According to a recent report by eMarketer, the majority of internet users prefer online search to find local products. Roughly a third of them also believe these results to be “trustworthy and accurate.”
“eight out of 10 respondents said a search engine was their top choice among a collection of digital and non-digital sources to look up information for local businesses last year.”
While printed white and yellow page publications hit an all time low, 80% of users surveyed said they used a search engine in the week prior to the survey. The data showed that online search lead other sources when it comes to consumer trust and accuracy. In other words, Google is doing a great job at producing high-quality search results for it’s users.
Another huge takeaway from this survey is the importance of a branded website. People trust Google because Google has created an environment that gives it’s users good reason to trust them. A user’s 2nd choice though was a company website – which speaks volumes about the importance of your own online brand and making sure that it’s easy for customers to find.
The term “audience development” is basically a friendly way of saying “advertising.” Essentially you’re taking steps to draw an audience. Your audience is what is going to make you money in most cases so it’s a valuable thing to develop.
There are a lot of different ways to do this, most of them cost money and if they don’t they cost time. If you’re a small business owner, time = money so one way or another you’re going to end up paying here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though… the trade off is worth it in the end. Once you have a thriving digital presence that’s bringing you real world business you’ll be thanking yourself for the investment.
The first and best way to get real traffic is through optimizing your site for keyword searches. Today it’s basically making sure that your site is 100% technically sound and producing regular content. This is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog right now. Simply put, regularly writing or creating video about what you do is the best way to gain organic search ranking. Google is looking for fresh content relevant to the keywords people are searching by.
In an industry like digital marketing things are continually evolving and changing. So content is really the best way to show the search engine that we are aware of the changes in our industry. It’s a simple idea but one that is lost on a lot of people. Relevance – this is what Google thrives on and to dominate in organic search you need to have relevance. So a video that was made yesterday about best practices for Pay Per Click is going to take precedent over something that was produced 10 years ago… in most cases. There are exceptions here, especially when the content is poor, has holes in it or there is a massive amount of “social proof” for other content. That is users have shown an affinity to a particular piece of information that makes it still more relevant than your newer piece of information. Hopefully that makes sense.
A big ranking factor is making sure your site is aligned with best practices. This was hinted at earlier but to explain in more detail, Google has good reasoning behind a lot of their rules and regulations. The goal is to have a search engine that succeeds at their mission:
PROVIDE THE USER WITH THE BEST AND MOST RELEVANT SEARCH RESULTS QUICKLY AND EFFICIENTLY
Simply stated, that’s the goal of Google and if you play by their rules they will elevate your website naturally.
A great example of this type of practice is the character limit on title tags and meta descriptions. These limitations are not simply arbitrary. They are designed to assure that when a user gets a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) it is clean and easy to navigate with accurate descriptions of each link displayed. As more and more people search, Google’s algorithms begin to note the links that get the most clicks and elevate those organically based on this and many other factors.
This is a simple process that we hammer on quite a bit if you read our blogs but it’s an important one. The first thing you should do is ask yourself: “If I was looking for my website what would I type in?” – the answer to this question contains the words you will optimize your website and future content around.
This is probably the single most important aspect of how you word and layout your website. It’s also very simple and often neglected so by taking it seriously you instantly put yourself ahead of a lot of your competition. It’s also not something you should generalize with as people can find you in a variety of situations. For example, if you sell auto parts you would want to optimize your homepage around the keyword “auto parts” but a typical user may find you while searching for an oil filter for a 1978 Chevy Nova. For this reason like it or not the bigger and more vast your website is the better chances you have of netting organic search traffic.
When you think about where people go online these days a large portion of the hot spots are social media
networks. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. All of these can produce traffic for a business due to the discovery engines that drive them. We have written page upon page about social media marketing so I won’t go into a ton of detail here but just mention that it’s extremely important to have a social presence if you are serious about growing your audience.
There are a lot of different advertising methods you can use to get traffic to your site but Google AdWords Pay Per Click is probably the most efficient and best quality source of purchased traffic. The reason being is that search has real intent behind it. You can buy traffic from Facebook to run to your auto parts store but when I go to Facebook I don’t go there looking to buy auto parts. So advertising in an environment like Facebook is going to be less effective for sales but a good avenue for branding. Google AdWords on the other hand allows you to buy into keyword searches that have real intent. If you’re bidding on the keyword “Buy Auto Parts” in Google it’s a safe bet that most of those searches are actually people looking to buy auto parts. Other than maybe Amazon, there aren’t a ton of places you can buy that kind of traffic. Pay Per Click is the best way to get visible instantly if you have a budget to spend.
One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is content for your business. The old cliche “content is king” holds true still today in the internet age. I would even argue that the single most important thing you can be doing to promote your business online is creating content.
The first thing you want to do is become an authority in your industry. If you are good at what you do, chances are you already ARE an authority which makes content creation simple. All you really have to do is talk about what you do, blog about what you do, make videos about what you do. Share your expertise.
Joe Pulizzi is an authority on content marketing. He formed the CMI (Content Marketing Institute) and wrote the book ‘ Epic Content Marketing‘ He suggests that finding a niche within your industry is the biggest factor in becoming an authority. He cites the example of a pet store owner. The “Pet Supplies” marketplace is vast and dominated by well funded players like Petco, PetSmart, etc. So a more lean and nimble organization might begin producing content specifically about “Pet Travel Advice” that will help them to dominate a niche within the “Pet Supplies” industry.
Quality backlinks are a huge part of organic search optimization and the best way to get them is by producing quality content that is shared and quoted.
A long term marketing strategy is one of those things that never really seems like it’s necessary until you have used one. One of the biggest issues with digital content is the speed with which it is consumed and forgotten. With that in mind what’s best is to create a solid “pillar” theme and then develop small branches off from this.
Essentially you want to create one large piece of “authoritative” work that can then be broken down into several other more detailed and in-depth pieces. As you do this each piece feeds into the greater pillar and becomes a pathway for a new user to discover your larger body of work.
The best place to source content for your business is from your own daily interactions and experiences. If there’s a question you get a lot you can answer in a simple blog post do it. Chances are people asking this question in Google will find you and use your business for other needs out of gratitude. This of course isn’t always the place but this is more and more the type of ecosystem you’re going to be playing in so it’s a good perspective to have. I’m not advising you to give away the farm, but you can maybe take a couple fence posts out and let people play on your lawn. That’s how you build trust among people who aren’t already your customers.
When you create content that responds to the needs of your prospective customers they are much more likely find you. A wise person recently told me: “Cold calling & old school sales is dead because everything we want is right at our fingertips” – I don’t think anything sums it up better than that. If you want to get customers you have to make yourself visible to the people searching for what you do. Creating content that is useful is the best way to do that, so get out there and make yourself useful!
You’ve established your online presence. You have a great website, several social media pages and a well positioned digital brand. Now it’s time to set some goals and layout a plan to achieve them.
Your goal is going to change depending on the nature of your business. For example, if you are a blog that specializes in news the goal is going to be driving page views, maybe subscriptions, etc. The end game in this situation is developing a large audience that will facilitate advertising dollars. On the other hand, if you’re trying to sell handmade jewelry through an e-commerce site your goal is not sheer volume of audience but audience that’s looking to buy handmade jewelry. As you can see the nature of your goals are variable based on what you want to accomplish.
We borrowed this graphic from a Google training deck because it’s the perfect summation of most online business models. Take a look at this chart and find the one that most closely matches what you are doing.
One of the things we run into quite frequently is unrealistic CPA goals. As an example, if you’re a doctor or a lawyer the price of clicks and leads is going to be higher for your service than say, someone selling a toaster. The reason for this is that the cost of the product or service is so much different and the pay off for converting a legal lead is much higher than it is for selling a $20 dollar toaster.
Still a lot of people will come to us and say “Hey I want to get leads for less than $1.00!” – And while this is possible, the old addage: “you get what you pay” for holds true in digital advertising. I would seriously question the quality of leads for under $1.00.
So how can you vet the price of leads? Well Google AdWords is a great start and there are plenty of documented benchmarks for different industries. You can even use Google’s pricing to keep other vendors honest. The industry averages in Google should be relatively similar for most, if they are not I would do some digging.
One of my favorite sources of industry benchmark information is WordStream. Here are their benchmarks on Cost Per Action:
So how do you calculate your ad budget or your “Cost Per Acquisition” using this information? In order to keep it neat – We’ve put the steps into a numbered list for you, this is the step by step process we would use to find a good starting CPA goal.
Google offers everyone it’s basic analytics service for free. Attached to that is Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). Search console shows you first hand what keywords you’re ranking for in organic search as well as which ones are getting you traffic. The value of this tool cannot be overstated and it’s not incredibly difficult to set up and manage.
Analytics goes incredibly deep as well allowing you to create conversion events on your website and track users paths to those events. This can show you where you’re getting the most and best performing traffic from so that you can focus on developing those sources further. It has several other invaluable features as well, the ability to release site maps being an example.
If you build a solid plan with realistic goals and follow through with it you will see results. The quality and magnitude of those results depend on a multitude of variables, but that’s the fun part. Once you have the goals in place you can begin to look at data and make adjustments that will help you to yield the most from your efforts.
If you run a business you have a digital brand. It doesn’t matter what your business is, whether you’re a plumber or a multi-national soft drink – you are a brand and in 2016 you have a digital face. Knowing that you are a brand can be scary because with that power comes great responsibility (ha) but it’s also a great opportunity. Remember that perception is reality and once you acknowledge that you have a brand you can begin to position it for yourself, create and manage that perception.
The digital landscape presents an incredible opportunity for businesses. By simply claiming your business name on social media platforms such as Facebook & Twitter you can begin to own and forge your own public perception.
While we don’t recommend that a lot of businesses rely on a platform like Facebook as a source of lead-gen or a way to drive substantial online revenue, what it is great for is brand positioning. By simply having a presence on Facebook and interacting with users through it you can begin to create more familiarity and loyalty with your brand whatever it may be.
This applies to all interactions. Don’t be afraid to take an irate customer head on through a platform like Twitter and Facebook. Most people will look at a system like Yelp and realize that if you’ve been in business for a long time you most likely will have a few detractors. But if you keep it honest and keep your overall responses positive you can establish yourself as a trusted business and this will almost always translate into additional customers.
One of the quickest ways to develop a following and win traffic from organic search is to create video. Even Entrepreneur’s digital writers recommend it as one of the first things to think about in relation to Digital Branding.
Your content on YouTube does not have to be complicated. It can be simple things like a quick tour of your store, maybe some video testimonials from customers. If you’re a contractor or do any kind of custom work you can show footage of completed jobs, etc. etc.
Video content is also more heavily favored by organic search. The reason is the user experience, if you are hurriedly searching Google for tips on how to fix a leaking toilet chances are you need the information fast. Google understands this and will try to show their users the quickest most efficient path to that information. If you do anything service based and create “tutorial” content or anything that is instructional and helpful is going to be elevated in search.
At the end of the day – do anything. Even if your video is a photo with a voice over getting that content out there is key. You can spend weeks thinking about what to say, what to show, how to show it, etc. but action is how you win the users. We live in a time where things move at lightning speed so don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So what are you waiting for, get out there and start creating your digital brand!
There’s been a lot of buzz around programmatic advertising over the past 3 – 4 years. But what exactly is programmatic advertising? The simple definition is that it is an automated method of buying, selling or fulfilling advertising. Apparently it’s caught on because it already makes up more than half of US digital display advertising spend.
Aside from just simple banner advertising, programmatic has begun to rapidly expand in areas such as video and mobile.
A few years ago if a digital media buyer wanted to run a branded display campaign they would go to an ad network that had tags running on a long list of websites. The buyer would usually procure a list of these sites and pay a CPM (Cost Per Mille or Cost Per 1,000 views to be accurate) to run their advertising on these sites.
But nowadays buyers are purchasing by the impression. What this means is that CPM’s have increased but rather than buying bulk page views, advertisers are now able to buy large targeted data-sets through programmatic exchanges.
It’s quite simple, many ad networks already run tags on thousands of publisher exchanges. These ad networks sell this inventory through programmatic vendors that in turn buy and sell these impressions in a real time auction to the highest bidder. It sounds complicated, but it’s a simple auction just like one you would go to in order to get art or antiques. The difference is that these auctions happen in fractions of a second via programmatic DSP’s or Demand Side Platforms. Just like at a regular auction the winner of these light speed auctions gets their ad shown to the user.
Based on recent data compiled by AdRoll. Last year, the bulk of US marketers, (62%), automated 10% to 50% of their digital advertising budget. Just about one third of those marketers also said they invested 50% or more of their digital ad budgets programmatically, up from 7% in 2013.
Programmatic is visibly efficient. All data points to this fact. This method of advertising has an unmatched ability to pair audience data with digital content to target the right users with the right message at the right time. This has made digital media buying more cost effective and improved the amount of spend for web publishers.
While programmatic advertising still has issues related to fraud and viewability (cross-device visibility has been an issue) there is a healthy conversation being had about them. The current benefits of these ad buys also far outweigh the risks if you’re a brand or business looking to really get yourself in front of a highly targeted audience demographic online.
Whatever the case, keep an eye on programmatic to keep evolving and improving in the weeks and months to come.
WordPress is probably the most widely used blogging / CMS platform out today for a variety of reasons. Number one is probably the ease of use a close second is that it’s mostly free. If you run a website on WordPress and aren’t being found in search engines, the Yoast plugin provides easy SEO for WordPress. Yoast is really nothing special development wise. That is to say it’s not some revolutionary new algorithm or technology. What it is and what it does well is guide the average person through the process of Search Engine Optimization. Here’s a quickstart intro for you…
SEO has become something of a pariah over the past couple years. This is largely because there was a cottage industry built around backlinking. Several companies developed deep (and mostly shady) back channels for links that helped people’s sites pop. The problem was that these sites weren’t always the best content to answer the users search – so Google killed the part of its algorithm that weighted those types of backlinks heavily… and chaos ensued.
The good news is SEO is simple. Make good content and tell the engines what your pages are about. If you do this and people like your page you will win the organic search game.
What Yoast does for WordPress users is simplify the process of making an SEO’ed content post. Rather than continue to type though, let’s walk you through the process I went through while optimizing this very post here!! (*CUE TWILIGHT ZONE MUSIC*)
This seems like a no brainer, but write your article first. It’s much easier to SEO a piece of content that’s already been created. You’ll see why in the next step.
Once you install Yoast, you will see it in a panel below the edit screen in your posts. After you have created your article you should think about what a person searching for this type of content would type into Google. In the case of this article I chose “SEO for WordPress” but you can go with something more simple or more specific than that, I could’ve used something like – the best tool when doing SEO for WordPress, or Need quick SEO for WordPress?. SEO would be a good shorter, broader choice as another example. However, the more broadly you target the less chance you have of dominating that search term, so try to be specific and creative.
The next step is to take a look at the rating that Yoast gives you right away. In my case it’s green light because I’ve been doing this for years and chose a keyword I know was repeated everywhere in my content and header. Take a look at this… the next step is a bit more involved.
My traffic light score in Yoast is now a yellow light. It’s not terrible but it’s not fantastic either. There are a few things I can now do to improve my SEO for WordPress articles and get Yoast to give me the green light again.
Underneath the field where you write your focus keyword is a list of items Yoast relates to the SEO of your page and scores you on. As you can see I scored well on things like the amount of characters in the page title, coming up with a new and original focus keyword for my blog, creating easy to read copy, etc. But I also lost points for having no meta description and not using my focus keyword in the first paragraph of my article. My next step is to go back to my article and make adjustments based on the recommendations that Yoast has given. Let’s do that and see what we get.
Finally you will want to write a quick meta description that repeats your keyword. In my case that keyword was SEO for WordPress, so the sample image shows you how I created a statement that used this keyword but also helps to describe what the post is about. Just stuffing a keyword into text that is out of context will actually hurt your rankings, so don’t do that.
Think of the meta description as kind of a “preview” or byline of your content that a Google (or Bing) user will see in their search results. Google is focused on creating a good user experience so the more you do to help aid this process the better you will rank.
That’s our quick start guide for the Yoast SEO plugin. If you need more advice on effective SEO for WordPress we recommend you read the full Yoast tutorial on their website here.