Online marketing is one of the foundations of building a successful business.
It has to be, when Americans currently spend 11+ hours on electronic devices every day.
Whenever you have a question about anything in the universe, what do you do?
Consult the Big G.
With so many of your potential customers
wasting spending time online, it makes sense to market your business to them there.
But the online marketing world changes fast.
And as a business owner it’s hard to keep up.
You simply want to know where to invest your shiny little eggs.
So this guide breaks everything down. Without the crap.
If you implement even 50% of the information here, you’ll have clawed your way up the greasy Internet pole and be streaks ahead of your competitors.
So take it, consume it, enjoy it.
- 1 Digital Strategy
- 2 Laying the Foundation
- 3 Create Your Marketing Funnel
- 4 Customer Value Optimisation
- 5 Email Marketing
- 6 Lead Segmentation
- 7 On page SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- 8 Content Marketing
- 9 Create an Influencer Network
- 10 Off page SEO
- 11 Social Media
- 12 Paid Advertising
- 13 Conversion Optimisation
- 14 Conclusion
How well do you know your customers?
If you’ve done your market research, congratulations.
This information is the cornerstone of a successful digital marketing strategy…
And will save you a boatload of money later on.
You want to know everything about your customer. How old they are, where they live, how many kids they have…
Damn, even the colour of their favourite pants.
Know these things and your customers will think you’re a mind jedi.
And your marketing campaign will be laser guided.
The benefits of detailed customer research are numerous:
- Improved product – market fit
What’s the aim behind Hollywood screenings or big brand focus groups?
To get early feedback, allowing quick product iteration and customer satisfaction.
It means, getting to know your audience.
Many companies get a brilliant idea for a product, spend tons of money on R+D, before releasing the product to crickets.
The problem with the product first approach is that you have no idea if anyone will buy the damn thing after the toil of creating it.
You can start by selling someone else’s product as an affiliate to test the market.
But do your customer research before creating your own.
Or if you already have a product, research your target market and tweak your offer.
Jump on the phone with customers, do surveys, explore the tinterwebs.
Find out their problems and create a product or service to fulfil their need.
This way you can pretty much presell a product or service before you’ve created it.
Local businesses may think their product or service is obvious.
A gardener gardens, a decorator decorates, a piper pipes…
However, even in these businesses, if you take the time to research your customers, new product and service opportunities present themselves.
- You won’t need to sell anymore
When you know your audience intimately, you can touch upon the very problems they’re having…
And use their pain points in your marketing materials.
Your business will be so well aligned with your audience that your product becomes the perfect solution.
No more hard selling.
- Reduced ad spend
Good products reach their audience at the right time. i.e. when they have a problem to solve.
Trying to force your product on a lukewarm audience can result in huge promotional costs.
Do your customer research first and your cost per conversion will plummet.
- You know where your audience are online
To get to know your audience, you’ll have to interact with them online.
This means spending time in the same groups, answering questions and contributing to discussions.
You’ll grow a presence in the community and have easy access when promoting your products.
If you know where your customers hang out online you can get eyeballs on your business.
For example, do you need to become more active on social, in certain forums, or improve your search engine marketing?
Ok, so the benefits are clear.
How do you perform customer research?
- Google – forums/Reddit/Quora – check the discussions. Importantly, what problems they’re having
- Amazon book reviews on your topic – check 3 star reviews. What didn’t they like (i.e. their pain points)?
- Surveys to existing customers
- Phone calls with existing customers
- Facebook page insights – niche down on the demographic interested in your business
- Competitors – SEM Rush (a freemium tool that allows you to drill down deep on your competitors)
Decide on your perfect customer
So, you know all the dirty little details of your existing or potential customers.
Now ask yourself whether you actually want these people as customers.
It’s amazing how many business owners are drawn to the dream of working for themselves, just to find the reality worse than a soul sucking corporate job.
If you want a business that’s a whole lot easier to market, choose your perfect customer from your research; ideally one who aligns with financial opportunity.
And make sure you’re not using a scattergun approach…
What do you think of a restaurant that serves burgers, lasagnas, pad thais?
That it must be crap, especially if it has pictures on laminated menus. It’s trying to do too much.
If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no-one.
It’s tempting to want to tackle the whole market.
Instead, choose one area and focus on that. You can always expand later on.
By niching down and targeting your perfect customer, you can be laser focused.
And selling becomes easy.
The first step is to take your customer research and create a customer avatar.
A fictional persona that:
a) You would love to work with, and
b) Would love to buy your product and service.
Here’s a random example for a vet:
- 37 years old,
- Two children
- Full time mother
- Husband works in finance in the city
- Participates in the local community
- Environmentally aware.
- Reads mummy blogs
- Contributes to sustainability websites.
This is a brief example, and ideally you’d go much deeper.
If you take time to create this persona, not only will you enjoy your business a whole lot more, but you’ll know the exact issues to communicate when attracting customers.
When you’ve researched your customers, it’s important to spy on your competitors.
Assess their strengths and weaknesses and exploit any opportunities in your market.
Firstly, look at top ranking competitors in your niche and Adwords advertisers.
This can be a daunting or liberating, depending on how well they’re performing.
Type your main keywords (i.e. the phrases that describe your business) into Google and look at the top results.
Also look at the advertisers who are paying for those keywords.
Input the information into an excel spreadsheet.
This is where things get juicy. A few things to check out:
Website: branding, offers, on-page SEO, keywords, top pages and the amount of traffic they receive, types of articles, funnels.
Advertising: Check out their paid ads (using a tool like SEM rush/Similar Web.) Maybe you can tap into the same traffic sources, and use similar ad creatives.
Target market: By looking at the who you’re competitors are targeting, you can tweak your perfect customer avatar. Use SEM rush and Facebook insights.
Traffic source: You might want to market through your business through similar channels.
When you know all of the above, you can imitate what they’re doing well and improve upon the things they’re not.
So, you’ve picked your perfect customer and researched your competitors. Now it’s time to position yourself in the market.
You could spend a long time on branding, but we won’t in this guide.
If you’re starting out, consider your angle but don’t fret if you can’t nail it. There are more important items to execute.
If you’re an established business it’s worth spending more time on.
Nordstrom for example has positioned itself for its unbelievable customer service.
They benefit from viral stories such as employees hand delivering items for potential customers, accepting damaged returns and refunding a customer for two tyres (even though Nordstrom don’t sell tyres).
Everyone loves a story.
If you can craft a good story around your business, your brand becomes memorable.
Laying the Foundation
Ok, you’ve done your research. Now it’s time to look at the face of your business.
Your website is your customer’s first touchpoint with your business.
So if they land on a site that’s visually unappealing or has broken links and bad contact info, you’re only a back click away from being forgotten forever.
It may seem obvious, but it’s still surprising how many truly terrible websites there are.
Even today, when you can cobble together a sleek design in a few clicks, some websites look like they’re stuck in the noughties, with centre partings and baggy jeans.
If you don’t have a website, get one up quickly.
Genesis Framework is a good option, or any quality paid theme from Themeforest.
Alternatively, if you’re non-techie, you can try Thrive themes, which is plug and play.
It’s better than spending bags of cash on a custom site unless you have a big site/specialist needs.
It doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, but rather look good and function well (with good code.)
Also with the rise of the mobile phone, we’re becoming much like Ziggy from Quantum Leap.
Even though phablets are increasingly popular, your website must adapt to a mobile phone screen i.e. be mobile responsive.
Ensure that the writing is legible and buttons clickable.
Aside from the design, good copy is essential to attract customers and keep them engaged.
Otherwise, no matter how good your product or service, no one will buy it compadre.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie.
“Consumers do not buy products, they buy benefits.” David Ogilvy.
The great copywriters knew the value of wordplay to drive sales.
This case study shows how conversions can fall by up to 39% just by changing one word, demonstrating just how essential copy is to any online marketing efforts.
Obviously the most effective approach to copywriting is to hire a professional who eats it for breakfast.
But here are some ideas to get eyeballs on your words:
List benefits over features
“People aren’t interested in you. They’re interested in themselves.” Dale Carnegie.
People instantly ask, “What’s In It For Me?” You need to answer this question in your copy.
When Apple released their Ipod, there were two ways of framing the message…
Feature heavy: Storage for 1GB of MP3’s
Benefit heavy: 1,000 songs in your pocket
Which is more compelling?
Put another way, when people go to a bed store, they don’t shop for a new mattress, but rather a good night’s sleep.
When writing copy, put yourself in the mind of your customer…
They don’t want a haircut, but to look beautiful on their next date.
They don’t want a multi-pass gym membership, but to look great on their beach holiday.
Tap into people’s emotions with your writing.
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
It might surprise you to learn that the average reading age of website visitors is…
Obviously this varies depending on your target audience, but remember that it’s better to keep your language simple.
Why use a $2 word when I can use a 2 cent word.
That way you’ll appeal to a larger audience. Your message will be simple and straightforward.
You know all the lingo in your industry, but put yourself in the position of your customer and imagine they know nothing.
Avoid the jargon.
Use power words
As you’ve seen from previous examples, if you can stir emotion in your website visitors…
By emphasising pain points, and painting a picture of the benefits of your product with storytelling
You’re halfway there.
One excellent way to do this is using power words. Ones that instantly conjure different emotions when placed strategically in your copy.
Instead of recreating the wheel, here’s an awesome free list.
Call to action
A commonly overlooked aspect of most webpages.
You might know what you want potential customers to do when they land on your site, but they probably don’t.
Website visitors are not mind readers, and if there’s confusion about their next step, they’ll hit the back button.
So, if you want them to sign up to your email list in return for a discount, MAKE IT CLEAR.
Have a prominent sign up box that allows them to complete the action easily. Don’t make visitors hunt around, because they won’t.
EXAMPLE: Sign up here for your SEO consultation…
If you want them to leave a comment on your article, ask them to do so.
So, my call to action on this article would be as follows.
If you’re getting value from this article, click here to apply for a FREE marketing consultation.
Check out this book by Robert Cialdini…
Sign up to accounts
Now you’ve tidied up your shopfront, make sure you’re signed up to the accounts that will supply the vital data later.
The earlier you sign up for these accounts, the more data you’ll have to work with when tweaking your approach.
Sign up to the following accounts:
- Google search console
- Google analytics
- Google tag manager
- Social media accounts – helps you secure your business name to avoid name jacking. Ensure you link back to your website from these accounts wherever possible.
- Install Google and Facebook remarketing pixels on your website
- Now you’ve got the basics set up, it’s important to set up the structure of your business.
It may be counterintuitive to start here, but it means you have a system to work from.
Create Your Marketing Funnel
This is perhaps the most essential part of this whole guide, whether you’re starting out or already have a successful business.
Why? Because there’s no point in getting any more traffic to your site until you have a funnel in place.
You can have every Internet user in the world visit your site, but it’s a waste of time unless there’s a process to turn them into paying customers.
Then turn those customers into repeat customers.
A marketing funnel is simply a system to achieve this:
From “The Network Is Your Customer,” by David Rogers (Yale University Press, 2011)
Above is a general funnel, showing each stage a prospect goes through when they encounter your business.
All businesses have a funnel.
If a customer lands on your site and buys something immediately, that’s a funnel (albeit a short one).
If they sign up to your site and buy later, there’s an extra step, and thus a slightly more complicated funnel.
Let’s get down to business and look the best technique to apply to funnel building.
Customer Value Optimisation
This is a technique coined by Ryan Deiss over at Digital Marketer, and can its magical goodness can applied to your marketing funnel for extreme results.
According to Ryan, there are three ways to make more money on your products…
Increase the number of customers buying lightsabers
Get each customer to spend more on their lightsabers
Get each customer back in the future to buy more lightsabers
Customer value optimisation, applied to your funnel, does these things…
Let’s take a look at the steps involved.
Product market fit
Presumably you set your business up to make money.
If so, you need something to sell. Ideally from the start (unless your business is just a side project, in which case you can build an audience first).
Here are some examples:
- Local Product: Shop selling widgets
- Local Service: Builder
- Online Product: Information product (Course/Ebook)
- Online Service: Graphic designer
- Ecommerce: Shipping products (Amazon)
- Software as a Service
- You’ve already done your customer research. You know what problems they have.
You need to highlight those problems in your marketing materials and introduce your product as the solution.
So before driving traffic to your website, you should have a product which resonates with your audience.
One that you can place in your funnel.
Therefore, any website traffic is monetised from the start. Much better.
Don’t have a product yet?
No problem. You can either become an affiliate for someone that does, or if you want to provide a service (but can’t do it yourself), outsource it.
Pick your traffic source and concentrate on it.
You’ve done your customer research, so you know where to get eyeballs on your business.
You’ve also analysed your competitors and know where they’re getting their traffic.
You can focus on similar sources. We’ll check out the free and paid traffic acquisition strategies in a later section.
You might pat yourself on the back for having thousands of Facebook fans or Instagram followers, but you don’t actually own these contacts.
If these social platforms change their terms of service or shut down, your hard work is lost.
Therefore the first, and most important step in the CVO process is lead generation.
Which simply means getting people to sign up to your business as email subscribers.
You see, email marketing ties your funnels and CVO process together.
Without it everything falls apart.
Here’s how it works…
- Customer clicks on a link to your website
- On your website, you ask them to submit their email, in exchange for an ethical bribe (lead magnet)
- If it solves a problem they have, the visitor is desperate to give you their email (you hope)
- Now you have a list of highly qualified leads to slide down your funnel
So, what makes a good lead magnet?
An irresistible offer. Something of high perceived value…
- Free ebook
- Content upgrade – e.g. downloadable pdf of article/checklist/extra information
- Video training series
- Discovery call (when selling services)
- Survey – you’ll see how powerful this little baby can be shortly
- Back in the early Internet days it was enough to ask people to sign up to your newsletter.
These days, people are protective of their email address and demand value upfront. Also, your lead magnet has to be well matched to the visitor and solve a specific problem.
There’s no point getting someone to read an article about luscious beard oil and then selling them an ebook on the 5 best ways to shave.
Also, don’t try to do too much. Don’t offer someone an epic tome on history of beards.
Something like ‘3 quick, simple tips to for a shiny beard’ is better.
Make it quick and easy to consume the information.
Once you have your lead magnet, there are a couple of options…
- Landing/squeeze page – you can direct website visitors to a page designed solely to get their email address in return for your lead magnet. Cuts right to the chase.
- Native landing page – create a page/blog post with helpful content and then offer a lead magnet in/around the content.
These days, people are wary about clicking on ads and are increasingly put off by being sent straight to an email capture page.
This is why the content page is offered more and more. If the website visitor likes your free content, they opt-in. Simples.
As for the technical aspects of capturing email addresses…
Many people use Leadpages. I’ve just switched to Thrive Leads and initial impressions are very good. You can either set up;
- A full landing or squeeze page with lots of design options
- Lead capture boxes that you can add into articles
As you can see, lead generation should be the MAIN AIM of everything you’ve read in this guide up until now, regardless of your industry or niche.
Offer a Tripwire
There is one thing better than a list of leads.
And that’s a list of buyers.
Research shows that when someone has pulled out their credit card once, they’re more willing to do it a second time.
If you can create a low ticket offer (could be around $5-15), you can send visitors directly to a trip wire sales page after signing up.
If it’s related to the topic they’ve just opted in for, it’s often a no-brainer.
You can then recoup some of the money from you spend on acquiring website traffic (but normally not all of it.)
Offer a Core Product
If you’ve matched your tripwire offer to your website visitors, you should get a good conversion rate.
For those that do, you can funnel them straight to a sales page, possibly with a sales video, to offer your core product.
They already have their credit card out, so you have two choices…
- Introduce them to your core offer immediately when they have their credit card in hand
- Prime them first with some email marketing (which we’ll discuss shortly)
Some businesses don’t even make any money on their core product or service. They’re saving it for the next stage of the funnel…
Offer a Profit Maximiser
For the customers that buy your core offer, you can offer an upsell, bundle or cross sell.
It’s what computer shops do with their warranties, or McDonald’s do with their fries and drink.
A great option is to offer a continuity program or subscription service.
Just take a look at your bank account and check the outgoings.
Netflix and Amazon Prime are probably two you barely even think about.
You set ’em and forget ’em.
Recently there’s been an explosion of subscription model businesses. And for good reason.
In his book ‘The Automatic Customer’, John Warrillow argues that most businesses should try to exploit this method of payment.
The main reason is that one of the most stressful and resource intensive aspect of any business is client acquisition.
Because of the massive income peaks and troughs.
One month you’re rolling like a money pig in a trough full of dollar bills. The next, you’ve barely got enough for your skinny latte.
If you can regulate some of that income and make it predictable as a monthly subscription, you’re onto a winner.
The Return Path
For non buyers, you can re-introduce them to the offers they declined later and for buyers, you can push them down new funnels.
Let’s look at an example for a local dentist…
- Landing page: Article entitled ‘The 5 best toothpastes for cleaner teeth’.
- Lead magnet: ‘3 brushing techniques for a healthy teeth.’
- Tripwire: Free teeth cleaning appointment.
- Upsell: During the teeth cleaning appointment, the dentist might suggest a teeth whitening for a brighter smile.
- Core product: During the teeth whitening, the dentist may discover a cavity. Fixing this will be the core product.
- Profit maximiser one: Any more serious dental problems that are discovered.
- Profit maximiser two: Introduce patient to a monthly subscription service which allows them to return for check ups.
Are you making your products now?
If you’re going through this process, start with your flagship, most expensive product FIRST.
It’s generally easier to sell one expensive product than 1000 cheap ones.
After you’ve convinced one person to pay for your product, you’ll have immediate cashflow.
You can then introduce cheaper products as you improve your funnel.
Also, your funnel can be more complicated than the CVO process shown and you can develop extra products as you progress.
If you’re not capturing leads, you need to pump a whole lot more money into content creation or paid ads to get visitors back to your site.
It’s like throwing a fish back into the sea just to catch another.
Soon you’ll be hungry.
You may think that even if you don’t get an email sign up, that visitor will be back because of your cool content.
Unfortunately in today’s attention economy, it’s highly unlikely that person will remember your site.
And that’s where email marketing comes in.
Lets face it. It’s difficult to sell to cold prospect landing on your site (unless they know your brand.)
People are jaded with old school Internet practices, like being sent straight to a sales page.
You don’t try to marry someone when you first meet them. You have to woo them on a series of dates first.
That’s why you get people to make a series of small commitments first…
- Read your awesome article
- Sign up for your spectacular lead magnet
- Only then introduce them to an offer
- To build trust and demonstrate value.
Moz says that a customer needs at least 7 interactions with your brand before they buy.
Email is therefore perfect to transition prospects through and between funnels.
You can easily introduce prospects to various offers through a series of helpful emails.
Which results in an organic sales process.
Jon Morrow from Smart Blogger operates under the premise that if they make $1 per month per subscriber, they’re doing well.
So you can see how email marketing provides a tidy return.
How do you use it then?
The key is to put the system on autopilot, sending a series of drip fed emails at specific intervals after a visitor signs up.
Sign up to Mailchimp or my preferred service, Aweber to set this up.
The key to these initial emails is to introduce your business, and provide value.
By giving away your most helpful advice in these emails, you’re inducing the law of reciprocity, which helps win the sale later.
The master of this technique is Andre Chaperon…
The Soap Opera Sequence
What’s the one thing you can’t wait to do when you start a new boxset?
Watch the next episode.
I’ve spent days in my pants, stuffing my face with crisps, just to find out what happens in the next episode of Game of Thrones.
That’s because the writers of these shows employ storytelling trickery, using open loops and cliffhangers (unresolved tension.)
Andre utilises the same techniques in the emails, resulting in a list of potential customers that can’t wait to open his email to receive another instalment.
So, here’s a typical email sequence after a visitor signs up…
- Day one – Signs up
- Day one – Welcome email – Housekeeping (whitelist email address), ask them their biggest challenge (survey) and provide promised lead magnet
- Day two – Introductory email – story of your business. Highlight pain point that most of your customers suffer from (use copywriting principles from earlier, feeding on emotion). Promise help with it in tomorrow’s email (cliffhanger).
- Day three – Introduce the solution to their pain (your product/service). Emphasise how it will benefit their life (benefits over features). Use a storytelling, allow them to visualise the result, use power words. Throw in another cool freebie. Promise another helpful story tomorrow.
- Day four – Play on their logic – you need Product X because of your life situation Y. Can focus more on features if needed, and what they will get. Could back it up with a testimonial.
- Day five – Play on their fear of loss. Say it’s their last chance to get your product before you pull the offer. This helps the procrastinators who are sitting on the fence. Tackle any of their objections, possibly using a case study.
There you have it. A simple 5 day soap opera sequence, each email building off the last, leading to a sale.
Now, this is a relatively short sequence. I’ve seen some of Andre’s that go on for 20-30 emails, priming a sale.
Email marketing is such a mind bogglingly powerful tool, and you can really dive down the rabbit hole.
Using email marketing with lead segmentation, you will be an unstoppable online marketing legend…
What’s the one lesson we’ve banged on about in this guide?
If you had to go for back surgery, who would you want to see?
A general doctor? Or a back specialist performing thousands of back operations every year?
Exactly. People seek out specialists. It’s the same with your business.
You’ve narrowed down your perfect customer with your avatar.
But even within that perfect persona, different people have different needs at different times.
If you set your business up to provide the RIGHT service at the RIGHT time, you win.
Game, set and match.
Luckily, you can automate this process, using lead segmentation.
Note that some of this information is more advanced, and if you’re starting out, it might be confusing.
Perhaps my favourite way of lead segmentation is to use Ryan Levesque’s ASK technique.
The only way to know for sure what problem a customer has at a specific time is to ask.
Which is why surveys work like gangbusters.
The first step is to perform what Ryan calls a deep dive survey, where you discover the main problem your audience faces.
Ask your current audience something like,
‘What is the main problem you’re facing with [insert your topic] right now?’
You can do this in your initial email with new subscribers.
From the responses, you pick out similarities from the top 20% of responses. The best ones are those that go into depth regarding their problems.
Make a note of the specific language your prospects use as this will help with your sales copy later.
From the best responses, you categorise the main issues your audience have.
Create 3-5 buckets of common problems.
For each of bucket, you can create a separate funnel…and product.
Alternatively you can change your sales approach slightly for each bucket (sales videos/articles) and direct them to the same product if it will solve their problem.
When you have your buckets, create an awesome piece of content that provides useful info to your audience, and introduce the survey at the end…
But don’t call it a survey (they’ll prefer completing a quiz).
Now you can find out what bucket to place those visitors in according to their problem.
Let’s run with the beard business. All praise the beard.
At the end of the beard article, the permanent survey (which is now your lead magnet) asks a series of questions to find out if that person struggles to grow a voluminous beard, struggles with a frizzy beard, or struggles with a ginger beard.
You could say something like, ‘What type of beard guy are you?’
Visitors will naturally be curious to know their result.
From their answers (using branching logic), you can redirect them to a landing page offering them a solution to their specific beard issue.
Often this will be an email opt-in to insert them into the funnel.
You’ll use the same language they used in your original deep dive survey…
…and they’ll think you’re a mind reader.
Using these funnels, you’re able to segment your list from the start, which will explode your conversion rate.
If you’ve got an existing email list, you can still send them to a piece of content and re-segment from their before applying the customer value optimisation technique.
Now, it’s important to continually re-segment your audience if you want awesome conversions.
Why? Because people change, and what they want changes too.
How re-segmenting works…
Once people have slipped their way down one funnel, they either buy, or they don’t.
For those that purchase a product, you want to re-segment them into an on-boarding list, which sends them a specific set of emails to help them use their product.
For those that didn’t, you can ask them why they didn’t in another survey that you send via email.
You can also introduce another piece of content to them, which falls into another bucket.
If they click on the link in the email, you can rig it so they’re automatically transferred onto another list, to be exposed to more of the same content and an eventual offer.
Because they clicked on the link, indicating they’re interested in that sort of content.
In this way you can re-segment your list continuously and cycle your audience through your different offers, or place them on a webinar list for example (as Thrive Themes permits with segue links).
When you’ve exhausted your own products and services, you can start introducing affiliate offers.
And for those non-buyers who just want information, you can transfer them to the general email broadcast list. Perhaps they will become buyers in the future.
As for the technical aspects of re-segmenting your list, generally you require software like Infusion Soft, although there are third party pieces of software that work with the likes of Aweber.
On page SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
As a business owner, you know that your business will benefit from more website traffic.
One way of getting that traffic is to pay for it (which we’ll cover later.)
The other way, more preferable way, is getting it for free.
To do this, you need to get your business higher in the search engine rankings.
Why? Because the top three results in organic (non-paid) results in Google get X amount of the traffic.
Google is the overlord of the Internet Universe and therefore you must bow to the master.
There are over 200 ranking signals to decide where to place a business in the results.
Naturally they’re pretty cagey about their exact algorithm. But search engine optimisation is definitely key.
This means helping Google understand that your website is the best result to show for any particular search query.
You see, Google wants to give users the best experience possible.
If I type in ‘Big Beard’, I hope Google will serve up a fine selection of well-oiled beards.
Instead of say, clogs.
To help Google figure out that your page is the most relevant result for a particular query, you need to do the following:
Lets say you’re a hairdresser, and you own a salon in London.
You think that most of your customers, when looking for a salon, will type…
Because that’s where you’re based.
Logical. But why guess, when you can check, using Google’s keyword planner.
Here you can check how many people search for certain words and phrases (keywords) every month.
Obviously you want to set your main pages up to target the most searched for keywords, giving your business more chance of showing up.
- Title: The main title you see in Google search results. Choose your main keyword on your homepage and main page. SCREENSHOT
- H1/2/3 tags: The title of the page/post. It’s good to have the title of the page match the H1 tag. Use the other subheading on the page/post to structure your content and include relevant/related keywords and phrases where you can.
- Meta Description: The description of the page/post you see in Google search results. This has an indirect effect on search ranking. If you have a better description, more people are likely to click on your result (better CTR – Click Through Rate), which will help your search ranking.
- Alt text: The description of any images you have on the page/post. Change the file names on your images to match your main keywords and do likewise with the alt-text.
- Schema: Extra data that you can give to Google (in the search console LINK) which helps them deliver better results.
- Speed: The speed of you website is important. Check it’s performance using the Google’s page speed insights. You can improve it’s performance for free by signing up with Cloudflare.
- Relevant content: Google tracks how long website visitors spend on your website and rewards this with a higher ranking. Therefore it’s essential to make content relevant and discourage visitors from clicking the back button.
- Long form content: Gone are the days of 100 word spammy articles. Google likes to help its users find answers to their questions and seems to reward pages that go into good detail on their topic.
- Keywords: To help you target different keywords around the same topic and rank your page for various keywords, you can sprinkle related search terms though the text (note that there are lots of ways to come up with alternative keywords – using the keyword planner or another tool likeKeyword.io.) This does not mean keyword stuffing. Fit related phrases and words in naturally where you can.
To help you assess the above for each page on your website, you can use a great plugin called Yoast (Note, you just need the free version.)
Google Search Console
In addition to tidying up your website, you can go one step further and help Google even more.
By signing up to Google Search Console.
Firstly you want to download a sitemap of your website using the Yoast plugin I mentioned earlier. You then want to upload this the the search console.
This lets Google index your site on the search engine (make it visible) and helps its little spiders understand the structure of your pages.
Although I won’t go into the complexities of the search console here, it’s invaluable.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
- See if there are errors on your site and how to fix them.
- Check any penalties that Google may have issued.
- View the links coming into your website.
- See keywords that you may be able to optimise for more traffic
Among many other things. Go and check it out.
Content marketing is the new king said I, and rightly so.
It works like gangbusters.
There used to be a time when companies online could slap their adverts, banners and promotions in front of online customers without a second thought.
Now, in-your-face advertising makes you want to gouge your eyes out with a spoon.
Clever companies realise this and cloak their products and services in content.
They provide information in the form of articles, webinars, infographics, videos which informs or entertains.
Some call it education based marketing.
However, entertaining, funny content works really well, as you’ll see in the video example below.
Woven through this content like this are links or signals which position the company’s product as the solution to the audience’s problem.
There will also be lead magnets on prominent display in and around the content to encourage lead generation (the start of the funnel).
That’s why any self respecting business owner at some point, has been advised to start a blog.
Unfortunately, most company blogs probably make you want to shove pencils up your nose and sing the national anthem…
They’re that damned boring.
So, how do you really market your business with content?
- Tip uno – make it freakin’ awesome.
- Tip dos – make it interesting.
Some business owners may think their industry is just too unbelievably boring to create content around.
But as you can see from the example above, there’s content about pretty much everything.
And here’s a successful example of brilliant content in the pest control niche.
This article provides awesome value, and it was promoted to websites in related industries, thus earning lots of exposure.
One point to consider before creating content is where your customers are in the buying cycle.
AWARENESS (viral) – INTEREST (discover) – DESIRE (consider) – ACTION (customer)
Ideally you create pieces of content for each stage. For example, an educational article for the information stage, moving to review-type content for the buying phase.
Frequency of content
Publishing content on a regular basis has been shown to increase website traffic.
However, your rankings won’t be affected if you’re pumping out quality content on a less frequent basis, as long as you maintain the quality.
Ok, so if content is where it’s at, how do you decide what topics to cover?
Keep reading to find out…
This is a technique outlined by Brian Dean at Backlinko, and it increases the chances of creating a killer piece of content.
The basic steps are as follows.
- Find a great piece of content in your niche
- Create something better
- Promote it
The premise is to find the highest skyscraper (best piece of content) currently ranking for its keywords and build something higher.
You’ve got two main ways to do this. I recommend performing it both ways for each keyword you target…
- Brainstorm a list of keywords (phrases) you’d like to rank for. You can use Google suggest/Ubersuggest for variations.
- Keyword planner – Check the search volume of your keywords to ensure you’ll get significant ROI (traffic) on your content creation efforts.
- Google search – Search for your target keyword and check the top results to see if you can beat the results on the first page. This isn’t an exact science, but you have to evaluate the page/domain authority of the top results (you can do this with the free chrome extension Mozbar). If they’re really high, you might not be able to compete, and it may be better to target a different/longer tail keyword.
- Analyse competitors using AHREFS/SEM Rush. If they’re getting lots of traffic and links to specific pages and posts, you can create a similar piece of content.
- Buzzumo – Look at content that has the most social shares in your niche.
- AHREFS – Search for popular pieces of content based on how many links they have.
- Check the keyword planner and search results to check search volume and competition.
- Finally, create a BETTER piece of content.
How do you choose your keyword after all this?
You’re aim is clearly to go for high volume (searched for) keywords and low competition…the holy grail.
However, it’s not always possible.
If you’re starting out, you may have to go after lower volume keywords (longer tail) with lower competition.
If you’re a an established website, you can go after more competitive keywords.
What type of content should you create?
Well Google loves a multimedia approach to content.
The Skyscaper Technique often combines long form articles with video and infographics for best effect.
Video is massive.
Just scroll down your Facebook newsfeed to see cat videos and fail compilations.
Indeed, Youtube is the world’s second biggest search engine behind Google.
You can get lost in the labyrinth of Youtube topics and emerge days later.
The ability to pick up an iphone and create a viral video is glorious and another opportunity for your business.
Just check out the example below, which leveraged a successful video by Dollar Shave Club. As a bearded man, I wholly endorse it.
Also, you’ve just got to look at Youtube channels like Casey Neistat to see the power of daily vlogging.
Even local businesses can benefit from video.
By walking potential customers through the service you provide, you turn them into hot leads.
Video can also help your business hugely in the eyes of Google. Why?
Because Google owns Youtube, and therefore promotes it.
If you can include video on your website pages, they have more chance of ranking highly.
Most businesses are still reluctant to fully utilise video.
However, videos don’t have to be time consuming or expensive. If you’re showcasing what your business can do and providing helpful or entertaining content, you can do it on an iphone.
And as for getting your mug on the screen, only practice will make you more comfortable.
If you need help learning the ins an outs of utilising video in your business, I highly recommend checking out James Wedmore.
Infographics are an excellent way to add value to your content.
They can make your page or post extremely shareable.
They can also significantly help your link building efforts, as we’ll cover shortly.
The Problem with Content Marketing
Content marketing is one of the most effective tools you have.
But there’s a problem with it too…
It takes forever! If you want to create high value content on a consistent basis, you’ll have your work cut out.
It’s fine if you can hire a full time content marketer, but most businesses aren’t in that position.
Forget Fiverr. To create consistently good content, a serious business needs a process…as the Authority Hacker team demonstrate.
Create an Influencer Network
If you want to learn about the potential of influencer networks, Glen from the Internet Marketing blog Viperchill has written an excellent (and possibly controversial) post here.
This step is vital if you wanna market your business a whole lot easier.
You’ve probably started this already to some extent if you’ve been involved in your industry a while.
However, it’s good to start formal efforts when you have an website and a little content.
You see, most industries online have their gatekeepers.
Authorities who’ve built large followings.
And wield influence.
Think Brian Clarke from Copyblogger, or Seth Godin from Internet Marketing.
There are even influencers in the local business space. Perhaps industry voices from trade publications or websites.
If you’re starting your business and aren’t well known in your industry, think of what an endorsement from one of these influencers could do to your business.
One tweet about your company or share of your content could lead to thousands of targeted visitors to your website.
Often it’s simply a case of putting yourself out there in your industry.
Sign up to influencers newsletters in your niche and follow them on social media.
Share their content. Provide thoughtful comments on their posts.
These big names recognise those that interact regularly with their business.
Once you’ve got yourself known, you can send them a personal email, complimenting them on their work.
Everyone loves receiving fan mail, and often you’ll get a response. You shouldn’t ask for anything in this email though.
If you can build relationships in your industry ahead of time, it’ll help your content promotion efforts no end (see next section.)
Indeed, if you can get accepted into an inner circle of influencers, it can skyrocket the growth of your business.
That’s why masterminds between top entrepreneurs have become so popular.
Off page SEO
So, you’ve got your sexy website and content to match.
Most people get to this stage and expect that their hard work should automatically rank them number one in Googles.
However, unless you catch a lucky break and create a viral piece of content, it’s usually not the case.
This is where the real work starts.
Build it they will come doesn’t work unless you’re already an established web presence, even for the best pieces of content.
It’s been said that for every 20% of time you spend on content creation, you should spend 80% on promotion.
This is where off page search engine optimisation comes in.
As we’ve said, there are over 200 ranking signals that Google uses to place it’s results.
One of the most important are links to that content from other websites.
Links operate very much like votes in an election.
The more links you have from other websites, the more importance Google assigns that piece of content, and your website as a whole.
Also, different links carry different weights.
For example, a link from a hugely popular website like the Huffington Post is worth more than a link from your next door neighbours blog.
Equally, these powerful links are much harder to get.
In this way, Google is able to determine the value of a website and where to rank the website’s content whenever something new is published.
Let’s take the Huffington Post example again. According to Majestic SEO, it has X number of links pointing to it.
Because it’s been around a long time and got lots of links, Google knows to rank Huffpo above your blog that you started a month ago.
This means that for more Google love, you need to start gathering links (votes) for your website and content.
So, how do you do it?
You guessed it. That awesome technique you used to create a great piece of content is the same you use to secure links.
It’s a form of link prospecting.
You’ve created what is called a “linkable asset”. Now all you need to do is shop for links.
Remember the steps from earlier…?
- Brainstorm a list of keywords (phrases) you’d like to rank for.
- Keyword planner – Check the search volume of your keywords to ensure you’ll get significant ROI (traffic) on your content creation efforts.
- Google search – Search for your target keyword and check the top results to see if you can beat the results on the first page. This isn’t an exact science, but you have to evaluate the page/domain authority of the top results (you can do this with the free chrome extension Mozbar). If they’re really high, you might not be able to compete, and it may be better to target a different/longer tail keyword.Other ways to come up with keywords and topics…
- Analyse competitors pages using SEM Rush. If they’re getting lots of traffic and links to specific pages and posts, you can create a similar piece of content.
- Buzzumo – Look at content that has the most social shares in your niche.
- AHREFS – Search for popular pieces of content based on how many links they have.
- Check the keyword planner and search results before you start writing. Then write something BETTER.
Next off page SEO steps…
- Now you’ve written your awesome piece of content, put the similar articles from the top Google results/similar articles from your competitors into Majestic SEO or AHREFS.
- Download all the links pointing to that content.
- Contact the linking website owners, saying you have a great piece of content and asking them to check it out.
If you send a certain amount of emails and your content is better than the original they linked to, many of these website owners will share or link to your content for the benefit of their audience.
Over time you can really ramp up this technique by creating an army of sharers.
In this way you can create a funnel out of the skyscraper technique and a list of website owners willing to share your content in the future.
For those who don’t reply to your initial email asking whether they’d like to see your content, you can send a follow up. The non replies can be up to 85%.
For those that do reply, but don’t want to link, you can ask them to share with their audience.
For those that do link, you can ask if you can do them a favour in return. Ask if they’d like to contribute a guest post to your site. That way, you get awesome content produced (for free) by an industry expert.
This way you can build a group of regular expert contributors, who will share their posts with their audience and provide you links when you ask.
You can even put these contacts in a separate email autoresponder.
The benefit is that it keeps your content calendar full (without you paying for it) and allows you to invest these resources in a few pieces of quality skyscraper content.
Each time you do, your list of linkers, sharers and contributors will grow.
Guest posting is where you write an article for another website in your niche.
The benefits of guest posting are two fold:
- You earn exposure to that website’s audience, which can send you traffic/build your brand
- You often get a link back to your website, which helps your search engine optimisation efforts
A while back Internet marketers jumped on guest posting to earn lots of links back their sites, which led to Google’s Matt Cutts saying “Guest Posting is dead, put a fork in it.”
This was mainly because marketers were taking a shotgun approach to guest posting, getting links from unrelated sites, and not focusing on relevance or quality.
Luckily, guest posting is alive and well, and used correctly, can help you forge great relationships with leaders in your industry, as a well as earning valuable links.
To search for guest posting opportunities in your industry, simply perform a Google search with the following operators (queries):
- Keyword/CompetitorName + “guest blog”
- Keyword/CompetitorName + “guest article”
- Keyword/CompetitorName + guest post
- Keyword/yourCompetitorName + guest author
- Keyword/CompetitorName + “write for us”
- Keyword/CompetitorName + “become a contributor”
- Keyword/CompetitorName + “contribute to this site”
There is a technique to securing guest post opportunities and it’s sensible to build a relationship with the owner of the website first, by commenting on their posts and sharing their social media updates.
Broken Link Building
This could be an in-depth article in itself.
Broken link building is one of the key methods employed by Internet marketers.
Here’s how it works:
- Find a webpage that is broken (has a 404 error)
- Re-create the content on your site (or in some cases if the whole website is down you can repurchase the domain.)
- Contact all the sites linking to the original piece of broken content and ask them to link to yours instead
Simple and effective, although time consuming.
Why does it work so well?
Imagine a website owner in your niche stumbles upon a great article and links to it to help his readers. A couple of years later that article becomes a broken link (because the website shuts down for example).
The website owner in your niche won’t want broken links on his site. It’s bad for user experience and Google don’t like it.
So, you come along, you good samaritan you, compliment him on his website, point out that he has a broken link and offer a (better) replacement.
What’s not to love. You’re making that website owners life much easier.
And in return, you’re getting a link to your site.
So, how do you find broken links?
- Search for keyword + resource page in your niche
- Check the pages with a free chrome extension (broken link checker)
- Visit the broken link to see if it’s a suitable piece of content to recreate
- Put the broken link into archive.org and base your new content from the original (don’t copy it)
- Create a better piece of content
- Put the broken link into Majestic SEO or AHREFS to find all the other sites pointing to the broken content
- Content all of these websites offering your content as the replacement
If this seems like a lot of work, it’s because it is.
That’s why many companies hire specialists to do it, who can use special software, like Scrapebox to search for broken links in bulk.
It can get quite complicated, but if you hire someone to systematize it for your business, it can really pay dividends.
With this technique, you can contact other websites that have mentioned your brand, or used one of your images and ask to be credited with a link.
Whitehat vs Blackhat SEO
Now the above techniques for building links to your website are generally considered legitimate. That is to say whitehat.
You won’t get into trouble with Google as long as you focus on securing high quality links, relevant to your industry and business.
However, there’s a whole other world of SEO which employ Blackhat techniques.
That go against Google’s rules and can land your website in trouble if caught.
There’s a lot of debate around acceptable SEO practice and tactics.
However, in many instances, they’re still very effective and widely used.
One of the main tactics still used are Private Blog Networks (PBN’s.)
This is where a website owner/SEO consultant buys a cluster of other websites (often expired domains with more power) and sends links from these websites to their main site to improve search engine rankings of the main site (often called a money site.)
This is a rigged voting system, where the website owner controls the links pointing to his/her sites.
Despite Google cracking down on such practices, many SEO’s still use this technique.
It will be interesting to see how Google counteracts these techniques with their enhanced AI in the future.
Social media marketing is a huge part of any online marketing strategy.
And with good reason.
Over a billion people using Facebook every day.
But lets face it, the world of social media marketing can be confusing.
There are so many platforms to utilise, you could spend your whole day posting, tweeting and pinning.
This article won’t scratch the surface of all the options.
Setting out, it’s wise to identify the platform that provides the most potential for your business.
If you know your customers well (as you should from your earlier research), this should be easy.
Where are your customers most active?
Linkedin groups (B2B)? Facebook groups? Pinterest boards? Instagram?
If you’re struggling, pick a few of your competitors, put their website into Similar Web and check where they receive most of their traffic.
It will tell you which social network they’re having most success with.
It’s better master one platform and be very active rather than tackling them all.
When you’ve identified the platform to target, follow your competitors to see what they’re doing.
How often are they posting and what kind of content do they share?
If your competitors have spent their resources discovering how to use a platform, you can utilise this information.
Especially if you haven’t learnt the etiquette of the platform.
You see, social media is not a place you can instantly starting posting links to your content and offers.
People are their to socialise and share, not to be sold to.
At best, you won’t get any engagement on your posts. At worst, you’ll be banned, especially on platforms such as Reddit, that hate spam.
Because these platforms are informal, they provide an opportunity to talk to customers on a different level.
You can sometimes even drop the corporate image a little and have some fun, as these companies demonstrate…
Be social, and don’t be too blatant with your offers.
Start helping people. Share interesting content and articles that will benefit your audience. Engage and strike up conversation.
Find out what people’s problems are. Get active in groups related to your industry.
Take your time.
When you’ve established a presence, you can start with some native advertising, in the form of content marketing.
Just think of the impact some of your skyscraper content could have on social media.
If it’s a linkable asset, it’s a shareable one too.
And the more buzz you can create on social media, the more likely it’ll be to go viral.
These social signals also inform Google that it’s a piece of content that they should notice so it can help your search engine rankings.
The key is that your content should be helpful for your target audience. It should solve their problems as opposed to a blatant sales pitch.
The other benefit of social media is that you can create a rabid online community that champion your business.
A great example of a business using social media to create an army of champions is Kimra Luna.
The story around Kimra’s business is represented by an extremely successful Facebook group she started for entrepreneurs.
The engagement in this group is extremely high, with entrepreneurs posing and answering questions for the benefit of the group.
They have a shared identity and mission.
Groups can provide a certain level of exclusivity for your customers, and increase the value proposition of your offers.
Depending on where your audience is in the buying cycle, you could set up a group to prime new customers or to provide after sales support or mentoring.
Many subscription based businesses use private social media groups to add extra value to their offers.
Creating a group for your business can help you build a tribe with a shared identity.
Much like Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters.
Social media allows your fans to gather on a platform they already trust.
I LOVE paid advertising, and I generally don’t mind being marketed at.
Well it’s because online advertising has become so damned good.
In fact it infuriates me watching TV adverts these days.
These advertisers are spending millions of dollars to promote random products that I have zero interest in.
Thankfully the only adverts I see (if done right), are for products and services that I am actually interested in.
So how do advertisers do it? Lets take a look at the process…
Many business owners think their websites have a traffic problem.
They don’t. According to that man Ryan Deiss…
In today’s world of online business, there’s no such thing as a traffic problem.
Remember, I said that there were two ways of getting traffic…
We’ve covered the free methods above.
Create great content, optimise your SEO and promote the hell out of it to do well in the search results and on social media.
The other option is to simply pay for it, which in many ways is more straightforward.
If you have the money…
For those of you starting out this isn’t always the case, especially if you don’t have something to sell.
But for established businesses, getting involved in the world of paid advertising usually makes sense.
If you already have something to sell, and can put $1 into paid advertising and get $2 out, you’d be crazy not to pump in the cash.
It’s a money generating machine.
But is it really that straightforward?
Yes and no.
The world of paid advertising can be confusing and each platform has tons of options.
That’s why you should always START SMALL and test the waters with any promotion.
As with free traffic acquisition methods, you must decide which platform will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Which boils down the knowing your customers and competitors (as outlined in an earlier section).
To recap, Similar Web or SEM Rush are great places to start.
Not only can you see where your competitors advertise, but you can also see their ad creatives.
If they’ve had a particular ad running for a while, you know it’s providing return.
This can provide inspiration for your own design and implementation.
When you’ve checked out your competitors, it’s time to put all your customer research to use.
The better you know your customer, the more money you’ll save on paid advertising.
Because you can get worryingly specific with your targeting on these platforms…
As this friend who pranked his sword swallowing friend go to show.
When you get into this stuff, you’ll be amazed (and scared) about how much these platforms know about everyone.
Lets take Facebook…
Facebook is a goldmine for many businesses.
All of your customers use it and the targeting options are mind boggling.
It’s getting more expensive, but many businesses still rely on it.
Firstly, perform competitor research using the audience insights tool…
With this tool, you can input the pages of your biggest competitors and see the exact demographics of their fans compared to the Facebook audience as a whole.
This is invaluable information to add to your own customer avatar, especially if you’re targeting a similar demographic.
I can target my audience according to:
- Marital status
- Job role
When starting out, aside from basic demographics, the easiest option is to set up your ads to target the fans of your competitors pages.
In this way, you can be assured that the people viewing your ads will be interested in your content…
Thus increasing your click through rate (CTR) and reducing your ad spend (cost per conversion.)
Before you set up any ads, read Facebook’s advertising guidelines, other risk getting your ads rejected and advertising account shut down.
If you’re a business, it’s worth setting up a business account to run your ads.
Larger businesses can also employ the services of a Facebook ad representative if their ad spend is big enough.
It’s worth taking the time to get to know the power editor.
I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of setting up an ad here. Check out Rick Mulready for a guide.
Other Paid Advertising
The other options for paid advertising are endless and slightly beyond the scope of this guide (for now.)
Whether it’s Google Adwords, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, email ads, or banner ads the same principle applies.
When you understand where your audience spends time online, you can set up an ad to target them.
It will ad fire to your content creation efforts.
When you’re up and running with paid ads, you should have the traffic rolling in.
But it won’t mean a thing, UNLESS you convert those visitors into customers.
That’s why we covered funnel setup and customer value optimisation first.
Even so, when you set up your funnel, it’s bound to have some leaks.
Traffic pours into the funnel, but visitors drop off at different points.
They don’t take action.
This is where retargeting comes in. And it can make you a lot of Benjamin’s.
Retargeting, or behavioural remarketing, is a form of advertising which targets customers based on their previous Internet actions.
So let’s say someone clicks on a Facebook ad which is promoting a skyscraper article you’ve written…
They love the article, sign up for your lead magnet, and land on a page promoting your tripwire offer.
They don’t purchase for whatever reason. Maybe they were distracted.
With retargeting, you can place a Facebook pixel on your website which tracks whether that customer purchased the offer (based on the pages they land on.)
For non-buyers, you can set up a new Facebook ad as a reminder to go back and check out that product.
Do you see how powerful that is?
At any point in your sales funnel, you can create a custom audience and send a specific ad to:
- Remind them to check out the offer
- Alert them to a deadline
- Provide more information
- Tackle any objections
This let’s you double down on your marketing efforts.
These users know you’re business already, and are warm contacts.
That reduces your retargeting ad spend significantly.
It could be a question of website design, copy or product-market fit…
And this is where conversion optimisation comes in…
Conversion Optimisation: A system for increasing the percentage of website traffic that become customers, or take any desired action on your webpage.
Firstly, you need to check where people are dropping off your funnel. Google analytics is an extremely powerful tool and will enable you to do this.
When you’ve highlighted leaking areas of your funnel, you can begin split testing different approaches on your website to see if you can improve conversions. Look at your:
- Web design
Try to split test one option at a time to allow for a control. This way you can see what’s really working.
Conversion optimisation works with what you’ve already got. Why drive more traffic when you can simply improve efficiency?
When these systems are in place, you’ll have a well oiled marketing machine for your business…
Which drives traffic and sales on autopilot.
It does take patience to implement all of the strategies.
So if you want fast results, outsource the process to an expert.
Good luck, and if you have any questions, let me know!