High search engine rankings are a smart way to increase your qualified online leads, but achieving them can be tricky! Part art and part science, optimizing for search is a matter of knowing what terms your specific market segments use when they're searching for the information you provide, and matching the content you put online to those terms.
I know that if we've differentiated someone's business well, and they continue to be well connected to their customers' (and prospects') needs and interests, we'll also have a much easier time developing the unique content they need to rank highly in search. In some categories, however, there is so much great content already available -- sometimes millions of pages worth -- we all have to dig much deeper to develop fresh solutions, new angles, and innovative tools that others will want to share, or brainstorm other ways to get the top relevance scores that will put you at the top of Google and other search engines. Online leads will flow more easily from there.
If that sounds like the situation you're in, a terrific post in Search Engine Land today may give you some good food for thought (though of course you can also call us, too!). THe article highlighted several key components of helping customers find you in search results, including:
- the current thinking on which factors are most important for helping you appear in search engines (courtesy of SEOmoz), and
- 7 ideas for helping you stand out in a crowded market.
Check it out: http://searchengineland.com/the-importance-of-differentiated-content-65575
And for more, practical, info here in the Raleigh area: You might also want to attend our Smarter Lead Generation training seminar on March 17 from 10-Noon at Team Nimbus in N. Raleigh. At just $25, this is likely to be the best investment you've made on your leads this year.
Read more about Smarter Lead Generation on our Eventbrite page. Though we'll focus a good deal on helping you succeed with paid search, know that the strategies we'll teach you for keyword selection and understanding your market apply just as well to increasing your online leads by achieving high search engine rankings on the organic side, too!
When you want to create action, the right words, in the right place, are ultra important.
Here's some interesting information excerpted from a sharp post on Copyblogger written by Paras Chopra, creator of Visual Website Optimizer (a handy dandy tool that makes online copy testing a snap). Not surprisingly, these are the same guidelines, in almost every instance, that are tried and true for direct response marketing too...
"The right question is: What should I test first?
You have to prioritize the most influential aspects of a landing page, the elements that tend to produce the biggest changes.
I am the founder of a split testing product called Visual Website Optimizer with thousands of users, which gave me the privilege of observing thousands of split tests and their results from a front-row seat.
That experience showed me some of the key elements (in order of importance) that you should test on your landing page:
- Headline (if you can test only one thing on your page, test your headline first)
- Call to action (should you have Buy Now or Add to Cart … or offer a free trial instead?)
- The product’s positioning
- Highlighting different benefits and features
- Length of copy (surprisingly, sometimes removing information on a page increases conversions)
- Video vs. text (for some sites text works better, for some video prompts action)
- Screenshots and other images (I can’t stress enough how important is it to split test different kinds of visuals you use on a landing page)
- Freebies (visitors may respond better to one kind of bonus or free offer when compared to others)"
You might want to read the whole post too -- there's a neat test you can take to see if you can guess which copy works best.
Small businesses often approach planning with the attitude that they're in business to sell product or service "X," but a more successful starting point is usually to consider how they can best create profitable customer relationships and tailor their business solutions from there.
This coming Tuesday (Jan 18th), during a talk to the Raleigh Entrepreneurs group, I'll share 3 essentials to creating an effective, integrated, customer experience, and we'll have fun discussing ways to be creative in how you might integrate your efforts and engage customers. In the meantime, try putting some planning time into some of the fundamental questions we explore with clients; answering them can help you gather the customer insights you need to design a win-win customer experience.
Think about your company's best customers and/or most ardent referrers, and go deep in exploring these questions:
- how and where did they find you (or how and where did you find them)?
- what were they looking for, and how did they describe it?
- what was their situation, and how did they describe it?
- what factors converted them from lead into customer?
- how would you describe the type of relationship you have?
- what sort of relationships does it appear they have with other businesses akin to yours?
- through what channels are you interacting with them?
- through what channels are they interacting with others?
- is it reasonable to think you could find more of them?
- what sorts of "groups" do they fall into that can be identified, addressed and reached?
This will give you a good start as you begin to design an effective, integrated customer experience that will win more of your best prospects, encourage and facilitate more "evangelists" for your business, and improved profits for your business. Hope to see you Tuesday!
In part 2 of the Strategic Plan interview with Apex NC-based business coach Mike Sink of AdviCoach, Mike shares the importance of breaking down your goals into manageable, actionable, initiatives. If you sometimes get to Friday and realize you haven't actually worked ON your business, but only IN it, then you know why it's a good idea. View the Part 2 video on YouTube.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it needn't take you weeks or even days to lay out a plan. Here's the sneak peek for those in a hurry:
- Spell out your core values and beliefs (good to remind you that it's the actions you take daily, not what you say you believe, that matters)
- What is your long-term purpose for the business? Sell? Retirement plan? Legacy? Something else?
- What do you need to do to lay the foundations for achieving it? Of course you'll need to be flexible (who knows what business will be like in 5 years!), but it is valuable to have a general sense of what ocean you want to swim in.
- Get down to quarterly initiatives, and then give yourself 5-6 (at most) weekly actions.
My sense of a key value that this process offers: to help remind you, as you wear the "President of your company" (or career) hat, that your Board of Directors (a.k.a., you in 10 years, plus your family, and possibly your employees depending on how you feel about them) has charged you with a serious and important task. Achieving your long-term purpose. Now go get 'em!
Thanks Mike, for your valuable reminders! Visit Mike online at AdviCoach.com/MSink or call him directly at 919-303-0120.
ClickZ has a summary of retailers' Black Friday activity on twitter, http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/1928843/retailers-bestbuy-walmart-twitter-black-friday for those who are interested... and it is revealing. Mostly the tweets were outgoing, "sale-sale-sale" info. Some of that activity is OK of course; deal-mining is a high-value purpose for the internet right now (comparison shopping is big, and people are increasingly going beyond known brands for their purchases -- a trend which continues to be super for small businesses who get to be on a more level playing field with the big guys). While I found the results a little disappointing in the big picture, because it shows how far big marketers still have to go, I was happy to see that there is still a huge and exciting opportunity for nimble small businesses to make an impact.
What is that opportunity? For businesses who engage in social media (that's not the same as "use" social media, you know; be careful), it's to fully own and leverage the "like" factor. The "like" factor has been critical to purchase decisions for both individuals and businesses for generations, and it shows no signs of slowing down. All things being equal (and sometimes even not-quite-so-equal), people are still more likely to do business with someone they like than with someone they can't quite connect with. We usually like those who express shared values, project a caring and helpful attitude, exhibit a personality that's sympatico with your own... all things that can (and should) come across in your business persona -- a.k.a. brand -- and that are absolutely ESSENTIAL in your social media participation.
Social media is, after all, a forum for conversation between humans, and the more you create human-to-human contact, the greater your ability to create "liking." Of course for most businesses it's unlikely that you'd be able to have a dialog with each and every prospect, customer or potential partner you have, but that's part of the beauty of our online communities: you have the potential to be overheard by hundreds, thousands, or even millions, as if you and Susie Customer were standing at the checkout and all those people were eavesdropping on your friendly, helpful, interesting and eminently human interaction. Just imagine... how can you make your web presence deliver more of that? It's worth it to figure that out, because those companies that treat social media and the interactive space simply as a way to hang electronic door hangers on our interactive houses will have to keep spending more on advertising to try to overcome the junk that gets thrown out.
Strategic planning often gets a bad rap, especially among owners of smaller-businesses, who are frequently wearing more hats than a coat rack's hooks. But if you've ever said to yourself, "it can't be December already!" then you're among the millions who could benefit from developing a simple, focused plan that helps save you and your company from getting burned by day-to-day fires as often, and even pushes you to craft a few "what if" scenarios that could change your life, your employees' lives, and the life of your community.
To give you a little to chew on, yesterday I filmed (informally!) a few Q&A spots with local business coach Mike Sink of AdviCoach. Here's a link to the first of our interviews. Take a listen, and think through the ways that stopping to think and plan strategically for your business future could help you and your business.
Business Success video: Strategic Planning, Part 1 of an Interview with Mike Sink