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Keyword Research: What Matters and What Doesn’t

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Let me be blunt: the secret sauce of pushing your small business upward in SERPs is being realistic. Yes, you can get in the top 10 results, but only for the right keywords.

This doesn’t mean you have to make compromises. On the contrary. Being realistic is what brings you results. And when I say results I mean leads, clients and, yes, cold, hard cash.

Let me exemplify what being realistic means.  Four months ago, someone read one of the articles I publish here. She decided to hire my agency to help in boosting her content and SEO.

The client was the owner of a small business in a small town. For confidentiality purposes, let’s say she was selling wedding dresses.

Do you know what the first keyword she wanted to rank for was? Yes, that’s right, wedding dresses. She had done her research and found there are a lot of people searching for this.

Of course there are.

But this doesn’t mean they would find my client. No matter how much this small business invested in content and SEO, fighting for the first 10 positions in SERPs with huge companies and designers would have been futile.

So we suggested another approach, one that brought results aka clients.

Here’s what we did.

1. Eliminate what’s irrelevant

Our first stop here: search volume. According to The Search Engine Journal, search volume is yesterday’s trend for search engine optimization and barely relevant even for Google AdWords.

When you work for a small business, this becomes even more pertinent.

Why, you ask?

It’s quite simple: you don’t want to waste time (and money!) trying to get all the clients! That’s not going to happen. Instead, you need to focus on those you can get and on those you want to get.

From a content and SEO point of view, this means creating the right kind of content at the right time for the right people. I know, getting everything right may sound overwhelming. But if your keyword research is customer-centric, you’re halfway there.

Think about it for a second: it’s actually easier to succeed in ranking for low volume keywords. So this is good news for business owners and copywriters alike.

Now let’s see why low volume keywords are also a good idea and not just the cheaper idea.

2. Using keywords that meet the customer halfway

I’ve said it before: the cost of copywriting services is continuously increasing because great content is now the norm instead of the exception. Plus, SEO is no longer simply stuffing your 500-word article with keywords like “wedding dresses.”

Now, you have to meet your customer halfway and correlate your business goals with your copywriting efforts. In other words, today’s SEO copywriters need to also be marketers who understand audiences and buyer personas.

A 2007 SEO writer might have said: “sure, let’s write 10 articles with a six percent density and use ‘wedding dresses’ and the keyword in all of them.” Today’s SEO copywriters who are worth their name know that that’s the worst idea possible.

OK, it may be good for Vera Wang. A designer of her caliber can afford to invest in SEO and target…literally everyone — even women who only aspire to wear a Vera Wang dress, but don’t have the money or a planned wedding yet.

A small business, on the other hand, typically needs money now rather than in a few years. A keyword like “wedding dresses” doesn’t attract people who are ready to buy. It attracts virtual window shoppers.

Instead of generic keywords, you need to consider very specific ones.

For instance: “A-line wedding dress Austin,” “cheap wedding dresses Tucson,” “wedding dresses with sleeves Phoenix,” “cheap mermaid wedding dress Sacramento,” “custom made wedding dress Tacoma.”

See what I did there?

I narrowed it down for people who are past the window shopping phase and know exactly what they are looking for. This is what small businesses need to target.

3. Long-tail keywords are a small business’ best friend

If you take a closer look at the examples above, you’ll see that they are all long-tail keywords. They don’t have large search volumes, but they bring the right people to your website.

This is what I explained to my client: even if you managed to rank for a high-volume keyword and get tens thousands of organic hits per day, you won’t get customers. When she said “I want my phone to ring,” I knew we would work great together.

Yes, I could have charged her a fortune and worked for four years to get them to rank for a high volume, highly competitive keyword. But she would have been bankrupt in less than that.

While having a lot of organic traffic is nice, this is nothing more than a vanity metric. It’s just like buying Instagram followers. They won’t bring you any real money.

And this is what I and all the SEO copywriters I hire are about: optimization that brings cash, not great statistics. Yes, brand awareness is also important. But all business owners must think about keep their shop open at first and only then about fame.

The bottom line

It may sound unpleasant, but a business is about making money first and foremost. The bills don’t pay themselves. In order to do that, content and SEO have to be in line with business goals.

This is the exercise we do whenever we onboard a new client: we ask them what their business goals are and then we work backwards to meet them. You want to sell wedding dresses in a small town like Billings? Use long-tail keywords and forget about volume. Be specific, even if your keyword ends up as long as a whole line.

Once again, you are looking for people who know what they want. Offer them exactly that. If you create stunning mermaid wedding dresses, why optimize for “wedding dresses” alone. Let your products or services shine through proper keyword research.

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4 Steps to Creating SEO-Optimized Content

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“To be momentous, create content with purpose.”

– Russell Sparkman, CEO of Fusionspark Media

 

In case you weren’t already aware, content is extremely important to a brand’s SEO efforts. In fact, Google has come out and stated that content is within its top three ranking factors.

Unfortunately, most publications are content to merely push the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy.

If you follow this path, you may as well be launching your content into outer space because just as many people are likely to find it out there without any clear marketing efforts.

If your brand wants to make its content efforts worthwhile, materials must be crafted and optimized with SEO in mind.

This is how your content gets found. This is how your content gets read. This is how you educate and convert consumers into customers.

Ready to start ensuring that your content is driving the kinds of results you imagined when you wrote it? Then let’s discuss how to achieve this goal so that all your creations can garner the attention they deserve.

1. Lay the Groundwork

Any content strategy worth its weight in salt begins with keyword and user intent research.

While keywords are losing their power to user intent thanks to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, both are still an important part of the probing process.

Start by figuring out the queries that your audience is searching and link that with their intent; what is the searcher trying to achieve or understand? You can accomplish this with Google’s Keyword Planner or any number of keyword research tools.

After uncovering what your audience is searching for, you can then develop a content strategy that directly addresses those questions in order to usher consumers through your marketing funnel.

You can also use tools like BuzzSumo to uncover popular content in your niche to help understand what resonates with your audience.

2. Use the Right Ingredients

When you craft great content, users become engaged and consume more materials, interact with them more frequently and share those pieces with their followings.

But great content doesn’t just mean that it’s packed with info and addresses the user’s intent. Content should also have an appealing and easily scan-able layout while incorporating some of the following characteristics:

  • Clear and easy to read
  • Credible – is well-researched and leverages authoritative links
  • Taps into emotions (anger, sadness, frustration, humor, etc.)
  • Comprehensive
  • Unique or unexpected
  • Entertaining

Additionally, the formatting and design of the article is particularly important. A scan-able piece is crafted when writers leverage bold text, short paragraphs, bulleted or numbered lists, strong sub-headers, quotes, and similar components. This is also what helps to make content more sharable.

Be sure that your content includes a prominent and compelling call-to-action to help guide users to the next step in the buyer’s journey.

Finally, check out similar content that resides at the top of the SERPs. This is what you are aiming to beat so be sure that your content is better than these materials. Better means more current, deeper research, more compelling conclusions, and similar strategies.

Above all else, however, your content should help readers complete a specific task. Long-form content is particularly suited for this (and ranks better in the SERPs) because it is thorough and ensures this goal is achieved. This is another important point because thin content can hurt your SEO efforts.

3. Check Your Sources

If you want to be a thought-leader in your niche (or not tick off any potential customers), you need to ensure that your content is fact-checked and wholly accurate.

A great way to do this is by citing a variety of authoritative sources through your outbound links. This is also a foundational practice of good SEO.

Links that point to high-profile, authoritative sites let Google know that you are sharing reputable and factual information with your audiences; this is a signal to promote your site.

Additionally, if at all possible, be sure that some of your outbound links point toward other pieces of relevant content on your website. This will help to keep users on your site longer and increase your chances of gaining a conversion.

4. Check Your Technical Specs

Technical SEO is something that is normally more complex and relates to a brand’s overall website.

There are, however, some specific aspects that relate to the content optimization process that are just as vital as many other components.

Firstly, you need to ensure that your content loads quickly. This is particularly important if you have included any optimized images, gifs, or other visual elements that may bog down your page. If your page loads slowly, you will lose readers and likely get dinged by Google. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to confirm an optimized speed.

The next thing you need to verify is that your content appears well on mobile. This likely won’t be an issue for any site leveraging a responsive design, however, you do still need to ensure that images are aligning correctly, CTAs are easily tap-able, and all elements are loading correctly.

It is also important to establish that your content is using the best anchor text for its outbound links. This is done by using relevant keywords to the content you are linking to or its URL.

Speaking of URLs, be sure to optimize you content’s Web address as well. To ensure its effectiveness, give it a short URL; about 59 characters long seems to be the average for top ranking sites.

If your website is failing to optimize its content, you are busy wasting lots of time, energy, and money; three things that no small business owner can afford to do.

You have poured your heart and soul into creating a premium piece of content; go the extra mile by optimizing it for SEO purposes so that your audience – and your business – can benefit from your hard work and stellar content.

How are you getting new customers?

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Have you ever taken an online survey to see what your personality type is? Then received an email from the company that hosted the survey on their website about how they could help you find the career path that is right for you? That’s all part of the company’s marketing strategy. In fact, it’s a critical component of any business’s growth model – it’s called lead generation.

Lead generation is all about building your customer base, which is absolutely vital if you want to grow – and as you know, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Here why: Customers are not inherently loyal – there are simply too many other options in today’s highly competitive market. So you have to work to keep your existing customers, while constantly striving to create new streams of customers. This allows your business to keep evolving, and, ideally, to keep expanding.

But how do you go about developing a lead generation strategy for your business? And what type of lead generation is the best avenue to pursue?

Here is what you need to know in order to establish a top-notch lead generation system:

DISTINGUISH YOUR LEADS

The first thing you need to understand is that every lead is different. Someone at the top of your sales funnel, for example, will require an entirely different marketing approach than someone closer to the bottom. The goal is to distinguish where each customer is on their unique journey and the best way to reach them.

Too often, sales and marketing teams decide to cast a wide net and hope for the best. In fact, most businesses fail to recognize that only 5-15% of leads are sales-ready initially. So why waste time, money and your own energy targeting someone who has very little potential of converting to a high-value client – or even a client at all?

Reference your user personas to figure out exactly who your ideal client is, then allow your marketing and sales teams to come up with strategic ways that you can target them. Remember, someone who fills out a form once may not necessarily be someone who has any intention on further engagement with your company. And if you don’t realize that you have to set benchmarks to determine the “quality” of a lead – then you will be running a fool’s errand.

Take the time to implementing a level of focus and strategy that will allow you to run more efficiently and also allow you to fine-tune your approach towards growing your customer base.

THE “HAND-RAISERS”

Once you have determined who your leads are, it’s time to narrow it down and distinguish which leads can be classified as Marketing Qualified Leads, or MQLs.

An MQL is someone who has expressed some interest in your company. Perhaps they signed up for your newsletter or mailing list. Perhaps they commented on or shared some of your content. Or maybe they took a quiz and filled out a form in order to get the answers. They essentially have met some benchmark that warrants them attention from your marketing team. And while they likely aren’t ready to buy, they will respond favorably to the right approach.

YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER

Now let’s move further down the sales funnel to the prospects that have not only shown interest in your product or service, but have shown interest in purchasing. These are your Sales Qualified Leads, or SQLs.

An SQL is someone who is inquiring about a product, or who has taken that extra step that lets you know they are “ready to buy.” If you are an online retailer, for example, this isn’t just a person who browses your website and perhaps signs up for your newsletter. This is the person who has placed items in the cart. But perhaps they need an extra little push to become a real customer. That’s why it’s on you and your team to create an optimal customer experience. Because if they are a first-time buyer, they will want to know that they are in good hands. Remember, your brand identity begins the moment someone hears of your business.

Take the time to deepen your relationship with the SQL, because the quality of their experience at this point could make or break their decision of whether to become a customer. So be sure to give them the customer experience of a lifetime. While that may mean something different for each individual company, the idea is the same – to not just meet expectations, but to exceed them.

GENERATING MORE LEADS

Now that you see why “not all leads are created equal,” you can use that information to reverse engineer your lead generation strategy.

Think about your customer and who they are. Then, based on where they are in your sales funnel, design the most strategic and powerful ways of reaching them:

SEO – Did you know that Google gets over 100 billion searches a month? That’s why 61% of marketers say that improving SEO and growing their organic presences is a top priority. Whether they implement relevant content, or simply focus on SEO keywords, this is an important component of bringing in new potential leads.

Paid Advertising – Paid media allows you to create relevant and actionable ads that target potential customers through digital marketing campaigns. And with the advent of geolocation, you can create a more customized approach that feels less intrusive and more enticing to your audience. Simply direct them to a dedicated landing page and then start to nurture these MQLs.

Social Media Marketing – Did you know that revenue increased for 24% of businesses when they utilized social media for lead generation? Leverage platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to reach your target audience and bring them into your ecosystem. Each channel must have a unique strategy, and content should be geared towards the specific audience you are connecting with. But if you can actively engage users on social media, you can generate more leads that could become MQLs and potentially SQLs.

Content Marketing – From webinars and podcasts to ebooks, white papers, videos, blogs and guides – there are a number of ways you can use content to generate more leads. How does content generate leads? As Tony says, when you provide more value to your client than anyone else, that’s when they’ll become raving fans. And high quality content is one excellent way of adding value, because you’re giving your customer relevant information, what they need to succeed or to make the right decisions. With the right techniques and strategies in this area, you’ll build an enduring customer base that you can nurture and then move further down the sales funnel.

Email Marketing – Easy to customize and relatively inexpensive to implement, email marketing is one of the best ways to directly connect with your customer. This is one of the most efficient and effective means of turning leads into MQLs because it is a personal, one-to-one communication with a client that you know is already interested in you. That’s why it is so critical to build your client database early and always continue to grow it – and to be strategic in how and when you communicate with this audience. Provide your leads with value-add content that they can’t get anywhere else. Include “best offers” that will drive them to action, and be sure to test your CTAs to discover which are the most effective.

Referral Programs – By leveraging the power of your current customer base, you can not only increase your numbers of sales leads, but also improve the quality of your sales leads. Think about it: every single customer you have has a built-in network of trusted friends and colleagues. So by implementing a referral program, you motivate your existing customer to make the introduction and you make it easy for your sales team to approach new customers.

While there are many ways to generate leads, the best method for your business depends on your unique business model. That’s why it’s imperative for your sales and marketing teams to come together and determine just who your customer base is, what you define as an MQL and an SQL, what the best methods of reaching those customers are, and your strategies for moving leads down the sales funnel. The goal is to find the highest potential ROI, and to constantly be focused on innovating. Because if you’re not growing, you’re dying. So get smart, get strategic, and start generating leads.

 

Original article: https://www.tonyrobbins.com/career-business/lead-generation/

Why You Should Target Topics, Not Keywords

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As search engines like Google get wise to what their users want, their technology catches up, too.

Search is changing. The influx of new devices that people are using – Smartphones, tablets, virtual assistants, Smart TVs, etc. – along with the move to lots of voice control, has influenced what your average search query looks like.

Searches are longer and more precise. People are asking specific questions when they look for answers on the web.

These changes filter down to us, the ones writing for those all-important SERPs.

How Do Changing Queries Translate to Search Engines Like Google?

One important way that Google is changing for its users’ changing queries is that it’s becoming more semantic vs. keyword-oriented, according to Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media.

What does this mean?

For us writers, you could say that the death of keyword density is here, or at least well on its way. The evolution toward semantic search means that Google is looking for the meaning and intent behind searches, not just the words.

The definition of “semantic” tells us that, in relation to searches, Google will be looking for related meanings, not just related keywords.

image1

It wants semantically-linked phrases in the pages it displays in users’ search results, not just keywords.

So, what does this mean for you, the writer?

How to Adapt Your Copywriting to Semantic Searches

Semantic searches revolve around related topics. The context of the search is very important. What is the user looking for, but also, what problem are they trying to solve? Why?

To optimize your writing for semantic searches, you need to pay attention to those related topics – the broader context.

How do you do this?

There are a few excellent tricks to help you find semantically linked, related phrases to your main long-tail keyword. Andy Crestodina explains them in his article, but we’ll go over them here, too.

Targeting Topics: Finding Related Phrases to Use in Your Online Writing

You can use Google itself as a tool to help you find related phrases to sprinkle in your online writing.

1. Choose a Long-Tail Keyword

First, narrow down your target phrase. Go ahead and type that into Google. For our purposes, we’ll pretend that we need to write an article about how to build a fence.

image2

As you can see, Google will start suggesting other search terms as you type. Once you get to the end of your phrase, you’ll see the top suggestions for your particular query. Write down the most relevant ones.

2. Narrow It Down Further

Let’s change the query a bit to see what other topics Google comes up with.

image3

As you can see, not only did I change the wording, I narrowed down the topic to what kind of fence building I want to write about. We can use these related phrases in our article, too.

3. Find Related Searches

After looking at suggested phrases, let’s hit “enter” on our initial search query (“how to build a fence”) and scroll to the bottom of the page.

image4

As you can see, Google gives us lots of suggestions for related queries. These are semantically-linked topics that we can use in our article. Jackpot!

4. Use Other Tools That Help Find Semantically-Linked Phrases

Along with using Google, Andy also recommends using some quick and easy tools like SEMrush and Keyword Tool in his Orbit Media article.

Keyword Tool

Searching Keyword Tool for “how to build a fence” gives us plenty of great ideas for semantically-linked phrases:

image5

The free version gives us all kinds of great ideas for related phrases to use in our article. If you spring for the paid version, you can also get useful statistics for each key phrase, like search volume and cost-per-click – the amount of money that advertisers are bidding for this keyword on Google AdWords.

SEMrush

Meanwhile, with SEMrush, we can check to see what related phrases top-ranked sites are using. Go back to our original search for “how to build a fence.” The top-ranked result is from Home Depot:

image6

Take that result and plug the URL into SEMrush.

When the results pop up, go to the left menu. Under “Domain Analytics,” look under “Organic Research” and click on “Positions.”

image7

You’ll come up with a heck of a lot of results. Filter them to hone in on your particular key phrase. In our case, that’s “how to build a fence.”

You’ll need the paid version to filter by keyword, but the information it gives you is incredibly valuable – just look at what came up for Orbit Media’s search for “website footer”:

image8

More Useful Tips for Appealing to Semantic Searches

Besides using semantically-linked phrases in your writing that are related to your main keyword, there are some other strategies to get Google to take note.

Use Natural Language and Full Sentences

One of the best tips is to use natural language and full sentences instead of stilted, truncated keywords that sound robotic. This appeals to voice queries, where people ask their devices full questions.

For instance, instead of “best restaurants Tulsa,” the better phrase would be “what are the best restaurants in Tulsa, OK?”

Isolate the Questions and the Answers

You should also isolate sentences that provide both the questions and the answers, according to Orbit Media. This is how you appeal to voice-based searches.

What does this look like? Here’s an example:

What are the best restaurants in Tulsa, OK? 

Many of Tulsa’s best restaurants include… 

The Takeaway: Related Topics Help Contextualize Your Online Writing for Google

The future of search is semantic. What matters more and more is the context of the search versus the words themselves.

Keyword density is on the way out. Thankfully, this means frowned-upon practices like keyword stuffing should be deader than dead, too.

Search is getting wise to how people are using the Internet. Search engines not only understand what people are looking for, but also why they’re searching in the first place.

This means content writers need to wise up, too. To boost our content writing, we should employ ways to appeal to semantic searches. Use these tips and your writing will be optimized for context as well as content.

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4 Tactics and Tools for SMBs to Dominate Social

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“Marketing on social media takes finding your niche and building a relationship there. Trying to reach a broad audience will fail.”

Nick Leffler, owner of Exprance

 

 

When a person makes a grand leap of faith to becoming a business owner, they are not just entering the organizational world; they are committing to the marketing industry as well.

It can be hard for a first time owner to know where to begin in the world of marketing; there’s SEO, content, e-mail, and a variety of other methods.

Social media, however, is likely the most obvious and most fruitful option.

Despite this, a 2015 Clutch survey found that only 53 percent of small business are actively leveraging social media. As for the other 47 percent, they believe that resources like time and energy are too sparse for social media to do them any good.

While it is certainly true that running a small business can be so overwhelming that crucial tasks like marketing go neglected, that only makes creating a game plan and identifying the most effective social media tools and tactics even more critical to success.

Fortunately, building a social presence doesn’t have to be an all-consuming process; that is, if you know how to get the most “bang for your buck.”

Here are four innovative ways that small business owners can make a big splash on social without draining already limited assets.

1. Employ Social Media Powerful Tools

If you’re a small business owner you are likely strapped for time, money, or both; that means you need to get your hands on platforms that are capable of lightening the load.

When it comes to social growth tactics, sharing content and community engagement top the list.

My favorite tool to help owners manage these activities with more efficiency is Agorapulse.

When it comes to content, Agorapulse enables users to share across multiple platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and others from a single destination.

This saves business owners the time required to continually switch between sites and re-upload posts.

The tool also provides users with the ability to schedule content in advance so a page never goes too long without posting.

Agorapulse provides users with a content calendar where all upcoming activities can be managed and kept in perspective. And when it comes to community, you’ll find various inboxes via a streamlined dashboard to manage all of a brand’s social channels. This helps to ensure that all comments, messages and other engagements are tended to appropriately. I can’t tell you how convenient it is to moderate all your social channels from a single UI.

Finally, Agora accommodates automated moderation rules based on keywords that trigger the tool to take the appropriate action without human intervention.

This helps to save incredible amounts of time that can then be allocated to other areas of your business.

2. Get a 360-Degree View

Visuals are infinitely more engaging than text alone. This point is proved by the fact that four times as many consumers would rather watch a product video than read about it.

But people don’t just want visual content anymore; they want more immersive visual content. That’s why behind-the-scenes Facebook Live videos are popular among a variety of brands.

A fantastic way to provide your followers with that kind of immersive and compelling content is to create 360-degree images and videos.

To craft this, you need to take a panoramic picture or video with your camera or Smartphone. Facebook can automatically detect this type of upload, so you don’t need to do anything special once you have the footage.

This type of content is amazingly powerful for certain niches such as real estate, tourist-geared locations like museums, and it can also be a powerful driver for just about any local business.

3. Telling Great Stories on Instagram

Instagram Stories is an insanely popular feature; so much so it threatens to dethrone the mighty Snapchat. As of June, the feature touts upward of 250 million daily active users. This means that Instagram Stories is a goldmine for exposure.

Using this type of format, brands can create some really cool content.

One extremely innovative way to leverage this tool is to create a video story based on a recent blog post by your company.

Utilizing a blend of graphics, photos and videos of you or a rep talking, you can bring a simple blog post to life in remarkable fashion. Just be sure to link to the blog in your page’s description so that people can dive deeper.

4. Social Messaging is the Next Big Innovation

When conversations about social media growth are taking place, there is one vital aspect that almost always goes completely ignored: Social messaging.

Research this year from Statista shows that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger alone are engaging more than one billion users per month – each. This doesn’t even account for the many other social messaging services.

These platforms are becoming prime locations for sharing content and personalized engagement.

This is likely a large reason why 62 percent of millennials favor brands that engage them via over-the-top (OTT) messaging and SMS avenues. This is pretty vital information when it is predicted that OTT apps will have more than two billion users by 2018.

As brands continue to realize the power of these services and potential consumer shift from social networks to social messaging services, the marketplace will continue to become more saturated. It’s a great time to hop on this trend and start blazing a trail.

Take this time to embrace the agility of your brand and experiment with the means of growth listed here. You’re likely to find a blend that greatly benefits your business.

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