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Business Owner? Wondering What to Do About SEO?

I was in church and a man came up to me to ask me a business question. My friend is a local business owner and heard from someone that I know a thing or two about internet marketing. He then asked the question that I hate most of all. Why do I hate this question… because it makes me feel the most helpless…

What Do I Do About SEO?

Ask me anything else about internet marketing and I probably have a solid answer for you. I might be wrong and my advice is only as good as my own knowledge and experience but ask me what you should do about SEO and you may get a look on my face that probably communicates something to the effect of: I feel bad admitting this but honestly you are in big trouble. You are opening up a can of worms that you don't understand, that is super important to your business's long term success, but ultimately is going to cause you more frustration and expense than you would ever willingly take on.

Of all the internet marketing topics SEO is fully in my wheelhouse (currently my greatest endorsed skill on LinkedIn) but even if it is among the things I have the most experience with and among which I've had great success… I would still much rather talk about paid search, display ads, email marketing, or virtually anything else that has some ground of consistent and reliable best practices and immediately measurable results.

SO… next time someone asks me the question, “What Do I Do About SEO?” I'm going to direct them to this blog post. Here is what you need to know:

SEO IS MISSION CRITICAL BECAUSE

Search Engine Optimization is the coveted holy grail of internet marketing because obviously your customers are searching on Google (and other search engines) for your products and services and being among the top of the first page of results will bring you a ton of web traffic and customers forever. Sounds great right? Here is where the problems begin…

WHY IS SEO A HUGE PROBLEM FOR MOST BUSINESS OWNERS

  1. SEO is a long-term marketing plan. Unless your website already has a ton of internet traffic, content, and domain authority (more on this later) you should expect that it is going to take a LONG time to get enough organic traffic from search engines for it to make any substantial dent in your business's bottom line. It takes time.
  2. SEO is a moving target… or at very least its super hard. Search Engines have the job of making sure that customers (searchers) find the very best results for any given search but they have to use code, algorithms, and patterns to determine what makes one website better than another for the end customer/searcher. Marketers spend a lot of money and time trying to optimize websites to those patterns and algorithms used by search engines in order to get to the top of the results. As marketers figure it out, the search engines change it. Its a bit of a game…. until you realize that in order to win you have to care a little less about the algorithm and start just putting out amazing/awesome website content that is actually the best thing the searcher could find/want… and that can be even harder than trying to guess what Google is thinking this month.
  3. SEO is a chicken and egg problem. You need domain authority to get rankings and you need rankings to get domain authority…. (sort of). So, how do you get either? Well a little at a time… inch by inch… fighting for it with content over time. Sound fun?
  4. SEO requires something far more different and expensive than money. Time. Most advertising and marketing is simple. You just give money to a vendor and wait for the clicks, phone calls, or walk-ins. SEO doesn't work that way. If you do it yourself then you have to invest a lot of time. You have to create content and that content has to be awesome. Its consuming and even more challenging when you do it for months on end without knowing if it is working (see number 1). You can always hire someone else…. but…
  5. SEO Outsourced Is Mysterious. If you hire a 3rd party company to help with SEO you have a unique set of challenges. First they will rarely tell you what they are doing. If they told you, you would probably fire them and do it yourself. Second, you are going to spend money for weeks or months without results… and only if they do it right after time you start to see any results at all (see number 1). If they don't do a good job they can do long term damage that you can't even see or understand.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you…

SO HOW DO YOU GET STARTED WITH SEO?

Here are suggestions that might take the sting out of all this doom and gloom:

Start With Paid Traffic

Your #1 Goal in any online advertising is to optimize your marketing funnel. It doesn't matter how much traffic you can drive if none of that traffic opts in, buys, or contacts you with interest in your service or product. In order for any marketer to optimize the sales/lead funnel they need to drive traffic into it. SEO just can't do that in the beginning. In addition having to pay for advertising will force you or your marketing agency to make the funnel as good as it can be… something you will be grateful for when your SEO work starts to pay off in the future.

Favor Quality Over Quantity

A big evolution of SEO is the move away from content for the sake of content toward content for the sake of a quality user experience. This favors a small business that is low on resources. Don't feel like you have to create a blog and post to it once a week. Instead carefully consider valuable content pieces and spend time and energy making them awesome… even if that means you only put out something once a month or less.

Get Obsessive With User Experience

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, user, or reader and ask yourself how your website makes it easy (or not) to find the right information, research products, and make buying decisions. How does it look on a mobile phone? What information is missing that would make the customer's experience better?

SEO OVERVIEW CONCLUSION

The objective of this article is to explain the complexity of SEO for the small business owner, while still giving you some clear and simple things you can do to start. This isn't the end-all but it should at least make you feel empowered to start somewhere. Until next time!

Some other things you may want to read next:

The 3 Ps of Getting Web Traffic

SEO or Paid Traffic? A Conversation About Priorities

SEO or Paid Traffic? A Conversation About Priorites

I was talking to a business owner this morning who is in this dilemma. The business is starting to become stable enough that they want to invest in advertising (we should talk later about why they should have been advertising since the beginning). Today, businesses hear all about how valuable and important SEO is but they are also being sold paid advertising by a variety of vendors. Trying to sort out where online to allocate a small budget is really challenging. Vendors are calling and talking about directories, SEO, social, search ads, social ads, banner ads, text messaging, and much much more. I get it… I spent years being one of those vendors.

For the purpose of today's article I'm going to simply lump all the PAID advertising into the category of Paid Traffic and compare that to SEO with an emphasis on where a new business should begin to invest.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of TRYING to get one's website or web content to appear or rank high in organic search results. If I'm an attorney in Phoenix and people type “Phoenix Attorney” into Google I want my site to organically (not in the paid ads) be high in the search results. This is SEO.

Paid Traffic is any online advertising vehicle into which you insert a paid ad budget and expect to get some amount of qualified traffic to click through to your website.

Today's advertising community loves to talk about the benefits of SEO… and here is why:

  1. When done properly, work can pay off for years in the form of “free” traffic because you did the work to rank well
  2. Vendors who sell SEO services aren't held to a high standard because they are being paid to do something that is often unmeasurable and generally won't show any results for weeks, months, or years to come.

It is easy to see why some small business would be lured in by the idea of spending minimum amounts of money in advertising but getting super high on Google so that the leads and customers come in forever without any significant work. The pitch is however, a big fat lie. Here is how, as a vendor of SEO services, I would have to pitch you if I was being fully honest:

Mr Customer, being at the top of Google's organic search for your top search phrases will pay off endless future benefits but frankly, it often takes years to get into the top five results for competitive search terms unless your website already has a lot of traffic and domain authority from Google. Domain authority is built over time by showing Google and the other search engines that you can and do produce content that is relevant and valuable to an audience which brings me to my next point. The number one core activity in SEO work is content generation. Not junk content for the sake of having content… that stopped working in 2010. I mean legitimately valuable content that is better for the reader/consumer than your competitors content. Now, regardless of the work you are in; I suspect that in order to generate that type of content you will have to be involved. There is nobody at my agency/firm/office that produce content about your company and industry as well as you can so even though you are going to pay me to help you format it and train you to write it in the best way possible YOU are still going to have to write it. Lastly, you should know that because SEO benefits come so long after the work is done; if at all, we won't have enough traffic coming to the site in order to generate enough data to know if the lead/sales funnel is actually working. Meaning; the reason you want traffic to your site at all is because you have a service or product to sell. If we bring 100,000 new visitors to your website and zero of them contact your or buy your product then the work was for nothing. We need to optimize the marketing process and lead/sales funnel on your site in order to increase the CONVERSION RATE of that traffic to buyers/leads and in order to do that effectively we need a steady inflow of predicatable traffic… and SEO won't bring us that for a long time. So not only do you need to wait for any results at all but you also will waste a lot of eyeballs on your site because we won't have enough data in order to optimize the marketing funnel. You should also be aware that we do not own Google, Bing, or Yahoo and despite having some sense for what they are looking for in web content; we don't actually know for sure exactly how they choose to rank sites and they tend to change that criteria and methodology from time to time so its possible that our efforts even if successful could become worthless if the algorithm changes in a way that is negative to the work we've been performing at your cost. Lastly, please know that while we will do “stuff” for the money you pay us each month we won't be able to guarantee ANYTHING and may not have great answers about the impact that our work is having for at least 6 months until after we get started. Ok?

Would you Buy From Me????

Is this starting to make it clear why you need to prioritize Paid Traffic over SEO efforts?

Your #1 Goal in any online advertising is to optimize your marketing funnel. It doesn't matter how much traffic you can drive if none of that traffic opts in, buys, or contacts you with interest in your service or product. In order for any marketer to optimize the sales/lead funnel they need to drive traffic into it. SEO just can't do that in the beginning. In addition having to pay for advertising will force you or your marketing agency to make the funnel as good as it can be… something you will be grateful for when your SEO work starts to pay off in the future.

In addition, while paid traffic sources are sometimes finicky or can shut you down for misuse; they are still FAR more consistent and reliable a source of traffic than is SEO.

Now don't misunderstand me… I'm a big advocate for SEO. We take content creation and SEO ranking very seriously in our business. We set goals, and we work to achieve them… but SEO is our long game… Paid Traffic is our short game and it should be yours too.

Resource: Entrepreneurs You Are Machine Builders

Resource: Our Content Creation Formula for SEO

How We Approach Our Social Content Strategy

social-media-management

This article is meant to review our own company appraoch to dealing with social media and leveraging it as a platform. Not to suggest we have it all figured out but I think this may be helpful to a really small business who is feeling overwhelmed by the consumer expectation.

Objective

Our customers and members of our tribe/audience want to consume relevant content and engage us in a digital relationship. Our primary social objective is to facilitate that relationship and deepen the connection between brand and consumer while also providing quality service.

Primary Challenge

Time and Resources about sums it up. Big brands like Cabelas, Geico, and Pizza Hut have the resources to hire entire teams to manage a social strategy and conversation. This has raised the expectation in the mind of today's consumer.

If our brand doesn't come at least close to that Geico level of engagement consumers get angry and won't engage with the brand. It isn't entirely fair as most small businesses don't have the resources to hire dedicated staff to manage social profiles and content… but alas nobody ever said Capitalism was easy.

So, to the best of one's brand-ability, we have to take the resources we have and do the best we can to arrive at or beyond the consumer expectation… even though we know we will fall short of perfect until the business can scale big enough for us to dedicate the resources.

Approach

Given those constraints our company dedicates itself to three primary goals:

1: Publish relevant / valuable content on our social networks consistently even when it isn't our content or doesn't directly lead to a sales funnel

We schedule daily posts to publish to our social pages/profiles with content we think our audience would care about. While we certainly don't miss the opportunity to publish our own content and announcements we also fill the gaps with other industry relevant and quality content. For some of the social sites like Facebook and Twitter we can share the same content to both… but for other sites like Pinterest and Instagram we have to be more image than headline focused and it takes incremental effort to find the best content.

While there are some tools out there that one may be able to setup to automatically publish blog content to your social profiles my experience has been that these tools don't work really well or reliably. At the same token the burden that would come with manually publishing every content piece the same hour it is published on our site is very high and not something we are currently willing to deal with. So instead we publish our content to social about 3-5 days behind the publish date on our site.

So essentially about once or twice a week we go into Hootsuite (more details below) and we schedule the next 3-5 days worth of content to schedule. We currate this content from our own site and from other sites in our industry (using feedly also discussed below). This does mean there will be a delay between the publish date and the share date but that hasn't bugged me or our followers in the slightest and in fact I believe it has been good for our SEO rankings.

2: Listen to the social audience, reading and responding to messages and posts

It isn't easy but it is important that we listen to our tribe and respond. We leverage a few tools (mentioned below) to monitor the conversation and chime in as appropriate. We don't feel the need to have something to say about everything but people do need to know the brand is there and is available when a question is asked.

3: Optimize social channels as a monetizable property. This means finding ways to track the traffic from social and learn the best and appropriate ways to leverage that asset to sell products

We use the right tools to encode links we publish to social and we leverage Google Analytics to track the traffic that comes from different social platforms and this makes it much easier to assign a dollar figure to that traffic. We also carefully optimize content that we know can lead to sales. We write better headlines, carefully consider the image being shared and when necessary ask our audience very directly to take action.

Social Properties

Each brand has to prioritize social channels based on where your audience spends the greatest amount of time. For our primary brand we use the following channels in this order of priority:

  1. Facebook – still the behemoth and very relevant to our primary and secondary audiences.
  2. YouTube – Too big for us to ignore for our industry and audience… debatably more important than Facebook for us.
  3. Twitter – huge traffic and still relevant to most of our audiences although fairly static
  4. Instagram – The next upcoming massive giant and already critical for our secondary audience
  5. Pinterest – We can't neglect it and over time it is growing in importance for our audiences

You may also want to focus energy on LinkedIn or Tumblr or some other website where your tribe spends time.

Tools

Feedly

If we intend to have at our fingertips quality content that isn't our own that we can share with our followers we need to have a system in place by which we can currate and sift through that content. Setting bookmarks for 50 different industry websites and going through them once a week sounds painful enough to make me want to die… so we don't do that. Instead use a RSS reader like Feedly to subscribe to the feeds of those industry websites. The RSS Reader will pull in all the headlines from all the collective content. Then based on your own workflow you can login and very quickly scan for the best content for your tribe.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite performs several functions for us. The tool is advertised as a social media client. It allows you to manage, publish to, monitor, and respond to all your various feeds and profiles in one place. It doesn't connect to every social media site but it does help us manage Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

We use it to publish. When we identify a piece of content to publish now or later we use Hootsuite to schedule that content to publish to our profiles.

We use it to listen. When we get direct messages, mentions, or replies to our content we use Hootsuite to see all of that content in one place and quickly respond.

Zendesk

Our customer service team uses Zendesk and one of our favorite tools is the ability to import Facebook messages right into Zendesk and respond from within the Zendesk interface. It is a life saver.

The Online Content Creation Formula For Success

top blogging strategyToday I had a quick conversation with a member of our team that is going to start contributing content to our website. I was explaining our general internal process for producing awesome content on our sites and it occurred to me I've never published an article on my own site about how to write awesome articles.

First the Disclaimer: The site you are on right now… jacobspaulsen.com is where I rant and share about my life of marketing and personal development. Don't hold me accountable to doing all the stuff I preach on this site. The lessons I share here are things I apply on my businesses and the websites where I actually generate revenue… not here on my hobby/journal site.

Here is our process start to finish:

  1. Identify a topic worth producing content around
  2. Use Google and the Google Adwords Keyword tool to determine the top search phrases for that content topic. For example if I want to write an article about how to select the best toilet paper at the grocery store I might find out that the top related search phrase is actually: “Best Rated Toilet Paper.” The top search phrase should be a massive consideration in your articles headline.
  3. Finalize the article's headline considering both the top search phrase as well as what would actually be enticing to readers. It needs to have shock value or create significant curiosity to the relevant audience.
  4. Find the following three competitors:
    1. The #1 ranked content piece for your target search phrase
    2. The #1 top quality (based on your own opinion) article on the topic
    3. The #1 top quality or most popular YouTube video on the topic
  5. Ask yourself how are you going to improve on the three competitors outlined above. What can you add or better explain to make it better?
  6. Formulate an outline for your own content by first just listing out key points that you want to make. This generally just looks like a list of bullet points at first.
  7. Organize your list of key points into the best chronological order so as to help the reader flow through the content is such a way that is logical, emotional, or brings them to the conclusion you are trying to recommend.
  8. Ask one other person who is also very familiar with the topic to look at your outline and point out anything you have missed.
  9. Turn the key points into section headers and repeat step 3 for each section header to make sure those section titles keep the reader reading.
  10. Fill in the content for each section
  11. Review the content and work on gathering or creating the best supporting images or videos to accompany the content. You probably need more than you think.
  12. Have another person read through your final draft.

There is our full process that we try (try is a keyword here) to follow. When we do, it always leads to a source of strong and ongoing traffic.

Cheers,

Jacob

What You Need to Know About Affiliate Disclosures and Product Endorsements

FTC_logoThe FTC regulates the laws and rules surrounding how one has to disclose your relationship with a business, product, or organization. Advertisers have had to deal with this for decades when they pay celebrities to endorse their product in TV or radio commercials or magazine ads. The internet has changed the game because today anyone can create a blog for free and write about products and organizations. It no longer takes big money and time to become a media outlet. Everyone is a publisher.

Because of this sudden surge in this new form of media the FTC has had to craft rules specifically about how bloggers and other internet publishers have to disclose any relationship with an advertiser or company. A relationship can be defined as about anything. If a company gives or lends you a product to review that is a relationship that must be disclosed. If you stand to gain anything like a commission by reviewing or promoting a company or their product that is also a relationship that must be disclosed.

Optionally you can include a notice next to any product endorsement with your disclaimer. Most bloggers find that the easiest way to disclaim your relationship with an advertiser is to create a separate page on the site called “Affiliate Disclosure.” Disclaim on that page that any links to external pages could be affiliate links and make sure the Affiliate Disclosure is visible on the site without having to scroll down below any given product endorsement.

->Read more about the FTC Endorsement Guidelines

->Read the specific section about online affiliate endorsements

Three WordPress SEO Tricks You Are Likely Neglecting

You have a WordPress based website and you pride yourself on knowing the SEO basics but are you forgetting to do a few simple things that could make a big difference?

1: Category descriptions. Visit the Categories sub-menu under the Posts menu. Does it look like this?

category desctiptions seo

Its time to add descriptions for each category. Each category has it's own stand alone page called the category archive. Like any other page, you ideally want to have META title, description, and keyword tags on that page. You can find that page here www.yourdomain.com/category/categoryslug. Adding the description for these categories in WordPress will translate to the Description Meta tag on the archive page. Depending on your theme the description may also display at the top of the page.

2: Page specific Meta Tags. It isn't uncommon for me to sit down in a SEO consultation with someone who tells me they have worked long and hard to write awesome META tags for their website. I go deeper into an internal page and BAM… no meta tags at all. Are you so focused on the home page you forgot to write tags for all the internal pages and posts?

3: Bold, Underline, Italics. Another sometimes down played technique of SEO is to use Bold, Underline, and Italics to emphasize certain keywords on your website. Some SEO experts disagree on how effective this is but I've never heard anyone suggest it would hurt. Don't go over board but on each page/post be sure to emphasize at least one keyword you want the search engines to notice.

WooCommerce Plugin – Product Specific Thank You Page

We have just made available for sale another custom WordPress / WooCommerce plugin via our online store.

This plugin for WordPress and extension for WooCommerce allows the admin to designate a custom thank you page. When a custom thank you page has been set for a product, upon checkout the customer will see the order completed page for only a few seconds and then will be forwarded to the designated page. The custom thank you page is set in the product page settings as shown here:

custom thank you page redirect for woocommerce

You can easily set the custom page by inserting any custom URL or be selecting an existing WordPress page from the dropdown menu.

Marketers are using this tool to drive a customer to an upsell product as soon as they have finished buying a “trip-wire” product.

–>Visit the product page here

How To Make Your Blog Post Good Enough for Wikipedia

In a previous blog post I wrote about the process, value, and best practices of becoming a Wikipedia contributor. Today's post is focused on best practices to write blog posts that are most likely to be referenced in Wikipedia pages. When an editor or contributor adds content or changes content to Wikipedia they are encouraged to give a reference for the information to ensure it's credibility. You want to be that source.

wikipedia for marketers

The value of a link to your website from Wikipedia is very high. The page score and domain authority of Wikipedia is very high and search engines and users trust it as a non-bias source of content. In many ways this is the coveted inbound link of the internet. Instead of trying to game the system and start adding your links to Wikipedia pages (which is against their policy) you might go to the harder effort, but far more valuable process of just creating awesome content that is likely to get Wikipedia love.

What Type of Content Do Wikipedia Authors and Contributors Look For

Tutorials

Tutorials about how to do something go hand in hand with Wikipedia content.

Histories and Timelines

A good article about the history of something is going to make it super easy for a Wikipedia author to get all the relevant dates and facts they need.

Breaking News

Being the first person to update or publish a new Wikipedia page about something breaking is a coveted position to be in. If you can feed them the facts they will reward you with a reference link.

Insider Accounts

Wikipedia content is based on fact, research, and credible sources. If you have the insider scoop on something or someone you may find a Wikipedia contributor grateful for your contribution.

In Depth and Detailed Reports

Posts that start with “Everything You Need to Know About” tend to provide great insights about key events, companies, services, and other topics. Compile all the best information about a topic and publish it as a detailed report.

What Are Common Attributes Of Good Wikipedia References

Non-Biased Editorial

If you drop any clues, hints, or outright clear statements about your feelings on the subject you call all your content into question. For Wikipedia targeted content think like a news journalist whose job it is to give the facts.

Recency

Old content is no longer trusted or relevant. When you write make sure you include dates to clarify the recency of the information. Also if you have an awesome piece of content that is starting to date itself publish a new and updated piece of content to tell everyone what has changed and what hasn't.

First Party Accounts or Sourced Data

Opinions aren't facts. When you write, clarify if the data is first person (you were directly a witness of the facts) or give your source for the facts you are posting.

Unique and Hard to Find Information

Perhaps it goes without saying but if you are the only one who published the information then what choice would a Wikipedia contributor have but to link back to your content as a reference.

Optimized for Search

If a Wikipedia author or contributor is looking for a piece of information or a source for information they already have your piece of content had better be easy to find in search engines. Without a strong search strategy your Wikipedia game plan becomes really empty.

In summary I do think that Wikipedia Loved content is hard work. It isn't likely to be that blog post that you quickly penned on Saturday afternoon. Identify the opportunities you have to go a little further into the content to produce quality instead of quantity and before you know it you will see Wikipedia on your traffic reports!

 

Becoming a Wikipedia Editor and Contributor

Anyone can contribute to the content on Wikipedia. Marketers have a particular interest in the site since a relevant backlink to one's site from Wikipedia can be very valuable. Naturally then it would make sense for any web marketer to become familiar with Wikipedia and where possible try to leverage it (within the Wikipdia guidelines) as a tool to drive awareness and traffic.

wikipedia for marketers

Relevant Wikipedia Guidelines:

As an author or editor it is prohibited to use Wikipedia to promote yourself, your website, or your organization. These are all considered conflicts of interest and are to be avoided.

Be neutral. This is not a place to get on your soap box. It is a play to play the role of non-bias editorial, confirmed, relevant, and valuable informational writer.

While I do not endorse trying to game the system or break the rules I do think you should consider the following:

Setup an Actual Profile

Anyone without a user account can make anonymous edits to Wikipedia pages but those edits are poorly trusted and impossible to followup on or track as the contributor. Setup an actual user account and work hard to build your reputation by following the below tips.

The More You Contribute The More You Are Trusted By Others

If you are a very active member of Wikipedia it shows in your profile. Editors and contributors are very weary of a new user who starts adding links to an external website. Red flag right? On the other hand if you truly work to benefit the website, content, and community everything you do is likely to be taken in good faith.

Legitimately Try to Add Value

If you focus on how you can create more value for others and less on how Wikipedia can create value for you, in the long run the relationship will be very strong and mutually beneficial. Don't look to articles where you would like to have a link back and work hard to find a way to incorporate it. Instead ask yourself if you have content that can truly add to the readers experience and knowledge. If so add it and do it in a way that will add value to the reader.

Take it Slow – Learn The System

Wikipedia is a unique community with it's own coding language, guidelines, and policies. Don't rush in and start making tons of changes, edits, and additions. It won't help you or the readers. Take it slow. Look for small edits you can make to truly improve content in areas where you have expertise or resources. Get familiar with and comfortable with the processes.

Document What You Do

Every time you make an edit to a page you will have the change to explain your changes and add any other relevant change notes to the “talk” page for other editors and contributors to see what you did and why you did it. If you are really adding value to readers you should have no reason not to be transparent and clear about the edits you have made. It will help your reputation and will also make it easier for you to track past contributions you have made.

New WordPress Plugin – Extract Email Addresses from Text

Just a quick note to our readers to announce the availability of a new custom WordPress plugin we recently developed. While fairly niche, we have found so far that there are some email marketers out there who have expressed interest.

The new plugin called, “Extract Emails from Text” creates a tool, hosted on any WordPress page or post via shortcode, via which a user can paste any jumbled mess of text into a text box and push a button to have the plugin search for and extract every valid email address. Those email addresses are then provided one per line in a new text box so the user can copy and paste them out.

email extractor tool for wordpress

screenshot of how the tool displays

As you can see from the screenshot it also has an option to ignore any number or list of email addresses as well.

If you are interested you can find the plugin for sale in our online store.

–>Visit Product Page