Stories can introduce your audience to the who, what, where, when, and why of your brand in a very natural way that’s easy to consume because hey, it’s a story. You can use an origin story as a great way to break the ice about what lead to the emergence of your brand. I highly recommend using this strategy when creating the “about us” section of your website. Many people often get stuck when I tell them to try this out because they have no idea where to start. My response has always been the same…
Commissioner Gordon may have succeeded with content marketing in another lifetime…
Gordon once told his son that Batman was the hero Gotham deserved but not the one it needed right now. What Gordon didn’t know was how on-point that statement is for online content. You need to be the hero that your online audience deserves, even if they don’t think they need you right away. Sound weird? Put it this way, nothing is harder to gain trust from than an online audience and for good reason (i.e. spam and scams). To gain their trust, you must treat them like you would treat a romantic relationship. You probably wouldn’t ask someone for their hand in marriage after learning their name. That potential life-time partner needs to see how much value you can give them before they commit anything to you (even if it’s only for a second date). The same thing applies to content marketing.
The Paradox of why content that always tries to sell won’t actually sell.
Gone are the days when you could write content that was 100% designed to sell a product or service you were promoting. Unless a company established a tremendous product with an already huge culture (and we’re talking big companies like Apple, Pepsi, Microsoft, etc.) then you can’t succeed with that type of content. Content nowadays needs to give online users perceived VALUE. Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” talks about it in the title of his book. Providing your audience with value (while asking for nothing in return) is described by Gary Vee as a “jab”. The “right hook” is content designed to ask your audience for something. He uses three jabs before a right hook for a reason. You must provide tons of value to your online audience with no strings attached initially, at least explicitly, before they will trust you enough to commit money or even an email subscription to you.
How offering “free” value gets exposure that can eventually lead to commitment in the long run.
Creating an amazing blog post with highly actionable advice is hard to do especially when you aren’t charging a dime for it. If you’ve ever created an awesome piece of content before, you understand what it takes. Time, money, research, and quality is invested into it. Using the relationship analogy again, this is like buying movie tickets for your second date. You had to pay for it, but it shows your commitment to him/her. If the experience (content) was good, they will likely try a third date. Your online audience is most engaged when they feel like they are getting value from what you are offering. However, to build their trust you have to give, give, give before you can sell.
That’s not to say you have to give them something you normally would charge a ton of money for. The key is to consistently give them pieces of value in exchange for micro-commitments. These are small commitments a customer makes to your business that are less likely to make them feel threatened. It can be in the form of time spent, short surveys, email subscriptions, social media engagement (likes, shares, comments), and reviews as opposed to asking them to buy something. As the customer travels further into your website’s sales funnel, you can make the micro-commitments progressively larger. In other words, you can ask your sweetheart out to the prom or vacation now after taking them out for 10 dates. These micro-commitments continue to improve your exposure to the point that asking them buy your product/service will no longer be perceived as threatening since they trust you because of all you’ve done for them. If they buy the product, they are essentially saying “I do”. If not, then don’t lose hope – it may have been the wrong time to ask and you can adjust accordingly.
Doing what actually works vs what you think may work.
Website owners generally have their opinion about how they want their site to look and feel. Sometimes, they get stuck on it even if it negatively affects their engagement. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your content is amazing if your engagement is crap, and that the audience is just ignorant. The biggest lesson we learned during the early stages of AGC media is that the audience is always right. If your engagement sucks, it can be for one of two reasons. First, you may not have published your content in the right platforms (i.e. SEO, social media, podcasts, etc.). Second and usually the most common reason, the content was simply not good enough.
You need to really look at failing content constructively to pick apart why it may not have engaged anyone. It can sometimes be as simple as a title change! We have posted articles of similar quality where all that was different was the method for title development. We studied the analytics for each post and determined which strategy worked best, and stuck with it. Same things apply for any other aspect of your content. Understand what your audience prefers, and tailor your content to meet THEIR needs.
“How do I rank on the first page when someone types in…” is the broken record question every website client asks. The answer to that question is incredibly simple and to be perfectly blunt, it comes down to how much you are willing to spend monthly. SEO requires tons of strategizing and a boatload of techniques to achieve some form of success. Evidently, that truly depends on your budget and willingness to stick to the game plan.
In 2017, your business will not survive without a website, period. However, what happens if you have a website, but it does not meet current standard practices for SEO? Frankly speaking, if this is your current situation, you may as well not have a website at all. The reality is that a site that meets current practices and has the proper User Interface is invaluable. This kind of website design and development is not easy nor does it come cheap.
Frequently, I get asked “Why do I need SEO?” My response is always the same: that is like asking “why should I drive new traffic to my website?” Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process that increases website traffic by getting the site to show up high on a list of search engine results. Search engines like Google have algorithms that detect your site’s properties, social media following, URLs, content quality, backlinks, and many other factors. They use this information to determine how well your site will rank amongst other sites that show up for the same search query (e.g. “best web designer in Whitby”). If you sell products or services and want new online customers to start purchasing them from your website, you can bet SEO is relevant to you. For all intents and purposes, we will be focusing on how SEO is useful in Google. To rank highly in a Google search result means that you will drive more traffic to your website. Here’s how:
How SEO Drives New Traffic to Your Website
It’s simple. Try searching anything you can think of at the moment and click on the result you found most relevant. We searched “SEO” from our office in Whitby (see the diagram above). Based on recent search engine research, 75% of clicks go to 1 of the top 5 listings on the results page. Better yet, the number 1 result receives the largest portion of those clicks. It pays to rank as one the top 5 results. If a user is not satisfied with the results on the first page, they are also much more likely to try another search query than to click on the second page. This means that being distant from top results makes your website virtually invisible to most users on Google. Companies pay good money to create a fantastic website only to see their traffic remain low because of poor SEO. You will always get users who are searching specifically for your company to visit your site. But what about the customers who have never heard of your company and happen to be searching for products that you sell? This is where SEO improves your traffic.
SEO is a Continuous Process that Requires Time to Work
It’s easy to understand the importance of SEO. It’s not so easy to implement it. There’s a reason why companies spend thousands of dollars each month on it. First of all, it’s a slow process. Google sends out spiders which are automated bots that “crawl” (examine a site’s data) all of the websites under its index. Since millions of websites are indexed on Google, you can imagine how long that could take. SEO clients are often told that their website may need at least 6 months to rank highly for keywords relevant to their business. Keywords are informative words or phrases searched for on Google and should indicate what type of content is being shown on a page.
SEO becomes tricky when there’s a lot of competition to rank for keywords. For example, you may want your site to rank highly for “web designer” but so do hundreds of other companies. The more popular the product or service is in the region, the higher the competition will be for it. There are also different ways customers can type keywords to find web designers on Google. You can rank highly for “best web designer in Whitby” but what about a neighboring town like Oshawa where you also have potential customers? Then you need to implement a keyword phrase such as “best web designer in Oshawa” as well. Here’s the catch. You cannot just add all the keywords to your webpage and call it a day. They must be added organically to work. Keywords should appear on your site accompanied by relevant content anywhere from 50 to 5000 words long. Google’s algorithm punishes “keyword stuffing”. This is the practice of repeatedly adding keywords to your website without any relevant content. These spam-like SEO strategies are referred to as black hat and will actually harm your ratings.
SEO is a Constant Battle
Google’s search algorithm changes frequently and so a lot of the techniques SEO consultants use rely heavily on search engine research. Google used to explicitly tell us what would rank pages, but nowadays we only get hints. Companies like AHREFS or MOZ conduct their own research to judge which website factors are likely important to Google’s ranking process. These are educated guesses at worst and statistical tendencies at best. Regardless, they are useful tools that most SEO consultants will use.
An example of an update to Google’s algorithm happened in April 2015 called “Mobilegeddon”. This addition to the search algorithm made websites that were mobile-compatible rank higher while those that weren’t saw their rankings plummet overnight. Consultants must always be on top of these updates to ensure their clients are consistently ranking.
In a consumer market that is using online shopping more than ever, the demand for SEO to drive new website traffic is constantly growing. Optimizing a webpage for crucial keywords will give your company a solid edge against your less-optimized competitors. Ranking in the top 5 results for multiple keywords is a must nowadays. You still have the option to pay for Google advertising (also referred to as SEM), but approximately 70% of customers still click on organic search results that were optimized. It’s time for your website to get noticed. Look no further than SEO to make that happen.
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