This is a big topic, so my goal here is to give you a quick overview of where to direct your time and energy.
The Fast Pace of Change in Web Tech
Web technology is ever-evolving, which means websites can get left behind rather quickly. This often happens as website owners don’t know what to do, or they fail to invest time in creating a ‘big picture’ website and digital marketing strategy. Finding out your website is lagging behind your competitors and past its ‘best by date’ is not a great position to be in. It’s an expensive situation to get out of in a hurry, and best avoided through educating yourself about some of the latest website and digital trends.
Then there are the ubiquitous web apps that offer all sorts of wonderful digital marketing solutions. Evaluating each new app and working out how to piece it all together and integrate with your website or another app you use, can be time-consuming and fiddly work.
There’s also a multitude of digital marketing experts turning up in our news feeds promoting their latest e-book of digital marketing strategy. Out of curiosity, I’ve been opting into these offers. What I’m finding is that there is a commonality to all of their advice. And it goes like this:
Know your business why. Know your target audience and the problems they need to solve. Create compelling and engaging content and get it out to them. Track the results and re-target segments of
your audience as needed.
So there you go. Sounds easy right? Some bits are some bits aren’t. Even experienced digital marketers can find it a challenge. Time then for some tips and advice on what you should be doing.
The information in this blog should be a good starting point for you to check your current digital marketing strategy if you have one or give you some ideas on how to create a strategy. If you are a bit hap-hazard with your marketing as you are super busy, that’s awesome, and I completely understand that working on this stuff is often the last thing you want to do. However, whether you undertake the work in-house, or you hire someone, the work needs to be done to make sure you stay busy.
After all, it’s only the biggest and most dominant businesses that can ride out challenging economic times. The rest of us need protection from those slow periods by having a healthy pipeline of future work. We need awareness, we need to be noticed.
“Getting noticed online is certainly getting harder, and once you’ve got their attention you have to be very clever about how you keep them.”
One of the fastest ways of building up a pipeline is to attract new leads to your business by creating informative and easy to read content that people discover via search or a link somewhere.
For many years there has been a saying online that ‘content is king’. That’s still true today. Content marketing is now more varied and the delivery is much more sophisticated. What has stayed the same, is that well written and helpful content forms the building blocks of your digital marketing strategy.
Publishing great content onto your website has been an invaluable way of attracting the right target audience and then asking them to take some kind of action (either sign up to your mailing list, buy something, or download a free guide).
The easiest way to do content marketing is through blogging, as blogs are rich in keywords and are often highly positioned in Google results.
I recommend you write and publish long blog posts with a table of contents (much like this one). Whilst you will get some free traffic via search to your website, it’s not a silver bullet as search is getting crowded and there’s a lot of noise and distraction from social media. The Google search results are also looking quite different these days, so getting your message out there for free via the ‘organic search’ result is getting much harder.
Content marketing is vital to your online strategy. It’s the foundation of all your
digital marketing efforts.
Next, you need to feed the social media monster. A quick way to do this is by sharing blog posts or other content and paying a small fee to boost the social media post. This will help build awareness of your brand.
You can re-purpose existing content by using it to help produce a video, create info-graphics, adding images to posts, creating slideshows and so on. If you were to do just two things, I’d recommend blogging and videos. Videos, in particular, get a lot of attention, and to be effective they don’t have to be as slick and as well produced as you might think. Being authentic is probably going to be more important in the future as people tire of perfect looking people presenting in what look to be expensive location shoots.
Changes to Google Search Results
Google search results look rather different in 2019. Most Google search results will now include some of the following:
- Two – four paid Google Ads
- A Google map showing the locations of local businesses that offer the product or service
- Free ‘organic’ results – from businesses that have content on their website that matches what’s been searched for
- A ‘people also ask’ section – which shows a list of questions about the topic searched for and snippets of text that provide the answer
Ultimately, the results you see depend on the type of search you make. If you search for ‘Auckland dog groomers’ you are more likely to see Google Map results than if you Google ‘how to I groom my dog’.
Featured Snippets in Google
You may have noticed that some Google results have a grey border around them. These are featured snippets and they have quite a prominent position in Google with high visibility. They are also the results that might get read aloud (for example by Google Home). Determining which site is used for a featured snippet is automated. This is a huge topic and if you want to know more, I highly recommend this article from HubSpot – https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-featured-snippet-box
The general take-away is that if you want to stand a chance of getting content featured as a snippet, write answers to questions. You can follow the journalism method of framing your content with ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’.
Google My Business & Google Reviews
I’m finding that some businesses still have ‘unclaimed’ Google My Business listings. If you’ve not signed up to Google My Business, this might well be your situation. I would strongly recommend that you claim your business if it’s listed, or be proactive and get your own listing. I’ve also found that some clients have had their location shown incorrectly. I’ve been able to fix this directly by requesting an edit with Google. That’s a good short term fix, but you need to be claiming and in control of this listing.
You can sign up for Google My Business at www.google.co.nz/business. Search for your own business first to see if there is a listing you need to claim.
Google My Business is now your ‘portal’ for many of Google’s services. You can add your physical locations so they show on Google Maps, manage your Google reviews, get messages via your listing and manage your Google Ads.
Even if you don’t have a physical address that your clients visit, you can still get a Google My Business listing. Your address won’t be shown. This is great for people working from home that don’t want their address made public but still need to show up in maps.
Once you’ve got your Google My Business account set up, you can then respond to any reviews. The general advice is to respond to every review. There are also guidelines from Google about the reviews. Some of them are fairly obvious and very reasonable. Do not review your own service or get an employee to do a review (or anyone with a conflict of interest). You can not accept consideration for getting reviews (so do not offer money, or products or services in return for a review). You can, however, encourage your customers to provide you with an honest review they write using their own Google account.
To help with getting reviews, create a review request page on your own website. The page should list the review sites you are on and include a thank you message for people taking the time to do the review.
You may be wondering if Google reviews will help boost your ranking in Google? It’s extremely likely that it does, as Google looks for trustworthy websites. Of course, we can never know for certain how Google ranks a website.
If you’ve got some awesome Google Reviews, I highly recommend they are shown on your website.
Marketing & Sales Funnels
A funnel is a way to map out the customer journey online – going from awareness of your business, establishing trust and confidence in your business, through to the purchase stage of choosing your business over another. The biggest mistake people make with funnels is skipping stages in the funnel and trying to convert too quickly. It’s like proposing marriage on the first date. Content marketing plays a big part in the marketing funnel – as content you’ve created can be used in the funnel to help establish awareness, build trust, and position you as an expert in your industry. Online funnels can get very complicated quite quickly so you may want to look into some of the services that can help you design and deliver your funnels.
A simple online funnel might be creating a free PDF guide that people get access to via a sign-up form to your mailing list. You might market the guide via paid advertising or on your Facebook page. The visitor will then come to a custom-built landing page where they are presented with the offer and sign up form. You then need a way to deliver the guide – generally, you’d use an automated email to do this.
Landing pages are web pages that are highly focused on one thing – get the visitor to complete an action. Some 3rd party services offer landing page design and set up. Using a 3rd party app will cost more, so if you are on a budget, you can achieve the same thing by using your own website. If you have a page builder on your website, you can easily create a landing page with a call to action if you are proficient with the page builder. Some of the page builders and the add ons available for them, have pre-built landing pages ready to go in one click – simply change out the offer and content with your own.
Email marketing is still a vital part of any marketing funnel. So here are two of my favourite systems to use:
MailChimp – www.mailchimp.com has long been my go-to recommendation for clients as it offers an excellent free solution if you have a small list. The sign up form can be embedded on your website using the code they provide, or by using your API key, we can create a sign-up form using the page builder. Here’s a blog I wrote on how to find your API key.
ActiveCampaign – I discovered ActiveCampaign about 3 years ago and have a paid account. I started using it because of the clever automation email sequence it offered. It’s now my main email marketing system, as I can trigger a sequence of emails to new or existing clients. I do this for new clients that get an ‘on-boarding’ sequence of emails about the next steps. If you have a need for on-boarding or off-boarding clients this would be the perfect solution. If on-boarding and off-boarding are new to you, it’s simply educating clients about your service and processes. Think of all the things your customers need to know about working with you and that can be put into on-boarding. All of your after sales information can be put into an off-boarding document or delivered through a drip feed of emails.
How you apply this information to your business will largely depend on the nature of your business, who your target audience is, and what you budget is for reaching them. Having a good website online is really only the beginning of your digital marketing journey – there’s so much more that has to be done to maximise your online presence.
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