5 Ways to Rescue Your Declining Organic Reach – @Mike_Stelzner

aocp-pinterest-michael-stelznerWith organic reach shrinking across the board, content marketers are scrambling for answers. See what media company Social Media Examiner has done to overcome the lack of reach and what you can learn from the steps they took.

Michael Stelzer is a social media expert, and a leading authority on the topics of writing and marketing white papers. He knows the secrets to helping businesses navigate the various social channels available today with strategies and tactics that translate to success.

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What does it really take to win at organic SEO? @baglady207

aocp-pinterest-christensen-bergeronHow can a small business with limited resources ever compete with the business giants when it comes to SEO? Fortunately, it’s not just about volume these days. Things like inbound links and a nice library of good content will determine the winner. And those are odds even a non betting person can get behind.

Concentrating on things like keyword research, link building, and on-page optimization will allow your business to build a marketing plan around specific keywords and phrases, that will in turn help you improve the quality and value of the content you’re creating.

Jennifer Christensen and Suzette Bergeron are the brains behind Bulletin Brands. Together they have honed a mostly organic approach to how they use SEO to build their business and can testify that approximately 95% of their new business comes from organic search alone.

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How a Business Avatar Attracts Your Ideal Customer – @johnleedumas

aocp-pinterest-john-lee-dumasHow many times have you hit that fork in the road when trying to solve a business decision? Are you worried you’re not reaching the precise audience that’s right for your business? Have you ever envisioned what your one, ideal audience member would look like if you put a face and backstory to them?

Creating an avatar of your one, perfect listener allows you to narrow your niche to the most precise audience member that you’re trying to reach. Your avatar is your targeted demographic that allows you to focus exactly on the people that benefit most from your message. Once you know who that person is, it allows your business to find its direction and become a magnet that people are drawn to.

John Lee Dumas is the Entrepreneur On Fire, whose podcast was recognized as Best Of iTunes in 2013. John’s podcasts aim to teach upcoming entrepreneurs to take their leap towards success by hearing the stories of failures and lessons learned from other well-known entrepreneurs.

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How to Get Started with Marketing Automation – @sharpspring

aocp-pinterest-charles-chadwickIt’s fair to say that the marketing goal of most businesses is to attract, nurture and convert their leads all the way down through the sales funnel. But what’s the most efficient way to do that?

When you send the right messages to the right people you peak their interest, and marketing automation allows organizations to more effectively streamline their marketing efforts on multiple channels  – such as email, websites, social media – and to automate repetitive tasks. If your goal is to increase your organization’s operational efficiency and grow revenue faster, then look no further than marketing automation.

With over 17 years of experience in business development and strategic sales, Charles Chadwick uses his expertise at SharpSpring to develop effective and streamlined marketing solutions that drive business growth and bring immediate value to organizations.

 

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Digital Marketing in an Hour a Day

I can’t believe we’re TWO DAYS from the Agents of Change conference. There’s STILL so much to get done it’s crazy!

So, I hope you can forgive me that instead of a typical interview, or me reading a chapter of my upcoming book, I’m instead sharing with you my presentation from last year, Digital Marketing in an Hour a Day.

I’ve also posted the full video from last year’s presentation at the show notes if you’d prefer to watch this week instead of listen.

Hope you’re planning on joining us in person or virtually for Friday’s conference! If you haven’t grabbed your ticket yet, there’s still time to get your tickets to the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference!

If you’re serious about helping your business reach the next level, you won’t want to miss a chance to hear some of the smartest industry experts speak on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing. aocp-fb-morgan-suttonaocp-fb-rich-brooksaocp-fb-rich-brooks-92116

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Website Essentials: Your Checklist for Success

aocp-pinterest-rich-brooksThere are certain things that every business website needs. In this podcast I want to talk about a few things that you just can’t do without…

Content Management System (CMS)

One of the biggest complaints new prospects have about their current website when they come to me is that they don’t have enough–or any–control over their website. Early CMSs had their problems: they were bloated with code (making them slow-loading), weren’t good for SEO, and the templates were so generic looking they could be spotted a mile away.

All of that has changed.

As more companies (and developers) have turned to CMS platforms, they have become lean, mean, lead generating machines. The best ones out there are fast-loading, come with plenty of SEO options, and can be customized an infinite number of ways.

There is no excuse not to be on a CMS.

Personally, I’m a big fan of WordPress. It’s the world’s most popular CMS by far and it’s open source, meaning you’re not tied to just one developer or agency. Drupal and Joomla are other popular open-source CMS platforms.

If you prefer a platform that’s backed by a company, SquareSpace and Wix are popular choices. They both come with monthly fees, but these may be less than what you would pay for a WordPress developer or agency if you needed to hire one.

The bottom line is there’s no future-proofing your platform. I’ve seen platforms and programming languages come and go over the years. If you choose WordPress or SquareSpace I can’t guarantee either will be around in five years, but they’re both safe bets.

One choice I’d be a little more concerned about is a home-grown platform from a small or medium sized agency. Once you’re on their platform, you’re stuck with it, and with them.

Sometimes relationships with agencies sour. There’s too much turnover, or they’re constantly late on deliverables, or they get too big for you, or you get too big for them. It doesn’t matter: you can’t leave. Or at least, if you do leave, you’re going to have to completely rebuild your website on another platform.

Unless there’s is some specific thing that this agency offers that you can’t find at any other agency, the risk outstrips the reward.

Mobile-Friendly

More than half the world’s internet traffic is delivered onto mobile devices these days. Admittedly, that’s more true outside the US where not everyone has a computer at work and another at home. But even in the US, mobile internet usage is growing rapidly.

While your site traffic may still be heavily reliant on desktop computers, there’s no reason to exclude a significant portion of your site visitors. At this writing, 70% of our website traffic is from desktop computers. Could you imagine a store that turned away 30% of its potential customers?

Of course not.

Mobile devices are everywhere (um, almost by definition.) People use them in line, at lunch, and in the bathroom. (One big reason to never ask to borrow someone’s phone.)

Maybe they see your Facebook post. Or find you on Yelp. Or search for “dentist near me” and Google or Siri shows them your site as a result. If it’s not mobile-friendly, they’ll click the back button

Through search, social, and digital ads, you’ll be sending people on their phone to your website. If it’s not mobile-friendly, you’ve lost that customer, probably forever.

While there are many ways to develop a mobile-friendly website, the most popular one (and the one that is currently most future-proof in my opinion,) is called Responsive Web Design or RWD.

One additional feature I recommend is a popup window that only appears on the mobile device that provides quick links to the items your mobile-visitor is most interested in. These may be Directions, Hours, or Contact.

Xxx [photo of takeflyte.com on a mobile device]

Contact

Have you ever visited a website and struggled to find a way to contact the company behind it?

Infuriating, right?

If you want to get the phone ringing, you need to put your phone number at the top of each page. It’s also important to make sure it’s actually HTML text, not an image. That’s because if it’s text, your smartphone visitors can click it and call you. (That’s right, your smartphone can double as a phone!)

If you want people emailing you, you need to have a contact form that collects information and sends it to you. I don’t recommend having an email link, and here’s why:

There are email scraping programs that grab all the email addresses off a website and deliver them to spammers and hackers. Even if your email doesn’t appear on the page, but still appears in the website code, these programs can steal them. The best solution is using a contact form that doesn’t include your email address at all.

I’ve heard some pushback over the years: it’s too much to ask people to complete the online forms, forms feel impersonal, I hate filling out all that information on other people’s forms, so why should I ask them to use mine?

In my opinion, if they’re not willing to complete a short form on your website, they’re probably not a qualified lead. In other words, it filters out the tire-kickers.

Second, you can collect a lot of great data people wouldn’t think of providing you in an email…everything from how they heard of you, to the company they work for, to their name!

Third, you don’t have to ask for a ton of information. I only require the minimum amount of information I need to follow up with someone: their name, email, and phone. (I ask for their phone because often emails get caught in overly-aggressive spam filters, so if I haven’t heard back in a couple of days, I can call them.)

Fourth, most forms can auto-populate your CRM, meaning you don’t have to enter all that information in yourself. In fact, many can automatically add people to your email list…with their permission, naturally.

Last thought on forms: don’t use a CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs are those nearly impossible to read alpha-numeric combinations that you need to type in to submit a form. There are better tools out there to prevent someone (or some bot) from spamming your contact form. On WordPress, we are currently using the GravityForms plugin with great success.

NAP

Who doesn’t love a good nap? In this case, it stands for Name, Address, and Phone. If your physical address is important to your business, having your NAP information on your site is essential. For everyone else, you can downgrade it to critical.

Any business that serves a geographic location–even if it’s not the only audience you serve–needs NAP. That includes everyone from a donut shop to a B&B to a carpet cleaning company.

This NAP information is going to be shared with a number of online services, and it must be consistent across all sites. By consistent I mean that if you publish it as Elm St. in one place, that’s how you need to publish it everywhere.

Not Elm St

Not Elm ST

Not Elm Street.

Inconsistencies lead to duplicate entries which can hurt your visibility in local searches.

We’ll talk about about Local SEO in the SEO section.

Blog

Yes, I consider this critical to your website’s success. A blog offers so many benefits:

  • SEO
  • An opportunity to brand yourself as an expert
  • An easy way to publish fresh content
  • A way to add pages without constantly updating your navigation

If you’re really concerned about having a “blog,” and keeping it fresh, call it something less intimidating, like “News & Events” or “Articles.”

Calls to Action

It may seem obvious what you want someone to do once they’re on your site. To call you, to book a room, or to buy now.

It’s going to be less obvious to them. Especially if they don’t know your company or what’s typical in your industry.

They’re looking for guidance. They’re looking for an expert to make it easy for them and show them the way.

Calls to action help guide your site visitor’s progress through the site. At the bottom of every page, you should tell them what you would like them to do next.

Call us today for a free estimate!

Download our ebook on 101 Ways to Save Money for College!

Join our mailing list and get 25% off your first order!

Calls to action help funnel people to the next logical step in the sales process. Often, these CTAs are links to other pages, buttons that open modal (popup) windows, or forms where people can contact you or signup for your mailing list.

In other words, they can be interactive.

Opt-Ins

On my Agents of Change podcast, I interview digital marketing experts from around the world. Some are Facebook specialists, others are Twitter gurus, still others are experts on Pinterst, SEO, Instagram, etc.

Regardless of the platform, they all focus on one major, measurable tactic to grow their business: building their email list. 

As sexy as social media is, and as important as SEO is, email marketing and list building is critical to your small business’s online success. I’ll go into more details when we get to email marketing, but for now, you should plan on including ways in which you can get people to opt into your mailing list.

You may feel that we covered this in the CTA section, but building your own list is so important I wanted to break it out into it’s own section.

Plan on having multiple places where you ask for people’s emails and try different incentives to get them on your list. Again, we’ll go into great details in the email marketing section.

Security

While your site visitors won’t see the security on your site, they might see it if you don’t take security seriously.

Over the years I’ve spoken with many website owners that woke up one day to find that their website had disappeared, was defaced, or that site visitors received a popup that warned the site wasn’t safe and to “proceed at your own risk.”

Think any new prospects will roll the dice on that one?

The more popular a CMS platform, the bigger a target it becomes for hackers and spammers. The best thing you can do for security’s sake is make sure that:

  • You’re running the most up to date version of the software (which includes the latest security patches)
  • You’re making regular backups of your site (hosting companies will do this, but often overwrite one daily backup with another, meaning that unless you catch a hacker within 24 hours, they’re overwriting a good file with an infected version)
  • You’ve installed some additional plugins that include firewalls and other protection against hacks.

Will this guarantee you never get hacked? No, but it will make you a much less attractive target.

Analytics

How will you know how effective your website is if you don’t have a way to measure it?

For most small businesses, the best solution to getting great insights into your site traffic is Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s powerful, and it can provide you with critical information on how to improve your website and your digital marketing.

If you are working with an agency, it’s important that they use your Google Analytics account rather than setting you up under their own. If you don’t have an account yet, you can add one for free to your Google account. If you don’t have that, you can create a new Google account which comes with Gmail and gives you the ability to set up Analytics, too.

I recommend that you have a dedicated Google account for your business. This is helpful because if you tie it to an employee’s Google account and they leave, you won’t lose access to all that important information.

Wrapping Up

These are the elements that every small business website needs. However, it’s not everything your website may need. In the next chapter, we’ll look at a few popular features that might help your business grow more quickly.

Other Important Elements

Over the past 19 years, we’ve worked with a wide variety of clients, businesses, and industries. Each has certain requirements that can be addressed with the right tool. While not all these elements are critical to every business, some may improve your conversion rate.

Search

Some people may consider a search box as an essential tool on your site. For larger sites or big e-commerce sites this may be true. But for a small site of under twenty or twenty-five pages, a search box might just clutter up your site.

Remember that every element you add to your site reduces the importance of every other element. Unless something serves a purpose and helps you accomplish your business goals, you should get rid of it.

Most CMS platforms come with built in search boxes, as well as having plugins that may have more features and flexibility. You can also choose to go with a 3rd party search box like the one that Google offers.

Calendar

If you have a lot of events that you want to share, an online calendar can be a great way of promoting them.

If you only have one or two events a month, I would recommend that you just list your events. Showing a monthly calendar that’s almost empty is overkill, and makes it look like you don’t have a lot going on.

If you have several events a week, then you should look at a calendar plugin like Events Manager Pro. I recommend that you have the name of the event in the calendar, but make it clickable so people can get more information–or even register–at your site.

If you have multiple events a day, your calendar should be able to show all events but also filter by type of event. For example, we built a calendar page for a hospital that wanted to list all of their departments’ events. That was often several per day. By choosing Cardiology or Women’s Health, only events tagged as such would appear in the calendar view.

Slideshow

Slideshows appear most often on the home page, where multiple images rotate through a billboard-like space. Slideshows are powerful because they can quickly give site visitors a better idea of what you offer in a limited space. They allow the visitor to self-select, and then take them deeper within the site.

The best slideshows include the ability for site visitors to pause, choose, or rotate through the slides. They also include the ability for you, as the site owner, to add or edit text that overlays the images so you don’t have to go back to a designer every time you want to tweak the message. They should also be clickable, sending visitors to important pages within your site.

While there’s no limit to the number of slides you can use, I generally recommend three to five. Any less than three and I wonder why you needed the slideshow in the first place, and any more than five and you will significantly slow down the page load time.

Scheduler

I love jumping on my favorite massage therapist’s website and booking a time. That’s what I call frictionless. I can make the appointment any time from anywhere and know it’s locked in for me.

One of our clients is a canine behavior specialist who offers individual coaching as well as group classes. She has a scheduler that can handle either and cuts off registrations to the class once it fills up.

If you run an appointment-based business, including a scheduler app on your site can increase appointments and cut down on staff time with back and forth emails to find a time that works for everyone.

I have talked to some businesses that don’t want a scheduler. One dentist’s office decided against it as they already had too many no-shows and they didn’t want to add to the pile. Others only want it for current clients, and require new people to speak to them by phone or in person.

You should ultimately decide what’s best for your business.

E-Commerce

Not every business needs e-commerce. Many businesses only need their website to generate leads. Even those that need to be able to sell online have choices outside their website. Amazon, Etsy, Ebay and Shopify are just a few of the offerings you can use independent of your main site.

However, if you want to keep your visitors onsite, having an order form or shopping cart is the way to go. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of moving parts to an e-commerce site:

  • Special, PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant hosting
  • Security certificate
  • Merchant account
  • Shopping cart software
  • Shipping and fulfilment considerations

And a whole lot more. A deep dive into e-commerce is a little outside the scope of this book, but there are plenty of books, conferences, and online resources for those looking to set up shop online.

Ticket Sales

Putting on events? You’ll probably want to sell tickets.

My favorite tool is EventBrite, and we’ve used it for all of our Agents of Change conferences, as well as most of the workshops we put on. It’s free to use, but they will add a surcharge if you’re collecting fees for your tickets. You can, however, pass those fees along to your attendees.

EventBrite has a widget that can embed into your site, making it easy to collect registration information and money for your events.

I’m sure there are plenty of other great tools out there, but EventBrite is our go to ticket registration service.

MLS

Short for multi-listing service, this is what powers real estate websites, many car dealerships, and used boat sites as well. The information is provided from a 3rd party service and you can embed this information into your website in a number of ways.

Other Tools

As you can see, there are a number of enhancements you can add to your website. These might come as plugins for your CMS, a widget from a 3rd party service, or a custom programming job from a developer.

Just remember that your website doesn’t need to be all things to all people. I’m a big fan of starting small and nimble, and adding features as needed.

Hurry up and grab your tickets to the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference! If you’re serious about helping your business reach the next level, you won’t want to miss a chance to hear some of the smartest industry experts speak on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing. aocp-fb-morgan-suttonaocp-fb-rich-brooks

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How to Get Started with Instagram Ads – @Morganize_It

aocp-pinterest-morgan-suttonWith the population’s growing addiction to their mobile devices these days, you want to make sure you reach your audience where they’re hanging out. And with a community of over 500 million, Instagram is one of the world’s largest mobile ad platforms and a perfect place to reach your ideal customer.

Small businesses are especially ideal candidates for Instagram advertising, as it allows users to dip into Facebook’s enormous data and target specific audiences, as well as nurture audience engagement. So as long as you know your target audience and how to reach them – when done right – Instagram ads have almost unparalleled potential to increase brand awareness and conversion rates for your business.

Morgan Sutton loves helping small businesses meet their business goals by assisting them with their operations logistics, including educating them on social media automation systems and how to effectively advertise on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

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A Marketer’s Guide to Google Analytics – @crestodina

AOCP-Pinterest-Andy-CrestodinaAll good business decisions are based on crucial data. Knowing exactly what data will help you make the best business decisions is the key. But that sounds like a lot of work developing time consuming reports, right? Wrong. Google Analytics takes the guesswork out of it and can actually save you time and advertising dollars.

Google Analytics can easily tell you who is visiting your site, how they’re getting to your site, what they’re doing on your site, and if they are actually converting. By simply setting up your Analytics with a few key bits of information, you can find out all of this crucial data, and more. In essence, Google does the math for you, ensuring you more successful marketing campaigns and accurate measurability of what’s working and what’s not.

Andy Crestodina is a content marketing and Google Analytics savant. His knowledge, tips and advice on the topics of content strategy, search and analytics have made him one of the most passionate and sought after teachers in the marketing industry.

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How Mobile is Changing Email Marketing – @heatherkjackson

Heather JacksonBy now everyone knows that your email list is gold, as far as your business is concerned. Unlike social media sites such as Facebook, where you’re basically just “renting space”, your email list is your very own property, as well as an invaluable business commodity. But in this ever changing and evolving world of mobile marketing, finding a way to mesh the two together is key. .

In order to stay on top in the mobile marketing era, you need to balance keeping your email marketing efforts relevant in this age of social media. Keeping in mind how much time the average person spends on their smartphones these days – and reaching out to them there – will help to keep your business front of mind, authentic, and open up other creative opportunities for your business to engage with your audience.

Heather Jackson has more than 20 years experience helping businesses with their online and offline marketing strategies. She loves speaking and presenting at seminars and conferences on the topics of digital, social and email marketing, as well as best practices to help businesses grow using available online tools.

 

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How to Get Started with Facebook Live: Marketer’s Guide – @iagdotme

AOCP-Pinterest-Ian-Anderson-GrayWith all of the live streaming platform options out there, Facebook decided to throw their hat in the ring, too. And the result is pretty impressive. If you’re a small business and you aren’t currently taking advantage of this shiny new toy, then you need to check it out. Because if you’re not using it, your competition surely is.

Facebook Live allows users to share their experiences and content with their followers via real-time video on their timeline. It’s also pretty versatile, allowing access from both a smartphone and a computer. And as of now, Facebook’s algorithm is currently set to be extremely favorable to those going Live. So without much in the way of expensive equipment needed, Facebook Live is a great way to connect and interact with your audience, as well as create evergreen content that you can then share to other platforms.

Ian Anderson Gray is a social media coach, trainer and consultant who loves to teach business owners how to leverage Facebook Live to engage and connect with their audience, all while creating valuable content to attract and retain viewers and customers.

 

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