You Have Top-5 Rankings, but Your Business Isn’t Growing… so Where Are the Buyers?

Are you tired of waiting?

In a smaller town or suburban centre, it can be fairly easy to dominate your market, because the competition is very low. Your site can pick up top-5 search engine rankings without even working for them. And if you like, you can increase your exposure with AdWords.

But what do you do, if you’re still not getting enough business, even as the biggest fish in a small pond?

1. You could settle for the business volume you have. If you’re the local florist, there are only so many people that will think about sending flowers on any given day. There are only so many weddings, graduations, funerals, and holidays. If it pays the bills, maybe that’s all you need.

2. Another approach is to target other neighbouring communities, or the closest city. (And we have some effective strategies for doing just that.) If you’re the local plumber, there are only so many toilets to unplug, drains to unclog and new construction to plumb. If you want more business, you may have to expand into someone else’s backyard.

3. Or, you could expand your local customer base in your home town. Let’s say you’re the local kitchen retailer. At some point, everyone who wants a premium set of cookware or a knife set, already has one. Within a few years, the locals have everything they “need,” but there’s still plenty of opportunity in showing them things they will “want.”

Search engine rankings and AdWords are passive

Search marketing is effective only when your target audience is motivated to conduct a search. It’s like the old Yellow Pages book everyone once had beside the phone. You have to wait for people to think of you.

Our plumber, above, has to wait for the kid to flush the doll down the toilet. The roofer waits for a storm to make roofs leak. And the wedding photographer waits for John to propose to Becky.

On the day something triggers the thought in your customer’s mind, there’s nothing like top search engine rankings and paid search. You should definitely optimize your website and pursue top rankings. But to expand your customer base you will also have to find a way to become top of mind to all the people that aren’t normally thinking about you and what you sell.

Passive internet marketing

When I was a boy, I would dig up some worms in Mom’s garden, pack up my fishing rod and head to Mill Lake, plop my hook in the water and watch the bobber. I’d wait… and wait… and wait… Most days I’d skunk. Search marketing can often be just like that.

Active online marketing

In 1993 I watched A River Runs Through It and was inspired by the Maclean brothers’ active approach to fishing. There was a strategy behind it.

These anglers studied the fish species and examined the hatch. They spent a day hand tying flies. They brought a selection of flies in their box and chose one of the same size and colour as the ones the fish were biting on. A notebook held a log of the pools in the river that had produced fish in the past.

Active internet marketing

They then carefully presented the fly, drifting it without any drag, through the pool the fish were holding in. With skill and persistence, and a bit of experimentation, a fish would eventually rise to take the fly, and the battle began. After expertly playing the fish, it would finally be placed gently in the wicker creel.

Wow, this was a lot more effective than watching a bobber all day! I never used the passive approach again.

Every day, millions of website owners check their websites traffic stats several times. Grrr! Why are there no emails or calls? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a waiting game.

Content marketing is just like fly fishing. We carefully study our ideal customer. We find out what they’re interested in and where they hang out on the web. And then we craft content just for them.

We become involved in the places we know they’re hanging out. We present our content and engage with our audience. Tantalizing information and new ideas draw them to our blog, and tempt them into giving us their contact information on our landing pages.

We reel them in by providing brilliant content by email, nurturing our leads until they become buyers.

So where do you start?

I completed a consultation a few months ago with a client in a small community. They owned a costume rental and party store. Six years earlier, when the store opened, they were a novelty, and business was booming. But the novelty had long since worn off. Halloween sales were good, and the odd masquerade party brought in a bit of business. Long story, made short, they were in trouble.

I’ll just cover a few broad strokes, but the content strategy I laid out involved making their customers the stars. They were doing a bit of blogging and social media. But, as is so often the case, it was all shameless self promotion. Yuck! Who follows that?

I advised them to begin posting ‘case study’ posts following every customer party or event. We set up a cross promotion campaign in which a local photographer provides a free photo shoot of each party. Another set of images goes to the party organizers, so they can hit the social circuit. Their customers just loved it. Our posts include photo credits, with links, so the photography cost our clients nothing.

Our posts are magazine-style, full page spreads, with big in-your-face masonry wall galleries and video. Lots of photos of people having fun and getting a bit crazy. We promote the posts through all the major social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram.

We track social shares and local party goers could earn a discount on costumes and party supplies simply by sharing our posts. Their customers, attendees of the parties, and people who want to be invited to the next one, became their marketing team.

We have introduced a Murder Mystery Night marketing campaign, and it’s starting to take off.

Final thoughts

If you’re tired of waiting for people to think of you, why not reach out to them through content?

If you have any questions, I welcome your comments; or send me an email.

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Are You Optimizing Your Real Estate Career With Google?

optimizing-real-estate-career-with-google

When I first speak with new clients about their online marketing, and mention Google, I’ll often I hear comments that suggest we’re discussing “the enemy,” the greedy monopoly that has allegedly been robbing them of their justly deserved traffic, leads and sales.

Disparaging comments about Google do help discourage real estate professionals from pursuing Google traffic and assist some service providers in signing agents up for their monthly services.

It’s been my experience that Google can be a top producer’s best kept secret. And we’re not just discussing search engine rankings, which incidentally are usually far more attainable than is generally believed.

Top-5 search positioning

Google SearchAccording to Search Engine Watch, 32.5% of the clicks go to the #1 ranked site for a Google search term. 17.6% go to #2, 11.4% to #3, 8.1% to #4 and only 6.1% to #5. If you add those up, 75.7% of Google’s traffic is sent to the top 5 ranking positions. As Ricky Bobby put it, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

I’ve heard reps for IDX and other SaaS services “enlighten” real estate professionals, at real estate “marketing seminars” (sales presentations), that search engine rankings no longer matter in this millennium. And there’s actually a morsel of truth to that.

For example: The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board today boasts a membership of over 11,000 agents. Do the math. Less than 1% of those agents will be ever be listed in Google’s top-5.

Online marketers joke that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google’s search results. Whether your site shows on page 2 of the search engine results, or page 846, chances are you’ll never be found.

But things aren’t nearly as hopeless as those stats suggest. Google is looking for high quality relevant content to put on the first page of its search results. Every geographic region offers these prize top-5 positions on Google, for serious real estate experts desiring to dominate their market.

Over the years I’ve conducted thousands of keyword searches, only to discover the first agent often is only listed way down on the third or even the fifth page. How could this be? Typically at the top are news sites, local directories, brokerage firms and community sites.

While it’s true that if every real estate pro executed a brilliant content strategy perfectly, there would still only be five top-5 positions for a particular local keyword search term, it’s rare to find anyone actually going after these powerful traffic builders. Weird, right?  I’ve often read that many of the most drop-dead gorgeous girls rarely get asked out because most men believe they’re beyond reach. That’s my take on this phenomenon. What a missed opportunity!

Most real estate professionals set up a site with IDX (branded as MLS Reciprocity in lower BC), with a regurgitated version of the same standard pages everyone else has on their site and then they wait. And wait. And wait some more.

But here’s the thing: It’s unrealistic to expect to surpass the sea of competitors by doing the very same things they are doing.  Not going to happen.

AdWords

google-adwordsGoogle Adwords ads are a very effective way to give your site a rapid boost, if done correctly. It’s possible to begin receiving qualified leads in as little as 48 hours of setting up your first campaign.

It should be noted that high conversion landing pages and the overall quality of the content the ads link to influence your Quality Score, affecting your costs and return on investment. In other words, those who invest more into doing AdWords right, also reap greater rewards.

The largest international audience of home buyers

Google AndroidBusiness analysts tell us 60% of all web traffic now comes from mobile.  In recognition of this shift to mobile, Google introduced their Mobile-Friendly algorithm April 21st of this year.

One in every 5 people around the world now owns a smartphone, while only one in every 17 own a tablet. Providing an amazing experience for smartphone users has become critical to your success.

If more than half of all Internet traffic is mobile, what devices are these people using? Google Android and Apple iOS devices hold 96.3% of mobile market share. According to stats published by IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, February 24, 2015, 81.5% of mobile traffic is using the Google Android operating system. I’ve read articles that claim the iPhone 6 has been a runaway success, and Android dominance may only be 74.6% now, but the fact remains that Android smartphones have won by a landslide.

So, not only do we rely on Google for most of our search traffic; Google powers the lion’s share of our prospective clients’ devices.

Granted, in your local professional circle there may be more iPhone users, but that is certainly not the case globally. If you also target international buyers it’s in your best interest to cultivate a healthy love for the green droid. If you’re considering making some changes on your responsive website, one of the first questions to the webmaster/designer should be, “And how will it look on an Android smartphone or tablet?”

Google Analytics

Google AnalyticsWhile not the most feature-rich of the traffic analytics solutions, Google Analytics does provide invaluable traffic data for website owners, and the price is unbeatable: it’s free.

If you’re not tracking your website’s performance with Google Analytics, don’t let the sun go down without setting that up. Web analytics are the most direct way of measuring the effectiveness of any changes you make to your internet marketing strategy. It’s been said, “You can’t fix it, if you don’s know what’s broke.”

Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster ToolsGoogle Webmaster Tools is the Swiss Army Knife of personal brand SEO, generating a range of data that will help you build an intelligent SEO campaign.

As the name suggests, these tools are geared towards professional webmasters, but with some study they can be mastered by real estate website owners as well.

You can discover how Google views your site, who’s linking to you, the keywords Google ranks you for, your internal linking effectiveness, subscriber stats, whether the site’s software includes malware and many other useful facts.

Gmail

GmailI advise my real estate clients to use their domain-based email address when communicating with clients and other agents. (ie: [email protected] or [email protected]) This will earn you top marks for credibility and reinforce your brand.

For everything else, use Gmail. Your Gmail address is your master key  to Google Calendar, the Google office apps, Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdWords, Google+, your blog’s authorship account and YouTube.

Google+

Google+Many agents still consider Facebook to be the top social media channel for real estate. For reaching buyers and sellers, Facebook pages have proven their worth.

Facebook has some annoying restrictions that can hurt business. For example: fan pages can only be created from a personal account. So much for keeping your personal life and real estate business somewhat separate. You’re only allowed to ask personal “friends” to become a fan or “Like” your business page. You can’t communicate with fans outside the Facebook fan page, and as the admin, you aren’t permitted to communicate as yourself on your real estate fan page.

Google+ is arguably a better community builder. On G+ you can just reach out to people and invite them into your circles. It makes it a lot easier to connect with prospects you don’t personally know.

I still recommend building some rapport by being genuinely helpful, before the invite, but you’re not going to be blocked, the way Facebook handles it, for sending out friend requests to people who don’t know from university, your church or the lodge.

Google Hangouts offers new opportunities for sitting around the virtual boardroom with international buyers, to negotiate a deal.

Using your public wall or feed for promoting your listings is not a good idea, unless only about 1 out of 10 posts are all about you and what you’re selling. But every sizable real estate area has some excellent Google+ Groups set up for local agents to share new listings and network. (And if there aren’t any yet, you should consider setting one up.) Your new listing blasts are actually welcome and expected in many of these professional groups :-).

Google+ Local is a godsend to real estate. If you’re publishing regular hyper-local content on your site, and promoting it in Google+, your G+ post is almost a shoe-in for a free Google+ listing on Google’s first page of results.

YouTube

YouTubeYouTube has become the top video research destination for home shoppers. And while you can blast your new listing virtual tours on YouTube, YouTube supports a far nobler purpose.

What an incredible opportunity for you to take potential local home buyers out to see your community. Almost every agent in your geographic area will be jabbering on to visitors about how they have their finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in your community. You’re actually taking the time to show them your community. If new zoning has been approved that will impact local real estate, why not announce it the following day, standing in front of the land just as a top reporter would. Be the first to announce any new development in your community. Within a year your site can be the place people go to find out what’s happening in your locale.

In other words, don’t talk about being the buyers’ eyes and ears… actually be their eyes and ears. It elevates you well above the rest of the noise.

Google Maps

Google MapsTo “out content” the rest of the agents in your area, your content just needs to be “more local.” Hyperlocal marketing is real estate’s secret weapon on the web.

If you’re creating a series of pages covering the local schools in your area, Google Maps enables you to show people exactly where they are. Visitors to your site can see where the medical facilities are in relation to the home they’re considering. Your on-site listings (and you should have these, in addition to IDX) can show the location of a home, and its proximity to important amenities and local features.

Let’s face it; the MLS listings that appear on all the local real estate sites are pretty much the same. Fancy filtering of results and cool search interfaces can only go so far in re-packaging the very same information. So if the inventory is the same, you have the opportunity to win them over with your knowledge, as demonstrated through the quality of information you provide.

Chrome browser

Google Chrome browserGoogle’s browser is blazingly quick. For the professional, time is money, and over the  year you could literally save a day or two with Chrome.

Chrome processes HTML, CSS and JavaScript code faster, a definite consideration when displaying resource-hogging MLS pages. If you’ve ever encountered server time-out errors, scouring IDX for just that right property, switching to Chrome can be a lifesaver.

With Chrome, one familiar interface fits all. Whether you’re on a Windows PC, a Mac, iOS or Android device, Chrome delivers the same familiar and efficient interface.

Chrome doesn’t freeze up or crash like the other browsers because of its multiprocess architecture. Every tab, window, and plug-in runs in its own environment. If something does go wrong, only one process is terminated and Chrome’s still available.

As Internet Explorer’s market share continues to decline, Google has climbed firmly into second place at 25.68%.

Universal document formats: Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms

Google Docs, Sheets & SlidesSome of the greatest office tools out there — with cloud sharing through Google Drive — come from Google. And they’re all free.

Google makes it super simple to share documents with your clients online. Just select the document and click the big blue share button. That’s it!

Rather than hoping prospective buyers and sellers — or agents you’re working with to close the deal — also have the latest version of Microsoft Office, so they can open your documents, you can relax. It’s a web app, so if they have a browser and an internet connection, they can open any document you send them.

I recently had a real estate broker argue that using something other than Microsoft was just plain unprofessional. To my way of thinking, sending them documents they can’t open, because they haven’t invested in the very latest software from Redmond, could be a costly mistake.

If you click the top left printer icon, one of the options is “Save to Google Drive”. Once automatically converted to PDF format and sent, apps exist for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android, that enable the recipients of your documents to sign them and return them by email (or fax).

Apps

Google AppsBoth the Google Play store and iTunes App Store list many powerful apps that help you leverage the full power of Google: Google, YouTube, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Chrome, Google Drive… to name only a few official apps. And there are hundreds of 3rd party apps that enhance the power of your Google ID.

Final thoughts

Despite what you may have heard, Google’s not the enemy. They have become a hugely successful company by being more helpful than their competition. And they offer a powerful set of tools to help you grow your business.

I hope you feel inspired to give at least one more Google tool a try. I welcome your comments and questions.

Whitewolf WordPress Care

How Does Your Website’s Design Rate?

Responsive web design, Vancouver, BC

Your website has no intrinsic value

Web designers around the globe just fainted. :-) That’s right; your website has no value simply because it exists. Let’s face it, people don’t  search for your site to ooh and aah over the design.

Your site’s purpose is to present extremely valuable, relevant and compelling content that connects people with your brand, products and services. Your content must solve a problem and/or deliver on the promise to improve their lives in some way.

Every week there are more providers giving away attractive template-based websites. Web design has become viewed as a cheap commodity. For a small business, renting a site from Squarespace, for only $24 a month, represents an incredible value. But considering the mediocre content and limited traffic that site will probably see, and the pathetic conversions, the owners might as well go with a free provider like WIX. Many hosting companies include free website builder apps.

Don’t get me wrong; you can get an attractive, functional website for free — or practically free— from WIX and Squarespace. In their space, those companies rock. The fact that there’s no content strategy is no fault of the computer-generated website provider.

And you can buy a box of nicely printed business cards from VistaPrint for only $10. Just like the business cards that likely will never see the light of day, if all your website represents is a checkmark on a to-do list, or an expense on the balance sheet, cheaper is definitely better.

For some business owners, sharing a popular, very recognizable template design with thousands of other businesses isn’t going to provide adequate brand identification, so they send out an RFP to all the local talent pool. Local web designers find themselves working for less and less, bidding their way down in these highly competitive races to the bottom. Needless to say, commoditization and underpaid artisans has led to some very uninspired semi-custom work.

To win the bid, most designers quote with extremely thin margins, so as many off-the-rack components as possible will usually be sourced and  installed. “Semi-custom” generally means a popular template has been modified to partially fit the application.

The RFP typically specifies some examples of sites the client likes, and a list of the features that must appear on the site. References are made to the improved results they are hoping for from the new “design.” Work begins, the new design is then approved and built, and the client’s content is hastily entered into the pages.

And then everyone waits for incoming leads or online sales to pick up. Alas, they don’t, and the stakeholders reflect that it’s a good thing they didn’t pay very much for the site.

I know… there must be a better way, right.

Your website should be your greatest business asset

An effective website contributes to profit, not overhead.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Steve Jobs

For most sites, the design process is completely ass backwards. It begins with the design. Content is then made to fit into the design. Later, when the results disappoint, some thought may finally be given to the reasons the site is failing to connect with the audience and produce buyers.

  1. A website that performs well and delivers a solid return on investment begins with the user. Audience personas are clearly defined at the get-go.
  2. A content strategy is then created to engage with that audience and convert casual visitors into subscribers. More content will be rolled out to move subscribers through the sales funnel. Even after your visitors complete an action that makes them your customers, valuable content will keep your brand top of mind for years.
  3. Once you know who you’re building the website for, the content you will be publishing, and how the site will be used, it’s time to design an awesome platform for presenting your valuable content to your audience.

Final thoughts

When you send out an RFP, you’re buying a commodity; not a dedicated innovator and highly creative marketer. You get an underpaid follower instead of a leader that can take your business places.

Your customers are unique. The content that will connect with your audience is unique. Ergo, you need a custom website that clearly differentiates you and your brand from everybody else, and delivers a very unique and custom user experience.

Effective websites are built to blueprint, based upon a marketing strategy created specifically for the prospective buyers and the content that will turn that audience into buyers.

There is an immutable law that states that we get exactly what we pay for in life. Business owners will toss up a cheap recycled design, that doesn’t really consider the customer, with some mediocre content, and then appear genuinely surprised when customers don’t beat a path to their door. It’s unreasonable, of course, to expect the most — in traffic, subscribers, fresh leads and new customers — while investing the very least.

For many people, your website will make the first real impression. It’s not the place to cut corners.

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Content Marketing’s Essential Role in Earning Search Engine Rankings

Content marketing services, Vancouver

Are search engine rankings still important?

According to a study by MOZ in July 2014, 31.24% of Google’s click-through traffic goes to the #1 ranked page in the search results. #2 gets 14.04%, #3 9.85%, #4 6.97% and #5 receives 5.5%. A quick tally reveals that 67.6% of the traffic goes to the top 5 ranked pages. Rankings 6 through 10 only enjoy a paltry 3.73%.

And only 3.99% of Google click-through traffic goes to web pages listed on the 2nd page of Google search results. It’s been said that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google’s search results.

If you want to be found online, you still want to be in the top 5 search engine results on Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Is creating “valuable” content mandatory? Can’t you just hire an SEO to work their optimization magic?

A few years back, you could hire an SEO (search engine optimization professional) to build a bunch of links for you, add some meta tagging, throw in a few keywords and secure top rankings without creating any quality content.

Google has a mission: to serve up the most relevant content possible for a user’s search term. Sending searchers to low quality or nonexistent content, just because the website owners were able to purchase or trade links, or stuff pages with keywords, failed search engine users. It was a serious problem, and Google fixed that issue with Panda and Penguin.

Google still values organic links that have been earned through high quality, valuable content, but the old workarounds and tricks won’t get you to the top any more.

Top search engine rankings today must be earned

A search engine’s job is to determine user intent. What is the searcher really trying to find? Content is therefore indexed in a descending order of relevance. So how do search engines determine relevance?

The relevance and quality of the page is determined to a large degree by engagement. Do visitors the search engines send stay on your page for a while, or “bounce” right back to try again? Do they click on links to other pages within the website? Do they share the content with others through social channels? Are people linking to your page, recommending it as a resource others should check out?

90% of all organizations now use content marketing. You can’t avoid it and consider yourself competitive.

Content marketing is a strategic approach to giving search engines exactly what they want to put at very the top in their order of relevance. It involves creating and distributing extremely valuable content your audience craves — information that is relevant and up to date — and publishing fresh information consistently. The audience is clearly defined and the objective is to influence these people towards an action that makes them your customer, by being helpful, rather than openly selling.

If you own a website, like it or not, you are a publisher. You need to create value, engagement and relevance. Putting up a few pages of static marketing propaganda that is all about you, your products and your services, just doesn’t get it done.

You will probably want to have a content marketing professional map out a strategy that will effectively reach your target audience. He or she can help you determine what content needs to be produced, where it will be published, how it will be distributed and the channels through which it will be promoted.

An editorial schedule will be prepared, that frequently balances in-house content creation with professionally written copy. An accompanying sales funnel strategy covers lead generation and nurturing, and the method that will be used to measure results. It’s a science.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Achieving the goals of a content marketing strategy is a serious undertaking. It requires a full buy-in for a minimum of 6 months. Returns will often begin to show between 4 and 7 months (longer on brand new domains).

The importance of a website that presents your content well to mobile devices

More than half of Internet traffic now comes from smart phones and tablets.

With Google’s February 26th announcement of the mobile-friendly algorithm they are rolling out, you’ll want to verify that your site is fully responsive. Businesses have until April 21st to get their sites mobile-ready. Leading digital marketing experts believe that Google’s mobile-friendly update will have a greater impact on search engine positioning than Panda or Penguin.

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

A site designed with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries…

Wikipedia

Brilliant content needs a superb, fully responsive content presentation platform in order to shine.

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Why Most Websites Will Never Deliver a Return on Investment

Web design return on investment

Revenue focused design generates leads and sales

I‘m a copywriter and content marketer. I believe that great web design delivers epic content in a way that makes it extremely valuable to both prospective customers and search engines. We view websites as “content presentation platforms”, the foundation for the entire strategy. Deliver the right content, at the right time, with appropriate calls to action, and magic happens.

In 2015, Google’s “animal” algorithm updates (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) have made SEO a content play. In the past, business owners advertised in newspapers and magazines, leveraging outside media. Today, companies must publish the media themselves.

A Complete Solution

Quality content, a positive user experience (UX), top search engine positioning, paid search, social engagement, traffic and conversion are all extremely important in achieving your business goals and a solid Return On your Investment.

A website that is not mobile friendly (responsive), takes a long time to load, has terrible search engine rankings, or is difficult/expensive to maintain, simply is not a good design, even when the owner believes it’s drop-dead gorgeous, and they “got exactly what they wanted.” Clients around the globe fire web designers that delivered their wish list to the letter, every single day. But why? Very simple… after the thrill of seeing their personal vision materialize on a screen passes — usually within weeks — sales figures tell the very real and ugly tale.

At the end of the day, capitalism trumps art. Small business websites aren’t displayed in a gallery. We don’t put them on the mantle to impress friends and family. They are marketing tools, built to grow your business. If you don’t receive a return on your investment, the site’s crap! What you want is a effective design, built upon proven online marketing strategies.

With a strategic website re-design we have the opportunity to convert an “expense” entry on your balance sheet into an all-star revenue generator.

What is good web design?

Effective websites focus on an ROI strategy, and responsible design contributes to profit, not overhead. Aesthetics are highly subjective, so we choose to focus on results first.

Content must be findable, and visitors need to be called to action before they ‘bounce’ from your site.

To rank well on search engines, your site will need to be fast loading. It should be responsive, or have a mobile version, so that it will provide a quality user experience across multiple browsers, devices and computer platforms.

To future-proof your investment, we build your custom websites on a secure, rock solid, SEO-friendly framework. Styling is therefore independent of core code, so future software upgrades won’t negatively impact the design or functionality.

Your content will be very easy for you to update and maintain, should you be so inclined. If you write and edit your own copy and blog posts, we offer comprehensive step-by-step video tutorials, screencast from edits made on your own site. Most of our clients, however, choose to have us maintain their websites and develop valuable content for them each month.

Why most websites suck at lead generation

The late Steve Jobs often stated that design has little to do with the way things look, and everything to do with the way they “work.” It’s a philosophy that has served Apple very well.

Most websites lose money for their owners because they, either start off from a client-centric approach, or somewhere in the process the project is derailed. The client hijacks the creative process, to achieve a certain look and feel, and push features that aren’t good for the brand, and tried and proven online marketing advice is tossed right out the window. The website becomes a channel for the client’s artistic expression, and the so-called designer’s advisory role is downgraded to nothing more than labor for hire. Everyone loses when that happens: the audiences must put up with a substandard experience, the client never receives the outcomes they hoped for, and the designer ends up with a short-term unhappy client, even if they are praised up and down on launch day.

Sadly, very few “web designers” actually design anything their entire careers… their clients do. Most of the websites out there are designed by business owners who are experts in their own field, but rank amateurs at internet marketing. These rookie-designed websites become “the problem” SEO professionals are expected to magically work around as best they can. Website owners will often have one site built, after another, hoping to get it right the next time. Unfortunately, the real “designer” on each project has always been the same person, even if the face of the developer has changed several times.

The bottom line: if “web designers” are to be held accountable for quality results, and a return on investment, these marketing professionals must actually be permitted to design a profitable, high ranking/traffic, user-friendly site from the ground up. And good design will be part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy to live up to its potential.

The vast majority of web designers are graphic artists — not sales and marketing experts — and they have little or no hope of building a lead-generating sales machine for you. I believe that this is a valid question for a graphic artist: “If you have never been in sales, or even advertising, how can you possibly design and build a website that effectively sells my products and/or services?” The best web designers are hard ass marketers.

Whitewolf WordPress Care

Owning a Website Doesn’t Automatically Bring in Business any more Than Owning a Box of Business Cards

Social media evangelism, Vancouver, BC

How do we make business cards work for us?

Everyone knows that a box of business cards on the desk does absolutely nothing for personal branding, self promotion or driving sales.

To make business cards work for us, we have to get off our butt, network with people, smile warmly, engage our new friends and then exchange cards. Going straight into a pitch at a business luncheon would surely drive everyone away, so we show genuine interest in the other attendees and their businesses.

Following the meeting we’ll follow up with an email, expressing how great it was to have met them. It is then appropriate to Like their Facebook page and connect on LinkedIn. It is the beginning of a relationship in which we’ll find out more about our prospects and look for opportunities to tactfully demonstrate our value to them in each interaction.

Our hope is that our new friends will refer back to our business card to find out more about us, and hopefully add us into their contact management software.

Business cards are only effective when we distribute them and actively network with prospective customers.

Websites work when we do the same things

Failure to distribute and promote your content is just like keeping a box of business cards on your desk. Nothing will come of it. Very few people go searching for product or service brochures to read. These days, it’s difficult even to gain search engine rankings without an active blog and regular social media engagement.

Sadly, when many business owners come to this realization, they go about it all wrong. Blog and social media posts become channels for shameless product, service and self promotion. Nobody likes braggarts who toot their own horn. Yuck! And they don’t trust them either.

Customers buy from people they like and trust. And they invest in products and services they believe will genuinely improve the quality of their life (make them happier in some way). People will occasionally purchase on the spot, when there’s a desperate need. But most of the time, they’ve been engaged with the seller for a while before making the decision to invest.

Nature is formed for the advancement of life; its impelling motive is the increase of life.

– Wallace D. Wattles

Do you provide value? Do your prospects feel that their life has advanced in some way as a result of having met you online? Or do they believe you’re just one more annoying salesperson trying to make a buck at their expense?

Final thoughts

Business cards only work when they are distributed and you engage with people. To keep business cards from going straight into the bin, the person behind that card needs to be likable, inspire trust and demonstrate value.

Your blog provides an unparalleled opportunity to provide helpful tips and solutions to your readers’ questions and point(s) of pain. You have the occasion to edify and inspire, then distribute and promote your valuable content through social channels. It’s your chance to be likeable, inspire trust and build irresistible value.

Whitewolf WordPress Care

Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 4)

Business blogging, Vancouver, BC

In the third post in this series, we covered the distribution and promotion of your blog posts. If you have a decent following in the “big 4” social media networks, you should see a nice spike in traffic every time a new post goes out.

If your website has been designed to capitalize on your blog traffic, you should pick up some direct leads as a result of your traffic, but the real value in business blogging is in your list. You have the opportunity to provide more helpful information to your audience every week or two by email, gently influencing their purchasing decisions for months and even years to come.

It’s not about how much traffic you get. It’s about how much traffic you keep.

Statistically, only 0.5% of your visitors will ever return. But, if you can get them on your email list, you can increase that to 50%. You can gain in 2 months, the consistent traffic it would take 17 years to build, just by getting visitors to opt-in.

– Jon Morrow

In this post I’ll talk about getting your audience to willingly subscribe to your email list.

Getting your blog readers onto your email list

1. Set up your list. There are quite a few list building services out there, and I’ve worked with several in my client work. But hands down, I would recommend AWeber. If you haven’t set up your list yet, do it today (or get your content marketing agency on it). Seriously, waiting until you get around to it just means things will stay the same.

2. Give them an irresistible reason to subscribe. You’ll see a lot of websites ask for subscriptions with: “Sign up for our newsletter.” Lame!! Nobody wants another newsletter clogging their inbox.

Create a beautiful ebook that targets one of your audience personas. In the example in the second post in this series, I subscribed to an automotive retailer’s list in order to receive “6 Things You Can Do to Significantly Increase the Life of Your Car.” I was a regular reader of their blog and they created a content piece I wanted to have.

You will need a landing page. The landing page should sell your reader on the ebook. The ebook should be visually appealing (stunning) and an image of it will appear on the landing page.

One or two paragraphs, and perhaps a few bullet points, should summarize why your target reader absolutely needs this ebook to lead a meaningful life. :-) Seriously though, they must have it. The form, located to the left or right of the copy, subscribes them to your list, by the CASL-approved double opt-in process.

The thank you email they receive after they click the verification link provides a link to download your ebook. This is all handled by AWeber.

It’s vital that the ebook impresses the socks off your new subscriber. If you’re not a great copywriter or graphic artist, hire someone that can create a first rate freemium product in PDF format. Important: If they don’t like the first ebook, they won’t want the next one.

3. Set up your CRM. One of the reasons I love AWeber is that it works so well with Gravity Forms and other form solutions that integrate with popular CRM software solutions, like SalesForce.

Yippee! You have another subscriber. DO NOT call your new member as soon as they sign up. They have just entered the sales funnel. Have some patience.

4. Make sure your email tips don’t disappoint. That’s right, you will be providing more helpful information by email. The last thing you want to do is spam them right back off your list with offers and obnoxious marketing. The unsubscribe link at the bottom of each email you send out only requires a single click. (You get to include an offer on every tenth email… that’s it.)

So what should you put into your posts? If you’re blogging regularly, create tantalizing intros to your latest posts, complete with photos. In addition to distribution and promotion by social media, your list notifies readers of your latest posts.

Many services, like Feedburner and Jetpack, will notify readers of new posts automatically. But if you take the time to create the HTML emails yourself (or have your content marketing people handle it) there’s an added benefit. You get to promote the next free ebook.

Each link to a “must have” ebook takes them to another landing page. And each landing page asks one or two more questions. You’re qualifying your prospect, and the answers are added into the CRM.

5. Follow up and nurture your new lead. Once your subscriber has been on the list for a while, you should have some credibility with them. They trust and value your advice.

If your follow-up offers of free ebooks are targeted, your subscribers will have downloaded several, providing you with additional information about themselves in the landing page forms. (If you are targeting several audience personas, you may want to set up and manage a list for each one.)

After a few ebook downloads, it’s appropriate to send a personal email to your prospect. Keep it light and friendly. Thank them for subscribing to your content, and offer to answer any questions they may have. That’s it… no selling.

You have some basic information about your lead in the CRM. Consider friending them on Facebook. You’ll get to know more about their interests as their friend, and can send them content you think may be of special interest from time to time.

You want to become their trusted friend and adviser. Be careful not to come across as creepy.

Final thoughts

We’ve covered quite a lot of ground, and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. I welcome your questions and comments below.

If you feel you may need some assistance in getting things set up, just set up a free 20 minute coaching call. I’d love to talk to you.

Scribe: More Traffic in Less Time

Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 3)

Vancouver blog writing services

In the second post in this series, we compared two approaches for posting to a blog and social media.

The successful content in our real life example opened with a powerful title and captivating image, and then delivered even more value to me than promised. The content was highly shareable and they prompted me to subscribe to their list in exchange for a ebook I felt I simply must have. The ebook again over-delivered, and I now find myself waiting eagerly for the next extremely helpful edition of their newsletter updates. Superb marketing!

The crash and burn example, on the other hand, was typical old school interruption marketing. They seized every opportunity to sell, sell, sell. (Their sales manager must have been so proud.) Their approach was extremely inconsiderate of my valuable time and I couldn’t click away fast enough. I did not share their brochure-style post with my readers and I certainly wasn’t stupid enough to subscribe to their list, so I could get more of their marketing hype in my inbox each week. Epic fail!

Where awesome blog posts go wrong

A small business has a new brochure printed. They’ve laboured over every word, image and placement, and finally it’s perfect, ready to go to press. The next afternoon the cartons arrive from the printer. How exciting! The heavy glossy cover stock is elegant, and they’re as impressive as visualized. A flood of leads and perhaps even a Clio seem a foregone conclusion. It’s late in the day, so they sign for the packages, then ask the delivery driver to place the boxes in the supply cupboard.

Three months later, those cartons are still on the shelves in boxes. How much value have they been to the company’s marketing? “Absolutely none,” you say. And why is that? “Duh! Because they were never distributed.” Aside from a few pulled to show to colleagues, family and friends, they never saw the light of day.

That’s exactly how your new blog post works for you without distribution and one hell of a lot of promotion… it’s totally invisible.

Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing.

– P T Barnum

You must distribute and promote your content

1. Make your content epic, so people need to share it. So what is “epic” content? My favourite definition is, it’s the best damn page on the internet for the topic and targeted keyword phrase. Take a moment to re-read the previous part of this post.

But it’s more than epic content. Every piece you post needs to count. It’s not a task to check off your to do list. (If that’s what blogging has become, you should hire a passionate blogger that can fall in love with your brand and mission.) It’s storytelling in a way that touches and compels your readers, igniting a desire to share it with someone they know immediately.

Sharing is a transference of feelings. That’s never going to happen if your reader comes away feeling nothing. The email ad that rattled off the specs of a battery left me cold, but the previous blog post example, that described the woman stranded beside the road, captured my emotions.

You’re writing 1,000+ words of actionable content that resonates with the reader persona you’ve defined. This goes well beyond fluff or even useful information. They feel you understand them, their needs, their desires and passions — you’re like them — and they believe you know how to help them solve their problem and get more out of their lives. Dare I say, there’s love evident in the post, there’s a connection, and they believe you care enough that they could actually contact you with a question.

2. Make your content ridiculously easy to share. If your blog doesn’t already have them, you want to install social media buttons that are always right by the post.

3. Share the love in order to receive it. As you research information for your blog post, take note of the influential blogs in your niche. If you begin linking to their content, and crediting the writer’s as authorities, you can expecting them to return the favour in time.

Comment on other blog posts in your niche. Adding value to another blog, by providing quality comments, is a one of the best ways to have readers on other blogs discover yours. Look for the “Luv.” If you see the CommentLuv icon below the comment fields at the bottom of post, on a WordPress site, and you’ve installed CommentLuv on yours, when you leave a comment your last post automatically receives a link for their readers to follow.

4. Email your subscriber list for instant traffic. Building your list is arguably the most important reason to have a business website. (I’ll be covering this more in the next post.) People may not check their Facebook wall within minutes of your release a blog post notification, but they will come across it in their inbox, if they have subscribed.

5. Share each post in the major social networks, with care. There is a time and place for shortcuts. I admit that I use Buffer and Hootsuite to publish time-release posts of curated content from other sites. But when I promote my own content, I believe it’s worth a few minutes of my time to get it right.

I do not understand bloggers who will research and labor over a post for hours or days, carefully choose the perfect image, proof it again several times and finally click “Publish”, to put it online. And after it’s live, they’ll edit it a dozen more times… only to bang out an automated post to several social media channels. Talk about dropping the ball only inches from the goal posts.

You may have noticed that each of the major social sites has it’s own posting criteria. A one-size-fits-all post will not be ideal for both Twitter and Google+ for example. You only have 140 characters on Twitter, so tags are usually formed out of words within the post. On Google, placing them on a line below is usually best. When linking to someone in Twitter, you use the “@“ prefix, whereas it’s “+” at Google+. G+ lets you use huge hero images that span the entire feed… you get the point. Check out SproutSocial’s post, for the most up-to-date image sizes.

6. Syndicate to other blogs to grab some of their audience. You want to begin compiling a list of other blogs in your niche that may accept syndicated content and will re-publish your posts. This allows you to tap into their audience.

7. Guest post on other blogs. This is another brilliant way to build your authority in your niche, and also an awesome way to tap into the audience of other influential blogs.

8. Re-purpose your content. As you build your content inventory, you can re-post some of your better pieces periodically, and it’s unlikely your readers will remember. You’re leveraging your existing content assets.

This is a good time to make your content better. Do you have additional information you could add to make the post more up-to-date or relevant? Can the title be made stronger? Is there a better image you could use to illustrate the post’s topic?

Final thoughts

Hard core bloggers/promoters will have a much longer list, but these 8 steps should help you get more traffic to your posts almost immediately. As you begin implementing these promotional techniques you should begin seeing a very noticeable spike in traffic within a few hours of each post.

Coming next

In the last post I’ll cover the marketing funnel and how you’re going to convert your new readers into subscribers whose buying decisions you can influence on a regular basis, with their full permission.

Scribe: More Traffic in Less Time

Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 2)

Blog writing, Vancouver, BC

In the first post in this series we looked into the primary reason old school “hit the phones” and “pound the pavement” cold calling tactics aren’t working well any more.

Sales managers are gradually coming to the realization that blogging and social media are the new way to generate leads, but they insist on having their sales team populate posts with company and product marketing propaganda. Old habits die hard and they find it difficult to believe that interrupting people’s lives with their message, and “always be closing”, don’t work in blog and social media content.

Late in November, I came across two approaches to marketing an automobile battery with high cold cranking amps.

#1 Blogging and social media done right

I subscribe to quite a few blog feeds in the Feedly app on my iPad. One of the blogs I follow provides useful automotive, household and other tips. It’s valuable information and I often share their posts with my own readers.

One of the posts showed a photo of a woman stranded in her car at night, face lit by the dim light of her flashlight. The windows were iced up and she looked cold and frightened. The title also caught my eye because it promised 8 simple things I could do to keep myself from being stranded this winter.

I’m what friends and family would call “a car guy,” but I felt I could do with a quick refresher. The article was extremely useful for people in areas where temperatures dip below freezing. It fully delivered on the promised 8 simple tips and provided a few bonus recommendations as well, like keeping an automotive cell phone charger in the glove box, and spare jacket, snow shovel and flares in the trunk.

The article was all about me, the reader. Having my battery checked, and replacing it with one with a high cold cranking amps (CCA) rating if needed, was only one of the twelve helpful tips.

At the bottom of the post there was a field that enabled me to subscribe to email updates or the RSS blog feed. There were a few links to related posts on other websites, and two internal links: one to a page on selecting snow tires and the other to a page on choosing the best winter battery. The calls to action were subtle and unoffensive. I clicked the link to the battery page and noted the make and model. I also noticed that this helpful blog was provided courtesy of a major auto parts retailer. I never suspected.

They had landed me months ago as a subscriber to their feed. And now I shared the valuable post with my readers. I was concerned about their safety during the cold winter months and believed they would value the heads up. And I was considering dashing off a quick email to my mother and sister. I didn’t want them to be the frightened, shivering women stranded beside the road on a dark night.

The numbers marketers use vary somewhat, but it takes somewhere between 3 and 7 minimal exposures to a product or service before a buyer considers taking any action. For me, this was the second exposure to this brand of battery. If my battery conked out in the next month or two, I would be more inclined to purchase theirs than any other. Why? Because they took the time to be helpful, rather than just trying to sell me something.

Curious, I located them in Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The posts included the same photo and title as the blog post. And they had been liked, retweeted and +1’d many times.

Before leaving, I downloaded their free ebook: “6 Things You Can Do to Significantly Increase the Life of Your Car”, joining their mailing list and giving them permission to gently influence my future buying decisions through helpful emails.

#2 And the old school “sell, sell, sell” approach

A few days later I was annoyed to find a spam email in my email inbox advertising car batteries from another provider. Somehow they’d written the email very carefully and it passed through my anti-spam software. Bastards! I flagged it as spam and deleted the message with disdain. Seconds later, a blog post idea began to form in my mind, so I retrieved it from the trash folder.

The message was essentially an email brochure. At the top was a heavily Photoshopped image of a car battery, with deep blue background, shrouded in a halo of lightning… straight from the battery manufacturer’s website. The copywriter had written both features and benefits, so it wasn’t half bad marketing copy. (Too bad it wasn’t on a “sales” page on their website.)

But here’s the thing… I don’t need a car battery today. I did not request this information. These inconsiderate assholes interrupted my busy day to shove a spam ad in my face. Did they influence my future purchasing decision? Hell yeah, but in a very negative way. The last battery I would ever buy would now be theirs.

I was curious, so I checked out the company’s blog. Guess what I found as the last post? Same damn ad. I checked their social media channels; same ad again. Amazing! Why would anyone who did not have a dead battery waste their time reading a “brochure” blog post?

No surprise, there were no comments on the blog posts and not a single like, retweet or +1. Do you think anyone subscribes to their blog? Can you imagine anyone deliberately adding to the useless marketing spam in their inbox?

The consistent oversell in blogging and social media is the primary reason most efforts fail. David Ogilvy’s mantra, back in the 50’s and 60’s, “We sell, or else,” translates into very ineffective blogging and social media in 2015. Times have changed.

Final thoughts

If your SEO (search engine optimization consultant) is telling you that converting manufacturers’ marketing materials into posts and white papers is getting it done, because it presents keywords to the search engines, the strategy is very shortsighted. Google notices when you have a high bounce rate, and nobody is reading your useless posts or sharing your content. They don’t reward crappy content that’s all about you, and what you sell, with top rankings.

Always ask yourself, “Is this post incredibly valuable to my readers? Will their life be better in some way after they’ve read it? Is it so good they’ll feel compelled to immediately share it?”

Coming next

In the third post in this series I’ll cover the distribution and promotion of your valuable blog content.

Scribe: More Traffic in Less Time

Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 1)

Blog writing, Vancouver, BC

Are you publishing regular blogs posts, but not getting a return on that investment?

Business blogging is a content marketing tactic that should be generating leads for you. When it’s working, every time you publish a new blog post, and distribute it through social channels, you should see an immediate and pronounced spike in traffic. Direct form responses increase, new subscribers add your RSS feed to their readers and join your email list, willingly entering your sales funnel. It’s like turning on the faucet.

So why doesn’t it play out like that for most business blogs?

Why “old school” lead strategies have dried up

Email altered the sales prospecting game forever. The discretionary time business people could spare for clever or persistent salespeople is now more than burned up each day slogging through email. Makes sense.

I often work closely with client sales teams. We recently took on a new project and I was asked to “give a short talk, to bring the sales guys up to speed with online lead generation.” The owner informed me I was penciled in for twenty minutes. I gasped… everything they needed to know about blogging, social media, the sales funnel and lead nurturing in twenty minutes? Yikes! That should only get me 6 or 7 slides into my PowerPoint.

To prepare, I asked if I could interview one of the top sales reps. I quickly discovered that his boss expected him to “blog” (whatever the hell that was) and they had been led to believe that a flood of leads would then appear in Maximizer CRM every week from then on. If only it were that simple.

He lamented that increased gatekeeper resistance had made phone marketing almost a lost cause, so he was hoping I could help revitalize his career. He appeared terrified and very confused by the new methods of lead generation.

I noticed sales award plaques on the wall and trophies on the credenza. As a former sales trainer and manager I also immediately recognized that this man knew how to qualify prospects, cultivate leads and close business. He had been a legend, and now felt humiliated and washed up. Lead generation, as he knew it, was dead and he felt really lost. I came from a similar background and was happy I could help him.

I quickly read over the three blog posts he’d prepared and discovered they were the typical old school, “always be closing” sales hype. This is business blogging at its worst. It wasn’t his fault, of course, and I now knew there was much work to be done.

Blogging is a great way to promote your business, but it cannot be “about” your business.

– Jon Morrow

This is so typical. Company owners complain bitterly that people don’t know how to sell any more. But they’re expecting them to rely on lead generation tools and tactics that went out with the last millennium. Blogging and social media are treated like bulk mail, a place to blast unprepared recipients with shameless advertising. Wrong year, wrong approach!

Blogging fixes what’s wrong with most business websites

Examine the average business website and you’ll find a few pages of self-promotional hype, a contact form, maybe a photo gallery… nothing that delivers any real “value” to potential readers at all.

Ever wonder why a Google search may list hundreds of thousands of indexed pages for the search term, while only the enviable top 5 will get roughly 90% of the clicks? Google doesn’t consider most pages on company websites as indexable content, and only a few “get it” when it comes to providing useful content. If almost everyone’s doing it wrong, therein lies your potential advantage.

There are four basic reasons people search the web: research, shopping, entertainment and connection.

If the searcher isn’t looking for your company, its products and/or services by name, you’re “unfindable” unless you hold high rankings for search terms associated with your product or service. When it comes to shopping searches, the standard business site loses.

People are unlikely to share your About Us, product and testimonial pages in social channels. While this content has it’s place − once people have pretty much already decided to buy from you − it’s not interesting reading or a good introduction.

Leading with that self-absorbed content would be as lame as bringing the family tree and albums on a first date. They don’t know you yet, so why should they care? And the entertainment value for most company sites will be very low.

And that brings us to research. The world is looking for answers. Sites with the most perceived expertise develop the most authority in search engines over time. Business websites may provide answers to problems, but tend to shoot themselves in the foot by turning every page into a sales pitch.

Most business websites are trying so hard to be “professional” they suck at human connection.

In summary, the average business website fails to meet even one of the requirements of the four basic search types.

And that’s where blogging comes in. Effective blog writing is all about the reader. The articles offer writer(s) the opportunity to be useful instead of just pitching all the time. Interesting, informative, ridiculously valuable content is something worth sharing, and your readership will begin to promote your content for you.

When visitors find a source of valuable information that educates and improves their life, they’ll want more of it. Your blog is the perfect introduction, that can transition casual readers into email subscribers. Once they are on your mail list you have the potential to influence their buying decisions for months and years (providing you don’t screw it up by pitching the bejesus out of them in those emails).

Blogging also heightens the potential for personal connection. You have the opportunity to let your personality shine through. If you joke around with your prospects on the sales floor, don’t be a stuffy writer in your blog. Many successful business bloggers are very entertaining. Readers look forward to the next post.

The takeaway

The goal in business blogging is to build your authority and credibility, drive traffic to your site’s landing pages and grow your ongoing influence by increasing subscribers.

Blog posts are NOT sales pages or a place for company announcements… well at least the majority of them shouldn’t be. The average searcher doesn’t know or care about your company (yet), its products or services, its culture… they’re only there if there’s an immediate personal benefit.

Good posts aren’t a regurgitated version of the same tired crap dozens of other writers have already flogged to death. Epic blog content worth reading and sharing, linking to and indexing, is flat out better than anything your competition has out there.

Coming up

In the second post in this series we’ll explore what valuable blog content is, and how you can create it.

Scribe: More Traffic in Less Time