Categories
SEO

Fresh Content Helps Your SEO, But Stale Content Can Hurt It

A client of mine had five different websites, all of which had separate blogs with articles. Their websites were closely related with many commonalities and overlapping topics. They wanted to improve their SEO, so my advice was to merge everything and bring all the content under one virtual roof.

Consolidating websites is often considered a best practice among SEOs, and the only time it doesn't make sense is when each site's intended audience and subject matter are completely distinct.

After the consolidation, it created an exponential effect when combined with fresh content. The increase in traffic from consolidating everything not only equaled the total traffic previously going to all websites but also doubled it.

There are several reasons for this.

Improve SEO By Updating Old Content

First, the main website had more domain authority. It was their first, which had the most indexed pages and keywords. Second, the main website had more content authority. It offered products and services but also had a substantial following and the most backlinks.

My client asked if it is a good strategy to review and fix the hundreds of posts on the newly consolidated website, and delete a bunch of redundant ones. That's when I recommended doing a content audit on the newly consolidated website.

This is a practice all SEO consultants and specialists should do from time to time. Performing a content audit is the first and most important step in creating a content marketing strategy. It will allow you to know which pages are truly unproductive, and then whether to delete, merge, redirect, or refresh them.

Of course, if you have a page that's doing well, you don't have to refresh it by rewriting it completely. All pages should be refreshed at some point as content does get stale after a while. At least from an SEO perspective.

To start, it's better to focus on the weakest links first.

Weak content can sometimes be seen as being the oldest ones. But some older content may still be quite productive. The weaker ones are those with the least traffic, the least search impressions, or the least number of backlinks. I’ll go over how to do this later. For now, the question I want to answer is, why.

There are plenty of reasons for updating old content. Non-SEO benefits, too. If you're a busy professional, you have a blog already or existing content, and you don't have a lot of time writing new stuff. So this might be useful.

Even if you choose to outsource your content writing, getting your writers or staff to refresh old content is an equally wise move.

Updated content provides your audience with fresh, updated information, which may be more useful and relevant to them. Or to borrow a term coined by my friend, the late Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, it's providing users with “state-of-the-moment” content.

Benefits of Refreshing Old Content

Refreshing old content has five major benefits:

  1. You increase the content's quality and length;
  2. You boost the content's stickiness (i.e., dwell time);
  3. You give users reasons to revisit your content;
  4. You invite newer backlinks and brand mentions; and,
  5. You add or widen what's called a content “moat.”

Obviously, the main benefit of refreshing old content is that it can improve SEO. It makes the content not only more timely and relevant for users, but also adds to its length, which offers additional signals.

Remember, word count is not a ranking factor. But longer articles do tend to improve SEO ranking because they help other areas, such as making the content more informative, increasing dwell times, lowering bounces, adding keyword variations, increasing keyword density, and so on.

In short, if you were looking at creating long-form content but don't have the time, expanding on an older piece of content is a viable option.

While content length is not a ranking factor, freshness certainly is.

Google uses different criteria to determine the quality of your content, and recency is one of them. Their QDF algorithm (i.e., “Query Deserves Freshness“) that looks at content freshness is one of their oldest, launched back in 2007, which hasn't been updated much since. (Oh, the irony.)

With all things being equal between two pieces of similar content, the one that will rank highest will typically be the most recent one.

True Evergreen Content is Impossible

Evergreen content is content that can be useful at any time, usable in many instances, or applicable by your audience at any stage. So to use language that's appealing to beginners and with less technical jargon that only seasoned audience members would know.

Content becomes stale over time, even when it's evergreen. No piece of content is truly 100% evergreen. Evergreen content may not need updating often, but they do deserve to be updated and probably more so than regular content.

Furthermore, the date on older content might reduce its stickiness, authority, and what's often referred to as “engagement velocity” (such as how often it's shared, talked about, commented on, etc).

Content is almost always outdated after a certain period of time. Situations change — like a worldwide pandemic, for example — that can make evergreen content a little less relevant. Plus, you may still need to update any of the links, anchors, images, case studies, statistics, findings, etc.

More importantly, updated content is also stickier.

Stickiness is helpful, not just for engaging users but also for SEO as it improves dwell time. When a searcher lands on a page that is obviously outdated (or one they've seen before), they will pogostick back to the SERPs, which tells Google your content is not what they are looking for.

Refreshed content gives users something that may be more relevant to their search. It also gives existing users a new reason to visit. It's a lot like wanting to buy a book that's updated or expanded, even though you have already read it.

Freshness is a Ranking Factor

When it comes to performance, updated content is also proven to be more productive. When a refreshed page appears in Google's search results, or when it's shared on social media, they invite higher clickthroughs. Some do this by appending a date to the headlines, such as:

“Top 10 Project Management Software For SMBs (2021)”

The new headline and content that appear in search results will be more inviting and relevant. But also, the updated timestamp communicates to searchers that your content has been updated.

Content that's more recent tends to be ranked higher. But that's with all things being equal, and you and I know that nothing is ever equal. Some older pages may rank higher if it's more relevant to the search. But other pages that are newer may attract more clicks.

People looking for the most recent results on a certain topic will scan the dates in the SERPs. Take Google's QDF I mentioned earlier. The top results were 2018 and 2019. But I chose one in 2020. How did I find it? I Googled “Query Deserves Freshness” and I clicked on the third result:

Fresh Content Helps Your SEO, But Stale Content Can Hurt It 1 | fresh content
Google results for Query Deserves Freshness, November, 2020.

The last but not the least of all the benefits of refreshing content is that it creates something called a content “moat.”

Freshness Also Creates a “Content Moat”

Just like a defensive moat around a castle that's supposed to dissuade attackers who are looking to infiltrate it, refreshing your old content and particularly regularly updating it makes it hard for others to copy you.

Of course, you should focus on providing unique, difficult-to-replicate content — content that's new, different, and offers unique insights (for example, it contains original research, case studies, success stories, specialized expertise, etc). This makes it hard for others to steal your original stuff.

But if they do, they'll only remind others of you.

Moreover, if your content is original, any duplicate content penalties will be given to the culprit. There are no “penalties” per se, but Google will attribute the highest authority to the original author or creator. Google's software is sophisticated enough to determine who's the original author of a work.

Now, let's say a competitor takes bits and pieces of your content, and perhaps rewords them enough to make them appear unique. Even though it's still similar to yours, regularly refreshing old content keeps you a step ahead of them.

Content, in itself, is easy to imitate. From copying and pasting text to stealing ideas. But content is always unique makes it harder to imitate.

So build a moat around your content by updating it.

Ultimately, by refreshing old content you will not only improve SEO but also stay a step ahead of the competition. The question is, how do you know which content to refresh? If you have hundreds or thousands of pieces, which ones deserve your “freshness” attention?

How to Conduct an SEO Content Audit

Refreshing content is key, but doing so within a defined content strategy will give you the proper action plan on what to update, how to update, and why.

Updating means adding, consolidating, even deleting unproductive pages. It can result in a massive improvement. If you've been posting content for a while, chances are many pages are outdated and diluting SEO signals, and some may create more of a distraction than a positive user experience.

But you need to be strategic and plan this carefully as to not lose the momentum you've gained from consolidating your websites. For example, you don't want to accidentally delete a high-ranking page or one that may seem to rank low only because it’s competing with other blog posts.

So before you begin, I recommend following these four key steps.

1. Create an Inventory of All Your Pages

Take an inventory of all your posts and place them in a spreadsheet. This is so you can properly track things and create a plan for them when combining posts, deleting some, and redirecting them.

You can do this by crawling your site with tools like Screaming Frog. I typically copy and paste from the post-sitemap file. This will be the basis for your content audit and the master document you will refer back to.

Next, cross-compare this inventory with pages found on Google and the level of visibility each one possesses. Visit Google Search Console for your website where you will be able to verify the performance of those pages in Google.

(If you haven't claimed your website on GSC yet, do so. In the case of my client, we did a site migration of multiple websites into one. So it might take some time before Google processes the “change of address” and consolidates all the pages. That's why it would have been wiser to do the audit before the move.)

In GSC, go to “Performance” or “Search Results” in the sidebar, filter based on the last 12 months, and export using the “export” button in the top-right corner.

Your spreadsheet will contain several sheets or tabs. Choose the “Pages” tab where you will be able to see the list of pages from your website with the number of impressions and clicks they received.

Note that some pages that are recently deleted and redirected might still show up. You might want to merge these numbers together with the current page. Also note that you should exclude posts younger than six months to a year as they may not have gained enough traction.

2. Determine Your Least Productive Pages

In this next step, you want to determine your least productive content — you might want to ignore key pages like contact or legal pages. By using the GSC performance report, you will be able to filter your posts based on impressions (i.e., visibility), and then sort the list from the least visible pages to the most.

Next, you will need to know the total traffic each page received as well as any backlinks it has. The reason is to determine how productive your pages are. Productive pages or posts are those with:

  1. Traffic (pageviews)
  2. Visibility (impressions)
  3. Authority (backlinks)

Or any combination of the above.

Some posts may not have any rankings, but they may get a lot of internal traffic, traffic from other websites, or direct traffic. Some may have no traffic at all but a lot of backlinks. If they're high-quality links, you don't want to lose those.

Speaking of which, while you're in GSC, scroll down and click on “links” in the left sidebar. These are links from and to your website. Then visit the “external” links page, where you will be able to export once again.

Next, you need to export your pageviews from your analytics (if you use Google Analytics, simply go to “Behavior” in the sidebar, “Site Content,” and then “All Pages”). You can export it to a spreadsheet and cross-compare the results to your early search performance spreadsheet.

Be aware that if you have a lot of content, so you may want to limit to the last 12 months and 5,000 pages at most.

The final step is to bring it all together. Unless you know how to do VLOOKUPs, create a separate spreadsheet where you will list all your pages, a column for total impressions, another for total pageviews, and another for total backlinks.

3. Score The Productivity Level of Each Page

Add another column, which will be your score. Your score will be the recommended action for this page. I simply score each of the three KPIs (i.e., pageviews, impressions, and backlinks) on a scale of low to high. Use the the pages with the highest and lowest numbers for each to guide you.

Each page will have a combination of scores that will determine the course of action. Your spreadsheet will look something like this:

Page (URL)ImpressionsPageviewsBacklinksAction
/blog/url-1/HighHighHighRemain
/blog/url-2/HighHighLowRemain
/blog/url-3/HighLowLowRefresh
/blog/url-4/LowLowLowRemove
/blog/url-5/LowLowHighRedirect
/blog/url-6/LowHighHighReview
/blog/url-7/LowHighLowReview
/blog/url-8/HighLowHighRefresh

Looking at all three scores will tell you to do one of five things:

  1. Keep the page as is (let the content remain);
  2. Delete it completely (remove it, it's deadweight);
  3. Delete it but redirect it to another page;
  4. Refresh it (update or consolidate it with another);
  5. Or review it to see if the content offers value to users:
    • If the content doesn't provide value, delete and redirect.
    • If the content offers value, refresh, merge, or redirect.

If the content gets a lot of traffic but doesn't rank well, see if it's a case of two or more pages competing with each other. Pages ranking for the same search terms may split the SEO signals between them. This is keyword cannibalization, which devalues the authority of your most relevant page.

It's perfectly fine to have multiple pages ranking for the same keywords, as long as a primary page (i.e., pillar page or parent topic page) has all the authority and relevance, and other pages are generating more traffic with other keywords for which they are more relevant.

But if two or more pages are ranking for the same keywords and focus on the same topic, then you may be competing with yourself. One is stealing half the visibility from another. So, you have one of three choices:

  • If the other pages are very similar and cover the same topic, delete and redirect them to the one you're keeping using 301 redirects.
  • If they're different but closely related (such as related topics or subtopics), merge them into a longer page, preferably into the main page you decided to keep. Then delete and redirect the old one to the newly consolidated page. You might need to edit them to make them fit.
  • If they're different and completely unrelated, refresh them with the goal of switching the competing keyword or topic to a different one.

4. Update Underperforming Pages Accordingly

Once you're done with the above, you can start updating your old content. Delete the those slated for deletion, redirect those deleted ones whose backlinks you want to preserve, and update the content where indicated.

You refresh your content by editing it or adding to it. You can make it more timely with updated data, new sources, and relevant information. Add new images and supporting visuals. Above all, pay attention to the structure and update the headings, particularly the main headline (H1).

If your blog shows publication dates and a post is slightly modified, it's good practice to show the last-modified date on the front-end instead of the date it was first published. But if the post has been significantly altered, update the publication date to when you made the change (like today, for example).

This will put the post back at the top of your blog as if it was newly published. Not only does it drive more attention, but it also signals to search engines that the post was updated, forces a recrawl, and above all, updates the date that appears in search results, which boosts clickthroughs.

Now, how you update the content is a little subjective.

You can expand, edit, remove, and/or rewrite where it makes sense. You can either make the content more evergreen and relevant, or modernize the messaging to fit today's trends, context, or your audience's needs.

But if you need ideas, here are some suggestions and best practices.

Apply On-Page (HTML) Updates

If you need to focus on a new topic or keyword, then you need to update the meta-data, schema, on-page assistance tools (like an SEO plugin such as Rank Math or Yoast), and possibly the post's URL to include the new keyword.

(This is assuming you have already optimized these already for a previous keyword. If you haven't, then this is your chance to apply some technical SEO.)

Let's cover these in more detail.

Metadata (Titles and Descriptions)

Typically, this is your title tag and your description tag (often called “meta tags”). Your SEO plugin will be helpful. Metadata is not a ranking factor, but a refreshed title and description often appear in search engine results and can invite better clickthroughs.

Open Graph (OG) Data

Open graph protocol data (or “OG meta tags“) is the content that appears when sharing your article on third-party platforms, such as social media. If you don't have written OG tags, then the platform may arbitrarily pull excerpts and images from your content that may be wrong or inappropriate.

Better not leave it to chance. SEO plugins can help here, too. As with other metadata, OG data won't directly affect your rankings, but it may help increase your clickthrough rates (or CTRs). And higher CTRs have been long speculated to contribute positively to higher rankings.

Structured Data (Schema Markup)

Often called “schema markup,” structured data tells search engines about the type of content (such as an article, a product, an event, a place, a recipe, and so forth). Again, most SEO plugins do this for you. But there are other schema-only plugins and tools to help you create and add code.

Page URL (or “Permalink”)

Rewriting your post URL or “permalink slug” isn't always necessary. There's also a lot of debate among blog SEO experts regarding how much weight URLs provide if any. But including your main keyword in the URL can let Google know what your content is about and also provide eye gravity in search results.

If you have updated the slug, don't forget to 301-redirect the old URL to let Google know of the post's new location so it won't lose any rankings. I use my SEO plugin's redirection feature, but there are several others, too.

One common SEO tip is to use shorter URLs and removing stop words (e.g., articles, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, etc). While shorter URLs are still important, stop words can help. Reason is, the natural language processing software that determines intent relies on some stop words for context.

Update and Refresh The Content Itself

Obviously, you can add more up-to-date information, rewrite it to fit a more modern context, and choose to make it more timely or evergreen. For example, some of my decade-old posts discuss websites that are now defunct or have moved, or practices that have fallen out of common use. (Google+ anyone?)

But if you need some ideas or inspiration, here are a few.

Rewrite Headline (H1)

I typically do this only after I updated my content. I may have a better headline in mind, or I may have slightly changed the content's angle. This is true if I have a new keyword, too, which I want to include in the headline. If the content is timely, I may want to add the date or the word “updated” in the headline.

Update or Add Headings

Breaking your content up and adding headings throughout provides three significant benefits: 1) it makes the content more readable and easier to pull in scanners; 2) it adds blog SEO potential by including keywords; 3) and it gives both search engines and users an idea of the content that follows.

Keywords and Topics

Optimize your content around the keyword or topic, particularly if you have chosen a new one. The goal is not to stuff your content with keywords but to focus on the topic, the relevance, and above all, the user. Add content around subtopics, related topics, or semantically related keywords where appropriate.

Statistics and Data

Statistics change regularly. There are always new regulations, studies, research findings, etc. So if you have statistics or research data in your content, is it still relevant? Are there newer, fresher, better ones? If you don't have any, consider adding supporting data, research, or statistics to your content.

Sources and References

Add any helpful references to support your content. Always cite your sources, obviously. If you used references previously, it might be wise to update your references and sources, too. They may have moved or changed, or the links might be broken or redirecting to a newer version.

New Research Findings

Adding your own research is just as important as adding external references, if not more so. Google looks for original research in content with their quality guidelines. So if you've done previous research but have new findings or need to update your conclusions, now's the opportunity to refresh them.

Quotes From Other Sources

Add quotes that support your content or argument. Quotes give your content 1) confirmation, 2) credibility, and 3) commentary. They support your arguments while adding additional content. If another expert supports you, quote them. It adds recognition and emphasizes your authority.

Use Cases and Case Studies

Social proof is the most impactful form of substantiation. Don't be afraid to add them. Testimonials and results are great, but case studies are the most believable, even when they're anonymous. The reason is, they provide context and are more measurable, quantifiable, realistic, and time-bound.

Supporting Visuals

Adding visuals help SEO, whether they're graphics, images, screenshots, portable media, or multimedia. They create anchors that stop scanners. They improve dwell times and CTRs. Above all, they require readable data (called “alternate” or “alt” text), which can include relevant content and keywords.

Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Of course, keeping your readers means you also need to be engaging them — and not just educating them. If your content alludes to products, services, or subscriptions you offer, or suggests other content on your website, then directly or indirectly ask your audience to take action

Internal and External Links

Internal links are critical for your SEO. Since the time you've originally published the older content, you may have posted new topically related content that may make sense to link to. For link suggestions, some plugins and SEO research tools can show you linking opportunities.

Or you may have external links that are outdated, broken, or redirected on the other end that you might need to update. I use a broken link checker to identify broken links. There are WordPress plugins and a few free tools online.

Ultimately, refreshing old content may not only breathe new life into them but also have a few major side benefits, such as increasing the content's SEO that may even end up surpassing its previous performance. But it raises your authority, keeps you relevant, and strengthens your content “moat.”

Categories
SEO

Content Amplification to Become a Recognized Authority

To add to your attractability, you need to position yourself as an authority in your field. And the best way to do that is by becoming a recognized expert, which you can do through, among others, vertical specialization.

But once you do, the next step is to communicate and amplify your digital marketing company. It makes no sense to become a recognized expert when no one recognizes you — or better said, when no one knows you or knows enough about you.

There are many ways to do this, and content marketing is one them. But there are quite a few more. And I did promise you that I would write about them.

So here it is.

Before I dive in, I know you may be doing some of these already. But, and forgive me for sounding a bit Coveyvian, if you do them without doing the first things first, many of your efforts may be in vain or with less ampleur.

So here are some of the most common authority-based activities you can do to help market yourself and become a recognized authority in your field.

1. Claim Your Expertise

By far, this is the most important step to follow.

Branding, particularly personal branding, is not for the sake of getting your ego in the spotlight. In fact, your unique expertise is attached to you, what you do, what you offer, and how you do it. So your unique expertise is your brand.

But creating an identifiable and distinct brand around your expertise adds value because it generates top-of-mind awareness, communicates inherent competitive advantages, and above all, feeds your SEO machine.

People who get to know you and hear about you will feel an affinity with who you are and what you stand for. So they will remember you, look you up when they need you, or tell others about you openly. And often.

To claim your expertise, you need to brand yourself as an expert. “Claim your crown and assume the throne,” as Lisa Sasevich says in Meant For More.

But you don't do it by yelling “I'm an expert!” You do it through implication, and remember that implication is more powerful than specification. You do it by labeling yourself in a way where your expertise is implied.

You do it through your branding, tagline, position statement, and names on your business, products/services, and processes (including your work processes as well as your thought processes, such as your intellectual property).

For example, if people don't know you or they only know your credentials, then saying you're “an authority on hair transplants” is nothing remarkable, and may even seem suspect and self-serving.

But if you said you're the creator of the Microfollicular Redistribution™ process, then you are an authority because you appear as an industry pioneer.

You're instantly claiming your expertise without having to flaunt it. And instead of going up against other surgeons in an already highly competitive and overly saturated hair transplant category, you are creating your own category, and becoming the leader in it because no one else is competing with you.

Nevertheless, once you claimed your expertise, don't forget to promote your brand in everything you do, say, and write. That includes your style, your logo, your tagline, your color scheme, your voice, and all those things that add attractability to your expertise.

Use it in all your collateral materials, in your content, and with your people. For example, each time Seth Godin ends a book or presentation, he signs off with “go make a ruckus.” That's his thing. His signature. His purple cow.

2. Create Your Content

Content marketing is by far the best and most productive way to communicate and amplify your expertise. While the first one above was “claim your expertise,” I could have called this one “share your expertise.”

The goal is create content assets that you can leverage and disseminate. There are many types. You can write or create:

  • Print books
  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Newsletters
  • Kindle books
  • Reports
  • Tipsheets
  • Cheatsheets
  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Case studies
  • Quickstart guides
  • Slide decks
  • Infographics
  • Carousels
  • Social media posts
  • Video recordings
  • Audio recordings
  • Podcasts
  • Web apps
  • Phone apps
  • Guest posts
  • Transcripts
  • Infoproducts
  • Courses

This is a partial list. But of all these, writing your book is definitely a priority as it is one of the most effective tools for establishing yourself as an authority.

Authors are instantly perceived as experts on their subject matter. But your book also creates a domino effect and helps other areas (including those I will cover in this article), such as building a following, attracting media attention, creating speaking opportunities, and of course, selling yourself to ideal clients.

3. Speak Your Authority

An expert doesn't have to speak publicly to prove their expertise. Their written, audio, and video content should communicate that. However, proving their authority can often be better communicated in a live, public setting.

There are many reasons for this.

I understand this is not for everyone. But public speaking, though it's a fear for many, is an incredibly powerful tool to communicate your authority.

It's about having the courage to speak your truth and the ability to speak on your feet. Because that is what communicates authority: your ability to speak authoritatively, which can be hard to appreciate in a written format.

While public speaking can be prewritten and rehearsed, the ability to speak in front of others, in a live setting, adds an extra dimension to your content.

It doesn't matter if it's from the stage, lectern, podium, or pulpit, or if it's in an auditorium or in front of a camera, you can truly judge someone's level of expertise, knowledge, and authenticity when you see them speak live.

You can perceive the meta-messages, the messages beyond the message — the subtle cues and nuances you wouldn't be able to capture in written text.

Body language and vocal characteristics — like posture, stance, mannerisms, pitch, volume, inflection, and so much more — offer clues as to the person's level of credibility, clues that are often perceived unconsciously.

More importantly, these clues also convey the level of confidence, belief, and conviction they have in their expertise, knowledge, and point-of-view.

Sure, an expert can be incredibly knowledgeable in their field but still sound dry, boring, or dispassionate. (I know of a few college professors who exemplify this quite well, thank you very much.) And you certainly can communicate your expertise without uttering a single word in public.

But to be a recognized authority, you have to be able to sell ideas, as well as your services, in a public setting. At least in a face-to-face situation.

Also, you don't need to learn public speaking skills. As a former executive speaking coach said, “Speaker training is helpful — if you want to be a professional speaker.” As she said in this article with which I agree wholeheartedly: “Authenticity overrides form.” I also like this passage:

Watch a few TED talks. You'll find plenty of reticent, wonky presenters who are fascinating. What makes a person a strong presenter is that their presence shines through, showing their passion and expertise for their topic.

Kristi Hedges

So grab every chance you can to speak. Host live events, such as YouTube and Facebook livestreams, which you can restream with tools like Streamyard. If you don't know what to say, do live Q&As, opinion pieces, or Zoom meetups.

Of course, there are live teleseminars and webinars, too. While you could (and should) record these to use as additional content assets, they are first done live and provide that extra dimension I talked about.

4. Build Your Following

Social media is definitely important when it comes to amplifying your content. But the true power of social media is reaching your audience and creating a following — people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Some professionals have audiences so large that they've reached influencer status. But you don't need to rise (or stoop, as some might argue) to the level of a Kardashian. And you certainly don't need to create a cult of personality.

But having and leveraging a group of people who follow what you say, post, do, or share can help augment and propagate your expertise.

Whether it's on third-party platforms such as social networks, or on your own platforms such as your blog or email list, building a following along with a connection with your followers also creates a valuable, leverageable asset.

Your followers will resonate with you, write content about you, refer others to you, evangelize for you, and even defend you if your integrity or credibility is ever questioned let alone attacked.

Speaking of third-party platforms, remember that the second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. People search YouTube as often as they do Google to find information, particularly how-to information.

It goes to reason that you need to have video content on YouTube as well. However, the secondary benefit is the ability to create a loyal fanbase of subscribers who are eager to watch every video you publish.

Often, people share videos they find (or from channels they follow) on other platforms — including in their social media feeds, on their blogs, to their lists, or within their own content pieces.

Which brings me to the next point…

5. Form Your Alliances

Without question, owning your own content assets is essential. They, along with your following (such as your list), are assets you can leverage to help promote your expertise and authority. But often, you can leverage other people's content assets, platforms, or followings, too.

One of the many tools I used when I first started out, for example, was creating strategic marketing alliances. I was fortunate and grateful to have created some richly rewarding partnerships and joint ventures that allowed me to tap into other pools of clients, leads, and followers.

Early in my career, I learned from marketing guru Dan Kennedy to “be prolific.” And it is as effective today as it was back then — even with the Internet.

Being a prolific author often means to have a large body of work. But being a prolific authority is to be ubiquitous, too. To be everywhere (that counts).

One way to expand your reach is to run your own affiliate program. Having affiliates is one of the easiest ways to proliferate your authority, which is just a way of paying others a finder's fee or commission for referring someone to you.

But for many licensed professionals, doing this is highly regulated, discouraged, even prohibited. However, there are ways to create alliances and leverage other people, without getting any kickbacks or offering any kind of incentive.

For example, offer your expertise they can use in their content assets.

Offer to write guest posts, contribute to their newsletters, become a guest on their podcasts, respond to their interviews, help in causes important to them, create your own association (or at least join and help them), and so on.

Other publications, blogs, and shows are desperate for content. Make yourself available or offer to provide fresh, unique content they can use.

While you can contribute to others who appeal to similar audiences, don't ignore mainstream media. HARO, or “Help a Reporter Out,” is a great service that allows you to connect with reporters who need experts like you.

Then there are third-party learning platforms you can sell courses on or publish free courses to. There are many, but some of the most popular ones are Udemy, Teachable, Thinkific, Podia, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare.

There's also marketing and affiliate networks you can sell courses through, like Clickbank, JVZoo, ShareASale, and many others (and let's not forget Amazon).

When you create courses, you certainly can host and sell them yourself. But by also using these third-party platforms, you can leverage their existing exposure, affiliate programs, and database of ready-to-promote affiliates, as well as their existing traffic and clients.

Finally, don't forget to be active on other platforms as well. Engaging others on social media platforms, blogs, emails lists, or livestream events, such as asking questions or commenting on other people's posts, allow you to piggyback on other people's brand and level of reach.

In short, you're demonstrating your expertise to an already captive and targeted audience — even if it's not yours, as long as it is ethical to do so.

A final word.

Being an expert is relatively easy. Being an authority can be just as easy. But being a recognized authority takes work. It's not an overnight process, I agree, But it doesn't have to take as much time as you think.

Just create content assets and use platforms, yours as well as those of others, that allow you to amplify your expertise so that people can find you, learn about you, follow you, buy from you, and tell others about you.

In other words, be become a recognized authority, you need to amplify it.

Categories
Marketing

What Reality TV Shows Teach About Marketing

It's that time where that much-anticipated event is taking over our screens, social media feeds, and pop culture news.

Yes, it's the new season of The Bachelorette.

Something you may not know about me is that my wife has a nephew who's part of the 2020 lineup. Blake Moynes is the son of Emily Moura-Moynes (my sister-in-law, who is also an author, coach, and client of mine).

He's the dapper gentleman in the green suit on the right.

While I'm not a personal fan of the show, I think it teaches a lot about marketing.

Last night, as the show's premiere graced our screens, my wife's family were all huddled in front of their TV sets, posting Instagram and Facebook snaps with #teamblake as their hashtag.

It almost felt like when Portugal won the Euro Cup in 2016. (Sidenote, my wife's family, including Blake's mom, are of Portuguese descent.)

With The Bachelor/Bachelorette, the show is into its 30th season (the two shows combined). With six spinoff shows since its debut in 2002, it's obvious that millions of people are enamored with watching the drama, including the flings, heartbreaks, catfights, and occasional train wrecks — which, apparently, this latest season seems to be one, or so I'm told.

Much has been written on the topic, but to reiterate what writer Haley McDevitt wrote in Marketing Insider Group, the key takeaways are applicable to any form of content marketing.

Hers included “first impressions matter,” “know your worth,” “build anticipation,” “nurture your brand (and your community),” and more.

I agree with all of them.

But the one that stands out for me the most is “be authentic.”

On this show (or any other reality show), the most common reason for the downfall of any of its contestants is shadiness, inauthenticity, and outright lying.

Studies have also shown that when reality TV shows are obviously scripted, rehearsed, or unrealistic (which makes “reality TV” feel a little paradoxical), they do get a lot of traction — because, as McDevitt pointed out, the show thrives on relatable human experiences.

That's the power of telling stories in your marketing.

Losing out. Taking risks. Being rejected. Feeling elated. Being embarrassed. All of the normal things everyone goes through at some point — even when they're in a scripted context, they don't feel contrived or unbelievable.

That's authenticity. It's not about being real versus being fake. It's being vulnerable. Being genuine. Being willing to take risks. Even welcoming criticism and having a good dose of humility can be vulnerable.

I once wrote about authenticity is more important than transparency. Reason is, some companies and professionals believe that “radical transparency” is a sound marketing tactic. I don't think so.

As McDevitt also wrote, creating anticipation and playing with cards close to your chest is important to “stay in the game.” After all, if you reveal your cards too much or too early, you are giving away your strategy, showing desperation, and providing others ammunition that can be used against you.

I believe you can be tastefully candid without giving away the store. It shows vulnerability in your marketing, and communicates authenticity.

So be yourself. Be open. Take risks. And as McDevitt said so well:

“Avoid fluff, false claims, and insincerity. Be authentic, because your audience will see right through you.”

Haley McDevitt
Categories
SEO

Outsource SEO Content Writing With This Simple Template

The other day, a client asked me about my content outsourcing process to create content for SEO content writing purposes. I explained the various steps and enclosed a content writing template. I realized that this might be helpful to you, too.

Before I fill out this template and order content for my clients, I first conduct a complete audit, keyword research, and topical pagematch.

The pagematch document helps me to map topics to specific pages on my client's website. Sometimes, they have all the pages already that simply need to be refreshed, massaged or edited, or rewritten entirely to fit the matched topic.

But other times, we need to create new content from scratch. This is where I fill out a content order form that I send to content writers to whom I outsource.

Now, if my client is a good enough of a writer (or they prefer writing their own content), I still fill out the order template as a way of guiding them. It's to suggest the kind of content I recommend for their blogs in order to achieve the traction they want, and the things I want the article to include.

More often than not, however, I will have the content reviewed and edited by SEO content editors. It's not about diluting the content's value by stuffing it with keywords. It's about adding all the other elements that go into the article, such as tags, images, links, formatting, etc.

I'd rather have quality content that's useful and relevant to the audience than SEO-driven content. As it should be with you, too.

SEO Content Writing Order Template

Here's a look at what I typically include in my content writing orders. Using “cosmetic surgery” as an example, an order form can look something like this:

  1. Tile (60 characters maximum): 5 things to consider when choosing a cosmetic surgery procedure
  2. Topic: cosmetic surgery
  3. Primary Keyword: cosmetic surgery procedure
  4. Secondary Keywords (comma separated): plastic surgery, cosmetic surgeon, plastic surgeon
  5. Links: anchor texts must include primary keyword in one of them.
    • https://www.webmd.com/beauty/ss/slideshow-cosmetic-surgery
    • https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/patient-resources/cosmetic-surgery-vs-plastic-surgery/
  6. Inclusions: photo of a woman in her 50s looking in the mirror, contemplating doing something about her appearance.
  7. Size: 1,200 words
  8. Additional: include in content pricing considerations, doctor credentials, importance of before-and-after photos.
  9. Description (160 characters maximum): write meta-description and include primary keyword.
  10. Headers: include 2-5 H2 tags with secondary keywords, and add them where they make sense.

Explanation of Each Content Order Item

  1. The title is both the title tag and H1 HTML tag unless specified otherwise. Title tags are no more than 60 characters in length. Either I write the title for them or give the writer an idea of what I want as a title.
  2. The topic is the main topic of the article. Typically, it's the core idea or theme (e.g., topical cluster or parent topic), which can sometimes be the blog category that the article will be filed under. But not always.
  3. The primary keyword was determined while doing research with my tools, either Ahrefs or SEM Rush. Using Rank Math plugin in WordPress, for example, it's labeled as “Focused Keyword.” It's also the word that the tool uses to measure its SEO score and offer suggestions for.
  4. The secondary keywords are variations of the primary keyword or keywords that fall within the same topical cluster. They could also be other non-related keywords but that support other posts, or keywords for creating context and internal links.
  5. Any links, either internal links to other blogs on the same website or external links to supporting documentation, articles, or related reading. A great tactic is, if you have an FAQ on your site, you can link to a question and answer regarding a term that may be unfamiliar to the reader.
  6. Inclusions are anything I want to be added to the article, such as images, embeds (video or audio), graphics, quotes, snippets, or scripts.
  7. Size of the article. Pretty self-explanatory.
  8. The additional section is anything else I want the writer to include, watch out for, or avoid in their article. For example, “Do not talk about [this] but be sure to describe [that].” (If the content is for a licensed professional, I'll add critical instructions to avoid breaking any regulations or to respect any ethical boundaries.)
  9. The article description is meant for the HTML's meta-description, which is up to a maximum of 160 characters. It's also perfect to add as the article excerpt and content to be used when social sharing. Again, Rank Math offers this ability, where you can include the exact content you want to be used when readers share your post on social media.
  10. Any headers throughout the content, either written for them or instructions on what they should involve.

Quick and Dirty “Reverse” SEO Hack

A final comment, and it's related to the last point (#10). A really cool technique is to reverse engineer content that's outranking you by using winning content as a way to add more content or to improve your existing posts.

Steve Toth, owner of SEO Notebook, describes this process as follows:

  1. Google the main keyword you want to rank for.
  2. Open the top ranking blogs and note their H1-H3s.
  3. Rephrase the headings/topics that you like.
  4. Write 200 words of copy for each new heading.
  5. Do this for 3-5 headings (creating a new 1,000-word post).
  6. Publish the post and submit it to the search engines.

Remember, earlier I said you can edit and refresh older articles to make them more palatable and SEO-friendly. Well, if you're a bit more of an SEO geek, here's a way to use Steve's technique above but with existing content:

  1. Open up Google Search Console.
  2. Find a keyword with high clicks and impressions but not ranking well.
  3. Copy the link to your article that's associated with those results.
  4. Google the keyword and look at the first 3-5 top-ranked search results.
  5. Visit them, and look at their H1, H2, and H3 tags. Note them somewhere.
  6. Compare them to the headings you already have in your article.
  7. Select 3-5 topics you haven't covered that have decent search volume (either check them with your SEO tool or use your intuition).
  8. Go back to your article, rephrase and include the headings you've selected where they make sense.
  9. Write 200 words for each of those topics and make them H2s.

According to Steve, he used this technique by adding these new sections even at the bottom of the article, and it was quite effective in doubling traffic to existing content. If you want to use this technique, Steve has graciously offered a link to his Blog Accelerator Technique with more detailed instructions.

Categories
SEO

Stop Writing For SEO, Do These 3 Things Instead

On ClientCon, hosted by Liston Witherill, presenter Margo Aaron gave a great presentation on writing for one's audience. An Inc.com contributing writer and talented copywriter, she had a lot to say on the topic.

During the Q&A at the end, an audience member asked about writing for SEO when trying to write for one's audience. Her question was:

“There seems to be so much emphasis on writing stuff that will have better SEO, but that’s not really what I want to write about and I get stuck there. Any tips? I just want to be recognized as a trusted advisor in my niche.”

Margo's response was spot-on.

She said to write for the user, not the search engines. You can go back and edit or “massage” the content to fit SEO later, and I agree.

But to that, I would add this:

Writing for the search engines is actually old-school.

It’s the way we used to write content. We would stuff the content with keywords as we write, refine the jargon to match exact keyphrases, and even rewrite and twist it so much that it compromised its quality, comprehension level, and intent just to appeal to search bots.

(Margo herself mentioned this was a common occurrence at Inc.com, where they would edit her articles into something completely different than what she initially wrote, which diluted some of the points she was trying to make.)

Yes, there is a certain level of SEO that's intrinsic to the content. But it’s mostly related to signals, and to the assurance that those signals are captured.

Now that is true SEO. 

You want to make sure the content is crawlable, readable, and understandable by the search engines. It's what SEO is meant to do. A part of it is technical, and another is subjective to the degree that the content is contextually relevant to and authoritative enough for its intended audience.

Simply, SEO should not and never be the focus in your writing. At least not in the first draft. Both you and Google serve the same customer. So always — always! — write for the user, and you will automatically write for Google, too.

It's not about keywords, stuffing content, or making content click-worthy.

Google’s algorithms no longer rely on keywords alone. Its machine-learning algorithm, called Rankbrain, focuses on the topic, relevance, and authority of a piece of content. Its natural language processing algorithm, called BERT, focuses on patterns, context, and intent.

So keywords and SEO hacks are becoming less relevant. Content, particularly quality content, is more important. And context, which helps to match the content with the user's search intent, is equally important.

So write as an authority on the subject matter and write for your audience.

The rest will fall into place naturally.

In other words, if you write for your audience first, your SEO will be halfway there.

To echo what Margo said, saying “write first, edit later” is not just applicable to content, style, or grammar. It also includes SEO. If you want to improve the SEO, you can apply tweaks after you’re done writing.

As she said, go back and use better keywords, include headers, add images with proper tags, etc. (But even then, these things are minimal and secondary.)

If you focus on the quality of your content, which means the content is relevant, authoritative, and valuable to your audience (i.e., it’s useful or meaningful to them), Google will send more traffic your way as a result.

What you want is to focus on the signals, not the content.

In other words, when your content is done, and if it's good, then focus on getting it noticed — not on what it says. That’s why, when I create an SEO strategy for my clients, I typically focus on the following three key areas:

  1. The quality of the content,
  2. The quality of the user experience, and
  3. The amplification of the signals to both #1 and #2.

I already talked a lot about the first two. Signals communicate to the search engines that your content and user experience are of high quality. They can be internal and external. They include things like (and this is just a partial list):

  • Content quality signals (e.g., credentials, author bios, citations, references, supporting research, fact-checking, article length, website age, etc).
  • Content validation signals (e.g., audience engagement, external reviews, backlinks, social proof, brand mentions, domain authority, etc).
  • User experience signals (e.g, site architecture, navigation, bounce rates, security, page speed, usability, accessibility, mobile responsiveness, etc).
  • Search intent signals (e.g., schema markup, headers, formatting, images, HTML tags, meta information, topical relationships, content proximity, etc).

And so on.

Signal amplification is where you increase the signals so that the search engines can find, determine, and rank your content for its relevancy, authoritativeness, and valuableness.

For example, to increase social signals, you want to share your content on social media, and get others to share your content and engage with it.

Doing so, you are telling Google that your content may be worthy.

In some cases, paying for amplification, such as boosting your content on social media, for example, can help maximize the exposure to (and invite the amplification of) those signals. It’s a kickstart, but not always necessary.

You can also target and engage with specific people, profiles, pages, or personalities (such as influencers and micro-influencers in your niche) to engage with your content and, hopefully, reshare it, too.

Let’s not forget groups, forums, and communities, too, like Reddit and Quora. Answering questions on them and pointing to your content for added support or further learning will also boost its amplification.

You can do it through repurposing, too, such as offering the same (or parts of your) content through email courses, drip campaigns, hosted videos, podcasts, interviews, infographics, carousels, guest blogs, press releases, and so on.

Ultimately, the goal is to increase signals alerting Google that your content is quality content. Often, the best way to do that is to leverage other people’s efforts and assets to amplify your content.

Because, by doing so, you are piggybacking on and leveraging the credibility, clout, and seeming objectivity of third parties (through their backlinks, brand mentions, and engagement levels from their audiences, for example).

Categories
Marketing

Don’t Be Transparent, Be Authentic Instead

Some people tend to tweet, blog, post, and status-update their little hearts out. Be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, their own blog, or whatever. They say it's all about being “transparent,” and transparency is good.

But I think we need to be careful.

Transparency may seem trendy. It may seem noble or humble. But it's not necessarily wise. While we may be opening ourselves up for the world to see, we may be opening ourselves up a world of trouble, too.

In the mid-2000s and with the rise of social media, everybody and their dog seemed to be blurting out everything about everything. They were trying to “be transparent” without care or thought about the consequences.

Transparency Can Be Dangerous

Some dangers are obvious, like being robbed after publicizing you were out. Others are not as obvious, like being reprimanded for saying something you shouldn't have said, or even being fired for insulting your customers.

My contention is, too much transparency can come back and hurt you.

I agree that social media is a great place for developing and nurturing relationships, both with friends and clients. That's what the word “social” in social media means. Or what it should mean, anyway.

But as with all relationships, even when continuous, open communication is an important component, there should be a little mystique to “keep the flame alive.” A little room to allow for exploration and discovery over a period of time instead of all at once. Even in business.

In today's open world, privacy is more crucial than ever before. Why? Because transparent or not, everything you say online is permanent. It can be found and can be easily misinterpreted. Especially when taken out of context.

For example, I love Twitter's character limitations. But when a tweet is published as part of a succession of related tweets, as a response to another tweet, or as part of an ongoing conversation, a general search will turn up an incomplete message that may be misleading and counterproductive.

Candor and Honesty

The key is to know what to keep private and what to reveal. And whatever you do reveal, to think strategically so that what you say is properly said.

In short, it's knowing what to say and how to say it. To reveal the right things, in the right way. (Sounds a lot like copywriting, doesn't it?)

Do you need to tweet or blog about your failures? Not all of them, and not all the time either. Same thing with your successes. You don't want to give away the store — much less give away any ammunition that can be used against you.

Why is that? It's because, saying more than what you need to say makes you vulnerable and open to criticism, which in itself is not bad. But it may also communicate the wrong message to your audience.

There's a difference between authenticity and transparency.

Being transparent is fine. Being too transparent is not. Sure, go ahead and project trustworthiness, authority, and a willingness to share. Be candid and forthright. Be genuine and direct. Be humble and vulnerable.

But be strategic. Think twice about what you say. Because remember, scammers and competitors are watching you, too.

Perception of Transparency

Don't forget your clients, prospects, partners, and affiliates, too. If you're too open, you may be communicating you won't value their privacy, you can't keep secrets, and you're opening yourself up to abuse.

I call this an unconscious paralleled assumption. If you're too open with one thing, others might unconsciously assume you might be too open in other areas, too. You then seem like a greater risk to them.

Aaron Wall, author of The SEO Book, said it best: “Appearing transparent is profitable; being transparent is not.”

There's a difference between being open and being perceived as being open. Between being transparent and communicating a sense of transparency. Between being authoritative and being seen as defensive or self-absorbed.

Authenticity is saying things right. Authority is saying the right things. But transparency is saying everything. And saying nothing at the same time.

You don't need to say everything to be transparent, and you don't need to be transparent to be authentic and authoritative. Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

But don't say everything or else what you say will mean nothing.

Categories
SEO

3-Step Approach to Reputation Management

A growing service among marketing consultants and agencies is something called “Reputation Management.” Some of them are even entirely devoted to this singular, specialized service.

The reason for its popularity is, in addition to improving their local SEO, many businesses are looking to improve their ratings, reviews, and overall reputation.

According to a recent study, 88% of consumers trust reviews when making a purchasing decision. Also, by increasing your ratings and the replies to reviews, you can increase your clickthrough rate by 57% and your conversion rate by as much as 25%.

Reviews are not only a trust indicator but also a ranking factor. In another study, they appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search.

But above all, reviews increase trust and credibility. They show your responsiveness, authenticity, and social proof. Clients crave transparency and connection these days, which reviews can provide.

There are three types of online reviews:

  1. Local Listings such as Google My Business and Bing Places.
  2. Review Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.
  3. Social Media such as Facebook pages.

If you haven't claimed your profile on these local listing sites, you should. The purpose is not to directly use them as marketing channels (although, you could). It's to ensure you keep a finger on your reputation's pulse and to respond to anything unfavourable.

Here are three things you should do to help you manage your reputation.

1. Respond to Reviews

Ignoring reviews is the worst thing you can do. Both positive and negative. Google has publicly stated that replying to reviews (and doing so quickly) shows that you value your clients and you're committed to helping them.

How to respond to reviews deserves an article of its own. But for now, thanking your clients for their feedback is important — to both the client and Google.

If there's one tip I might give you, it's this: don't respond to negative reviews negatively. Leave emotions out of it. Don't be confrontational. Be kind, open, and diplomatic. Hostility, even a mere passive-aggressive tone, doesn't look good and will work against you.

For one, you will push people away from leaving any review, or anger those who might be on the fence and cause them to come to the negative reviewer's aid.

Second, legitimate reviews can only be changed by the reviewer. Hopefully, you can get them to modify their review. But a hostile approach will definitely destroy any chances of them changing their reviews to more positive ones.

Third, as a professional, laws dictate what you can say in reviews, such as HIPPA for example. Any information related to the delivery of the service cannot involve the client's specific case or their private information. So tread carefully.

feedback-reviews-reputation-management

2. Increase Positive Reviews

You cannot and should never influence the type of review. Doing so may cause you more damage than a negative review will. But you can and should ask for your client's feedback as often as you can.

There are three ways: inquire, include, and invite.

Inquire

Ask your clients for their feedback. Conduct a survey or offer a questionnaire in which you ask them to post their responses to an online review site. Include links to your listing to make it as easy as possible to leave a review.

One way to preemptively manage negative reviews is to have their responses sent to you first, where you can address the negative ones privately, directly, and appropriately, and send links to those who submitted positive ones and invite them to post their reviews publicly.

Another way is to simply ask them to send any negative feedback to you directly instead of posting them online, so you can address their concerns faster and more efficiently. Most will oblige.

Finally, if you incentivize reviews, remember that you cannot influence the type of review. The incentive is only meant to encourage feedback and not to entice positive ones. Some industries forbid this entirely, so be careful.

Include

Making it easier for people to leave a review will increase your chances significantly. By embedding reviews on your website, you not only show social proof but also make the reviews clickable and easy for visitors to post one.

If you have an email newsletter, include links to leave reviews, where clicking them can open directly with an online review form. Also, consider adding a link to your email signature.

Finally, don't forget “thank you” pages, purchase confirmation pages, email confirmations, and invoices. These are often the most opportune times to ask for reviews as the service is fresh and the client is (hopefully) satisfied — a feeling that degrades over time.

Invite

There are review management platforms and tools, which allow you to proactively invite and remind your clients to leave reviews. From offering suggestions and templates users can use, to the ability for users to share their reviews on their social media.

You can also post review-engaging content, success stories that incorporate your client's reviews, or periodic client spotlights where you link to their reviews.

Let's not forget good old advertising.

Some companies I know have ad campaigns for the express purpose of generating reviews. The purpose of the ad is to gather feedback, possibly via a survey, with some kind of incentive for doing so.

Just remember that you cannot ask for or influence the type of review.

3. Remove Negative Reviews

I worked with a cosmetic doctor who once had a rogue staff member. When she left, the disgruntled former employee unreservedly posted negative reviews all over the place. The content was mostly false and quite damaging.

In general, you don't want to delete negative reviews. If they are legitimate, they provide balance and authenticity. According to the same survey mentioned at the beginning, 94% say they buy from companies who respond to their reviews. Including the bad ones.

(Sometimes, your response to a negative review can create more credibility, positivity, and traction than a positive review can.)

But in the case of truly fake reviews, there are steps you can take to report them. Many of these local directories and listings sites offer ways to contact support staff, report fake reviews, provide any supporting documentation, and offer proof (if possible) that the review is fake.

This is another reason why claiming your listing is important because it makes it easier to flag and remove defamatory reviews. In the case of the disgruntled employee above for example, the review was flagged, reported, and removed within 48 hours.

Finally, some reputation management services are more advanced.

For example, they include the removal of fake search engine results, the suppression of negative content, the removal of copyright and IP violations, countermeasures to address negative content, and the identification of anonymous attackers.

Nevertheless, reviews are important.

If you're specialized and marketing to a narrow niche, you won't have many competitors to grapple with. Hopefully, your reputation (the real kind) is a positive one. But even then, online reviews will help as they add to and confirm your existing stellar reputation.

However, it's likely that you are dealing with competitors in your space. If you both show up in search results, the business with the most and highest ratings tend to pull the greatest attention, clicks, and results.

Categories
SEO

Funnel Marketing: 5 Things to Laser Focus On

Today, I posted a rant on LinkedIn because I was getting frustrated with the number of connection requests that only amount to spam. This is the exact opposite of applying effective funnel marketing techniques. The vast majority of people who attempt to connect with me have one of five things in common:

  1. Some freelance network (e.g., Fiverr, Upwork, etc);
  2. Some lead generation type of business;
  3. Some virtual assistant or outsourcing service;
  4. Some LinkedIn-related marketing service;
  5. Some “High-Ticket” closer or other B.S.

I understand that it's part of doing outreach. But there are better ways to do that than attempting to connect with someone only to spam their DMs less than a few hours later.

Many of these are automated, too, which is worse.

Some are oblivious “drive-by” spammers who don't care about relationships. For example, I accepted a connection request. I get spammed. So I removed the connection and deleted the DM. But they kept following up, oblivious to the fact that I removed them.

They don't care if you unfriend them. Because once you're connected with someone and they send you one direct message, they have access to your DM box in perpetuity, unless you block them.

They would be a lot more productive if they funnelized their approach.

Sure, they can use Sales Navigator and InMail credits to pitch me. I tend to read those — either for the education or the opportunity.

But rather than spam me, use disingenuous ways to access me, or hit me over the head with a pitch, a better way is to turn their attempt to sell me into a funnel that takes me through each step of the relationship.

There are myriad ways to funnelize your outreach approach, too. It's good old multistep-marketing taught by top marketers like Dan Kennedy.

Now, I understand that this is part of doing outreach. Personally, I hate doing outreach. I'm a fan of positioning, not prospecting. I prefer to attract clients to me and not me chasing them.

Chasing clients hints of desperation, conscious or not. It's the “ketchup stain” principle. It creates antagonism and puts you in a weaker position.

I prefer a “permission marketing” approach, a la Seth Godin.

Traditional marketing is a form of interruption marketing. It's a competition to win people’s attention. Whether it's email spam or social media DM spam, it's unwanted, interruptive, dismissable, and even repulsive.

Permission marketing focuses on creating a relationship instead of making a sale. It's a graduated process that takes place over time. Sometimes, it can be short. Other times, long.

Funnelizing your marketing focuses on demand generation and lead nurturing. And the best way to generate leads is to attract them. Once you do, it's easier to get to know your client, educate them, ask questions, and of course, make an offer. It's also easier to retain them.

The typical sales funnel has 5-7 phases, depending on the industry and who you ask. There are many variations. But the one I prefer is this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Evaluation
  5. Purchase (or Conversion)

The remaining two are Loyalty (repeat sales) and Advocacy (referral sales). But for the sake of brevity, let's stick with the first five.

1. Awareness

Creating awareness is where your content attracts search engine traffic, natural backlinks, social media shares, brand mentions, and so forth. It's not limited to your website. It can include your social media networks, public relations, even paid ad campaigns.

2. Interest

The goal of creating awareness is to drive qualified users to your website, social media profile or page, email list, etc so they can enter your funnel. In short, you want them to raise their hand and show interest — or create it.

Landing pages can drive your audience into your funnel. Marketers call these “lead magnets.” The key is to get them to take the first step, which in most cases is giving up their email address.

3. Consideration

By providing content, you're taking them from being interested in what you say to being interested in what you offer. You educate your qualified leads about your business, your services, and the types of problems you help solve.

You can do this via a newsletter, or it can be dripped over time through an autoresponder series or multipart course. Some people I know “spoonfeed” their otherwise long salesletter through multiple, easier-to-digest emails.

4. Evaluation

Obviously, this is where you make an offer of some kind. You're moving from educational content to transactional. But it's still educational to a great degree as you want to provide enough information to help them make a decision.

You can start sales conversations, engage with prospective clients about their situations, answer questions they might have, offer comparisons with competing alternatives, provide different purchasing options, and so on.

5. Purchase

Selling is not a single event. It's about solving problems and creating relationships. Whether you're a dentist or a doctor, an engineer or an accountant, a consultant or a coach, you're also a salesperson. Like it or not.

The best salespeople are advisors.

If a competing solution best solves the client's problem, tell them. It's in your best interest to do so. Good-fit clients come not just from problems you can solve but also from the relationships you can nourish. Your best clients can even come from non-clients.

Relationships are more important than transactions.

Finally, keep this in mind.

Funnels can be long or short. They can take place within a matter of days or over a period of years. It depends on the industry, the length of the sales cycle, the complexity of the problem, and the urgency.

But if you've positioned yourself well, chances are clients are already aware, interested, and considering your services before entering your funnel.

In either case, just be cognizant of:

  1. What are the various steps in your funnel;
  2. What's your user's stage of awareness at each step;
  3. What each step does to take the user to the next stage;
  4. And how each step performs and can be improved.

You might have one, two, three, or more funnels. One client, a dermatologist, has 40 landing pages, where each one is a funnel or an entrance into one.

But if you don't have any, just start with one. If you've been in business for a while, you already have one right now, whether you're aware of it or not.

So map out the journey your clients go through, from awareness to purchase, and understand what they get at each step and how they get to the next one. Then tweak it.

In short, magnetize, funnelize, and optimize.

Categories
Productivity

Perfection Is The Perfect Way To Ruin Good Marketing

This week, I watched a video from one of my favourite people, Dori Clark, who talked about writer's block.

She said, “I don't believe in writer's block, it doesn't exist.” Her point, coming from a journalism background, is that when you're facing constant deadlines, you never have writer's block because you can't have it.

Writer's block is just an excuse. When forced to deliver as most journalists are, excuses can kill not only your creativity but also your career.

If you choose to procrastinate, whether you do it consciously or not, a looming deadline is like having a gun to your head, kicking you in the pants. Writer's block is going to be the furthest thing from your mind.

We tend to think that writing is some magical thing, some uber-creative process where we have to wait for inspiration to say the perfect thing.

Therein lies the rub…

“The perfect thing” doesn't exist.

First, nothing creative is perfect. It's subjective.

What we deem as “perfect” is only because we're comparing it to something else, something brilliant or some other award-winning work.

Here's a shocker for you: even some of the world's most highly acclaimed authors criticize themselves harshly and feel disappointed with their “imperfect” bestselling magnum opi, in spite of winning countless awards.

What you create doesn't need to be perfect. As Dori Clark said, “It needs to be good and it needs to be done.” That's it.

The point is, we never really struggle with what to say. I believe we all have a lot to say. What blocks us from saying it is trying to figure out how to say it.

Think about it: how many times have you had an idea, such as for a book for example, but you never started because you were struggling with the perfect way to express it? You knew what to say. You just got stuck with the how.

All this got me thinking.

Struggling with anything creative, especially in marketing — whether it's brainstorming ideas, writing content, designing ads, copywriting, branding, posting on social media, coming up with campaigns, and so on — is illusory.

None of it is ever going to be perfect.

It just needs to be good and it needs to be done. You can even do this to see if your idea is viable before you dive in headfirst. Put parts of it out there, ask for feedback, test the waters, etc.

But once you put it out there, then you can learn from it, tweak it, improve it, etc. As the saying goes, “Shipping beats perfection.” Or as Kim Monney more aptly said, “Shipping creates perfection.”

Marketing is a test-and-learn approach — a series of small, incremental experiments from which you can learn and improve.

In fact, this is one of the most beneficial aspects of digital marketing, for no other medium provides feedback as quickly as the Internet does. It's a perfect (yes, I meant to say that) testing ground for your ideas, your writing, your ads, your positioning, whatever.

The point is this.

Start the process. It doesn't matter how it's going to turn out. Whether it's creating a new product, delivering a new service, writing a new article, trying a new marketing channel, or building a new business. It doesn't matter.

Start now. And once you do, keep going. Just as the pursuit of perfection can stop you from starting, it can also stop you from finishing. Neither are good. Better to have critic's block than writer's block.

Create first, criticize later. Or better said, create first, improve later.