Tag Archives | Marketing

How to Launch A Successful Podcast

In December 2015 when my business partner suggested we launch a podcast I wasn't convinced. I was certainly familiar with podcasts but had never loyally followed or listened to one.

My initial response was a common one for me, “that sounds like a lot of work.” I'm always skeptical of new initiatives that don't have a clear ROI and podcasting was in that category.

A few months later I attended a series of presentations at the Traffic and Conversion Summit about launching a podcast successfully and I came home from that event ready to move forward.

Soon after we launched The Concealed Carry Podcast which quickly grew to be a top 2-3 podcast in our industry and as of today our “podcast network” consist of 4 podcasts.

What follows is the answer to the common question I receive “how do I launch a successful podcast?”

Finding Your Place in An Ever-Expanding Podcast Library

In 2016 when we launched our first podcast about 25% of the US adult population had ever listened to a podcast. Now in 2020 that number has about doubled.

Podcasts are effectively on-demand radio shows and as broadcast radio loses ground every year podcasting takes up that lost volume and more.

As such the podcast realm which was already plenty heavy is growing ever more saturated with new content and shows. Standing out and winning in this growing competitive platform is very challenging.

While not as difficult as starting a successful YouTube channel today, the risk of becoming just one more podcast that doesn't bring anything unique to the audience is your top concern.

Start by researching the other shows in your category. Take notes about how their shows are formatted, to whom they appeal, and what unique value they bring to the listener.

Consider what you are going to do differently.

What unique value will you bring to the audience?

What unique perspective can you bring to the category that nobody else can?

Choosing A Host & Platform

A lot of the questions I get are relating to hosting and technology. At its core a podcast is a RSS feed that is formatted properly for podcast marketplaces to read.

Don't fret, I'm going to break it down. Lets start with some vocabulary.

Podcast marketplace: A website or app that catalogs a large number of podcasts and makes it easy for consumers to subscribe to and listen to those podcasts. iTunes is the original and as of this writing the most dominant podcast marketplace. Google Play Music is also a growing marketplace. Spotify, Tune-In, I Heart Radio, and now even Audible falls into this category.

Podcast host: A service (often costs money) where the actual audio files are stored (hosted). When a listener tunes into one of your podcast shows they will stream or download the episode from the host's server. There are hosts out there that tailor to the podcast market and are purpose-built. Blubrry, Libsyn, and Soundcloud come to mind. That said you can use any website hosting service to host your podcast but you may experience performance issues when you use a service not purpose-built for podcasts. The host is also going to be the place where you are going to get all your reporting and statistics.

Podcast website: The website you build to support and be the face of your podcast. That website may or may not be related to hosting in conjunction with the Podcast Host. For example, if you use Blubrry as your host, you can build a website using WordPress and then connect the two via Blubrry's “Powerpress plugin.” Libsyn also will work with WordPress or you can just host your website directly on their platform.

Podcast Feed: The RSS feed URL that is properly formatted to be read and indexed by podcast marketplaces. This URL will be generated and will live with your Podcast host.

I strongly encourage you to work with a podcast purpose-built host. I use Blubrry exclusively because they have the best WordPress integration in my opinion and WordPress is my platform of choice for building and maintaining a website. I also think their reporting interface is very good. Depending on the frequency of publishing your show you will pay $20 to $100 a month.

I manage the podcast and publish episodes via the website using the Blubrry Powerpress plugin but the actual audio files are hosted on Blubrry's server.

Titles, Headlines, and Categories

Like most business ventures, naming your podcast is going to be a mission critical step. Don't take it lightly.

Just as important is an understanding that the title of each show episode is a critical headline. Episode titles determine if the listener is going to engage and listen much like an email subject line determines if the recipient is going to open the email and read it.

Be deliberate and thoughtful when you write your episode titles.

When you launch your podcast and add it to catalogs like iTunes you will have to select a category and often a sub-category. There are 2 reasons why choosing the right category will matter for you.

First, potential listeners may browse a category in search of new podcasts they want to listen to. You want to be found in the place they are most likely to search when looking for your content.

Second, some categories have more podcasts and competition than others. If you have 2 different categories that both seem equally accurate and appropriate, but one has less competition you might choose that one in order to maximize your odds of ranking higher in your category.

The Launch Plan – The first 4 weeks are critical

Launching a podcast correctly will have a strong impact on your ongoing success. Many Podcast Marketplaces have a category for new and popular podcasts and getting a lot of downloads quickly may put you in a position where the marketplace will highlight your show and get you a lot more views and attention.

This effectively builds a cycle of growth. Getting downloads brings more listeners that get you more downloads that get you more listeners.

So in the first few weeks of your launch your goal is to drive as many listens and reviews/ratings as possible.

Strategy 1: Make the First 5-10 Episodes Your Best

Spend a lot of time thinking through your first 5-10 episodes. Ask people for their input and make sure the titles/headlines are amazing.

This will naturally increase loyalty early on and drive larger audiences.

Strategy 2: Publish A Lot of Episodes All At Once

Your ongoing publishing plan may be to publish a new episode once a week but in the first two weeks publish 3-10 of them. This helps you maximize the number of downloads you can get from your initial audience in the first few weeks.

Strategy 3: Make A Launch Team

Reach out to influencers, blogs, and friends and ask them to join your launch team. Effectively you are asking them to set aside some energy in the first 2 weeks of your launch to help you promote your new podcast.

Prepare assets for them to help them promote your show. Images for social media, press releases they can reference, and anything else you think would be helpful.

One way to encourage an influencer with a large audience is to invite them to record one of these early episodes with you. This gives them an incentive to promote your show and gives you greater credibility.

Promotional Plan – How Will You Drive Listeners

First read my post “How To Get A Large And Engaged Loyal Audience

Here are some additional thoughts specific to Podcasts:

Strategy 1: Offer to be a guest on other podcasts in your industry

If you want to reach people who already consume podcasts there is no better place than on other podcasts.

It can be a tough sale to convince a competing podcast to have you on as a guest for obvious reasons (note the word “Competing). You will have to have a unique, attention-catching method of asking AND you will have to bring something valuable to the relationship. Something that causes them to NEED you as much as you need them.

Strategy 2: Invite Guests Who Have An Audience You Want to Reach

Your industry has influencers. People with large email lists, Instagram followings, blog readers, etc. When you invite these people on your show not only does that add to your credibility but it also gives them a good reason to share your show with their audience.

Strategy 3: Attend Industry Trade Shows

Your industry has events where you can shake hands with hundreds to thousands of consumers and or businesses. Go to those events and network. If finances allow get a booth and record episodes right there at the show.

Formatting and the Publishing Schedule

Formatting is the word we use in broadcast to refer to the process of determining how your show is going to be laid out. What content you are going to have.

While some successful podcasts have no format, they just consist of the host(s) talking for some length of time; MOST successful podcasts follow a specific format. Perhaps they always start with the sponsor message or an introduction. Perhaps they discuss current events followed by listener questions.

Whatever it may be, listeners like consistency. Think of your favorite news broadcast, late night TV show, or radio show. The consistency of segments and layout creates loyalty and tribe. You want both.

Also in thinking about consistency, the most successful podcasts create what is effectively an appointment with their listeners. How often you publish and what day you publish is far less important than picking a schedule and staying true to it.

Production Value

There are few things that will turn OFF your audience faster than poor production value. In the case of an audio podcast, I'm talking about audio quality.

Invest in quality microphones and recording equipment. If recording remotely with guests and other hosts experiment with various tools to reduce audio variance and quality loss due to bandwidth.

Ask guests to participate from quiet locations with quality internet. Ask them to wear headphones to minimize audio feedback. Trust me, audio quality matters a lot!

Securing and Pitching Sponsors

Let me first say that if your only or primary motivation for starting a podcast is to secure paying sponsors just stop now. Unless you have a built-in library of salespeople and advertisers you already work with you don't have what is necessary to be successful out of the gate.

A podcast is a great way to support a passion or to support an existing business plan, model, or product. The amount of energy and time that will have to be invested to get a large enough audience to be able to make decent money from sponsorships is VERY high.

With that in mind here are some ideas that will help you with sponsors.

Pricing

The industry standard way to price podcast advertising is on a CPM (Cost per thousand impressions). This is similar to most other forms of online advertising in which the advertiser is paying based on the ACTUAL reach of their message.

In the case of a podcast there are two ways this can be done. You can calculate the number of downloads after a certain amount of time has passed and bill the advertiser based on those actual numbers or you can bill the advertiser in advance based on a minimum guaranteed reach in a certain number of days based on your past history.

For example is I know my average episode is downloaded 11-12 thousand times within 30 days of being published then I might sell my podcast episode sponsorships based on 10K downloads minimum.

The CPM rate varies significantly by podcast but ranges between $20 and $100. That variance is going to be justified by the uniqueness or value of the average listener and the loyalty to the show if the average listener.

CPM is cost per thousand. You can find CPM calculators online to help you figure out the numbers.

Pitching Assets

It is common place for savvy and larger advertisers and agencies to request a media kit. A media kit is a file (PDF is most common) that highlights the various aspects of the show and it's audience. It often contains advertising rates and options as well.

Reach out to other podcasts in your industry and request their media kit to reference as examples.

Over Deliver

Whatever you do be sure to over deliver for your advertiser. Do everything in your power to make sure their message is received by the audience. Be a user and consumer of their products so you can naturally refer to them in context outside of sponsor messages.

Conclusion

If you think a podcast may be a great way to reach and grow your audience you might be right. Investigate existing podcasts in your market and do something to be different.

Invest in quality gear and work to product a high quality podcast.

Figure out a business plan that isn't dependent on finding paid advertisers unless you already have the experience and access to salespeople and paying advertisers in your industry

Build a launch plan that will maximize your odds of success.

If you have other questions about launching or operating a podcast let me know!

0

Enalito Thriving eCommerce Summit Nov 2020

Enalito is a company that provides various software tools to empower and support eCommerce businesses.

On a regular basis they conduct a summit in which they host these style of discussions to help educate and support their existing and their potential customers.

Currently, I do not use any Enalito's products and at no point during this process did they pitch me. This is an important thing for me to point out because Enalito appears to be focused on truly supporting and empowering their audience. This attitude of being useful and valuable first, and then exchanging money second sets a great example in their space.

Here is the video recording of the panel in which I participated:

Things we discussed:

  • The importance of identifying and communicating your brand's deepest purpose and passion
  • How is COVID affecting the eCommerce space and how does that affect different business categories?
  • What are the best marketing strategies to dominate your market in the next 5 years?
  • The growth of SMS and direct messaging
  • How does the ROI on paid advertising vary by category?
  • How to understand your consumer's behavior
  • The single greatest point of advice for new internet entrepreneurs

0

Interview: “Doing Things He Loves – Guns and Internet Marketing”

On May 21st 2020, my interview with Bart Merrell on his podcast was published.

Bart and I crossed paths in a business venture back in 2007 and I was very excited to hear from him and honored to be invited as a guest on his podcast.

Here is the interview:

Some important topics we covered:

  • What is the “Field of Dreams” entrepreneur myth?
  • The success formula for hiring the right people
  • The three ways to get customers
  • The formula to a stable business that can survive a storm
  • Getting the plan B and being ready to pivot
  • The book I most frequently recommend to people

Learn more about the podcast and subscribe with your favorite app by clicking here.

0

Getting a High ROI From Your Booth

My first ever booth. 2008 at a 5K race in Utah. Learned some tough lessons.

I've been through a handful of business ventures and through them all I've been to A LOT of trade shows where I've seen A LOT of booths. I've had some opportunities to manage or execute a booth or two of my own and today's blog post is my attempt to point out the obvious lessons that aren't so obvious.

Have A Clear Core Objective

A big mistake I see are booths that suffer from having too much going on. They have sale signs, fish bowls to enter to win something, swag, flyers, and more.

This confuses the target consumer and makes it difficult to stand out. Like almost everything else in business you tend to succeed when you pick one thing and do it really well.

Potential Objectives May Include:

  • Lead Capture. Gather contact information for potential customers
  • Real Conversations. Talk to target consumers and understand their needs
  • Brand Engagement. Get consumers to use or better understand your company / product / service
  • Sell product and generate cash revenue

In addition, having a core objective also helps you understand who your customer is and how to target them in the crowd. Most likely you do NOT want EVERY person at the event to stop by your booth. Just the people in the market for what you are selling.

So identifying your objective leads to identifying your target consumer at the event, which should guide my next few points.

Lead With Value

A booth at an event is no different than any other marketing medium. If you want someone to do business with you or buy your product you need to lead with value.

What experience, product, tool, insight, or conversation can you provide to your target event attendees that will be inherently valuable on its own and relevant to your product or service?

The SilencerCo Booth at SHOT Show 2016. As you walk in it tells a story in timeline form along the walls about the history of gun control and specifically suppressors in America. Very captivating and provides and valuable experience that is RELEVANT to their products.

ONLY AFTER you provide some immediate and inherent value do people tend to be willing to hear your sales pitch.

A common way businesses will try to do this is to hand out a product sample but unfortunately, this doesn't create a now experience. You need something that creates a NOW experience that causes the person to stop at the booth and engage with you.

Benchmade Knife Company has a busy booth each year because they will sharpen, service, and laser engrave your knife on site for FREE.

Your lead must be relevant to your service. In the last few years I've seen booths that setup comfortable chairs and charging stations so people will stop, sit, and charge their phones for a few minutes. This is effective at getting people to stop but they aren't stopping because they have any interest in you or your business and that is a problem.

Now you may be thinking you just have a 10×10 booth with a limited budget and you just can't afford to do something huge. It is ok to start small, but it isn't smart to think people will stop and talk to you at your booth just because you have a fabulous product.

They do not know they need or want you. In order to let them know you need conversation time. You earn that conversation time by providing something valuable.

Don't Have SUCKY SWAG

At the USCCA Expo 2018 we handed out FREE pistol cases valued at about $15 each. People went absolutely insane. You want to be the booth that someone walks up to and says “Hey I see people everywhere with %%THING%% how do I get one?”

If you are handing out candy, pens, koozies, frisbees, balloons, or some other cheap trinket that anyone can buy at a dollar store your SWAG sucks.

Attributes of Awesome SWAG:

  • Visible at the event. When people take it from you and walk around the event everyone else sees it and wants to know where they got it. If your swag fits in a pocket it becomes invisible
  • Relevant to your product/service. People associate you with whatever you give away. Make it relevant to your business
  • It doesn't have to have high retail value as long as it has high perceived value. Free bottled water on a hot day doesn't have high monetary value but it has high perceived value.
Design Pickle booth (don't know where or when). These guys always let you take a picture with their mascot… which is a pickle. They also give away cold crisp pickles. Real ones… that you eat… because apparently a lot of people enjoy a fresh crisp pickle.

I know what you are thinking… you can't afford it right?

On more than one occasion I've been able to partner with a 3rd party company to provide me with some products either at steep discount or free to be able to give away at a booth. A joint-venture on a swag item can be a big win for both parties.

You can also lessen the cost of a swag item by including along with it a coupon or offer that, with even a low percentage of conversion will help you generate some cash to offset the cost.

In the above picture, those pistol cases we handed out were stuffed with about 10 coupons from various companies that paid us to deliver their offer to event attendees. It was a pain to stuff those cases but it offset the cost of buying the swag.

When you still can't figure out a way to justify the expense, think of something you can print that would be valuable. A flyer or card with some sort of inherent value like a tutorial, recipe, tips, or something that you would normally sell.

Start Small!!!

Now, if you are about to have your first experience with a booth I strongly recommend you start with the standard 10×10 booth and do your best to follow the above ideas. No point in investing a lot of money in a big booth and then losing that money due to poor execution due to lack of experience.

A booth for my promotional apparel business JP Tees. Setup at a local 5K race trying to convince people to buy our shirts or hire us to print shirts in bulk. We sold one shirt and I'm still frankly shocked that we did even that well. This was not the right target audience and even if our target customer was in the crowd we didn't do anything well to attract their attention. But we gave away a lot of bottled water which was a good primer to understanding how to attract bigger crowds.

If your first time is anything like my first… 6 times, you will make some critical mistakes and learn some important lessons about your target consumers that will make it easier to do a bigger and better job the next time.

Learn From & Network With Others

Always take the time to walk around the event, even if you have a booth there, and observe the other booths. Look for the crowds and see what is attracting people.

See if you notice a pattern of products or swag items that everyone seems to be carrying or using or wearing.

Your market or industry is unique to you and there is no shame in copying the best ideas of others in your industry.

In addition some of the highest ROI from the event will be in the contacts you make if we work hard to introduce yourself to other vendors.

Maybe you will find some dealers for your product, someone with whom you could co-sponsor an upcoming event, join in an online product giveaway, a potential celebrity endorsement, or someone willing to trade promotional assets like direct mail or email.

When I go to the effort, especially at a very industry specific and targeted event, to go booth to booth and introduce myself to the other vendors there I always leave the event with the confidence that my greatest ROI will be in the contacts that I made.

What other things have you found that make for a great booth experience and ROI? Let me know in the comments below.

0

I Don’t Have the Problem That You Are Trying To Solve

Products solve problems. If you are a business owner, salesman, or entrepreneur of any kind ask yourself what problem does your product solve?

Understanding the problem is the first step to all marketing. Your customer is in their current state. They have a problem. How does your product solve that problem and get the customer to their desired state? Here are additional thoughts on this marketing approach.

Now, as a consumer you also need to approach product purchasing this way. Using the “what problem” paradigm of shopping has some great benefits. When you see an advertisement for a new product ask yourself… what problem do I have that this will solve?

Here are the core advantages to this “Problem Solving” method of shopping:

  1. You actually get to the root of the issue. Sometimes you might be tempted to buy products that address a symptom of your problem but don't actually address the problem at all. A lot of money and time can be saved if you figure out the actual source of your problem and buy to address it.
  2. Often you will discover you don't have the problem. This happens to me all the time. Fellow business owners will tell me about the latest program or service they are using that has made life so much better. I take one look and say to myself… “This solves a problem that I don't have” and then I move on. Hey don't get me wrong the squatty potty ads are hilarious but I don't have an issue with my bowel movements so I'm good to just laugh at the videos on YouTube and move on in life.
  3. You can make more logical priced based decisions. What is it worth to you to solve that problem. When you really understand the problem you are trying to solve you may more easily understand what you would be willing to solve that problem.
0

Has Amazon Ruined eCommerce For Everyone Else?

I operate an eCommerce website. We sell stuff… and while as a consumer I LOVE Amazon I can't help but wonder if, as a business owner, I should hate Amazon.

I'll get specific in a moment but the short story is that Amazon has raised the bar so high that the rest of us almost can't compete. If you are a consumer this is great news…. just get Amazon Prime and always check there first but as you will see below… don't assume Amazon always has the best deal either.

Amazon As A Marketplace Drives the Price Down on EVERYTHING

Imagine a world before Amazon.com. Imagine that there is a product that many different companies choose to stock and sell. As an example lets talk about a book. Before Amazon.com existed you would probably search for that book on Google and click through to about 10 different websites checking prices on each before you ultimately just got tired and bought. Most people will only check 3 sources before making a purchasing decision. All the different websites who sell that book are likely to list it at or near the MSRP price because there isn't a lot of reason to believe that customers are going to do a lot price comparison and even if they do it can't HURT you to be the same price as the next vendor.

Enter Amazon.com: Now consumers are likely to check Amazon first or at least last before making a decision so at least one vendor is going to make sure they list that book for sale on Amazon.com. The other vendors will follow. Now you have a dozen or more vendors that all sell the same book on Amazon.com. Now the vendors are far more likely to recognize the power of undercutting the competition. They all win the eyeball/attention game of getting the customer to look because they are all on Amazon in the same place. The ONLY way they can now compete is to lower price. This of course leads to the proverbial race to the bottom. Who is willing to make the least amount of money on the sale?

Amazon Won't Let Me Do Any Ongoing Marketing To Customers

Now, traditionally I wouldn't mind making little to no profit on acquiring a customer because once that customer has completed a transaction with my brand I can build a relationship with content, email, and social media which will eventually lead to additional sales from that customer.

Enter Amazon.com: Amazon is not incentivized to allow me the vendor to have an ongoing relationship with the customer because I might drive them to my own website to purchase more products. Amazon wouldn't like that. So they have policies that prevent me from sending the customer an email with anything other that current transaction related messaging. They also have policies that regulate what I can put into the packaging of the purchased product I ship to the customer.

Amazon's 2-Day Shipping Magic Creates Unrealistic Expectations For Normal Companies

Last week we had a customer place an order on Friday night after business hours. Between Sunday and Monday morning early he left us a voicemail, text message, and an email. Our customer service team doesn't currently work weekends (which it shows on our website next to the contact info) so we didn't get back to him until Monday late morning. At that point he was angry enough to berate us on YouTube and call us out as a SCAM.

Consistently we have customers who place orders on a Friday and wonder where there tracking number is on Sunday. The Amazon.com consumer expects not only for their order to be shipped 2-day delivery but it should be out the door within 12 hours and the app on your phone notifies you when it ships and when it is delivered. While there are a lot of great solutions out there for small businesses like us you need to understand that Amazon's execution in this arena is mind-blowing and not duplicable… which they of course love and their customers do too.

Amazon's Commission Forces Me To Charge More For Amazon Customers

Depending on the product category, Amazon.com will keep about 15% of the product purchase price for any sale. So if I sale a product via Amazon for $100 only $85 will get to my account. For a lot of small businesses operating on small margins this is an extreme challenge. One that could be overcome if it were not for Commodity Issue and Ongoing Marketing Issue referenced above. Given those challenges vendors are crippled and forced to take a hit or get out.

What Does This Mean To The eCommerce Company?

First, it means that exclusivity on products is critical. If you are a company that has products that are your own… meaning you are the manufacturer of the product you have the ability to create the rules to protect your business. Either not allowing dealers to sell your product online or forcing a MAP (Minimum Advertising Price) is SUPER IMPORTANT to prevent the race to the bottom that will otherwise destroy the value of your products and lead your dealers to hate selling your products. If you are selling your own products and don't have to worry about competition you may charge more on Amazon.com for the same product in order to offset the Amazon commission while giving the customer an incentive to buy direct from your own website where you can build a relationship in ongoing communication.

Second, it means you have to more carefully choose what products to stock in your own store. I have vendor's whose products I'm interested in selling on my site but effectively cannot because the products are marked down to cost or close to cost by the vendor or their dealers on Amazon. So while I may think I'm getting a great deal in sourcing the products at 50% below MSRP I may be buying them for about 2% under the Amazon Advertised Cost (AAC). This leads me to walk away from what could have been a great product to sell in my store… but gone are the days that I want my customers to have to overpay for a product in order to buy it from me.

Well Amazon… I love you when I need to buy stuff… but I hate what you do to me as a vendor.

And to you manufacturers of products…. set a MAP and enforce it. It may be the only thing that saves you from long term collapse from the Amazon Effect.

 

0

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

0

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

0

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.

0

Business to Business Online Marketing Tactics

Recently I presented a training at a local Chamber of Commerce for business leaders about how to correctly engage in business to business marketing online.

jacob paulsen denver

I talked about ten core principles:

  1. Your Online Presence needs to be reflective of your best personal professional self.
  2. You need to be human
  3. You need to be found in the search engine
  4. You need to have a website ready to capture leads
  5. You need to offer up awesome valuable stuff for free
  6. You need to target the few, ignore the masses
  7. You need to do your homework
  8. You need to leverage LinkedIn
  9. You need to have a platform
  10. You should read these three books

Here is the deck I used to present: B2B Marketing Solutions.

0