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Organizations & Associations

If possible, use organizations and associations to help promote your website or digital marketing efforts.  These groups have spent many years developing their own branding and websites, and have gained a following that is not only substantial in size – but composed of highly targeted individuals – who no doubt have interests like your own.  If you’re able to get a link (or even better, a profile) on one of these sites that links back to your website – you’ll have the benefit of a quality link, from the organization or association that has high-value, established trust & history with your target audience.  

Chamber of Commerce

Your local chamber is a quality source for link building opportunity.  Don’t have a membership?  Well, this might help justify the cost – as most members will search the chamber for service/product providers in their area, more often that advertising or other methods.  Apply for a membership by calling your local chamber for information.  Ask the representative on the phone about building a member page, or providing contact information for your chamber member listing page.  Ask them if you’re allowed to add a link to your website on the page as well, as this can prove valuable for SEO purposes.  If you remember in the SEO section of this book, we described the ‘gold-dust’ principal – and the chamber websites are absolutely littered with gold dust.  Give them a link, and the chamber visitors will track some of that value back to your property!  

Local Business Organizations

When you are searching for your business online, you’ll no doubt run across an organization or two, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry.  If you’re a lawyer, doctor, zoologist, dentist, construction worker…  there are more organizations than there are individual industries.  There are a wide variety to choose from – and if you’re able to qualify for a membership (some might have strict rules/regulations to qualify), you may be able to create a page full of contact information, details on your services/product, and (most important) your website address.  Use this link to your advantage!  Build out a page just for your organization – add content that your organization would be looking for, such as discounts, details for other members, and information that might pertain to a fellow organization person.  Adding this information to a specific page will help build up that page for other people who could potentially be looking for a service/product provider who is also a member of a certain organization. The potential costs of membership to an organization should be weighed against the benefits (this sounds very simple, but is in fact a completely overwhelming chore).  Think about any potential traffic that you could gather from the organization, along with any opportunities/’extracurricular’ activities that you might be able to attend and hand out business cards.  Think about social events, ‘grand openings’, or members-only events that you could visit and gain some interest in your services or product.  If you could calculate the sales potential from these events, and come up with a percentage of actual sales from the events, you could effectively come up with a ‘conversion rate’ for the organization.  Each organization could have different quantitative values, so it’s important to not lump a more ‘social/community/education’ organization with one that is more ‘business/sales’ oriented.  Choose your organization wisely, and think of the possibilities for marketing your business (besides link building) in your advertising ventures.  

Meetups

If you have the chance to take part in local meetups, you should attend.  These meetups can be centered around a discussion, small business growth, or other interests.  I would highly suggest you attend a couple meetups that have to do with digital marketing, or how to market your small business.  These meetups are usually informal, don’t have a very structured or rigid timeline, but allow for the attendees to speak up and voice their opinion or thoughts on any number of topics.  Usually, the topic is pre-chosen for a meetup – so you don’t have to worry about being steered off into left field by someone who wants to hijack the conversation.  Besides being a great place to learn about the topic in general, it’s a great way to network with people who are working in the same industry – and are willing to work together towards the common goal.  

Business Cards

Bring business cards and some basic marketing material to any events you attend, and distribute them to anyone you meet.  You never know the next time that someone you meet will have a question about your business or skills!  Also, make sure to collect business cards from people you meet so that you can call on their services/skills when necessary.  Business cards are a very inexpensive way to show that you are serious about your business, and that you understand the worth of networking offline.  I know, this is a digital marketing book – but sometimes it’s nice to think about some of the traditional methods that are still working as they have for many years.  A well printed, cleanly presented business card – along with a good handshake are still two of the best ways to gain respect from a potential customer.  Next on that list…   a clean website, and a solid digital marketing presentation.

Business Listings

Online business listings are an important part of local search engine optimization. Creating links that lead back your website, in conjunction with consistent NAP citations, raises your business’ online visibility and signals to Google that your website is relevant and trustworthy.  The most important business listing online, is your Google My Business Page – which can show up alongside (not just among) the search engine results in Google.  This page information can leap off the page  

Fill Out Your Google My Business Page

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to boost your local search ranking is to register with Google My Business.

Login to your Google My Business Page:

https://business.google.com/   To get the most out of the listing, fill out all the fields, including your address, phone number and business hours. (You get bonus points for adding photos of your location and staff to personalize your profile even further.)

Examples of Business Listing Sources

When Google crawls the web for search results, it looks for mentions of your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP). Even slight variations, like an abbreviated street address or alternate phone number, can confuse Google, so it’s important to make sure that your NAP is consistent in every citation, on or off your website.

Online Reviews (How to get them, and what to do with them)

When customers leave reviews on Google or any other website, it helps boost your search ranking. You can encourage customers to go online and leave reviews, and if they do, it’s important to respond gracefully to both positive and negative comments. This will help improve your reputation with searchers as well.  

How can I get more reviews?

One good way, is to make the option easy for potential reviewers.  Put a link on your homepage to the review location in Google.  If you go to your business page (more on this later in the book – under Business Listings), and copy the link to the page – then go to your website and add a link that says something like “Like our service? Want to leave us a Review?” and make it link to that review webpage. Another option, is to simply ask.  Talk to your customers, and let them know that after the job is complete – if they would leave a review on Google, it would be highly appreciated.  Wait until the service is nearly complete (or fully, in some cases) before asking for a review.  If you are selling a product – as frequently, either place a sign on your front door – or print the request for a review on your receipt.  

Bad Reviews

If you have a bad review online, the worst thing you can do – is to either ignore it, or try to get rid of it.  Your best solution for this – is to simply respond.  Collect your patience, and take a deep breath – and type calmly.   Don’t escalate matters by stooping to their level!  Instead, voice your desire to help them – ask them what caused them to be so upset, and work to calm them down. Don’t act ‘clueless’ – as you could have caused them some sort of hardship – but not everyone on the internet needs to know this.  If you know exactly what caused the bad review, or it is some sort of personal matter – ask them to call you to discuss amending the issue, or some sort of resolution.  Make sure to express how you are sorry, apologize for any hardship your product/service caused – and own the mistake. If you take 5 minutes and request information – the next time someone sees the review, they will see that you were responsive and helpful – and maybe there’s a chance that someone just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  

When to Avoid Reviews

Requesting reviews will NOT work in your favor if you purposefully back-stabbed someone, or sold them a miserable product or service.  If you did, no amount of backpedaling or apologies will keep the bad reviews from coming in. We’re all human, all capable of mistakes – but people can spot a shady company from a mile away.  If your purpose in life is to profit off shady business practices – you should avoid reviews at all costs. (This is not an endorsement of crappy services, but a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why we ALL need to focus on good reviews online.)

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

When you use a search engine to display the results of your question (for example – when you type a question into Google – and what is listed on the screen after you press enter), there will be some results that aren’t ‘naturally’ there – but are branded as ‘Advertisement’.  

Paid Placement in Google

Go to Google, and search for a product or service, such as “doctor in my area” – or something similar. On your screen – you’ll see the advertisements (3 of them) across the top, as they must pay for that position in the search results.  Before you ask, the price varies wildly.  Some searches are relatively inexpensive – due to the low average search volume and low level of competition.  Some search terms are HIGHLY competitive (such as real estate agents, lawyers, and doctors), and have a very high search volume – so the price skyrockets accordingly.  If you could be the #1 lawyer in search engines, you have a much higher chance of being clicked on.  As the metrics show, nearly 60% of clicks from search engine results go to one of the first 3 “organic” websites listed. Wait… What does Organic mean?   Search results are broken out into several separate categories, but I’ll only explain the top three in this book.  The categories are established to explain what type of ‘link’ a search engine result is displaying.  

Organic

An organic link is the most natural way to draw in website visitors, and takes the longest to establish.  When your website shows up towards the top of search engine results – it is the result of a lot of hard work, length of time the website has been online, and many, MANY other factors.  Since the website took a lot of work to show up ‘organically’ – it also takes a long time for the link to disappear once the work is stopped.  If you stop working on search engine optimization (see previous chapter) – the link will remain in place for quite a while, instead of dropping off the face of the planet overnight. These links are very ‘honorable’ links, and when shown in search results – they let the person viewing the search results know that the link they are about to click on is legitimate, and isn’t trying to ‘fool’ someone into visiting their website.  All organic results are subject to the rules and ‘regulations’ of the search engine itself – so in Google’s case, if you’ve ranked highly on their website – you’ve gained a token of respect from them – and they’ve brought your website higher in their ranks.  

Referral

These links are based on a reference from another source.  Either a paid advertisement link, a link from a social network, or an advertisement on a third-party website.  This link is based on the amount of worth you can find in the “linking source” material.  Imagine you want to pay for a link on your local newspaper website for your services.  Chances are, you’re going to get some response for your advertisement – and you’ll get some clicks onto your website due to the advertisement being clicked on.  The cost that you will pay can be based on how many people view your advertisement (brand awareness strategy), or how many click to visit your website (PPC – Pay-per-click).  Again, these values depend on the amount of traffic to either the third-party website, the number of followers you have on social networks, or the amount of traffic from the search engine for any search ‘phrase’.   Referral links don’t usually last very long – and usually fade into the background after a short period.  Any traffic generated from the source will also fade away.  For any paid advertisement, the amount of traffic you acquire from the advertisement will (obviously) disappear once you retire the advertisement, or it has run its course.  Paid advertisements in search engines usually take up the first three results – but many people have become aware that the first results are advertisements, and skip right past them to the ‘actual’ (organic) search results.  

Direct

When you share a link to another person, or they type in your domain name into a browser, this is considered a direct visitor.  The link they click, or the address they type in, are a direct method of visiting your website – since browsers can’t “see” the source of the traffic initially.  After the visitor ‘lands’ on your website, the visitor can then be tracked as they view your content – moving from page to page.  Direct links don’t have any ‘shelf-life’ – and do not relate to search engines.  

Google Adwords

A separate form of advertising that can reach outside the bounds of the search engine – and can be presented on other websites, is Google AdWords.  In order to create an account, you will go to https://adwords.google.com and create your free account.  You’ll be able to research keyword search volume, review how much a ‘click’ will cost your company, and many other metrics that will be invaluable to your company.  But, as the interface can be a little confusing – you could end up spending quite a lot on advertising using this method.  Since you pay two-fold, on a pay-per-click campaign – or through an ‘impression’ campaign – you could end up burning through a majority of your advertising campaign without any sort of target audience in place.  

Pay-per-Click (PPC) Ads

If you only want to direct people to your website, you can focus on exactly what you’d like to pay for a person to click on your advertisement – and then set a budget for your advertising campaign.  Note: If you click your own ad, you are spending your own money!  If you can’t see where you can test your ad before launching your campaign, and make sure that it works – don’t click too many times, as you could essentially eat up your entire budget.  When a potential visitor sees your advertisement in Google, and they click on the advertisement -  you are paying the current rate for that single click.  Rates are available in Google AdWords’ dashboard when you build your ad campaign, so there shouldn’t be any surprises in cost per click. If your business is in a low competition, low volume industry – each click might hover around $0.10 cost to your budget.  In a highly competitive, high search-volume industry – you might run across clicks that cost above $50 each time someone clicks on your advertisement! When you establish a budget for your campaign, it might be a good idea to start researching your ‘conversion rate’ of your website, along with your average profit per customer, so that you can establish what your return on investment (ROI) will be during the campaign.  I mean, it doesn’t make much sense to invest $1000 in Google AdWords per month if the outcome would be to sell ten more goldfish.  On the other hand, if you are in real estate - $1000 per month could equal another house sold at a $5000 net profit, which you could then invest in more Google AdWords campaigns!  

Impression-Based Ads

If your business is just starting, and you’re not sure you need to get a bunch of random people to your website – you might consider advertisement that is called “Impression-Based” advertising.  The sole purpose of this type of ad, is that you want the advertisement to hit as many eyeballs during a course of a week or two.  Traditionally, an example would be a 30-second TV spot – which would serve over the course of a seven-day spread – equally to as many people as possible.  The cost of this sort of advertisement is based on ‘inventory’, so with Google as an example – you could target the same high volume keywords – but would have to ‘outbid’ the next person.  Another example of this type of advertising will be covered in the “Third-Party” section below.  

Facebook Ads

The whole experience with advertising on Facebook has changed throughout the years, but recently – the interface that you use has been improved to provide help hints, tips, tricks and even allows you to boost posts to gain more viewers.  Each step of the way you’ll see helpful hints that will get you to spend more money at Facebook, but they provide the numbers that you need to see to make an educated decision.  If you don’t have the budget to advertise on Facebook – I’m not so sure you’d have enough budget for any of the other options above!  It’s inexpensive, and you can start very small with your campaign.  The options to advertise to a targeted market is also extremely helpful!  

Other Sources (Third-Party)

If you choose to advertise on a newspaper website, blog, video posting website (i.e. YouTube), there are a variety of options to choose from -  but most of the above options will work until you start to get into video advertising, as you’ll have to create the content (video) that will run on their service. Newspaper ads usually have you build an advertisement (or they will have their creative department develop some ‘creative’ for you), but I would say that the most successful advertisements come from your own company.  If someone you know can help you, or at least be a ‘sounding board’ for your advertisement ideas, you’ll be ahead of the curve.  

How do I make an Ad?

Come up with a goal in advance, and create the ‘pitch’ (what are you trying to say?) for the advertisement.  Start with a 300 pixel wide by 250 pixel tall space on your computer – which is nearly the same ratio as a piece of printer paper – and create your ad.  

Helpful Hints

Don’t make the text too small – as at a smaller size on a screen, it might become illegible. Use bright colors if they match your branding – just don’t be obnoxious. If your overall goal is to be obnoxious, use several contrasting bright colors that will attempt to give your potential visitors a migraine. Some advertising sources (newspapers, blogs) might allow you to use some basic animation, such as two or three ‘slides’ – served as a single, looping, animated ad.  This can help to collect eyeballs, and draw people into clicking on your advertisement. Use animation sparingly, and don’t get too complex – as you want to leave the potential visitor asking for more information.  If your entire sales pitch is in the ad itself, you don’t need to have them click the link for more information – and you’ve lost out on the reason for the advertisement in the first place. A good rule of thumb for a great ad, is to have it ask a question that you know they must click to get the answer.

Tools to Help you with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Most small businesses have limited resources, budget and expertise to incorporate SEO into their strategy, so this is where the help of a few free tools comes into play. By using them, you’ll better understand your competition, your SEO strengths and weaknesses, and your market opportunities. Google Speed Test (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed) Quickly understand where your website’s speed stands against similar sites and receive a list of optimizations to help make improvements.  Some of these can be highly technical – but at least you’ll have a to-do list to hand to a developer/designer, who can apply the changes.  One thing to keep in mind, the slower your website – the less Google (and other search engines) will promote it, and there’s a better chance it will slide down the search engine results page – due to the slow, poor experience you are delivering your website visitors.   Google Webmaster Tools (https://www.google.com/webmasters/) Extract useful information about your website, traffic and technical errors that may impact your SEO potential.  Again, some of these tasks can be very simple to address – such as creating links from other websites, and making sure you have specific pages on your website – but if you run across something that you don’t understand – reach out and talk to a professional.  Most times, they will be able to teach you important steps about the situation, but please realize that they still need to make money to survive – so try to offer something if your needs become extensive.   SEMRush (http://www.semrush.com/) Review competitor analysis data around both organic and paid marketing.  This tool works well to see how you are competing online – against your direct/online competitors, but also brings some other features to your attention, including social networking, overall (global) site rank – and many other metrics that can help you gain ground online.   KeywordIO (http://keywordtool.io/) Uncover what your audience is typing into search engines and find the best keywords for your content.  Having trouble understand what is being ‘searched’ online more often than other keywords?  Use this tool to help uncover diamonds in the rough.   Google Trends (https://googletrends.com) If you are just starting out – or are branching out to find new keyword opportunities, this tool is a great way to measure average monthly search volume of individual keywords, but also allows for multiple keywords to be entered – showing a relative chart, most searched vs. least searched.  As with any part of marketing, you want to make sure you are ‘making what you can sell’ and not just ‘selling what you make’.  If you target the high-volume keywords, you’re helping your chances of being discovered by your potential customers. ScreamingFrog (http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/) Export your site’s “raw” files and easily review your meta tags (title, description and keywords) along with your content structure.  This tool works incredibly well for taking ‘snapshots’ of your website at any given time – showing all the vital pieces of information that is used to rank your website in Google (or other search engines).  If the information doesn’t show on this report – chances are, it isn’t being seen by the search engines (or at least it’s not a factor in ranking your website).   With a few good tools, you can keep your website in tip-top shape to play nicely with search engines and make sure that customers can find you.