SEO - Duct Tape Marketing

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Why You Should Focus on Designing an SEO-Friendly Website

Why You Should Focus on Designing an SEO-Friendly Website (And How to Do It)

Your website is the heart of your online marketing efforts. So it stands to reason that it should be built with marketing, rather than aesthetics, in mind. Yes, there is something to be said for having an appealing website, and you should certainly aim to design one that has both form and function. But the mistake that a lot of small business owners make is focusing on form exclusively, and that is where they miss a major opportunity.

Your website can be the most beautiful one in the world, but if you don’t focus on its function, then it’s all for naught. If you want to build a successful website, you need to start with a solid SEO framework to build a site that is easy to find and works seamlessly with your other online marketing efforts.

Why SEO Matters

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what gets new prospects onto your site. If someone does a Google search looking to solve a problem that they have, and your business is capable of solving that problem, you want your website to be the first one that they see. Think about your own browsing habits: How often do you look at the second, third, or fourth page search results on Google? If your site isn’t ranking on the first page of results, you’re not being seen by the majority of people.

Start with Keyword Research

Ensuring high rankings on search results is why it’s critical to begin the website design process with keyword research. Start by brainstorming the terms you would search for if you were looking for the good or service your business provides. This can and should be a long list—write everything down and don’t self-edit. Google Search Console can also help you identify the terms that are already driving users to your site, which might help you reframe your own thinking on the list.

Then begin to winnow the list down to 12-20 terms; some that speak to the fundamentals of your business and some that speak to a specific intent a user might have when searching. These keywords will inform all of your website design choices from here on out.

Think Like a Search Engine

The way that a human sees your site is very different from the way Google sees it as it crawls through sites looking for information relevant to a given search. You want to make sure that as much of your content as possible is in HTML text format. Images, Flash content, and Javascript are often not seen by search engines as they’re crawling sites, so if all of the important information about what your business does is displayed on your page within these dynamic formats, it’s possible that Google is skipping right past your website when looking for relevant words or phrases.

Using a tool like Google Cache Checker will allow you to see what your website looks like to Google. If your pages are showing up mostly blank, you know that search engines are missing out on crawling the majority of your content, so you’ll want to restructure your site to be more HTML heavy.

Consider Website Structure

In addition to thinking about the way a search engine will see your site, you want to make sure you’re building a structure that makes sense for SEO and for visitors.

Creating a site map can be a helpful way to think about content and flow. What information do you want to group together? What is the logical path that visitors will take when navigating your site? How can you make it easy for users to get from one relevant piece of information to another? And how can you structure your website in a way that enriches the customer journey and encourages users to move down the marketing hourglass?

Once you’ve thought about the user experience aspect of your site, it’s time to think about structure from an SEO perspective. Creating a site with crawlable link structure is critical to making sure that all of your content is seen by search engines. There are a number of reasons why your links might not be crawlable, including if they’re for pages that are hidden behind submission forms, if the links are within the aforementioned Java content that search engines aren’t able to see, or if there are hundreds of links on a given site (search engines will only go through so many links before hitting a limit).

Create Rich Content

Of course, this effort you’ve put into creating a site that’s easy to find, functional, and appealing will all be useless if your site has sub-par content.

As I’ve said before, the goal of this content should be to establish your business as a leading authority in your field. This valuable content will serve you across the board. It makes prospects come to trust you and moves them to the try and buy portions of the marketing hourglass. When you continue to generate new, rich content, it drives existing customers back to your site for more information, keeps you top of mind with those customers, and makes them more likely to repeat and refer.

Not only that, but when your website is filled with valuable content, and you continue to add more on a regular basis, you generate a stream of information that you can use to drive users to your site. You should be housing all of your content—blog posts, webinars, case studies, podcasts, white papers, and infographics—on your website. Then, as you share links to all of this valuable content on social media or via your newsletter, you’re directing all traffic back to your site.

A website, no matter how good it looks, is nothing without a solid approach to SEO. Your website is the most important piece of your online marketing strategy, and so investing the time, energy, and money in creating a site that ticks all of the boxes for form and function is a worthwhile endeavor.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

small business SEO

5 Steps to Small Business Search Engine Optimization

The video above is a replay of a recent live webinar I conducted. Combined with the text below you should have a pretty good feel for the steps necessary for small business SEO.

If you’re looking for a highly technical post on search engine optimization (SEO), this is not the content for you, and honestly, that’s because I don’t believe SEO is that technical (unless you have an e-commerce site, in which case it can be). There are elements you have to understand, but you mainly have to apply the right tactics on a consistent basis.

So, without further ado, here are the five steps that I would recommend for small businesses as they dive into their SEO efforts.

1. Strategy First

Back in the day, people would get a website built, they’d get somebody to put content in the website, and then they’d find somebody to “SEO the site,” but you can’t approach SEO that way today because every aspect of your total online presence is so highly integrated (see image below), that you really have to think about all of the components at the same time.

small business seo strategy

This is why I put such a strong emphasis on focusing on strategy first.

When focusing on your strategy, start by developing a list of problems that your target audience is experiencing that you can help them solve. Conduct keyword research around this list of core themes and identify the top five or so topics that you’ll produce content around. So, instead of writing about your products and services, you’ll write about, in detail, the problems your audience is facing and how to fix them.

Content is such a big part of SEO these days. You must create content that your audience will want to read and find useful, which allows you to make a connection to the solutions that you sell. That’s how you think strategically about search engine optimization.

The key is to hone in on four or five core topics and start producing content around those. Your website structure and content need to revolve around these few themes which will make your content development easier and more focused.

To develop these themes, I brainstorm a bunch of topics, and then there are a few tools I use to narrow them down:

Google Keyword Planner

This is a free tool from Google that is a part of Google Ads and is often used by advertisers to figure out what search terms and keywords they should bid on, but it’s also a great tool for giving you data on what search terms are being searched for.

In addition to monthly search volume and competition, Google Keyword Planner also gives you a suggested bid for the term, and while you aren’t using this for advertising purposes per se, it can help you see which word may generate more conversions or sales because people are willing to pay more for it in their advertising, which is a good clue it could be a good word for you to target with your content. Decent volume and a higher suggested bid could be good indicators that those are good themes you should go after.

Keywordtool.io

This tool gives you questions that people are asking which often show high intent (questions are great for voice search SEO as well).

Answer the Public

When you type in a search term, this site will give you a bunch of variations and questions people are asking related to that term.

Google Auto-Complete

If you just start typing a keyword into the search box on Google, it will start to suggest what terms they think you’re after or related common searches (there are also related searches at the bottom of the search page). These related terms are often ones that have high volume.

google related terms

Keywords Everywhere (Chrome Extension)

When you type in a search term in Google, this extension will provide a sidebar on the right side of search engine results pages that shows you related keywords and other things that people have been searching for, as well as volume and cost per click.

Once you have the handful of themes that you’d like to move forward with, I’d recommend creating what I call hub pages that have a lot of related links driving back to them, including block posts related content that you produce over a year or so. From a structural standpoint, I’d make these hub pages prominent tabs on your main site navigation (more on the hub content later).

2. Google My Business

Once your strategy is in place, you have to essentially bow down to Google, especially if you’re a local business. For local businesses, Google My Business has become one of your most important search engine optimization assets.

Google My Business is also how you get into Google Maps that show up above the organic listings. To determine who shows up in this 3-pack, Google factors in the proximity of where you currently are, but it also factors in if your Google My Business listing is properly optimized. To optimize your listing:

  • Make sure it’s claimed
  • Make sure there aren’t any duplicates of the listing
  • Add a specific and relevant category
  • Include your company’s name, address, local phone number, and website (these should match the information on your website)
  • Add photos and videos
  • Add positive reviews (these are a huge ranking factor on their own) – Be sure to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative.
  • Publish Google Posts

To be effective with your SEO, small businesses need to not only take advantage of Google My Business, but the entire Google Universe as well, including Google My Business, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Ads, because they all integrate together to help you get the results you desire.

3. On-site ranking factors

If you’re trying to optimize a page for a keyword phrase, you get to set the:

  • URL of the page
  • Page title (meta)
  • Header tags – H1 and H2
  • Alt image attribute
  • Page content

Take a look at these elements on the page you’re reading now – you’ll see SEO tips and strategies for small business in a number of places because that’s what this page is optimized for.

So, include the keyword in those areas! Now, this is not to say you should keyword stuff because you shouldn’t. You still want to write for humans, but be sure to take the opportunity to get your most important keywords in these areas. The page title, meta description, and URL also influence the snippet that shows up in search engine results pages (meta description isn’t an actual ranking factor, but it is a click-through factor, kind of like an ad for somebody to click).

I use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, which is a free plugin that helps me optimize this metadata. I highly recommend using it!

To supplement these on page efforts, you must control your Google Search Console as well. This is where you tell Google what’s on your website. To do this effectively:

  • Claim and verify your profile
  • Add your sitemap
  • Check your messages
  • Integrate it with Google Analytics

4. Content Hubs

I spoke about this briefly earlier in the post but thought I’d dive a little deeper. Content is no longer just a tactic; it’s like the air that’s necessary for your marketing efforts, which is why these hubs are so important because this content becomes such an important asset over time.

If you were working with an HVAC contractor, for example, this is what a hub page (Guide to Air Conditioning Repair) with its various sections may look like:

small business content marketing

On these pages, you’d include links to all of the content you’re writing about these topics as well curated content from other websites that are related, creating a link building structure that shows Google all of this content is related. It essentially shows Google that you have useful content for your audience. Remember, the guide itself will be in your main site navigation.

If you create 4-5 hub pages over the course of the year and just keep building upon them, they will be huge assets for your business.

Here’ an example of a hub page we’ve put together for Duct Tape Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Local Marketing.

5. Off-site ranking factors

These are things that you do have some control over, but they’re not on your website (although typically point back to your site). These are other factors that tell Google what your site’s about, what people think about it, that it’s important, etc.

Clean data

Make sure all listing and directories are accurate across the web. This is especially important if your business has moved. Your data needs to be consistent. There are a few tools that can help to ensure your data is clean including Yext and MozLocal (both offer free scans to see where you stand and can help you fix them).

Links from other sites

If people link to posts on your site (a backlink), this tells Google that people think you have great content on your site. It acts as a popularity vote. Good places to look to add links to your site include:

  • Alumni sites
  • Strategic partners and suppliers
  • Local events
  • Media
  • Chamber of Commerce

Reviews

When people write about your business and type in what a business does well, Google recognizes this. The following are areas to add reviews:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Industry-related review sites

Social signals

When people talk about you on social media, Google pays attention to those mentions.

Domain authority

You have less to do with this, but it’s a huge ranking factor. This factors in how many links back to your site are from important sites, how long the domain has been around, and so on.

To recap the information above, you must have a plan; you must take advantage of the Googleverse, you must optimize and pay attention to on and off page ranking factors, and you need to build content hubs.

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to Small Business SEO.

voice search

How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search

As we are all aware at this point, voice recognition technology is continuing to get better and better, in fact, it is now believed to be 95% accurate. As users, we’re adapting to this new voice revolution rather quickly (almost 1/4 of mobile search queries are voice search), yet marketers and SEO specialists seem to be lagging behind a bit when it comes to optimizing for this new way to search.

If you’re in the marketing world, it’s time you start paying attention to voice search optimization to help you show up in search results via this method.

While optimizing for voice search requires slightly different tactics than the search engine optimization techniques we’re used to, they can benefit your website as a whole, regardless of how a person is searching for you, so implementing these best practices is really a win-win.

Aim for the Featured Snippet

Position zero, or Google’s featured snippet, is now the most coveted spot in search engine results pages for many reasons, but becoming the top result for voice search is now one of them.

A featured snippet is meant to be a quick answer to a question (as shown in the screenshot below), which is typically what people are looking for when they are using voice search.

voice search optimization

If you are able to land this spot in results pages, you’ll be more likely to be the result found in voice search results. According to a survey by Backlinko, 40.7% of all voice search answers came from a Featured Snippet.

With the featured snippet, simple answers (such as asking a celebrity’s age) are answered directly as they are facts. For more expert/opinion-based posts, search engines will pull content from websites they think are the best fit to answer the question.

Helpful tips to get to that desired spot include:

  • Knowing and addressing your audience’s intent
  • Doing your keyword research
  • Creating high-quality content that answers questions
  • Implementing SEO best practices
  • Focusing on easy-to-follow formatting

At the end of the day, aiming for the Featured Snippet should be a top priority regardless of how people search, but it can really give you an extra boost with voice search.

Optimize for certain types of keywords

As most people in the marketing world know, when it comes to SEO, keywords are, well, key. They are at the core of your content strategy and help you identify and respond to audience intent.

When it comes to voice search, you need to think about keywords and SEO a bit differently as these search queries tend to be a bit longer than type-based search. Because of this, you really need to put an emphasis on long-tail keywords.

Additionally, when people use voice search, they’re typically more conversational than when they type terms into a search box. Be sure to create content around conversational phrases. Having an FAQ page on a site or Q&A related blog posts can be easy for search engines to pull from since questions typically come across as being more conversational. I like using Answer the Public to find questions related to search terms I’m trying to rank for. I definitely encourage you to check it out!

When it comes to SEO, I don’t really condone shortcuts as SEO should be looked at as a marathon, not a sprint, however, research is showing that there are some common trigger words that may help with voice search that you could add to your target keyword phrases to help you get found through voice search. These terms include, but are not limited to:

  • Buy
  • Get
  • Find
  • Top rated
  • Closest

Granted, don’t include these in all of your content, but you may want to consider sprinkling them in here and there.

Understand schema markup

If you’re asking yourself what schema markup is, I highly recommend starting your research (and don’t be deterred by code, this is important stuff!). Not only does it bode well for search optimization in general, it may also be one of the most important factors to ranking for voice search.

In a nutshell, schema markup helps search engines understand the content on a page. By including it on your website, you make it very clear what that page is all about, making it easy for search engines to scan.

Invest in mobile optimization

For SEO in general right now, it is imperative that your website is mobile-friendly. Google primarily cares about user experience and are now pulling the experience on mobile devices over a desktop for SEO. I’d recommend moving to a responsive design and ensuring mobile site speed is quick to avoid penalty.

Since so many voice searches are done via mobile device it’s essential you are optimized to help get found in mobile results.

Focus on content

While this may seem like a no-brainer at this point in the SEO game, there are a few specific tips that you should pay attention to specifically when it comes to voice search:

  • Ensure your content is simple and easy to read
  • Aim to write long-form content (roughly 2,000 words) as that’s typically what Google pulls from for voice search
  • Answer your audience’s questions and solve their problems with your content
  • Write/speak naturally in your content (this goes back to people using conversational phrases when using voice search)
  • Share your content on social media regularly, as those tend to perform better with voice search

Stick with SEO basics

Lastly, don’t forget about the basics of SEO. The more you follow those best practices, the more Google will reward you. Just because there are new aspects to consider doesn’t mean you should forget about the existing elements.

  • Be sure to optimize on-page elements with relevant keywords including URL, page title, header tags, alt text, meta description, and within the copy itself.
  • Build a backlink and review strategy.
  • Ensure your site is secure.
  • Focus on page speed (according to Backlinko, the average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page).

I say this all the time but it never seems to be enough: build out your total online presence. Create the best user experience you can and you’ll see the benefits roll in.

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO.

quick fixes for SEO

Quick Fixes to Turn Your SEO Around

Let me be clear, SEO is absolutely a marathon, not a sprint. To do it well, it takes a lot of time and effort and needs to be a continuous practice.

With that being said, there are a few low-hanging fruit items that you can address first that can help turn your SEO efforts around (or kick them off) quickly.

Interested in what I’m talking about? Read on.

Focus on keywords with intent

With the way people search online these days, the key to SEO is understanding your user’s intent. What problems, questions, or goals do they have?

Did you know that if you’re already ranking on the first page of Google, providing the best answers within your content to questions your audience is searching for can potentially land you a featured snippet in search engine results pages? That’s huge!

People may express problems in ways that turn into key phrases, so content today has to be customer-focused.  To discover your customer’s intent, look at emails that you’ve sent. Talk to your sales or service reps. What questions are they answering?

I also find that tools such as Keywordtool.io and Answer the Public are extremely useful because they turn up actual questions people ask about specific terms, which is one of the best ways to find intent in a search phrase.

In addition to intent-based keywords, looks at the keywords your competitors are using as well and brainstorm ways to target those in order to compete in search rankings.

Use these target keywords within your content to help get found online.

Find and fix broken links

No matter how great your website is, broken links happen. External website URLs changes, pages get taken down, the list goes on. While it’s common, having broken links on your website can have a negative impact on SEO (404 errors are a big issue). It all ties back to Google wanting to provide their users with the best customer experience possible.

If you find a broken link on your website, either remove it or update it to the current link (or swap it out with an even better, more current one).

There are numerous tools you can use to identify these links without having to manually go through each page on your site. One of the tools I highly recommend using is Google Webmaster Tools. With it, you can not only identify broken links, but you can also see how your site looks from Google’s perspective.

Moving forward, if you decided to change any URLs on your site or remove any pages, be sure to set up redirects that drive to an existing page to avoid getting penalized.

Develop a backlink strategy

Link building is the new networking and is essential for your SEO efforts.

When I talk to business owners I often hear that link building is one of their biggest challenges, so they don’t always put a lot of effort into it because it can become burdensome and frustrating for them. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be that way.

They key is to create amazing content (this ties back into your keyword research strategy as well). By creating linkable assets, such as videos, how-to guides, infographics, and podcasts, you’ll be able to attract backlinks from other sites that want to link to that content. Share this content on your social platforms, via email, and with your strategic partners to help them spread the word with their networks.

In addition to creating this amazing content on your site, consider:

  • Being a guest on a podcast – check out the numerous benefits of this tactic here
  • Guest blogging on a credible site
  • Leveraging partnerships – Consider writing testimonials for your partners and include a link back to your site in the review.
  • Networking in person – Build those relationships!
  • Getting added to citations and directories

Don’t forget to add internal links throughout your site either. This can also help boost your SEO and it’s within your control.

At the end of the day, reputable backlinks will help to keep your site relevant in search engines.

Focus on the basics

It’s always good to go back to the basics and focus on your on-page SEO. Here are some tactics to keep in mind:

  • Include your target keyword or keyword phrase in your page title, meta description, H1 tags, URL, and organically within your page (don’t keyword stuff)
  • Ensure the page title is less than 65 characters and that the meta description is between 50 and 300 (this limit was increased this year)
  • Add internal and external links to your pages and posts
  • Label the image alt text with the topic you’re writing about

Additionally, do a review of your blog posts and optimize past content. See what links are dated and update them. Do your keyword research and see if there are newer and better keywords to target for the posts. Swap out old CTAs and replace with new ones. Keep your content current and show Google you’re staying active. It will benefit your SEO efforts.

Lastly, do a crawl of your site to ensure there isn’t any duplicate content. While this may sound like a no-brainer, after you’ve been developing content for awhile, it can be difficult to pinpoint what you’ve already written about (it could have been created years ago!). While writing about the same topic is OK, just make sure the content itself is unique from page to page or post to post.

That’s it for today! What low-hanging fruits have you grabbed onto that have produced good results for your business?

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO.

seo 2018

The Most Effective SEO Tactics of 2018 Thus Far

We’re almost halfway through the year (what?!), which makes it a good time to start taking a look at what’s working as it relates to your SEO efforts so that you can plan accordingly moving forward. We’ve seen a lot of people increase their SEO budgets this year, which isn’t surprising, as it’s a significant piece of your marketing puzzle.

Here are the SEO tactics that seem to be working thus far.

Master keyword research

The importance of keyword research hasn’t changed over the years, but how we approach them has.

Your keyword strategy is the driver behind your content efforts (and in turn, your SEO efforts). Keywords should be used to identify user intent and search behavior.

Focusing your content on long-tail keywords gives you a better chance to match the intent of the person searching for you.

I’ve been using my keyword research to help me identify content hub themes every month.

Content hubs are fully foundational pages that have tremendous amounts of value about what the theme is, with blogs and other resources that people can click through to for further information.

I not only have internal pages driving back to this one hub page, I also include links to external, high-quality content on the page that can also be linked back to the hub page.

With so many pages driving to one another, you’ll start to gain a lot of trust and authority from Google, which will help your SEO efforts.

Think about the context of your content

As many marketers know at this point, Google’s primary job is to provide people with an excellent user experience, and because of this, they want to make sure their users get the best possible content provided to them based on the search criteria they’re looking for.

Gone are the days that you can just skim over a given topic. Today, you must take a deep dive into what you’re trying to cover so that a user can get all of the information they’re looking for in one place.

I’ve seen people say your post needs to be 2,000 words to be effective, however, I say use as many words as necessary to get your point across thoroughly. What’s worse than not hitting 2,000 words, is rambling on about nothing for the last 1,000 of those words. Think quality over quantity.

Focus on link-building

When I talk to marketers I often hear that one of their biggest challenges is link building, and because of this, putting a strong effort towards it is often put on the backburner, but this is a big problem.

Although rules and tactics have changed over the years, the heart of SEO still revolves around content and links. Without great content, you’ll never get links, so if you’re looking for a place to get started, create that amazing content. By creating linkable assets, you’ll be able to attract backlinks from other sites that want to link to that content.

Now, don’t forget internal links either. Linking to other content on your site can also help boost your SEO and it’s a low hanging fruit to grab onto.

Improve CTR

What you find on Google’s search engine results pages has changed over the years with different types of ads, answer boxes, and so on (that’s as of today, who knows what will show up tomorrow).

With so many places to click through to, it’s no wonder that click-through rates (CTR) on SERPs has declined for companies over the past few years.

So, how do you avoid this? Master the art of developing CTAs and copy that scream to be clicked on. This applies to ad copy as well as copy that shows up in your organic posts (such as the copy that can be found in your page titles and meta descriptions).

Optimize for mobile

Have you heard of Google’s mobile-first index? It’s exactly how it sounds. Google is now ranking search results based only on the mobile version of the page as opposed to taking both mobile and desktop versions into consideration. This makes sense from a customer experience standpoint as the majority of Google searches are done on a mobile device these days.

This is not good news for people who have put the majority of their time and effort towards desktop functionality.

Moral of the story is if your website isn’t mobile optimized, you’re going to take a hit when it comes to SEO. Some people think they can get by with their website being technically mobile friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly optimized. Keep your visitors’ experience in mind and make sure the mobile version provides the best one possible. It will increase your odds to get found on search.

Use video and other visual elements

According to Cisco, online video will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021. That number is startling, but does it really surprise you? It’s hard to ignore video, this medium can be so engaging!

So, while us marketers have been talking about video for years now, it’s time to really get serious about it.

Seems like a foreign concept? Start with YouTube! Not only is it easy to use and embed on your site, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and it’s owned by Google, which, from an SEO standpoint is a major plus (have you started seeing YouTub videos appear in Google Image search yet?).

In addition to video, be sure to include relevant and intriguing images on your site to help break up the written content on a page. Check your image file size to make sure it isn’t too large as that could slow down your site speed (a red flag for Google).

Be a guest on a podcast

I talked about this topic earlier this year but believe in the power of it, so I thought I’d revisit the topic, although you don’t commonly hear about it as a best practice for SEO. Here are a few of the benefits you’ll receive by being a guest on a podcast:

  • Access to a highly engaged audience
  • Easier than writing guest blog posts
  • You’ll establish real emotional connections
  • It becomes a highly shareable piece of content
  • You’ll gain credibility
  • Potential for online reviews

Combine the points above and you’ll create a recipe for SEO success.

Keep things fresh

Google wants to see that your site is active. In lieu of constantly posting new content, figure out ways to re-purpose existing content as well as ways to update that content. This can really help your SEO efforts without always having to reinvent the wheel.

Seems like a lot? It is, but don’t forget you have the ability to outsource these tactics to a specialist if you don’t think they can get done in-house.

Are you implementing the tactics mentioned above? What are you struggling with the most? What tactics are you seeing success with?

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO.

shareable and useful content

The Value of Discoverable, Shareable, and Useful Content

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch About Creating Useful Content

There’s no way around it, there are a lot of marketing channels today. I’m counting eighteen as of now (which can obviously change very quickly).

When I started my business we had six or seven ways to reach our prospects and customers. A lot has changed.

One of the things that I think is important to understand, first off, is that you don’t have to play in every channel. That’s one of the things that causes a lot of stress with a lot of business owners and marketers today.

What you do have to do is get very good at playing in the right channels, and additionally getting very good at integrating those channels (or at least understanding how they support each other).

That’s a challenge for a lot of people. We look at social media, content, SEO, and PR, and we think that they’re all separate tactics out there doing separate jobs.

When you look at them together, and actually intentionally think about how they can support each other, you amplify the effect, or the impact, of each.

In this post, we’re going to focus on three of these channels: content, social media, and SEO.

While those are separate channels, content is air for marketing today. It really powers every step in the customer journey and is one of the most essential marketing channels out there.

In fact, it probably is not really even fair to consider it a channel anymore, because it’s like the gasoline that goes in the car. You really have to have it no matter what kind of car you have.

I want you to think these channels, and make sure the content you produce in each is discoverable, shareable and ultimately useful.

Discoverability

Discoverability is often seen as an SEO play, and frankly, that’s what it is, but content drives SEO today. There are many search terms that are competitive, so everybody is out there competing for the search terms that they want.

People try to rank by doing effective keyword research, using targeted messaging, and knowing a lot about their users. It’s a good idea to develop a sense of intent as well in order to implement on-page SEO best practices.

While this all helps to make your content discoverable, you have to start with a content strategy that says “yes, we want people to find that, but that’s not where we want them to stop.”

Shareability

Once the content is discovered, the degree that it is shared will determine how widely it is distributed. By thinking about shareability of content, you’re multiplying the impact of search engine results because shares are going to draw links and other important SEO signals. They are going to increase your audience, which is going to draw more people. 

If we build our content with the idea that we can get a higher share rate, one of the benefits to that is that you actually don’t have to produce a ton of content.

If you produce content that is focused on:

  • How to do something
  • Why to do something
  • Lists
  • Great headlines
  • Great calls to action in the content
  • Using impactful images
  • Mobile usage

Then you can build your SEO-optimized content and make it much more shareable.

Shareable content is going to evolve your social media. This is one of the best ways to think about your content in the social media space. Making your content shareable will help expand the reach of people outside of your immediate network.  

Useful content

As I said in the beginning, I think the ultimate measure of success of any SEO plan is the degree to which people who discover and share your content, also find that content useful enough to quote, bookmark, link to, and consume deeply.

This idea of linking your content together to make it even more useful is an important part of trust building in the journey. If people have a problem, they go out and search for a problem, not for your solution.

They may not associate what you offer with their problem, but they’re trying to get a problem solved.

If they go to your website make sure you address their problem and give them an entire guide for how to solve it. Link together eight or ten pages, or at least associate all of your related content to a topic in a way that you’ve packaged it to make it easy to consume.

That’s the content that people not only love to share, but they love to link and bring other people to it as well.

It’s the kind of content that is going to make your SEO more effective, and make your content more discoverable because Google sees the signals that are being sent to that content.

It’s the kind of content that is ultimately going to lead people to buy your products and services, because you’ve addressed their problem, and made it easy for them to consume the content. You built trust signals, which is going to help you show up on page one of Google, which is huge. 

You’re giving somebody a reason to dig in on their own, and discover that what you sell is going to actually solve their problem.

That’s how you have to think about content.

There are a couple of metrics that I love to look at when I’m trying to analyze somebody’s content. I use tools, like Ahrefs, to see the number of keyword phrases driving traffic to page one.

I also like to use a tool called BuzzSumo. One of the things that it will do is dive into your content from a social media standpoint and will answer questions like:

  • How much sharing is going on?
  • What kind of content gets shared the most?
  • Who’s linking to it?
  • Who’s Tweeting it?
  • What is the length and format of the content?

It really breaks down all the sharing activity that goes on in your content.

I love to look at that kind of shared data because in many cases it will clearly point to your best content that’s being shared. Most of the time, that’s longer content that is more in depth, and that people find very useful. 

The value of your organic traffic is also a tremendous metric to really allow you to see how you’re stacking up.

Typically, what happens is your content becomes more discoverable because it was useful. It’s more shareable because it was useful. So it’s like this vicious, positive cycle that ends up making your traffic and visits worth so much more.

mobile marketing campaign

How to Create A Mobile Website That Gets Found By Google

Here’s the thing, as a society, we’re constantly on the go and Google has adapted to this sort of lifestyle. Because of this, in order for your website to succeed to it’s fullest capacity today, it needs to work well on mobile devices.

Just because it’s ranking well on a desktop does not mean the same results will translate over to search results on your phone. It has never been more important for you to have a mobile-friendly website.

There are a plethora of additional factors you need to keep in mind when it comes to mobile optimization that I’m not going to include in this post, but in order to get started, you need to lay the foundation of the website, which I plan to help do for you with the information below.

The three options for mobile website configuration

When it comes to getting found by Google on mobile devices, there are really only three ways to set up your site for mobile. I should warn you, I’ve listed the three below in the order of the one I least recommend to most recommend, so be sure to keep reading to find out my top recommendation.

Separate URLs

With this configuration, you have the desktop version of your site as well as a mobile version of your site. Your site will detect the type of device a user is using and will direct them to the best URL for that device.

The thing is, this type of setup is rather time intensive and difficult to manage for numerous reasons, one of them being that these mobile websites have a lot of SEO issues (which kind of defeats the purposes of trying to build a site that will get found by Google).

Dynamic Serving

With this setup, all of your content is on the same URL, but every user sees different code depending on the device they’re using. This is better than the option above, but it’s not without its own problems (for example, it often mixes up the two versions). Plus, as we all know, technology is always changing, and if a new device gets invented, guess what? You’ll need to create content for that new device.

Responsive design

Ding, ding, ding! Here’s is the one I recommend you go with. With this configuration, your page’s content and layout respond to each user depending on their device (without the need to separate URLs or use different code). This is definitely best practice these days.

Plus, it’s SEO friendly (Google even recommends this method), so if for no other reason, I’d say go this route for that alone.

Mobile landing page best practices

At the end of the day, the goals of your marketing efforts are likely to get people to convert, so you must ensure your landing pages are as efficient as possible to do just that. Keep the following in mind when you put them together:

  • Make them responsive (hopefully, you paid attention to the last section of the post)
  • Avoid adding images with large file sizes as this will impact load time (more information on the importance of site speed below)
  • Add your call to action above the fold – In fact, include the majority of the important information near the top of the page as well.
  • Get to the point. Make it clear what problems you’re solving and what your visitor will get in return.
  • Keep PDF formatting in mind. If you have somebody download, say, a content upgrade, like a guide that’s in a PDF format, remember, those don’t always format well on phones. Consider including mobile-appropriate formats instead.
  • Make buttons “thumb friendly” – Don’t make them too small or out of place; your thumb needs to be able to navigate the screen.

Why speed matters

Site speed has historically been a ranking factor for search engine results pages, but it’s moving closer and closer towards the spotlight. At the end of the day, Google wants to provide users with the best experience possible, and let’s face it, nothing is more annoying than when a site loads slowly.

Not to scare you, but Google actually recommends that your mobile site loads under a second. This is definitely easier said than done, but it’s a good goal to strive for.

I’d recommend checking out Google PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your site loads on mobile devices. It will also give you recommendations on what to change to help your site load more smoothly.

Some of the recommendations may include:

  • Compress your images – reducing file size can help speed up load times
  • Cache your site
  • Load above the fold content first
  • Cut down on redirects

To make sure everything is functioning properly, it’s important to implement Google Analytics on your site so that you can track performance. Wherever you see any shortcomings, be sure to address them promptly.

As you can see, the good news is that as intimidating as it may sound, it really isn’t that difficult to create a mobile website these days. The hard part is simply getting started.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to check in throughout the rest of the month as I’ll be writing more about the topic of mobile optimization, including mobile content, mobile campaigns, and mobile email. Stay tuned!

Need more mobile marketing tips? Check out our entire Guide to Mobile Marketing. For more on website design, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

missing the boat

Why You May Be Missing the Boat When It Comes to Local SEO

If you own or work for a local business within your community, you simply can’t ignore local SEO if you want your business to stay competitive. People need to be able to find you in local search results, and businesses near the top of the search engine results pages don’t show up there by accident. They put in the time and effort to make sure they get found.

If you have started implementing local SEO tactics but still aren’t where you want to be in search results, you may be missing some key elements. Below are a few common reasons businesses may be missing the boat when it comes to local SEO.

You’re ignoring the importance of on-page elements

On-page factors are important for SEO in general to make sure you get found online, but there are a few things you really need to be paying attention to when it comes to local search. If you want to reach local prospects and customers, you should include the name of the city or area your business serves within your page title and meta description. This will help notify both Google and prospects of where you are. Including your location within your website content is important as well. Be sure to also include your name, address, and phone number (NAP) on the homepage of your website as another area that can alert Google where you are located.

You’re not paying attention to your citation profile and inbound links

The majority of consumers use search engines to conduct local searches, but many businesses don’t claim a single local business listing online, which is a problem.

Google relies on hundreds of data aggregators and directories to help them keep all the local businesses straight. Getting your listing right on search engines is essential. If you’ve moved or changed your name, address, or phone number (NAP), or just listed it in numerous ways across a bunch of directories, there’s a good chance Google isn’t sure which listing is accurate, which can hurt you in terms of getting found online.

Google wants to send people to the right physical address. I’d recommend investing in a tool like MozLocal to see where your business stands. If you find that there are a few inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete listings use MozLocal, BrightLocalWhiteSpark or Yext to clean up listings and get rid of inaccurate duplicates.

In addition to being listed on directories, such as Yelp, make sure your business is included in local directories, such as with your chamber of commerce or tourism associations, as well.

Your Google My Business listing isn’t optimized

While Google My Business is technically a listing, it’s a big one and comes with its own set of optimization requirements. It is imperative that you pay attention to, claim, and optimize your Google My Business Listing. To get everything set up, visit google.com/business.

Unfortunately, there’s a chance you may have some cleanup to do. Confirm you only have one listing for your business and that it’s the one Google thinks is yours.

Once the right listing is claimed, take full advantage of the real estate and linking options available. This is essential for your business to show up in the desired Google 3-pack for local searches.

Your Google My Business Listing must be optimized and include the following:

  • Solid information including a description, business hours, and so on
  • An accurate category
  • Photos or videos
  • 5-star reviews

Note the exact way your NAP appears in the listing. Whatever is listed as the NAP on the listing, you’ll want to use it consistently on your website and across all directories and online mentions. If you don’t have a location customers or clients can visit, you can hide your physical address as you’re setting up your Google My Business listing.

Online reviews aren’t a priority to you

Google sees reviews as one of the elements that help determine what businesses show up in the 3-pack, but as you may be aware, reviews aren’t always easy to get. Even a business with loyal and satisfied customers must work to get them.

The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review for you, such as on Google My Business listings and Facebook. You can always repurpose these reviews in other areas such as in email newsletters or on your website.

Tools like GetFiveStars and Grade.us can help automate the process of review collection to help lessen the burden on you.

If you run a local business, it’s important to make the steps above a priority. You may find that local leads drawn from organic search can become your most effective lead generation channel.

Remember, whenever a review is left about your business, positive or negative, it’s important to respond to it. It shows others reading the reviews that you care what your customers think and that you are willing to dedicate time to their own unique experiences and needs.

You don’t understand schema markup and are not using it

If you’re not familiar with schema markup, it’s a good idea to brush up on this topic so that you know how to use it. You should be conversational and knowledgeable on the topic, but you don’t really need to know anything about the underlying code to get markup right. Just visit Schema.org’s Local Business NAP generator and fill it in – the tool will produce the HTML code you need to add to your client’s site in place of their current address.

In a nutshell, search engines are trying to adopt a consistent markup protocol to help use HTML code to identify things such as businesses, reviews, addresses, movies and so on. However, few businesses are using this on their websites, and if they are using it, they aren’t using it to its fullest potential.

Here’s the thing, by using schema markup, you’re not being sneaky. Google actually wants you to use it because it helps them better determine what the content on your website is all about.

You’re not creating local content

When you create content, you need to go above and beyond to let local customers know where you are.

It’s easy to get spammy when a lot of local content is listed and this can hurt you, but you can absolutely talk about where you work. Consider creating specific pages with case studies for specific neighborhoods that you cater to. It’s important for you to use your blog to talk about local events, the community, your customers, and employee-related local news.  By doing so, you are able to mix up your content in unique ways.

Are you implementing all of the recommendations above? If not, identify the areas you need to work on and really try to optimize them. This should help improve your rankings in search engine results pages and properly compete with your local competition.

SEO tactics

Master These 3 Things and Your SEO Plan Will Come Together

Let’s de-mystify search engine optimization. I want to help you understand that SEO is not only important, but it’s something you should really master to a degree for your business. You should have the ability to handle SEO on your own, or at least be able to find somebody that is reputable and not just trying to rip you off.

First and foremost, SEO must be built into your overall marketing strategy from the beginning. Unlike the old days where people would build websites and then want to “SEO it all” once the website is complete, today they work in conjunction with one another in order to achieve the results you desire. Bottom line, today everything has to be infused with your SEO strategy.

On top of that, to be effective you must understand who your ideal client is and what core message you want to convey. Once you have that down, you can go to work on an editorial plan that helps to make content the voice of your strategy. Your website should be scheduled around that key content.

So, how do you get started down this SEO journey? Don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it may seem. I’ve broken the most important components of a sound SEO strategy into three categories. Let’s get to it.

Keyword content

Keyword research is a practice SEO professionals use to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines. At the end of the day, the root of SEO is keyword research. By this, I don’t just mean keywords, but keyword phrases as well. Keywords are a strategic part of understanding any businesses. Having a clear understanding of the terms that people search for gives you great insight into their intent and what they are looking for.

It can be easy to be blinded by the jargon within your industry which is why keyword research is so important. It allows you to see what people are actually searching for. Although you may think you know what they are typing into search engines, that is often not the case.

So, how do you conduct keyword research?

Start by making a list

This will help you gather ideas of what your audience may be searching for. To start the list, consider the following:

  • Brainstorm – Think back to emails, phone calls, and other areas customers may have voiced questions or problems and start putting a list together that could lead you to common keywords.
  • Wikipedia – The table of contents on a given topic can be very helpful for adding keywords to your list.
  • Google related terms – These are the terms that appear at the bottom of search engine results pages that show terms that are related or similar to the one you typed in.

The point of all this is to structure the content on your website around 10-12 keyword phrases to create content that is relevant for your audience.

Google Keyword Planner

When it comes to keyword research, the Google Keyword Planner is the workhorse of most small businesses. This tool is currently available to anyone who has an AdWords account. It allows you to type in any search term and it will give you recommend keywords and the number of searches it receives each month. It will also show you suggested bids, so if something is highly searched and has a high bid, then there’s a good chance that that term must be converting because people are willing to pay more for it in AdWords.

Niche themes

Once you develop your foundational keywords, you can really start building your content. A few tools I like to use include:

  • Keywordtool.io – It will actually show questions that people are asking around a term, which is a great way to discover phrases and understand intent.
  • Google Trends – This is great for businesses that have products or services that rely on seasonality.
  • Auto-complete in search engine results pages (SERPs) – In addition to related terms, I also take a look at the auto-complete phrase Google will show as a dropdown while you’re typing in your search term. These phrases are often very useful.

The content connection

Once you have one to two dozen search terms down as well as ~6 foundational terms, you can tie it to content. In addition to site structure, I suggest that you pick out a theme for each month based on keyword research. This makes content development much more streamlined and helps to ensure you get the content needed for Google to recognize you as an authority within that given theme.

At this point, I want to bring up one of my favorite tools: BuzzSumo. While it is a paid tool, in my opinion, it’s worth the investment. You can put in any search term and it will show you the most-shared content for that term to give you great content ideas but also an understanding of where interest lies.

On-Page SEO Basics

Once you start writing the content, there’s another important factor: on-page SEO. On-page SEO represents the tactics you can implement on the page itself to help you get found in search engine results. Be sure to include your keywords in the following areas to increase the odds of getting found in search engine results:

  • Copy
  • Header tags
  • URL
  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • Alt text

While it’s important to use keywords in these areas, don’t keyword stuff! Google will penalize you for it.

Yoast is a great WordPress plugin that allows you to make sure your on-page factors are well-optimized. You can also put in your focus keyword and it will assess whether or not you used it enough within the key areas.

Authority signals

Signals are all the other things that aren’t on your website that contribute to SEO.

Authority signals are often underestimated but are huge. Back in the day, link building was a numbers game, and people were gaming the system by purchasing links in hopes that the more links they had, the more search engines would recognize them. Search engines took note and began penalizing folks for going about it this way. Today, while link building is still important and relevant for SEO, it’s much more about quality vs. quantity.

To get quality links today, consider getting links from associations and strategic partners, or even through guest blogging on other sites that drive traffic back to your own. Using a tool like Ahrefs, you can look at competitors and see where they’re getting their links from to help you build your link building strategy and to get ideas of who else you should be reaching out to.

In my opinion, one of the best places to get links is from websites that are running guest content that link back to your site. In addition to blogs, consider reaching out to a podcast within your industry that will link back to you in show notes and through mentions in the episode itself.

Bonus consideration – Local SEO

For businesses who do most of their business in their own community, there are other SEO considerations to factor in in addition to those I mentioned above. A few things to consider include:

  • Do you have a claimed and optimized Google My Business Listing (and only one per business location) with:
    • Name address and phone number
    • An accurate category
    • Reviews
    • Images or video
  • Does your homepage include your name, local address, and local phone number?
  • Does Google display an optimized snippet in search engine results pages?
  • Are you listed consistently across directories (Yext is a great tool to help you clean up your listings)?
  • Are you creating local content?

All of these are ranking factors when people are looking for businesses locally, so be sure to pay special attention to these if you fall into the local category in order to rank above your competition.

As you can see, search engine optimization really doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. By mastering the recommendations above, you’ll be well on your way to putting together a solid SEO plan.

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO.

in-house or agency SEO

In-House vs. Hiring an SEO Professional: Which Path Should You Choose?

Search Engine Optimization is an essential part of the marketing mix today – few businesses can afford to ignore or abdicate this tactic. If you have a well-optimized website, and a content-driven SEO strategy, you are guaranteed to improve your rankings. Yes, guaranteed. 

Implementing a sound SEO strategy isn’t tough, but you need to do it right, which begs the question, “who should run and manage the SEO side of your business?”

Staying In-House vs. Choosing a Professional

It all comes down to the needs of your company. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s likely that one of your biggest pain points is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. There are few business owners who have the time to create content consistently while keeping up with day-to-day tasks of the company. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to kick off and manage an in-house SEO program.

While ongoing SEO tasks should be in every entrepreneur’s wheelhouse, it’s likely they’ll require outside professional help as well to ensure the program is successful.

Don’t believe me? Here is just a handful of the many tasks that should be considered for an effective SEO plan:

  • Blog posts – at least two/month, but ideal 4-8/month
  • Social media posts – 50-200 posts/month across major social media platforms
  • Guest blog posts – Occasional for relevant third-party sites
  • Ongoing reputation and citation management
  • Ongoing backlink analysis
  • Email marketing
  • PPC advertising
  • Marketing automation for lead capture and remarketing

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the numerous tasks that need to be taken care of for an impactful SEO strategy.

Ignoring Google altogether is no longer an option. Business owners need to sit down with the people in their organization and decide if they are going to take on these tasks themselves, hire a permanent role in-house to dedicate to this or seek help from an agency.

This isn’t always an easy decision. As a first step, I’d recommend identifying your website goals and SEO budget. Consider meeting with an SEO expert to weigh in on what is possible within your budget so that you can properly set expectations. Keep in mind, the dollars you allocate to SEO are an investment, not an expense.

Once you have a good understanding of your budget and goals, you need to decide between staying in-house and going with an agency.

Why I’d recommend agency over in-house

For small businesses, I recommend going with an agency.because you don’t have any training or management responsibilities, and it is often the most cost-effective option, provided you find an agency that follows best practices and delivers consistent results. Business owners must do their due diligence to find the right SEO partner.

There are many reasons why I think going with an agency is the best option, but one is that when you hire an agency, you’ll have an SEO expert who will outline his process and strategy. He’ll have experience working with other companies and dealing with challenges in real-time. These experts are forced to stay on top of their game by monitoring SEO and Google updates on a daily basis. If you hire a person in-house, you’ll never know if they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, because SEO isn’t your area of expertise, it’s there’s.

Additionally, agencies take a team-based approach and are able to help you with a variety of things including content generation (which isn’t always in an in-house person’s wheelhouse). Working with an agency will also give you access to premium SEO, social media, and tracking tools that you would likely not justify spending money on if it was out of your own business’s pockets.

How to choose the right agency

There are many ways to screen an SEO agency before engaging with one. It’s important to ask for proof. Unfortunately, many companies misrepresent and their achievements and don’t practice what they preach. To make sure you’re getting the answers you need, below is a list of common SEO questions you should be asking:

  • Have you done SEO for a business like mine before?
  • What references can you provide?
  • Can I see your recent case studies?
  • What is the primary metric on which you focus your SEO? – Look for customer leads, sales, and conversions.
  • What can you tell me about your approach to link building? – Look for quality over quantity.
  • When will I begin to see results? – SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Expect initial results within 4-6 months.
  • What type of marketing or SEO-related certifications do you have?
  • How much does SEO cost? Expect to spend a minimum of $1000/month for basic local SEO services. Most legitimate SEO companies will charge between $2000-$5000/month.

That’s my two cents. You can absolutely find quality SEO professionals to hire in-house, but over the years, I’ve seen small businesses find much greater success going the agency route.

If you’re implementing an SEO program in your small business, did you hire in-house or hire an agency? Why?

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