Writing in notebook

8 Stellar Tips on Writing for SEO

We here at 4B have discovered the cheat code to winning some real ROI and it is this:

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, BE, A, GREAT SEO CONTENT WRITER!

cheat-code

When it comes to any content on your site, we can’t stress it enough: writing for SEO is crucial for success! Whether someone is looking for a new cafe, or craft brewery, or culturally appropriated taco truck, they will almost ALWAYS start with a Google search.

As we mentioned earlier in our blog on what SEO is, you MUST create for users and not just search engines.

This is actually a pretty big challenge for most companies, which is why we have come up with a list of tips that will help you improve your content!

Now, before we go any further, we understand that there are two types of people who are reading this blog right now:


  1. Someone who is looking for tips on becoming a successful copywriter
  2. Someone who is far too busy running their business to develop new content, but is wise enough to know that they will benefit IMMENSELY from great SEO copywriting…in which case, let me refer you to our copywriting services page.

For those of you looking to become copywriting gurus, are you ready to start creating impeccable SEO content that will lead to conversions? Of COURSE you are, otherwise, you wouldn’t have clicked on my tempting headline!

Tips For Writing For SEO

SEO Is ALL About The Audience:

Create content for users, not just search engines! Write with the user’s intent in mind!

Sure, this seems like a given, but so many businesses continually fail to write to humans or to humans who are outside their organization…you know, those people that you WANT to be your next client or customer! Answer the questions they’re asking and connect with your audience.

Remember that if you are writing to please an AI or algorithm, you will be missing the end for the means, because the end should be a human reading and finding value in your writing.

Likewise, there’s going to be limited value in talking about product or service features. We get it – you want your blog to be a sales tool – but there are reasons salespeople have a smile on their faces, take you out to lunch at a nice restaurant, and defer conversations about the nuts and bolts. They want you to enjoy yourself and find value in their presence first and foremost. Make sure your writing is doing the same.

Make Headlines That Pop:

Your headline is the initial call to action and it is designed to capture your audience’s attention. It is what entices people to click, and no doubt, the very headline of this blog was optimized to your queries. (Yes, research is a part of this. More about this in a moment.)

Headlines with power words and numbers tend to get more shares on social media, and headlines that answer the “who, what, why, how, and when” to user questions will always benefit immensely.

Super business advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.” Something to keep in mind when coming up with that title!
If you are struggling with that headline, check out this blog title generator from Inbound now.

Use Keyword-Rich Phrases:

All successful SEO content writing starts with one thing…keyword research. This is how you will determine the most relevant topics and keywords for your business.

Once you have determined your relevant, targeted keywords, start peppering them into your copy as well as your titles, meta descriptions, and headings (always have an H1!)

Whatever you do, DO NOT stuff keywords (don’t cram a ton of keywords in an attempt to manipulate site rankings in Google search)! Search engines could penalize you, even by removing your site from search engine results pages altogether. PLUS keyword stuffing can create an unpleasant experience for your audience as a whole.

Some tools to help you with keyword research:

Ensure Your Page Readability:

Nobody wants to trudge through difficult, thick, incoherent, and unreadable content. They want answers to their questions and they want them now!

Write in a conversational tone and use shorter phrases, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs. Format your content for readers that want to skim as this allows the mind to breathe!

Sure, we’re not all elbow-patch-tweed-blazer wearing professors of English who have mastered spelling and grammar, which is why some tools like Grammarly come in extra handy when it comes to polishing up content readability.

Structure Your Content:

Going hand-in-hand with readability is the structure of your content.

The back-end organization of your page is important for search engines as it lets them understand and determine the relevancy of your content to a specific user search query.

Make sure that you are using headers (H1s for titles and H2s for subtitles), title tags (the title of your page as it appears on SERPs), and meta descriptions (the HTML that summarizes your content for users and search engines.)

Visual Appeal/Images:

Did you know that images are processed by the brain 60,000x faster than the written word? People are visual creatures, and most of us process things based on what we see. Your reader will absolutely LOVE images that pop.

A good tip would be to include 1 image with every 100 words. This will help improve readability and break the monotony of the text.

Be sure to optimize your images’ alt-text as Google places a relatively high value on them! Include your keyword in at least one image, but ultimately describe the image in specific detail.

Shoot For A Featured Snippet:

Featured snippets are those tidbits of information that you sometimes see at the very VERY top of a Google search. They will appear when a user asks a question such as, “how do I write content for SEO?”

To land a featured snippet, make sure your content thoroughly answer questions in your content. Include numbered and bulleted lists if it is appropriate.

Utilizing all the tips listed above (keywords, images, structure, readability etc.) will always increase your chances of landing the coveted position zero on Google.

Track Your Keywords:

Now that you have unlocked the Contra cheat modes to writing for SEO you should be well on your way to creating killer content! However, there is one vital tip left that you need to consider:

How will you know if you’ve SUCCESSFULLY written for SEO if you’re not setting your targets and tracking your ability to hit them?! Are you planning on checking Google every week to see if you find yourself in the number 1 position?

Keyword tracking is how you will monitor and measure the success of all your hard work and SEO content writing efforts. Doing this will show you how well your website is ranking in Google search results.
You can check the search rankings for all of your keywords with the Swiss army knife of SEO tools, SEMrush.

Not only can you track your keywords using SEMrush, but you can also do keyword research, competitive research, blog audits, and find backlinking opportunities as well. SOLID!

There you have it! You should be all set! Happy SEO content writing, everyone!


People texting on phones

Which Social Media Platform Should My Business Be On?

In this new attention economy, utilizing social media is paramount for your business strategy as it is a great way to increase your brand’s awareness, and market your products and services. But when it comes to the sprawling, ever-changing world of social media, figuring out where to devote all your energies can be a tough decision. Is it Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? YouTube? LinkedIn? Snapchat? Pinterest?

The options are vast, but where you focus your efforts can either make or break your business. Your chances of finding an audience might be much greater with the 2.3 billion users on Facebook as opposed to the social media platforms that have gone more neglected than Grey Gardens…like Ello.

It is no longer a question anymore as to whether or not social media is a necessary tool for businesses as each platform can score massive wins when it comes to generating traffic to your site. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that social media increases brand awareness by a considerable amount. So if you’re not taking advantage of today’s short attention span marketing by dialing in on a social media platform, does your business or brand even exist to the users who spend their time on social media?

Social Media Platform App Icons

What platform is for me?

This one really isn’t as complicated as you think. If you engage with a particular platform, whether it be Facebook or Twitter, then THAT is most likely your place to be. As Seth Godin says (as as we repeat), ‘People like us do things like this’. However, the type of content you create will also determine where you should be. Do you do blog posts? Podcasts? Photos/videos? Something that works well as a tweet might not do so well on TikTok and vice versa.

By now, most of us have at least an understanding as to which social media platforms offer what:

Facebook is the go-to place for posting photos, updates, and sharing general news to those who follow or “like” you. It is a great place for lead generation and it also provides Facebook Ads which has awesome targeting capabilities for finding your audience.

Twitter is all about microblogging, realtime open conversations, immediacy, and timeliness. A perfect place to share quick thoughts, photos, GIFs, links, polls, etc. Twitter is great for engaging people and can really generate traffic to your site. Utilizing hashtags (#) on Twitter can allow you to reach a much larger audience.

Then, of course, you have YouTube which is the leading platform for sharing videos and is an exceptional way to engage with people. There is LinkedIn which is basically social media for your resume and is supposed to be important for people in B2B. You have Pinterest which is great for posting pictures and short captions that can be incredibly beneficial if your business sells products that rely on aspirational visual context. Think clothing or gadgets or decor.

If you are STILL unsure which platform you want to work with, why not take advantage of great social media tool like Hootsuite which provides you with an ability to monitor social media over a good chunk of the platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to name a few) as well as provides you some social media analytics. It also allows you to target keywords, look into those streams, and jump right into the conversation. A word of caution – trying to spread yourself thin across several platforms is nowhere near as good as engaging authentically in a single platform.

Finding Your Audience

How can you sell your products or services if you a) don’t know who you’re aiming your efforts at and B) don’t know where those people are? It is crucial to take into consideration where exactly your current customers/prospective customers are. A simple way to find out would be a customer survey. You can send one of these out in an email, give your existing audience a list of social media platforms and ask which one(s) they use regularly.

You can also check your site’s analytics to see where all that social media traffic is coming in from. Don’t have analytics? Well, you will need to remedy that one ASAP so that you can harness the awesome, FREE, digital marketing tool that is Google Analytics.

You can also rely on third-party research to help you find the networks your target audience is likely to be on. Pew Research offers amazing, free research around social media platform sizes and demographics that is updated with regularity.

In the meantime, you can do something as simple as going to each platform and taking advantage of that search bar! Look up your competitors and see who is following them. A great benefit of Twitter is the fact that it promotes open conversation. Your future prospects might be having conversations with your competitors which in turn is a jackpot when it comes to gaining customer insight. Join in on Twitter chats that are similar to what your business does. Join Facebook groups with potential clients. Join similar interest group boards on Pinterest. Just whatever you do, join and get involved!

Be Authentic on Social Media

There are too many platforms to have a presence on all of them, so start by naturally focusing on the ones that draw in the most traffic, but more importantly, focus on the ones that you’re on AUTHENTICALLY, and the ones your clients are on authentically as well.

Remember to keep a voice and tone that is consistent with your brand. If your company is in senior housing management, it would be best to avoid posting stuff like, “Check Out Our New Dank Rooms for the Gran you Stan #yass!” People can sniff out such phony and misaligned messages. If you and your business are not dialed into the trendy millennial market, then don’t try and come off like a trendy millennial. Dare I say, some people “can’t even” with that stuff.

Kendall Jenner Photoshopped Black Lives Matter
Kendall Jenner Photoshopped Black Lives Matter

Kendall Jenner recently came under fire for allegedly photoshopping a Black Lives Matter sign into her hands (she apparently didn’t bother to notice that there was no sign in her shadow.) People were rolling their eyes so hard at this supposed, inauthentic attempt at fishing for likes that their retinas were close to detaching. Despite what your personal feeds and timelines might lead you to believe, people aren’t stupid and they can spot a fake a mile away. Well…SOME people at least.

People connect with content that is real, honest, and transparent. Being authentic in social media means that it is true to you and/or to your business. Avoid conflicting behavior and attitudes that don’t jive with your brand, because that can greatly affect your authenticity.

Final Word

Let’s be honest: Social media can feel like an absolute chore while trying to run a business. It can also be hard to find the value in it if you aren’t honest with your expectations. We here at 4B totally get that, which is why we offer great organic social media marketing. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, book a free consultation with us and allow us to take social media marketing off your plate so that you can go back to focusing on what is most important; your business!


Man at computer

What is SEO?: A Philosophical Take

By now we are all aware of the basic principles of SEO, and a good deal of us understand that search is a critical channel in some way for every business. But, if you had to explain what goes into SEO, do you think you could do it? If you could do it, do you think an SEO professional would agree with your description? Ultimately, the more you know about SEO, the better your marketing becomes because you’re able to direct content creation with stronger purpose and get all of your teams speaking the same language (literally and spiritually.) So, what is search engine optimization, really?

Is SEO all about keywords? Is SEO just about having a pretty website? Can I just pepper in some meta descriptions, headers, title tags, schema, and my site will suddenly skyrocket to the first page?

Well, no, maybe not, but it can definitely help. However, SEO is not an exact science and no amount of SEO keyword pixie dust is going to be able to get you ranking for a competitive term when your content isn’t relevant to it.

Conversely, if you created a phenomenal piece of content that brought in a colossal amount of traffic, but you still didn’t gain any clients from it, did you really win anything? Did that ranking and traffic happen mostly by accident?

You see, SEO is a complicated, fickle beast and there is a whole bevy of bad information out there on it. There are also a ton of companies that will try and assure you they have the skills nobody else has that will garner instant, overnight results. (Spoiler alert: they don’t. And given enough time, bad practices could get your site de-listed from Google altogether.)

So, what exactly is SEO other than a crapshoot affair? Well…it’s a lot like really good jazz. Complex and inaccessible for some; intriguing and accessible for others.

Now, rather than spending an exorbitant amount of time data dumping about how search engines operate, or what SEO terms you need to get to know, or how Google’s ever-changing algorithms work, it might be best to first focus on one thing that has been constant about SEO…the user’s intent.

Create for users, not for search engines. Google looks to you and me to tell them what should rank. Satisfying users is the new (and old) satisfying the search engine. Google is just DYING to give people all of the best, most comprehensive, unique, useful, data-backed, trusted, and relevant content that it possibly can. It’s not trying to get your company to manipulate its results.

Homer Simpson Thinking

What is SEO?

Well, the textbook definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is that it is the practice and effort of optimizing a website so that it ranks higher in search engine results, with an end goal of generating good quantity and quality organic traffic.

So, there you have it. Everything is as clear as an unmuddied lake now, right? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

SEO is an easy thing to overthink and overcomplicate. Let’s try to avoid that here.

How Does SEO Work?

Google (and probably Bing and DuckDuckGo) only cares about one thing: Getting the right answer to the query, right away. Our philosophy at 4B when it comes to search is to always provide the best answer to the terms we want our clients to rank for.

Using their complex, secret, and heavily guarded formula, Google reviews and re-reviews the web at a massive scale, then it attempts to categorize pages and sites as answers to questions people may be asking. It attempts to prioritize the most relevant content for a user’s search from what is easily the largest and most up to date index in the world.

Sure, Google’s algorithm can at times seem more enigmatic than KFC’s recipe for their herbs and spices, but what we do know is that Google will rank websites and web pages based on their relevance, authority, and usefulness.

How does one create a webpage that aligns with a user’s search intent? By utilizing the vast array of SEO tools and research, of course!

Sure, the benefits of on-page SEO, such as targeted keywords, title tags, header tags (H1, H2, H3s etc.) image tags, internal linking, schema, rich snippets, and accelerated mobile pages can help your site immensely when it comes to crawlability. But what good is any of this if you aren’t answering the questions people are asking?

If a page is well SEO’d but a user never looks for it, does the page even exist?

When it comes to the best practices of on-page SEO, content is king! Creating high-quality content that’s optimized around specific key ideas is fundamental to good SEO.

It’s good practice to choose key queries (searches) you want to rank for on Google, but also make sure that you are doing the research to ensure that you are answering questions about your product or service that are actually being asked. Search your competition to see what high volume terms they are ranking for and make sure you’re attempting to get a share of voice in those searches, too (SEMrush* is a great tool for seeing what your competition is doing), and make sure your content covers the topic in full and that you are covering ALL the things users might be searching for around the subject of any given page. Never stop working on content and remember QUALITY is better than quantity. 1,500 boring and irrelevant words don’t have the power of 300 words that are helpful to the visitor.

Final Note

John Coltrane Thinking With Saxophone

Great SEO’s are artists and I say that with no shame. We here at 4B aspire to be the John Coltranes of SEO, because as I mentioned earlier, SEO is like jazz. It can be complex, nuanced, and daunting to the point where people feel it is over the audience’s head. It can be mathematical and labored with technique and skill. But it can also be an improvised, artistic thing of beauty, brimming with masterful flourishes where the rhythm could (and it usually does) change at the drop of a hat. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, in order for it to work, it has to be pleasurable and speak to people. And, like jazz, not all SEO is good.

*-We love and use SEMRush. It’s an authentic endorsement by 4B of their product. We also want to be transparent that the link to their site is an affiliate link.


Set up Google Analytics

The Right Way to Set Up Google Analytics 2020

Your heart races as you sit there, staring at your computer with sweaty palms and bated breath. You are painfully aware that your website could benefit from the powerful, FREE, digital marketing tool that is Google Analytics, however, the dread of setting it up seems daunting and is going to once again keep you from taking your site to the next level.

Well, fear not! We here at 4B understand all the apprehensions that come with analytics induced anxiety which is why we have come up with an easy step-by-step guide to setting up Google Analytics like a pro! So take a deep breath, let us help you alleviate your worries, and soon you will be monitoring and analyzing your website’s traffic in no time!

Before we take a swan dive into the tutorial, we want to assure you that we aren’t handing out some untested directions that we regurgitated off of a Google search. This is the same process that we use for our clients here at 4B. It usually gets more complicated from here, but this is the foundation that we rely on. Feel a little better knowing that you are in some safe hands? Of course you do!

Now, first thing is first: you’re going to need a Google Account if you don’t have one already. So go ahead and get that account set up if you need to. We can wait.

Step 1: Setting up Google Analytics

Alright, now that you have a Google Account, you’re going to create a Google Analytics account by simply signing up on the Google Analytics page.

Once you’ve logged in, click Sign Up to set up your NEW ACCOUNT. Now, just follow these short, simple steps as directed:

  1. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRACK: Select “Website”
  2. ACCOUNT NAME: this will be your business name (i.e. 4B)
  3. WEBSITE NAME: this will be the name of your website (i.e. 4B.com)
  4. WEBSITE URL: this will be your actual website address (i.e. www.4B.com) BE SURE TO SELECT “HTTP://“ or HTTPS:// whatever is appropriate
  5. INDUSTRY CATEGORY: Select the MOST appropriate category for your business.
  6. REPORTING TIME ZONE: Select the Country and the Time Zone where your business is located

WOOHOO! You have now set up your Google Analytics account and have been gifted with a highly important TRACKING ID NUMBER (the set of numbers that look like UA-000000-1) and TRACKING CODE (the block of code under Website Tracking that begins with <script> and ends with </script>)

Universal Analytics ID and code

Step 2: Adding Google Analytics to Your Site

These codes are unique to your website and should be added to the heading of every page on your site. We recommend setting up Google Tag Manager in order to add these codes to your website, which you should go ahead and do right now.

Installing Google Tag Manager on Your Site

Adding Google Tag Manager to a Shopify Site

Adding Google Tag Manager to a Squarespace Site

Adding Google Tag Manager to WordPress

Adding Google Tag Manager to Wix

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Let’s shed off some more self-doubt, and move on to the next step!

Step 3: Verifying Google Analytics Setup

It is time to ensure that we have set up Google Analytics properly, and for what it’s worth, I am absolutely CERTAIN you set it up swimmingly!

Google Analytics Realtime Menu Option

  1. On your Google Analytics dashboard, click REAL-TIME on the left-hand menu.
  2. In the drop-down, click OVERVIEW
  3. Now, open up another tab (Command + T for you Mac users; Ctrl + T for PC users) enter the URL for your website and go to the homepage.
  4. Head back to your Google Analytics dashboard which will still be on the real-time page.
  5. Wait a minute…

If all went well, you should now see at least one visitor (this would be you) on your page.

SUCCESS! Look how far you’ve come! You’re on your way to running analytics like a pro! Take a victory lap, and when you get back, let’s set up some filters, and views and refine this mutha. Onward, my digital marketing friends!

Step 4: Setting Up Filters in Google Analytics

Setting up Google Analytics was a breeze, eh? Well, why stop there? There are some extra steps you should take to ensure your account is stellar and right now we are going to focus on creating “views” in Analytics so that you can get more accurate data.

Creating a New Filtered View

Setting up a filtered view in Analytics will ensure that you are getting that prized accurate data every good digital marketing pro strives for.

A filtered view will remove any internal traffic (you and your company’s employees) and any spam traffic (the fake visitors, bots and other BS traffic that will skew information and muck up your site’s performance…so it’s obvious now why we set one up, huh? Yup.)

Now, there should ALWAYS be at least two views: your filtered view (what we are setting up now) and a regular view (the initial view) that is pristine and untouched. Info that is going to be captured will start when the filter is activated and you won’t be able to retroactively add or remove the filters at a later time.

Now, let’s go ahead and get the filters fired up!

  1. Head over to the ADMIN section in you Google Analytics Account (this will be the little Wheel/Gear looking icon on the bottom of the left-hand navigation menu…this one)

2. Once you click the ADMIN icon, it will open up a page for you that looks like this.

  1. Click on the blue CREATE VIEW button over in the top right.
  2. Under REPORTING VIEW NAME, name your view (we usually will just name it “Filtered View” followed with the date that the view was set up.)
  3. Select your business’ Time Zone
  4. Click CREATE VIEW

Congrats! You’ve just set up a filtered view! Now let’s….

Filter Out That Internal Traffic

The easiest way to do this is as follows:

  1. From the ADMIN menu, under the CREATE VIEW column, click on FILTERS

2. Click +ADD FILTER

  1. Choose CREATE NEW FILTER
  2. Under FILTER NAME enter something like “Office IP ADDRESS” or “My Home IP ADDRESS” (whichever location of the IP address you will be excluding)
  3. Under FILTERED TYPE choose CUSTOM.
  4. Make sure the EXCLUDE button is selected.
  5. Under the FILTERED FIELD dropdown, select IP ADDRESS
  6. Enter your IP ADDRESS in the field (you can get this info by Googling “My IP Address”)
  7. Click SAVE

Show the Full URL in Google Analytics

Now, when you are looking at your reports for data, your freshly minted Google Analytics account won’t be showing the full URL by default. Having that full URL is will help you figure out if that site visit came in to yourdomain.com vs. blog.yourdomain.com .

In order to get around this default behavior, you will need to set a new filter. Adding this filter is rather painless, but you need to make sure you enter the information listed below correctly.

 

  1. From the ADMIN screen you are going to go to FILTERS then select +ADD FILTER (this part is becoming second nature to you now, huh?)
  2. Under FILTER NAME, put in something simple like “Full URL Filter”
  3. Under FILTER TYPE select CUSTOM then click ADVANCED
  4. For FIELD A, select HOSTNAME from the dropdown and put (.*) in the text field
  5. For FIELD B, select REQUEST URI from the dropdown and put (.*) in the text field
  6. For OUTPUT TO, select REQUEST URI from the dropdown and put $A1$B1 in the text field
  7. Your setup should look exactly like this now:

8. Click SAVE

Make Sure All of Your Page Visits are Consolidated

Of course, showing full URLs is a must in any report, but there is still a chance we could get some inaccurate data as some platforms will show that a URL will have a forward slash (one of these “/” guys) at the end of the URL, where others do not.

This confuses poor Google into thinking that there are TWO different URLs even when they are the same one. ARRGGHHH! So in order to remedy this, you will need to create a new filter (I know, I know…another filter) to add trailing slashes.

Once again, just follow these steps accordingly and everything will be coming up aces!

  1. From ADMIN to FILTERS, select +ADD FILTER
  2. Under FILTER NAME, title this one something along the lines of “Add Trailing Slash to All URLs”
  3. Select CUSTOM, then click ADVANCED
  4. For FIELD A select REQUEST URI from the dropdown menu
  5. In this text field you will need to enter the following regex text as-is: ^(/[a-z0–9/_\-]*[^/])$
  6. For FIELD B leave it empty and make no changes
  7. For OUTPUT TO select REQUEST URI from the dropdown menu, then enter $A1/ in the text field.
  8. It will look like this when entered correctly.

  1. Click SAVE

 

WHEW! And just like that, your filters have been set!

Step 5: Connect Google Search Console

We are almost there! The last step of this entire journey is to get your Google Search Console up so that you can link it to your Google Analytics view. If you’re feeling a little fatigued, take a stretch, think of calm blue oceans, look at a pic of a cute puppy, and once you’ve centered yourself, let’s go ahead and head on over to Google Webmasters Tool because we are going to…

Setup Google Webmaster Search Console

  1. Sign-in to Google Webmaster Tool with your Google username and password.
  2. Under ADD PROPERTY, select WEBSITE from the dropdown menu.
  3. Enter your FULL WEBSITE URL (and be sure to note whether or not your website uses www. or not, and enter it correctly in this field) then click ADD
  4. On the new page, click on the ALTERNATE METHODS tab
  5. Select the GOOGLE TAG MANAGER button then click VERIFY
  6. If all went well (it no doubt did) your site will be verified with Google Search Console.

Connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics

Follow these steps now, and you will be successfully connected:

 

  1. Let’s head back over to Google Analytics.
  2. Click the BAD REFERRERS AND KNOWN BOTS REMOVED view for your website. This is going to take you to your Analytics dashboard.
  3. On the left side, you will see ACQUISITIONS. Go ahead and click that.
  4. Click SEARCH CONSOLE under the ACQUISITIONS tab.
  5. Now click QUERIES under SEARCH CONSOLE
  6. Click SETUP SEARCH CONSOLE DATA SHARING in the next window.
  7. On the next page, it directs you to, scroll to the bottom and click ADJUST SEARCH CONSOLE
  8. Click EDIT under the SEARCH CONSOLE heading.
  9. Select your Search Console site and then click SAVE.

WE ARE ALL SET!
Wow! Look at you! You’ve come a long, long way from when we first started! Now we strongly recommend following up all of this by setting up a Google Search Console account so that you will get the maximum benefits, but other than that you have now successfully set up your Google Analytics and you are a Noob no more! Per Aspera ad Astra!


Counting money

Small Business Loans and Grants - COVID-19

The very last thing we want to do right now in the midst of a pandemic is contribute to the constant, frantic background buzz that is inundating every newsfeed, and filling every inbox to the brim right now (thank you for the email of reassurance and letting me know that you are closely monitoring COVID-19, Annie’s Pretzels!)

Instead, we are going to practice the fine art of being useful (last week we published an essential blog about succeeding in an economic downturn) and so we are attempting to assemble a comprehensive page with resources for loans and grants for small businesses. These should come in handy to not only help you weather the storm, but also build a strong ship.

This page is a living resource and we intend to update it as new resources are found. If we have left out any grants or loans, please let us know (with a link to contact) so that we can add it to the list! We are in this together! Check back often or join our newsletter for updates.

If you know of any other grants or loans for businesses that should be represented, please contact us.


Falling stocks

5 Simple Steps to Prepare for Success During a Recession

As of the time that I am writing this (March 2020) unemployment is on the rise, manufacturing is slowing down and both a worldwide pandemic and environmental collapse of Biblical proportions (hyperbole?) are triggering fears throughout the financial markets. This recipe of woe has been of course sparking the notion that we are on a crash-course for a catastrophic global recession.

Naturally, the thought of an economic downturn has you fretting about the cash reserves that your company is sitting on and how it has the potential to become a squandered fortune. Your strongest competitors are undoubtedly having the same concerns. OR they could be doing what you should be doing and taking the necessary steps to weather the market dip like a champ. It’s important to remember in times of hardship or stress that change is the only constant and where you are now is not stationary. It will change and this panic is temporary.

I invite you to get off that ledge and leave the prayers for the pastors. It’s time to act fast and to start making better decisions for your company! You didn’t choose to start a business and captain your destiny only to be subject to the whims of the panicky, toilet-paper-hoarding masses, did you? I didn’t think so. Take a deep breath and let’s re-examine your fears and evaluate this opportunity. It is time to start preparing to be one of the success stories today – not by luck, but by intention.

 

 

1. Find Out Why People Have Said “YES” To What You’re Offering

Here is a great place to start preparing your company: getting good actionable feedback. You can send out a simple survey to current and past customers asking them why they chose your product or service and even if that is the only question you ask, you are bound to get some helpful input.

This feedback could enlighten you (if you weren’t aware already) of your business’s “unique value proposition.” A unique value proposition is what your business AND ONLY YOUR BUSINESS can offer to buyers. And by offer we don’t mean, “customer service,” or, “trust.” Any competitor can claim those and oftentimes they do. You need to figure out what your competitor can’t offer, and what your business can. If you can’t find a unique value proposition, find a non-unique value proposition. While not ideal, sometimes just existing and being an option is enough.

If you want to dig deeper into your customer’s motives, you can always take a look through your analytics and see which pages they are viewing the most or you can look at what pages visitors from Google are looking at most to understand what questions your site answers in internet searches. Unsure how to go about doing this? No sweat! Because we are stellar people, we would be happy to help you out with this for FREE! (Sure, we might see some opportunities to enhance your business with marketing in the process, but that is for another time.)

2. Spend While You Have the Resources!

NOW is the time, while you have the money, to make those marketing and sales decisions that you’ve been waiting to seize for a while. If your competitors are putting their dollars into reserves, it’s likely that they are pulling back on marketing or advertising to create those reserves. Good. Let them create a vacuum in the marketplace that will be replaced by your messaging. No more following in their footsteps and letting them make the mistakes that you learn from – now is when you step into the lead and put distance between you and your closest competitors.

How do you get started?

  1. First thing you can do is start by opening up your Google Analytics account. On the left hand menu, click on “Acquisitions”, then click “All Traffic” followed by “Source/Medium”. This page will show you the sources of your sites current traffic. Don’t have a Google Analytics account? We can assist you with that.
  2. You’re going to be looking for the channels that could be giving your site traffic. Some examples of these channels are: Direct (this is any traffic from a source that is unknown or with no referring website URL) Organic (this is the traffic coming in from a search engine result, or the traffic coming in because someone “Googled it”), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Email, Affiliate links, Display, etc.
  3. Now that you have all this information available in Google Analytics, you can begin to think about what sources ARE bringing traffic in, and which ones ARE NOT bringing in traffic. If you aren’t running any ads, you can start by running ads through the sources that already bring you visits and see if you can expand that audience. Perhaps you’re getting a lot of traffic through Facebook? Is there more audience there to capture? Or is that audience tapped out and maybe you should be thinking about LinkedIn? It could be beneficial then to go ahead and consult an agency to help you capitalize and run some targeted ads.

If you’re serious about this and you’re ready to take this step for your business, please take us up on our free consultation because we want to help you reach your business goals.

3. Become a Necessity: Turn “Want” Into “NEED”

During the Great Depression, consumer product companies were thrust into a terrible predicament. The prosperous roaring twenties did a swift Charleston swing off the stage, and the disposable income that was once flowing so freely had dried up. This didn’t stop a company like Proctor and Gamble from realizing that people would still need soap in a time of depression. So rather than cut back on the costs of advertising, P&G doubled down, spent while they still had the resources and began to explore new marketing avenues including commercial radio broadcasts. By creating a need and successfully targeting homemakers using episodic radio serials, they were able to successfully thrive a massive economic catastrophe. This is a fantastic example of reaching beyond desire and focusing on need.

Integration is key. You need to offer help in some way, shape, or form. Let’s pretend you run a spa – convince your current and future customers to focus on self-care so they can remain together while everyone else is falling apart. Selling chocolate bars? Dive into the positive effects on the brain that are produced by eating chocolate. Selling new, expensive oven ranges? Think of how much money your customers will save by eating hot meals at home and how feeding your friends and family’s bodies translates to feeding their souls.

4. Get Aggressive With Those Messages!

The word “aggressive” can often conjure up images of people behaving negatively, inappropriately, and excessively, all while causing harm. But when it comes to your business, being aggressive doesn’t mean being a loathsome jerk, it just simply means being active, confident and willing to take risks. Being aggressive means recognizing opportunities when they arise, knowing when to grab the low-hanging fruit, and being able to focus your energies into making people aware of your product or service.

In today’s post-digital world, the playing fields have been leveled and small businesses now have the same ability as large corporations when it comes to reaching customers. You can get the message of your company out through paid ads, blog content, social media, email and remarketing all while being everywhere for your customers and future customers. In today’s digital landscape, it’s easy to create the illusion that your small business can hang with all the other big-shots, by acting like a successful business you may be able to convince the world that you’re the only game in town. If you can gain these skills, get after it. They are valuable. If you want to just rely on experts,  this is what we do and we want to reiterate that, yes, our expertise is at your disposal

5. Become the Only Option

There is a phenomenon where people, given a set of choices, will make a choice without actually choosing. This phenomenon happens to all of us whether we recognize it or not and it is referred to as the “default effect.” Your only goal as a business is to be the default choice.  Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, it’s time to BE the Joneses that everyone strives to be.

In the 22 immutable laws of marketing, Ries and Trout discuss the importance of being first to mind for your customer and future customer. Let them never know your competition so that when they reach for a name, yours is closest and easiest to grab.

How do you do this? By following the steps above. Your focus (almost sole focus) should be to gather as much audience as possible so that your brand name and the market you serve are synonymous. The risk to leveraging yourself in this way cannot be understated. It is risky. It does require more of you and your business than you may be comfortable giving. But, you may also be in a unique position to break off a larger audience for yourself and if it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s definitely uncomfortable for your competitors. They are all doing the safe, protective zig. Will you seize this opportunity to do a trusting and growing zag in their absence?

There’s likely an audience out there today that needs your solution and has never heard of you or your competitor. They are just waiting to find you. Be the first to mind.


Subway escalator

No, Advertising and Marketing Are Not the Same Things

From the outside looking in, advertising and marketing can appear to be synonymous. They both present consumers with a message in hopes of hacking the brain and burrowing deep inside, and they both share the same goal of relieving people of their hard-earned disposable income. But in truth, the very real differences between advertising and marketing should be recognized and honored. Sure, their distinctions may be smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, but knowing the difference is what separates the pros from the rubes.

Advertising is What You’re Selling:

Long before sharp-dressed, hard-drinking ad men on Madison Avenue started pitching “healthy” cigarettes, merchants in ancient Pompeii would inscribe mosaics on their amphoras in order to draw attention to their product and attract consumers. For as long as humans have been providing goods, ideas or services, there has been a need to make others aware of them through snappy presentation or promotion. This is advertising.

 

Pictured: Subtlety

Now let’s put our paranoids caps on! Did you know the average American is exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements in a single day? As a matter of fact, you’re looking at a few ads right now. We’ve become pretty adept at blocking out all of the advertisements, but go ahead and disable that mental AdBlocker for one minute and look around you. Soak in all of those brand names leaping out at you from your phone or laptop, or all of the images of products splayed out on billboards and buildings. Take in all of the commercials and product placements in your magazines or during your podcast, or all of the labels in your pantry or fridge or on your desk at work. How about all of those brand logos on your clothes which essentially turns you into a walking billboard?

During the waking hours, people are inundated with an overabundance of display ads, social media ads, outdoor ads, video ads, radio and podcasts, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, email whether they recognize it or not! Unless you’re living the beatific life of a hermit in the remote mountains, you are feeling the powerful influence of advertising in your daily routine. Life is essentially one big commercial! Unfortunately, sleep is really the only refuge from the deluge of advertisements (for now.)  But where do all of these ads come from?! Well, they are the outcome of a lot of hard work called marketing.

Marketing is What You’re Buying:

Marketing is an umbrella term that basically describes the activities and the processes of figuring out how people think and behave so that companies can successfully create and deliver catchy messages to the person, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right price. In order to accomplish this, marketing teams will dabble in some mind control and hypnotism, aka market research. By utilizing tools such as market research and the “marketing mix” (or the 4 P’s: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) businesses are able to help identify a targeted audience and increase their chances of acquiring new customers. Advertising is just another component of the marketing process.

 

You never knew you wanted something SO much!

Good marketing is rooted in strategy and the better companies out there don’t even sell you a product; they sell you an idea or an experience like the fear of missing out. It’s the reason why we don’t question our sudden impulse to go out and try an Impossible burger from BK or why we will join the hysteria and wait in line for an incredibly scarce chicken sandwich from Popeye’s. It is the reason why we will rush to the store to pick up some Daytrip CBD-infused energy drink while wearing a Topo cross-body sling bag despite having spent decades snarking on the absurdities of fanny packs. Getting us to spend money, and to spend it on things we think we NEED but will no doubt roll our eyes at down the road is a true marketing masterstroke.

Marketing is an activity, advertising is the outcome. Marketing is the experience and advertising is the exposure. They’re not the same, but they rely on one another and you can’t possibly have a successful business without incorporating both.  If this helped you, please let us know in the comments and be sure to share this post with someone who could benefit from a little enlightening.


Reading a marketing book

Marketing is Actually a Subset of Digital Marketing...

…Or at least I am fairly certain it is. Look, I know what you’re thinking…in this day and age, it seems to be fashionable to make bold, outlandish statements that can be easily proven false. Attention is the new currency, and it can be a totally manipulative hack to grab your attention by simply making a BS claim just to earn a click. Well, let me assure you that my intentions in this article are just, and I ask that you give me a few minutes of your day so that I can make the case that marketing is, in FACT, a subset of digital marketing and not the reverse. Now is this a hill I want to die on? Eh, probably not, but at least hear me out.

Digital Distribution is Generally a Critical Component

Okay, let’s start with the basics. (Cue cheesy 70s public information film music) The dictionary defines marketing as, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Digital marketing is basically any form of marketing that exists online. You’re probably thinking, “well, doesn’t that make digital marketing a subset of marketing then?” You would think so. But let’s dig a little deeper and think about marketing prior to the digital age.

Ever since the first commercial aired for a watch in 1941, the ideal marketing mediums for decades had been tools like billboards, flyers, radio and television commercials, or ads in magazines and newspapers. These were some of the primary methods when I was a kid back in the totally radical 80s of the last century.  Who could forget such advertising gems like Wendy’s, “Where’s the Beef?” catchphrase or Domino’s Avoid the Noid campaign? And don’t even get me started on those Motown-singing California raisins! Pure genius! But while these 80s pop culture footnotes were everywhere and being repeated at work or on the playground ad nauseam, the companies churning them out had to be relatively in the dark when it came to understanding their return on investments. Within these distribution channels, segmentation of your audience was fairly sophisticated given how basic these mediums were. Want to engage unemployed people? Run ads for your trade college during Price Is Right. Want to sell Jane Fonda aerobics videos to moms? Run your message on a commercial break for ThirtySomething. Trying to sell Dad a new home computer? Get that ad in the evening edition of the paper. That’s not even considering segmenting by geographics.

There is a massive advantage digital mediums have over traditional mediums; digital can be inbound and targeted in places where everyone is already spending a disproportionate amount of time…online. We have a working generation that grew up without newspapers and the next generation joining the workforce grew up without over-the-air or cable television. These are your audiences and their analog experience is generally secondary to their digital experience.

Let’s take a look at Facebook as an example. Facebook isn’t simply a tool used explicitly to connect old casual acquaintances and weaken democracy (heavy sigh); it’s a platform where businesses hire marketers to target and tap into prospective consumers. Go ahead, log into your Facebook account right now, take a look at the first ten things that pop up into your feed and chances are, somewhere nestled in between the memes, the misinformation and the minutiae of your elementary chum’s everyday life, you will see targeted ads that are tailored specifically for you! Based on how you react to certain posts and behave on websites that you’ve visited, Facebook is able to pinpoint your interests accurately and deliver ads that you are most likely to engage with.

Digital Marketing Is More Than Just Message Distribution

With message distribution based on the audience’s affinities and behaviors rather than being based on the broad preferences of the platform’s users, businesses are able to affordably get the maximum return on their ad spend using reporting, tracking, monitoring, and analysis. In this case, Facebook’s AI is likely doing some of the marketing for the marketer, attempting to learn from the audience who’ve seen and been active with a brand’s ad(s) to extract better results from the campaigns.

Facebook is merely a single example and if you’re a marketer you probably already know that. Thanks to our modern abilities to house, manage, and leverage the insane amounts of information about any given American and their behaviors, marketers can use these digital platforms to communicate finely-tuned, personalized messages to our audiences where and when they are most likely to act on them.

It will probably escalate, too. What if every digital billboard changed on your way home, precisely when you approached it, to remind you that it’s been a couple of weeks since your last Arby’s Beef N Cheddar? And you’re going to get that ad because the marketer already knows when, where, and how many times you need to see that messaging before you take action.  That future seen in Minority Report is probably coming, or is it already here?

Now when you are propagating a message that isn’t easily measured or cannot be measured at all, is that really marketing? It kind of sounds just like advertising (and there IS a difference between marketing and advertising, but that is a subject for another time.) Just like traditional marketing, digital marketing is entirely data-driven; it’s all about measuring the research and optimization of a message. Chances are pretty likely that you’re not getting any solid marketing feedback without it being viewed as a digital measurement.

There’s a simple, sure-fire way of measuring whether or not your business’ advertising, PR and marketing programs are even effective and that measurement is basically this: are you making more money or not?

Of course, this bottom line is really only evident at the end of the journey and in order to arrive at this destination there is a long, hard road you must travel. Have you ever seen one of those “iceberg illusion” graphics that vacationing celebs love to post on their Instagram page? You know, the ones where there are two parts to the iceberg: what people see (the tip of the iceberg above the surface) and what people don’t see (the giant mass just below the surface.) Well, marketing is much like that iceberg: the small tip represents the profits, and that giant mass just below the surface represents all of the strategies that were put into it. A healthy bottom line is, of course, the raison d’être of any business, but in order to get there, you have to put in a lot of hard work, persistence, dedication and other iceberg illusion buzzwords.

If you’re sending postcards, are you making sure your site is getting visits from the zip codes you sent the postcards to? Are you tracking calls from a unique number that exists only on that postcard? Are your branded searches increasing on Google and Bing? Is your click-thru rate increasing on non-branded searches?  Let’s face it, it is next to impossible to prove the value of your hard efforts when you are still in the dark ages of marketing. The emergence of digital measurement has caused archaic methods of untraceable marketing to go the way of the town crier in a tricorn hat. If you aren’t tracking at least some of these digital metrics, it’s likely you aren’t measuring the important key progress indicators, and, in fact, aren’t actually doing marketing. You’re probably doing advertising on par with sign twirling and crossing your fingers, hoping that it’s effective. Hope is a fantastic campaign slogan for effective leaders, but it is NOT a marketing plan.

Aren’t The Research Tools of Yesteryear Still Marketing?

Cocoaine vintage adOf course they are, but many of those libraries and focus groups and much of that front end research are experienced online. Unless, Science forbid, the world has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic society where the remnants of humanity live in a dystopian wasteland without internet and computers, marketing technology will continue to advance and evolve with great leaps and bounds. We’ve come a long way from the days of full-page ads for Burnett’s Cocoaine hair tonic in The Saturday Evening Post, or biplanes scrawling out a message in the sky to buy Lucky Strike cigarettes. Nowadays, in the post-digital revolution world where just about everything is done online, there is virtually no separation between marketing and digital marketing.

Your audience data collection, research, distribution, and measurement are probably all taking place in a digital space because they simply must. Marketing IS digital marketing.

Well, there you have it. I think I have done an adequate job making the case that marketing is a subset of digital marketing, even if it was just by stating that marketing has come out of the dark ages and into the age of enlightenment. Now I’m curious…what are your opinions on the matter? Agree? Disagree? 


Lightrail at night

How to make a more effective light rail ad.

Bar Louie is a chain gastropub with several locations in my fair locale of the Denver-Metro area. In all, as best as my research could reveal, they have 133 restaurants nationwide, so it would be a fair assumption that they have this whole marketing and advertising thing pretty well locked down. By and large, I’d agree with that assessment. I’d say that they were almost perfect in a recent campaign… almost.

When I came across a light rail car with multiple ads for Bar Louie, they caught my eye. This isn’t that rare since I make it my job to assess the marketing and advertising that I’m exposed to, looking for both strengths and opportunities. To be honest, most ads don’t stick. I don’t love them or hate them – I just forget them. But Bar Louie’s ad was different. It required my attention.

Sitting in my light rail seat, the images below represent my view.

Would Bar Louie have demanded your awareness as it did mine?

Why did this Bar Louie ad stick with me?

If I could only choose one thing that made me “lean in” to this ad, I’d have to say that it was a giant QR code. Perhaps in the same way that a cassette boombox or any other recognizable relic of the past would jump out at you for seeming so out of place in the present, devoting that much real estate to a sign of what once was practically grabbed me.

Now, when it comes to QR codes, I think Bar Louie has it right and conventional thinking has it wrong. QR codes only went out of style, in my opinion, because they were inconvenient upon release. Yes, they were meant to create convenience, but between searching for a reader app, downloading it, launching it…. I’d have rather just been given a URL to type in at that point.

But, that was also prior to Apple’s iOS 11. The age of practical convenience for QR codes had arrived. It arrived late, but it arrived. Now, all you have to do is open your phone’s camera, point it at the QR code and your phone will ask if you’d like to visit the website. It’s extremely easy. Lest you think this is only for iPhone users, Android already had that feature before iOS did with Google Suggest turned on. It really couldn’t be easier for the wide majority of smartphone users to use a QR code. Just in case you weren’t aware of how easy it is, Bar Louis conveniently added instructions to the bottom of their ad:

 

A QR Reader is built in to your phones camera.

If I had to choose another reason that I believe this ad worked, it’s because they leased multiple prominent placements in the light rail car. I absolutely love this. I know clients (and account managers) who would say “We only have budget for four ads? Let’s put them in four different cars.” In this scenario that Bar Louie has created, while they’re reaching fewer people, they’re immersing those fewer people in your message, rather than reaching a larger audience who will more easily ignore them.

But, what about the messaging?

I am not Bar Louie’s target market. I know it and, almost certainly, Bar Louie knows it. So, the messaging about getting paid to party rolls off of me like beads of sweat off of a sangria glass (I tried).

 

I’m also a small business owner surrounded by a city of small business owners, some of who own gastropubs. If I intend to be loyal, I will be loyal to my fellow business owners who rely on that loyalty to maintain and grow. So, their second message of “Loyalty Always Pays Off” is again, a miss for my lifestyle.

 

That’s ok because I’d assume that with 133 locations, this brand knows their audience and the prospect of being rewarded for drinking a pineapple martini with their friends after work is a strong motivator.

The messaging doesn’t attract me and it’s not supposed to, which likely means that it speaks clearly to a person who’s not me, aka, the regular Bar Louie customer.

Alright, Tyler. Where’s the missed opportunity?

I’m on a train and there are two ads, each ad has its own color and its own message.

One of these colors is more attractive to my fellow light rail passengers than the other.

One of these messages is more attractive than the other.

One of these placements is better than the other.

Bar Louie still doesn’t know what’s working best for them on this campaign.

As you can see, these QR codes are identical.

 

Overlayed Bar Louie light rail ads to show that the QR codes are identical.

Identical QR codes mean that there’s no variation in what URL you’re going to be visiting, which means you can’t track which ad people are pointing their smartphone cameras at.

Phase one: Were I in charge of leading the strategy for this campaign, would be to create URLs with different UTM codes indicating which ad was being scanned. Is it the pink ad promising a payday? Or is it the olive-colored ad promising a reward for loyalty? With UTM codes, a review of my analytics would reveal this information.

Phase two: Once I’ve determined which ad is working best, I’d see if the locations could be swapped to determine if it’s still the messaging or color that’s prompting the scans or if it’s simply the ad placement.

If it was ad placement, I’d ask if we could remove the other ads in the non-producing placements to see if that affects the volume of scans I get on the placement that is producing scans.

If it wasn’t the placement that prompted the scan, I’d swap the messaging on the posters to determine if it was the color or the offer that prompted the scan….

The ideas of what could and should be tested continue on and on… with each test getting Bar Louie closer and closer to creating an optimal ad with optimal placement. When those optimizations are put into practice, they will find that they have more budget to reproduce these winning campaigns in city after city.

Marketing is nothing if it’s not testing and the reason we test is to make sure that we communicating as effectively as possible to our audience. If you’re not testing, you’re gambling. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose, and sometimes you’ll break even. If your aim is to win, having a thoughtful marketing partner on your side can sway those odds in your favor. I can help you win and when you’re ready to see how, book some time with me.

 


Price tag

What Does SEO Cost?

Before I answer what SEO costs, I think it’s important to talk about what the wrong price to pay for SEO is. I recently met with a small business owner who had been paying $275/month for 3 years. His site was a mess, his domain name had little to do with his brand or his services. Google has 9 pages indexed for his site. He’s not receiving monthly updates from his SEO provider and when I inquired as to what keywords he’s ranking well for, he wasn’t sure. On top of this, while the site had some minor optimizations, it left a lot to be desired from an SEO of even intermediate skills. This man had spent close to $10k on search engine optimization services and he was, apparently, getting little to nothing for it.

These bad actors ask for minimal investment and deliver next to nothing in return, or worse, they achieve quick and unbelievable results through black hat SEO tactics including low-quality link networks. While this might be initially great news, these tactics can (and likely eventually will) result in Google delisting your website, which will cost you quite a bit more money to recover from. Let’s call these people what they truly are: Spammers and scammers. They reach out to a business owner and suggest a price that undercuts the market while promising the world. What happens when the SEO service doesn’t deliver? Almost nothing. If the small business owner recognizes how little is being done on their behalf, the cost has been so minimal that it’s not worth it for that business owner to hold anyone accountable.

The true end result of hiring a cheap search engine optimization servicer is that the business owner has just lost time, budget, and faith in digital services. The only party this is good for is the cheap SEO, who has already moved on to his next mark.

SEO can be too cheap. Anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success and offers you inexpensive SEO is likely not worthy of your trust or your budget.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t pay for search engine optimization services on your website, let’s get to the reason you arrived at this article in the first place:

How much does SEO cost per month?

According to a 2018 article on ahrefs.com:

 

  • The majority of SEOs charge between $75 – $150 per hour.
  • Monthly retainers will generally run you between $500 – $1,000/month in the US.
  • The more experienced an SEO, the more they’ll charge.

Let’s follow up those hard numbers by answering a question a prospect recently asked me:

How does an SEO agency justify their monthly cost?

Technical Search Engine Optimization

Technical SEO is all about making sure that your site is visible, in full, to Google and Bing, communicating your site’s pages and relevance to search engines, meets Google’s Best Practice Guidelines for SEO, is visible and functional on all platforms, including (and maybe, most importantly) mobile devices. All of the work in the world won’t be worth much if Google doesn’t know it exists.

Key Query and Competitive Research

You can absolutely achieve with a rudderless SEO campaign, in the same way that a rudderless boat can hit land. It’s mostly out of your control and relies on an abundance of luck. Upfront key query research can help give some guidance around what content should be created, including what questions are being asked that you can and should answer, and where your best competitors are earning search traffic.

As your content matures, Google will start ranking it in search. Your SEO practitioner should be able to inform you for what queries your pages are actually ranking at volume and recommend some adjustments for continued upticks in search visibility. Remember that your website is a living and ever-evolving library of information. A website is always under construction.

Content

I’ve said it before – I will continue to say it: Poorly optimized content that’s great can rank all on its own, while well-optimized content that’s poor may fail to provide results.

The clients that I’ve achieved the best results with are also those clients who are continually creating new written content. This can be content that they write themselves, that they have outsourced to a copywriter or a combination of both. Your investment in SEO should partially go to creating new content and/or adding markups and refinements to new content.

Reporting and Analysis

This is really what you’re paying for – proof of change. I’m still amazed by the number of people paying for search engine optimization services that aren’t having regular check-ins with their agency. Website traffic and analytics reporting, ideally, is where the rubber meets the road and your learning how your rankings are fluctuating, discover trends in your traffic, and review what upcoming work should include to maintain or improve upon your existing rankings, and find new opportunities.

Off-page SEO

Your companies trust with your audience or relevance with search engines isn’t solely built on your website alone. There are a host of websites that can reference your content, provide categorical context for your services, and furnish customer and employee reviews of your company. All of these entities are important to the search experience and should be tended to in part or wholly by your search engine optimization agency.

This includes ensuring that all of your social media profiles include accurate and complete information, that your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are kept up-to-date and include frequent updates, and, if included in scope, that backlinks from highly trusted sites are secured, when possible.

Another consideration to be aware of is that if your search engine optimization agency finds that you have received poor reviews which are breaking trust with potential customers, they should recommend a reputation management program meant to address negative reviews and generate reviews from happy customers.

And if everything is going right, they should come back after a while and ask for a bigger budget.

You probably don’t want to hear it, but justifying an increased budget is the mark of an SEO and/or marketing program that’s going well. Your investment should result in improved results. Your agency should want to build and continue a relationship with you. Eventually, be it a quarter or a year down the road, your SEO company should be able to show you how far your investment has taken you so far and where additional budget should allow you to go in the future.

Whether your hire 4B or not, you deserve to get the best search engine optimization for your business. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you invest the 12 minutes required to watch this video from Google on how to hire a good SEO service and avoid a bad SEO service. If you’re ready to get started improving your velocity of search traffic, get in touch.