Isn’t Giving Away Your Company’s Secrets, in Content, Bad for Business?

Content creation, Vancouver, BC

This is one of my favorite content marketing quotes by Jay Baer:

“If you sell something, you can create a customer today. If you help someone, you can have a customer for life.”

One of the strongest objections I receive, as a content creator and social media publicist, is that I want to give away all my clients’ secrets.

In the short video below, Jay makes a very good point. Sooner or later all do-it-yourselfers find themselves out of their depth. And when they do, who are they going to call… a stranger out of the Yellow Pages, or the person that has already been helping them and clearly knows their stuff?

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Are You Asking All the Wrong Content Strategy Questions?

Content marketing stratist, Vancouver, BC

Are you a content leader, or timid follower?

I was on a coaching call about two weeks ago with a real estate agent. She already had a lot of content, but the challenge she faced was that she was falling in the rankings. She was looking for a content provider that could churn out more content for less. I could immediately see the problem. She was targeting several geographic neighbourhoods and her content was “all over the map.”

I explained what content siloing is and how it would help her organize her content more effectively. This would improve the user experience while also helping Google better understand the content hierarchy of her website.

Her first question was, “Can you show me case studies of other real estate sites in my area where this is working?” I explained  that I believe it is a conflict of interest to represent more than one client, from the same industry, in the same geographic area because they’re direct competitors. But what I could show her was a local website of a roofing contractor in which the very strategy I was proposing had helped the client gain solid rankings for each of the geographic regions we targeted in the content silo strategy.

She responded with, “Roofing has nothing to do with real estate. What, you can’t show me 20 or 30 real estate websites around here where what you are proposing is working? Then maybe I would consider it.”

If we need the validation of local case studies, we make the decision to become a timid and distant follower; not a leader. The last adopter always gets leftovers. All things being equal, we succeed in our marketing to the degree we differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

…they’re sheep — and the sheep get slaughtered.

- Character of Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Let’s say that I already had 32 real estate clients in her immediate area, who employed the content siloing strategy I was proposing. If no other competitors were using the approach, she would come in as #33.

Unless her content was truly epic, spectacularly valuable, with a lot of shares and earned links, the ranking status quo would prevail. It is highly unlikely she would topple one of the top-5 sites as the last one arriving at the party. At best, she might find herself positioned at #33, on page 4 of Google’s search results. (Invisible)

The questions she should have been asking were:

  1. Will this make my content stand out from the competition?
  2. Will my audience love this? Will it make my content more valuable to them?
  3. Will what you are proposing make my content more findable and shareable?
  4. And if so, can we get to work on this today?

Final thoughts

Standing head and shoulders above the competition will always require the courage to lead and stand out. Following the old, tired approaches your competitors are already using will only place you at the back of the herd. I welcome your questions and comments below.

Can I help you grow your brand’s influence and value online, and achieve your business goals? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

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Content Marketing is War

Content marketing is war

A few years back, before Google’s “animal” updates, SEO centred around optimizing tags and pages, and aggressive linking strategies. Business owners brought in SEO ‘hired guns’ like me to kick the competitors’ sites to the curb, so they could take over the top ten ranking spots on Google, Yahoo! and MSN/Bing.

I remember the first meeting I had with one client. He looked me dead in the eye and responded, “Kick them to the curb? Hell, I want you to face those SOBs on Main Street, draw on them and put a lead ball between their eyes, just like they did in the westerns. This is business, not Sunday School. I don’t know exactly how SEO works, but can you put me on top? Are you that guy?”

Over the past few years I’ve seen a dramatic shift in perception. With all the current buzz about telling our stories and being helpful, many website owners seem to have formed a picture of a warm campfire, circled by friendly storytellers sipping wine and puffing on a hookah as they weave their yarns and sing Kumbaya.

Increasing market shareA few insipid blog and social media posts per month, and an occasional new page or two, and they feel satisfied they’ve thrown their hat in the marketing ring. If they hire a content writer, they don’t want to invest in a victorious warrior, but may hold up a squire’s wage, to see if there are any takers.

Many industries are still feeling the aftermath of the 2008-09 economic crisis. Circumstances can hardly be described as “business as usual,” and the pie has become a lot smaller. True, we could just tighten our belts and try to live on the same percentage of a much smaller pie. Or we can embrace the realization that maintaining and growing our businesses now requires us to carve up the pie differently, and there won’t be enough pieces to go around.

Business is War

- Kevin O’Leary

Some find ideas like “survival of the fittest” and “capitalism” distasteful. We work mainly with brands that compete with other local businesses. I believe that you will never become #1 with minimal effort and investment, without a strong tactical strategy, or actually defeating your competitors. There will be winners and losers. Or to use the battle metaphor… there will be blood.

How would you prepare for content war?

Positioning

Sun Tsu in The Art of War emphasized the importance of positioning in a military strategy:

“With skillful positioning, defeat or victory is apparent to everyone well in advance of any confrontation.”

Epic content (way better than anything the competition is publishing) should provide a level of value to the audience that makes victory a foregone conclusion. When your competitors see your content, do they feel weak in the knees and murmur, “Oh shit?”

A kill or be killed mindset

This past week a businesswoman took offense to my remark that I could help her “dominate” her local market. She countered that, “There’s enough for everyone.” She felt we didn’t have to push other people out of the way, to make room for her.

Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten…

- Jack London, in Call of the Wild

I was puzzled because I only see five top-5 positions in the first page of Google’s search results. If she wants one of them, I’m of the persuasion that we will indeed have to “out content” someone. One of her competitors is going to be out-gunned.

Keep your friends close, and enemies closer

If you aren’t following your top competitors, subscribed to their blog feed and newsletter, and getting all their stuff, you should be. It’s just basic tactical intel. You, or your marketing team, should know exactly what they’re up to at all times.

Expect them to regroup and come back in force

To the victor, go the spoils. When you advance, you gain search engine rankings, traffic, subscribers, leads, market share and profits.

If you have a worthy adversary, don’t expect them to take the loss lying down. You can bet they’ll be on the phone demanding to know what their digital marketer(s) intend to do about it.

You will have to defend the ground you take

You may win a battle, take a hill, or secure a bridge, but the war isn’t over. You will have to defend the new line.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying

You may defeat a few adversaries, but you can’t rest on your laurels. You’re either gaining market share and growing your business, or you’re on the way out. Your content is either kicking asses, or you’re having your ass handed to you.

Final thoughts

In 2014, the pen is mightier than the sword, when it comes to your online positioning. Premium content is just as deadly to the competition as the old school SEO tactics ever were.

Your content marketer(s) should be extremely helpful, write powerful stories and deliver a ridiculous amount of value to your audience. But, make no mistake about it, you need a relentless battle-hardened marketing warrior creating and distributing your content. It’s not a job for the office poet.

Can I help you grow your brand’s influence and value online, and achieve your business goals? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

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Real Estate Marketing: 2015 Doesn’t Have to be Like 2014

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Half full or half empty?

Sometimes we miss the point entirely :-). We’re concerned about having the right attitude when we fall short, rather than taking the steps required to assure success.

If your online marketing strategy isn’t engaging with your audience and delivering a consistent stream of quality leads, keeping a stiff upper lip and making the best of what you have — seeing the glass as half full — could be holding your back.

If calling things as they are spurs you to do the things that need doing, or asking for much needed assistance, there may be value in being less than “positive.”

Glass half full, or half empty?
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6 ‘Kick Ass’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics for Real Estate

Real estate SEO, Vancouver, BC

On Wikipedia, SEO is defined as:

“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.”

Real Estate SEO poses unique challenges

If you Google a search term like “vancouver condos” today you’ll discover two things. At the very top of the search results, I’m seeing “About 11,400,000 results (0.48 seconds)”… that’s right, eleven million pages. The competition is formidable. As I begin to scroll down the first page I’m seeing a few hyperlocal specialty websites, a Kijiji listing, Globe and Mail articles, Realtor.com, a huge brokerage site, more hyperlocal sites… but not one of the “cloned” agent websites. You know, the template sites you essentially rent for fifty bucks a month, that present a MLS Reciprocity (IDX) listing feed instead of providing any real content.

It’s easy to understand why the big sites are on the first few pages of search results. Over the years they’ve added hundreds or even thousands of pages that talk about condos in Vancouver. But how does the independent agent “out content” those big players?

1. Publish fresh, ridiculously valuable content consistently

If you want Google to notice you, and crawl your site regularly, become “crawl worthy.” If you’re not publishing at least one high value, extremely relevant, blog post a week, you need to step it up.

I’m not talking here about blasting your audience with new listings and open house notifications. That content is about “you” and what you want to sell. In addition to an IDX feed, your website should already have all of your listings — current and archived — entered on site; each page carefully optimized for search engines. And you can promote your new listings in local social media groups, where it’s acceptable to exchange listing information.

Your blog and social media posts should focus on providing real value to home buyers and sellers. It should address their pain points and provide real “help”.

2. Build a resource of “evergreen” content

“Evergreen” mean content that does not go out of date. In addition to the dynamic up-to-the-minute content you’re publishing in your blog and social channels, you should be building a resource of high quality long form articles. These resources become the subpages that attract links from local and authority websites. They establish your domain’s authority as a credible trustworthy source of local information and services.

3. Become “more local” than the competition

What the successful agents have discovered is that they can still take their place with the big data sites by becoming “more local”, or hyper-local. Very few real estate agents are willing to invest the time and effort, or money, to do SEO right. And therein lies a tremendous opportunity. For those dedicated agents willing to invest into a long-term asset, some sustainable and consistent search traffic, with a steady stream of real leads to nurture and develop into real business, there’s still a lot of opportunity.

As a real estate professional, you need local search results, local traffic and local links. To get local businesses and websites to link to you, your website needs to become the go-to resource for local information.

4. Target long tail keywords

The competition for short-tail keywords like “vancouver condos” is stiff. Targeting specific long-tail keywords that align with your local niche, or property inventory, can capitalize on the low hanging fruit of local searches.

A keyword tool like Wordstream, Wordtracker or Hittail may reveal that there have been a lot of recent searches for the terms “2 bedroom condo english bay” and “english bay condo near park.” A little added research indicates that these terms may be heavily searched, but there’s little to no competition. In other words, few websites offer content that satisfies the need. If you’re creating hyperlocal content for the English Bay area, it’s easy to create a few evergreen pages and posts to pick up easy rankings and traffic.

5. Expand your distribution

If all of your traffic comes from Google, their algorithm may determine that you’ve found a way to ‘game’ their ranking system, but your content isn’t actually popular.

When your content is shared through many distribution channels, like social media, RSS readership and your email newsletter, and people arrive at your site through direct links, it demonstrates that your content is perceived to have considerable value.

6. Build your domain authority

High quality backlinks, earned by consistently publishing extremely valuable content for your audience, over time builds your domain’s authority. These links accumulate very naturally as readers discover your content, engage with it and share it with others.

Creating a balance of evergreen and dynamic well-optimized and highly-targeted content, on a high authority domain consistently delivers search engine success.

What doesn’t get it done

Due to the highly competitive nature of search results, there isn’t a single “quick fix” tactic that is going to drive traffic and lead generation.

On-page optimization of existing content simply isn’t enough. Attracting inbound links from many websites can still improve your SEO, but these are best earned through quality content.

Many look to MLS Reciprocity (IDX) as a quick solution to content. IDX populates pages, from a 3rd party database, with a listing feed. Website owners find themselves in a “cart before the horse” scenario. IDX does not build traffic so much as capitalize on it. Your site needs real content, and the “eyeballs” it attracts, before IDX works.

Final thoughts

Do you have an SEO success story to share? Are you baffled by the many changes in SEO? I welcome your comments and questions below.

Do you need some help in mapping out and implementing your SEO strategy? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

Real Estate Lead Generation: For New and Improved Results, Something Has to Change

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Nobody ever won by only matching the other agents

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Own Your Website; Own Your Content; Own Your Marketing

Still renting?

Many real estate agents start out with one of those cookie cutter, template websites, auto-generated by a computer. They sign up to the fifty bucks a month plan, pick the template they like best, upload a photo, and hastily type in some text into a few pages. The content is generally “piped in” from the provider’s website and there’s no real content on their domain, or even a marketing strategy. The providers will tell you their sites are “SEO friendly”, but in truth, websites don’t market themselves.

Often, if the first site doesn’t generate results, they’ll buy a second, or even a third. Hell, they’re cheap! The Clone Wars. :-)

Minimal investment, minimal return. The “cheap rental” website may have been a “quick and easy” place to start out, but one day it’s time to actually buy in to their career and put on the “big boy pants”. They need to start taking their online marketing very seriously and build some online equity. As any real estate pro advises their clients, when you rent you’re just throwing your money away.

If that’s where you find yourself today, you need to own your website, own your content and own your marketing. Your content should physically reside on your site. And to drive traffic and leads, you will need a content strategy that includes SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing and social media… every month. (It’s like a three-legged stool. Without one leg, you’ll find yourself on your ass.)

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