chunk of your profits in service fees.
Your Social Media Activity Needs to Double
People are spending way more time on social media. This is due to a number of reasons, including boredom, a need to connect in a time of social distancing, and a desire for self-improvement.
If you’re a B2C company, you should be creating and curating tons more content for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. If you’re in the B2B space, you and your team should be improving your LinkedIn profiles, prospecting more, and sharing more content in the feed.
If your doors are open, make sure people know that. (Keep in mind the new messaging.) If your doors are closed, make sure they don’t forget about you.
Social is the perfect place to pull back the curtains and tell your company’s “pandemic story.”
And don’t forget to budget more for social ads. Especially on Facebook, business posts don’t get the visibility that posts from people do, so putting ad dollars behind some of your posts is money well spent.
Now is a Good Time to Be Storing Up Content
No one knows exactly when the economy will open up again, or whether it will happen all at once or roll out slowly. (People may think they know, but things are changing day by day.)
It’s possible, even likely, that once things do open up, that there will be pent up demand for your company’s product or service. You may be straight out filling orders, hiring people, and talking to customers.
It’s impossible to be creating content when that’s happening. That’s why now is a great time to be writing those blog posts, recording those podcast episodes, creating those videos, or developing whatever type of content your prospects and customers expect from a company like yours so they’re ready to roll out when you’re at your busiest.
You can queue them up, all ready to go, so you just need to hit “publish” when things get crazy. And when we know when the economy will be opening up, you can even schedule them to publish, along with the appropriate social and email promotions.
Now is a Good Time to be Rehabbing Old Content
Creating new content is hard. That’s why we recommend that businesses that have a wealth of content instead focus on updating and enhancing content that already exists. This is also better for SEO. If you already have a seasonal blog post (say, for Halloween), you don’t want to write a new Halloween post every year and dilute your visibility for that search. You just want to update it with fresh content, keeping the same URL as before.
If you already have a post on kitchen remodeling, you don’t need to create a new one that will compete for attention. Just update it with new design ideas, new products that you’re selling, and more before and after photos.
This is best done with blogs, although there are other places it can happen as well.
Other ways to improve an existing piece of content:
Longer posts do well at Google (this is correlation, not causation), so consider adding more content to your post as appropriate
Include expert quotes; when you republish, make sure the experts know so they’re likely to share with their audience
Add new data and charts, replacing any outdated information
Replace images that seem dated with new, branded imagery
If you’re updating this content annually, add the year to the title (but don’t change the URL.) I.e., “The 10 Best Kettlebell Exercises [2020 Edition]”
Make sure your images are the right sizes for social media, so they’ll look good when people share them
Promote the content via email and social as if it’s new
Position Yourself for the “New” New Normal
Things will never return to “the way they were,” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
At some point, much of life will go back to normal, but there will be “residue,” including:
an increased comfort with digital interactions,
a desire for self-serve/low-touch options, and
comfort with video conferencing at all points along the sales process.
Just to name a few. How are you adapting your online presence to meet the needs of next month’s or next year’s customers?
What’s the Next Step?
Whether your doors are open or closed, whether you’re slower or busier than ever, you and your customers have been impacted by the coronavirus, so business as usual isn’t an option. Things need to change, and those most adaptable will survive. Now’s the time to put your plan into place.
Whether you prioritize social media over adding an e-commerce option, or creating new content over rehabbing old content, is a business decision for you to make.
If you’d like some help in charting your course during this storm, or you need outside help with a digital audit, we’re here to help. Contact flyte today for a free video consult and we’ll get you moving in the right direction.
Resilience allows you to bounce back from adversity…something that is critical in the time of a crisis like the coronavirus (COVID-19), an economic downturn, or any setback, be it personal or professional.
As a leader, it’s not enough to be resilient, you need to nurture resilience in those you surround yourself with: your team, your clients, and your network.
Dr. Robert Brooks is a clinical psychologist who has researched, presented, and published several books on resilience. He’s also my dad.
We’ve been in regular contact during the quarantine, talking about resilience, leadership, and social responsibility during a crisis. I recently asked if I could interview him to talk about how leaders could nurture resilience in themselves, their teams, their customers, and their family during the pandemic.
Below you’ll find the video of our interview, as well as a recap of some of my biggest takeaways.
What is resilience?
The ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilient people see problems as things to overcome and mastered rather than to be overwhelmed by.
What is the role of a “charismatic adult” in resilience?
When they interview people who had overcome great adversity, trying to find a common thread, the first answer was always the same: they had a charismatic adult. Someone who stood by them, believed in them.
Leaders need to be that charismatic adult for their team.
How can a leader be a charismatic adult, especially when everyone is working remotely?
Regardless of remote working or not, you need to focus on what you have control over. Put your time and effort into what you can have an impact or control over.
With the coronavirus, most of us feel we don’t have as much control over things as we’d like. But we are the authors of our own lives.
We don’t have control over the coronavirus, but we do have control over how we respond to it.
How can you regain control?
Start with things you can control by engaging in TLC, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.
Start by taking care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself before you can help your team.
Create a routine, such as waking up, showering, and getting dressed for work. Exercise. Meditate.
Have a “problem solving” attitude. This means don’t dwell on the problems, but rather brainstorm solutions. Come up with a plan B, C, and D, too.
Limit the amount of news you watch. This is very difficult, but during a crisis the news is repetition, repetition, repetition. Get the headlines, get a few minutes of local news, and then get back to your day.
What are the steps to nurturing resilience in our team during a crisis?
Don’t wait for them to reach out to you; set aside time to speak with them one on one. Let them know you recognize this is a challenging time, and ask this important question: is there any way I can help you?
Because when you offer that, what you’re really saying to them is, I care about you.
There’s wonderful research that shows one of the most important things in any relationship is to create positive emotions, and one of the most positive emotions is a connection with others.
How do I nurture resilience in my team without coming across as authoritarian?
Ask yourself, am I saying or doing this in a way where the other person is going to be able to hear me and not get defensive?
You can bring up ideas, but you can’t force people to follow. You can ask if they have found anything that they have found to be effective for them. This can be an effective way of showing them what they have control over.
How do I know if I’m doing the right things to nurture resilience in a time of crisis?
You should ask yourself, what words will my team use to describe my behavior during the crisis? What words would I use myself? These are important questions because they are an opportunity to reflect upon what we’re doing and saying, and what we’d like to do differently.
Another way of looking at this is “starting with the end in mind.”
How transparent should we be with our team or clients in sharing our own challenges?
Effective leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability. Now, vulnerability doesn’t mean weakness, but you can let them know that you’re feeling the same things and challenges they do, but you’re focusing on the things you can control.
What are some other ways to nurture resilience in a crisis?
One of the things that helps people to be resilient is when they’re making a positive difference in the life of someone else. It takes the focus off oneself, which can be helpful, but the feelings around knowing you’re helping someone else can release endorphins in your own brain.
A sense of humor is one of the most critical aspects of being resilient. But it shouldn’t be sarcastic humor, because you’re trying to create positive emotions. Know your audience; read the room.
What do customers want to hear from businesses during a crisis?
They want to hear that you care about them, that you’re thinking about them. They don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to hear from you.
Whether it’s the coronavirus or a simple snow day has caused the office to close, more workers are working remotely. Today we’ll look at some tools that make that easier.
What are some basics that people need to be able to work from home?
Beyond a computer and an internet connection, you’ll want a way to work on your current projects.
We tend to use a lot of Google Docs at our business, so accessing those documents and spreadsheets from home is easy. For PC based companies, Microsoft 365 offers similar functionality, although there’s a monthly user fee, which would most likely be picked up by your company.
Another option is putting your files in the cloud, using something like DropBox.
How can we stay in touch with our co-workers?
I’d recommend a video conferencing tool like Zoom, Skype, or GoToMeeting. All three of these allow for screen sharing, which may be very important for some people. Zoom and Skype both offer free versions.
I’d also recommend having more than one option.
These seem like options anyone can roll out. What apps or programs should companies consider for all their employees who may need to work remotely?
Many companies like Slack, which is an instant messaging tool and used in many corporate environments for internal and remote employees.
For managing projects, companies may want to look at a tool like Asana, which allows people to manage projects with people from all over the world. Teamwork, Trello, and Basecamp are good alternatives to these tools.
If you have a secure network, your IT team will need to set up something like VPN so remote workers can access the company servers while not in the office.
It sounds like you’re used to working remotely, what advice do you have for people who are working remotely for the first time?
Hide the TV remote. Hide the snacks. Get outside a couple of times during the day for fresh air. Walk the dog. Close the door behind you and make sure your housemates know that you’re working.
I also heard about an interesting app called FocusMate which pairs you with another remote worker so that you have accountability for getting your work done. And there’s an app called Focus@Will which is “scientifically proven” to give you 4x productivity…but I’m fine with downbeat radio on Apple Music or any of the Focus playlists on Spotify…as long as you have the commercial-free version. There’s nothing more jarring than an ad in the middle of your focus music.
Email marketing is often overlooked when a small business tries to generate more online leads and sales. However, building your email list is the linchpin of any digital marketing campaign.
In this article you’ll learn why it’s so important, how to set up an opt-in email list, and how to get your emails delivered, opened, read, and acted upon.
Why Is Email Marketing So Important?
I speak at a number of national digital marketing conferences, and that means I often get to hang out with the “big dogs” in the speakers’ room.
These are people with tremendous followings on social media. Many of them are also highly competitive, and often a bragging contest breaks out. However, none of these social media experts boast about how many people follow them on Twitter or Facebook or YouTube. Instead, talk turns to the size of their “list.” (Their email list, that is.)
Why are all these social media and digital marketing experts focused on something as “traditional” as email marketing? Read on.
Email Marketing is Stable (Compared to Social Media)
What I mean by this is that on social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re at the mercy of their business needs, not your own.
If you posted to your Facebook business page a few years ago, your post would reach 80% – 90% of your fans. Now you’d be lucky to reach more than 1% of your fans.
Or you may have built a following on Twitter only to find that the only people who get traction and engagement there any more are sports stars, celebrities, and the POTUS.
Likewise, you could go to bed being at the top of page one on Google, but wake up to an algorithm change that leaves your website all but invisible.
Email is imperfect, but at least it’s stable compared to other digital marketing tactics. In fact, the only major change that’s happened to email marketing in the past ten years is that more people are reading your emails on a smartphone.
More on that later.
Your Email Marketing List is Mobile
By this I don’t mean that your email is mobile-friendly—again, more on that later—but rather that you can move your list from platform to platform depending on your needs.
Feeling frustrated by Aweber? You can take your list and move it to MailChimp. (Or vice versa.) Outgrow Constant Contact? You can bring your list to Salesforce.
You own your list!
If you’re fed up with Facebook you can’t take your friends and fans and bring them to LinkedIn. If you’re not getting engagement any more on Twitter you can’t bring your followers to YouTube…it just doesn’t work that way.
Email Marketing is Intimate
Where social media tends to be one-to-many, email is often one-to-one.
Yes, you may send out a blast to your list of one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, etc., but if someone replies to you, you begin a one-on-one conversation. I’ve found that these conversations often lead to sales and engagements.
Email Marketing is Unavoidable
How many Facebook updates each day do you miss from friends, family, and business connections? How about the ones on LinkedIn? And don’t even get me started on tweets!
Go to a meeting, go for lunch, go to sleep, it doesn’t matter: social media keeps moving forward with millions of new updates.
However, any and every email that hits your inbox will still be there when you next open up Outlook or Gmail.
And it’s the same with your subscribers. If they’ve given you permission to email them, they will have a hard time not seeing your latest email updates.
No matter how many social media posts we make, no matter how much we optimize our website for the search engines, no matter how many ads we run, we make our sales when we send emails.
The Inbox is Boardwalk
Your customer’s (or prospect’s) inbox is the most valuable piece of real estate on the internet. Consider their opt-in as your own personal Advance Token to Boardwalk card.
Even if they don’t have the time or inclination to read your email right then, even if they immediately click the trash icon, they’re seeing your brand. Even when your customer isn’t ready to buy from you, they’re being reminded you exist.
Getting Started with Email Marketing
So now that we’re in agreement that your email list may be the most important asset your small business owns, let’s talk about how to build your subscriber base.
Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)
You definitely don’t want to be running your email list through Outlook or Gmail. While those tools are fine for one-to-one conversations, your hosting company or ISP will shut you down for sending out bulk email, even if you have people’s permission.
Instead, you’ll want to choose an Email Service Provider (ESP) like MailChimp or Constant Contact. These vendors have the tools and metrics to make your email marketing much, much easier. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Mobile-friendly templates: Checking emails is like the #1 activity on a smartphone…if your email isn’t legible on the small screen, your reader will hit delete before they roll out of bed.
Scheduling tools: Write now, send whenever. You can make sure your emails go out at the best time of day or the best day of the week to reach your customers.
Metrics: Find out how many people opened your last email, and how many people clicked on that link to your webinar or online store.
Segmenting: Did a bunch of people click on the link to your Spider-Man plush toy? Add them to a list of “comic book fans” and “plush toy enthusiasts” to better target your next email.
Management: Your ESP will manage your signups, opt-outs, bounces, autoresponders, and a ton of other tasks, simplifying your day and letting you focus on your message to your audience.
Drip Campaigns: Send automated messages to build trust and familiarity when someone joins your list. This series of automated emails can be written once and sent out to everyone who signs up.
Customize The Email Signup Experience
Once you’ve chosen a provider, you’ll want to personalize important aspects of your account.
Signup box: Your ESP will provide you the code to add a signup box to your website. By default, it will include some dull come on like, “Join Our Mailing List.” This fails on so many levels.
It’s completely (and necessarily) generic, so you miss out on an opportunity of truly branding yourself and your company.
It also fails to have a strong call-to-action. “Join Our Mailing List” sounds like marketing- speak for “Sign Up for My Spam!” Tell people the benefits of joining your list. Discounts in the store? Free shipping? Download an important white paper? Give them a reason to join up.
You should also let them know what to expect: how often you’ll be sending emails, whether your email will be delivering great content or offering amazing sales, and anything else you feel is important.
Landing page: Now, not every ESP will send new subscribers to a landing page on your site, but if they do, create a custom message for your new subscribers. I know of a number of companies that actually sell product on these landing pages. After all, this person has just shown that they’re interested in your message, so you should strike while the iron is hot!
Welcome message: Once people have signed up, your ESP will send them a completely (and again, necessarily) generic welcome email, welcoming them to your community. This is another opportunity to brand yourself, make a connection, or even sell them a product.
Leverage Your Website for More Email Signups
Your website is the hub of your digital marketing and critical to your online success. It’s also where most of your email signups take place.
You should have signup boxes, lead magnets, and calls to action throughout your website. Put them on your home page, your blog, and in the footer of every page on your site.
Add an (unchecked) box on your contact form, asking if they’d like to be added to your mailing list. (I know I just said don’t have a generic come on like this, but if they’re filling out your contact form, chances are they’re primed for more contact from you.)
Add another signup opportunity on your thank you page…the page that your contact form sends them to after they’ve completed it.
And you may hate them, but popup boxes work insanely well for attracting more signups.
Keep in mind that most people come to your website and never return! However, if you can get them to sign up for your email newsletter while they’re there, you can continue to communicate with them once their gone.
To get a sense of how many people never return to your site, visit your Google Analytics and look at the percentage of New Visitors vs. Returning Visitors. And a lot of those returning visitors may be due to being subscribers to your email newsletter! Imagine if you could just increase your email conversion rate by a few percentage points…how many more people could you stay in contact with?
Now flip that: look at the number of visitors each month who don’t return. Imagine if just a few of them signed up for your email list so you could stay in touch with them. What might that do to your bottom line?
Leverage Your Blog for More Email Signups
If you do have a blog, you’re already creating the content you can use for your email newsletter, you don’t need to create additional content for your email. Instead, think of your blog as the home for your fresh new content, and email as the delivery system.
Include a big call to action at the top of your blog, explaining the benefits of subscribing to the email version.
Have an email signup box in the right hand column of your blog. It can be tied into a lead magnet or simply include the call to action of “free updates” or “never miss another update.” You can also have that call to action at the bottom of each blog post.
You can also offer a “value add” to blog posts (and really any page on your site.) Did you write an article about Cooking for Vegans? Create a brief ebook (PDF) of The 10 Best Tasting Meat Alternativesand make it available for free with email registration.
Blog post on the best bike paths in Maine? Create a map of those trails.
Create Lead Magnets to Increase Email Signups
So what exactly is a lead magnet?
In the old days, it was fairly easy to get someone to sign up for your email newsletters, because there weren’t that many out there. But now, our inboxes are full of personal emails, business emails, newsletters we signed up for, and hundreds more that we didn’t. Plus: spam.
So, getting someone to sign up for your email list is increasingly difficult. After all, few people complain of not getting enough emails or not having enough information. To get that opt-in, to get access to their inbox, you’ll need to trade them something of value.
That is the lead magnet.
Now, in your business that may mean discounts in the company store. It may a download called “101 Ways to Save Money for College” or “5 Horrific Mistakes New Dog Owners Make.” The only constant is that it must be perceived as valuable in the eyes of your visitor.
How to Configure Lead Magnets
In the “Leverage Your Website” section above, we discussed how to promote a Lead Magnet. But how do you configure one?
When it comes to a download, I’ve found the best way is to host the document at your website and create a link to it in your Welcome email. This ensures that your visitor has provided you with an accurate email address and that they have been automatically entered into your ESP’s database.
If you’re providing discounts in your store, you can either include a discount code in that welcome email, or provide ongoing discounts in future emails to keep people subscribed.
How to Make Sure Your Emails Get Delivered
Even when someone has opted in to your email list, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to get your emails. There are roadblocks set up all along the way. Your email could be blocked by their Internet Service Provider (ISP,) their company firewall, or an overactive junk filter.
Choosing a well-respected ESP will help. Less reputable companies—that let anyone upload a list and blast it—are more likely to be blacklisted by ISPs.
Alert new subscribers on your landing page to be on the lookout for emails from “flyte new media” and “email@example.com”, replacing that with your real contact info (obviously). You can also ask them to “whitelist” you, but honestly, I don’t know anyone who actually does that.
Drop the dot biz. OK, this is anecdotal, but it happened to me. Dot biz domains attracted spammers and never got “gentrified.” Dot coms, nets, and orgs have better deliverability. Consider getting an additional domain just for email. (We considered flytemail.com until we were able to acquire takeflyte.com.)
How to Get People to Open Your Emails
Sadly, just because you ended up in their inbox doesn’t mean the battle is over. You need people to open, read, and act on your email.
Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:
Recognizable From Address: Make sure that your name (or company name) is recognizable to the recipient. If they don’t know who you are, they’ll just hit delete (or worse, spam.)
Compelling Subject Line: “Monthly Newsletter” never lit a fire under anyone’s butt. Instead, give them a compelling reason to open that email.
Sometimes it will be by telling them about the value they’ll find in your email:
10 Craft Ideas for Your Next Sleepover
What NOT to Say at Your Weekly Staff Meeting
Apartment Living: How to Teach Your Cat to Use the Toilet
Sometimes it’s about playing up urgency or scarcity:
Amazing Deals on Silver Jewelry This Week Only
Only 5 Spots Left for Our Vegan Cooking Class
Early Bird Discount End Friday!
Sometimes it’s about intrigue or making emails feel more personal:
Peter, Meet Jill [Where Peter is the subscriber’s name pulled from a mail merge and Jill is the expert you’re bringing into a webinar. Note: Michael Hyatt did this recently and I totally believed he was making an introduction to me!]
I need to reschedule lunch [which I recently used when I found out the time I had promoted for a lunch & learn was incorrect]
Tuesday [used for any deadline. Replace with “Fri night,” “Sat am,” or any other appropriate time.]
How to Get People to Read and Act On Your Emails
It’s recently been said that the attention span of the average Internet user is about that of a goldfish.
So, write for goldfish.
Here are some ways to engage your audience and keep their attention:
Have a mobile email template. Yes, I’ve said this before, but the number one activity on smartphones is checking email. Many people check their email on their phones before they even get out of bed, which means they’re doing that on their phone. If your email doesn’t look good on that small screen, you’re dead to them.
Use images. People are visual creatures and images are the universal language. Just make sure that you’ve got a descriptive alt-tag so that people who have their images turned off can “see” what the image is all about.
Keep it short. Yes, there are successful emails that seem to scroll on forever. However, most emails these days are “transactional.” They act to get people out of their inboxes and over to your website or sales page. Be as brief as possible in persuading them to take that action.
Include a clear call to action. We assume that people will know what we want them to do next. But they’re busy, and yours is one of 200 emails in their inbox, so spell it out for them. “Download our white paper here.” “Register for the workshop.” “Save 20% on all cat toys now!” Each of those are links, taking them to the specific area on your site you want to drive them.
How to Keep People from Unsubscribing
If you create an irresistible lead magnet, deliver email subject lines so enticing that they almost open themselves, but deliver content duller than nursery school scissors, your subscribers won’t stick around very long.
With every email you send you are only one click away from an unsubscribe.
Because of that, make sure you know what your subscribers want. For a retail store, it might be about new arrivals, what’s trending, or sale items. For a business consultant, her audience may be looking for an article on a recent change in import laws, managing remote workers, or exit strategies.
Whatever your audience needs, (over) deliver on the expectations you set out for them when they first signed up.
I hope it’s evident that your email list is critical to your online—and offline—success. So here’s the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version:
Sign up with an ESP
Create a compelling offer (lead magnet) on your site
Craft enticing subject lines
Deliver valuable content that’s easy to read and digest
Include an obvious CTA (call to action) to drive those clicks
Do all this and you’ll be generating traffic, leads, and sales for your business in no time!
If you need any help getting your email marketing set up, creating a lead magnet, or generating content for your email newsletter, reach out to us today!
Imagine a tool that could identify all the people who want to buy what you have to sell, right now. Wow, right? Wouldn’t that be absolutely amazing?
Brace yourself: that tool exists, and you’ve probably even heard of it.
All day long, every single day, all over the world, billions of people pull up the Google search bar and ask for help finding something they want…right now.
63,000 searches per second.
3.8 million searches per minute.
228 million searches per hour … and 5.6 billion searches per day.
No matter what your business does, I guarantee you that some of those searches are for a product or service or knowledge that you provide.
Ah, aren’t you clever, Rich! you say. But it’s not so easy, is it? I’m competing with nearly two billion other websites in the world. Out of all of the potential products and services available on the web, how can I make sure Google serves up mine?
Well I’m glad you asked!
One Way: ORGANIC SEARCH
We turn to Google because they consistently provide relevant answers to our searches. Their massive data operations analyze (or “crawl”) the web and use a complicated algorithm (math!) to sort and rank all the results and they do this very, very well. We know some things about this algorithm—mostly what Google shares with us—but no one outside of Google has the “teacher’s edition” with all the answers to why one site ranks higher than another.
On top of that, Google is constantly rolling out major and minor changes to its algorithm on a regular basis. Even for people who eat, drink, and breathe this stuff (like me!), the algorithm’s ways can sometimes be both mysterious and mercurial.
If you want to dominate Google’s organic results you’ll need to invest a good portion of your own time learning SEO and staying on top of the changes, or outsource a lot of this work to an SEO expert. This should help you rank higher and generate more search traffic and conversions. But even this may not be enough to guarantee you appear at the top of page one on Google.
And here’s why.
The Guaranteed Way: PAID SEARCH
Google is a business, and like any business, it needs to remain profitable. When Google identifies a search as having “commercial intent,” it will display up to four ads at the top of the page, pushing down any organic results.
What is commercial intent? Well, sometimes we turn to Google because we want to know something, and other times we turn to Google because we want buy something, and Google is scary-good at discerning between the two.
If you search for “best yoga positions,” Google guesses that you might want to switch up your workout routine and will display results showing you how to downward dog with the best of them. However, if you search for “best yoga mat,” Google will assume that your current mat is deteriorating quickly and will display ads showing where you can replace it.
Furthermore, if Google feels like there may be relevant local results, even the top organic results may be pushed so far down the page that it doesn’t show without scrolling.
If you want to appear at the top of a given search where Google is showing ads, you’ll need to engage in the bidding process known as Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords).
Anytime anyone does a Google search that has commercial intent, the results are split between organic and pay-per-click (PPC) placements. Google lists paid search ads first, local search results second, and general organic search results dead last. And I used “dead” there deliberately.
I’ve had many conversations with business owners and marketing directors over the years that tell me they don’t believe in the power of Google Ads because “I never click on those ads.”
Maybe you feel the same.
Well, I recently saw that Google made $33 billion (with a B!) from people clicking on Google Ads…in a single quarter! And that number grows every quarter of every year.
In a recent article by online advertising giant Wordstream, they declare there is a “war” on free clicks, and report that almost 2/3 of clicks for searches with high commercial intent go to sponsored results.
So maybe you’re not clicking on those ads, but someone is. When someone does a search for a product or service, they don’t really care if the first result is an ad, as long as it’s relevant. They may not even notice it’s an ad, since it looks like every other result except for a small, discreet, “Ad” tag next to it.
You may still feel that your organic results offer more value or provide a better ROI than paid results. However, this doesn’t matter for most small to medium size businesses.
Why? Because they aren’t ranking on page one for organic search queries they care about. After the first 10 organic listings, (and paid ads and local results) potential customers have no clicks left to give. Did you know that 3 out of 4 people never visit the second page of search results? When was the last time you ventured further than page one? If I don’t see a result I like in the top ten, I refine my search; I don’t keep digging in a dry well.
For some sectors like law, real estate, hospitality, or any item sold by Amazon, ranking on the first page of organic search results is just not realistic. Strategic, well-designed PPC campaigns may be the only way for a smaller business to take on the Amazons of the world—and win.
So, are you are saying that I have to pay for my clicks?
Probably. Do me a quick favor: pull up Google and type in any search phrase that relates to your business. Now, scan the first page of results. (Don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you get back.)
Did you get lots of organic results but no paid ads? Congratulations! Either your business is completely unique, your sector is underserved, or Google believes those search terms do not demonstrate commercial intent.
If your search terms do not demonstrate commercial intent or if your competitors aren’t trying to rank for them, you can safely focus on organic search placement.
Did you see ads atop the results page? You will need to spend money to rank for that term. And to get the most from that investment, you should have a sales funnel built to support it.
Okay, you’ve convinced me. How can I use paid search to connect with potential customers?
Google Ads has been set up so that anyone—anyone—can run ads on the platform. However, that’s a lot like saying anyone can play in the NBA. While that may be true, you’ll be competing against Google Ads experts who spend all their time on the platform. It’s not always a fair fight.
You have three options:
Go it alone. There are YouTube videos, online classes, webinars, and certification courses that you’ll need to invest in if you want to compete in a competitive field.
Hire a paid search agency or expert. A good expert should be able to provide you a positive ROI in a few months.
Go hybrid. Many agencies and experts can help you get things started, improve your click through and conversion rates, and then hand the reigns over to you.
Whichever path feels right for you, the following tips are just some of the ways we help your potential customers give a click about you using Google Ads:
Decide which words to buy and how much to budget.
The bidding on hyper-competitive keywords can get pretty crazy. Some business terms can cost $50 a click! That’s a “click,” not a “conversion” or even a lead.
If the first search terms you’ve tried are generating tons of well-funded PPC ads, don’t give up. Get specialized, and localized. Even the biggest companies leave gaps in their keyword strategy. Perhaps you can’t afford to invest in “destination wedding.” How about “seaside weddings” or “coastal Maine weddings”?
Hijack your competitors.
This may sound shady but it can be so, so smart—and I say this as someone who has had it done to me. People searching for flyte were being served up ads by one of our local competitors.
Ouch, right? It is possible to bid on your competitors’ names as long as you don’t use their name in your ads—and it be very effective. Just think of how flattered your competitors will be as you crush them!
Target your keywords. Refining your keywords is a great way to improve the quality of your results and that can often mean going negative. Searches for “gluten free bakery” do nothing for bakeries that aren’t gluten-free. If you love flour, make “gluten free” a negative keyword for your business.
Time it right. Your ideal customer may be more interested in your product or service at specific times. Business services tend to do better from 9 – 5. Date night restaurants might perform better on the weekend.
Keep an eye on quality. You don’t want all the clicks. You want all the customers. If your Google Ads results show a lot of what we call “pogo-sticking”—clicking on your PPC ad and coming right back to their search, never to be seen again—something isn’t right. Google can actually start charging you more per click if too many people pogo-stick your ads. Stop unsatisfactory comparison shopping and noncommittal clicks. If you aren’t getting conversions on your PPC ads, adjust your Google Ad wording or ask for a professional evaluation.
Make sure potential customers get what they came for. If someone clicks on your PPC ad after searching for a specific product or service and is sent straight to your homepage, you’ve just asked them to do their whole search all over again. Chances are, they won’t bother. You paid for that click and you want to profit from it, so send potential customers to a squeeze page or a product page. Better yet, do a split test on both destinations and see which one performs the best!
This is all about Quality Score. When I asked my co-worker John to review this article, he stated, “this is much more important than a lot of people may think.” He went on to say:
Quality Score (QS) is not a Key Performance Indicator (KPI,) but we recommend using it as a health indicator for your account to determine if you’re heading in the right direction. Google rewards you for having a high QS. The higher the QS, the lower your cost per click and cost per conversion will be, saving you tons of money. Let’s dive into what Google uses to factor a Quality Score.
CTR (click through rate)
Keyword relevancy to its ad group
Landing page quality and relevance
Google Ads historical data
According to WordStream, “no one outside of Google knows exactly how much each factor ‘weighs’ in the Quality Score algorithm, but we do know that click-through rate is the most important component. When more people who see your ad click it, that’s a strong indication to Google that your ads are relevant and helpful to users.”
More on Negative Keywords
Many advertisers don’t realize that their ads are being found for search queries that aren’t relevant. Depending on the keyword match type–Google gives you the ability to control how broad or narrow your matches are–you could be showing up for a totally unrelated search.
If a user was searching for “accounting jobs” and Quicken was bidding on “accounting” for their QuickBooks software under broad match, their ad could show up, thus wasting money on a click that isn’t qualified for their business.
The larger the ad, the more Google “real estate” that is taken up on the top of the first page. Site Extensions help you acquire that land. You can add as many extensions as you want. Some extensions include your physical location, your phone number, your seasonal sale, and extra links to other pages on your website, in addition to your landing page.
Landing Page Experience
I can’t express how many times we see a landing page for a paid ad go to a homepage or a contact page.
As mentioned before, your landing page impacts your Quality Score. This doesn’t necessarily mean the layout of the page. Google looks more at if the keywords that you’ve been bidding on appear on the landing page and has the same message as your ad.
For example, if you are a landscaping company and you’re bidding on tree removal keywords but you are sending people to your general services page which discusses lawn care, snow removal, patio designs, and tree removal, that’s not good. The landing page should be strictly about tree removal because that’s why someone clicked on your ad.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As I mentioned, Google designed Google Ads to be an accessible way for any business owner to bid on search terms and, for the most part, that’s how it works. That doesn’t mean that newbies will get the same results as pros, however.
Companies that focus on paid search ads have a few advantages that you might not—like access to highly specialized analytics and software tools to measure experiences and optimize results. Here at flyte, we invest in some of the best (and sometimes most expensive) tools out there to help our clients succeed. If you don’t have the time or resources to develop a strategic campaign and sales funnel, measure and evaluate your responses, and optimize your PPC ads, you may not get the most from your PPC investment.
It doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like the idea that Google sells ad space at the top of their search results. It doesn’t matter if your organic results are “better” or more relevant than the paid ads that push you further down the page.
The bottom line is that businesses have almost always had to pay for visibility, and the search engines are no different.
Paid ads, when done right, can be a cost-effective way to acquire new customers and generate leads and sales. You can also measure the ROI of every ad you run, something that’s not quite so clear when it comes to organic results. That means you can shut off underperforming ads and double down on ads that show positive results.
If you need help on your journey to the top of page one, contact us today for a free consult on setting up and optimizing the Google Ads that will drive sales for your business.
How do you get started uncovering the best SEO keywords for your website?
What are the tools and techniques to understand the words and phrases your ideal customer is looking for when they search at Google?
And do keywords even matter in 2019?
We’ll take a look at how to get started with SEO keywords, how to brainstorm new ideas for keywords, and how to use different tools to come up with new ideas in this article.
Are Keywords Still Relevant in 2019?
For years, Google has been telling us (website owners) to focus less on keywords and more on providing valuable content for our visitors. To encourage this behavior, Google has been removing keyword data from our Google Analytics for years, replacing specific keywords that were generating leads and sales with the nondescript “(not set)” and “(not provided).”
Google has also improved its semantic search results, meaning that Google understands that “foreign national” and “non-resident alien” are related, and a web page on the former may answer a query on the latter.
Google also looks at a lot of other factors in determining ranking, such as the number of inbound links a page has, the trust a website has built up, and the average time spent on the page, just to name a few. This may lead people to believe that keywords aren’t relevant any more.
However, “keywords” is just a fancy word for…“words.” And we always want to be using the language our ideal customers are using. (Remember that whole Tower of Babel thing? Never again.)
Even if Google understands the relationship between “rhinoplasty” and “nose job,” our prospects will respond more favorably to language they use and understand.
Choosing the right keyword for your page title can increase clickthrough rates in the SERPs (search engine result pages) which should increase your ranking over time.
So, yes: keywords still play a critical role in search engine optimization and your ability to turn visitors into leads and customers.
What Steps Are There In Keyword Research?
If you’re just getting started with SEO, or you’re in the process of redesigning your website, you may not know how to get started with keyword research.
In working with clients over the past 20 plus years, we’ve found that keyword research can be broken down into three important steps:
Brainstorming: generating a list of keywords that your ideal customers may be searching for.
Testing: using tools to measure how many people are searching on specific keywords, and what your competition (from other sites) is for those keywords.
Content creation: writing the copy that features and highlights your keywords.
In this post I’m going to focus on the first bullet point, brainstorming the keywords that will attract your ideal customer.
How to Brainstorm Keywords for SEO
The goal with brainstorming is to come up with as many keywords as possible that your prospects might use at Google. The trick is to not be critical of any ideas right now, but to just generate as many of them as you can.
You can start your brainstorming by yourself, with your team, or by bringing in some current customers and clients.
No idea is too strange, too narrow, too broad, or too random.
To generate as many usable keywords as possible, I use 5 perspectives when brainstorming keywords, and then I dig a little deeper. Here are the five perspectives that help generate the widest variety of potential keywords.
Brainstorming Keywords for Your Products and Services
This is the most obvious, and where most of us start. What are the products, services, or offerings that you bring to market?
If you’re a dentist from Boston, your list might include:
wisdom teeth removal
and so on.
I’d probably include “Boston” in conjunction with many of these terms, and potentially the neighborhood (Back Bay) and surrounding neighborhoods (Kenmore, Fenway,) where the practice resides.
You might also include related products and services that you don’t offer, but are related to your business such as “dental insurance.”
Which Keywords Describe Your Prospects’ Problems
Some people are fixated on their current situation, whether it’s “employee turnover” or “rotting drywall.” Once you’ve generated keywords that are all about you and your offerings, it’s time to take a walk in your customer’s shoes. What are the problems that your customers face before they start working with you?
Think about your current customer base. Why did they choose you? What were they struggling with when they first came through your door? How would they describe those problems?
If you get a lot of leads through your contact form, review those for pain points.
Flipping the Script: Keywords for Solutions and Benefits
Some people search on problems, others search on solutions. We want to help these people, too. What are the real or perceived solutions, benefits, or positive outcomes that your customers get from working with you?
Whether it’s “whiter teeth” or “greener grass” many people search on a desired outcome. They’re not searching for the means, they’re searching for the ends. If you included “stage fright” in the previous perspective, add “speak with confidence” now.
Brainstorming SEO Keywords Around Your Features
Although good sales people sell benefits and not features, that doesn’t mean people aren’t searching for “water views” or “sweatshop-free clothing.” On the web, everyone fancies themselves an armchair detective, doing as much preliminary research as possible.
People who search for specific features are often ready to make a purchase, and those are the kind of people you want to be in front of. They have their mouse in one hand and their wallet in the other.
Generate a list of all the features you have to offer whether it’s “four wheel drive,” “8.0 megapixel,” or “all inclusive.”
Should You Use Your Competitors as Keywords for SEO?
I’m not talking about the other orthodontist down the hall, and I certainly wouldn’t include any competitors’ trademarked names. However, there may be several ways your prospects might solve their problems, only one of which is yours. Brainstorm a list of all the ways people may overcome their current situation without engaging you.
Personal trainers may lose business to “treadmills,” costume shops “thrift stores,” and dog trainers to “invisible fences.” Whether you plan on debunking or co-opting these phrases, you want to be there when your prospects search for alternatives.
Niche Down Your Keywords with Descriptors and Modifiers
As you worked your way through these five perspectives, it’s likely that you already through in some descriptors or modifiers that better define your offerings.
It’s going to be nearly impossible for most entrepreneurs to rank well for broad terms such as “travel,” “dermatologist,” or “credit card.” To appear on page one of Google, you’re going to niche down.
Sure, there will be a fraction of searches for “Portland family friendly oyster bar” vs. “restaurant,” but those searches will be much more relevant and likely to convert.
Consider all types of modifiers to find these niches:
You can come up with even more words by searching for some of your favorite keywords in Google.
The first place to look is in the search box itself, with Google’s “suggested search.” Type in something like “how to cook vegan” and Google provides a number of popular searches.
Further down the page, you might find a People Also Ask box, with related questions.
And at the very bottom of the page, you’ll find Searches Related To, which can generate even more keywords.
Discovering Top and Trending Keywords
Outside of the SERP, Google Trends offers more good keyword ideas. Google Trends is a tool that allows you to track and compare multiple keywords over time and by location. For brainstorming ideas, scroll down the page to find Top and Rising keywords.
You can include these keywords in your list, and they may spur some additional brainstorming as well.
Organizing Your Keywords
By now you should have brainstormed a long list of keywords for SEO. Keywords that describe your offering, your prospect’s problems and desired outcomes, specific features, and outlined any competitors you may face in the marketplace. In addition, you’ve dug a bit deeper and uncovered potential keywords from the SERPs and from Google Trends.
Now it’s time to organize these keywords based on your products and services. This will help you when it’s time to test these keywords in head to head competition.
As with any brainstorming exercise, there are no wrong answers. However, just because you think someone might be searching for “passive aggressive detective agency” or “mango-based alternative fuel” doesn’t mean they are. You’ll need to test your list with a keyword research tool to test your assumptions and re-write your website copy to include your most effective keywords in places where they will make a difference.
But that’s a topic for another day.
Need help brainstorming keywords for your SEO? Or do you need to analyze your keywords to determine which ones are most likely to attract and convert more of your ideal customers? Or are you looking for an SEO copywriter to create persuasive copy that ranks well?
I was meeting with the 207 producer at a local coffee shop to plan out our next few episodes. Because of a previous meeting, I was driving there and I grabbed a parking spot right outside! Unfortunately, it came with a coin-fed meter, and I had no coins!
Then I noticed the sticker that said I could pay with an app. I downloaded the app, paid the fee, and made my appointment.
That experience led to a discussion about all the ways we now use our phones, and we decided that would be a topic worth investigating. A callout to my friends on Facebook and I had a plethora of creative ways people were using their phones.
Check out the episode below and watch to the end for a little experiment I’ll be running between 207 episodes!
We hear it all the time from the small and medium-sized businesses we work with: “Facebook ads don’t work for us.” Yes, they know Facebook ads are increasing in popularity (advertising on Facebook has more than doubled in the past two years). Yes, they have seen the statistics (an almost 10% conversion rate across industries). But they gave it a go … and they got nowhere.
No clicks. Just crickets.
And yet here I am, telling them (and you!) they need to try Facebook advertising again. Why? Facebook advertising is one of the most powerful audience and sales-building tools in your small business toolbox—if you know how to use it. If you learn how to use Facebook ads effectively (or hire a professional to help), you will get better results.
I see businesses expand their audience, showcase their products and services, generate leads, and convert new customers with Facebook advertising every day. I know that most failed Facebook ads are totally fixable with a little fine-tuning (and sometimes better funding). If you have a failed Facebook ad campaign, try working through the checklist below to see where things went wrong and how to make it right.
Find your audience on Facebook and filter it.
There are over two billion active users on Facebook, so it’s a safe bet some portion of those people are your potential customers. It’s also a solid bet that most of them aren’t. Making sure your Facebook ad is seen by the right people—and hidden from the wrong people—is absolutely essential to its success.
Even with increasing privacy controls and concerns, Facebook’s unprecedented amount of user data makes it very easy for you to find your people. For most businesses, demographics or psychographics based on personas or existing customer profiles will yield a promising audience.
All too often, people try to target the widest possible audience and not the most worthwhile audience. Don’t pay for pointless clicks! In any pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, strategic screening saves serious money. Once you have identified your audience, filter it.
Are you promoting a business seminar for women? Filter out men. Is your discount only for in-store purchases? Filter by geographical area. Smart filtering can keep you from accidentally alienating your existing customers, too. Running a signup special? Filter out existing customers and they won’t feel left out of the savings.
Create your Facebook ad and test it.
You don’t need to have or hire an advertising guru to create an effective Facebook ad, although that really helps. You do need to be clear, creative, and concise, and willing to do a little split testing right from the start.
KNOW YOUR GOAL AND HOW YOU WILL MEASURE IT
Why are you buying Facebook advertising? To sell widgets, raise awareness of a cause, or get more subscribers to your email list? Your objectives need to be marketable and measurable.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
COLD AUDIENCES don’t know you and they don’t completely fit the profile of your current customer base. When you are launching a new product or service or expanding into a new area, you are often addressing a cold audience—the most challenging audience of all. Your Facebook advertising will need to give them a very compelling reason to come closer and warm up to you.
LOOKALIKE AUDIENCES may or may not know you, but you know a lot about them. They share key characteristics with your current customer base such as age, interests, and income, and you can be fairly confident that marketing messages that have worked for your customers and clients will resonate with them.
WARM AUDIENCES are friendly or have straight-up friended you. They have visited your website, signed up for your email newsletter, purchased a product or service, or interacted with you in some way. They like you and they are ready to learn or do more.
CREATE OR IDENTIFY THE NEED No one is on Facebook looking for your ad. If you want to pull their attention away from posts by family and friends, you need to give them a very good reason. Sales and discounts test well with audiences as do smart solutions to problems and pain points.
FIND AN EYE-CATCHING VISUAL
The data is undeniable—visually compelling content is given preferential treatment in the Facebook algorithm and is more likely to catch eyes, “slow the scroll,” and create interest. Gather a couple of images you think will work, make sure they are properly optimized for your ad size, and commit to testing them against each other at the start of the campaign.
A VIDEO IS WORTH A THOUSAND PICTURES
Facebook advertising is on the move. Video ads are slowly taking over our streams, and there’s a very good reason for that: video ads typically have higher recall and conversion rates. If you decide to jump into the director’s chair, make sure your video ads are short (I recommend 30 – 60 second ads) and use captions to make your point even when muted. Over 85% of Facebook video ads are played silently.
DEVELOP A COMPELLING CALL TO ACTION
You caught a prospective client’s glance across a crowded screen. (Yes! Facebook advertising is romantic!) Now you need a clear call to action to convince customers to make the next move. Both your closing argument and your button text should make your best case.
KNOW HOW YOU WANT TO FOLLOW UP
You are paying for every precious click, so think carefully about where that click should take potential customers. Don’t dump everyone on your homepage and hope they find what they want.
If you advertised a sale, send them to a landing page featuring a special assortment of discounted items. If you offered inside knowledge or insight, serve up your best blog post on the topic or ask for their email in exchange for an in-depth e-book. Anyone who clicks on your Facebook ad should go straight into a well-designed sales funnel.
And even if they click the back button or don’t make a buying decision right then, you can take advantage of remarketing opportunities so you can recapture their attention at a later time on Facebook.
If you ran a Facebook ad campaign without using Facebook Pixel you won’t really know if your ad is succeeding or failing. Facebook Pixel, a piece of code you add to your website, collects crucial tracking data on conversions that allow you to follow your leads around the web and follow up with them effectively. Especially with cold audiences, clicking on a Facebook ad is just the first step in the sales funnel. Facebook Pixel lets you grab hold of your leads and guide them where you want them to go!
Budget your Facebook ad like you believe in it.
I know this is hard—especially if you feel you’ve been burned on Facebook advertising before—but the primary reason Facebook advertising campaigns fail is for lack of funding. Facebook wants your ad to succeed as much as you do. After all, advertising dollars are how Facebook succeeds.
Your ad’s exposure is constantly calibrated by the Facebook algorithm from incoming user data to find the most favorable conditions. The more opportunities people have to interact with your ad the better it can be optimized. When you launch your brand-new Facebook ad into the world, it has a lot to learn—and that education costs money. There’s only one way to speed up that learning process and that is to pay more upfront.
So how do you decide how much is too much? For most small- and medium-sized businesses, Facebook advertising is a powerful customer acquisition tool. When you know the customer lifetime value (CLV) for your business, you know how much it makes sense to invest in your ad.
If you are short on cash or the CLV isn’t there, settle in for a slow burn. If your offer is time-sensitive, you need results right now, or your CLV is stratospheric, reach for your wallet and feed the beast.
Give your Facebook ad time to succeed.
First, build in a testing phase. Remember the 2-3 images I asked you to select? It’s time to test them against each other. You should also test different versions of your headline or call to action.
In the early days of a Facebook ad campaign your results are data, not dollars. Your ad is live, yes, but early data can only help you decide on the most effective elements for your Facebook ad, not whether or not your campaign is a success.
You did so much preparatory work. No matter how dazzling or disappointing the initial results, don’t pull your ad too fast! If you aren’t getting the response you want, fine-tune your Facebook ad before you declare it a failure. Let the algorithm find its rhythm.
Often it takes repeated viewings to convince customers to make that click. Studies show that many people don’t even notice an ad until the 7th – 9th showing, on Facebook or in traditional media. Given time, your Facebook ads will find clients and customers and start filling your sales funnel…assuming you’ve followed the steps above.
Think about your last failed Facebook ad campaign. Did you skip any of the important steps above? Maybe it’s time to give that ad another chance.
If you don’t want to go on this Facebook advertising journey on your own, or you want to get back to doing whatever it is that you do best and leave Facebook ads to people who eat, sleep, and live social ads, let me know. There’s nothing more fun than fixing an “almost there” Facebook ad campaign for another small business.