Do You Know How the Consumer Buying Journey Works?


Marketing your products or services at the small business level is tough, unforgiving work. You have to know your customers as well as you know your spouse, or even better.

When you know them that well, you know what problems they have, the best answers to solve those problems, and exactly when to deliver those answers.

But most small businesses simply talk about their company and what they do. That’s a start. But your customer has to have confidence you have the best solution available for what they’re willing to pay.

So let’s talk a little bit more about the customer’s buying journey.

  1. There’s 4 Stages – Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, and the One Almost Every Business Forgets…

During the awareness stage, consumers have a dim idea they have a problem they need to solve. They’re not ready to buy yet, so you can’t sell to them. Instead, you show them you get their problem, and then you can start to talk about the solution.

The evaluation stage works as it sounds. Consumers compare your product or service to all the other options available.

Can you guess what happens during the third stage, the purchase stage? One of the key things to do at this point is to ask for their e-mail address. You know they like you. And they might want to buy more from you if your product or service rocks their world.

During the final post-purchase stage, you maintain the relationship so you’re top of mind when they’re ready to buy again. As an example, that could include something simple like an informative e-newsletter.

  1. You Need to Deliver content at Every Stage of the Cycle

The form of the content can vary. Could be a blog post, a video, infographic, special report, case study, e-mail autoresponder series, newsletter, or even just an image.

Whatever it is, it has to be simple, valuable, and useful. It’s a good idea to switch up content formats to see how your market responds. Maybe you repurpose the exact same type of content into several formats.

If you’re wondering about what to make, simply think of the questions your customers ask you the most often. Or ask them in person what they’d like to know more about.

Then create a piece of content that answers that question.

Yes, creating content that works really is that easy.

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools, But You Do Need to Do Hard Work

You’ll hear about all kinds of fancy SEO and marketing automation tools you need to make online marketing work. Yes, you do need some of these, and it’s good to outsource your digital marketing.

But you don’t need to be super-fancy and elaborate. Old-fashioned hard work by listening to your customers and solving their problem better than anyone else wins their business.

And just a couple of carefully selected pieces of content per month can make that happen.

Google Release 160 Pages of Search Quality Guidelines


Google apparently thinks you and I like to read. They didn’t release a succinct version of their search quality guidelines.

Nope, they had to give us 160 pages.

What’s different about these guidelines is they’re specific and clear. We’ve known generalities for some time.

And they outline what their human reviewers should look for. Google’s made no secret that they use humans, as well as their algorithm, to help review websites. After all, you can get “manual penalties,” which are those placed on your website after a human checks it out.

So what’s revealed on Google’s guidelines? Nothing earth-shattering, but some helpful clarity:

  1. Big Business and Small-Business Websites are Judged by Different Standards

Many SEOs have long complained that SMBs get the short end of the stick in the search world.

They may be right. But as Search Engine Watch outlines, Google does not expect SMBs to have as good of a website as a global corporation.

Fair enough, right? After all, WalMart has millions of more dollars than you or I do to build out their website.

  1. The Best content Should Be Written from Those with Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

With 4 million or so blog posts written daily (check this link for a live count), you wonder how many of those posts contain something new, original, or helpful. Wish we had stats on that, but sorry, we don’t.

What pages are actually considered to meet this standard still remains a mystery. But take a look at it in this common sense way:

Someone researching your topic on the web, an average person with little knowledge about your area of expertise, should get the impression you are an expert at what you do. So that means if you write content, it should be in greater depth than everyone else who does the same thing you do.

Remember the golden rule of the internet: be more useful to your market than anyone else because most websites aren’t useful.

  1. The Experience for Smartphone Users

Nielsen released data last year that showed the average US adult spends 34 hours per month on the internet with their smartphone. That compares to 27 hours with their PC.

But, the problem, according to Google, is that many websites aren’t set up well for smartphone users. Buttons need to be bigger. Some pages require the user to scroll left to right to read. Some still use Flash, which smartphones have a hard time displaying. Images might not fit on the screen. Data entry (such as into your website’s contact form) might be difficult.

Those are the major obstacles your website needs to overcome to keep ranking well on Google.

By the way, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, you can read all 160 pages of Google’s search quality guidelines here.

Is Your Content Marketing Effective?

“I need lots of high-quality content.”

That’s what many businesses think.

And it’s true to an extent. But it may not be as true as many would like to believe.

Content Marketing Institute is THE thought leader on everything content. Each year, they do extensive research and publish a report:

Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America

This year, their goal was to figure out what effective content marketing looks like. Yes, even though everyone’s been hyping “content” for years, many businesses are just now figuring out how to do it.

  1. Define Your Goals – What Success Looks Like

CMI’s first point is that companies say being clear on what success is report a higher rate of being effective at content marketing (55%). That compares to 30% of all companies saying they’re effective at content marketing last year versus 38% this year. That’s an increase of 25 percentage points for companies who define success.

Success can be as simple as checking your overall search rankings. You could also look at traffic increases.
Businesses that get more sophisticated with content marketing check things like brand perception, leads generated, and additional sales closed. They’re all difficult metrics to track.

  1. Have a Documented Content Marketing Strategy

This is CMI’s second point for businesses effective at content marketing. They have an overarching mission statement, hold regular meetings, and use a calendar.

At the small business level, this doesn’t need to be elaborate or sophisticated. A “mission statement” only needs to be 1-3 sentences long. And a “regular meeting” might be the monthly one with your agency or writer. And they might take care of the calendar for you.

It’s kind of like when you write something down, you’re more likely to do it. And that’s all you need to be more effective than many businesses at content marketing.

  1. Engaging Ideas Are All Around You

This one isn’t in the CMI report, but it’s a huge problem for businesses of all sizes. You can create just any topic, and that’ll be enough to help you hold your search rankings.

But you can get even more from your content by finding engaging ideas for your customers. Most businesses have a hard time with this.
It’s easy though. Ask the employees at your office who interact with customers most what their top problems and concerns are. Those are blog post ideas. Go to Forbes and Entrepreneur to see some of the big headlines. Visit, enter your keyword, and write on similar ideas to the leading results.

That’s more than enough for most businesses to start.

…And here’s to a vast improvement in your content marketing campaign’s success!

Should You Use Facebook or YouTube for Your Video Marketing Plan?


With Facebook gobbling up video marketing share, you have a tough choice. Should you use Facebook or YouTube? Find out from i5ww.

Facebook now gets more video views than YouTube. In August of last year, Facebook had 1 billion more views than YouTube.

Does that mean you need to scrap YouTube in favor of Facebook?

Maybe…and maybe not.

Take a look at the ins’n’outs of the two video giants:

YouTube’s Far from Dead

If anyone tells you not to use YouTube because it’s dying, don’t listen to them. YouTube still has more than 1 billion active users.

Plus, according to VentureBeat, their monthly hours viewed are up 50% year-over-year. That points to the strengths of YouTube, if anything.

Facebook’s a Strong Contender – Here’s Why

A Mixpo report shows marketers and agencies are more willing to use Facebook than ever. They’re doing this for two reasons:

  1. Facebook offers precision audience targeting options YouTube doesn’t have
  2. Marketers view engagement as the most important metric, and Facebook delivers better engagement rates than YouTube

But YouTube’s Not Going Away!

That’s because it drives so many views because of its SEO power. It’s going to keep that SEO power because Google owns it.

So the long-term value of YouTube may be far greater than that of Facebook. YouTube brings in about $4 billion for Google, but it doesn’t make a profit. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Google positions YouTube in the future.

So Which Should You Use?

It depends on what you want to do. With Facebook, you tend to get higher engagement rates for shorter periods of time. At YouTube, you get more long-term views.

So if you need to drive more customers in now, Facebook’s a better bet. If your business is doing okay at this minute, go with a mix of Facebook and YouTube.

Some other considerations:

  • YouTube shares 55% of any advertising revenues your video makes with you. It’s tough to make a substantial amount of money with YouTube videos. But it’s a nice bonus.
  • Facebook’s already a leading source for small business marketing. It’s a known working quantity.
  • Facebook’s algorithm, of course, favors Facebook videos over YouTube ones.
  • Facebook videos autoplay once they appear on user’s screens, but YouTube videos do not.
  • However, YouTube’s still one of the largest search engines on the web. So there’s still plenty of opportunity to get in front of your B2B audience.
  • With YouTube, you can optimize your video for popular searches.

The Verdict: No Clear Answer Right Now

There is no straight answer to which of these sites you should use. With competition from Facebook heating up, who knows how Google will respond with YouTube in the future?

For now, you don’t waste your marketing budget with either of these video leaders.


Why is An Editorial Calendar So Important?


Do you need an “editorial calendar,” even if you are a small business that writes just 2-4 blog posts each month?

You do need one – everyone does. But yours doesn’t necessarily need to be sophisticated.

What Does an Editorial Calendar Do?

It’s simply a plan of your content for the next few months.

It shows things like:

  • Content titles
  • Types of content – blog post, white paper, newsletter etc…
  • Who’s responsible for writing it
  • Targeted keywords
  • Where you promote that content

You do need to make this in the form of a spreadsheet at least, and share that document with everyone responsible for content. You can use Google Drive, or another cloud-based file sharing platform if you prefer. If it’s just you writing content, you’ll still benefit from an editorial calendar.

Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

For smaller businesses, the main benefit is knowing what you wrote about. You don’t want to write about the same topic 3 months later (a year is okay). You can also check what you said on the topic so you can take a fresh angle in the future.

Another benefit is organization – you know right where to go to find everything related to your content (big time saver). And if you have another person or two working on content, it centralizes communication too.

In addition, all your content works together in a single “voice.” Imagine if you have 2-3 people working together, and your social media accounts talking in a formal, factual voice. Then you have your blog posts talking in a casual manner about topics completely unrelated to what’s going on in your social profiles. You’d confuse your customers, and they’d lose interest!

You can also analyze what you’ve done in the past and how it’s worked. Maybe similar ideas will work again in the future. But then again, it might be time to try something new – like a different holiday promotion.

It also creates accountability. It’s so easy to get confused on who’s supposed to do what, but there’s no room for excuses with an editorial calendar.

A Few Pointers:

  1. Always create content you believe your audience will love (you get better at this over time)
  2. Tie at least 2-3 goals to your content (more leads, better engagement, more qualified leads, additional sales, 200 new newsletter subscribers, higher search rankings etc…)
  3. Your plan is fluid, changing as you learn more of what works and what doesn’t

That’s what you need to get out of your content calendar – and every organization must have one.

What Makes Content Valuable for Your Readers?


“Content is king.” It is, but what’s that mean? Why do some websites get 1000s of readers and others almost none? Learn how to write valuable content.

You’ve probably heard any one of these suggestions about your content:

  • “Write great content”
  • “Make sure your content is the best available”
  • “Build great content, and they will come”

What do any of those phrases mean?

Well, the truth is it all depends on who reads your content. You have to know what your audience values to sell them what they want.

Let’s Walk Through a Few Examples

So let’s talk about a couple different audiences and specific things you could do to give them more value than your competitors:

  1. A Sophisticated B2B Audience

When you write to this group, load your content with facts from reputable resources. Or use your own tests as examples. If you do the latter, make sure you describe the processes you used in explicit detail.

You can also use personal experiences. Short sentences that get straight to the point work best.

  1. A Crowd of Young Techies, 25 – 35

Here, Rand Fishkin of Moz is the perfect role model to work from because he IS this demographic.

He knows how to engage this audience. For example, one time he dressed up as Fred Flintstone. He uses a lot of geeky references to Star Wars and other sci-fi stuff this generation loves.

And he’s incredibly knowledgeable about search marketing too. The great thing is that his humor makes a somewhat boring and technical subject – SEO – more interesting to digest.

How could you take your product or service and make it more interesting to your demographic?

  1. Bob & Sue Homeowner, Ages 45-60

With this demographic, think of your typical middle-class family. With these people, you want to make things fast and easy.

Actually, that works with every demographic. But, particularly so with this one because that’s how they want to do everything in their lives – at work, home, or out in the community.

You’ll also want to frame everything in a positive light. Business owners love to hear the brutal truth, but this demographic doesn’t want that.

  1. Engineers & Accountants etc…

Let’s be honest here, and no criticism of these groups intended: justifiably or not, most people think of engineers or accountants as “boring.”

Fast and easy doesn’t sell quite as well. But if you’re specific, and highly technical, that’s what they want to hear.

Does that mean you should write everything in a “boring, technical” way?

Not necessarily, said America’s leading copywriter Bob Bly. In one of his newsletters, he reminds aspiring copywriters that though technical audiences are more intellectual, they’re still human beings too. So if you can present them information in a casual, interesting way, that’s better.

In the end, you know what works with your clients and customers in person. Part of content marketing success is as simple as taking those same techniques and applying them with the written word.