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How to Write Blogs that Drive Business

Most professionals know they need to write blogs as part of their content marketing strategy. But how can they write blogs that actually drive business?

Write blogs: it seems to be the mantra of nearly every content marketing strategy these days. But writing blogs involves more than putting words up on your website. There’s a strategy that every business owner and marketer needs to use to maximize the blog’s effectiveness to actually drive business.

The Google Algorithm

It should come as no surprise that Google is the world’s most popular website. So powerful is Google’s influence in providing information that “google it” has become a common phrase in the English language. Let’s face it – when was the last (or even first) time you ever heard anyone say “bing it”?

However, writing to meet Google’s search criteria can be tricky, especially since their algorithm is not only complicated, but also a closely-guarded secret.

“It’s been speculated that the number of criteria Google uses to rank websites and blogs is over 200,” says Andy Bush, Owner and Internet Marketing Consultant at Bush Marketing, a Toronto web design and internet marketing agency,. “Even if we knew what they were, and how they ranked in importance, it would be difficult to satisfy each factor in their search algorithm.”

Fortunately, intrepid bloggers don’t have to be daunted by complexities of Google’s search criteria. They can still write blogs that will satisfy Google by following a simple blogging and content marketing strategy.

Write Blogs that Google Loves

Many SEO experts follow a certain set of recommended guidelines when optimizing websites for Google, although no one can ever truly guarantee success.

“There are several things one can do to make their blog as search-friendly as possible,” Andy says. “The most important are incorporating the primary search keywords into the post title, description and URL, as well as within the body copy without compromising the language.

“Also, blog posts should be a minimum of 750 words and ideally be structured for readers to ‘scan’ the page for information without making them hunt for it. This strategy includes adding headings, subheadings, and bullet point lists. Google rewards content that benefits the reader, so it’s important to make sure that the layout is reader friendly.”

Andy also notes that there are technical elements to consider, such as site speed, xml sitemap, and inbound linking that play a role in a blog’s search rankings.

“It’s also beneficial to include images with keywords in the alt tags,” Andy says. “Use your post as an opportunity to show off graphs and images that will support the content.

“Lastly, include links to other pages on your blog/website that support the content of your blog post. If you have another post that supports a position on the one you’re writing, link to it.”

Interestingly, YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine, demonstrating the power that video has to get your message across to millions of subscribers. If you can include video in your blog and integrate it into your content marketing strategy, your search rankings should vastly improve as a result.

How Often Should You Write Blogs?

A big question for many business owners is how often should they write blogs. Some large companies or media agencies have a lot to write about, and could potentially blog daily. Smaller niche companies might struggle to blog even monthly. So how much is right for your business?

“The minimum that you should post for your business blog is once per month,” Andy says. “Ideally, one should post every two weeks or even once a week if possible. This increases the opportunity for repeat readership and puts more content on the search engines for people to find.”

Consistency is also key to blogging success. There’s no sense in not blogging for half of the year, and then publishing six blogs in one week. You won’t build engagement and excitement among your readers unless you blog faithfully, and on schedule.

If you can’t find the time to blog, or don’t have an interest in doing it yourself, consider hiring a professional SEO copywriter to do it for you. It’s a worthy investment that will pay off in the long run in terms of customer engagement, website traffic, and additional revenue.

Publish and Publicize Your Blog

Now that you’ve written a blog, it’s time to get it out there! Don’t wait for people to visit your website – get your content noticed by integrating it into your digital and content marketing plan, which includes:

  • Posting it on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Linking to it on your email newsletter
  • Converting it into a gated, lead-capturing white paper
  • Offering it as a guest post to relevant media websites

“A well written piece of content can be utilized in many different ways,” Andy says. “At the very least, if you’re not using social media to advance your blog readership, then that’s definitely where you should start.”

How Do Blogs Make You Money?

Blogs drive business by demonstrating your authority in your field. By proving yourself an expert with engaging, well-written blogs, you’ll attract a loyal audience of followers who will engage with you and click through to other pages on your website. If you have a strong following, your online reputation and subscriber base will grow. Before you know it, you’ll have a long list of loyal brand ambassadors your marketing team can follow up with.

Remember – your audience is full of interested readers who will either buy from you directly or refer customers to you. But it all starts with discipline and commitment to your blogging and overall content marketing strategy, which will result in new business, customer retention, and a loyal customer list.

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How Do You Build a Content Marketing Strategy?

The proper content marketing strategy can make or break an online business. But how do you know which strategy is best for yours?

For the past few years, there’s been heavy emphasis on the quality of online content. And for good reason too, as the effectiveness of your content contributes to the success of your SEO, social media, and conversion strategies. In short, the better the content, the better the results.

Sounds like a no brainer, right? The concept is certainly easy to grasp, but for many businesses, organizing all the different aspects of content marketing into a manageable plan can be a challenge, since results depend on the success of many different facets of your strategy, each of which requires a specific skill set.

Each of these skill sets, whether SEO, social media, conversion, or otherwise, all come under the umbrella of a solid and coordinated content marketing strategy.

Establishing your Brand Voice

Remember that old saying, “You are what you eat?” You can apply this concept to your brand as well, as in, “Your brand is your content.” This is why it’s important to reflect your brand voice into every piece of content you publish.

But should business owners worry about this content right from launch, or build their brand voice as they go along?

“Content is arguably one of the most important things you can do to establish your brand,” says Hollie Hoadley, Founder of Creative Solutions. “It’s how you build relationships, sharpen your image, and solidify yourself in your niche or market. ”

Although you can develop and refine your brand voice over time, your overall brand messaging should be established prior to customers having the ability to interact with you.

“Your brand content is the first impression people will get of you or your company,” Hollie says. “This is why it’s important to really know your voice and brand values, and have a defined strategy for every aspect of your content. From the words on your website, to your social media, to your email signature, none of it should be an afterthought.”

What Do You Want to Talk About?

Although it’s great to have a wealth of content on your website, it’s important to know what your particular business goals are in regard to the content you publish. In other words, what do you want your content to do for you?

Just as importantly, you need to determine what your customers want from what you publish.

“Decide on your goal and the goals of your audience,” Hollie says. “You can then decide what sort of content will get you there and develop your content marketing strategy based on your findings.

“For example, what are you trying to do? Increase engagement? Sell a new product? Acquire new clients? Increase your brand presence on social media? And from your client’s standpoint, are they trying to solve a problem? Look for advice? With this information, you can create a content marketing strategy that brings results.”

Creating your Online Content

Now that you’ve established your voice, know what you want from your messaging, and have a plan in place, it’s time to create the actual content.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. Many businesses struggle with this because, although they may be able to write about their business, they may not be able to necessarily write in a way that will resonate with their customers. This touches on the above point about knowing what your customers want, and tailoring your content accordingly.

In theory, it works. In practice, however, too many businesses fall flat because creating marketing content from a 3rd-party perspective can be challenging. This is when you have to make the decision of whether to create it yourself or seek outside help.

“If you have the in-house talent to do it, go for it,” Hollie says. “However, it’s always good to get a second opinion from the experts who know their stuff. They’re experts for a reason! Ask for a second pair of eyes, because something that looks good to you may not look good to an unbiased audience who has an eye for sharp lines and fonts, or a keen eye for video editing.”

Hiring outside help to handle aspects of your content will also free up your time to build your business through networking, public speaking, and attending events. Wouldn’t you rather be doing that than sitting up at night trying to figure out graphics software or creating copy for web pages?

“With regard to copy,” Hollie says. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire a professional writer. A lot of professionals try to write their own blogs, even if they don’t consider themselves writers, and most of their customers can tell the difference. Don’t waste your efforts – hire someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s a smart investment.”

Mix Your Content Marketing Strategy Up

Have you thought about which type of content would be best for your business? Words, pictures, and graphics are a given, but what about audio and video? Or some sort of interactive features, such as quizzes, games, or calculators?

The rule of thumb is to integrate content elements that will delight your customers, and avoid creating a certain content type simply for the sake of doing so. As long as the content is relevant, it’s a good idea to include it.

“Depending on the brand, “Hollie says. “A good content marketing strategy has the right mix of all different kinds of content. For some brands, video is really key whereas with others, video doesn’t quite fit in. However, every brand should consider a strategy that hits all the marks – video, social, blogs, and images.”

Hollie also says that because different people consume content in individual ways, hitting the right marks is especially important.

“At the very least,” she says. “I would recommend that every brand have a blog, newsletter, strong copywriting, and call to action on their website, as well as an engaging social media presence. Lots of images and engaging, relevant content will go a long way to meeting your business goals.”

In addition, from an SEO standpoint, Google smiles upon websites with a good content mix, especially video. Using video increases online session times, contributing to higher rankings.

But always remember: relevancy is key!

Once You’ve Created, Keep Creating

Your customers are dynamic, always looking for something new. Google is dynamic as well, favouring fresh, current content over old that has been posted for a while. Keeping this mind, it’s important to keep your own content regularly updated with fresh information.

“In order to build any sort of following or top any search engine ranking,” Hollie says. “Content has to be relevant, timely, and regularly updated. There’s nothing worse than going to a blog or a Facebook or Twitter page and seeing a post that’s a few months old. Your customers may never come back. You don’t want to lose eyes on your page because you couldn’t keep up with your content strategy.”

There are many reasons why businesses fall behind on their content strategy. They may have become too busy, can’t think of anything new to post, or simply let it lag due to lack of interest. This again speaks to hiring outside freelance help, as their input and interest will keep you excited and interested too. Also, you can continue to concentrate on other aspects of your business, knowing that your content strategy is in good hands.

Content Content Content!

In 2014, a marketing friend of mine said that she was so sick of the word “content” that she was refusing to use it for the rest of the year. I’m not sure if she made it then, or could make it now, because the benefits and demands of a content marketing strategy continue to be an integral part of online business success.

There’s just no getting around it.

video marketing

Is Video Marketing Right For Your Business?

Video Marketing has been around a long, long time, and keeps being reinvented for the modern marketer. But is it right for your business?

Video marketing is almost as old as the moving pictures themselves, and people then, just like now, aren’t immune to its effects.

Even as children we were subjected to it. Think back to that breakfast cereal commercial during Saturday morning cartoons. The cartoons themselves featured characters that were also available in toy form. Or that “Let’s all Go to the Lobby” short before the movie started. Those are all examples of video marketing.

Speaking of the movies, have you noticed that not only do we have to sit through trailers before the movie starts, we now have to sit through commercials too? Yes, that innocent-looking snowman stuck in the refrigerator is video marketing in disguise.

And, as of late, even going to the bathroom in your favourite restaurant exposes you to “well-placed” video ads.

So why are we inundated with videos everywhere we go? The answer is simple: because video marketing works.

Why Does Video Marketing Work?

Why wouldn’t it work? Hypnotic, flashing lights, catchy music, happy, attractive people doing things they love and, most importantly, solving a problem by way of buying a product. If you have great written content to enhance the video and are able to target the right audience, you could have a monster (or snowman) on your hands.

But that’s a surface observation. Like many things, science and human physiology play a big role in the success of video marketing as well.

“Using video in your marketing mix is the best way to build emotional relationships with your audience online,” says Michael Wood, Corporate Video Creator and Video Marketer at Helium Video. “People are hardwired to pay attention to eye contact and non-verbal communication. Viewers are able to process information faster with better retention by engaging both auditory and visual stimulation. For these reasons, videos are 12 times more likely to be watched than text and have significantly higher click-through rates.”

How many times have you watched a video over and over again? And then clicked through for more? Capturing and delighting their target audience is every marketer’s dream.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Finding the right video production house that understands your needs is key to your video’s success. As with anything, referrals and word-of-mouth advertising within your network are very effective ways to find the perfect service provider. Ideally, they’ll be able to understand your vision, bring it to life, and have a keen sense of what generates the right response from your audience.

Knowing what works in video goes beyond the on-screen action itself. It also involves graphics, sound effects, and music. Also, a production house should be able to offer a scriptwriting service to really help your message hit home with viewers.

But wait! Are you the do-it-yourself type? I am. I love developing new skills and showing people what I’ve accomplished. But one thing I’m not really good at is taking photos or creating video. I have no idea why this skill escapes me. You could give me the best camera in the world and the pictures will still turn out horrible.

For the rest of you intrepid DIYers living in this age of empowerment, it’s easy to find tools to make your own videos. If you have a smartphone, you probably already have a video camera. But does that mean you should create your corporate videos using your handheld device?

“When promoting your business, it’s important to send the right message,” Michael explains. “You want to show off your product or service in the best possible way. While doing a DIY video is inexpensive, if the quality is not representative of your brand then you will be doing more harm than good. A professional also offers specific skills that will help the video creation process run smoothly and get maximum impact once it goes to market.”

In other words, you could have the best product in the world, but if you promote it with a poorly-made video, you risk leaving a bad taste in the mouth of your customer.

Avoiding a DIY approach can also apply to marketing your video, as a great video production house will not only create an amazing video for you, they will also be able to suggest the best channels to get it in front of the right people.

But if you do plan on marketing it yourself, at least get a marketing plan from a professional, so you can maximize the return on your investment while delighting your audience with your great new video.

Go for an Epic? Or a Short?

Have you ever sat through a video wishing for it to be over? Chances are, it was overly long and stuffed with filler information that didn’t engage you. Conversely, a video too short might not have included enough information to be compelling, leaving one wondering if that was all the business had to say. How do you determine that optimum length?

“Over the years, there have been statistics showing that short videos have higher engagements,” Michael says. “This may be because over the overwhelming amount of short and silly video clips that are shared every day. We have found that long-form videos have achieved results surpassing competitive short videos because of the quality of the content and level of detail. A video should be no longer than it needs to be, but you should not sacrifice content for a target video length.”

A great video production company will be able to help you determine the appropriate length of your video, ensuring that it contains just enough of your core message to initiate direct contact from your audience.

Be Found More Often

One of the best aspects of getting your video seen doesn’t mean purchasing expensive airtime anymore (although it would be cool to be seen during the Super Bowl). You can simply host your video on your website, as well as upload to such video hosting platforms as YouTube, and promote it through social media and other channels.

But did you know that your SEO rankings can dramatically improve with video too?

“Statistically, videos are 50 times more likely to rank organically in search results,” Michael says. “This relates to videos hosted on platforms like YouTube, but having a video on your website will also increase your website ranking. This is because of how the video will influence your website traffic.

“High-ranking positions in search results are awarded to websites that offer longer session times, high click-through rates, and a mix of media content. Presenting a video for visitors to watch will increase your session times, while also giving you higher conversion and click-through rates.”

That’s a Wrap

Clearly, almost any business would benefit from even having just a short introductory video on their home page. Investing in something your customers enjoy goes a long way towards building brand loyalty, and increases the chances for additional revenue.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you at next year’s Webby Awards.

keyword stuffing

Will Keyword Stuffing Help My SEO Results?

Keyword stuffing remains a controversial practice in this age of search engine marketing. But does it still have a place in your SEO strategy?

Keyword stuffing: some modern search marketers gasp at the very thought. We all know that focus keywords are the beating heart of any proper SEO strategy, but is it still wise to jam pack your keywords into your online content? Or should you limit your use of keywords to avoid repetition, redundancy, and punishment from search engines? Also, if keyword stuffing is frowned upon, what are the alternatives?

Let’s have a look at this ongoing debate by taking a quick trip into the not-so-distant past.

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Dial back to the late 1990s when Google had to compete with such search engines as Excite, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves. To be picked up by search engines, you still needed to use keywords, but the philosophy back then was “the more, the merrier.” In other words, if you used those keywords as many times as possible, you increased your chances of a high ranking and outdoing your competition in keyword density.

For example, let’s say Susie started a destination wedding planning business. It’s 2001, and she’s looking to take advantage of the relatively new system of search marketing. After determining that “destination wedding planner” was the most effective keyword phrase for her business, she created content that repeated that phrase over and over again. As a result, her content read like this:

“If you’re looking for a destination wedding planner, I am the best destination wedding planner in the area. I have been a destination wedding planner for over five years, and love being a destination wedding planner. I offer my destination wedding planner services in person, but could also be your destination wedding planner over the Internet. When you need a destination wedding planner, call me for my expert destination wedding planner services.”

At the time, this kind of content may have done the trick in terms of search results. But although we get the overall message, the paragraph doesn’t read very well. The content isn’t compelling, nor does it educate or engage.

In short, it doesn’t do what great content should.

To try to outdo her competition even further, Susie also took the sneaky step of packing the keyword phrase into the web page even more and colouring the font to match her website’s background. This renders the keyword invisible to the viewer but still searchable by the search engines.

This practice is what’s known as keyword stuffing. It might have worked back in 2001, but search engines have come a long way since then. So, too, have SEO strategies.

Old Practice, Modern Problems

Now let’s bring Susie’s business up to today. Google is now the “king” of search engines, with Bing/Live Search and DuckDuckGo serving as worthy alternatives. Assuming that Susie hasn’t changed her content since 2001 (which raises a whole host of other issues), she will likely find that their rankings have dropped somewhat.

Actually, “dropped” isn’t the correct word. Let’s replace it with “plummeted”.

So, Susie decides to create new content, but keeps the old practice of keyword stuffing, hoping to repeat that initial success from 2001. Still, no luck, and she wonders why that would be. Don’t search engines still follow that “the more, the merrier” philosophy?

According to Jemma Fong, SEO expert and owner of InSite Creations, search engines today actually look down on websites which practice keyword stuffing.

“Google’s ranking and indexing formula is much more sophisticated and advanced these days,”  says Jemma. “Search engines now put more emphasis on the contextual meaning of the content, and can determine what the main topic or theme is behind each of the pages. In other words, relevancy and quality that is worth sharing are key ranking factors.

“But repetitive frequency of a keyword, which is measured by a ratio that depends on the total word count, could cause Google to penalize the website with a low ranking.”

Jemma also states that Susie’s inclusion of invisible keywords is considered a “black hat” practice that could also result in a ranking penalty. 

These days, search engines pay more attention to the actual content while simultaneously keeping an eye on keyword frequency. This new way of ranking was developed specifically to deter keyword stuffing, and encourage marketers to create content that informs, educates, and engages their website visitors.

This is also why our wedding planner is not only ranking low, but is also risking today’s customers leaving her site due to poor content, especially when compared to her savvier competitors who might be more in touch with modern SEO practices.

A Better SEO Strategy

Now that we’ve established that keyword stuffing is no longer a wise practice with or without an overall SEO strategy, Jemma recommends taking the below steps to implementing keywords that meet current and proper SEO guidelines:

  1. Brainstorm for all the various search query keyword phrases that you believe your target audience would use to find your product/service offerings
  2. Group those words together into like-minded groups
  3. Choose a couple of key phrases that would be your “focus” keyword and test to see how difficult it would be to rank in comparison to your competitors
  4. Create a navigation map around each focus/seed keyword, using tab and sub-tabs that will represent a page that supports the top level focus keyword
  5. Build out your content based on that focus keyword

“When calculating keyword difficulty,” Jemma says. “Be sure to review the number of queries, the number of other sites using that keyword theme, and its bid value. This will help determine whether they are worthy words upon which you can build quality content.”

So let’s bring our destination wedding planner up to speed. “Instead of stuffing her content with that one phrase,” Jemma says. “Susie can use related terms or synonyms that help enhance the overall meaning or semantic sense of what the page and site are about.”

Here are some keyword phrases that Susie can incorporate into her content to help her search results without resorting to keyword stuffing:

  • wedding specialist
  • wedding themes
  • destination weddings
  • bridal shower
  • wedding destination plan
  • wedding budget
  • wedding paperwork
  • getting married abroad

“At the same time,” Jemma adds. “Choose a few long-tail keyword phrases that you can use for blog articles to support that keyword phrase.”

How to Use Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that a customer might use in Google to find a business. Here are some that our wedding planner might use:

  • how to choose a destination wedding planner
  • tips for getting married abroad
  • what you need to know about international weddings

“Keyword stuffing will typically result in lowering your page ranking,” Jemma concludes. “But if you follow the above steps, you will build high-value valuable content that both the search engines and your readers will like. Above all, don’t try to employ “black hat” techniques which will only lead to being penalized by the search engines.”

By strategically using the above keywords properly, Susie will start ranking better and engaging her website visitors. In the long run, this will lead to more conversions and an increased chance of hitting her business goals.

email marketing

Email Marketing: Building and Marketing to your Database

Email Marketing is still the King of Marketing…if you do it right.

Remember when email first became available to the public? It wasn’t that long ago, and I barely can picture the world without it.

As fast as the public started using email, it seemed that businesses identified it as a great marketing tool. Without the costs of printing, inserting, and mailing, targeted email marketing became an efficient and cost-effective method of reaching thousands of people at once. Finally, we’d found the King of Marketing!

The zeal for email marketing showed no signs of stopping until mass messaging (otherwise known as spamming) became an issue. Public reaction to unscrupulous use of their email address led to businesses taking a more selective approach to emailing their database and, more importantly, using emails for prospecting. CAN-SPAM in the US and CASL in Canada have put consumer comfort first, forcing marketers to take a more strategic approach to email marketing. The threat of stiff penalties for rule breakers also encourages compliance in not only messaging, but also how companies acquire, store, and maintain their database.

With the threat of penalty over their heads, as well as the growing sophistication of spam filters, marketers may be tempted to abort their email marketing plans. But if you follow some simple guidelines, you can still roll with the King.

How Often Should You Email?

How many times do you check your physical letterbox per day? Once, right?

Now, how many times do you check your email per day? If your answer is 150, according to Business Insider you’re only at the average.  My email program is open as I write this, and yours might be open as you’re reading. And now that I’ve mentioned it, chances are you’re tempted to check it.

Checking email is almost second nature to connected folks, especially on mobile. The reason is simple: it’s a fast, easy, and efficient way to keep in touch. And because of this, we can conclude that email is also the fastest, easiest, most efficient digital marketing method to directly reach a large number of people at one time.

But how often should you email? Finding that balance of keeping top of mind with your customers without spamming them is a concern for many marketers.

“Most companies should be looking at one email per month,” says Mark Brodsky, owner of Mark Brodsky Digital Communications. “There are certainly exceptions – Groupon sends out emails almost every day.  Shoppers Drug Mart also frequently emails, but they always have a special, limited time offer. Loblaws does the same thing with their PC Points emails. The key is setting up expectations and giving people a choice. If you want to send something more than once a month, set up two databases and give people the option of getting that email or the monthly email.”

Service providers such as real estate agents, mortgage brokers, or insurance agents who don’t do business with clients on a frequent basis can also apply this philosophy. But what kind of content would they send out?

“The key is knowing what kind of content your audience is interested in, and delivering that,” Mark says. “If you can keep your audience engaged in between the times that they need you, they will remember you when the time comes, and refer you to friends and family.”

Building Your Email List

Chances are, if you’re just starting out, you have an empty email list. There are many list purchase options available on the market, but many of them simply aren’t CASL compliant. It’s best to avoid any legal issues by building a CASL-compliant list organically.

“Include a signup link everywhere you are online,” Mark says. “Take the link your email system provides and put it on your website as prominently as possible. Add the link to LinkedIn, Facebook, your Twitter bio, and Instagram. Don’t forget to include the link in your email signature.”

Once on your landing page, your prospect will be able to fill out a signup form. Many businesses collect no more than the email address and first name at this point. Long forms tend to increase the abandon rate, and other information, such as last name, location, and interests, can be collected over time as you develop a better relationship with your customer.

“You can also offer an incentive for people to sign up,” Mark says. “Something like 15% off your next purchase can go a little further to get people to give up an email address.”

Once you’ve built your database up and are ready to send your emails out, Mark advises against using generic email programs such as Outlook, Hotmail, or Gmail.

“I strongly urge businesses to use a professional email marketing system.” he says. “A system like Constant Contact gives you the tools you need for tracking, reporting, and list maintenance.”

Mark also recommends to have your recipients help build your list by inviting them to forward your email to a friend. With every email you send out, include a request that the recipient forward to a friend they think may be interested. Make the button prominent. Also, include a link that allows people who have received the mail from a friend to sign up.

Concerns with CASL

When CASL first came into effect, I used to think of it in relatively simple terms: “Great for consumers, bad for marketers.”

I’ve changed my opinion since then. It’s really only bad for marketers who are more concerned with the quantity instead of the quality of their data. It also affects marketers not concerned with the content they send out, or disinterested in building strong relationships with their customers.

For businesses interested in data quality, relevant content, and building strong customer relationships, CASL only reaffirmed their email marketing practices. In short, it’s actually good for everyone.

But what should email marketers be primarily concerned with within CASL’s complex guidelines?

“CASL is a complicated subject,” Mark says, offering three strategies that will help ensure that companies don’t receive complaints:

  • Get consent to email: There are two kinds of consent: implied and express:
    • Implied consent:  Clients who have done business with you fall under implied consent. This means they can be emailed for two years without asking, after which marketers have to seek out express consent
    • Express consent: This covers people who have opted in to your mailing list, either online, in writing or verbally. Express consent never expires and is valid until the customer opts out
  • Include contact information: The sender is required to provide a physical business mailing address and a secondary way of contacting the sender, including a website or phone number, to the recipient with each email
  • Provide an opt-out opportunity: Business must give recipients the option to unsubscribe. Email systems process the request automatically, but if you are fulfilling requests manually they must be completed within 10 business days

“In short,” Mark says. “CASL just means the government is forcing companies to use email marketing best practices. Only email people who want to receive your email, and when they no longer want to be contacted, remove them from your list.”

The DIY Approach

Most of us can compose and send an email. Most of us can send a mass email too. But while the process of email marketing sounds simple, the strategic planning, content generation, and database maintenance can be complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating.

The answer? Hire a professional.

“One benefit in hiring a professional is that you know it will actually get done,” Mark says. “For small businesses, especially those with a sole proprietor, marketing often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Work to be done for customers always takes precedence. Hiring an email marketing professional means that your email will get out so you can continue to generate more business. They will also be on top of the latest trends, ensure that your emails will look great across all platforms, and be able to understand and provide perspective on analytics within your industry.”

online marketing,online marketing

The Difference Between Online Advertising and Online Marketing

The difference between online advertising and online marketing can be summed up with one word, but its origins go all the way back to that old advertising stalwart, the Yellow Pages.

I remember how exciting it was to get the new Yellow Pages directory at the door, and flipping through it to look at all the ads and listings. Growing up in a relatively small town, it was thrilling to point out places that I had seen, or had actually been to!

I always wanted to order pizza from the restaurant with the biggest, most compelling graphic. It was almost as if we were dealing with a celebrity business. The pizza restaurants with the smaller ads, or even just a listing, didn’t matter. It seemed they didn’t impress me enough to want to order (although their pizza could have been sensational).

Looking back now, I can see how Yellow Pages advertising left a distinct impression on me. And although the Yellow Pages directory is now nearly defunct (and even frowned upon by the more eco-minded among us), advertising still competes for our attention and dollars through radio, television, print, and online.

With SEO, PPC, and social media campaigns, it’s very easy to finely target prospects online with a relatively little advertising spend. And online advertising really does parallel the old Yellow Pages – the bigger, prettier ads do get more attention and, potentially, more clicks.

Unlike Yellow Pages, which was dropped off at every door, you can select your target demographic quite easily and effectively online. Many people consider this added bonus as crossing the line from advertising into online marketing. But you can do the same thing with print, radio, and television ads by selecting a certain demographic to which you can send your message.

It’s still advertising. Finely targeted advertising, but still advertising, nonetheless.

The real difference between advertising and online marketing can be summed up with one word: relationships.

Think about it. Can you engage with that radio ad? Bond with that TV commercial? Publicly like, comment, and share that direct mail piece?

I suppose you could try, but none of those mediums will talk back or express their appreciation.

In this new world of customer empowerment, in which choice has never been so wide (you can buy printer ink from the store next door or from some tiny shop in Northern Scotland), building relationships has never been more important. With true online marketing, you can provide platforms where customers can like, share, and comment on your messaging. And believe me, they’re thrilled when you reply, and pay you back with loyalty and advocacy.

And yet, I still have a soft spot for that old yellow directory. Even if it couldn’t talk back.

 

seo strategy

Why Isn’t My SEO Strategy Working?

Getting their SEO strategy to perform at peak levels is a common challenge for business owners. In fact, their SEO might actually be taking them in the right direction, only needing a few simple tweaks to maximize results.

Business owners who manage their own SEO strategy often follow the self-optimization tools provided in SEO packages, such as Yoast, to guide them through the tricky waters of search marketing.

As robust as these tools can be, there are some key custom elements of a complete SEO strategy that many businesses tend to overlook, causing them to potentially miss out on better rankings. Much of them have to do with content generation, which SEO software won’t (and shouldn’t) help you with, and where you publish your content outside of your own domain.

[tweetthis]Three Tips for a Better SEO Strategy #SEO #SEOstrategy #copywriting #digitalmarketing[/tweetthis]

Here are examples of those little extras that can help better your search results:

  1. Long-Tail Keywords: Let’s say you sell shoes in Seattle. You decide to implement an SEO strategy on your website and start brainstorming SEO keywords. The first one you might think of is “shoes”. “Footwear” might come in second, followed by a list of your top brands. While these keywords are certainly relevant, they’re also in high demand and might not rank you very well in search results. This is why long-tail keywords play an important role in setting you apart from your competition. Try something like “Imported leather shoes from Italy in Seattle” or “Steve Madden shoes Seattle”. There – you just improved your odds of being found. Long-tail keywords also work great for your blogs, such as: “Which shoe polish is best for brown leather shoes?”
  2. Write for People: Have you ever tried to read pure SEO-oriented content? It’s not a compelling read for humans or search engines. That’s right – search algorithms are so intelligent that they can separate good content from keyword-stuffed mumbo jumbo. And even if the keyword-stuffed mumbo jumbo ranks highly, who’s going to read it and be moved to convert? The bottom line is to write for humans, optimize for search, not the other way around.
  3. Off-site SEO: Here’s one that a lot of businesses miss. Off-site SEO refers to “authority building” that Google uses as a ranking factor. This authority is measured by inbound links from external sources that are of high authority themselves. If these sites are linking to yours, Google will perceive your site as having authority as well. Guest blogging and social media syndication are two great ways to raise your off-site authority.

On a final note, remember that, like content management, an SEO strategy can’t be successful with a “set it and forget it” philosophy. It needs to be revisited from time to time to reinforce what’s been successful, and tweak what hasn’t.

seo copywriting,copywriting,content management,content maintenance

Content Management: The Triple Q System

Content management doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow our Triple Q System for a smoother content management strategy.

Content mangement can be daunting to professionals new to online marketing. Developing your brand message can be challenging enough, never mind the any number of ways you need to convey it.

This is where a content management strategy comes in handy.

But when developing one, many businesses fall flat, only because content marketing is relatively new to the online world. It wasn’t that long ago when keyword stuffing was a the way to get your website noticed, but with Google changing the search rules (for the better, I should add), businesses now need to make sure that their content is fresh, relevant, and of great quality.

To make things a little easier, I developed the Triple Q System. It’s geared to make content management a little easier for those wondering how to go about it:

Quality: Quality refers to a few things. First of all, content should be engaging, well written, and free from any spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Secondly, quality refers to content that is rich in keywords and properly optimized for search engines, so your content gets found by your audience. Lastly, quality content is written in a language and tone that your readers can relate to, using a voice that addresses their interests on a level they can understand.

Quantity: How much is too much? How often should you add new content? The answers to these questions are subjective, and opinions differ vastly. It really depends on the type of business you’re in. For example, many professionals claim that adding fresh content twice a month is the perfect cycle for business services. On the other hand, businesses that deal in consumer goods might add new content several times per day. The key is regularity: make a schedule and stick to it. You shouldn’t go for weeks with no new content and then publish several articles all in one day.

Quantify: Here’s where analytics plays a large role. Which topics are people reading, liking, and commenting on? Which topics are people linking to, but not engaging with? It’s great to have a wide variety of material, but if you’re creating content that isn’t capturing your audience, why continue to create it? Stick with topics that delight your visitors, and are motivating them to click through to other pages on your site. Remember that website visitors should always feel they’ve learned something from your content, thus encouraging repeat visits.

How many of these “Q”s do you use? Try them out, and let me know how the system works in the comments below!

FAQ Page

Your FAQ Page: An Added Opportunity for Conversion

You might not feel you need an FAQ page, but having one gives you another opportunity to attract, engage, and convert customers.

Here’s how to optimize yours.

Do you have an FAQ page? If so, are you using it to its full potential?

FAQ pages are great ways to inform your audience about important information they need when doing business with you. You can, however, use your FAQ page as a strategic marketing tool to convert more website visitors into qualified leads.

Think about it. People who invest their time to read your FAQ page are doing so for a reason: they’re interested in doing business with you. Why not just give them a little extra push to move them through their sales journey, and develop a relationship that could make you money?

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#onlinemarketing #digitalmarketing #FAQpage”]Optimize your FAQ Page for Conversion [/tweetthis]

Here are some ideas for optimizing your FAQ page for conversion:

  1. Use Real Questions: What do your customers ask you about the most? Maybe they want to know about your team’s experience, return policy, or what certain industry terms mean. Just like the rest of your site, only include the most relevant information here.
  2. Include Keywords and Links: Be sure to include lots of keywords on your page, as well as internal and external links where the reader can go to learn more information.
  3. Encourage Engagement: Even though you’ve included all the FAQs you could think of, there will always be some prospects who will ask more. This is a great reason to include a call to action at the bottom of the page, encouraging inquisitive folks to submit their own question. Be sure to personally answer them ASAP to start them on their sales journey.
  4. Use Landing Pages: One of the questions might be solved with a white paper you’ve written. Include the link to its landing page in your answer.
  5. Watch the Length: More isn’t always better when it comes to content, and FAQ pages are no exception. If your FAQ page is too long, your reader might give up halfway down. For longer pages, try installing a search function or hyperlinks to the answers.

You need every chance you can get to convert your audience. By optimizing your FAQ page, you’ll be giving your business an extra chance to attract, engage, and convert website visitors into qualified leads.

about me page

Your About Me Page: A No-Résumé Zone

Your About Me page should tell your story in a way that delights your audience. But if it reads more like a résumé, let’s reimagine it.

Anyone who knows me has heard my one unbreakable rule when creating an About Me page: “It’s not really about me, it’s about the customer.” Pretty simple, right? Or is that easier said than done?

Many of my clients find writing about themselves to be a challenge. I understand what they go through, as I’ve struggled with it myself. Is it because we know ourselves so well that we lose perspective on the more compelling aspects of our lives? Possibly.

If we fail to recognize this, we risk creating an About Me page that resembles a résumé in the form of a cover letter. Unless your readers work in HR or recruitment, it won’t make for an engaging read. In the end, you’ll be just listing your career experience, credentials, and passions. That might not sound too bad, but everyone else has those too. So how do you stand out?

The key to a great About Me page is to recognize that you DO have a unique, compelling story. We just need to flush it out.

The No-Résumé Zone

Many people craft their About Me page like a résumé, thinking that doing so will attract customers. While it’s true that these are all important parts of a successful whole, they’re not the bottom line when trying to grow your business. In fact, I would argue that these factors fall further down the list than most might think.

Let’s take education, for example. The fact that you hold multiple degrees from Harvard may read well, but doesn’t necessarily mean you can understand your customers’ problems. Conversely, a well-written story that demonstrates how relatable you are might impress your audience more.

You may have heard of these wildly successful people:

  • David Karp (founder of Tumblr)
  • Richard Branson (founder of Virgin)
  • Mike Hudak (founder of Blip.tv)
  • Vidal Sassoon (hair products magnate)

No one would ever dispute their professional credentials today. However, if you judge them solely by their academic achievements, you might not consider them hireable.

Why? Because these professionals, like many others, never finished high school. And we didn’t even expand this list to include famous college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Napster founder Shawn Fanning.

Make no mistake, great credentials are important. But when it comes to your About Me page, a compelling story is even more important. And these guys have some great ones.

[tweetthis]Why your About Me Page is a No-Résumé Zone: #digitalmarketing #onlinemarketing #contentmarketing[/tweetthis]

Building Your New Story

There’s an old saying in writing: “Show, Don’t Tell”. In short, show me what you’re trying to say, don’t just tell me.

In my case, instead of just declaring my passion for writing, I talked about my first novel, which I self-published at 11 years old. The story grew from there. I didn’t dwell on that first book; rather I spoke about how using words to touch people moved me, and how that feeling still persists today.

In other words, we don’t want live in the past, but we do want to reference our humble beginnings as a starting point in our career.

Are you a restauranteur who started with a lemonade stand? A mechanic who disassembled and rebuilt a lawnmower as a child? A software developer who envisioned improvements to Atari in its heyday? Start from there, and tell us about it. We promise to read with interest.

Connecting to Now

The idea is to apply all the compelling elements of your life into your overall story without making them the focus. Now that we’ve established your beginning point, let’s connect it to how you’ve grown, and where you are now.

Start by asking yourself these three questions:

  • What was my “Aha!” moment, when I decided to turn my childhood passion into a career
  • What sets me apart from my competition?
  • Looking back, what was the biggest lesson I learned?

The restauranteur who started out running a lemonade stand might answer the questions this way:

  • When my customers complimented my lemonade and sunny disposition
  • Understanding what customers want, and finding a way to provide it
  • That when you work hard, and treat people well, good things happen

Although these answers might seem glib and simplistic, they can be used to create an overall theme that clearly demonstrates your enthusiasm, customer-focus, and forward-thinking attitude that will resonate with your audience. People love stories, especially those of the rags-to-riches type, as they demonstrate the dreams that so many have themselves.

Final Wise Words

I could go on and on to provide tips and insights on writing a great About Me page. But when you get right down to it, you can be as compelling and engaging as can be, but without this last bit of wisdom, all of your efforts will be for naught.

That last bit of wisdom is to be authentic. Always.