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Building Your Communication Engine

You’ve built an awesome, engaging website. It shows awareness of your audience’s needs – their pain points. And it shows how your products or services are the ultimate remedies to their pains. It answers all their questions and gives them both the opportunity and motivation to buy. But what if they don’t? … at least on their first visit? What if they were *this* close, but then got distracted? What if they forget about you and someone else gets their business? How are you going to finish the sale? Or what if they *did* buy … once. What if they forget how much they liked you, and something else shiny catches their eye? How are you going to recapture their attention? Fortunately, you have communication options – tools that help you help your prospects and customers. Outgoing options like email, social media, and even browser or app notifications let you reach out to people and bring them back. But all of these methods of staying in front of your audience require two very precious things: Consent and Consistency. Consent to Communicate No one likes spam. Not even spammers. (Spam with a capital “S” is more debatable, but that's a different blog.) So it’s good news to us all that standards have risen regarding one-to-many email communication. Put simply, if you want to add someone to your mailing list, you need to ask. And you need to give them a way to unsubscribe. If you fail to do these things you risk being blackballed by search engines and Internet providers. Same with social media, except there’s no way not to ask. You need a giant “Like Me on Facebook” button that lets them show their love in the form of access to their Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Instagram feed. Give them an opportunity to follow you, and give them a reason! Also the same with browser notifications. Want them to see a message when you post something new on your blog? You’ll have to ask. Here are a couple of ideas on how to gain permission: The Exit Intent Popup You’ve seen this one, I’m sure! Just when you move your mouse up to the Back button the screen goes dark, and a cute message pops up giving you one last chance to sign up for a newsletter. It could just as easily say “Like Us on Facebook for Great Ideas!” The Footer Sign Up If you get to the bottom of the page and haven’t acted on anything else, this low-commitment action is there waiting. It’s a standard place people look when they want to subscribe. Once they’ve said yes, you’re good to go, though it may take several opportunities before they decide they like you enough. Bottom line: You need consent. Communication Consistency I love making new friends. I’m not sure at what age that happened … probably about the time I decided that cool people are usually as insecure as me. Anyway, I’m a pretty good friend when I’m with you. Right in front of you. Not so good when I’m not. I get caught up in the day to day and don’t take time to reach out (or sometimes even answer). See … not always a good friend. How do your customers feel about you? More than likely if you’re not reaching out, not being helpful, not reminding them why they love you … they may have forgotten. Being a good brand partner to your customers means nurturing the relationship, even when you’re busy. Good luck with that! Seriously ... doing anything beyond today’s deadlines is often next to impossible. Enter the Communication Engine We need a smooth-running process that just keeps running as long as it has fuel. We need something that’s so simple you can just sit down and do it. That’s the Communication Engine … a continuous series of steps that will help you keep in front of your prospects and customers, so they can keep coming back. Engine Components Your Website Blog - it is the chamber where your knowledge turns into fuel. Social & Email Marketing - the cylinders, where your fuel turns into action. Your Landing Pages - where the action is converted to forward momentum. Not much for metaphors? Let’s put it this way: Your blog, the big idea, is broken down into smaller ideas, which become successive social media posts and emails. Each of those posts and emails provide information and opportunity for your prospects or customers to move their relationship with you forward. Here's how the engine keeps turning: Listen to your customers. What are they curious about? What are their common questions? That’s where you get your idea. Turn your idea into a blog post. It’s not that hard! Just answer their question! You have a ton of expertise that your customers or clients could benefit from. Next, take that one blog post, which probably has at least 3 or 4 different nuggets of truth, and split it up into 3 or 4 social posts. Bite-sized wisdom for their coffee break. Now, you have to consider the best way to use these different communication channels, but the content you’re communicating is the same. In all cases, try to get them involved in the conversation … answering a question in the comments, or discussing with others. Take those social posts and turn them into emails. And if by some mercy your audience does respond to your communication, by all means, reciprocate! Give them a good thoughtful reply that moves the conversation forward, rather than a quick “lol”. Once a month, take time to evaluate your previous posts. How well did they do in terms of engagement? Take note of the topics that outperform others, and over time you’ll start to see trends. Finally, sit down and plan the next month’s topics. We use a calendar like the one below to keep it all straight. Even if you are the sole writer of this content, get someone else to keep you accountable. The Editorial Calendar How are you going to keep it all straight – what you’re writing about on what channel on the third Tuesday or fifth Friday? You need to write it down. You may be a pencil and paper person (like my lovely wife) but I need a calendar that yells at me, and that is as close as my phone. That’s why we use Asana to keep track of it all. We can assign different writing to different people, and see at a glance how everything’s going. Don’t Flood the Engine! Your communication engine may be stone cold, so don’t get discouraged if your first few ideas sputter, or your first few posts fall flat. Start slow, and let your momentum build naturally. You absolutely will see results. You’ll start to see sales from people who’ve been on the fringes for weeks. You’ll start to see others spreading the word for you online, taking the content you developed and giving it to others who need it. You'll start to see organic traffic showing up at your site just because you took the time to answer a common question. You will see momentum that has nothing to do with a stroke of luck or a paid advertisement. So start her up! Any Questions?

Don't Start Your Google Ads Campaign Until You Do These 3 Things

If you’ve got the budget, a strategic Google Ads spend is almost always in your favor, even if you have healthy SEO and content marketing programs. That’s because businesses generally earn $2 of revenue for every $1 spent on Google Ads. But if you’re a small or startup business with limited cash flow, it may not yet be time to invest in paid search (often called PPC or "pay-per-click"). Let's talk about why. Paid Search Requires an Investment to Get Going When you start a new paid search campaign you’re entering into a learning phase. Even with the thorough research and ad writing a professional can offer, you’ll need to pay for about 100 clicks per ad group before that group starts giving you good results. If the keywords you’re bidding on cost $1 per click, that means you need to set aside $1,000 to get going. And you likely will earn significantly less than the 2-for-1 average return during this period. Once You Start PPC, It's Best Not to Pause Search trends change, so even after you’re getting good performance from your Google Ads campaign you’ll need to tweak it to keep it fine-tuned. Because of this, pausing a campaign for more than a couple of weeks may mean you’ll have to play catch-up to regain your position. There are times when it has to be done. One instance I can recall where pausing was necessary, is when one of our clients was getting great results in bringing in new leads, but converting less than 1% of the calls they received. They were burning through their cash fast, and needed to take a huge step back and examine their business model. However, in most cases it’s best to just reduce the spend and keep the campaign running. What a Healthy Paid Search Campaign Looks Like So let’s talk for a sec about why PPC is something you should aspire to add to your marketing tools. There are people out there on the Internet searching for exactly what you do or sell. They want you! But your website may not be ranked high enough to grab their attention. Google Ads gives you the ability to lift your organization’s name above others in search results, getting you the eyeballs, and clicks, that you wouldn’t have gained otherwise. If you’ve dialed in on the right keywords, the right ad copy, and an effective landing page, you can’t beat PPC for bringing you visitors that otherwise wouldn’t know you exist. Three Things You Should Do Before Starting a Paid Search Campaign #1 Build a Killer Landing Page The last thing you want to do is pay to send visitors to a web page that doesn’t make them happy. It needs to engage them, give them the information they need to know, and give them an opportunity to do what they want to do. #2 Build a Healthy Communication Engine How are people going to remember to come back to your website? They won’t unless you have some way to remind them. And if they don’t come, you have no opportunity to tell them how great you are. That is unless you get permission to reach out to them through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., and unless you faithfully do so. Your Killer Landing Page probably has a primary call to action – that one thing you want them to do. Maybe it’s to buy your premier product. Or maybe it’s to request a meeting with you. If you don’t have a call to action, consider adding one! Most of the time when people show up at your website the first time, they’re not ready to take the plunge. So give them an easy second option to stay in touch. Like Us on Facebook Follow Us on LinkedIn Sign Up for Our Mailing List Get them to do just one of these things, and you’ve turned a chance encounter into a budding relationship. Nurture that relationship by offering them helpful advice, discounts, and entertaining content. If they comment on Facebook, thoughtfully respond in a way that continues to build relationship. Stay top of mind, and always, always give them an opportunity to advance the relationship themselves by returning to the website to look, learn, sign up, or buy. #3 Tell Them What You Know A Landing Page is a great way to capture someone’s attention and invite them to act. But it’s narrowly focused on those who are ready to act on that one thing. A Website, on the other hand, should contain a wealth of knowledge that allows people to get to know the full scope of what you do, why you do it, and why they should love you. Tell Your Story. Clearly. In Detail. Doing so will not only allow people to spend more time on your website (a key satisfaction indicator to Google), but it will attract more visits from more people using different keywords. If your service is “tree removal,” create a page that tells people what you do in a way that will make them want to call you. But don’t stop there. Tell them about your process. Show them you are experts. Talk about a particularly dangerous or humorous situation you have faced and how you dealt with it. Give them helpful tips for staying out of trouble. Tell Them What You Know! But don’t stop there. Create a page for each service you offer – maybe your constant tree removal has turned you into a firewood supplier. Do you have pine and hardwood? Is it already bundled and ready to go? Should they order a load today to let it season for the winter? Tell Them What You Know. Put These Three Things Into Practice Before You Spend a Dime on Google Ads With a great Landing Page you’ll be set to convert as many visitors as you can from your ad campaign, maximizing the return on your ad spend (ROAS). With a functioning communication engine, you’ll capture the contact information of many of your visitors, and bring them back for a second opportunity. And with a wealth of content about what you do, you will give visitors the best opportunity to get to know you; and you'll draw organic search traffic from a much wider audience. Should I Do Bing Too? Am I being insensitive to ignore Bing in this discussion? Nope. In 2019, Google has 90% of the search market share. It’s true that you’ll miss 2.8% of the opportunities by not taking out paid ads on Bing, but as a small business the time and money you spend managing that second channel will likely be greater than the return. It’s just not worth it for us. I Just Got This Credit for Google Ads! Should I Use It? If you just registered your website with Google and got a free offer for Google Ads, fantastic! Hold on to it until you’ve completed the 3 steps above, and until you have the cash to invest in getting a healthy PPC campaign going. Then go for it! Conclusion Yes! Absolutely, you should have a Google Ads campaign if your budget allows. But before you do, set the stage for success. Optimize your landing page, build a communication engine, and fill your site with helpful, relevant content that will make your visitors thankful they found you. Do those three things first and you'll get every penny out of your PPC spend. Ready to begin? We can help! If you find yourself ready to bring in new traffic through Google Ads, or if you know your website isn’t quite ready for new business, we can help you! Yardstick Digital Marketing brings you the experience and knowhow of seasoned writers and digital marketers, so you can grow faster! Visit us at www.Yardstick.digital to get started!

Getting Results: Your Digital Marketing Sanity Check

You're investing tons of time and money in marketing, trying to make the proverbial phone ring. You're banking on the growth that your marketing will bring to pay you back for the effort and spend. But with your attention so focused on the details – topics, articles, keywords, photos, calls to action, and metrics – have you let a vital element of your campaign slip? Use our Digital Marketing Sanity Check once a month to make sure you're giving attention to the things that matter, so you'll get the results you need. But first, let me illustrate the importance of keeping an eye on things. Coffee Case Study: The Missing Link Starbucks made this mistake with me just a few days ago. They have a location just a mile or so from my home, and they do a brilliant job of luring me back there through promotions I see on their iPhone App. Hooked by an offer for double points, or just tired of sitting at my desk alone, I hopped in my car and was there in 5 minutes (attract). In my mind there was a promise that Starbucks had spent millions of dollars to create: a trendy but friendly barista would be waiting to make my delicious espresso drink ("let me know if it's not perfect") and I'd sit down on a cozy couch with my laptop being incredibly productive around other happy, productive people (engage). But after a few of minutes standing at the counter the dream fell apart. A manager type just the other side of the pastry fridge was busy working his clip-boarded checklist, obviously annoyed by the employee who was making an excuse to go home early. A third person worked the register for the customer in front of me, and then disappeared. No one made eye contact. Ever. I'm a particularly patient and understanding man. But at some point I became uncomfortable. It was then I remembered my awesome espresso machine at home that would give me my drink for practically free. So I pivoted, and made my way out the door. What Was The Weakest Link? At great expense Starbucks corporate marketing had overcome my objections of cost and time and delivered me to a local store's doorstep. But when it came time to purchase, the value of what I had been promised was brought into question by a bad experience. So I left, bounced, abandoned my cart – use whatever marketing lingo you want here. There was an imminent sale, and it didn't happen. Their plan failed at the conversion step. This applies directly to your online conversions. Ask yourself, "is it easy for people to do what I want them to do on my website?" Can people find what they're looking for, purchase, and pay with as little friction as possible? Or is it better than it was last month? If so, you can put a checkmark next to Convert and move on. If not, you need a response plan. Marketing Sanity Check You'll recognize our big buckets or categories from a previous article on Four Essential Marketing Activities: 1. Attract 2. Engage 3. Convert 4. Retain You'll want to make sure you have both a marketing activity and a measurement for each of these areas. If you don't, you might be losing valuable opportunities. Attract – how are you getting people to your website? Building a website isn't enough. You need search marketing to attract the people who are already looking, and you need other activities to invite the people who need you but aren't looking at the moment. We measure this by website visits in Google Analytics, broken down by the marketing channel that referred them. Too much? Start by looking at the TOTAL number of visits, and whether they are up or down from last month Engage – how well are you drawing people into your content? Once people arrive at your website, it needs to fulfill the promise of whatever brought them there. If your email promised a sale on rubber gloves, that email needs to take them to a page just about rubber gloves. But most people who show up at your website the first time are not ready to buy. So your website also needs to help them through the consideration process so they can come to a decision. What do they need, or what are their pain points? What do you provide, and how does it address these pain points? What objections do people usually have, and how do you overcome those? What do other customers say, and what certifications or awards do you have? Most websites use more than one page to answer all of these questions. If that's you, you'll want to provide links from page to page so they can find the information they need. In the end you'll know you're engaging people by how many pages they view. Generally, you'll want to look at an aggregate measurement for the whole site for engagement. But if your site has lots of pages, and you want to measure the effectiveness of different types of content, you can break it down. If you're using one long page, you can measure engagement by "time on page" or "scroll percentage" (how far down the page they scrolled). Too much? Start by looking at the AVERAGE number of page views, and whether they are up or down from last month Convert – what do you want them to do? You probably have multiple things you would like people to do on your website. But you need to be crystal clear about what's most important to ask, and when to ask it. And you need to make it equally clear to your visitors what they can do, and how to do it. Let's keep this simple for now. For online stores, the big ask is to Purchase. Purchasing actually involves several steps – adding to cart, checking out, shipping, payment. But for now, we'll consider all those steps as one. For service businesses, the big ask is to complete a contact form of some kind that shows they're interested. But there are secondary asks, which are just as important, especially for those who aren't ready for the larger commitment. Joining your mailing list, for example, allows you to invite them back to your website for valuable information and another opportunity to convert. Liking your Facebook Page, following you on Instagram or LinkedIn – all of these are important to make available and easy for visitors to do. We measure all of them in terms of Conversion Rate. That is, out of all the people who came to the site, how many people did what you wanted them to do? This checklist contains just a few tactics that are generally successful at increasing your overall conversion rate. Too much? Make sure you at least have a Clear and Easy call to action (CTA) and one of the three remaining tactics in place. Retain – how are you maintaining the relationship? Whether you're selling premium handmade soap or a retirement community residence you need to stay in communication with those who have already converted. In the case of an online store, you'll want them coming back to buy more. In the case of a service, you'll want to remind them of the value they're receiving so they don't get lured away. Now For Action It's important to come up for air once a month and make sure you're on the right track. Use this Digital Marketing Sanity Check to quickly and consistently take stock. Keep in mind that answering the questions "Am I doing the right things, and are they working?" should spur you to action for the following month. When you see an area of improvement, ask yourself "What am I going to do differently?" and "How will I know if it worked?" Then get back to it! What are some things you've done to retain business? (Leave a comment below!)

Getting to the Top of the Search Engine Results Page

I'm sitting here on a rare snowy day in Lawrenceville, Georgia thinking how rewarding it is when I get a new business lead through organic search. No fees paid to third-party services, God love 'em. No pay-per-click fees to Google, Bing, or Facebook. Just an honest-to-goodness organic search that finds me and clicks that Schedule a Call button. Nine times out of ten that hard-working business owner is going to ask me this: "What do I need to do to get my website to the top of the search results?" Well, that's exactly what we're going to talk about right here, as soon as I let the dogs play in that white fluffy stuff outside. Showing up at the top of search results consistently means you’ve convinced Google your website does a better job of answering people’s questions on the topic than the competition’s. Sound like a lofty goal? It absolutely is – like climbing to the top of a snowy peak. But you can do it. You just need a guide and a plan. What you cannot do in SEO, unfortunately, is hire a helicopter pilot to take you to the top. That’s called Paid Search (you know...Google Ads). To get to the top of organic search results you’ve got to climb – step by step. Your SEO Plan Should Look Something Like This The overall idea is that as you start to rank for some of the longer keywords that have less volume, your site authority will grow, giving you the ability to rank for more difficult keywords with larger search volume. Optimize your home page for your main keyword Optimize your service pages for their most straightforward keywords Categorize the Questions Your Customers Ask Build your new content one category at a time Step 1: Optimize Your Home Page Picking the Right Peak First let's make sure we're heading in the right direction. It wouldn't do to get halfway up Mount Keyword only to see all your prospective customers atop Mount Different Keyword. That would suck. So before you settle on a keyword, let's do a little research to find the most popular keyword people use to look for businesses like yours. If you're a plumber that's easy. That's because there's a fairly well-known list of services, and pretty much everyone knows that the person who performs those services is called a "Plumber." If, on the other hand, you to sell beautiful decorative books in bulk that interior designers use to stage hotels, restaurants, and such, it might not be so easy. But give it a try: how would you sum up the products you sell? Once you've picked your main keyword, we need to validate them. To do this, we’ll use Ubersuggest. Using Ubersuggest to Check Keyword Search Volume Ubersuggest is a remarkable tool that gives you access to loads of information about how people are searching the Internet. And since it’s free to try, it’s a great solution for you to play along. You don't have to sign in (as of Feb. 2022). Just type your keyword in the long box at the top and click Search. When we type in “plumber” we find out that around 368,000 people per month search for this keyword. And in case you weren't sure, Ubersuggest tells us this is “High.” So if you’re a plumber, you’ve got confirmation right away that you’ll be optimizing your home page to get in front of a lot of searchers. But before you close the window, there's one more key piece of info you need to make note of: SEO Difficulty. The SEO Difficulty score tells us how hard it will be to get your page to show up in organic search results. A difficulty score of 48 is daunting for a new website. It's not likely that we will show up in searches very far from our location. But this is our home page and that keyword best describes what we do, so we’re not going to sweat it yet. For now let’s satisfy ourselves that the keyword we’ve chosen for our home page has a large audience. Step 2: Optimize Your Service Pages Understanding "Rank" If one of your web pages shows up consistently in search results, we say it’s “ranking” for the keyword that was searched. The term "rank" suggests you hold a position among your competition, and that's true, but Google doesn't give you a number – it's way too complicated. But fortunately that hasn't kept people from trying. There are a number of SEO tools out there that analyze the data Google makes available in order to compute how your web pages rank for certain keywords. Each tool has its own methods so don't expect them to agree. Pick a tool and stick with it, because what you're really looking for is change in rank over time. Understanding Keyword Targets While we're agreeing on terminology, let's also agree on this: Each page on your website needs to have one primary keyword that it is targeting. While it may end up ranking for multiple keywords, each page needs to clearly signal to Google the one main thing your page is about. The reverse is also true: Only one page on your website should target each keyword. Taking steps to get a second page to rank will just bewilder Google. We call that cannibalization, and most of us agree that cannibalization is not good. Choosing Target Keywords for Your Service or Product Category Pages We've already said that your home page needs to be optimized for your main keyword. That's the summit of the mountain. It encompasses everything you sell or do. Beneath your home page you need a page representing the next level of how you market yourself: like a list of services. Each page needs to be optimized for the best keyword fit. Of course, choose a keyword that has high volume if you can, but most importantly, choose a keyword that accurately reflects what's on the page – what you sell or do. This may be a good time to check out the competition. What do they call the services they offer? These second-level pages not only help people understand what you provide and why they should value it, they help signal the structure of your website to Google. They provide context for the rest of your content. So pull out your spreadsheet and list out your services and product categories. Remember to drop each keyword into Ubersuggest to check search volume. But this time, go one step further and scroll down the page and check the Keyword Ideas to see if there is a better fit. Step 3: Categorize the Questions Customers Ask When your friends boast about their recent climbing expedition they probably lead with the goal they achieved, not the steps they took to get there. They'll nonchalantly rattle off "...yeah, we climbed Mount Aconcagua," as if you knew where that was. And you'll be impressed, because you assume it's big, and that they made it to the summit. My point is that they don't lead with "on the first day we packed all our gear and made it to the Horcones base camp." But we all know that to hike to the top of a mountain you have to make it to a number of tricky, lesser-known destinations on the way. Those are your long-tail keywords. "Long tail" because there are lots of them, but they have lower search volume. Lower search volume means they are easier to rank for. The more of those long-tail keywords you rank for, the more likely you are to appear in search results for the keywords that make you money. If your site is struggling against the competition, you are more likely to grow your traffic through lots of long tail keywords with low search volume than with those prized high-volume keywords. But if you just start blogging about every keyword you find, you'll end up with a mess. So let's make a plan. Building On To Your Website's Structure To maximize how each article builds upon the success of another, we'll apply a structure known as "spoke and wheel" or "pillar and cluster." The idea is simple: a general article on a particular topic (the Pillar) is surrounded by a number of articles on related subtopics (the Cluster). For instance, a Physical Therapy office might have a Pillar page called Patient Conditions, with subpages on lower back pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain. Another Pillar page might be about Worker's Comp, with subpages on capacity evaluations, job demands analysis, and onsite therapy. Each of these pillars represents an area of knowledge that you've worked hard as a business to master. And it represents a group of questions people are asking who want to do business with you. So if the process ahead gets a little tedious, just tell yourself: "I'm going to save tons on Google Ads over the years." "I'm helping people help me." "I'm educating the next generation." "They're finally going to see how smart I am." Just pick one and recite it over and over while you keep sharing your wealth of knowledge. Creating great content around your area of expertise builds trust, moves people along in the sales process, and attracts more qualified buyers. Building Out Your Topic List Before we start writing, let's build out a list of topics. They'll come from two sources: The things you want to say The questions people are asking We'll end up with a marriage of the two that has both structure and relevance. Think about the following to prompt you with "things you want to say." A recent client conversation
("To avoid exacerbating a herniated disc when getting out of bed, roll onto your side first.") A question you keep having to answer Something you just learned that makes you better at your job Or, just pull up a few competitors' websites and write down the topics they cover Each time you write down a topic, try to let it lead you to another topic. If you start to go down a rabbit hole in a certain area, just make a note that these are "topics about whatever" and move on. You don't have to be exhaustive, just methodical. Building Out Your Topic List: People Also Ask Next, we'll let Google help us find questions people are asking about our topics. To do so, we'll use the "People also ask" feature of Google Search. People sometimes need help putting videos in their blog posts on Wix, so I'll search for "wix blog video" and then scroll down the results until I see People also ask. Repeat that with each of your topic ideas (and possibly your services or products as well), and you'll find some gems to write about. In the process, you'll also start to see commonalities between the topics that may help you organize. By the way, if you like this Google feature, you should try out Answer The Public, which is far more robust. Organizing Your Topics into Pillars and Clusters Once you have your master list of topics to write about, it's time to apply some organization to it. Remember, the idea is to cluster smaller topics together by category. Hands down, the best method is a card sort. It's fairly simple – write all the topics out on 3x5 cards and then sort them into piles of like topics – but why not watch a quick video from a pro. Once you've sorted the topics, you'll need to decide on Pillar names that encompass all of the topics in each group. Compile these into a spreadsheet, grouped by column, with the Pillar topic in the first row of each column. Step 4: Create Your New Content, Clusters First We won't go into how to write your content in this post, but let's do take a minute to discuss the approach. A pillar page covers in general the topics of its cluster pages, so many people prefer to start by writing the cluster pages. If you've already written the more detailed pages, creating the pillar is simply a matter of summarizing each cluster, adding an intro and conclusion, and creating internal links between. Start With Lower Keyword Difficulty Remember, one tactic we'll be using is to build website authority by ranking first for keywords with lower difficulty scores. We learned how to use Ubersuggest earlier to get the KD of each keyword, but if you think you might be doing this kind of research frequently, you might want to check out a tool like AHREFs or SEMRush, which allow you to look up multiple keywords at once and export the data. We're not looking for a precise order here – just outliers. If you see that one pillar has significantly more difficult keywords, save it for later and start with an easier group. Complete the pillars and clusters one at a time, remembering to interlink, until you find you've run out of topics. It's a Worthy Journey After reading through the steps I've outlined here you may be thinking "I'm not so sure I want to go through all of that." I would imagine many people take a look at the mountain in front of them and decide they'd rather watch someone else climb it on TV. But the reward is worth the effort, and as you implement the steps I've laid out here, you'll begin to see your domain authority grow, your more difficult keywords start to generate organic traffic, and your brand to take its place among the winners at the top. Good journey!

The Big Picture – Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

Transcript So you have a small business, and you want it to grow, but you haven’t had much luck getting people to your website. Or maybe you signed up for a Google Ads or Facebook Ads account and tried your hand at it, but you’re just not seeing the results you want. There’s no shame in that! It’s complicated! But you can do it! It just takes finding the right mix of marketing tactics to build your business and keep it growing. This is your website — this potato-shaped circle here. Your website has content on it that tells people everything they need to know to start doing business with you. And your website has a form on it — we hope. It asks for their name. It asks for the email address. And it gives them the opportunity to click the Submit button and say “Yes! I want to know more!” Once they do you have their contact information and it’s home free because nobody sells your business like you do. Now if you just leave your website sitting there nobody’s gonna come, except maybe your grandmother. That’s because search engines don’t know it exists. You have to send people there. Now eventually people will start finding your website just because they’re searching for things like what you do and you’ll get that organic traffic, but it takes months to develop. So you have to start with something else. Maybe you’ve got a bunch of friends on Facebook so you post a link to your website on Facebook and you say “Hey everybody, I’ve got a new website, come and check it out!” So a few people come and maybe a few of them share that, and if their friends liked the content or share the content, just like filling out that form, now they are part of your contact database. They’re a prospect. Now posting on social media was free right? Absolutely. But there’s a couple of things to consider. One is it takes time to create posts, and you have to create things that tell people about what you do and give them value. Those are the kind of things that are going to make them want to click through and come back to your website. And once they come to your website they go to your form and they fill it out and BAM! They’ve indicated that they want to do business with you. So it takes time to create content. Also more and more Facebook and other social media networks are controlling what content of yours your friends or your other contacts see based on their activity and their interests. So you’re not reaching nearly as many people as you think. Eventually you might find yourself actually paying to play in the social media space. Well in the meantime people have been coming to your site, you’ve been getting their contact information, and so you have these email addresses just sitting there. So what do you do? You create an email and you send it to them! And in this email, just like on Facebook, you give them value, and you give them a reason to visit your website. And when they do, you give them an opportunity to take the next step. Remember, part of this is just staying top of mind with people who may not be ready to do business with you right now but might be in six months. Okay some time has passed and now you’re starting to get a little bit of organic traffic — people who are coming to your website just because they’re searching for something, and you’re not even paying to get them there. It’s time to start paying attention to Search Engine Optimization. There are two sides of SEO: There’s the technical side, where you have to make sure that your website is set up properly for search engines to be able to see what’s on there. And then there’s the other side which is all about helping people find the content that they’re looking for. You can spend all day reading about the newest trick and newest hack but what it all comes down to is that there are people out there who have a need that you can fill. So it’s your job to create the content that’s going to identify with their need and convince them that you’re the one who can meet that need for them. Search Engine Optimization is a long game approach but in the end it will totally pay off, because it keeps going even when you stop paying. Next, and these aren’t in any particular order, Paid Search. The truth is it’s the easiest way to get people to come to your website because by bidding on a keyword. You’re getting your ad in front of people who may not have found your website at all. "The thing to keep in mind is that each of these channels represents ongoing work that you'll need to do, or someone will need to do on your behalf." If you start a blog and then let it die, it’s gonna look worse than nothing. If you put up a paid search campaign and don’t pay attention to it you could be spending money on the wrong things. And in Social Media if you don’t engage with the audience they’re not going to take you seriously. They’re not going to give you the business that you want. So as you’re deciding which one of these tactics to try, remember: “Keep it Simple. Keep it Measurable.” If you make it too complicated you won’t be able to keep it up. If you don’t set a goal and measure your progress, you don’t know if you’re winning or losing. You don’t need to go it alone! We can help! Just give me a quick call, and we'll set up a time to schedule a free consultation. We’ll discuss your business and your goals, and the best approach to get the phone ringing. Phil White
Lawrenceville, GA 470-684-4612

Why is SEO Important for Businesses?

If you own a business, you've probably heard people say SEO is important for your website. But when they try to tell you why, the conversation turns all squirrelly. So here's the most straightforward answer. SEO is a process that increases free traffic to your website by making it appealing to your potential customers, and especially search engines. If search engines see your website as a good source of info, they will send people your way — people who are looking for people like you! How we do that involves a long list of regular tasks that change bit-by-bit as search engines evolve. A good SEO program starts before your website is built, guides its design and development, and adapts as technology and competition change. But the bottom line is this — if your small business wants to attract new customers, an ongoing SEO program will make your website more visible to people who are searching for what you offer. SEO Made Simple – What is it? Google wants to be known for helping people find what they are looking for. We usually only type in two or three words, so Google obviously looks for web pages that include these “keywords.” But with so many options to choose from, how should it choose which page to list at the top? In short, it takes into consideration everything it knows about the searcher, and everything it knows about the websites. We'll get into the details in a minute. In case you were wondering A “keyword” in SEO terms can be one or more words people search for. The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is the page you see after you click “Search.” It has links to web pages that fit your search. Your Results Page will likely include Paid Links – ads that businesses like yours paid for to get higher placement. Organic Links are the links on a Results Page that appear simply because the web page seems to be a good fit. Organic Searches are what Google calls visits to your website from someone who clicked on an Organic Link The biggest indicator that your SEO campaign is working is increasing organic search visits. What Google Knows About Us Don't worry. It's not creepy. Most websites use Google to track what people do on their websites (anonymously). So it generally knows where you’re located, and what you’ve done online recently. If you search for “pizza” for example, it’s going to assume you are looking for a restaurant, because most people are, and it’s going to show you pizza restaurants in your area. Because despite how good New York pizza may be, you probably can’t get there by dinnertime (New Yorkers excepted). Hundreds of signals give search engines clues they can use to guess whether you are, for instance, researching “pest control” or looking for a pest control service. The search engines want you to be happy. What Google Knows About Websites I don’t know about you, but when I click on a search result I pretty much hover over the “Back” button while the website loads, just waiting to bail if it’s not what I’m looking for. Google knows. So if people are searching for “hire an accountant” and they click over to your CPA firm’s website only to leave seconds later, Google sees that as a fail. So they’ll be less likely to recommend you for that keyword. Not optimal! (We monitor websites for “bounce rate” to determine if searchers are bailing.) Google also knows a lot about how people are likely to respond to a web page. People prefer short paragraphs and sentences Subheading and bullet lists help people digest information quickly People stick around longer if there are images, video, and links to other pages If you’re searching for “keyword x” you’re probably going to be happier if the page or site also talks about “keyword y” and “keyword z.” If reputable websites about “keyword x” link to you, you’re probably a good website for that too But if spammy or risky websites link to you, they might want to steer clear Fundamentally, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about convincing Google you’re the best source of information for a particular kind of searcher. And what is at stake is whether you get that new client, or someone else. How You Do SEO – 4 Things Did I mention that SEO starts at the foundation of a website? I think I did. In fact, it affects just about every aspect of an integrated digital marketing campaign to some degree. So although we offer a standalone SEO service, we get the best results when we are also engaged to create and maintain the website, develop content, and manage any online advertising. SEO Thing 1 – Research With the right tools, knowledge, and time you can find just about any generalized information you want about what people are searching for. So we start with research. Taking a guess about the keywords someone would type to search for a product, we compare all of the variations people use to see which are most frequent, and which have the most competition. When creating the main page for your service, we won’t try to be cute. We’ll use the term most people are searching for. But we can increase our audience size by creating more pages that are optimized for additional related keywords. We also look at your competitors – those that are already ranking for those keywords, not necessarily the other dentist down the street. Knowing which keywords bring traffic to their website is an important place to start in choosing your keywords. Of course, we don’t know how often those people turn into customers, so we’ll have to see for ourselves what the best keywords are for attracting our best potential customers. From month to month we track our clients’ closest competitors to see who is gaining and losing traffic, and what we need to do to rise in the rankings. SEO Thing 2 – Content Fundamentally, it’s content that brings organic traffic to your website. People who are thinking about renovating an old warehouse for their new offices may be looking for a highly rated commercial builder in their area that specializes in renovation. Or, they may just be looking at rough costs to see if such a project is even feasible. Both of these people are on the “buyer’s journey” – the process someone goes through in researching and selecting someone to do business with. The questions they have will likely relate to where they are on that journey. If you want to attract people who are at different stages, you’ll want to provide the different topics they’re interested in. You may choose to organize those topics into a single page, or split them up into separate pages, linking between them. The Quality of Your Content is Super Important Remember our quick answer to “Why is SEO important for Small Business?” “...an ongoing SEO program will make your website more visible to people who are searching for what you offer.” Did you catch that? More visible. More visible than other websites. This is a competition. In order for your content to bring significant organic traffic to your website, it needs to be significantly better than the other (local) options out there. So when we develop new content, we go all in. But we may not go all at once. It’s perfectly acceptable to start with shorter, high-quality pages and develop them over time. We just have to make sure that at every step we are growing our audience with our revisions, rather than disappointing them. From month to month we look at our opportunities to grow our organic search audience, and add high-quality content where it’s most likely to bring in more business. SEO Thing 3 – Website Health Google has high technical standards for the websites it gives top ranking to. They should be secure, using HTTPS. They should load quickly. They shouldn’t have broken links, or broken pages. Pages should in general have more words people can read than code they can’t. They shouldn’t be linked to/from spammy or risky websites. They should have an accurate sitemap.xml file. They shouldn’t have any duplicate content. They should conform to the most widely accepted HTML format. And a hundred other things 😮 From week to week, we conduct site audits to scan for potential technical problems. SEO Thing 4 – Quality Links Who you associate with, through linking and back linking, can add weight to what you have to say. (Or it can raise doubts). If you're writing an informational article like this one, make sure to refer to respected websites when offering statistics or best practices. Doing so lends your site credibility until you've established yourself as a leader in your field. If the people who generally buy your services belong to a community – whether that's an affinity group like fans of Mandalorian or a geographic community like "Flowers Crossing at the Mill", link to that group's website from within your content, and better yet, see if they'll link to you. This includes all the relevant service directories that may be out there – many of whom will link to your site for free. Finally, "site links" – links within your site from one page to another make your site easier to navigate. Google likes this. For instance, did you know that Yardstick provides SEO services for small businesses? See what I did there? By linking to our SEO service page, I not only increased the SEO health of our website, I gave you a chance to enter our SEO leads funnel. Conclusion: SEO Is Competitive You already feel this, every time you search for a keyword you want to rank for and you see other businesses ranking above you. The truth is that the quality of your SEO program will determine how many people come through your door, instead of your competitor's. Stay on it, and you'll maintain or gain in rank. Fall behind, and you'll slip off the results page.

Yardstick helps small businesses grow without losing focus or sleep. We do that through tightly aligned elements of a digital marketing funnel: lead-generating websites that engage audiences with story and compels them forward, SEO and content that attracts hungry prospects, email nurture campaigns that build trust and relationship, and PPC campaigns that expose brands to new and profitable customers.

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1478 Napier Ter Lawrenceville, GA 30044 | 470-684-4612