How Do I Market My Business with Email?

How to Market Your Business with EmailEmail 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!

Exporting your email list to take it with you

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 is Intimate

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.

Email is for Selling

Every year we run our annual Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, and being mindful marketers, we pay attention to where our marketing efforts are having the biggest impact.

Year after year email is the winner.

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.

Period.

The Inbox is Boardwalk

BoardwalkYour 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:

Mailchimp LogoMobile-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.

Email Signup Box

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.

New vs. Returning visitors in Google AnalyticsTo 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.

Blog Header

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 “contact@notquiteflyte.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.

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.

What’s Next?

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!

Do Google Ads (Adwords) Really Work for Small Businesses?

Do Google Ads Really Work for Small Business?

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.

Paid Search Results trump Local and Organic results

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Hire a paid search agency or expert. A good expert should be able to provide you a positive ROI in a few months.
  3. 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:

  1. 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”?

    Do your keyword research!
  2. 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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    Dayparting Ads
  3. 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.

  4. 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
    Ad Relevancy
    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.” 

    Google Ads Quality Score can drive down your PPC costs

    Thanks, John!

  5. 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.

  6. Site Extensions
    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.

  7. 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. 

  8. 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.

See you at the top!

How to Brainstorm SEO Keywords for Your Website

How to Brainstorm Keywords for SEOHow 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).”
 
Keyword 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:
  • dentist
  • veneers
  • family dentistry
  • pediatric dentist
  • 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: 
  • Location (city, state, or neighborhood,)
  • Age (child, adult, senior,)
  • Gender, (male, female, men, women, boy, girl…gender fluid)
  • Price point (bargain, mid-range, luxury)
  • and so on.

Bonus Round: Finding Keywords in the SERPs

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.
 
Google Search Suggest for Keyword Ideas
 
Further down the page, you might find a People Also Ask box, with related questions.
 
People Also Ask Box for Keyword Ideas
 
And at the very bottom of the page, you’ll find Searches Related To, which can generate even more keywords.
 
Searches Related Box

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. 
 
Google Trends Related Top Queries Report
 
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?
 
Let us know where you’re looking for help today!

How do we use smartphones? Let us count the ways…

How did we even survive before smartphones?!?

How did we even survive before smartphones?!?

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!

Four Steps to Fix a Failed Facebook Ad Campaign

Four Steps to Fix a Failed Facebook Ad Campaign

“I advertised on Facebook and nothing happened!”

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

How to Rank Higher In Local Search

How to Rank Higher in Local Search

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

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

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

Local Pack vs. Localized Search Results

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

How Are You Doing in Local Search?

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

How to Improve Your Local SEO

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

Start Your Local SEO Journey with Google My Business

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

Get Inbound Links from Local Websites

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

Get Reviews to Improve Your Local SEO

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

What Are Citations and How Do You Get Them?

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

Where Can You Dig Deeper Into Local Search Factors?

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

Feeling Overwhelmed?

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

How Algorithms Skew Your World View

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

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

Here are some notes from my research:

What is an algorithm?

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

Can you give us some examples?

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

How are algorithms used online?

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

Where else do algorithm impact us?

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

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

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

What can we do to avoid the algorithm effect?

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

Additional resources on algorithms:

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Are You Measuring the Right Things?

Are You Measuring the Right Things

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

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

Are your metrics vanity or value-based?

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

Is a bigger email list always better?

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

How many hits do you have?

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

So, what should you measure?

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

GDPR: Gathering All The Data

GDPR Compliance

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

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

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

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

How to Use Facebook Groups to Grow Your Business

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

Why Facebook Groups?

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

Getting Started with Facebook Groups

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

Growing Your Facebook Group Audience

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

Getting More Engagement in Your Group

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

Monetizing Your Facebook Group

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

The Downsides of Facebook Group

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

One Last Thought

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

Next steps

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

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