Week 2 Bootstrapping a Startup

As my second week comes to a close I want to take some time and reflect on what is working and what is not to hopefully give an aspiring entrepreneur some much-needed resources. Again, if you have any sort of website I highly recommend setting up Google analytics and webmaster tools to be able to get insight into your traffic sources and the overall health of your website.

For instance, when I dig into my Google webmaster’s dashboard or search console as they call it now I can see some of my web pages are being indexed. I will have to probe a little further to determine why not everything is being indexed but this is a good start as my goal is to begin to get away from relying on paid search for my traffic and really dig into my organic search strategy.

Indexed_pages

Thanks to webmaster tools I can see the number of urls Google has indexed and get a high-level view of my website’s health. Unfortunately, I see I do not have many clicks coming into the website but the other report I like to look at is what keywords are driving traffic to the website.

Search_analyticsI can see that one keyword I optimized for is working to drive some traffic to my website so that is a good sign my search strategy is beginning to work even if I only have a few pages indexed. I also decided to build out a few additional pages for keywords I am targeting with a high search volume and very low competition. I hope these pages I built out will bring in traffic that will have better engagement than the traffic I currently have coming through from my PPC campaign. I already see a slight bump in traffic that I hope is from the SEO pages I built out.

traffic_analytics

Unfortunately, my bounce rate is higher than I want it to be and I would like to see a higher time on site I think this is a result of the trash traffic coming through PPC.

Site_metrics

I can see the search engines are sending slightly better traffic than the PPC campaign I am currently running. However, the bounce rate is a little higher than I would like. I do see the email traffic has much better engagement than any other traffic source. In the medium “ebay listing” I am testing out posting products on Ebay in an attempt to drive traffic back to my site. I am trying to supplement my traffic since I expect to cut off the adwords campaign sometime soon since it is not converting and it is not cost effective to keep running it. I also installed an app that serves up a questionnaire to keep some more qualitative data back from the traffic hitting my site on the product page.

Doubling back to my Ebay listing attempt I think the people searching on Ebay are ready to make a purchase. I am posting products on there with links back to my site. I also tagged the urls so I know what traffic is coming through and I can further segment the data and see how they engage with my site. To tag the url’s I use Google’s simple url builder to build the links and then I just code it in the html editor on Ebay. I highly recommend tagging all links you put out linking back to your website so you know if your efforts are working and if you are driving quality traffic to your site.

I am also tracking the keyword and rank positioning using traffic travis. It is important to track your rankings and positioning periodically to see how you fare against the competition. Don’t get too hung up on this because keyword positioning does not always correlate nicely with web traffic.

page_rankings Not only is Traffic Travis great because it’s free but I get a quick overview of the keywords I am ranking for and the specific search engines as well. I can see very quickly I am ranking highly for a niche term.

Until next time, feel free to leave comments and post questions.

 

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Pre Launch of my New Website

lineage_dynamic_content

I have decided to build a new website for my project which happens to be a clothing line catering to a specific niche. I noticed there is a need and not many businesses doing a great job in fulfilling the niche. As I get closer to re-launching my website with new products, new features, and better digital marketing I will regularly blog and post updates about my journey.

My first step was identifying a platform to utilize for my store front one that had a significant app marketplace so I could add powerful features to the website that would support my sales efforts and customer retention. I ultimately decided to use Shopify with their beautiful free and responsive website theme’s I figured it was a good choice. The next step was to conduct keyword research to build content around and begin writing content to publish on my site. Next I continued to get all my image files and finalize product mockups and descriptions.

Now I am in the process of publishing the website and running a highly targeted AdWords campaign on a budget to get short term traffic while I continually work on developing my organic traffic initiatives. I have been regularly posting on my social media platforms to drive traffic to my website when it is officially launched.

Moving forward, I will post regular updates about the test I will be running to optimize my store and turn a profit so stay tuned!

5 Free Search Engine Optimization Tools

Free Search Engine Optimization Tools

 

We have all been in a situation where we need a certain tool to get the job done and may not have the resources to purchase paid tools. These are my top 5 favorite SEO tools to get the job done when you are on a budget or you are free-lancing on a budget.

My top favorite tool is SEO Book because it has a few different programs within it that are pretty awesome. I generally use it to do some preliminarily keyword research for content writing.

SEO_book_overview SEO Book’s keyword research tool is a great starting point if you need to do some quick content research for a client and don’t have a paid plan with Moz or another prominent platform. I have had some pretty good results with SEO Book in the past and I highly recommend it. digital_marketing_search

When you are accessing the tool you get a pretty standard search bar you can begin your research. Unfortunately, this tool is not great for discovering long tail keyword opportunities. However, you can export your results and filter through them and gain some insight into your keywords.

Digital_marketing_QuerySEO Book is nice enough to also suggest other related keywords along with search volume and their relative competitiveness. Then you can export your results into excel and proceed to determine if your website is competitive enough to rank or gain any organic traffic from using them.

My next tool I like to use to get some insight into my competition is SEM Rush. While SEM Rush does have a paid version it does have a pretty neat free option. SEM Rush has a pretty generic search bar to research your keywords from SEO Book and gain some industry insight. Or, if you prefer you can spy on your competition fairly easily for free as well. You get an overview of how many backlinks your competition has, how much organic search traffic they have, along with their top organic keywords they are ranking for.

SEM_competitive_research

SEM Rush also gives you insight into their top paid keywords and their referring domains. This will help you compose a more comprehensive SEO and digital marketing strategy.

My next top free tool I like to use is Epicbeat for content research. Epicbeat has another pretty standard search feature that allows you to conduct some research on keywords and phrases. This free tool gives you an overview of which types of content is gaining traction within your niche or industry.

Epic_beat_overview

This free tool lets you know which social platforms are popular for the topic you are researching and even gives examples of types of high-performing content.

The next tool I like to use is Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. With all the Google algorithm updates, there is a preference being placed on mobile-friendly websites. Google has begun using mobile-friendliness as one of its ranking signals so now more than ever it is important to have a mobile-friendly website.

Google_mobile_friendly_testGoogle’s mobile-friendly test tool will analyze and report if the page conforms to Google’s mobile preference. When performing updates and changes to your website it is important to remember to test the impact of the impact on user experience.

Finally the last tool I like to use for SEO purposes is the Moz bar. The Moz bar will give you quick insights into your clients link metrics, meta data along with Moz’s own PageRank and Domain Authority.

moz_bar.png

There are a plethora of Free tools you can take advantage of for SEO and digital marketing purposes. I recommend doing some extensive research prior to purchasing any paid tool to see if there is any free alternative.

 

Why Display Ads Suck and How Marketers Destroy Everything.

Why Marketers Destroy Everything

 

This is probably a little odd considering I am a digital marketer myself but oh well. The problem I have with advertising is display ads and promotional ads that show up within apps, programs or websites. I know people have to eat and pay bills. I’m ok with that, but the problem comes when I am trying to watch Youtube and I am swarmed by a barrage of pop-up ads that are irrelevant and disrupt what I am doing.

Interruption marketing died a long time ago and it is not an effective means of promoting products. Speaking from personal experience online paid ads are generally very poorly targeted. For example, youtube ads are the worse. I would be curious to see the click through rate or ROI on these ads because I know from personal experience I get hit with a lot of irrelevant video ads that usually has nothing to do with my online searches. According to Smart Insights, the average click-through rate for display ads in April 2015 is .06% which is roughly 1 click per 1000 impressions. While this could potentially be attributed to poor copy writing, imagery and poor targeting but this is still a very low Click Through Rate.

I believe moving forward as marketers we need to have better-targeted ads and conduct better research. We need to learn more about our target audience such as their needs, wants and desires. We need research our markets better and understand their needs moving forward rather than running poorly targeted ads and risk tarnishing their brand.

How to Utilize Holidays for your Social Media Campaigns and Inspire Engagement!

How to Inspire Engagement on Social Media During Holiday’s and Special Events

The holidays can be a time to make an emotional connection with your audience and social following and inspire engagement on your platforms. This isn’t just limited to holiday’s though, it is important to stay up to date with current and ongoing trends within your niche or industry to capitalize on them. If there is breaking news in your industry be at the forefront and publicize it or use it for content creation in addition to any scheduled content your business intends to push this week. If there are social justice issues occurring around and it’s appropriate for your industry, use that as well to generate content to inspire greater engagement. Just make sure it is tactful and take into consideration of any backlash that may occur.

To put this tactic into action do  some research into your current followers and see what types of content they share. Spend some time researching their profiles and keep an eye out for trends. That doesn’t mean creep on your audience and stalk them be professional but dig deep. Do some secondary research as well utilize Google and see what sort of issues are currently trending within your niche or industry that your audience may be interested in.

Fortunately, there is an awesome tool for this called Klout. Klout will give you notifications into what is popular and trending within your industry so you can save time searching for content. If that isn’t enough buzz sumo also provides some pretty great insight into trending topics you can reshare as well throughout your social platforms. Let’s not forget another great content tool Google! That’s right Google is great for finding meme’s and hunting down other content to share throughout your niche as well. If you’re particularly handy with the adobe creative suite you can make some pretty neat visual content pieces as well.

So how did this work out in my case? Well, let’s take a look.

Sample PostI was at a bit of an advantage as I am a part of the niche group I am currently targeting. I am a Native American and as such I am aware of social issues surrounding headdresses being worn as a decorative pieces. I knew from current news, events and my own personal dislike for headdresses being used as a decorative piece that this post was highly likely to resonate within my social platforms. Of course performance does depend on the social platform you choose to post on as well. I know from previous experience and research that Tumblr is a hotbed for social issues so beginning on that platform was a no brainer.

Roughly after 30 minutes or so of posting my content piece was picked up and shared a number of times. So let’s take a look at how it performed.

Social Shares

The content piece had been picked up and reblogged an astonished 387 times in the course of under a day. This was impressive considering the small following I had. Before even posting the piece I only had roughly 70 or so followers. This is a good tactic to spread your reach and increase engagement across your platforms when used tactfully. It is important to understand your audience prior to utilizing this tactic and be able to anticipate any potential backlash.

How Killer Customer Service can Improve your Business

Customer Service 

Money

I know there is a lot of talk about the importance of customer service and I think people generally take it for granted. Customer service can make a business, turn shoppers away or turn them into loyal consumers. Think back to when you are walking through Harris Teeter and you can not for the life of you find flour to bake with. So you ask an employee where the hell the baking goods are and guess what? Not only will they tell you where it is with a smile they will walk you down the aisle to where the flour is located and make casual conversation. This is great customer service they stop whatever they are doing at the time and help you find what you need so you can get in and out quickly… fairly quickly. I can not say I get the same level of service at a food lion or a Walmart.

It is this level of customer service that allows businesses to charge a higher price, inspire a greater level of customer loyalty or even win over new customers. For example, I recently purchased a domain from godaddy.com and had no intentions of using them for web hosting. I intended on finding a free web hosting platform to host the website I was in the process of building, However when I called them the customer service rep was very professional and friendly. I had a few technical questions he was able to answer quickly and I felt confident if I had any issues I would be able to quickly resolve them through godaddy. The free webhosting site didn’t have the same level of customer service or a 24/7 help desk. I was not comfortable saving money and getting myself in a bad situation as a result of it.

Another great example of customer service is the vape shop I tend to frequent more often than I would like to. The reason why I go out of my way to give them my money is simply put because of their customer service. I dont feel like I am simply making a purchase I feel like I am visiting friends when I walk in. I usually end up spending 15 to 20 minutes in the shop at a time talking to the owner and other workers. This level of customer service keeps me coming back and has turned me into a loyal customer. The loyalty rewards card doesn’t hurt either.

If you are a small business owner strive to have consistent and solid customer service and treat your shoppers like guest. This will give you a competitive advantage that is not easily replicated. In an increasingly competitive and sometimes automated world that human element can sometimes be all it takes to give you that competitive edge.

17 Items to Look for When Doing an SEO Audit

How to Conduct a Surgical SEO Audit

There are a lot of ways to being an SEO audit recently I worked on a few for some clients I work with. As I reflect over what I learn I want to take the time to share what I have learned. The first thing I like to do before I get into anything else is run a crawl of the website to uncover the more obvious issues. While that is running I like to get a coffee and mentally prepare myself for what is about to begin. Also, while I am drinking my coffee I make sure to have my SEO checklist handy which includes some of the things I look for. I recommend doing this to keep you on task and to make sure you do not overlook or forget anything.

My checklist includes:

H1 Tags | Title Tags – 

Meta Descriptions- While not a ranking factor meta descriptions can help improve click through rates to your website. It is important that your internal pages to your website have appropriate meta descriptions with a call to action to assist with searchers clicking through to visit your site.

Word Count- I know Google and most other search engines do not take a specific word count into consideration but are looking for relevant useful content. There is no specific length that they are looking for. But I recommend researching what your competition is doing and then making judgements accordingly.

URL Structure- Avoid: http://www.mycars.com/exhaust/#parts.sdfgs

Internal Linking Structure– I like to see some internal linking on ideally every page generously spaced out so it does not appear to be spammy in any way. The internal links have to be relevant to the content and useful as well. This helps google crawl through larger website and helps users navigate to various pages and spread page rank more throughout the website.

Sitemap- An example of where a sitemap is usually found (referencing back to my http://www.mycars.com example) http://www.mycars.com/xml.sitemap. Or sometimes you will have to go into Search console or google webmaster tools and see where it is located.

Robots.txt – These can be found if the website your auditing has one at http://www.mycars.com/robots.txt *Example*

Some Sort of Analytics- It is important to make sure your client is tracking their engagement so they can make accurate data based decisions.

Calls to Action (CTA’s) on every page- These can also be micro conversions, but you want your web traffic to interact with your website in some form aside from purchases.

Duplicate Content- A good way to begin checking for this once your crawl is complete and after you had some coffee is to look for duplicate title tags  and meta descriptions. From there check each page with dup title tags and meta descriptions to see if there are duplicate on page content as well.

Webmaster ( Search Console)- When running a crawl I like to check to see if my client has google webmasters installed or I will be left in the dark for some things and not know the overall health of the website.

Mobile Usability- This should be a pretty simple check and there are a few ways to check it. First if you’re like me and do not have a smart phone minimize the web page of the website you are working in and see how the elements interact within the frame. If they distort or if they do not scale down appropriately then it may be time for a redesign.

Site Speed – This can be done from search console or you can do a simple google search for “Free site speed tool” I prefer free tools for obvious reasons.

Backlink Check- This can be done by using majestic seo or ahrefs to check backlinks that are pointing to the website. You will have a problem if there are a lot of spammy or irrelevant links pointing to the website and can lead to being penalized by search engines.

Alt Image Text- 

Local SEO Tactics- If your client has a local business then you want to make sure they have a google my business set up, google + account and a siet up on any other relevant local platform.

Social Media Strategy- Finally I like to look and see if my client has social media profiles set up and icons on their website pointing searchers to their social media platforms.

These are some of the basic items I like to look for when doing a basic SEO audit to get my footing and put together an action plan from there. In my next post I will be doing a deeper dive on a few techniques to identify duplicate content and how to fix it.

Finding Your Brand’s Voice.

All too often I see brands and companies not using their target market’s language when they write copy for their website, post to their social media profiles and structure email marketing campaigns etc. It is pretty easy to fall into the trap of speaking too professional or being dry when writing language or other copy for promotional materials. If you havent already be sure to read my other posts about how to set up a killer social media campaign .

A company recently that has gotten this right as far as their social media campaign is concerned happens to be Ihop they have certainly done their research and know how to speak in a language that engages their target audience. As a result they have generated some buzz.

Ihop brand_voice_2

I think brands can learn a lot from Ihop and other companies doing similar thing in the social media realm. A good way to get started is of course to conduct some research into your audience and what they are doing within their social media profiles and the sort of language they use. This can be as simple as using some sort of free social media monitoring tool to see what users are saying about your brand and looking at the language they use.

For example, if you are a law firm you would use more professional language than a skateboard brand. Essentially it is important to speak to your target audience and engage with them appropriately.

 

Why do Car Dealerships Still Run Commercials on T.V?

Why are Car Dealerships Running Terrible Commercials on T.V?

 

I am generally against most forms of advertising for a number of reasons. First, it is hard to quantify the impact and reach they have on your target audience. Second, there are plenty of other effective marketing techniques to promote a brand or product. Finally, digital marketing makes it much more cost efficient to run targeted ads towards a particular group or demographic unlike ever before.

In particular I am referring to the car dealerships in my area constantly running cheesy car commercials with poor acting or buying radio time and running horrible ads. I know it is important to promote your business and gain some sort of relevance in today’s competitive business landscape but I believe there is a better use of resources. For instance, they could pay the money and have a decent website built with great information and resources for car buyers and set up some sort of inbound marketing funnel. They could have essential contact information on the page and run specials geared towards recent college graduates or students looking for a new vehicle. If a dealership really wants to spend money on advertising they could bid on ppc ads through Google and actually track who views their ads and comes to their website. They could even set up a free Google analytics account and track who is coming to their website and interacting with what on their pages.

I know this is more of a rant as opposed to an actual post, but I firmly believe these businesses are throwing money away. It’s bad enough the car industry is ultra-competitive and everyone is running car ads and radio ads. Don’t get me wrong Im sure some businesses have a digital marketing strategy but I think it is largely overlooked within the car industry as a whole.

Six Free Powerful Tools to Scale Your Businesses Social Media Efforts.

Free Social media tools for small business

As a small business owner you probably have a small budget and cannot afford to hire a digital marketing consultant or some of the more premium social media tools for your small business. As a small business owner you typically find yourself fulfilling many roles in the day to day operations of your small business and sometimes your social media strategies and content marketing campaign can take a backseat.

Fortunately, from starting and running a small online business I came across a wide variety of free social media tools perfect for small businesses. These tools will allow you to spend more time devoted towards the core aspects of your business that generate revenue and streamline the more tedious social media or various content marketing tasks.

hootsuite

Hoostuite is a wonderful tool for any bootstrapped time strained small business. This nifty tool will allow you to schedule out all your social media posts in advance on a variety of platforms. Recently Hootsuite integrated Instagram into the mix so no more manually posting in real time anymore. This tool also lets you add various feeds so you can stay up to date on all your social media events as well.

buzz sumo

Buzz Sumo is a great content generation tool. This website lets you type in your topic or keyword query into a search bar and returns some highly shared content within your niche or businesses industry. This is also a good tool for generating inbound links or finding social influencers who can drive more referral traffic to your businesses website. A good way to utilize this tool is to search for highly shared content and schedule posts through hoot suite for maybe a few weeks in advance. This will free up time for other activities such as possibly generating your own unique content or taking care of other activities related to your business.

Iconosquare

Iconosquare is a create Instagram tool. Formerly known as statigram this program allows you to get analytic data on your Instagram account. This tool gives you insight into who your top influencers are within your niche and gives additional insight into how many followers you are losing and notifies you of new followers. This tool also provides notification of interactions on your Instagram profile as well.  Iconosquare is a free to use social media tool which will allow you to manage your Instagram comments while promoting your Instagram community.

follow liker

While not technically a free tool follow liker is a very inexpensive paid social media tool which will allow you to easily scale your businesses social media efforts. This tool is compatible with Pinterest, Instagram, twitter and Tumblr. Follow liker will automate the process of following, unfollowing, share photos, and like photos all based on pre-determined criteria you can designate prior to running the software program. Again, while not technically a free tool this is a very powerful social media tool perfect for small businesses. This tool will quickly allow you to scale your social media community and keep them engaged better.

Klout

Klout is a free social media content management tool. This tool works similar to buzz sumo in the sense you add your twitter profile to the platform and can research content based on a set of keywords and your niche. In addition, klout will also allow you to schedule content directly from their software platform and specify a time and date to publish your content. Klout also calculates its own score it gives you based on your social media engagement. Their platform also provides new fresh trending content daily on their platform which gets rid of the need to spend a lot of time searching the internet looking for content to share.

Trends

Google trends may not technically be a social media tool but it’s a great resource to see what people are searching for and compare various keywords people are searching through Google. This is however a free tool to use and worth utilizing before writing a blog or publishing original content to see what sort of potential impact it may have once it is published.

As a previous small business owner I understand all too well how valuable time is and how important it is to utilize the proper tools to quickly scale your social media community. Social Media is a wonderful tool to effectively promote your brand cost effectively. If you have not already reference back to my previous post on how to craft a social media marketing strategy like a rockstar. Until next time!