By Jonathan Long, BusinessCollective, Tribune Content Agency
There’s a lot of marketing advice available online. Some of it is extremely helpful, while much of it is outright incorrect. The Internet can be a double-edged sword: Information is readily available and easy to access, but not all of it is good advice.
Below I’ve laid out five popular online marketing options — search engine optimization, local SEO, pay-per-click, content marketing and social media — and, for each one, wrote down the single-sentence pieces of advice that came to mind that may be of value to you as you ramp up your company’s online marketing efforts.
Search Engine Optimization
Don’t neglect your on-page optimization. I’ll often hear small business owners say things like, “I need more links to rank,” when in reality all they need is proper on-page optimization. For local businesses, especially those in low competition industries and markets, solid on-page optimization can deliver noticeable gains in and of itself.
If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. “Weight loss overnight for the extremely low price of only $199” sounds great, doesn’t it? So do those emails I receive offering to share an $88 million inheritance if I simply wire $500 to cover the paperwork fees. If it sounds too good to be true, it typically is.
Understand that ROI is more important than keyword rankings. Keyword rankings are a part of SEO, but they aren’t the tell-all of a successful campaign. Many SEO agencies will focus on keyword rankings and lead the client to believe all is well because there are a few terms ranking No. 1 in Google. If those keywords aren’t bringing in revenue, however, they are useless. A ranking report is nice, but knowing how much ROI your SEO campaign is delivering is more important.
Stay away from automated directory submissions. There are thousands upon thousands of directory sites online. The majority of them don’t receive traffic from people actually looking for a local business. There are a lot of local services that promise to submit your website to hundreds of directories for a few bucks. Don’t do it. Focus on getting listed on the major directory sites — that actually receive traffic — as well as location and industry-specific directories.
Get creative to secure powerful local links from within your community. There are websites with amazing metrics right in your local community. Get creative and seek out opportunities that can lead to landing a link. Local schools often have athletic sponsorship opportunities and community websites often have pages dedicated to local businesses that have made a donation. Dedicate an afternoon to this and I am willing to bet you can uncover some golden link opportunities right in your local area.
Build out local pages optimized for your location and service specific keywords. Imagine if you were a local florist in Miami and you sold every flower arrangement under the sun. A lazy approach would be to create just one page and list every floral arrangement. If you really want to pick up organic traffic, build out a page for every type of flower and every occasion. Some examples include:[website.com]/buy-roses-in-miami [website.com]/buy-tulips-in-miami [website.com]/buy-anniversary-flowers-in-miami
You get the point. Build out pages for every local term you can pull traffic from and make sure the on-page optimization is perfect. The reason that many small businesses don’t do this is simply out laziness: don’t let that be you.
Don’t shy away from bing. AdWords, AdWords and more AdWords: This is what everyone thinks of when they hear PPC. Yes, AdWords can deliver a boatload of traffic, but it isn’t the only game in town. Import your PPC campaign into Bing and give it a try. Sure, the search volume and traffic numbers are lower, but lots of businesses will see a lower cost-per-click and higher conversion rate from this traffic.
Create campaign-specific landing pages. Never drive paid traffic to your homepage; it’s a complete waste. Doing this places the responsibility on the visitor to find whatever it is that caused them to click on your ad. It could have been a free offer, a special discount or a particular product or service. Send your PPC traffic to a page that offers exactly what your ad promised. Landing pages with one clear offer, and no site navigation or other distractions will, convert the highest.
Don’t ignore your quality score. It’s possible to get a lot of traffic with a low-quality score. It’s also possible that the traffic will convert and leave you with a nice ROI. Don’t you want to maximize your PPC results? Spend just a little time on your quality score and you will often see more traffic, as well as lower CPCs. Many people ignore quality score as long as their campaign is producing a positive return.
Stay consistent with your content publishing schedule. Not every business is going to have the manpower or need to publish content on their blog every single day. It doesn’t matter how often you publish, but when you do establish a publishing schedule it’s important that you stick to it. Your visitors will get accustomed to the schedule and if they visit your website expecting new content to engage with and are left disappointed, they might not return. Daily, bi-weekly, weekly or monthly — whatever you decide on, just make sure you remain consistent.
Only seek out guest blogging opportunities that will put you in front of your target market. Too many people think of guest blogging as a link opportunity, when the real benefit is from the brand exposure and referral traffic. Approach your guest blogging with one goal in mind: finding platforms that will put you and your company in front of your target audience. The right platforms will expose your brand to a new audience and you will attract new website visitors to interact with your brand.
Make genuine exposure requests. Websites and journalists receive dozens of requests daily and it’s so easy to spot a request that is only after one thing. They tend to be sloppy and they are usually an obvious copy/paste job. Put some thought into your outreach — a genuine request shines above all the other noise that floods email inboxes.
Social Media Marketing
Don’t go overboard with automation. A lot of companies use automation because it’s convenient and they assume it’s working, but too much automation can be a bad thing. I’ll give you a perfect example: On Twitter, there are programs that will automatically favorite a tweet containing a particular hashtag or term. I’m willing to bet that I could tweet something completely outrageous and offensive and as long as it included an SEO hashtag (#SEO) there would be a few accounts that favorite the tweet.
Mix organic and paid promotion. To get the full benefit of social media marketing you need to mix in some paid promotion in with your organic campaigns. Paid promotion enables you to put your offers in front of an audience that doesn’t typically get to engage with your posts. As with everything else, start small and test to find out what works best for your business.
Take full advantage of Facebook’s targeting options. Facebook will let you put your ads directly in front of ideal buyers, so take advantage of this opportunity. If your business sold NFL team hats, wouldn’t you want to create separate ads for every team and advertise them to people based on their location as well as their favorite NFL football team? With Facebook targeting, you can create an ad for a Miami Dolphins hat and only market it to people in the Greater Miami area who have also indicated that they like the Dolphins.
By testing out these one-sentence tips, you can give your marketing efforts a much-needed boost that will trounce the competition in the ever-growing war for SEO and user clicks.
(Jonathan Long is the founder/CEO of Market Domination Media, a digital marketing agency specializing in creative outside the box branding campaigns designed for aggressive online growth. He also founded EBOC, an exclusive private community for entrepreneurs and business owners. BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.)
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