5 Things Business Owners Should Know About SEO

Thinking about investing in SEO but not sure if you should?

SEO, also known as search engine optimization,  is one of those things that is simple in concept but difficult in practice.  SEO also means lots of things to different people.  A social media strategist will most likely have a much different definition of what SEO is compared to someone with a background in outreach and link building.  SEO encompasses so many areas that even many so-called “experts” have a hard time actually defining what makes up SEO.

SEO can also be done on your own if you're willing to take the time to learn how to do it.  It's not rocket science, but it takes a lot of time and dedication to learning all of the little technical things that, when added together, form a solid SEO strategy.

But the truth is, most businesses don't have the time to learn how to do SEO properly, at best they may learn a part of it and do that part well, which may be good enough if you are not in a competitive industry/market.  But if you are in a competitive market and you want to make SEO a core part on your marketing strategy, you'll have to either really dedicate the time to learn about it or invest the money in hiring someone who does.

Small businesses don't have a lot of extra money lying around, so they tend to search out affordable SEO solutions.  Unfortunately, the majority of affordable SEO solutions don't work, some may even be a complete ripoff.  You can watch this video to learn more about how much SEO should cost.

Good practice is to speak to similar companies investing in SEO and that are having success with it.  If their company is a similar size and market as yours and they are spending $2,000 a month on SEO, then don't expect to spend $200 a month and be an SEO rock star.

Before you decide to invest your time and money on SEO, read some of the tips below to learn more about what you are getting into.

It Won't Fix a Broken Business

If your business is struggling and paying for SEO is your last ditch effort to save your business, then you can probably kiss it goodbye.  For starters, SEO can take several months to start to show any sort of returns (see below) and it's not going to fix underlying problems going on with your business.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or have trouble closing deals, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water you need from the faucet by cranking up the water pressure, you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.

Many times businesses will approach us wanting SEO, but once we examine their business we realize that there are more serious issues that need to be addressed before starting an SEO campaign.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or can't close a deal to save your life, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water pressure you need from the faucet by cranking up the water volume.  You'll get water out of the faucet, but you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.

 

Don't Expect Meaningful ROI the First Few Months

If you need online leads now, then concentrate on Pay Per Click advertising or some other form of advertising where you can generate business fast.  SEO isn't a quick win, it doesn't return an immediate ROI like advertising and the results during the first several months can seem ambiguous.  But this is also the same reason most businesses never do it, or at least do it properly, they only think in the short term.

SEO can pay major dividends, just ask anyone doing it successfully, but you need to have the time, patience and money to let it develop.  It's a long term investment and will return the best ROI for you if you give it enough time.  SEO is like a Flywheel, it's really hard to move in the beginning, but as you slowly turn it, it starts to pick up momentum where eventually it's spinning like crazy even with minimal effort on your part.

 

SEO is Not Cheap

No, you're not going to create an online empire by paying an overseas company $300 a month to “optimize” a dozen keywords for you.  SEO, when done right, is labor intensive and requires a lot of expertise to do right.  It's not rocket science, anyone can do it if they spend enough time learning about it (think years), but there are so many factors involved in good SEO and so many things that will either waste your time or get you in trouble.  So you either need to spend the time to do it right or pay the right people to do it for you.

Factors involved in pricing SEO services:

Industry – Some industries like finance, legal and healthcare are extremely competitive online so it's harder to establish yourself with high search engine rankings.  There are much more highly competitive industries, these are just some examples.  Industries with a high potential return when acquiring a new customer (real estate, finance, etc), tend to be very competitive online, which requires more expertise and work to compete with established players.

Location – If you're in a big city like New York or Toronto, then your potential audience is much larger, which also means increased competition.  The bigger the potential payday, the more competition, the more time and energy it will usually take to get good search engine rankings.  So if you want to compete nationally, expect to pay a lot more for SEO than if you wanted to compete in just your city or a section of your city.

Competitors – How you stack up against your competition also plays a role in how much you will pay for SEO services.  If you are just starting out online and your competitors have been building their online presence for years, you will have a pretty big gap that needs to be filled in order to catch up with them.  It's like starting a marathon where you competitors had a 6-hour head start, you'll need to haul ass just to catch up with them, let alone beat them.

 

Understand What Metrics Really Matter

You need to know what metrics to track so you can understand what progress is.  SEO is not like advertising where you pay for an ad and then track how many leads are generated.  Pretty cut and dry.  With SEO, the work (and money you spend) now may not create results for several weeks or months down the road.  So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to

So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to localize and personalize search results.  And Google has all but removed organic keyword tracking inside Google Analytics, so it is very difficult to measure results at the keyword level even if you were ranking #1 for that search term.

Besides, ranking well for a single keyword is unlikely to get you the results you're looking for.  A better metric to track is overall organic growth traffic, measured over time.  You can also do page level tracking, where you track the metrics on individual landing pages on your site that you know you rank high in the search engines for.  You'll also want to measure non-branded search terms, general terms like, “plumbers in Austin”, vs, “Joe's plumbing in Austin”.  The idea with SEO is to attract new customers who don't know you, so you want to remove searches by people that already know you (branded search terms).

 

You Have To Participate For It To Succeed

If you love the idea of ranking high in the search engines and getting a steady supply of traffic and leads each month through organic search, then you need to commit to it as a marketing channel for your business.  Businesses that fail when it comes to SEO usually do so because they either had the wrong strategy or they didn't commit enough resources (time and money) for a long enough time for it to really take hold.

SEO is not like advertising, where you run a newspaper ad for 3 months and then stop if it didn't produce the kind leads you wanted.  When it comes to SEO, there is a period of time where you have to commit to it without really knowing if it is going to work.  That could be many months, depending on your industry and the resources you put towards it.  There will also be many times when you think you should pull the plug on it because you're not seeing results.  As long as you know you have the right strategy and are working with the right people, SEO is about time and effort.  Almost anyone who is successful with SEO can tell you that in the beginning, they had no idea if it was going to work and had doubts about continuing.  What they will all tell you is that they are glad they stuck to it.

 

Is SEO a good option for your business?

SEO is not for everyone.  Hopefully, you learned a few things here that will help you make a better decision when it comes time to invest in SEO for your business.

Have questions about SEO or looking to speak to someone about how it can help grow your business?  Contact us here to learn more.

How To Create a Highly Effective Marketing Plan For Your Business

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face – Boxing Quote

Why do military leaders spend an unbelievable amount of time planning for a battle when they know 80% of their plan will go out the window as soon as the fighting starts?

It's because the discipline of planning every detail will allow them to make smart and accurate decisions on the fly, which would not be possible if you did not take the time to plan beforehand.

Same goes with marketing.  If you don't plan out your marketing strategy, you'll always be on uneven footing as you did not take the time to really analyze your business, your competitors, and your customers.  Every hour you spend planning will save you two hours of headaches and mistakes later on.

Thorough planning gives you a deeper understanding of how your marketing will work and will make it easier to spot potential dangers and pitfalls along the way.

Most entrepreneurs want to take action, which is great, you just need a good plan to take action on.  So if you are serious about creating a rock solid marketing plan for your business, set aside some time and use the steps below to get started.

 

Conduct a Marketing Audit For Your Business

Before you start planning, you'll need to take an inventory of your current marketing situation and how effective it is for your business.

Make a list of where you are spending your advertising dollars and where you are spending your time marketing your business.  Once you know where your time and money is going, you want to analyze each activity and marketing channel to see what kind of impact it had on your business.

If you spot areas where you are spending a lot of time or money but is not bringing in the results you want, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions:

1 – Am I putting enough time/effort or money into this activity to make it work effectively for my business?

2 – Is this the right channel to find customers and grow my business?

3 – Should I commit to improving this marketing channel or should I focus elsewhere?

Many business owners fall into the trap of spending time on marketing activities that they are familiar with and ones that feel safe for them.  These activities are often not the best ones to grow your business, but they are “comfortable” to the business owner so they continue to spend time on it despite seeing little in the way of results.  Look at networking, go to any Meetup.com group in your area related to business and you'll see tons of people asking for referrals week after week (with little results) when they should really be spending their time doing outreach and cold calling to drum up business.  But networking is much safer than putting yourself out there with real potential clients.

Take a hard look at how you spend your time and money and cut out anything that isn't helping you grow your business in terms of leads, sales, and customers.

How effective were you in the following areas:

  • Referrals
  • Partnerships/Joint Ventures
  • Customer Retention
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Advertising
  • Offline Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You don't need to be doing all of these, you just need to analyze the effectiveness of the channels you are using and measure the results you got compared to the time/money spent on them.  As a small business owner, you can't do everything, you need to focus on the few marketing channels that will bring you the most results.

Look at where your sales are coming from.  Look at your web analytics to see where your traffic and leads are coming from (If you don't have Google Analytics setup, do it now!).  Dive into your sales data and try to connect the dots so you can trace your sales back to its origins.  If you can figure this out, then you'll have a good idea where you need to spend more of your time and money going forward.

 

Define Your Audience

Do you really know who your customers are?  If you say everyone is your customer, I can say with confidence that your marketing is mediocre at best.

Being able to market to people effectively starts with having a deep understanding of your customer and what their likes, fears, and concerns are and being able to address them.

Creating universal marketing messages that try and appeal to everyone rarely works.  The reason why the 35-year-old mom of four buys from you will be different from the 65 yr old retiree who has a passion for travel.  You need to segment your different buyers into “buyer personas” and then to find out as much as you can about them and why they would buy from you.

Once you have this information, then you can start crafting compelling messages that resonate with them.  That's how you create highly effective marketing campaigns, by understanding your customers, then doing your best to give them the message and offers that most resonate with them.

Yes, it's more work that creating a generic ad that you send to everyone, but you're probably reading this because you're not happy with your current marketing results.  The better you plan, the more effective you'll be.

Once you have these “buyer personas” created and have a better understanding of what's important to them, you can start reaching these personas as a group, with specific messaging.  You may do this by running multiple, targeted ad campaigns targeting each persona.  You may segment your website where each persona has its own page with its own message, the idea is to segment your potential customers and tell them what they want to hear so they will become your customer.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Now that you have a solid understanding of your current marketing situation, you can start analyzing some of your top competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come from online, then focus on your top 3 online competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come offline, then focus on the competitors you go up against offline.  Better yet, do both!

Once you have your list of competitors, ask and answer these questions:

1 – Where are they spending their marketing time and money?

2 – How visible online are they in the organic search results (Google.com, Bing.com) and are they doing online advertising?  How effective is it compared to my business?

3 – Are they using any marketing channels that I'm not?  Should I investigate these channels as well?

4 – What is their main message on their website and in their advertising, does it resonate with potential customers better than my message?

5 – Are they doing anything new that I was not aware of?

6 – Are they missing a crucial marketing channel that will give me the opportunity to exploit this gap?

7 – How can I do take what they are doing and do it even better?

There may be more questions you want to ask, but you get the point.  Compare your efforts to theirs, look for opportunities and weaknesses, and strive to beat them by doing things smarter and better.

You can read this article on finding the arbitrage in your industry and exploiting it.

 

Set Your Marketing Goals

At this point you should know:

1 – The state of your current marketing effectiveness, what is doing well and what is not

2 – Who your customers are, broken down into different “personas”, each with their own message that resonates most with them

3 – Who your competitors are, what they are doing marketing wise, and opportunities for you to beat them

Now you need to set your marketing goals in place, the more specific the better.  Your goals should be set on measurable KBI's (Key Business Indicators) and not outcomes.  A poor goal would be to hit 1 million in revenue by the end of the year.  Why? Because it's an outcome, the end result of many different things you do in your business to generate revenue.  You can't tell your employees to “make more revenue”, but you can set goals on activities that will ultimately produce the revenue goals you want.

Examples of specific marketing goals would be:

  • Generate 10 new leads per week. You may set this because you want to acquire 2 new clients per week and your typical conversion rate is 20%.  You achieve by determining the right, marketing mix to reach your lead goals each week, which could be advertising, cold calling, email marketing, etc.
  • Create, publish and promote 2 targeted blog posts per week.  You may set this goal as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy where you create targeted blog posts aimed at the personas you have created.
  • Create an online course to educate potential customers.  You may create this because it will become part of your lead magnet strategy to bring in more leads through your website.

So you get the point, focus your goals on things that will ultimately produce you the end result you are looking for.

Here's a tip.  Don't just set annual goals for your business, set goals throughout the year.  Break your goals down into weekly or monthly targets so they don't seem so distant or unattainable because they are so large.  Set goals for the year, for the quarter and for the month, once you hit them, create new goals.  You don't have to create goals once a year in January.    Make hitting your goals fun, have prizes for your employees for reaching goals or reward yourself with a weekend trip for hitting your goals, the point is to keep everyone positive and motivated throughout the year.

Once you have your goals in place, you can start planning your marketing with the intent of reaching the goals you have set.

 

Decide On Your Marketing Channels

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, you just need to decide on the best way to reach your potential customers with you message/offer.  This may be online or offline, and most likely a combination of the two split between paying with advertising or paying with your time.

Here are my favorites and what works for me as well as our clients.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & creating content on your website
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Email marketing
  • Email and cold call outreach
  • Sponsorships
  • Joint ventures with other businesses

You may also use other marketing strategies like social media or networking, I personally like to choose marketing strategies that tend to lead to a direct conversion, like a sale or contact form submission.  Strategies like social media and networking do work, they are just more difficult to quantify and the path to a conversion tends to be long and winding.  I like to take the shortest path possible.

 

Take Action

Now that you have everything you need to create a killer marketing strategy, it's time to put it into action.  You can read this article on putting your marketing plan in action, it includes some free download worksheets to help get you on your way.

Have questions about creating a highly effective online marketing strategy or want someone to help create it for you?  You can contact us here.

10 Keys To Success In Business - Road Less Travelled

Finding success in your business requires many skills and talents.  Starting and running a business is like riding a roller coaster, you have to be ready to handle the climbs and drops without losing your lunch.  The ten keys to success below apply not only to your business but your life as well.  I’m sure you recognize everything on the list, as they are all basic concepts, but do you practice them every day?

You Become What You Think About

If you think positive thoughts, you will start to think and act in positive ways.  Same goes when you think negatively.  Everything you do and say begins with a thought.

 “You become what you think about all day long.” 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson                                                                                     

 

Decide On Your Goals and Put Them In Writing

Decide what you want out of your business and your life, then write out your plan for achieving it.  Most goals that haven’t been put to paper are merely dreams.

 “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” 

-Fitzhugh Dodson

 

 

Become A Student Of Learning

Most people stop their education when they leave school.  Keep an open mind and learn something new every day.  Developing a love for learning is key to growing as a person.

 “Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

 

 

Do Something Now

It’s easy to put off something because the task seems too large to tackle.  The best remedy is to take action.  Even doing something small will move you closer to your goal and get you in an action oriented mindset.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
– Dale Carnegie

 

 Be Persistent

For many successful entrepreneurs, the difference between them and the ones that failed was that they didn’t give up when they met failure.  One of the things that most entrepreneurs credit to their success is persistence.

 “Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.” 

-Edward Eggleston 

 

 

Pay Attention

Learn from your mistakes.  Learn from others mistakes.  Opportunities are everywhere, you just have to be on the lookout for them and be ready to grab them when they appear.

 “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

-Winston Churchill

 

 

Focus Your Resources

You can never get your time back, use it wisely.  Focus on the things that will have the biggest impact in reaching your goals.  Learn to work with others in helping to achieve your goals.

 “Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” 

-Tony Robbins 

 

Think and Act Differently

Like a three year old, learn to ask the question “why”.  Challenge assumptions.  Think differently and you will act differently.  Don’t be afraid to try something even though others tell you that you are crazy.  Maybe they are wrong and you are right.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

–Mark Twain

 

 Be a People Person

Treat people fairly and with respect.  Learn to get along with other people, even if you have differences of opinion.  Be helpful to those around you and they will be eager to help you when the need arises.

 “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.

-Charles Schwab 

 

Have Integrity

If you lack integrity, you will lose the trust and goodwill of others.  And if you lose that, the rest of the points above don’t really matter.

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
– Samuel Johnson

 

If you liked this article, you can also check out:  7 Signs You Should Not Start a Business

How Much Does Google Adwords Cost-

Google Adwords does not charge a fee in order to use the Google Adwords platform.  You pay on a Cost Per Click basis, meaning you are only charged when someone clicks on a link in your ad and visits the website or landing page that is associated with that ad.

The question you really want answered is how much do I need to spend on Google Adwords in order to make it work for my business.  Here we will discuss how to determine what budget you will need in order to effectively advertise on Google Adwords.

In order to determine a realistic daily/monthly budget, we will need to know a few things:

  • What your estimated Cost Per Click will be
  • Estimated search volume for a search term you will be targeting
  • An estimate on how many visitors you will need in order to get a conversion

Note, when you are first starting an Adwords Campaign, you will only have estimates, these numbers will be refined once you start running your ad campaigns and can get some real data.

 

Cost Per Click

This is the cost to you when someone clicks on one of your ads and visits the website or landing page associated with that ad.  Your cost per click is determined by several factors, including:

  • How much you are bidding on a given keyword (Cost Per Click Bid)
  • Your Quality Score, which is your determined by your expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience
  • Other factors that make up your Ad Rank, which determined in what position your ad will display.

As you can see, there are lots of factors that determine your Cost Per Click, so the estimated Google gives you with the Google Keyword Planner are just loose estimates.

 

Estimated Search Volume

Estimated Search Volume will give you an estimate of how many people search for a given keyword during a month.  You want to know this because you may have a keyword you want to target, but it may only be searched for a few times a month in your market, which means you would need to add other keywords to your campaign in order to get enough “click volume” to have an impact with your Google Adwords campaign.  When you are first starting out, especially if you are a local business, you will most likely need about 10-20 keywords in your initial campaign in order to generate enough search volume to get the amount of clicks you want to meet your goals.

 

Your Estimated Conversion

Now Google Adwords can't determine this for you, this is something you need to estimate yourself or will need to wait until you have enough Google Adwords traffic to your site to make a determination.

Once you have an idea of how many visitors (clicks) you need to your website in order to generate a conversion, then you will be able to determine how many clicks you need each month and how much you need to spend in order to get that amount of conversions for your business.  Conversions can be anything you determine as the goal for your Google Adwords campaign, it can be sales, leads, email signups, etc.

Here's an Example

Jim owns a landscaping company in Charlotte and wants to generate new business with Google Adwords but is not sure how much he needs to spend in order to make it work.

Jim heads over to the Google Keyword Planner, which is a free tool inside the Google Adwords platform and does a search for landscaping keywords.  He sets the search criteria so it only shows search data for the Charlotte area.

He sees that there are dozens of related keywords that people in the Charlotte area use to find a landscaper.  He finds two that he likes, “landscaping companies”, which has an estimated monthly volume of 10-100 which has an estimated CPC of $7.20, and “landscaping service”, which has an estimated monthly volume of 10-100 searches at an estimated CPC of $5.74.  Note that Google Adwords only shows general search volume for new advertisers and for small budgets, as you spend more you will get access to more specific data, but it's still a good place for general estimates.

Jim estimates that he will need about 10 clicks in order to generate a lead, either someone calling his business or filling out a form on his website.  He made this estimate because his website now generates a lead for every 40 visitors to his website, but since these keywords are very targeted and specific, he thinks he will have a much better conversion rate targeting these two keywords.

So if Jim wanted to get a rough estimate on budgeting for his Google Adwords campaign for these two keywords, he would average the Cost Per Click of the two keywords ($6.47) and times it by the amount of clicks he wants to generate.

So if Jim wanted to generate 10 leads in a month for his business, he would need about 100 clicks (using his conversion estimate) to get these leads.  At $6.47 a click, he would have to spend about $647 on his Google Adwords campaign in order to generate the 10 leads he wants.  This can be broken down to about $21.30 a day (647 / 30.4 = 21.28) for a daily budget.

Now these are very rough estimates and they will 100% change once you run your campaign and get real data, but it serves as a great starting point if you are just starting out with Google Adwords.

More: Learn how to properly structure a Google Adwords campaign.

 

Important Things To Know

If you are just starting out with Google Adwords, you want to shoot for a minimum of 10 clicks a day and run the campaign for at least a month in order to get enough search volume and data in your account to make some more accurate estimates on your costs.  Note, these are minimums, if Jim the landscaper tried to run a campaign for $5 a day using the same estimates, he would never really get enough click data in order to know if Google Adwords works for his business.

Get started on Google Adwords here. 

Have questions or need help with setting up an effective Google Adwords campaign?  If you are new to Google Adwords you may also qualify for a free promotional credit you can apply to your account, you can Contact us here to learn more.

5 Great Places To Advertise in 2017

Online advertising should play an integral part of your overall marketing in 2017.

Why you say?

Because online advertising is seeing the most innovation out of all online marketing channels right now and it represents a huge opportunity for the businesses that embrace it and make it a central part of their overall marketing strategy.

SEO is still my favorite online marketing channel, but it is getting increasingly difficult for small businesses to achieve high rankings on a small business budget.  Content is saturated online and simply producing content just doesn't cut it anymore.

Social media platforms are getting stingier and stingier when it comes to reaching your fan base, with the hopes that you will just give up and start paying for advertising.  Facebook is leading the way with this, but Instagram (Facebook owns them) is not far behind as well as other social platforms taking a cue from Facebook's strategy.

Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving. David Ogilvy

If you can setup solid landing pages and have a good overall marketing/sales funnel in place, online advertising can be very lucrative.  The biggest advantage advertising has over just about any other channel is that it is infinitely scalable once you get it right.  You can't produce referrals or higher organic rankings on demand, but you can open up a firehose of quality traffic to your site with online advertising.

While it is “pay to play, if you play the right way, you can make a lot of money with online advertising.

So where do you start with online advertising in 2017?  I have a popular post on this blog about the best places to advertise online, which gives a general overview of some of the most popular places to advertise your business.  In this post I want to discuss some specific advertising opportunities that can work very well for small businesses.

Below are my top online advertising opportunities for 2017.  If you are a small business, you can do very well by adding one or all of these to your overall marketing mix in 2017.

 

Facebook Ads

When it comes to online advertising, I think Facebook is the single best opportunity right now.  While Google Adwords is bigger and works very well, Facebook Ads gives you crazy targeting options at a cost below what Google Adwords is charging for advertising these days.

There is no other channel online right now where you can target pretty much your exact customer like you can on Facebook.

So what what can you do with Facebook advertising?

You can upload your existing customer database and target them on Facebook with ads.  You can create Lookalike Audiences, where Facebook takes your current customer list and creates a clone copy of potential customers who closely resemble your existing one.  We created a Lookalike Audience for a client last year selling franchises.  We took an existing franchise list of 500 highly qualified leads and created a Lookalike Audience with 200+K people on that list and generated over 800 new leads with that Lookalike Audience list.  Yes, it does work, very well in fact.

You can also create your own targeting options using your ideal customer profile.  If I was a photographer (or anyone targeting this persona), I could target women aged 25-35 within 20 miles of my location who were recently engaged and have an income over 80K a year.  Yes, you can get that targeted with your advertising.  Facebook combines everything they know about you, including your personal info, hobbies, friends, interests, etc, and merges it with 3rd party info they purchase (your credit card purchases, personal info) and create highly detailed profiles of you that they make available for advertisers.  Sucks for privacy, but great for advertising.

 

Remarketing on Facebook and Google Adwords

Remarketing is whens someone visits your website, a tracking cookie/code is placed on their device, and you are then able to serve ads to them on 3rd party websites after they have left your website.

You have probably seen this with some big brands like Zappos or Wayfair, where you visit their site and later see an ad on another website or in Facebook with an image of the exact product you were looking at before you left their website.

Remarketing works well in situations where consumers tend to price shop as well as for businesses where the sales cycle is longer, such as insurance or financial services.  Remarketing gives your business another opportunity to bring that person back to your website before they choose one of your competitors.

Google Adwords and Facebook represent the two largest markets for running remarketing campaigns.  Google Adwords represents millions of third party websites, so they give you the largest reach, but Facebook lets you run remarketing campaigns directly in a Facebook users news feed, which is awesome.  You actually don't have to choose one or the other, you can add remarketing code to your site for both and run them together.

With both platforms, you have the ability to fine tune your targeting even further.  With Google Adwords, you can narrow down to a specific geographic area, choose what websites you want to show your ads on, and fine-tune your demographic targeting.  With Facebook, you can do the same, you can choose to show your ads on Facebook only, or you can add Instagram ads and/or third party websites on their partner network, but you can't pick and choose what websites your ads display on.

With both Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, you can choose to run remarketing campaigns for visitors to your entire site, or just select pages on your site.  Remarketing has proven to show a better ROI than traditional online advertising and should be part of any online marketing strategy.

 

Ads on Google Maps (Adwords)

Through Google Adwords, you can have your ads shown inside of Google Maps when the local map listing results appear.  This is huge for local businesses as local search has taken on a huge role when it comes to organic listings in Google.

The great thing is that the ad, as of this writing, shows at the top of the search results, even above the organic listings.  The not so great is that there are only 1-2 ad slots displaying, which means lots of competition for those slots.  If you look at the images below, you will see the ads displayed with a purple marker on the map.

Google Adwords Local Search Ad Listing Google Adwords Local Search Ad Listing on Maps

About a third of all mobile searches are local in nature and local searches are outpacing general searches on mobile by 50%.  With over a billions people using Google Maps, local search ads on Google Maps represent a huge opportunity for local businesses.

Google is actively expanding local ads, with Promoted Pins, which will be available to all advertisers soon.

Google Promoted Pin Ads on Google Maps

So how do you make your ad campaign eligible to display on Google Maps?  You will need to connect your Google My Business page to your Google Adwords account using Location Extensions.  Instructions can be found here.

So how does Google determine what ad will display given there are so many businesses and only a few ad slots?  Google says it is using a variety of signals, including:

  • Query context.
  • Location.
  • Search/browsing history.
  • Interests.
  • Behaviors.
  • Time of day.
  • Demographics.

These new Google Local Map Ads are in the process of rolling out so they may not be available everywhere just yet.  Google is making local search and local ads a priority, so expect them to be available everywhere soon in addition to other new local ad formats (like promoted pins).

 

 

Call Only ads (Adwords)

Call Only ad campaigns inside Google Adwords is a recent addition to Google Adwords.  We have been using it for clients that have local businesses and the results have been great so far.

So what are Call Only ads?  They are ad campaigns that target mobile phones where the only option for the user is to click the ad to call.  There is not an option to go to a website, the only action is to call the business.  This essentially means that every click results in a lead, where with regular ad campaigns, you may need several clicks (or more) to the website for one of them to turn into a lead for your business.

The cost per click is higher that a traditional ad click in Adwords, but it's justified since every click is a lead.  If your business focuses on converting leads over the phone or most of your traffic is mobile, call only campaigns make a lot of sense for you.  And if you are in an industry where the cost per click is high or your website has poor conversion rates, then Call Only campaigns may make sense for you.  Most mobile users would rather just make a quick call rather than try and fill out a form on their phone, which can be cumbersome.

Some of our clients who have been very successful with call only ads are:

  • Plumbers
  • HVAC companies
  • Waterproofing companies
  • Mortgage brokers
  • Insurance companies
  • Contractors
  • Pool & Spa companies
  • Landscape companies

This is just an example of companies we have worked directly with using Call Only campaigns, it can apply to a host of different businesses and is worth trying out, it only takes about 5 minutes to setup a campaign.

 

Video Ads

Video ads were huge in 2016 and will be even bigger in 2017.  Facebook made video an important part of their overall strategy and gave video more prominence in user feeds that text and even image posts.  Youtube continues to grow and is the second largest search engine in the world, next to Google.com.

We are living in a visual world right now and visual ad formats are getting people's attention in a way text ads just can't.  With internet streaming getting faster each year and mobile data plans getting more generous with bandwidth, more and more people are turning to video, both on computers and on mobile devices.

Why is this such a big opportunity for small, local businesses?  Because despite that fact video is exploding, the vast majority of small businesses do not use video at all, either organically on social media or when running ads.  Most small businesses don't have the technical skills to produce video and many don't have the money to pay someone.  And even if they do, most are too afraid to step in front of a camera and record themselves.  It took me two years to finally work up the nerve to step in front of a camera for the first time, now I regret not doing it sooner.

I wrote a blog post last year about exploiting the arbitrage in your industry, and video is one of those opportunities where most of your competitors are not using it and can become a major advantage for you if you are willing to use it.

So what type of videos can you create?

  • Talking head videos, where the business owner talks about their company and the value they can bring to their customers
  • Testimonial videos, where your customers describe their experience being a customer with your business
  • Explainer videos, where you have an animated video explaining what your do
  • Behind the scenes videos, where people can get a sneak peak on how your business operates and the people behind the scenes
  • Any videos that will help you generate more business

These videos can be professionally produced with all the bells and whistles, or it can be a simple video (even shot on your phone), with you and a good camera and audio to record you.  Both work and both can be very successful if done right.  Here are some videos from Youtube on getting started.

 

Get Started Now

Don't wait until half the year is over before you get started, do it today.  Online advertising works if you do it right.  It's also the only real scalable way to generate more leads and business online.  Have questions or need help in setting up an effective ad campaign?  Contact us here.

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Where To Focus Your Marketing Efforts in 2017

If you didn't like the results you had with your marketing in 2016, great news, you can change it in 2017.

 

As the great Jim Rohn said, “If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree. “

 

Great marketing is the result of constant evaluation and improvement.  Most marketing efforts suck in the beginning, the difference between poor marketers and great ones is that they learn from their mistakes.  Unfortunately, many small businesses never learn from their marketing mistakes.  They keep doing the same marketing tactics year in and year out, often at the advice of the people selling them advertising, and learn little in the process.  This lazy approach to marketing often leads to a failed business, or worse, a mediocre one survives just enough to drain the life out of the business owner.

 

When it comes to online marketing, business owners tend to get misguided advice from lots of different places on what they should be doing.  From social media, to SEO, to Pay Per Click advertising, business owners end up chasing their tail, going from one thing to another often with little results to show for it.

 

The good news is that a new year is also the opportunity for a new start.  Why not make 2017 a great one for your business?  Who cares what didn't go well the year before, the plans you had that never came to fruition or the goals that were never reached.  The only thing that matters now is that you are ready to take your marketing to the next level in 2017.

 

There are lots of different things to focus on when it comes to marketing and lots of different channels to pursue.  I have listed below the ones I believe are vitally important for every business owner and should be the focus of their marketing efforts in 2017.  I didn't include social media as a channel to focus on in 2017, not because I don't think it's important, I just think that for the vast majority of businesses, social media activity fails to impact the bottom line and leads to hundreds of hours of time spent that could have been used more effectively somewhere else.

 

Copywriting

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” –  Leo Burnett

When it comes to your website, your email marketing, your print ads and when you speak to people in person, it's the words that sell.  Yet most business websites have poor copy that doesn't inspire or sell.  They have advertisements that fail to get people to take action and unclear value propositions.

 

While how your website looks is important, it is the words that will sell.  Yet most people focus on the look and treat the copy as secondary, sometimes even outsourcing it to the designer, who is not a copywriter.

 

If you want to have a big impact on your marketing in 2017, learn how to write compelling copy for your audience.  And it all starts with knowing who your target market it, who are you speaking to?  Once you understand who your audience is, write them a love letter.  Not a real love letter, but copy that has the same passion as a love letter.  Let them know why they are so important to you, why you appreciate them so much, and why they should be with you.  Let them know you will never let them down and how important they are to you.  Copy like that sells.

 

Understand why people buy from you.  Conduct research and surveys with your current customers or ones just like them, find out what makes them buy from a business like yours.  Once you have that information, create value propositions and calls to action that speak to this.  You want to make a connection with your audience, but you first need to understand what is important to them.

 

You don't have to hire a copywriter to make great copy, but you do need to learn the essentials of copywriting as well as a lot of practice.  If this sounds like too much work for you, then either hire someone to do it with you or be content with your current results.

 

Good blog for copywriting:

CopyHackers

 

Email Marketing

Social media gets all of the attention, but smart marketers know the money is in the list.  The email list that is.

 

Study after study shows that email marketing produces a much better ROI than social media, yet most businesses will spend endless hours on social media and spend little time and effort on building an effective email marketing campaign.

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree.

Venture Beat 2015 Study

You only own two things online, your website and your email list.  All of those followers you have on social media belong to that social media platform, you can't download them, you can't bring them with you to another platform and you can't speak directly to each of them whenever you choose because platforms like Facebook and Instagram limit how many of your followers you can reach without paying them.

 

Your goal should be to get people to your website and get them on your email list.  From there, for just a few dollars a month, you can communicate with them whenever you feel like and nobody can take that away from you.

 

When it comes to online marketing, email marketing is usually at the heart of any serious conversion funnel.  Building your email list over time will build your revenue over time, study after study confirms this.

 

If you aren't using email marketing software, that's the first step.  I recommend Mailchimp for basic email marketing, and Sharpspring if you are looking to get into marketing automation with advanced email marketing features.

 

So if you want to improve your marketing efforts in 2017, concentrate on growing your email list and writing compelling and engaging emails that you send on a regular basis.

 

Conversions

Conversion optimization is when you continually test. measure and improve your sales and marketing funnel.  If your current funnel is producing a 1% conversion rate (which is average for an ecommerce store), then working on improving it to 2% can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Conversion Rate Improvements Funnel

When you focus on conversions, you study each of the steps in your sales and marketing funnel to find out where the “leaks” are, meaning where and when people are dropping out and losing interest in what you are offering.  Sometimes fixing even just one “leak” can lead to a big impact to your bottom line.  Conversion optimization is sort of a science where you study every aspect of your funnel and seek to continually improve it.

 

For a business owner, it starts with measuring all of your marketing and advertising campaigns.  If you spend $500 on a Facebook ad, how many visits to your website did it produce and many sales were made?  Once you understand these numbers, you can work on improving them, which can be better targeting, better ad copy or a better landing page.  As you dive deeper into what is happening in each step, you will start to see areas for improvement and ways to improve your conversion rate.

 

Good blogs on conversion optimization:

ConversionXL

Unbounce

 

Direct Marketing

“A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.” – Charles S. Lauer

Direct marketing is action oriented marketing where the goal is for people to take some sort of action after seeing your advertisement.  Success for a campaign is tied directly to how many people take you up on your offer, whether that's a sale, phone call or online form.  You see direct marketing all the time in the form of mailers (think ValPack), the Home Shopping Network, Infomercials, and online sales pages.

 

Every small business should have a direct marketing mindset when it comes to marketing their business.  It makes you much more diligent with your marketing dollars and ensures that you are earning a return on your marketing investments.  It also forces you to really think and analyze your marketing and advertising strategies, where many businesses prefer the “spray and pray” approach to marketing, where they eventually run out of money and stop marketing altogether.

 

Before you begin any marketing campaign, whether it's online or offline, make sure you set specific goals ofr your campaigns and ways to track and measure its success.  This is the only way you will ever improve your marketing skills.

 

Remarketing

Remarketing is an advertising method where you add a tracking code to your site that allows you to track and advertise to people after they have left your website.

 

Many ecommerce stores practice since the average conversion rate is about 1% for ecomm stores and remarketing allows them to bring people back some of that 99% that didn't buy.  Go to a site like Zappos.com and then search the web or go to Facebook after leaving their site.  You will begin to see ads appearing from that brand, often showing you the exact product you were looking at before you left.  What's happened is that a tracking “cookie” was placed on your computer or device and that website can now serve ads to you on Facebook or other 3rd party websites for a period of time that they determine.

Example of a Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing works great for a number of reasons.  It essentially allows you to continually market to them after they leave your website even though they never gave you an email address or other personal information.  It works great for businesses that have a longer sales cycle or a product or service where consumers spend a lot of time comparison shopping.  Remarketing allows you to stay top of mind with consumers and let's you reach them with additional messaging that may bring them back to your website.

 

The best part of remarketing is that it has a great ROI since you are reaching people who are already somewhat familiar with your brand and have expressed interest in the past.  Remarketing allows you to improve your overall conversion rates and lets you get more mileage out of your other marketing and advertising campaigns.

 

Facebook Ads

At 1.79 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (500 million), Twitter (284 million) and Instagram (200 million)—combined. (Source: CNBC)

Facebook Ads present an enormous opportunity for small businesses to do some laser targeted advertising.  There is no other advertising platforms that allow you to get so specific with your ad targeting.  Pretty much anything you can think of is a targeting option when it comes to Facebook ads.

 

Want to target men aged 40-50 in California who recently purchased a motorcycle and love the Beatles?  Yes, you can target them.  Looking for baby boomers who recently moved to a new home in Colorado and have a habit of making high-ticket purchases?  Yes, you can target them.  The sky is the limit when it comes to you targeting options.

 

So how do they do this?  First off, they know your interests and likes based on everything you do on Facebook.  Joined a breastfeeding group?  You are now in an advertising bucket for new moms, breastfeeding, etc.  Every time you join a group, like a fan page or like/share a post, you are giving Facebook valuable data on what your interests are.

 

They also take your email address, phone number, schools you have attended and match it up with 3rd party data providers who give them a windfall of information about you once they can confirm it is you.  Ever wonder why Facebook asks you to confirm where you went to school or takes a guess at something personal about you?  It's because they have 3rd party information about you and want to confirm it with you.  Scary stuff if you use Facebook but great for advertisers.

 

Like we spoke about in the copywriting section, the more you can target and focus your campaigns, the more successful you will be and Facebook gives you the best targeting options anywhere on the web.

 

Read: Powerful Facebook targeting options

Get focused with your marketing in 2017

Hopefully, this article gave you some news ideas and inspiration for your marketing efforts in 2017.  Most of the above are interconnected in some way, especially with the copywriting, so doing them in conjunction with each other will make each of them more effective.

 

If you want to really get good at marketing, be stingy with your ad dollars, scrutinize everything, and be prepared and test and measure everything you do.  This is the only way you will cut out the marketing fat, improve your marketing and really grow your business.

 

Cheers to a successful 2017 for your business!