3 Tips to Refine Your Current SEO Strategy

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

Use the last few months of the year to refine your SEO strategy and pinpoint opportunities for driving more high-converting visitors to your website. A quick audit like the one below can highlight places where these SEO tactics could yield better results.

1. Polish Your Technical SEO Components

You would be surprised at how many seemingly polished websites neglect basic SEO techniques, like optimal keyword placement and appropriate headers. Keyword research is one thing that remains vital in a sea of SEO changes over the years. Of course, don’t mistake an emphasis on keywords as an invitation to start using outdated keyword-stuffing tactics.

Unnaturally stuffing keywords into your pages is unnecessary and reads awkwardly to your target audience. Sprinkle your focus keywords throughout your content organically, in a way that makes sense. You can also target multiple, related keywords by optimizing their placement in the headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) of your content.

Meta descriptions are another SEO component many marketers neglect. Optimizing meta descriptions is a quick, easy way to help drive more clicks to your website; which, in turn, can improve your search engine rankings. Don’t just let Google decide what to use as your description in its search results. Draft compelling meta descriptions that will help your business stand out to prospective customers.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to SEO is the intent. How well are you matching the page titles and descriptions to what your prospective customers are searching for?

2. Upgrade Your Content

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating, content is king. Google’s goal is to provide the absolute best search results possible for its users, and that means you must have the best content if you want to compete in SEO.

What can visitors find on your site that they cannot get anywhere else? Home contractors can create video guides for common do-it-yourself scenarios that often stump potential clients, while making it clear when they should call in a professional. Creative types can take their visitors through their process of coming up with their final product, whether it is a song or a new cake design.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look at what is already ranking at the top of Google for your target keywords. How can you do it better? What new angle can you cover that can fulfill the needs of your visitors? The voice of experience should be evident throughout, showing customers why you should be their top choice over other competitors.

3. Improve Tracking Across Your Pages

Tracking is a marketer’s best tool when it comes to finding SEO improvements. It can tell you exactly where the issues are and what changes can have the most significant impact, when properly implemented. If you haven’t done so already, then I suggest installing Google Analytics across your entire website and linking it up to your account with Google Search Console. Those two tools will give you invaluable insights into your SEO efforts.

You’ll be able to track keyword rankings, search engine click-through rates, and SEO landing page conversions.

For locally-focused businesses, I recommend BrightLocal for tracking your Google My Business rankings, over time. This will help you spot trends and continue to make improvements with your local SEO efforts.

It’s Time to Work on Your SEO Strategy

We’re in the fourth quarter, so it’s time to set up your SEO for success in the next year. Review the basics and make sure you’ve optimized your website correctly for your target keywords. Then review your content, compared to what’s already ranking in Google. How can you compete and create superior content for your target audience? Lastly, don’t forget about tracking. It’s never too late to get proper tracking installed so that you have the tools readily available to improve your SEO.

Want more tips to help you with SEO? Click here to grab a copy of my “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

How Structured Data Enhances Local SEO

Want to rank higher in Google’s local map results? Want your website to rank for voice-only searches? Then you need to learn how and why to add structured data to your website.

Structured data, also commonly referred to as schema, makes it easier for search engines to present beneficial results to users about local businesses. For example, consumers issuing a voice command like, “Find a restaurant near me,” through Alexa feeds back search engine results for places closest to their current location.

That doesn’t happen by accident, just like it wasn’t an accident that this page came up when you looked up using structured data with local SEO.

What Is Structured Data?

Structured data organizes the information in your web pages into understandable and searchable sections. It is similar in concept to taking a spreadsheet filled with data and adding columns with labels and formatting that makes it easier for a user to understand.

Adding structured data to your webpage performs a similar function. Search engines can quickly locate relevant results that match up to a user’s query and feed them back in to the search engine results pages (SERPs). There are several different sets of rules supported by popular search engines, along with two standard vocabularies. Visit Schema.org and Microformats.org for more information about the syntaxes.

The vocabulary from schema.org is most commonly associated with the markup used in SEO web pages. The mark-up can be added directly to the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) used to build your page. Those more technically proficient can place relevant localized business data into page headers using a web language called JavaScript. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is another alternative language to use in loading structured data.

How Structured Data Helps Local SEO

Embedding a business’s web pages with location information allows Google and other popular search engines to quickly scan the page for items that match the user’s query. And it does make a difference. Fifty percent of people who looked up a local business on their phone visited it in person the next day. Overall, mobile users perform 60% of local searches using a mobile device.

The key is making sure all information remains consistent across all aspects of a company’s online digital media. Search engines also reward websites that use structured data with enhanced organic search result placement. These features can come in the form of:

  • Stylized search results that include images and other types of visual enhancements
  • Knowledge graphs that contain brand information about a business
  • A carousel-style collection of results made up of a company’s information
  • Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) that make it easy for users to see relevant details on a business

Applying Structured Data With Local SEO

Schema.org contains many attributes that can be embedded in your HTML to distinguish specific bits of information. For example, adding an H1 tag to the header of a paragraph helps a search engine understand that you’re emphasizing a title or applying importance to a page section. H1s can be particularly beneficial to local SEO when you add phrases like the function of your business (bakery shop) and where it is located (Los Angeles) into the wording.

Common Local SEO Attributes

The following local business attributes from schema.org can be very beneficial in helping your business online. They represent the items most looked for by web searchers. Properly used attributes can attract more local traffic and help search engines enhance your result before presenting it to the user.

  • Email — Allows you to leave a contact email.
  • Location — Provides your company’s geographical location.
  • Telephone — Provides a telephone number to call your business.
  • paymentsAccepted — Lets a visitor know what forms of payments your business accepts.
  • address — Provides the physical address of your business.
  • areaServed — Indicates the area in which your company provides services.

These attributes also assist in voice searches, since voice-only searches are estimated to account for 30 percent of web sessions by 2020.

How much your company benefits from structured data in local SEO depends on the type of business you run. Law firms, medical practices, restaurants, and other organizations that have no problem revealing public information often see the highest returns.

Pulling Everything Together

Take the time to learn more about structured data and the role it can play in enhancing your business’s placement in localized search results. Here is a quick rundown of what you should keep in mind:

  1. Using structured data makes it easier for search engines to rank and categorize your pages, based on a user’s search criteria.
  2. Adding special tags around your business information helps enhance visualizations in SERPs.
  3. Making your information consistent across your digital platform allows users to find you through both web and voice searches.

Leveraging structured data to your advantage helps “future-proof” your content, ensuring local users can find you using any web search technology.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

SEOs, Stay the Course Through Google Algorithm Updates

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

The most recent shift has been dubbed “Valentine’s Day Update.” Many of its predecessors were named Panda, Penguin, Pigeon or, more prosaically, Medic and Fred. Each targets a specific search problem — bad links, duplicate/thin content, aggressive monetization, etc.

A major algorithm change does not roll out across the worldwide search landscape all at once. It may take days or even weeks. Sometimes, webmasters will detect changes before Google acknowledges that an update is occurring or has already occurred. The big question to me has always been: How much attention should I pay to these updates and how should I respond?

Why Google Updates Matter?

Search technology and artificial learning have entered a new age. With the heavy computing power available today, the entire site is used in the ranking algorithm.

Unless an SEO watches the changes and the discussions of what is the intent of each major algorithm change, it is easy to miss how the search ranking process is changing. For those who want to stay well-informed about the future and are of a technical bent, it also pays to read the expert analysis and discussions about recent patents granted to Google. The patents often portend what is in the more distant future.

In short, even if your site is not impacted by a change, it is important to pay attention to what the updates are targeting.

How to Respond to an Algorithm Update?

When an update occurs, it is like a storm has rolled through the search results. Rankings may appear to lurch, as though buffeted by winds as major algorithmic changes spread through the system.

The big storm is usually followed by a period of instability, as the engineers do additional minor tuning of the algorithm.

Once the storm has passed, there is usually a readjustment, as quality sites return to their more accustomed positions. The process winnows out those that are less worthy.

Here is where it gets tricky. If you have a solid site, built and optimized in accordance with best practices, you have little to fear from an update. By monitoring your site’s performance in the Search Console, staying abreast of recommended enhancements, you place yourself out of peril. The real danger is negligence of what is today’s best practice and looking for the easy way to the top rankings. With solid SEO in place, the storm can rage around you. Let the storm pass. Wait 10 to 15 days before making any changes to your SEO tactics. By then, it will be easier to see what the intent of the change was.

If your results don’t return to previous levels in a week or so and your site has in fact been penalized in an update, corrective action taken too soon may actually make the situation more confused.

Once the storm created by the update has passed, then, you should make adjustments, corrections and improvements. Algorithmic updates, while inconvenient, usually improve the search user’s experience and provide SEOs solid guidance.

3 Fixes for Your Bad Brand Reputation That SEO Will Love

Bad brand reputation happens quickly on the web. Google urges SEOs to focus on building quality sites that provide a good user experience. Specifics on how exactly this is achieved are distilled into the acronym E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust.

Bad brand reputation happens quickly on the web. Google urges SEOs to focus on building quality sites that provide a good user experience. Specifics on how exactly this is achieved are distilled into the acronym E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust.

This simple acronym has a lot of complex elements bound into it. Instead of presenting an airy discourse on how Google defines quality, an exercise much like considering the medieval problem of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, let’s focus on three practical tactics you can do to improve your site’s quality score.

Show Your Credentials

Tout your expertise in the subject domain that your site represents. Today, SEO requires having lots of quality content. A definition of quality content is content written by subject domain experts.

Beware of creating content that has no whiff of expertise. This is surely going to be considered thin content. This means for evergreen content, tout either:

  • Your business’ expertise; or
  • The qualifications of the expert writing the content

Plan for Regular Link Hygiene

Links still matter and factor into search algorithms. Links have long been used as signals for authority.

Are you letting others corrupt your link profile? If you do not have in place a regular schedule for reviewing your backlinks, then bad links may be negatively impacting your search results.

Use the Google Search Console (GSC) to review and evaluate the sites that are linking to you. If you do not visit this regularly, you may be in for surprises.

Review Your ‘About Us’ Pages

If you don’t already have an “About Us” site section that is easily found via your navigation, then you may be hurting your reputation.

This information is important for building trust for your site. The absence of robust information about your business begs that you are trying to hide important information from users. The “About Us” section should state where you are located and have contact information readily available.

If the information is stale and has not been updated in years, perhaps it’s time to give it a look and refresh it. If you are a commerce site, don’t be tempted to bury this information; because savvy users, unfamiliar with your brand, will come looking for this information before they purchase.

Key Takeaway for Marketers

Follow these three simple tactics, and you will be on your way to improving how Google perceives your site’s quality.

Google Finally Shuts the Door on Doorway Pages

Google seldom gives search engine marketers advance warning of algorithmic changes; however, in a rare move recently Google announced plans to penalize “doorway pages” through a ranking algorithmic adjustment. At the same time, Google clarified its quality guidelines on what constitutes a “doorway page.” Designed to increase a site’s search footprint for specific keywords, “doorway pages” are an old and discredited search marketing tactic. Google in its guidelines for Web development has routinely advised marketers to avoid using doorway page campaigns, because they yield a poor user experience. The question this recent move begs then is: Why is Google going after “doorway pages” now?

Google seldom gives search engine marketers advance warning of algorithmic changes; however, in a rare move recently Google announced plans to penalize “doorway pages” through a ranking algorithmic adjustment. At the same time Google, clarified its quality guidelines on what constitutes a “doorway page.” Designed to increase a site’s search footprint for specific keywords, “doorway pages” are an old and discredited search marketing tactic. Google in its guidelines for Web development has routinely advised marketers to avoid using doorway page campaigns, because they yield a poor user experience. The question this recent move begs then is: Why is Google going after “doorway pages” now?

Although it is Google’s long-standing profile that “doorway pages” are bad practice, and Google has had the technology to detect them for many years, the decision to go after them now is that, in my opinion, they have recently proliferated in morphed forms, particularly for local results. Google’s decision is also consistent with its attack on “thin content” sites. “Doorway pages” were the original thin content pages. In their early format, “doorway pages” were often machine-generated, with keywords plugged into very generic content. As search marketing has evolved, so, too, have “doorway pages,” and the new morphed forms provide almost as bad a user experience as the original machine-generated pages.

With the shift from desktop to mobile, users want crisper, more keenly targeted local results and do not want to be directed to a low-quality doorway page or a bridge page that forces them to make yet another click. It is particularly frustrating to the growing audience of mobile searchers to be guided by Google’s results to “doorway pages,” that provide little more information than Google’s search page. “Doorway pages” often create a carousel effect, where the user performs a search and is continuously lead to the same page, in spite of changing the query. These pages maximize the site owner’s search footprint as well as the user’s frustration. Because “doorway page” programs are often used to funnel localized traffic, they sit at the intersection of local and mobile search. This is a highly competitive space for Google.

Google has clearly indicated the type of pages it classifies as “doorway pages.” According to Google, these pages are created solely to derive traffic for specific queries. They can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They are sometimes bridge pages that lead users to intermediate pages instead of to their final destination. They often have multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page. These pages often look like search results pages instead of content pages, and they often function as geographic traffic funnels.

If you are not sure whether your search tactics employ “doorway pages,” now is the time to take a closer look at whether your pages fit the profile that Google indicated in its announcement. If you are not sure, my advice is quite simple—don’t fool yourself. You probably need to rethink your strategy quickly. Your very first step should be to block Googlebot from those pages and begin redirecting them to quality pages.

For some businesses and site owners whose search tactics have relied on large “doorway page” campaigns to drive traffic and manipulate the search results, this change could have a seismic impact. If your competitors have been using “doorway pages” and you have not, the change could boost your ranking performance. If this change leads to an improvement in search engine results quality, it will be a clear win for users.

Top 10 Local SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

With local SEO, you can get your business in front of prospects at the precise moment when they are literally searching for you. It doesn’t get much better than this. However, due to all the Google algorithm updates, local SEO is not quite as easy as it used to be. Whether you’re an SEO veteran or you’re just getting started, use the top 10 best practices in this article to give your business the best shot at ranking on the first page of Google’s local results.

  1. Claim and Complete a Google+ Local Page
    Next time you search in Google to find a business, pay close attention to the big map in the upper right corner of the results page. An entire section of the results list is devoted to the businesses that appear on that map. But here’s the catch: Google doesn’t pull the business information from websites. They are pulled from Google+ Local business pages!

    Setting up your Google+ Local page is easy and free, but you need to pay attention to what you are doing. The number one rule is to create only a single page per location. Creating duplicate Local pages is forbidden by Google’s Terms of Service, and can hurt your rankings.

    In addition, your page must use relevant categories. Think of categories like sections of the Yellow Pages, so the more categories you choose the better—as long as you don’t choose irrelevant categories, which is also against Google’s Terms of Service. Choosing categories can be difficult, so use this list for help.

  2. Add Your Service and Geographic Keywords to Page Titles
    This is especially critical for your homepage, but is a Best Practice for all your web pages. Title tags are like chapter names in a book—they tell Google what the page is all about. Your homepage title tag is like the book’s cover. It needs to be enticing but accurate, and explain to Google what the website holds. For local SEO, adding both the service and geographic keywords to your title tags lets Google know that your site is relevant to people searching for your particular service in your local area.
  3. Make Your NAP Consistent—and Omnipresent
    NAP is an acronym for the most important information when it comes to optimizing for local SEO. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.

    Google strives to provide the most accurate, credible information to its users. Therefore, before displaying your information, the algorithm cross-checks your NAP across not only your Google+ local page, but the entire Internet! To ensure your NAP is consistent, I recommend searching for your business name in the Moz Local search tool.

  4. Add Pages for Different Services and Locations
    If you provide multiple services, and/or practice in different locations, make sure you create a separate web page for each. Although it may seem redundant, this step is crucial to local SEO. You simply cannot optimize the same page for Houston, Texas, and Deer Park, Texas, and expect it to perform well for either location. Likewise, a page with keywords for both oil changes and collision repair is not truly optimized for either. Make sure that each page is entirely unique, and target each to a core keyword phrase.
  5. Install Schema
    Schema markup is a type of HTML code that tells Google more about your website. When a human reads a particular page, he or she innately understands certain things about that page, such as exactly what is being discussed. Search engines, however, have a much more limited understanding. Schema bridges that gap by adding machine-understandable explanations. Many webmasters are not yet using this valuable tool, so this is a great opportunity to get a jump on your competition.
  6. Get Customer Reviews on Google+ Local
    Unfortunately, getting customer reviews is one of the most challenging tasks that small business owners face, and there is no magical shortcut. The two keys to success are first to ask, and second to make it as easy as possible for your customers leave an online review. Even when you make things easy for your customers, this will be a slow process, but over time, it will improve your local rankings and create a big barrier for your competitors.
  7. Create a Mobile-Optimized Website
    Increasingly, consumers are turning to their phones and other mobile devices when searching for products and services. This is even more true for those who are looking for local companies, which means you absolutely must have a mobile-friendly website to compete in the local search results.

    If you’re like most businesses, then you have been dragging your feet and putting off investing in a mobile website. Well, the time has finally come because on April 21, 2015 Google will launch an algorithm update that will drastically change the mobile search results. In short, if your site is not mobile-optimized at that time, your rankings will suffer dramatically in any Google search launched on a mobile device-which is approximately 50% of all searches today!

  8. Provide High-Quality Website Content
    The importance of high quality content is nothing new for SEO. However, until recently this wasn’t a big factor in the local search rankings. Now, failing to create well-written, unique, informative web pages with at least 500 words of content each could mean your business will not show up when prospective customers are searching for you.
  9. Build High-Quality Links to Your Website
    Again, this is nothing new for SEO, but it’s a fairly new factor for local SEO. Your domain authority, or online reputation, is now a critical factor in your local Google rankings. One of the biggest factors in your domain authority is the quantity and quality of relevant links from other websites.

    As you gain more and more high-quality links, then your domain authority will increase, and in turn, your local rankings will also improve.

  10. Be Active on Social Media
    Exactly how much of an impact social media presence has on local SEO is currently the subject of hot debate. What is not open for debate, however, is the fact that social media is a great way to generate buzz and get exposure for your business. This exposure can lead to more referral traffic, more high-quality links, more reviews, and more online comments about your business, which are all signals that will improve your local Google rankings.

Want more Local SEO Tips? Click here to get my Ultimate Local SEO Checklist

Google Announces Significant Changes

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Web developer team. Pay heed

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Webdeveloper team. Pay heed.

In short, Google’s announcement focuses on two primary points—both of which are designed to acknowledge the mobile-device and app trends and provide suitable content to the device user. The purpose of this new release is:

  1. Google will return more mobile-friendly websites in search results.
  2. Google will return more relevant app content in search results when a signed-in user has the app installed.

To date, Google has checked websites for mobile compatibility, and if you are the webmaster, provided you with an email to keep you abreast of potential concerns and how you might address those issues—a fairly passive, observer-type approach.

With this announcement, beginning on 21 April, Google is apparently poised to take a harder line and relegate non-mobile websites to the far reaches of results—which will not affect direct links you’ve embedded in your campaign, but will most certainly affect future searches your constituents perform to revisit your site or to find additional information.

Does this have a real, measurable impact on you? Most certainly.

We recently ran a campaign where we checked the websites of thousands of our subscribers, leads and clients and were astonished to find only around 30 percent of them have properly functioning mobile websites, and less than 1 percent have a mobile app. The campaign was designed to highlight the experience of their clients when visiting their website and encourage them to purchase Web-development or app-development services. We included a screenshot of an iPhone 6 and on the phone’s screen we displayed an actual view of their site.

If this 30 percent suddenly shifts to the top of search results, imagine what this could do to your rankings if you do not have a mobile site. Assuming you’ve implemented a good SEO strategy, and are enjoying a top-ranking website, you will now have 30 companies displayed before you. With typical search-results pages showing the top ten companies, this means you have been relegated from page one to perhaps page three or even four.

With these changes, mobile sites—and landing and squeeze pages—have gone from important to critical. Your site and all campaign pages must provide sufficient depth to answer questions visitors may have beyond what the campaign provides or questions return visitors have—and in a format appropriate to the visitor’s device.

Updating your site doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re using WordPress, there are plug-ins that you can add to your current theme in order to present the site in a mobile format. One I’ve used and had a good experience with is WP Touch.

If you have an HTML site, things become a bit more difficult, but not unmanageable. You might consider switching your site to a WordPress site with a mobile theme, which would negate the need to add a third-party plug-in to convert the site. Another option would be to post a new site specifically for your mobile users, and use javascript or an .htaccess file to detect what device your visitor is using and then send them to the appropriate site.

You do need to think beyond your website, no matter which option you choose. This affects landing pages, squeeze pages and microsites as well.

In other words, if you’re not mobile, you may not be relevant.

Must Love Dogs, and Other Content Marketing Advice

Content Marketing is a lot like dating. If you create your dating profile based on what you think potential life mates might be interested in, but don’t accurately reflect who you really are, then your first date will probably be a short one.

Content Marketing is a lot like dating.

If you create your dating profile based on what you think potential life mates might be interested in, but don’t accurately reflect who you really are, then your first date will probably be a short one.

After all, if you’re an active sports enthusiast who loves dogs and isn’t afraid to speak your mind, then why would you pretend to be otherwise? Do you think that nobody will wink at you online if you’re honest about yourself? Do you think “tricking” someone into asking you out has the possibility of turning into a long term relationship?

Many businesses continue to get poor results for their content marketing efforts because they’re attempting to be something that they’re not. When Google’s algorithm discovers that your content has a lot of bounces because it does NOT really answer a Google inquiry on a topic, your search result gets moved to the back of the pack. There’s no “gaming” the system by stuffing keywords in your meta tag—Google is simply trying to figure out what a page is all about so they can serve up an authentic answer to the search inquiry.

I keep going back to the story about Marcus Sheridan, the pool company owner who started writing a blog based on answering their customers’ questions. As a result, his pool company is thriving and his website gets more traffic than any other pool company site in the world—and Marcus started an online consulting business to help other companies achieve similar results.

The secret to his success? Answering every single question a consumer could possibly have about buying a fiberglass pool in a frank and personable way. Now when a consumer asks Google a question about fiberglass pools, Marcus’ site is at the top of the organic search results because web traffic clicks and time spent on his site tell Google that his answers are the most “helpful” and relevant to the question being asked. Marcus gets an “A” for Content Marketing.

But why do most businesses still get an “F” for their attempts??

Primarily because they’re afraid: Afraid to answer questions honestly out of fear that it might make their product or service look bad; Afraid that they won’t look like they know what they’re talking about; Afraid that the competition will read their content and “steal” their answers or ideas; Afraid that someone will read their content then shop elsewhere to find the same solution… Only cheaper.

But Marcus wasn’t afraid. He had deep experience in the pool business, and was happy to share it with anyone who asked. He knew that by demonstrating his knowledge he would attract more inquiries, interest and referrals, because at the end of the day, we all love to do business with people who know what they’re talking about—people who give us confidence because we know we’ve made the right decision by purchasing from an expert.

I recently read a great quote from Phil Darby—a pioneer in new branding—who said, “You won’t build relationships by talking about yourself all the time.”

You couldn’t be more right, Phil, and just like in dating, no one wants to sit with someone who drones on and on about themselves.

Great content adds value to a topic; brings a fresh perspective to an issue, or provides advice and counsel on how to solve a problem—all without the chest pounding.

And, if you continuously post content to your site and distribute through other social media channels, that will help with SEO efforts because according to Searchmetrics, 7 out of 10 of the most important factors in SEO ranking now come from social media. Whether you post it on LinkedIn, Google+, tweet about it, or link to a Facebook post, all these efforts help optimize your search results.

Take a fresh look at your content—is it authentic? Does it truly help the reader gain new knowledge or insight on a topic? Or is it just the lipstick on your pig?

Making LinkedIn Sales Navigator Work for You

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be great investment. But recovering the money you invest means having an effective, repeatable way to get buyers asking about your product/service.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be great investment. But recovering the money you invest means having an effective, repeatable way to get buyers asking about your product/service.

Having a reliable way to provoke response from buyers is the piece most sales reps and recruiting professionals are overlooking. Today, I’ll give you that piece and three templates to take action on—start improving your ROI with Sales Navigator.

“What Does Navigator (Alone) Give Me?”
Sales Navigator provides more access to the LinkedIn database.

Navigator also:

  • makes automated lead suggestions for you (however, my clients rarely get quality leads this way);
  • allows 700 search results (vs. 100) when querying the database;
  • lets you access prospects you don’t know—via InMail messages.

InMail Rules Totally Changed in 2015
Since Jan. 1, 2015 LinkedIn gives “credits” (you buy) back—but only for InMails that earn a response in 90 days.

This is NEW!

Remember the old system? If you did not receive a response within a week, it was credited back to you. You were rewarded for your success AND for failures. Whoops! This encouraged way too much spam.

Today you receive a credit (get your money back) for each InMail receiving a response within 90 days.

What the New InMail Rules Mean to You
Your money is wasted when your potential buyer:

  • hits the “Not interested” button this COUNTS as a response!
  • replies negatively or
  • ignores your message.

Hence, InMail is not guaranteed to be effective. Plus, if it’s not you’re punished by LinkedIn.

InMail also is monitored and rated by LinkedIn—and you must maintain an InMail reputation score in order to send messages. If enough prospects mark you as spam, you’re out of the game.

That’s another reason why you need a reliable communications process that sparks customers’ curiosity in InMails you’re sending.

Do This Right Now
When writing InMails, be sure to state a clear reason the other side will benefit from hitting reply. Make inviting you to speak an attractive idea. Sound crazy? It’s not. Give it a try. It works.

Here are simple guidelines to follow:

  • Be brief, blunt and basic: Write four to five sentences MAX.
  • After drafting, reduce the number of “I’s” and “my’s” in your message.
  • State a clear reason you want a reply in your InMail.
  • Conclude with the customer’s name again. (hyper-personalize)

This will help you put an insane amount of focus on the prospect.

A Few (Proven) Templates for You
For example:

Subject line: Let’s decide?

Hi, [prospect first name].

Are you looking for a better way to ________ [insert goal]? If so may propose a short email exchange—to decide if a deeper conversation is warranted? I __________________[insert description of you] who helps businesses like _______ [insert target business name]. If not, thanks for your time in considering. Please let me know your decision, [prospect first name]?

Sincerely,
[your name]

Why does this template work? For a handful of reasons. If you’re curious ask me in comments and I’ll explain.

When you write, make taking the next step:

  • rewarding to the prospect;
  • predictable and
  • crystal clear to them.

Want to learn this system now? Here are two more free templates to get you started.

Will You Waste Time and Money on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a good investment, but you are only buying access. Knowing what you do now … having invested time in reading this … what will you do?

Will you rely on a systematic approach this year? Or will you struggle and risk failing?

Will you make quick work of prospecting—or will this feel like slave labor? It’s in your hands. Let me know if I can help.

Setting SEO Strategies and Priorities for 2015

As you turn the calendar to 2015, it is time once again to revisit the SEO successes or unmet challenges from the previous year and set priorities for what must get done during this year. Setting priorities for SEO is difficult. SEO is fast-moving, constantly changing and highly tactical marketing. There is always the temptation to chase the changes in search algorithms and ranking factors, for these changes require tactical solutions. It is easy to focus so intently on tactics to meet these immediate changes in the search that the overarching goals can get lost in the details, deep in the weeds. Good tactical execution done without real strategies and clearly set priorities is like driving fast with no directions or destination.

As you turn the calendar to 2015, it is time once again to revisit the SEO successes or unmet challenges from the previous year and set priorities for what must get done during this year. Setting priorities for SEO is difficult. SEO is fast-moving, constantly changing and highly tactical marketing. There is always the temptation to chase the changes in search algorithms and ranking factors, for these changes require tactical solutions. It is easy to focus so intently on tactics to meet these immediate changes in the search that the overarching goals can get lost in the details, deep in the weeds. Good tactical execution done without real strategies and clearly set priorities is like driving fast with no directions or destination.

Here are three things to consider as you go about setting your SEO strategies and priorities for 2015. How have your customers changed in their use of search? What are your business goals for 2015? Are you looking to grow, introduce new products or services, or regain lost business or traction in your industry? Does your site reflect your business? Does it offer anything of value to the customer or is it a static billboard or catalog? How and when will you be changing it? Finally, look at your SEO program and set the goals and priorities.

What About the Consumer?
There is a clear trend toward consumers using mobile devices for their search. Are you ahead or behind your customers? Review your analytics and consider what devices your customers are using. If you have not seen a clear uptake in mobile, don’t simply rationalize that your customers are different and haven’t moved to mobile yet. If your mobile traffic is not growing in relation to other Web devices, you may be losing ground already.

Another clear trend is that consumers are using social media to vet businesses and products. Social media today are clearly interlinked with search results. In setting 2015 priorities, you must look at how consumers are using social media relative to your business. Also, don’t forget to look at which social media sites are their favorites.

Are Your Business Goals Realistic?
If your business is growing, you will need to look at where online growth will come as you move to set your 2015 search directions. Do you expect huge growth from search? If so, you will need to look long and hard at how you will make this happen. Be reasonable in your expectations. In short, curb your optimism. Ground it in real numbers. It is not sensible to expect huge growth from search in a vacuum. Branding is ever more important element in search, so if your brand is weak, so too will be your ability to generate new traffic from search.

If you are introducing new products or adding a new line of business, you will need to make sure that you marketing program supports the product launch in all of the media that search influences. I am constantly surprised at businesses that simply add a page to their existing site and expect traffic. This may have once worked, but it does not work now.

Visit Your Site With Fresh Eyes
Come to your site as if you are a new customer. Do a search for your own products and follow the path. You may be surprised at what you discover. Does your site show up for the keyword searches that best describe your business? Did you turn up an outdated page as the key result of your search? On visiting the site from a search, did you easily find what you wanted? These answers may help set your direction.

Content is key for search success, and customers coming to your site will be looking for content that answers their search quest. Does your content fill the bill? One of my favorite exercises is to pull content from key pages and replace the name with “our company” and replace product and service offerings with “this product/service.” Then look and see if there is anything that can be learned about either the company or the product from the page. This is a quick way to find just how generic your content is. For small businesses, you can frequently trade in a different type of business. For example on the About Us page for an accounting firm swap in veterinarian for accountant and see if the page still makes sense. If it does, the page is virtually worthless for search since it offers nothing of real value.

Based on this high level review, you will be able to set your directions without getting lost in the tactics. You may discover that your first priority is to make the site more mobile friendly. You may also discover that without the addition of more and better content, being mobile friendly is not going to be as important as developing more content, and so it goes. Once the direction is set, you can relatively easily set the priorities and fit together the essential tactics.