Quora Marketing Strategy for Your Small Business

Some years back, sites like Yahoo Answers, Answers.com and a bunch of other Q&A sites were the go-to places when you needed information on different topics fast. However, as spammers got into the Q&As sites and social media sites became more popular, majority of the Q&A sites lost their glory.

With the exception of Yahoo Answers, many of the Q&A sites that were active over the last decade have gradually been reduced to informational archives.

However, there is one Q&A site that has been soaring in popularity, especially over the past year. The site I am talking about is Quora.

You may have heard of the Q&A site and may even have browsed to, but then did not see how it can fit in your marketing strategy. Perhaps it’s because majority of the questions at the site seem to be about startups and VC funding.

If this was your initial observation, I urge you to go back to the site and look again. New general topics are being added every day, from alternative treatment to recipes, small business to travel.

The best thing with Quora is that users can get answers from verified entrepreneurs, industry insiders, journalist, high-level executives and the good friendly neighbor, Joe. Wouldn’t you rather have someone experienced in your line of work answer your question rather than an anonymous user whose credentials you cannot verify?

If your answer is “Yes”, then you can see the power of Quora.

But the power of Quora does not only lie in getting insight from high-level executives and entrepreneurs from different industries. You can also use the site to build your small business. Quora is an almost-premium Q&A site, rich with insightful content.

Below are six ways you can use Quora to build your small business.

1. Find new ideas in your industry

One of the challenges of running a blog is that finding out a topic to talk about. In some industries, there is a whole range of topics to cover. However, in small niche industries, topics that may interest your audience can be scarce.

Quora can help you beat writer’s block and find new ideas to write about for your blog. The best way to go about this is to search for unanswered questions related to your industry, and if you have an opinion about it, write an answer.

Use the answer as an inspiration for your next blog post.

TIP: When searching for unanswered questions, look for those that have many followers. When users “follow” a question on Quora, this usually means they are interested in the topic.

unanswered-questions-quora

2. Connect with industry leaders and prospects

The followers on a question may also be involved in your industry in one way or another. You can usually know the interests of a user by checking the topics he or she is following, has asked about or has answered. This information can be seen on the user’s profile.

You can follow such users to connect with them. Then, start answering questions that the users have subscribed to. You will usually get a notification on your Quora profile when a person you are following subscribes to or answers a question.

If a person “likes” or comments on your question on Quora, you can approach them via direct message. Be respectful when approaching anyone via direct message. You will be surprised how many people you can connect with offline.

Pro Tip: Connect with both industry leaders (influencers) and prospective customers. Industry leaders can give your brand a boost to their followers. On the other hand, you need to convert to to turn to leads and sales.

3. Build a presence for your business

Quora is not like Facebook where you follow friends to keep up with them. Rather, it’s a networking site that brings together different industry thought leaders, competitors, partners and anyone else that can make interesting contributions.

Use your real name, mention your business and fill out your profile completely. Then, follow the thought leaders and anyone else that is likely to add value to your business.

You are probably an expert in something. Contribute to relevant questions that are related to your business on Quora. This helps to build your authority and will improve your business’ brand awareness. Do not be corky. Rather, be helpful to other users.

build-awareness

Do not blatantly self-promote your business on Quora. If you are knowledgeable about your topics, users will find out from the kind of answers you are giving out. You can always link to a post on your blog if the information is related to the question you are answering, and the post will provide additional, helpful insight.

4. Monitor and engage

You should also find out what prospects are saying about your business on Quora. You can set up Google Alerts to get a message immediately your brand in mentioned. An easy way of doing this is to set up an alert in this format “Quora your business name

Replace your business name with your brand.

Apart from monitoring, engage with other users that may be interested in your business. Start threads for areas where you are an expert and stay engaged. Connect with other users, leaders and partners in your industry and be part of the conversation. This is a good way to build your business reputation on the Q&A site.

You can also set up a Google Alert for your competitors’ mentions on Quora. Generally, be up to date on what your industry is talking about. This includes finding out what is being said by or about your partners, competitors and anyone in between.

Think of Quora as an active version of Wikipedia. The site is trusted by readers and anyone can talk about your brand. However, unlike Wikipedia, you have the opportunity to step in and shape the thoughts of the users with regards to your brand.

5. Do research on your industry

Quora is a good place to find topics and questions that your prospective customers have. Therefore, you can use the site to research your market and provide solutions that are needed.

thought-provoking-questions

When you add value to a question, be it by providing an authority answer or suggesting a refinement in the question, you can subtly draw attention to your products or services as well.

You will be more successful with marketing through Quora by proving to be an authority in a subject matter. Apart from this, you need to build relationships with people that are interested in the subject that you are an authority in by following them and contributing to questions over a long time.

The best way to market in Quora is not to be everywhere. Rather, focus on subject matter and building tight-knit connections with your prospects. Apart from this, be a source of authority information in your niche and contribute regularly on the site.

6. Build industry awareness

The questions on Quora are just as important as the answers provided. Strive to ask good questions in your industry. The good thing is that if you are an intriguing or interesting question, you can get valuable feedback from other users.

The questions you ask can build industry awareness and highlight a problem that your prospects may be facing without knowing. Asking the key questions that drive your industry may not only improve your business brand awareness, but also get you a stream of new customers.

When framing your questions, you don’t want to ask every day questions that prospects have asked time and again. Rather, come up with thought-provoking questions that will ignite engagement and make users think about their business and the help they need.

5 Easy Ways to Maximize Your Email List

maximize-your-email-listEngaging with your email list subscribers is important to breaking the ice and building trust. However, are the subscribers taking the next steps to become paying customers?

We have talked about optimizing your blog, various ways to generate leads and how to make your landing pages convert well. Producing great content and promoting it using the right channels with help you get a good number of prospects.

However, you don’t simply want to build a list and stop there. Rather, you want the leads to take the next step and become customers.

Some leads may be interested in your products or services, but may need a little reminder to buy. This is where you come in. You can help your prospects take the next step and become customers through simple ways that will not make you look like you are trying too hard to push a sale.

Below are five ways in which you can convert qualified email leads into customers.

1. Set up Triggered Follow Up Emails

When prospects subscribe to your list to get notifications on new blog posts or an offer from you, your brand is at the top of their mind. You want to keep this momentum going

One of the ways of doing this is to set up a trigger emails. These are emails that are sent automatically to subscribers when they do a certain action related to your campaign.

For example, if your customers are at your online store and they abandon the cart or cancel subscription, you can send an automatic email asking why they did so. Could it be that the shopping cart is confusing or they didn’t find value in their subscription?

In the trigger email, you can offer an alternative that will help the leads stay with you. In the case or an abandoned shopping cart, how about offering free shipping or a discount for the item the customer was looking to buy?

Trigger emails get the attention of your customers because they are relevant and timely. According to getAmplify, trigger emails get 152% click-through rate, which is higher than what traditional emails get. Moreover, trigger emails have a 50% high open rate.

When set up well, trigger emails can play an important role in achieving your business sales goals.

2. Personalize Your Email Content

Another way to get value from your subscribers list is to build a rapport by personalizing your messages. Personalized messages make personalize-your-email-contentsubscribers feel that you are talking specifically to them rather than a large group.

Personalization goes beyond the common tactic of addressing subscriber by their name. For the best results, you should segment your list for further personalization.

For example, some of my subscribers are interested in social media marketing tips while others are struggling with content marketing. One way I can personalize my message is by sending exclusive content or recommending services that are tailored for the specific list segments.

My subscribers struggling with social media marketing may be interested in getting a Facebook Ads course at a discount. On the other hand, those interested in content marketing may want a one-on-one coaching call to review their content marketing strategy.

Sending different laser relevant messages to the different segments of my lists ensures that I build a rapport with my audience.

The more you segment your audience, the better your personalization could be. Depending on your industry, you may want to segment leads by gender, geographic region, age group, income levels and so on. This hyper-segmentation is crucial especially if you are providing a wide range of services of products that may not be blanket-liked by all your audience members.

Personalization also helps to reduce unsubscribe rates.

3. Have a Clear and Engaging Call to Action

You should have a goal for sending any email. For example, you may want subscribers to visit your blog, take advantage of a sale, use a coupon code, join your Facebook group of do any other action you may want.

A clear CTA is more likely to get subscribers to take action and move further down into your sales funnel.

TIP: Do not simply settle for a CTA and stop there. Test different CTAs and track their performance using your analytics tracking tool to see which ones get the highest click-through rate. A study by Content Verve shows that conversions can increase by up to 14.79% by changing the CTA copy. Test. Test. Test.

4. Link your CTA to a Dedicated Landing Page

The CTA should lead subscribers to a page that is relevant to the information they are expecting. Getting subscribers to click a CTA is difficult and you don’t want to waste your efforts by directing them to an irrelevant page.

Have a dedicated landing page for every CTA in your email. The landing page should deliver what you promised in the email message.

For example, if you want subscribers to read your blog and indicate to them in the email that you have a post about “10 ways of getting coupons”, do not link the CTA to a page about lowering credit card debt.

Doing so is misleading your subscribers and can hurt your reputation. Some subscribers may even unsubscribe from your list for taking them for a ride.

Keep your emails short and sweet. If you are using images in your emails, make sure they do not overshadow the CTA links. Moreover, the copy in the email should explain to subscribers what they will get when they click the CTA.

5. Offer an Unannounced Bonus to Your Email Subscribers

offer-unannounced-bonusNo matter the goal you have with your subscribers, you should strive to over-deliver value. There is nothing that makes subscribers trust you faster than providing more than they expected when they signed up for your list.

One good way of over-delivering value is to offer a webinar or exclusive course to the subscribers. This additional value should not be previously disclosed before visitors sign up to your list.

Providing a course cements your concern for the subscribers and also provides other benefits such as:

  • You can establish yourself as an authority in an subject you choose
  • It increases the exposure of your business to the subscribers, which improves the chances of conversions.
  • You can show more of what you have to offer before you pitch a sale to the subscribers.

Following up your subscriber with a free valuable course is a great way to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship.

The best thing is that you don’t have to work every day to keep in touch with your subscribers. You can set up an auto responder and ensure your subscribers are kept engaged, which will help you generate sales in the long term. Here is a tutorial from Smashing Magazine that takes you step by step on how to create an auto responder course that will help you make sales.

Bonus

For all the strategies you are using, make sure you test and track them to gauge their performance. The fact that visitors provided their email address to join your list means that they are wholly or partially interested in what you have to offer.

When you deliver value consistently to your subscribers, you will build their trust and steadily move them down towards the road of purchasing. The above 5 ways are simple yet effective in helping you build trust and move your leads down the road to becoming customers.

Facebook Group Marketing: Content Strategy

facebook-group-marketing

Last week, we looked at how to get started with Facebook marketing. If you haven’t read the post, I recommend you do so before continuing with today’s post.

In summary, we looked at:

  • How to find the right Facebook groups for your business
  • Determining which groups to join
  • And, starting your own group

At this point, I assume you have joined some groups and are ready to get started with generating traffic or leads to your website.

There is one simple secret to getting leads on Facebook groups. It’s so simple but most people do not put it into action. However, if follow the secret, you will get noticed and other group members will start trusting you. And with trust, getting leads becomes easy.

The secret to getting leads is: be helpful.

That is all you need. If you are helpful in the groups, other group members will start liking you. Soon, they will be asking you for advice on what to do.

Before you start posting or asking questions, scan the questions in the groups to determine what people are interested in. Make a quick note on the types of questions asked or information shared in the groups and determine the following:

  • What kinds of topics are being discussed in the groups?
  • What skill level do majority of the group members seem to have?
  • What are the common problems that members of the group have as can be determined from their questions?
  • What other information that is not related to the niche of the group is shared?

You should note down this information, preferably in your favorite spreadsheet. When researching information in the group, stick to those shared within the last 3 months. Depending on your niche, you may find that questions asked more than three months ago may still be relevant.

After answering the above four questions, it’s time to create a content strategy for your group lead generation efforts.

Creating a Content Strategy for Facebook Groups

Creating a Facebook content strategy is similar to creating a general online marketing strategy. The strategy should include content creation, promotion and measurement. Let’s go through these three basics of content strategy.

Content Creation

Creating Facebook content is easy when you know what the group members are interested in. You can create and post different types of content. Examples of content you can post include:

  • Snippets of important going-ons in your industry
  • Videos and/images content
  • Website links to important information
  • Industry statistics or research information
  • Questions or trivia in your industry
  • Case studies on different topics
  • Round ups or list posts of important links in your industry

You can use the existing content in the groups as a guide to content creation that will lead to high engagement and recognition.

Here is how you can expand your Facebook group content marketing:

i) High-Engagement Posts

Check the content posted in the group. Those that recorded the highest engagement in terms of likes, shares and comments are likely to have resonated well with the members. Copy down the posts and note the main topics they were about. The posts should give you ideas on topics that are likely to result in the best engagement with the group members.

fb-group-engagement

ii) Case Studies

People love case studies, whether you are sharing them on your blog or Facebook group. Share a few case studies to provide a point. If you have written the case study on your blog, summarize it in the Facebook group and leave a link to the full post on your blog. This is a good way to bait targeted traffic from the group to your blog.

iii) Cross Promotion

Since the groups you joined are likely to be similar in terms of niche and audience preferences, you can share the same content across different groups. Contents like round up posts, case studies, photos and industry questions are bound to be well received in the various niche groups where you are a member.

iv) Build your List

Make a free resource such as an eBook or video and invite group members to opting to your list to get the content. Before you create the resource, make sure you have started to build a rapport on the groups. You will know you are building rapport when your posts get high engagement both in terms of likes and comments.

Content Promotion

The second step in your Facebook content marketing strategy is promotion. Now, creating content on the groups is not the same like on blogs. This is because the posts on groups are not searchable in a way that keywords are searchable in search engines.

To find a post, a user will have to scroll down past other posts up to the one he or she wants. However, there are some ways in which you can promote your content and make it more visible on Facebook groups.

The first thing is to make sure you post the right content. We have covered the types of contentin the previous point. Now, to improve engagement, you want the post to be visible on the group. Here are some tips to make your posts visible:

i) Post when most people are active in the group

In some groups, people are active during the morning hours while for others, late evenings record the highest number of people. Experiment with a few posts to determine the best times to post. You can also check the posts that have recently attracted more engagement and find out when they were posted. This will give you an idea on the best time to post.

ii) Ask an open-ended question

Engage other group members by ending your posts with a question. People love giving advice of their views on different topics. Give your opinion and then ask members to contribute to the discussion. Another option would be to ask questions using the Question feature in groups. To get more relevant answers, set the answers that members must select if they wish to answer the question.

open-ended-questions

iii) Link to previous posts in the group

Link to previous posts that you have contributed in the group. Make the conversation flow and highlight your previous posts by linking to them. When you link to previous posts, members that may have skipped the post may click to view it, hence increasing its visibility.

Note: Linking should only be done if the post you want to link to is relevant to the discussion you have.

iv) Tag influential members in your posts

When you create a post, request the input of a few reputable members by tagging them in the posts. Ideally, these members should be leaders in the industry and active on the group. For example, if you tag a member with 1000 friends, it is likely the person’s friends will be notified when he or she comments on the post you’ve made in the group.

Content Measuring

The final part of your  Facebook group content marketing strategy should be to measure the impact of your content. You can measure different metrics to find out whether your content is resonating well with the members of the group and helping your business in the long run. Here are some metrics you can measure:

i) Engagement. Find out whether you comments or posts are getting Likes and Shares. This is usually a sign that members are interested in the content. Apart from this, find which type of posts are leading to the highest engagement.

ii) Traffic. Check how much traffic is being driven from Facebook groups to your website or optin page. Set up your analytics programs to find the sources of traffic to your website.

iii) Leads. Determine how many leads you are getting from  the Facebook groups. You can set up a separate landing page to target Facebook group traffic and measure the leads. Alternatively, you can provide specific offers to members of the Facebook groups where you are a member.

The above is an overview of how you can create a content strategy for Facebook group marketing. Are you using Facebook groups for marketing? Let me know what kind of success you are having.

Blogging Success: 3 Tips that Will Keep You Going

blogging-successWhen you look at the successes of other bloggers, you may be wondering what they are doing to be that successful.

Blogs like CopyBlogger, Social Media Examiner, QuickSprout and others are some of the leading content marketing blogs on the Internet. The number of comments the posts on the blogs get, inbound links and mentions on social media sites make many marketers green with envy.

“If only I could get such engagement and numbers, then my business would be on another level”, you may think.

However, there is one thing you should know: good things take time.

Big things often start small.

So, before you give up on blogging, read these three tips that will keep you going despite the seemingly lack of results on your blog.

Build an Audience

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

So why are you amazed that your blog subscribers list is extremely low when you have only been blogging for a few months?

While you may be creating good content everyday only for it to be read by a handful of visitors, this should not be an excuse for you to give up. Building an audience takes time, but with a plan, the process can be accelerated.

Here are three ways you can experiment to build your audience.

i) Ask visitors to subscribe by using CTAs

To get new subscribers to your email list, it is crucial to have a subscribe CTA that is persuasive enough to make visitors want to leave their contact information.

You should tweak the CTA and measure the results generated to determine whether you are getting somewhere. If your email submissions are low, consider testing different colors, copy, size, and placement.

For example, if you realize no submissions are coming from the CTA you have on the sidebar, you can experiment with a pop up CTA and measure the results.

ii) Find out what your audience wants

From your analytics reports, you can know which type of content best resonates with your audience by looking at the page views, comments and conversions. However, it also doesn’t hurt to ask your existing audience what type of content they would like to see more on your blog.

You can create a poll on your blog to find out what your current subscribers are interested in. This type of outreach can help you determine what type of content your audience wants to see more, and ultimately position your blog to attract more subscribers.

iii) Leverage social proof

In most cases, putting social share counters on your blog to show the popularity of your posts and encourage visitors to keep coming back can lead to more shares, and in the process new traffic and visitors. However, if you are just starting to blog or your traffic is low, having social share counters could have a negative effect.

The good news is that there are other ways you can use social proof to your advantage. For example, having a “featured tweet” on your blog homepage can provide first-time visitors with validation that they have stumbled upon reputable content. This validation reassures visitors that your content is valuable and that they will benefit from sticking around.

Know that SEO is a Long-Term Strategy

step-by-stepYou would definitely love for Google to index every blog post you write immediately you press the “Publish” button. However, the indexing process is a little bit more complex.

Sometimes, it may take Google a few days, or even months, to index your content. This is especially true if your domain age is new or the level of authority that your site has is low. However, you can be sure that eventually Google will find your content and index it.

According to statistics from Search Engine Land, companies that blog have 434% more pages indexed by Google than those that don’t blog. The result? The companies get more leads than businesses which do not blog.
Therefore, even if you are not getting immediate results from your blogging efforts, you are likely to benefit in the future when your content gets indexed and visitors find it. A great piece of content can be a potential lead generation source on your blog for years.

There is a lot you can do in terms of optimization once your post is indexed.

The first place you can look into is your buyer persona. Find out the search terms that your potential clients type on search engines when looking for the products or services you provide. Focus your content on solving the problems of your target audience. This content is more likely to resonate well with them.

There are different SEO tools you can use to do keyword research and uncover the search terms that lead prospects to your blog. Google Keyword Planner is a good free tool you can use.

When you have created a number of posts on your blog and have started having a library of optimized content, your blog will sort-of start emerging as a resource hub for the information you have been creating.

From here, you will start noticing higher traffic and stick rates on your blog. Not only will you be generating traffic from your latest posts, but will also be driving traffic to earlier posts through interlinking.

Focus on Social Sharing

Social media sites are a good place to promote your blog content. However, if you are struggling to see any return from your promotional efforts, it may be time to tweak your distribution strategy.

With so many mainstream and niche social media networks available, it is easy to get caught up in the wind of being everywhere without getting results from your actions. The best way to use social media networks is to determine which ones your target audience use and have a presence there.

Having a social media strategy is also important if you are to make any meaningful connections that can help your small business and see engagement from the content you share.

Promoting your content on social media will help you get noticed by your target audience. However, there are other benefits of promoting the content. For instance, the people that you share your content with also have their own networks or audiences with whom they can share the content with. The net effect is your content reaching many people from the little effort you put.

This net effect can however only be achieved if you create content that people love. Think about it, which type of content do you share with your friends on social media sites? I can bet its content that you find interesting or that you believe will help the people in your network.

As you create your blog content, put yourself in the readers’ shoes and ask: “If I was a visitor reading this blog post, would I be compelled to share it on Facebook or other social networks I am in?”

Having social share buttons on your blog can encourage sharing of your content. However, if you have a small audience, you can find other ways to boost engagement. For example, you can use a tool like Click-to-Tweet to increase the shares of your content.

The above tips should give you a reason to continue blogging, even if it seems you are not getting any results at the moment.

5 Keys to Small Business Online Marketing Success

small-business-online-marketing-successsmall-business-online-marketing-successMajority of my readers already have small businesses and are marketing them on the Internet. Some entrepreneurs know the ins and outs of running successful marketing campaigns while others are still in the trenches, learning. There are however a few business owners that are complete novices when it comes to online marketing.

Regardless of where you fit in the mastery of online business marketing, this post will give you some tips that will help you succeed. Let’s jump right into the details.

What Are Your Marketing Goals

Before you start looking at different online marketing methods to implement for your business, it helps to define your marketing goals.

Every business has unique problems that the owner may be looking to solve. For example, you may be looking to achieve one or some of the following:

  • Get more sales/revenues (sweet)
  • Get on top of search engine results for target profitable keyword phrases
  • Improve your social media following for brand enhancement
  • Generate leads from existing traffic on your online channels
  • Educate your target market on various topics to generate qualified leads

When you know what you want to achieve with your business in the short and long term, it becomes easy to determine which route to take with your online marketing.

Now let’s look at some marketing tips that are sure to guarantee you success with your small business.

1. Establish a Strong Online Presence

This is probably the most important way of marketing your small business. If you are not blogging, you should be on Twitter or LinkedIn chatting with prospects and sharing valuable content. The key thing is to add value to your clients and prospects. The secret to generating leads is to be nice to people and help them solve a problem they have.

You should have your online marketing strategy right from the start. Think about the people you want to help, what they like, where they hang out on social media and the information they are searching for.

You can use insight from your competitors to know what is working and to get jumpstarted with your campaigns. For example, you can check the topics that industry leaders are writing about and follow the same angle.

However, you do not just want to copy the topics being covered by competitors. Rather, you want to curve a unique angle that will help your audience. You can make a name for your business by creating great content and promoting it across the various online properties you have a presence.

Practice lean marketing for your business. Identify the online channels that are working best for your business and concentrate on them. If your prospects hang out in all major social media networks, follow them wherever they are.

You should establish a presence in the online channels your prospects hang out and dominate the field.

2. Use Online Channels Sparing

social-media-marketingLimit the social media channels you are using for your marketing. This is especially true if you are running a one-person business or are not sure whether your target market uses the additional social networks you want to have a presence in.

Every channel you are using should help you achieve your overall business goal, be it creating brand awareness, generating leads, closing sales and so on.

To achieve all of these, you need to get prospects to trust and respect you. The way to do this online is to position yourself as a trusted source of information in your industry.

For example, you can create blog posts around your industry topics, curate content from thought leaders, network and connect with industry leaders, and address the subjects your audience interested in.

It’s easy to get into the trap of being “everywhere” online. However, think about the benefit that being everywhere will bring to your business. For the most part, you will realize you are spending time and resources to establish a presence on the additional social networks but have no ROI (return on investment) to show.

And this brings us to the next point…

3. Track your Marketing Efforts

You cannot improve what you cannot measure. Track your marketing efforts to see whether you are on track to achieving your business goals. You should do an audit of your marketing activities, perhaps 3 to 6 months, to see how your business has been fairing.

Here is a handy list of the important metrics that matter that should be on your list of things to track.

Tracking should help you in two ways:

  • Discover the marketing methods that bring results to your business. Any methods that do not bring results should be scaled down or tweaked for better performance. Methods that result in positive ROI can be scaled up for even better performance.
  • Identify new marketing techniques that are working for your business. Tracking can help you determine whether the marketing experiments you have been doing are working. If you find a winning technique, scale it up.

It’s important to define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for every marketing campaign. KPIs are simply benchmarks against which you will measure the results of your online marketing campaign to determine whether they were hits or misses.

4. Get Your Website Right

Your online properties, especially your website, are possibly the first interaction that prospects will have with business.

Have a professionally designed website for your business. Make sure your website speaks to the customer. Some potential clients will judge your business by how your website looks. You want to hook them the first time they visit.

Your website copy should be targeted to the visitors. The site should explain what your business is about, what you do and how you can help the prospect.

Make it easy for clients to find your business on search engines. This means your site should be designed according to the best SEO practices. For example, the site’s copy should contain the relevant keywords that you are targeting.

Conversion is another thing that the website should be focused on. Make it easy for prospects to connect with you by subscribing to your email list. If you produce great content that your audience loves, you can get leads into your sales funnel. You can nurture the leads to become customers.

5. Be Consistent

Consistency is the key to earning trust from prospects and moving your business forward. Many small business owners start online marketing with a lot of fire, only to get bogged by entrepreneur’s burnout and slowly fade into oblivion.

The worst thing is that just as the entrepreneurs are starting to fade off, that is when a prospect who has been following the business for months wants to make an enquiry that is a potential sale.

To be consistent with your marketing, you need a plan. An online marketing plan will act as your roadmap in your small business journey. It’s important to have a plan from the onset of your marketing. If you don’t have a plan, you are likely to be caught up in the trap of doing everything just to feel busy but in the real sense, you won’t be helping your business.

The above are five important tips that will help you improve your business. It’s time to get out of the shell and start making moves for your small business. Consistency is key to get your small business to the next level.

SEO Mistakes Small Business Should Avoid

seo-mistakes-to-avoidFor any business, SEO and search engine marketing are great and cost-effective techniques of driving traffic to offers, and generating leads and sales online. However, if you do not know understand search engine marketing, there are some mistakes you may be making that may be impacting negatively on your online marketing efforts.

Knowing what to do and what to avoid can be crucial to avoiding dreaded penalties like Penguin and Panda. Below are 10 of the most common mistakes I find small businesses doing on a regular basis:

1. Copying strategy of high ranking websites

One of the mistakes you may be doing is studying the sites and pages that rank high on search engine results and then imitating or copying their strategy. Doing this has two main flaws:

  • You are assuming that the top ranking sites are following the best SEO practices, which may not always be the case. For instance, a website may be using manipulative tactics that may work in the short term but end up being detrimental in the long run.
  • If you are copying a competitor, you are not creating value or being innovative in your space. If you create content that is helpful to your audience, you will attract high quality visitors that simply copy/pasting what a competitor is doing.

You can learn from what other top websites are doing. However, make sure that the tactics the business owners are employing are not frowned upon by search engines.

2. Not investing or investing in the wrong channels

invest-in-the-right-channelsSEP is a proven channel that small businesses can use to get traffic, leads or foot traffic to their business. Local SEO is a must for location-based businesses.

However, you should not mistake SEO for buying links or some pre-packed set of low quality services. It pays to educate yourself online about SEO and work with respected agencies in your industry. Before hiring an inbound marketing agency, know what you want to achieve and find out how the agency would help you do that.

3. Waiting for the right time to start SEO

Many of the clients that I sign up fall in this category. They wait until they have the perfect product or service to start doing SEO. You do not need to have any offer ready to start marketing. If you have the idea, you should start marketing it.

Avoid the old school marketing of putting a “coming soon” page. What should your potential customers be doing as they wait for you to launch?

Rather than staying on the backend waiting for the big launch, start marketing the product to your audience. Starting writing blog posts, optimize your website and collect emails. This pre-launch marketing can have a major positive impact on the success of your business.

4. Ignoring your website

Do not put a 20 page brochure site and then expect it to generate leads without you working on it. Your website should be updated regularly with content that will improve the lives of your audience.

Creating content consistently helps to improve the number of inbound links to your blog. Apart from this, the blog will get ranked high by search engines, which improves its visibility among visitors. Research what your market searches for on search engines and create content around the target search term phrases.

5. Not hiring an SEO

Whether you are hiring in-house or outsourcing, you need a person or team to handle your SEO and search marketing activities.

A good inbound marketing agency can give a small business nearly everything they need to build their brand, reach the right prospects and generate leads. For instance, the agency may develop training or a marketing plan that the internal staff can execute, provided you have resources, are willing to follow instruction and work to a plan.

Read this post to find out whether you need to hire an inbound marketing agency.

6. Trying to game SEO

Another mistake you may make is trying to game SEO, forgetting that good SEO is all about providing value to your customers.

The era of playing games with search engines is over. Search engine robots have become smarter is identifying websites that use shady tactics to rank and are wiping them out en masse. Using tactics like using private blog networks and other blackhat tactics may work in the short run but will definitely got caught and penalized.

The best SEO you can do is focus on creating great content that is shareable and will attract natural links from other blogs.

7. Investing in the wrong technology

For small businesses, budget is usually an issue when it comes to marketing. Therefore, it is important to get the on-site SEO optimization investing-in-wrong-technologycorrectly so as to lessen the load on link building requirements. One of the ways your business may be setting itself up for failure is using the wrong content management system (CMS).

Some all-in-one CMS solutions may seem to make content creation and management easy. However, if the CMS has bad architecture or canonicalization issues, it’s best to stick to WordPress. WordPress is easy to get started with and is already SEO-focused. Tweaking it for the best on-page results is easy.

8. Thinking there are no costs in online marketing

Yes, online marketing is an effective and low-cost marketing technique that makes leads generation easy. However, the low barrier to starting an online business does not mean you will succeed. While you may constantly hear of the “overnight” success stories, the failure or about 95% of Internet businesses is not broadcast.

Most small businesses fail because they don’t have a marketing plan or a long term budget. This problem can be easily fixed as you are planning to launch your business. If you have been struggling with online marketing this year, it’s time to ask someone for Internet marketing services. Call an agency early on and get a bid.

Use the bid to plan for your online marketing investment for the next year. If you cannot invest in online marketing, then you will have to work twice as hard to get noticed in your space.

9. Hiring the wrong inbound marketing agency

Another mistake you can make is hiring the wrong company to manage your SEO. There are hundreds of SEO companies that will sell you a monthly package for SEO services. Rather than hiring an SEO company to offer you link building services, you should ask to gauge them based on particular metrics that are important for your business.

For example, you may want to see an increase in traffic from users in particular regions. Likewise, if you are hiring a company to offer social media management activities, you want to see increased activity from the audience you are targeting.

Many small businesses fall into the trap of hiring an agency when a freelancer would do a job perfectly and at a lower cost or when it’s better to do SEO on their own. Your business goals should help you determine whether to hire an SEO company or do SEO on your own.

10. Building links just for the sake

Link building is no doubt an important part of SEO. However, building links just for the sake of it can hurt your business, especially if you are just establishing your footprint online. Big brands can get away with building low quality links since they are likely to have a huge amount of high quality links. The high quality links dilute the bad links.

However, for small businesses, having a huge amount of low quality links works against your online marketing efforts. Rather than building massive links, focus on creating high quality links from websites trusted by search engines.

One of the most effective ways of building good links is to create a shareable resource. After publishing your resources, contact bloggers in your industry and ask them if they would like to link to it as part of their resources.

Small businesses can build their brands, drive traffic and generate leads on their websites using SEO. However, it’s important to know important aspects of SEO to ensure any activity you are doing will result in a positive ROI.

The above are some of the mistakes most small business owners make when it comes to SEO. Which mistake are you making?

Inbound Marketing: Do You Need Outside Help?

small-business-inbound-marketingWhether you are looking to start marketing your small business or already have an inbound marketing strategy in place, you may be wondering whether you should employ an agency to help you with marketing.

An inbound marketing agency can take your marketing to the next level, ensuring your achieve your target goals faster. The agency will leave you with more time to handle  other aspects of your business as it handles the marketing.

Before hiring an agency, there are a few considerations you should make to determine whether the exercise will be worth it. In particular, determine the current capabilities of your in-house team, whether they can take new work, and how you will scale your marketing strategy to improve your bottom line.

The three factors will help you determine whether your business will benefit from  the experience and help of an inbound marketing agency. Let’s go through the factors in depth.

1. Determine Capability of Your Current In-House Team

Whether to keep your marketing activities in-house or seek external help should be determined  after assessing  the capabilities of your in-house team. If you are like most SMBs, you probably have no permanent marketing person. Perhaps you do the marketing or one member of the staff occasionally does marketing for the company.

The lack of having a focused and permanent marketing team  with the experience and skills required for inbound marketing may be the reason why your business’s growth is stunted. For successful online marketing,  you need professionals with various skills including paid search, SEO, social media and copywriting.

If you are a medium sized company, you may need professionals with even more skills including analytical marketing, conversion focused web design, front and backend web development, and knowledge of inbound marketing software platforms.

As the leader of your business, you should have someone that is in tune with your business objectives and who has a thorough understanding of inbound marketing techniques leading  the implementation of your strategy. However, finding a personal with all these capabilities is nearly impossible.  Generally, your in-house team may be experienced in two or three marketing concepts.

This being the case, it may be clear that you need new inbound marketing talent. So, why not hire an inbound marketer?

Hiring an inbound marketer may work with large organizations but the practicality of it may not work for SMBs.  The costs of recruiting, hiring and training an inbound developer, designer or marketer can easily deplete your marketing budget for every team member. Depending on where you are with marketing, hiring an  inbound agency may be more cost effective than marketing in-house.

If any of the below signs apply to your business, then you may benefit  from the skills and experience of an inbound agency:

  • Your in-house team lacks core marketing skills
  • You do not fully understand what inbound marketing is
  • You need to help in designing a conversion-focused website
  • You need help in implementing your online marketing strategies
  • You need help in determining and designing winning marketing campaigns

2. Consider the Capacity of Your Team

in-house-team-capacityMost small business owners underestimate the amount of work required to formulate a working strategy and get it off the ground and running.  As you come up with your inbound marketing plan, it’s important to determine who much time it will take to develop, launch and scale the different marketing strategies in your plan.

Keep in mind that any strategy that needs to be scaled will consume more time than the initial launch. Is your team ready to take the additional work and still be able to attend to their current responsibilities?

Most of the time, a number of activities will have to be carried out before the launch of your marketing strategy.  Examples of such activities include strategic planning, website improvements and content development.

You need to define your buyer personas, create initial content for the audience and define your conversion paths. The calls-to-action must be integrated in  your website and email workflows setup for lead nurturing.

Carrying out these tasks require you a skilled team,  a lot of dedication and a substantial budget.

When you launch your inbound marketing, there will be a lot of work to be done to  get traction and attract traffic, leads and customers to your site.  Executing any inbound marketing strategy,  even the most basic of them, can take you more than 50 hours every month just in creating content, landing pages, and optimizing different  strategies.

If you are in a highly competitive  industry, you may need 150 or more hours of work every month  to reach your lead generation and customer coversion goals.

However, the long hours that need to be put in the  execution of any inbound marketing strategy should not deter you from implementing your strategies. Rather,  the hours should  help you set realistic expectations and execution timelines, whether you are marketing in-house or will hire an agency.

Here are some signs that show you need help from an inbound marketing agency to grow your strategy:

  • You are finding it difficult to hire and scale your in-house inbound marketing operations
  • Your team is short of professionals with the skills and capacity to fully implement your strategy
  • You want a proven, result-driven campaign launched quickly
  • 3. Consider How You Will Scale Your Results Over Time

scale-resultsYou may be looking to use inbound marketing to complement your existing sales and marketing strategies.  Alternatively, you may be relying on the marketing for growth of your business.

Regardless of what you intend to achieve from inbound marketing, you should have a strategy  that you can follow to scale your results in future. This includes structuring your team to be able to formulate, implement and measure techniques quickly.

As you formulate your inbound marketing plan launch, keep in mind your immediate and long term requirements. Your strategy should allow you to continuously grow your results in the future.

As you begin to gain traction and drive business results, which steps will you have to take to go to the next level? How is your current inbound marketing strategy structured to ensure continued growth?

Most small business think they are able to fully implement an inbound marketing strategy in-house. While this is usually true, problems start when the business wants to scale its marketing strategies. That’s when the in-house team realizes it has too much on its plate and cannot attain targets.

Having the best inbound marketing talent for your company is good for small scale campaigns. However, if you are looking to scale an entire inbound marketing campaign, you may realize the talent falls short of some skills. This is where working with an inbound marketing agency begins to make sense.

If you already have an in-house marketing team, you can outsource parts of your marketing that the team is not skilled or experienced at.

Going for this option hive you more flexibility and immediately scalability. Moreover, your business will also get access to a broad range of skillset and current industry knowledge from the inbound agency, which your internal team may not have.

If the following apply to your business, then hiring an agency will help you scale your marketing more efficiently.

  • You have a limited budget and hence cannot outsource all your marketing to an agency
  • Your inbound marketing results are stagnant and you need to take them to the next level
  • Your team has some marketing skills but needs additional expertise crucial to your launch and business growth

Many small business owners struggle to determine whether or not they should hire an inbound marketing agency. Comparing the results you want to achieve and the capability of your team to implement and scale the different strategies will provide the answer.

If you have decided to fully implement and inbound marketing strategy and your in-house team has the skills and tools required for execution, then you don’t need to hire an agency. However, if your team lacks some of the pertinent skills required for various marketing techniques, you should reach out to an experienced inbound marketing agency to discuss your requirements.

Google Panda 4.1 Is Here…Should You be Worried?

google-panda-4.1

In case you missed it, Google Panda 4.1 was released last week. While Google has not officially confirmed the update yet, discussions in online marketing forums confirm that the search engine giant is either testing a new Panda update or has already released one.

If you have been affected by Panda 4.1, chances are that Google does not consider your website to be adding value to users online. Generally, the major sites that seem to have been hit by Panda 4.1 include:

i) Medical content farms. These are sites providing information about medical conditions but are not created by verified medical authorities. A lot of affiliate sites promoting products like Garcinia Cambogia have been hit.

ii) Lyrics sites. Lyrics sites that mostly republish lyrics with little original content of their own and have heavy monetization.

iii) Affiliate sites. Affiliate sites with low-quality content, including those with blank or broken pages.

iv) Gaming sites. Gaming sites that have thin content and that aggregate content from other online sites.

Hopefully, your website does not fall among the above and you have not been hit. The rollout is still ongoing and it may be a few weeks before the dust settles and small business owners determine whether or not they have been hit.

What is Panda 4.1 Targeting?

Looking at the initial data available, it is clear that Panda 4.1 is back to get the sites that were spared during the last update. And the big stick is all about content.  Sites that are churning out low quality content and those with duplicate content are getting penalized.  But how does Google find out what low quality content is?

One thing you have to understand is that Google penalties are simply aligorithm changes done on how search engines find and classify content. In theory, one of the ways that Google may be determining if a content is low quality is by simply looking at the bounce rate. If a site has a high bounce rate, then it’s possible that the content is low quality and visitors don’t get value from it.

Most sites that are getting penalized are those that are keen on monetizing their visitors either through ads or affiliate products. Thus, small businesses are likely to be spared in the Panda 4.1 roll-out even if the sites get low traffic.

The above are just my theories and should not be taken to be absolute Gospels from Google’s mouth.

Now, in case your site  has  been hi (or will be hit) t, it’s time to ramp up your content and strive to create more shareable and trusted content in your industry.Panda updates are majorly about content and I therefore cannot stress enough the need of having quality content on your website.

But, should you really be afraid of Google updates?

I cannot downplay the impact of getting hit by Panda 4.1 or any of the Google updates. For small businesses, the impact is even severe given that you may be using your personal finances to run the business.

Therefore, it makes sense to take steps to avoid Panda or Penguin updates at all costs. What I am going to say next may seem controversial but it’s one of the things that I feel small business owners should focus on.

So, how do you avoid Google updates? Simply IGNORE GOOGLE.

Yes. It’s time to focus your content marketing strategies away from the realm of Google.

But Deb, how will I get visitors to my blog without Google? You may be asking.

Well, I do not mean that you should not care what Google says and the guidelines they have put in place to guide webmasters on how to optimize their websites. However, we all know that in every Google update, some small businesses that have done nothing wrong usually get caught up in all the mess.

Thus, I would recommend that you focus your efforts in building communities across different channels. The best thing with communities is that they cannot be affected by Google updates. If you have a vibrant community that loves your content, they will visit your website regardless of whichever animal update Google decides to unleash.

Build Communities to Generate Website Traffic

To build communities of prospects that are interested in your business, you have to identify different channels that will help you to connect and pass your message along. Examples of channels you can use include:

1. Social Media Sites

You can use Facebook and other social media sites to build a community around your business. How you approach and implement your social media marketing will have an impact on the results that you will get.

Social media marketing is not a set-and-forget system. With Facebook constantly tweaking its algorithm and affected post reach, you need to be on toes with the marketing platform.

You need a social media plan to guide you in your marketing. The plan should outline the audience you are targeting, how you will reach them, what you wish to achieve from your interaction and how you will measure success.

Check this article on how to market your business on Facebook.

2. Forums

While not usually mentioned in most online marketing blogs, forums are great for connecting with people interested in your business and that are likely to become your customers.

Granted, not all forums are active. Moreover, you will need to earn the trust of the members of the forums before you start asking for a sale. You have to be helpful to other members of the forums to earn trust. You do this by answering their questions and providing helpful information.

To get started with forum marketing, identify about 3 to 5 forums full of active with members of your market. Next, look around the forums to get a sense of the topics that members are interested in and start participating.

Here is a string that you can use to search for forums in your niche: “keyword + forum”

3. Email

Email is one of the most effective ways of building your brand and keeping your audience engaged. Email marketing is more than sending your subscribers marketing messages. Use the marketing platform to build connections by educating your subscribers and helping them with their problems.

The first step to effective email marketing is to set up an auto responder for your business. You can use a service like GetResponse, Aweber or Constant Contact. These three email marketing services providers have auto responder features.

From there, determine the initial content that you will be sending to your audience. Interact with your subscribers and find out what they are struggling with. The goal is to provide value to the audience to ensure they stay subscribed to your list and start trusting you.

Finally, make an offer that the audience cannot refuse. This last step should come after you have found out what your audience is struggling with and whether they are willing to pay for a solution to the problem.

For most websites, Google is the primary source of traffic. If this applies to your website, you should take advantage of all the free traffic you are getting and start tappingand sending it to other online marketing channels that you have a presence in.

The last thing you want is to be shaken when Google pulls the plug on a working system and all your natural traffic is cut off overnight.