Does Your Content Support the Entire Sales Cycle?

Young businesswoman sitting at the office reading business report.

Warning: this post gets a little complex.

But, once you understand the information within, you’re going to be much smarter than most companies who use internet marketing.

You’re probably at least a little familiar with the concept of a sales cycle, right?

Your customers, whether businesses or consumers, have a certain set of steps they take before they finally purchase. For businesses, this can be up to 2 years. For consumers, this can be as short as 2 seconds.

Most websites focus on “bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)” content. In other words, this is the content a customer consumes right before they call, email, or click and order.

Nothing wrong with doing that. But you leave a ton of sales on the table if that’s all you do. Typically, you can think of your product or service pages as “BOFU” content. Your customers will read through that right before acting.

How Focusing on More Steps in the Sales Cycle Wins You More Sales

But long before your customers actually act, they already are unwittingly engaging in the sales cycle.

It all starts with a problem, right?

Your customer has something wrong in their personal life. Or a business has a big problem, like not getting enough leads.

For example, a consumer’s home seems too cold in winter and too hot in summer, despite the fact that they have a new HVAC system.

So if you run an HVAC company, you can engage them right at that point with content. They might search something like,”Why is my house so cold?”

Then, you create a blog post that answers that question. For example, it could be because they have the wrong size of HVAC system installed in their home. Or maybe their crawl space isn’t insulated properly.

Then, at the end of the post, you conclude it’s impossible to tell without a firsthand inspection.

When they read the post, the customer is at the beginning of the sales cycle. If you like acronyms, it’s called “TOFU” or “top-of-the-funnel.” They’re aware of the problem and beginning to understand it.

During the post, you’ve moved them to the “middle-of-the-funnel” or “MOFU.” They have a solid understanding of their problem, and now they need to research other HVAC companies who do the same thing.

But since you’ve educated them on the problem, while most HVAC companies don’t in their blogs, they’re much more likely to bookmark your website, or remember you. And they’re much more likely to actually call you.

It’s because they know you understand the problem and solution. Other HVAC companies might too, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate this in their blog. So the consumer is left with some doubt.

That’s How Content Marketing Works

That’s a simple example of content marketing in action. You can push customers along the sales cycle fast, and they’re happy to walk along with you because they’re solving your problems.

This is why you need to care about the sales cycle. And since many other small and local businesses don’t, you’ll uncover a gold mine of customers they wish they had.

How to Boost the Click-Through Rate of Your Search Listings

Using computer

It’s no secret searchers by and large click on the top 3 search results. Some get smattered throughout the rest of the first page. After that, searchers don’t look at any more results.

But, they don’t factor the top results in as their only consideration. They have lots of other factors in their decision.

And two of those are the big blue headline (SEO Title) and the 2-3 lines of text just below it (META description). When you focus on those two things and what they say, you can identify a nearly limitless number of ways to improve the number of clicks you get.

Here are some things to check:

  1. Tug at People’s Emotions

Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, emotions work at getting attention and causing action. Business people require much more rational evidence to make their decision.

Think “sell the experience,” what your customers get from your products or services. Don’t focus on your products or services themselves. Consumers and business people want a certain experience and emotional benefits because they can get the same product or service many different places.

  1. Show Readers What They Can Expect After Clicking

Whether selling to business people or consumers, they all want to know the next step. It’s something experienced internet marketers do in their marketing. They want to feel like they have one continuous experience. And they want to make sure you deliver on your promises.

  1. If Nothing Else, Focus on Curiosity

Traditional marketers and ad-writers have always found that curiosity has the most power of all emotions. So, your headlines should allude to that emotion if you can’t settle on which other one works best.

  1. Write in Headline Style

Many companies have straightforward, keyword-based headlines like this:

Laptop Computers | PCs for Sale | Desktops for Sale

That builds exposure for those key terms. But, it doesn’t give searchers any reason to click on your result.

So you can be more persuasive by creating a headline-style title like this:

Affordable Laptop PCs For Sale For the Next 3 Days Only

That reads much more like a typical advertising headline that you might see. If you’re concerned about not ranking for certain keywords, simply create more pages selling the same products that contain the keywords you want to go after.

It’s hard to find the right headline and META description that get the most clicks. But, it’s worth the effort. At least now, you have enough information to begin testing and learning what works.

How to Stay Competitive in Local Search During the Holidays

Santa claus typing

The holidays bring lots of shoppers, more business, stress, and chaos. And of course, it intensifies the competition for search rankings to get all those additional customers.

Check out these tips for beating your competition during the holidays:

  1. Do a Google Trends Analysis to See What Searchers Want

Say your customers are looking for “fast laptop PCs.” What if more start to type in “fast laptop computer?”

Google Trends shows you exactly what’s going on. Then, you can take those keywords and add them in where they make sense throughout your website to increase your visibility for them.

Whatever your core keywords are now, identify some synonyms where people want exactly what you have. Add those to your website for the holidays. Consider running some paid search campaigns to access those additional terms fast.

  1. Modify Your Web Pages to Show Off Your Holiday Deals

Each web page has a title. It’s the big blue one you see in Google’s search results. It’s so easy to forget because you never see it yourself. But, it has a huge impact on whether or not people click on your search listing.

So, consider changing as many of your web page titles and descriptions (just below the title) as you can to reflect your positioning related to the holidays. Google also likes more relevant content to what searchers want, so you might get a small rankings boost for that too.

  1. Build content Around The Holidays and Your Products and Services

Content’s always a winner, isn’t it? With content, you can be as creative as you want.

For example, you could create a holiday buyer’s guide that shows customers the ins and outs of buying your product or service. This could be several pages long. That’s fairly substantial, something your visitors would find useful, and that Google would like too. Then, require users to give you their email address in return (your best customers always join your list). Make sure to sprinkle your keywords throughout so you get found for related searches.

You could also repurpose this guide into several blog posts too. So, you get twice the work done with the same level of effort.

Whatever you decide to do, it’ll only help your cause around the holidays. Smart businesses do this, while many let it fall by the wayside.

It’s a golden opportunity for you!

Soon, It’s Likely All Your Browsing Will Be HTTPS Encrypted

Let the surfing begin

Google sets the tone for how the internet works. One of its visions that hasn’t had as much publicity is its desire to make all browsing encrypted.

These days, Chrome uses now have at least 50% of the content they view delivered by HTTPS. That number jumps to 66% when you look at it in terms of time spent browsing by HTTPS. For now, Google expects both of these to increase.

Why Does Google Get So Gung-Ho About HTTPS?

HTTPS exponentially increases your security on the web. For example, you may have noticed the address for your credit card company is https:// instead of http://. When personally identifiable information is used, HTTPS comes into play.

HTTPS only encrypts information in transit. So, if hackers attempt to steal the information, they can get it. But it’s next-to-impossible for them to decrypt it into the original information they want (your credit card number, for example).

However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t secure any other aspect of your website design. And there’s a lot more to web-site security than implementing HTTPS.

Google May Mark HTTP Websites as Non-Secure

Now, as a fair warning, we’re not sure if Google definitively plans to do this. However, in a 2014 proposal, Google said it may start displaying websites using only HTTP in its Chrome browser as “non-secure.”

This Forbes article has this to say about Google and HTTPS:

“Google is getting ready for another push. They’re going to start subtly shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS. In January when a new version of the browser is pushed to users, Chrome will start labeling pages served via HTTP as insecure.”

Now, we can’t find any factual basis for the first part about “shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS.” And we don’t have anything on the second part, either.

However, both changes make sense for the future security of the web. It’s no secret that online security is a major concern for consumers and companies.

Google sincerely wants to make the web a better place for its searchers. So, requiring HTTPS totally makes sense.

That’s just our opinion, though. And we don’t actually know when or if this will happen.

But, you might as well prepare for it because it’s totally consistent with Google. By the way, adding HTTPS to your website design isn’t a huge, time-consuming deal. So keep it on your radar, but don’t panic.

…And make sure you stay tuned to our blog for further updates!

 

New iOS 10 Features Will Grab the Attention of Email Marketers

Annual marketing meetingMany marketers have anointed 2016 as “the year of email marketing.”

Yep, email marketing isn’t just alive and kicking…it’s thriving.

You might think that since we have all these new social media like Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram that email might be falling by the wayside.

But it’s not. And one of the main reasons for that is you can be so personal and specific in email. Plus, it’s something quick you can check when you’re on the go during the day.

And of course, Apple’s right on top of everything in the market. Here’s what iOS 10 does that email marketers should care about:

  1. Makes It Easier to Unsubscribe

Popular email apps like Outlook and Gmail have long had an unsubscribe button that allows their app to unsubscribe you from a list.

Apple just added that button, and it’s at the top of an email.

Previously, you had to sift through to the bottom of the email and find the sender’s unsubscribe link.

With “unsubscribe” being that much easier to find and use, email marketers have to be at the top of their game delivering the most value possible so iOS users have no reason to leave their list.

  1. iOS 10 Users Now Instantly Know Which Messages are From a Mailing List

At first, you might be sent for a panic with this one. If iOS users know which emails come from a list or a personal contact, won’t they be faster to unsubscribe?

Probably not. They’re already familiar with you and your company. They gave you their email for a good reason – because they liked what you offered.

So why would they suddenly become so anxious to press “unsubscribe?”

If you continue to deliver exceptional value in your emails, you’ve got nothing to worry about. And besides, it’s better to have someone unsubscribe from your email list who doesn’t want to be on it anyway. Better to know they won’t make a good customer now than it is to find that out later on.

  1. Emails Now Have a Threaded View

Previously, iOS required users to press the next and previous buttons to browse through a multi-message email conversation. Now, multiple emails in the same conversation can be expanded and collapsed without any scrolling.

  1. New Filter Button is Now Available

A filter button now appears on iOS 10’s email list page. This filter button allows users to:

  • Show only unread emails
  • Display messages from certain inboxes
  • Show flagged messages
  • Find attachments
  • Show only messages from VIP contacts

Are any of these changes anything to be overly alarmed about?

No.

Because as you learned, Outlook and Gmail have had them for some time already.

And if you keep delivering amazing value, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Spend your time learning what makes your list subscribers open your emails, read them, and take the action you want.

Google Updates Local Search Rankings

Working on LaptopThey’re at it again…

Google’s updated the local search results.

They’ve changed the local 3-pack, which shows listings on Google Maps right at the top of what Google considers a “local” search.

Publicly, they’ve not really said anything specific about the update or how it works. They always, if nothing else, get away with saying “we make thousands of updates per year.”

So yes, even Google’s very own engineers don’t really know exactly what the algorithm does at any specific point.

However, local SEOs always take notice because they run their entire businesses on Google’s unpredictable algorithm.

What Are Top SEOs Seeing?

So, when it’s not possible to get a straight story from Google, you have to go to the opinions of SEOs. Many top ones hang out on LocalSearchForum.com.

In general, they’re seeing lots of new companies ranked in the local 3-pack for many types of small and local businesses. For example, that means companies like locksmiths, chiropractors, and so on.

So far, the general thinking is that Google refreshed its spam update to clean manipulative and deceptive websites and SEO practices from the top of its search rankings.

What Does Google Consider “Spam?”

You have to remember Google’s not perfect. Sometimes, they knock perfectly legitimate websites out of their search results.

And, there’s little you can do about it sometimes. So, to protect yourself, you can do 3 things:

  1. Rely on more than just organic search to get business (consider AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn, and offline marketing to extend your internet marketing)
  2. Try to rank for a number of different keywords so you gain some positions when you lose others
  3. Avoid anything that Google could remotely consider “spam”

What might Google consider “spam” in 2016?

The following things:

  1. Using too many keywords on any one page (keyword stuffing)
  2. Placing your exact keywords in links that point to your site (overoptimized anchor text)
  3. Very low-quality content that doesn’t make basic sense when read or contains lots of grammar errors and typos
  4. Lots of spammy comments on your blog (ones that only exist to gain a link and don’t add value to the conversation)
  5. Sites hacked and used for spammy purposes by dishonest persons
  6. Duplicate content (this can happen unintentionally on WordPress sites)

At the end of the day, Google wants good, clean sites that offer valuable information and services. They want the types of sites that searchers want.

So, focus on making your website as useful and interesting to your user as possible, and you’ll be just fine, regardless of the update that hits.