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Facebook News Feed Changes: Why We Need a New Strategy

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social media researchWelcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media.

On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore Facebook news feed changes with Michael Stelzner and other breaking social media marketing news of the week!

Watch the Social Media Marketing Talk Show

If you’re new to the show, click on the green “Watch replay” button below and sign in or register to watch our latest episode from Friday, January 19, 2018. You can also listen to the show as an audio podcast, found on iTunes/Apple Podcast, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, and RSS.

For this week’s top stories, you’ll find timestamps below that allow you to fast-forward in the replay above.

Facebook Shifts Organic Reach for Page Posts: Last week, Facebook announced major changes to how it organically serves page posts from businesses and publishers. In a statement on the Facebook Media site, the company announced it will now “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people… [and] posts from friends and family over public content.” While many marketers and business page owners took this to mean the end of their Facebook content reach or the effectiveness of their Facebook ads, industry experts have reassured page owners that this recent change merely requires an adjustment to their Facebook strategies and may actually benefit those using their Facebook presence to authentically engage and interact with their community. (5:22)

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.

We built…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, January 11, 2018

Facebook Tests New “Watch Party” Feature for Groups: Facebook is testing a new video experience called Watch Party. This new feature allows Facebook group admins and moderators to select any public video on Facebook (live or recorded) and share it with other members of the group, who can then watch at the same time and in the same place. The videos will also have a dedicated comment reel with everyone watching and reacting to the same moments together and creating a deeper shared viewing experience. Facebook watch parties are being tested with “a handful of Groups” but the company is looking to expand this new feature soon. (51:45)

Facebook is testing a new video experience in Groups called, Watch Party, that allows members to watch videos together at the same time and in the same place.

Facebook is testing a new video experience in groups called Watch Party, which allows members to watch videos together at the same time and in the same place.

Instagram Tests New “Type” Feature for Stories: In December, it was reported that Instagram is currently testing five new fonts for Instagram Stories among users in Japan. This week, it was discovered that Instagram is now testing these fonts with a new text-only Stories format called Type. The Next Web reports that this feature appears as an additional option at the bottom of the Stories camera, along with Boomerang and Rewind. There are several fonts and backgrounds to choose from, but users can also upload their own image to use as a background or apply a filter that emphasizes the text.

Instagram Adds New “Show Activity Status” Feature in Direct Messages: Instagram’s new Show Activity Status notification in Direct Messages now shows other accounts you follow and anyone you have messaged in the past when you were last active on Instagram apps. Android Police reports that this option is found under Settings and can be disabled if you don’t want others to see this alert. However, disabling also prevents you from seeing when someone else was last active on Instagram.

LinkedIn Sunsets Groups App for iOS and Unveils Group Updates for Web and Mobile: In an email sent to group admins, LinkedIn introduced some upcoming changes that entail “re-integrating [LinkedIn] Groups back into the core LinkedIn experience.” The official announcement from the company states that the platform will no longer support its stand-alone iOS Groups app as of February 15, 2018, and also unveiled improvements coming to the main LinkedIn Groups for the web and mobile. These include the ability to access groups from the homepage and richer conversation tools like video posts and @mentions.

Facebook Enters Into Music Rights Agreements With More Companies: Facebook recently announced partnerships with two of the largest music companies in the world, Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV. Last week, Facebook announced that it has entered into a user-generated content agreement with Global Music Rights, a first of its kind, and partnerships with SESAC’s HFA/Rumblefish and Kobalt Music Publishing. Global Music Rights represents esteemed writers and performers like Pharrell Williams, Bruno Mars, Drake, Bruce Springsteen, and Smokey Robinson, while SESAC’s HFA/Rumblefish and Kobalt Music Publishing represent the independent publishing community. Like the partnerships with Universal and Sony, these three new agreements will also enable users to upload and share videos with music on Facebook, Instagram, and Oculus and allow publishers to be compensated for the use of their music.

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Digital Marketing News: 2018 Creative Trends, Organic Facebook Dead, YouTube Tightens Up

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Creative Trends 2018

2018 Creative Trends – Shutterstock’s data and creative teams analyzed their customers’ billions of searches for images, footage, and music search and download data to discover the biggest year-over-year increases. What are the top trends? Fantasy, New Minimalism, Space, Natural Luxury, and Punchy Pastels among others. – Shutterstock

‘Organic reach on Facebook is dead’: Advertisers expect price hikes after Facebook’s feed purge. If any brands haven’t already shifted their Facebook strategy entirely to paid, then they may have to soon. Facebook is changing its news feed to prioritize what friends and family share, which will reduce the amount of content that users see from brands and publishers. Open up those wallets folks! Digiday

One in three people—2.48 billion—worldwide used a social network in 2017 – Last year, 74.7% of mobile phone internet users worldwide used their device to access social media. Where are they spending their time you ask? In 2017 nearly 594 million people worldwide used Instagram. 62.2% of all social network users (1.54 billion), went on Facebook at least once a month in 2017.  eMarketer

Majority of Consumers Want Brands to Take a Stand on Social and Political Issues, According to New Study – Most consumers want brands to weigh in on social and political issues, according to a new survey by social media management and analytics company Sprout Social entitled “Championing Change in the Age of Social Media.” Two-thirds of consumers responded that it was either “Somewhat Important” or “Very Important” for brands to take a stand on social/political issues. AdWeek

Influencer Marketing Report – A few highlights: Influencer marketing ad spend is poised to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022. The average influencer engagement rate across industry verticals is 5.7% compared to 2-3% for brands. 40% of influencers believe that overly restrictive content guidelines are one of the biggest mistakes brands and agencies make when working with them.  Business Insider

Financial institutions have a growing interest in influencer marketing – Financial services institutions are known to shy away from social media due to strict industry regulations. But a growing number of consumer-facing banks, insurance companies and personal finance apps are looking to create promotional content with individuals with large followings on social media, in order to add personality to their brands and cater to the 18- to 34-year-old cohort. Digiday

Influencer Marketing Stats and Trends (Including Petfluencers) – Collective Bias compiled statistics from B2C influencer marketing research they conducted into an infographic featuring insights on both consumer and influencer behaviors. For example, 10% of 18-24 year olds are likely to purchase a product promoted by a famous pet influencer. 86% of influencers say Pinterest is the platform of choice for food ideas. MarketingProfs

CVS Vows to Stop Altering Beauty Images in Its Marketing – We couldn’t agree more: Starting in April, CVS Health Corp said it will stop “materially” altering the beauty imagery in its marketing materials that appear in its stores and on its websites and social media channels. CVS is also asking brand partners—including Revlon, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson—to join the effort. Wall Street Journal

TV drives search

Google Adds AMP Testing Tool to Search Results – Google has released its most significant update to the AMP testing tool since 2016. In addition to accessing the tool at its usual destination, you can also test AMPs directly in search results. Search Engine Journal

YouTube tightens rules around what channels can be monetized – Channels will need 4,000 hours of annual viewing time and over 1,000 subscribers to make the cut to make money on their video content.  The Verge

The Brand-Content Preferences of Different Age Groups – HubSpot surveyed over 3,000 consumers 18+ to understand which types of content consumers of various ages want to see more of from brands. Over 50% want to see more videos from their favorite brands. Only 22% of consumers age 18-24 value emails from brands they support, compared with 68% of consumers age 55+. This is highly useful insight if you want to optimize for content engagement and action. MarketingProfs

More Than 1 in 3 Millennials Would Like to Go Viral – However, overall, fewer than 1 in 5 American adults would like to become viral on social media or famous on the news for a short time, according to a recent YouGov survey. Also, men (57%) desired fame more than women (48%).   MarketingCharts

On the Lighter Side:

Blockchain Bandwagon

  • Blockchain Bandwagon by Tom Fishburne
  • Google’s Algorithm Says The World Is Flat – MediaPost
  • ‘Milkshake Duck’ is a dictionary’s 2017 word of the year, and damn right – Mashable

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

Lee Odden – The Future, Presented by LinkedIn with Help from Top Marketing Thought Leaders [Videos] – LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog
Lee Odden – What Does The Future Of CX Look Like? Here Are Some Of The Most Promising Predictions – Brian Solis Blog
Congratulations to our client Masterson Staffing
– Celebrating 50 Years in Business – Masterson Staffing Blog
Congratulations to our clients LinkedIn and SAP – Both were named as a “Best Software Company in 2018” by G2 Crowd

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

We’ll see you next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also, be sure to check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

YouTube Ranking: How to Get More Views on YouTube

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Want to increase the visibility of your YouTube videos?

Wondering how to help your videos perform well with the YouTube algorithm?

To explore how to get more views for your videos on YouTube, I interview Sean Cannell.

More About This Show

The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers, business owners, and creators discover what works with social media marketing.

In this episode, I interview Sean Cannell, a YouTube expert who specializes in video influencers, video equipment, and video marketing. He creates videos for multiple channels with 200,000+ subscribers each. His course is Video Ranking Academy.

You’ll discover how to help your videos appear as suggested videos and rank well in search results.

Sean explains how views, comments, and referrals from outside YouTube boost a video’s ranking.

YouTube Ranking: How to Get More Views on YouTube featuring insights from Sean Cannell on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

YouTube Ranking: How to Get More Views on YouTube featuring insights from Sean Cannell on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.

Listen Now

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

YouTube Ranking

Sean’s Story

Sean learned about producing video and doing it consistently through a volunteer role with his church. Around 2003, the youth pastor asked Sean to record weekly video announcements. The first year, Sean made 52 videos.

Then he began creating videos for Sundays, too. So before YouTube even launched, Sean was producing 104 videos a year. By 2007, Sean was managing the church’s YouTube channel and learning about creating titles and thumbnails. From that experience, Sean started a business creating wedding videos and commercials, and working with YouTubers, coaches, authors, and speakers to help them leverage the power of YouTube.

After about 15 years of handling the different aspects of YouTube and video production behind the scenes, Sean launched his current business, through which he’s built a personal brand. Sean’s main personal channel, Think Media, has tips and tools for building your influence with online video.

Sean helps influencers have an impact with online media.

He focuses on the tools (cameras, lighting, microphones). He also helps people who want to improve the videos they produce or stream via a smartphone, or who want to level-up their video production.

The other channel, Video Influencers, is a weekly interview show where video influencers share their best advice. Sean talks to YouTubers and people using video on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or any other platform.

Video Influencers is a channels that produces weekly interviews.

All in all, since Sean started working with video, he’s probably published more than 2,000 videos and thus has seen a lot of video data.

Listen to the show to discover how Sean feels about his early videos.

What YouTube’s Algorithm Considers

Creator Studio offers a number of reports on metrics.Most people think video views are the most important metric. If a video has a million or even 10,000 views, it must be amazing. However, a few years ago, YouTube changed the algorithm, and now minutes watched matter more than views. Minutes matter most, Sean says.

The emphasis on minutes watched makes sense if you think about YouTube’s perspective. A video with a deceptive (or clickbait) title may get only 1 or 2 seconds of view time because the viewer quickly realizes the video isn’t what they thought it would be. However, when somebody commits to a video for even 60 seconds, it definitely has more value because it keeps viewers on the platform longer.

The order in which Creator Studio displays YouTube analytics reflects this emphasis on minutes. The top metric is watch time, the second is views, and the third is subscribers. Although views and subscribers matter, YouTube is most concerned with viewer sessions.

With watch time, YouTube’s algorithm considers two factors. First, YouTube wants people to watch content on your channel. So if you upload a 10-minute video and someone watches 7 minutes, that’s great. Second, YouTube measures time on the platform. For example, when you send an email with a link to a YouTube video, people who click that link start sessions. When they spend 5 minutes with you and then an hour on the platform, a portion of that hour will be credited to you.

Just like any social network or platform, YouTube wants people there longer so they can tell advertisers and others that people don’t just watch 3-minute cat videos on this channel. They consume substantial content. YouTube will reward you for making creative, compelling, attention-grabbing, and attention-keeping content.

YouTube differs from social networks like Facebook in that the YouTube algorithm will promote videos that perform well even if they’re older. Although new content is powerful, videos in your feed could be a few months or even years old. YouTube is more like a content library than a social network with a news feed like Facebook.

YouTube has so much evergreen and quality content that people will watch beyond the moment you release a video or promote it on your other social networks to drive traffic.

Listen to the show to hear Sean explain what you can learn from your YouTube home page and subscription feed.

How to Get Your Videos to Rank

The biggest traffic sources for videos on YouTube are suggested videos and search.“Ranking” refers to where a video ranks in search results, as well as the likelihood it will appear as a suggested video. In fact, on YouTube, suggested videos (which appear in the right sidebar or at the end of a video) are the number-one traffic source. Suggested videos are like the engine driving a viewer’s session duration.

Search is the second most important traffic source. If someone types a term in the search box, hopefully your video is in the top three places or at least on the first page. Just as ranking well in Google search can make or break your business, ranking well in YouTube search has important benefits, too.

Sean learned about the benefits of SEO on YouTube by starting a channel in his name around 2010 and just experimenting. During this time, Sean made a video called Gift Ideas for Him, in which he reviewed things he already had around the house. Although the video is several years old, it still ranks in the first four spots when someone types Gift Ideas for Him in the YouTube search box. The video gets views not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year.

A well-ranked video is not only a way to get “views while you snooze” (as Sean’s friend Sunny Lenarduzzi says), but also a way to make money with affiliate marketing. In the Gift Ideas for Him video, Sean mentions that affiliate links to all of the products are in the video description. Through this video experiment, Sean began to see how a high-ranking video could help drive affiliate traffic plus other business goals, like leads, email list signups, or promotion of your own product.

In fact, ranking videos and doing affiliate marketing with Amazon Associates via YouTube is how Sean became a full-time entrepreneur. This tactic eventually replaced all of his other income as he continued to put out strategic, ranked videos that were monetized on the back end.

Research: To rank well in search results, Sean suggests researching what search term you want to rank for before you start creating a video. Entrepreneurs and marketers often develop their video content and don’t think about the video title until they sit down to post that content online. Sean says that’s a mistake.

Before Sean records a video, he knows the title, tags, and content of the video. To identify the right title and content for your video, do your research before you ever hit the record button. In the how-to space, determining your title is easy. To illustrate, a video on “how to build a table” for a woodworking channel answers that question.

Although certain keywords are crowded, Sean says the wide range of keywords offers a lot of opportunities. Some of Sean’s friends and other tech YouTubers rank higher than he does for one term, and he’s a little higher on another.

Look for keywords (either individual words or phrases) that you can discover in Google Keyword Planner. Sean’s favorite thing to do is go to the YouTube search bar, start typing, and see how it finishes your sentence. Those predictions are what real people search for in order of importance.

For instance, type in “How to meal,” and it’ll probably say, “How to meal prep low carb.” You might also see the search phrases on meal prep for muscle gain or weight loss. You shouldn’t try to rank for “How to meal prep.” It’s too general. Wanting to gain muscle versus losing weight are two very specific and totally different intents.

Start searches to discover relevant keywords for videos.

Content: In a nutshell, you want to reverse-engineer the content to be as close as possible to the best answer for that search term. Remember that Google owns YouTube, and thus the search feature on both platforms does one thing: It serves up the best answer to an inquiry.

Through your research, you also want to know what content your video will be competing with. The idea is to create a video that improves upon others’ content. If somebody with a fitness YouTube channel wanted to rank for “How to meal prep for weight loss,” they could create a video that’s perfectly matched to the intent of that search term, and give great information and best practices.

Another mistake entrepreneurs make is focusing too much on production value. Everyone’s number-one question is about what camera to buy. That’s fine and production value is important; however, content value is infinitely more important.

If the audience wants to figure out how to plan their week better and you’re trying to rank for a productivity term, give them great value and actionable tips. When they thumbs-up the video and leave a comment, those engagement signals go into Google’s ranking of the video. The key is to put good, powerful content on the other side of the search term.

When people engage with your valuable content, it improves your rank.

Tags, engagement, sessions, and more: When you post the video to YouTube, put the keyword (or key phrase) in your title, description, and tags, and have related tags around it.

Next, get session time on your video. Ranking has about 19 different factors, but watch time is the biggest. Second are engagement factors such as likes, comments, and YouTube seeing that the video resonates with others.

Third, bring people from elsewhere online to YouTube. YouTube loves to see your content attracting new sessions and traffic from other social networks. If you have Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram influence or email lists, leverage that traffic when you release a new video to get those viewers onto YouTube. All those signals matter for ranking.

One last thing to consider is that the first 24 hours matter most and then the next 7 days. After that, your video’s ranking is pretty much set, at least for the immediate future.

I ask if YouTube is smart enough to listen to the content in the video to confirm that the substance of the video matches the tags, and Sean thinks yes. YouTube closed-captions your video with its best guess (and it’s getting better all the time). You can edit and improve the automated captions, but YouTube’s tool is one of the fastest ways to caption.

As you go through the whole process of researching, producing, and posting your videos, make sure the title, content, and tags all emphasize the same idea. Say you have a video about how to boost productivity and plan your day more effectively. Your product is a planner. Yet if you never say the words planning or productivity in the video, Google will find that odd. That’s why it’s nice to know your title with keywords ahead of time.

Although you may have variations, you still want to say the exact words to stack value around a topic. For example, if you talk about the three biggest mistakes people make with cryptocurrency, you might say cryptocurrency, crypto, Bitcoin, and all of the things that would come out naturally. Be intentional about every detail.

Ranking goes back to congruence among all of these pieces of your video. Someone types in a title. Then, they hear you saying the thing they’re searching for and maybe they also see it. You could show the final product in the video and say, “This is the result we’re going to have by the end of the video, so stick around because this tutorial will show you how to get there.” Think through the whole process from start to finish. Doing this is critical when you want videos to rank well in search results.

Listen to hear Sean’s example of introducing a video with keywords.

Sean’s Cluster Strategy

Create clusters of related content that can link together and promote each other directly and indirectly. When this cluster technique is done well, your clustered videos show up as suggested and related videos for each other, and for other people’s videos.

In a cluster strategy, you would no longer create one video around one topic on your YouTube channel one week and then completely change topics to a new area the next. For instance, a business YouTube channel might create a video about productivity one week, and the next week, talk about how to save money on your taxes.

Instead, you would create clusters of videos that all are related. Before recording, Sean thinks through four or even 10 videos that can all be related. That way, as he records the series, he can cross-reference videos from the cluster when relevant, and put links to related videos on YouTube cards and in the video description.

Don't create one video, create clusters of videos around certain topics.

Note: YouTube cards enable you to have clickable links that work on mobile and desktop, and can show up mid-video. End screens work similarly but will appear only during the last 20 seconds.

To demonstrate, instead of doing one video on tech gift ideas for the holidays, Sean did four and released them once a week. During those videos, if he mentioned one tech gift idea and had another full-length video about it, he might say, “We did a full review about this. I’ll link to it on the YouTube card and post it in the YouTube description below.”

When those videos end, he says, “Thanks for checking out this video. Subscribe for more videos just like this. And if you want to see other videos in our Tech Gift Guide Series, just click or tap the screen right here.” And he’d point to the end screen. Or, “If you want to see another video from Think Media, just click or tap the screen right there.” These are now clickable videos at the end.

Focus on creating binge-worthy content for YouTube. Sean gets feedback from viewers that they discovered one of his videos and fell into the rabbit hole. Sean’s channel covers the best tips and tools so his topics include how to get views, how to light your scene better, what’s the best audio, what’s the best camera, how to set up your YouTube channel, and how to design cover art.

Break your topics down into more bite-sized, digestible, comprehensive pieces, but stick to one topic. Think about this power phrase: one keyword, one video. Rather than try to do four things with one video, do one thing with one video that directly addresses an exact pain point, search phrase, or search term.

While a good video topic could be “the best equipment for YouTube,” it’s broad. A video on iPhone microphones would be much more specific. Your cluster of videos should have multiple entry points. One day, a person might be looking for a microphone and then see other terms through related and suggested videos. Sean gets a lot of traffic from his and other people’s content.

A YouTube playlist is a great way to organize your clusters.

Integrate your clusters into a YouTube playlist.

Plus, creating clusters of videos and integrating them with your YouTube playlist are great tactics for organizing content for your audience. Also, clusters and playlists organize the content for the algorithm. You have a better chance of showing up in your own and others’ suggested videos because the algorithm relates that cluster of videos together. There are just so many benefits.

Sean suggests using tools such as vidIQ and TubeBuddy to see where your keywords rank. The free versions of these tools will get you all of the data you need. If the data seems all over the place, that’s because it is. YouTube tests your video, letting it spend a few seconds or minutes in a certain market or with a certain number of users to see the click-through rate.

As YouTube tests your video, the thumbnail and title are important because YouTube notices when the video attracts clicks, and measures that activity to determine where to rank the video immediately and in the short term.

Sean says he and friends like Derral Eves and Tim Schmoyer have found that YouTube spends the first 24 hours figuring out probably 80% of where your video will rank. Then over the next 7 days, YouTube is watching whether your video is still driving traffic and getting engagement.

For content creators, that means when you release a video, you need a system. You want to get as much traffic as possible in the first 24 hours, whether it’s from people on your email list; via posts on social media morning, noon, and night (and more on Twitter); or even using some paid traffic to get a little bit of a boost on that first day. After a video ranks well, it can give you traffic for literally weeks, months, or even years to come.

Create a system to get the most video views in the first 24 hours and then seven days.

Sean has hundreds of ranked videos, so he knows the worth of putting in as much hustle as possible, even after that first 24 hours. YouTube just added a Community tab, where you can also share your video links.

Keep in mind that every time you answer a comment on YouTube, your reply counts, too. So if you have 50 comments and reply to all of them, you have 100 comments. Block out time to reply to every comment, and you’ll double the engagement on the video. If everything else is equal but you get 100 comments and your competitor has 50, your video will outrank theirs.

Listen to the show to hear more about The Journey and how I’m creating it as binge content.

Why Sean Loves YouTube Live

One of the reasons Sean loves YouTube Live is the same as why he loves regular YouTube. It’s the second-largest search engine in the world.

Each week, Sean tries to go live once on Facebook Live and once on YouTube Live. The big difference between the two platforms is Facebook will serve your live video to your audience, especially when you initially go live. Plus, in the next 24 hours, a few more people will see the replay video in their news feeds. However, that Facebook Live broadcast probably doesn’t have a lot of value 2 or 3 weeks later. It’s more real-time content.

However, YouTube is a content library, and as such, a YouTube Live video replay can also rank in search. For YouTube Live, Sean prioritizes the evergreen value of the video. On Facebook, he’ll greet people, hang out, go longer in Q&A, and spend a little more time being relational. On YouTube Live, he wants to get to the point. His friend and mentor Chalene Johnson says, “Be brief, be bright, be fun, and be done.”

For example, Sean streamed a YouTube Live video about How to Set Up Your YouTube Channel. He ran the live session like a webinar with a slide deck and screen share that walked viewers through each step. The replay has the same feel as a webinar recording posted on YouTube.

That live video has been in the top 10 for almost a year. The video ranks in search, but it was tailored to do so. Rather than chat and interact as one might on Facebook Live, Sean got right to the point, said what’s coming up, and did a deep dive into the topic.

To help a YouTube Live video replay perform well in search, Sean plans ahead. The title, tags, and content are all planned out in advance, just as with his regular YouTube videos.

Even if your YouTube Live video replay doesn’t rank in the long term, going live on YouTube can still be valuable in building your audience, especially when you’re competing for a popular keyword. Using vidIQ and TubeBuddy, Sean has found that a YouTube Live video will rank as high as number one for the entirety of the live video, even if the replay doesn’t rank later, because YouTube favors live. So YouTube Live has a short-term benefit, too.

Listen to the show to learn more about Sean’s video ranking course, and to hear him break down the 7 Rs.

Discovery of the Week

With Grammarly Keyboard, you can add a native keyboard to your smartphone that helps you check spelling and grammar while you’re on the go.

After you install the Grammarly Keyboard app, you can switch to its native keyboard on your mobile device in the same way you switch to other keyboards (like the one for emojis). The app scans your social posts and emails on mobile for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and so on. This keyboard is a great way to avoid the typos and errors that are easier to make when you’re posting to social media from a mobile device.

Install the Grammarly Keyboard app to spell and grammar check your posts on mobile.

Check your spelling and grammar on mobile with Grammarly Keyboard.

After you finish typing your post or comment, switch to Grammarly Keyboard to check everything. When the keyboard scans your text, it’ll say things like, “Did you mean to not …”

Grammarly Keyboard is a free app for both iOS and Android.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how Grammarly Keyboard works for you.

Listen to the show!

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

What do you think? What are your thoughts on YouTube ranking? Please leave your comments below.

Social Media Marketing Podcast 285. In this episode Sean Cannell explores how to rank your videos on YouTube.

Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ "Stay-On-Our-Site" Algorithms? – Whiteboard Friday

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Increasingly, social networks are tweaking their algorithms to favor content that remains on their site, rather than send users to an outside source. This spells trouble for those trying to drive traffic and visitors to external pages, but what’s an SEO or content marketer to do? Do you swim with the current, putting all your efforts toward placating the social network algos, or do you go against it and continue to promote your own content? This edition of Whiteboard Friday goes into detail on the pros and cons of each approach, then gives Rand’s recommendations on how to balance your efforts going forward.

Should SEOs and content marketers play to the social networks "stay-on-our-site" algorithms?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about whether SEOs and content marketers, for that matter, should play to what the social networks are developing in their visibility and engagement algorithms, or whether we should say, “No. You know what? Forget about what you guys are doing. We’re going to try and do things on social networks that benefit us.” I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

Facebook

If you’re using Facebook and you’re posting content to it, Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link. So, on average, posts that include an external link will fare more poorly in Facebooks’ news feed algorithm than on-site content, exclusively content that lives on Facebook.

For example, if you see this video promoted on Facebook.com/Moz or Facebook.com/RandFishkin, it will do more poorly than if Moz and I had promoted a Facebook native video of Whiteboard Friday. But we don’t want that. We want people to come visit our site and subscribe to Whiteboard Friday here and not stay on Facebook where we only reach 1 out of every 50 or 100 people who might subscribe to our page.

So it’s clearly in our interest to do this, but Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook’s website, because then they can do the most advertising and targeting to you and get the most time on site from you. That’s their business, right?

Twitter

The same thing is true of Twitter. So it tends to be the case that links off Twitter fare more poorly. Now, I am not 100% sure in Twitter’s case whether this is algorithmic or user-driven. I suspect it’s a little of both, that Twitter will promote or make most visible to you when you log in to Twitter the posts that have been made or the tweets that have been made that are self-contained. They live entirely on Twitter. They might contain a bunch of different stuff, a poll or images or be a thread. But links off Twitter will be dampened.

Instagram

The same thing is true on Instagram. Well, on Instagram, they’re kind of the worst. They don’t allow links at all. The only thing you can do is a link in profile. More engaging content on Instagram, as of just a couple weeks ago, more engaging content equals higher placement in the feed. In fact, Instagram has now just come out and said that they will show you content posts from people you’re not following but that they think will be engaging to you, which gives influential Instagram accounts that get lots of engagement an additional benefit, but kind of hurts everyone else that you’re normally following on the network.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithm includes extra visibility in the feed for self-contained post content, which is why you see a lot of these posts of, “Oh, here’s all the crazy amounts of work I did and what my experience was like building this or doing that.” If it’s a self-contained, sort of blog post-style content in LinkedIn that does not link out, it will do much better than posts that contain an external link, which LinkedIn sort of dampens in their visibility algorithm for their feed.

Play to the algos?

So all of these sites have these components of their algorithm that basically reward you if you are willing to play to their algos, meaning you keep all of the content on their sites and platform, their stuff, not yours. You essentially play to what they’re trying to achieve, which is more time on site for them, more engagement for them, less people going away to other places. You refuse or you don’t link out, so no external linking to other places. You maintain sort of what I call a high signal to noise ratio, so that rather than sharing all the things you might want to share, you only share posts that you can count on having relatively high engagement.

That track record is something that sticks with you on most of these networks. Facebook, for example, if I have posts that do well, many in a row, I will get more visibility for my next one. If my last couple of posts have performed poorly on Facebook, my next one will be dampened. You sort of get a string or get on a roll with these networks. Same thing is true on Twitter, by the way.

$#@! the algos, serve your own site?

Or you say, “Forget you” to the algorithms and serve your own site instead, which means you use the networks to tease content, like, “Here’s this exciting, interesting thing. If you want the whole story or you want to watch full video or see all the graphs and charts or whatever it is, you need to come to our website where we host the full content.” You link externally so that you’re driving traffic back to the properties that you own and control, and you have to be willing to promote some potentially promotional content, in order to earn value from these social networks, even if that means slightly lower engagement or less of that get-on-a-roll reputation.

My recommendation

The recommendation that I have for SEOs and content marketers is I think we need to balance this. But if I had to, I would tilt it in favor of your site. Social networks, I know it doesn’t seem this way, but social networks come and go in popularity, and they change the way that they work. So investing very heavily in Facebook six or seven years ago might have made a ton of sense for a business. Today, a lot of those investments have been shown to have very little impact, because instead of reaching 20 or 30 out of 100 of your followers, you’re reaching 1 or 2. So you’ve lost an order of magnitude of reach on there. The same thing has been true generally on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Instagram. So I really urge you to tilt slightly to your own site.

Owned channels are your website, your email, where you have the email addresses of the people there. I would rather have an email or a loyal visitor or an RSS subscriber than I would 100 times as many Twitter followers, because the engagement you can get and the value that you can get as a business or as an organization is just much higher.

Just don’t ignore how these algorithms work. If you can, I would urge you to sometimes get on those rolls so that you can grow your awareness and reach by playing to these algorithms.

So, essentially, while I’m urging you to tilt slightly this way, I’m also suggesting that occasionally you should use what you know about how these algorithms work in order to grow and accelerate your growth of followers and reach on these networks so that you can then get more benefit of driving those people back to your site. You’ve got to play both sides, I think, today in order to have success with the social networks’ current reach and visibility algorithms.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Getting Things Done: The Journey, Episode 13

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The Journey, a Social Media Examiner production, is an episodic video documentary that shows you what really happens inside a growing business.

Watch The Journey: Episode 13

The Journey, a Social Media Examiner production. Mike is on a mission to grow his company's customer base by more than 62%, year over year. Watch as he inspires and mobilizes his marketing team to take action.

The Journey, a Social Media Examiner production.

Episode 13 of The Journey follows Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, as he continues to pursue what many will see as an impossible goal: to grow his company’s customer base by more than 62% year over year.

In this episode, Mike works with his team to get ahead before the holiday break. He also brings in an expert to help with local buzz.

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Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to The Journey on YouTube.

How to Generate More Leads From Your Blog

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social media how toNeed your blog posts to generate more leads?

Looking for tips to turn more readers into loyal email subscribers?

In this article, you’ll learn how to combine blog posts and content upgrades into a package that generates warm leads.

How to Generate More Leads From Your Blog by Sandra Clayton on Social Media Examiner.

How to Generate More Leads From Your Blog by Sandra Clayton on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Review Multiple Platforms to Find Popular Topics

To convert more customers through blogging, you need to write about topics that interest your audience. If you’re struggling with this step, several tools can help you discover topics that are frequently shared on social media and searched for via Google.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a powerful content research tool that will help you learn what has performed well on social media in any industry. Both paid and free versions are available.

After you enter a keyword related to your industry in the search bar, you’ll see which content has the highest number of shares on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.

BuzzSumo keyword search results

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner, a free tool, shows you terms people are searching for on Google that relate to a keyword. You can use these relevant terms to find topics for your blog posts.

To get started with Keyword Planner, enter your keyword. Then add your targeting and apply filters.

You’ll see search results for your original keyword plus a list of related keywords. Click the Competition column to find low-competition keywords and then click the arrows next to the keywords to add them to your plan.

Google Keyword Planner search results

After you add all of the keywords you want, click Review Plan. On the next screen, click the Keyword tab and use the Match Types option to make sure you see keywords that match exactly. In the top right, choose a 30-day date range. Also, enter a high bid ($100 or more) to make sure you see all of the results.

Google Keyword Planner review plan

Now you can see the actual monthly search volume in the Impressions column, which correlates to the number of search queries for your keyword. Impressions will give you an accurate view of how many people are searching for your possible blog topic. Aim for topics with at least 1,500 searches.

Google Keyword Planner impressions

Facebook Groups

In relevant Facebook groups, you can often discover interesting blog ideas from questions members ask. When you see a question that has been asked many times, you can add it to your worksheet as a potential blog topic.

To find Facebook groups relevant to your blog, select Groups on the left-hand side of your Facebook dashboard. Then choose Discover at the top to see a list of suggested groups based on the pages, posts, and groups that you’ve already liked, shared, or joined. Or use the top search bar to find groups relevant to any keyword or niche.

Facebook groups

If you manage your own Facebook group, ask group members what they’re struggling with related to your niche. Then use their answers as inspiration for future blog posts.

Quora

Quora is a hub of questions and answers, and an excellent way to find out what questions people are asking about your niche. To get started with Quora, log in with your Google account.

Enter terms or keywords related to your niche, and you’ll see discussions and questions appear in your feed. Note the questions where you can provide value, look at what others have answered, and make notes on how you can improve upon their answers.

#2: Rank Possible Topics to Determine Top Performers

Based on your research, you can decide which blog post topics you’ll add to your editorial calendar. To help you decide, create a spreadsheet to track the topics and questions that seem to be popular. Pulling together the following details in your spreadsheet will help you identify which topics are a good fit for your blog:

  • Original blog idea
  • Target keyword
  • Number of monthly shares
  • Number of repins and Facebook shares
  • Notes about the problem the topic solves for your audience
  • Notes about how the topic relates to one of your products. For example, a topic might lead to a sales funnel opt-in.

blog ideas worksheet

At this stage, you want to narrow your ideas to those that are both popular with your audience and align with your business goals. There’s no shame in sharing something valuable that helps your readers and grows your business. In fact, that’s why you’re blogging in the first place!

After you pick the winning topics, make additional notes about interesting content pieces so that you can start to frame an angle for your blog post. For each blog post topic, you might note the following:

  • Title or headline
  • Blog post URL
  • Why the topic is helpful and what you like about it
  • How you can improve upon content already available about this topic. For instance, do you see gaps that your blog post can fill?

blog research notes

#3: Write for Readability

When writing a blog post, you might jump right in and start writing. However, with this approach, you risk rambling on and on and forgetting the original points you want to make. To write an easy-to-read post, start by planning and organizing your thoughts and then break the details into manageable chunks.

Before you begin writing, create an outline to help you stay on track and give your post an easy-to-follow structure. As you develop your outline, focus on delivering value to your audience.

Make sure your blog post shows people how to do something instead of telling people what to do. Dive deep and give people easy-to-follow, actionable steps. Include screenshots and other images to help your audience understand what you’re saying.

Also, look through your notes and pinpoint how your blog post can deliver value that similar articles lack so your content stands out. For example, can your article be more visually descriptive? More detailed? Longer? How will you fill in the gaps in other people’s content? Be sure to aim for more than 1,000 words for each blog post.

When people read your blog post, you want them to be able to spot sections that interest them right away. As you write, divide your post into small chunks. Long paragraphs and blocks of text can make your post seem like hard work. Use small sections so readers can easily spot those that interest them. Use headings, bullets, short paragraphs, and short words (hard versus difficult).

blog post format for readability

#4: Offer a Supplemental Content Upgrade

Now that you’ve set the foundation for your post, it’s time to build your audience and get more subscribers. Remember that your goal for blogging isn’t readers, but customers. You want your blog content to be the first step in someone’s journey toward becoming a customer. That’s where content upgrades come in.

A content upgrade is bonus content that your readers receive in exchange for their email address. Content upgrades are similar to lead magnets in that you encourage people to opt in. They’re powerful marketing tools because they’re relevant to both your article and the intent of your readers.

To illustrate, this social media strategy blog post includes a button that readers can click to download a blueprint so they can put what they learn into action. A call-to-action (CTA) button encourages people to take the desired action of downloading your content upgrade.

blog post cta button example

After a reader clicks the button, a box appears and asks them to opt in to receive the blueprint:

blog post cta button popup example

When done right, content upgrades can convert at amazingly high rates. As you write blog posts and create content upgrades for those posts, remember that visitors land on your blog post because they have a problem. Your post needs to educate visitors about the solution, and your content upgrade must help them take the next step.

Qualities of a Valuable Content Upgrade

When you offer blog readers something that’s a perfect fit with the reason they visited your website, they’re much more likely to opt in. Here’s how to ensure your content upgrade fills the bill:

  • Speak to one specific audience, addressing their most pressing pain point.
  • Make the content upgrade relevant to your post. You’ll see the highest conversion rates when your content upgrade fulfills the intent your readers had when they came to your blog post.
  • Boil down the main points of your blog post into a checklist or organizer. Or give readers the option of saving a PDF of a long-form article for later if they’re too busy to read the whole post right now. My highest-converting content upgrades are one- to two-page cheat sheets and checklists that are easy to digest.

blog post checklist opt-in example

  • Provide easy-to-follow next steps that readers can implement to see results right away.
  • Inspire curiosity without giving away all you have to offer to create a path to future products.
  • Reward people who opted into your email list with something that casual readers don’t get. If your content upgrade is something that people would actually consider paying for, you’re on the right track.

Examples of Content Upgrades

The first step in choosing the right type of offer is to identify a resource that will extend the value of your blog content. Different types of content upgrades work well with different blog post content.

Checklists are usually one-pagers that are perfect for how-to and long-form articles. You can outline specific steps people need to take to achieve something. For instance, search engine optimization has a lot of moving parts. To help readers keep track of routine SEO tasks for every blog post, you could offer a handy SEO checklist as a content upgrade.

Templates provide a fill-in-the-blank structure that will save people time and help them take action quickly. They work well for planning, such as a business plan or a weekly schedule. For posts related to productivity, you could offer readers a time-blocking template they can use to schedule their week effectively.

content upgrade template example

Cheat sheets are like a shortcut to the finish line. They work well for detailed articles and give readers a high-level view of the milestones involved in getting from point A to point Z.

Ebooks are ideal for blog posts that are part of a series or related to a theme that will take readers on a journey. You might have a three-part series in which you show readers how to accelerate their online business growth. Because the blog posts are related, each serves as a separate chapter and leads seamlessly to the next.

Spreadsheets help people organize research, brainstorm, plan, or manage systems and processes. When you share a Google sheet that’s related to a blog post about planning and workflows, readers have something to refer back to and share with their team.

Workbooks help your audience go beyond learning about a concept and start putting what they learn into action.

#5: Create a Content Upgrade in Canva

You can create any type of content upgrade with Canva. The steps here use an ebook as an example. To get started, create an account with Canva. Next, use the Blog Graphic as a template. To resize the graphic to US Letter so the format is similar to a book, select Resize from the top menu and select a size.

Canva resize graphic

This first page is your ebook cover. To customize your cover design, select a background color from the left-hand menu or choose a free photo by selecting Elements and then Photos. You can also do a keyword search for images related to your niche or ebook topic.

The free version of Canva offers everything you need to create and download your ebook. However, if you want access to premium images and vector elements at a discount, you need a Canva subscription, which start at $12.95 per month.

To find free images specific to your industry or blog topic, enter a keyword into the search bar. Be prepared to scroll through dozens of premium images that you can purchase for $10 (free accounts) or $1 (paid accounts). Purchasing the image removes the Canva watermark.

Canva search photos

You can also use the Uploads tab to upload stock photos or images from your own library.

After you’ve selected your background image, drag a corner or edge to resize the image so it fills the canvas.

Adding an overlay to the background helps the title text stand out. To add an overlay, select Elements and then Shapes. Click a shape to add it to your cover design, such as the square shown in this example. The shape is placed on top of your background image, but you can rearrange the order by clicking Arrange in the top menu.

Canva arrange forward back

You can change the opacity of your shape so that it becomes transparent and your background image shows through the shape. To change the opacity, click the square pattern in the top right.

Next, select the Text tool, add your title, and choose the styles you want to use.

Finally, add your logo by selecting Uploads and then Logo. You can upload a PNG or JPG image file. (With a paid account, you have the option of saving brand elements, colors, and fonts, which streamlines the process of creating images.)

When you’re happy with the cover, it’s time to populate your pages with copy. Add a new blank page, paste text into a text box, and customize the design of your interior page.

When you’re happy with the design, duplicate the interior page to use it as a template for other pages.

Canva interior page design

When you’re done designing and adding text, save your ebook and download it twice: once as a PDF and again as a PNG file.

#6: Add a CTA Button and Opt-In Form to Your Blog Post

To prompt your blog post readers to download the content upgrade, you need a graphic button that grabs people’s attention and inspires them to click. You can create this button in Canva, too.

To start, create a new design using any template and resize it as a Twitter post. Next, upload the PNG of your ebook cover and add it to the button. Including an image of your content upgrade reminds readers what they’ll receive when they click the button.

CTA button image ebook cover design

Next, change the background color so your graphic button will stand out in your blog post. Add lead-in copy and a square shape to use as the background for your CTA copy. In this example, that’s the turquoise rounded rectangle with the text, “Yes, Please Send!” Make sure both the lead-in and button copy compel readers to take action.

content upgrade graphic button example

When you’re done designing the button, download it as a PNG file and upload the file to your WordPress Media Library.

In addition to the button, you also need an opt-in form. The opt-in form is what people see when they click your button. To create the form, you can use tools such as Sumo, Thrive Leads, or Leadpages. This example uses Leadpages to create a leadbox where blog users can enter their contact information to receive the content upgrade

To start, log into Leadpages, select Leadbox, and add a name for your new leadbox. Next, replace the template image with the image of your ebook cover.

Add a heading and customize the design of your text and button. To change the heading style, highlight the text and click in the blue bar to access the edit tools.

LeadPages form customize

The standard template includes a phone field, which you can easily remove by selecting the integration button in the left sidebar. While you’re there, make sure you integrate the form with your email marketing service and test that it’s working correctly.

When you’re ready, publish your leadbox. In the publishing options, copy the script in the Image Link section, which is the code you need to add the leadbox to your blog post.

LeadPages leadbox publish code

After you set up the button and the form, you can add them to your blog post. With your blog post open in WordPress, you add the leadbox code and point to your button image within that code. In the text editor, paste the leadbox code where you want your graphic button to appear. Then replace the image source (src=”=s0″) with the URL for your button image.

To get the URL, select your button image in the Media Library, and copy the URL that appears in the top right, as shown in this example. Then in the leadbox code, paste the URL in between the quotation marks for the image source. When you’re done, people who click the button see the leadbox and can opt in.

CTA button URL in WordPress Media Library

Ideally, you want to give readers several reminders to download your content upgrade. Place the button directly after your introduction, in the middle of your post, and again at the end of your post. You can even include different content upgrades to give people many different options, assuming that each free offer is relevant to your post.

Tip: You can use the list of people who opted into your upgrade to create a custom audience of people you can market to on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. On Facebook, you can also use your email list to create a lookalike audience.

#7: Build a Free Resource Library From Past Content Upgrades

After you have 10 or more content upgrades, you can combine your upgrades into a resource library or welcome pack to give email subscribers an even bigger bonus. Subscribers benefit because a resource library provides all of your free content in one place. Accessing the library is much easier than downloading each free resource individually.

free resources page example

Resource libraries are easier to create than you may think. You can use the WordPress Portfolio Plugin or a similar portfolio plugin to create your library. Make sure you password-protect your resource page so that only your most engaged readers have access to it.

free resources page password protect

The free resource library is one of my highest-converting opt-ins. I add a CTA button at the top of my homepage and blog pages, as well as at the end of every post.

Conclusion

Creating high-converting content upgrades takes time and effort, but that time is well spent. Content upgrades are an exceptional tool for building your email list and should be seen as an investment in acquiring future customers.

By following the tips in this article, you can create free content around topics popular with your audience, and the products and services you offer. You’ll also lead people to a sale through a natural, organic process because you’ll know that your audience truly wants your products.

What do you think? What’s your experience offering content upgrades with your blog posts? How have the tips in this article worked for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Learn how to combine blog posts and content upgrades into a package that generates warm leads.

Free Local SEO Tools That Belong in Your Kit

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What a lot can change in just a few years! When I wrote the original version of this post in January 2014, the local SEO industry didn’t have quite the wealth of paid tools that now exists, and many of the freebies on my previous list have been sunsetted. Definitely time for a complete refresh of the most useful free tools, widgets, and resources I know of to make marketing local businesses easier and better.

While all of the tools below are free, note that some will require you to sign up for access. Others are limited, no-cost, or trial versions that let you get a good sense of what they provide, enabling you to consider whether it might be worth it to buy into paid access. One thing you may notice: my new list of local SEO tools offers increased support for organic SEO tasks, reflective of our industry’s growing understanding of how closely linked organic and local SEO have become.

Now, let’s open this toolkit and get 2018 off to a great start!


For Research

US Census Bureau Tool Set

Looking to better understand a target community for marketing purposes? You’ll find 20+ useful resources from the US Census Bureau, including population statistics, economic data, mapping and geocoding widgets, income and language information, and much more.

Client Onboarding Questionnaire & Phone Script

Onboarding a new client? Reduce repetitious follow-ups by asking all of the right questions the first time around with this thorough questionnaire and easy-to-follow phone call script from Moz. Includes helpful tips for why you are asking each question. As local SEO veterans will tell you, a missed question can lead to unhappy (and costly) surprises down the marketing road. Be sure you have the total picture of an incoming client in clear view before you begin strategizing.

Location Information Spreadsheet

Vital when marketing multi-location businesses, this free Moz spreadsheet will ensure that you’ve got all the info at your fingertips about each locale of a company.

*Pro tip: When working with large enterprises, be certain that the data you’re inputting in this spreadsheet has been approved by all relevant departments. It’s really no fun to find out six months into a marketing campaign that there’s internal disagreement about company NAP or other features.

Local Competitive Audit Spreadsheet

Now we’re really getting down to brass tacks. When you need to look for answers to the perennial client question, “Why is that guy outranking me?”, this free Moz spreadsheet will help you document key competitive data. The end result of filling out the sheet will be two columns of stats you can compare and contrast in your quest to discover competitors’ ranking strengths and weaknesses. Need more guidance? Read my blog post in which I put this audit spreadsheet into action for two San Francisco Bay Area Chinese restaurants.

Manual GeoLocation Chrome Extension

Watch Darren Shaw demo using this tool to show how a local pack changes when a user virtually crosses a street and you’ll quickly understand how useful this Chrome extension will be in approximating the impacts of user-to-business proximity. Works well on desktop devices.

Our industry still hasn’t fully recovered from Google removing the Local Search filter from its engine in 2015, and I still live in hope that they will bring it back one day, but in the meantime, this extension gives us a good sense of how searcher location affects search results. In fact, it may even be a superior solution.

The MozBar SEO Toolbar

Local businesses in competitive markets must master traditional SEO, and the free MozBar provides a wonderful introduction to the metrics you need to look at in analyzing the organic strengths and weaknesses of clients and competitors. On-page elements, link metrics, markup, HTTP status, optimization opportunities — get the data you need at a glance with the MozBar.

Google Advanced Search Operators

Not a tool, per se, but the best tutorial I have ever seen on using Google advanced search operators to deepen your research. Dr. Pete breaks this down into 67 steps that will enable you to use these search refinements for content and title research, checking for plagiarism, technical SEO audits, and competitive intelligence. Be totally wizardly and impress your clients and teammates, simply by knowing how to format searches in smart ways.

Google Search Console

Apologies if it already seems like a no-brainer to you that you should be signed up for Google’s console that gives you analytics, alerts you to serious errors, and so much more, but local SEO is just now crossing the threshold of understanding how deeply connected it is to organic search. When playing in Google’s backyard, GSC is a must-have for businesses of every type.

BrightLocal’s Search Results Checker

This popular tool does an excellent job of replicating local search results at a city or zip code level. In some cases, it’s best to search by city (for example, when there are multiple towns covered by a single zip code), but other times, it’s better search by zip code (as in the case of a large city with multiple zip codes). The tool doesn’t have the capability to recreate user-level results, so always remember that the proximity of a given user to a business may create quite different results than what you’ll see searching at a city or zip code level. I consider this a great tool to suss out the lay of the land in a community, identifying top competitors.

Offline Conversion Tracker Form

Give this handy Whitespark form to anyone who answers your phone so that they can document the answer to the important question, “How did you hear about us?” Submitted information is saved to Whitespark’s database and tracked in Google Analytics for your future reference and analysis. For local businesses, knowledge of offline factors can be priceless. This form provides a simple point of entry into amassing real-world data.


For Content

Answer the Public

One of the best-loved keyword research tools in the digital marketing world, Answer the Public lets you enter a keyword phrase and generate a large number of questions/topics related to your search. One of the most awesome facets of this tool is that it has a .CSV download feature — perfect for instantly generating large lists of keywords that you can input into something like Moz Keyword Explorer to begin the sorting process that turns up the most powerful keywords for your content dev and on-page optimization.

Buzzsumo

Another great content inspiration tool, Buzzsumo shows you lets you enter a keyword, topic or domain name, and then shows you which pieces are getting the most social shares. For example, a search for wholefoodsmarket.com shows that a highly shared piece of content at the time of my search is about an asparagus and broccoli soup. You can also sort by content type (articles, videos, infographics, etc.). Use of Buzzsumo can help you generate topics that might be popular if covered on your website.

OSHA Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System Search

Another interesting resource for brainstorming a wide pool of potential keywords for content dev consideration, OSHA’s SIC search returns big, comprehensive lists. Just look up your industry’s SIC code, and then enter it along with a keyword/category to get your list.

USPS Look Up a ZIP Code Widget

Working with service area businesses (SABs)? Note the second tab in the menu of this widget: Cities by zip code. When you know the zip code of a business you’re marketing you can enter it into this simple tool to get a list of every city in that zip. Now, let’s not take a wrong step here: don’t publish large blocks of zips or city names on any website, but do use this widget to be sure you know of all the communities for which an SAB might strategize content, link building, brand building, real-world relationship building, social media marketing, and PPC.


Schema/JSON-LD Generators

Rather than list a single tool here, I’m going to take the advice of my friend, schema expert David Deering, who has taught me that no one tool is perfect. In David’s opinion, there isn’t currently a schema/JSON-LD generator that does it all, which is why he continues to build this type of markup manually. That being said, if you’re new to Schema, these generators will get you started:


For Citations

Moz Check Listing

I can say without bias that I know of no free tool that does a better job of giving you a lightning-fast overview of the health of a local business’ listings. On the phone with a new prospect? Just plug in the name and zip and see how complete and accurate the company’s citations are on the sources that matter most, including the major local business data aggregators (Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, Localeze) plus key platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, YP, and more.

Literally at a glance, you can tell if inconsistencies and duplicate listings are holding a business back. It can also be used for competitive analysis, defining whether a clean or messy citation set is impacting competitors. The value of the free Check Listing tool becomes most fully realized by signing up for the paid Moz Local product, which automates aggregator-level listing management even at an enterprise level with hundreds or thousands of listings, and offers options for review monitoring, ranking analysis, and more.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (free version)

The free version of this cool tool from our friends at Whitespark will give you a sense of how the paid version can help you discover additional places, beyond the basics, where you might want to get listed. It also analyzes your competitors’ citations.


For Reviews

The Hoth’s Online Business Review Checker Tool

You’ll have to sign up, but this free tool gives you an overview report of a local business’ reviews on a variety of platforms. This is a smart thing to do for every incoming client, to gauge reputation strengths and weaknesses. The state of a company’s reviews indicates whether it has an offline problem that needs to be corrected at a real-world structural level, or if its core challenge is a lack of strategy for simply earning a competitive number of positive reviews.

Free Review Monitoring

Need to know when a new review comes in on a major or industry-specific review site? Signing up for this free tool will send you email alerts so that you can respond quickly. Watch the little video and pay attention to its statement that the majority of unhappy customers will consider visiting a business again if it quickly resolves a complaint. Good to know!

Review Handout Generator

Another freebie from Whitespark in partnership with Phil Rozek, this very simple resource lets you enter some business info and generate a printable handout your public-facing staff can give to customers. Active review management has become a must in even moderately competitive geo-industries. How nice to have a physical asset to offer your customers to get more of those reviews rolling in!

Google Review Link Generator

Google’s local product has gone through so many iterations that finding a link to point consumers to when requesting a GMB review has been foolishly difficult at times. Whitespark helps out again, at least for brick-and-mortar businesses, with this easy widget that lets you enter your business info and generate a shareable link. Unfortunately, SABs or home-based businesses with hidden addresses can’t use this tool, but for other business models, this widget works really well.


For social

Notify

Whenever your business gets mentioned on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit, and a variety of other platforms, Notify uses Slack or HipChat to send you an alert. By being aware of important conversations taking place about your brand, and participating in them, your business can achieve an excellent status of responsiveness. Social media has become part of the customer service environment, so a tool like this comes in very handy.

Followerwonk

A free trial is available for this app which acts as serious analytics for Twitter. If Twitter is a favorite platform in your industry, definitely give this resource a spin. Understand the characteristics of your followers, find and connect with influencers, and use data to improve your outreach.

Character Count Online

I use this ultra-basic tool all of the time for three specific tasks. Some social platforms either have character limits and don’t always have counters, or (like Google Posts) truncate your social messaging so that only a limited snippet appear at the highest interface. Just plug in your text and see the character count.

And, of course, you’ll want a character counter to be sure your on-page title tags and meta descriptions read right in the SERPs.

My third use for this counter relates to content marketing. Most publications have character count parameters for the pieces they will accept. Here on the Moz Blog, we’re not into length limits, because we believe thorough coverage is the right coverage of important topics. But, when I’m invited to blog elsewhere, I have to rein myself in and be sure I haven’t galloped past that 800-character limit. If you’ve found that to be a problem, too, a character counter can keep you on-track as you write. Whoa, horsie!


So, what did I miss?

If you’re saying to yourself right now, “I can’t believe this totally awesome free local SEO tool I use every week isn’t included,” please share it with our community in the comments. One thing I know I’d love to find a free solution for would be a tool that does review sentiment analysis. Paid solutions exist for this, but I’ve yet to encounter a freebie.

My criteria for a great tool is that it makes work better, stronger, faster… or is that the intro to The Six Million Dollar Man? Well, Steve Austin had some amazing capabilities (and a cool 70s jogging suit, to boot!), and I’m hoping you’ll feel kitted up for success, too, with this list of free tools in the year ahead.

7 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2018

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Influencer Marketing Trends 2018

While influencer marketing boomed in 2017, it’s been on the rise for a full decade. In fact, we first posted about it in 2008 after we attended a session at SES San Jose on social media analysis and tracking. Ten years later and influencer marketing has evolved from a rising trend into a proven marketing strategy, causing more and more B2C and B2B companies to start influencer programs of their own.

As influencer marketing has gained steam, it’s earned a more dedicated spot in the digital marketing mix and become more approachable in the eyes of marketers. As our own CEO Lee Odden, a longtime advocate for influencer marketing, regularly says:

Everyone is influential about something.”

But as marketers dive deeper into the influencer marketing waters, they wonder how the tide will change and ultimately force them in a different direction.

Having executed influencer marketing programs for both B2B and B2C brands for the past several years, we’ve had a front row seat to the evolution of influencer marketing. To give you a glimpse into where influencer marketing is already heading and help you stay on top of your influencer game, here are seven influencer marketing trends that are taking over 2018.

#1 – Full steam ahead for influencer marketing programs.

We touched on it briefly earlier, but as influencer marketing becomes more approachable with tools like Onalytica, Traackr, BuzzSumo, and others, it will also become more popular. For 2018, this means that more and more brands will come online with influencer marketing programs, including both B2C and B2B brands.

But what does this mean for your influencer marketing strategy?

It means your competition could soon be doing their own influencer marketing campaigns, making it all the more important that your campaign sets itself apart from the rest. Through unique influencer relationships, helpful insights, and new media types, you could take your influencer campaign from “first” to “best.” Or both. Both is good.

Read: 20 Inspiring & Actionable Influencer Marketing Tips for The Modern Marketer

#2 – Brands are looking to be bold, loud, and different.

With more B2B and B2C brands amping up their influencer marketing, brands are thinking of new and innovative ways to differentiate their campaigns. With great content serving as the foundation for any campaign, brands are hoping to stand out by offering unique, bold, and intuitive user experiences, generating an added level of excitement and further engaging audiences.

To level up our own influencer marketing user experience, we created an interactive infographic featuring 15 quotes from digital marketing influencers to generate awareness of our agency prior to the Digital Marketing Summit in Minneapolis this past summer.

This not only helped engagement with our audience, but it also helped us create something that our influencers were proud to contribute to and share.

Interactive Influencer eBook Example

#3 – Brand focus on business results.

At the beginning of its time, influencer marketing was all about reach and awareness. By tapping into an influencer and leveraging that relationship, you could gain the ear of an entirely new audience. Multiply that affect with the number of influencers you work with, and you have a rapidly growing audience.

Influencer marketing is no longer just about audience growth, though. Brands are and will turn to influencer programs to drive conversions and engagement, too. What will that look like? From our vantage point, you’ll see an influx of influencer and brand hosted webinars, live stream Q&A’s, endorsements, and other bottom of funnel influencer content.

#InfluencerMarketing is no longer just about audience growth – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#4 – Influencers turned brand ambassadors.

What’s one thing brands are missing when it comes to influencers and their relationships? Oftentimes, it’s exclusivity. Having an influential thought leader all to yourself is a promising premise as it means you are their sole partner in your industry. Well, brands are realizing that this opportunity exists and are getting ready to establish more long-term relationships with influencers.

No longer seen as a one-off campaign strategy, brands will start to reach out to influencers for more long-term partnerships. This will result in influencers adopting the role of “brand ambassador” and serve almost as an extension of your internal marketing team.

To do this within your own influencer programs, you need to develop your relationships with influencers instead of just reaching out when there’s a need. For example, you can create a VIP program or hub where your influencers can come together and collaborate, share ideas, and become a bigger part of your brand. With this continued nurturing and collaboration, influencers will become more like spokespeople, representing the brand at events, in videos, and through their own content.

#Influencers will adopt the role of brand ambassador and become an extension of your internal #marketing team – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#5 – Campaigns with more money, more capabilities.

Remember when we said that influencer marketing is popular, forcing brands to up their influencer marketing game? One surefire way brands can try and elevate their campaigns is through an increased influencer marketing budget. In fact, you can bet on it. In our Influencer 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing research report, 55% of marketers reported in that they plan to increase their influencer marketing budget in the coming year.

With deeper pockets, brands can invest more into developing their influencer relationships and in creating more high-quality content. For example, brands have more freedom to offer gifts to their influencers in an effort to strengthen their relationships. Plus, an increased budget allows brands to create more “expensive” content like a video series, interactive eBooks, motion graphics, and more.

Read: 5 Examples of Influencer Marketing in Action Across the Full Customer Journey

#6 – Influencers are being strategic with their own brand.

As the influencer marketing bandwagon continues to roll, influencers have the ability to be more strategic in aligning themselves with different B2B and B2C brands. With more brands approaching them for their contributions, they can be more thoughtful with the partners they choose to work with and how the partnership will help them grow their personal brand and network.

Because of this, your programs will need to be custom-made for the influencers you want to work with. For example, one of our clients was looking to target C-suite leaders at law firms, which lead to the creation of a customized influencer eBook campaign that featured influencers in the legal profession, and delivered extremely thoughtful and relevant to our audience.

Niche Influencer eBook Examaple

If there isn’t a perfect fit or relevant value that you’re bringing to the table, your ideal influencers will move on to another brand that does. The influencer has the power of choice in this scenario, so make sure to research your influencers beforehand to create a campaign they can’t say “no” to.

#7 – Influence transcends platforms.

Now that influencer marketing programs are beginning to expand in size, budget, and tone, brands are also looking to expand their programs onto new platforms and channels. This helps extend the reach of their influencer marketing programs, enabling brands to engage new audiences that were otherwise lost to them.

What kinds of channels are we talking about? Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and others come to mind as it can be challenging for brands to build up audiences on them — especially if your brand voice is more sophisticated.

Become Influencer Marketing Royalty

As you head off to execute your influencer marketing programs using the trends above, take advantage of these top influencer marketing tools to track your influencer relationships, performance, and more.

7 Ways to Use Instagram Video for Business

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social media how toWondering how to create Instagram videos that will resonate with your audience?

Looking for inspiration?

In this article, you’ll discover seven ways to use Instagram video to enhance your stories and timeline with engaging content.

7 Ways to Use Instagram Video for Business by Victor Blasco on Social Media Examiner.

7 Ways to Use Instagram Video for Business by Victor Blasco on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Integrate Instagram Stories Video

An estimated 250+ million active users view Instagram Stories every day. Because Stories content has only a 24-hour lifespan, it generates a sense of urgency. Here are some ways you can use Instagram Stories video to promote your business.

Share Limited-Time Offers

The time-sensitive nature of Instagram Stories gives you a great opportunity to tap into people’s love of deals. One way to do this is to include a limited-time offer in your Instagram story. Randomly choose the post that will feature the offer to keep viewers guessing.

Set up the offer so it can be redeemed only within the lifespan of the story itself (24 hours). This tactic will keep people coming back to your stories in hopes of catching one of these deals.

Introduce the People Behind Your Products and Services

Once your stories have attracted the attention of your audience, go beyond special offers, coupons, or deals. You can add a human touch to your content by showing the people behind your brand.

For instance, get individual team members to share how they contribute to getting your product to market. Or create a brief montage of how you manufacture your product.

Instagram Stories employee feature example

Show Your Products in Action

Showing viewers a sneak peek of your product can be a nice visual companion to a spec sheet. When you create your video, give viewers a feel for what the product looks like and any notable features it offers. Remember, Instagram Stories are about genuine in-the-moment interactions. Make sure the video is unscripted and a spontaneous representation of your product in action.

Invite an Influencer to Take Over Your Story

Long gone are the days when only big brands with deep pockets could attach a recognizable face to their products and services. Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, businesses of all sizes can reach out to influencers in a wide variety of niches.

Instagram Stories takeover example

Partnering with a relevant influencer to take over your Instagram story allows you to introduce your content to their audience. In the example below, photographer and publisher Kris Graves announces a takeover of the 10×10 Photos Instagram account.

Instagram takeover example

#2: Incorporate Instagram Timeline Videos

Videos play automatically and can be up to 60 seconds long, making them a breeze for viewers to get through. Here are a few examples of how your business might use timeline videos.

Highlight Your Products

Showcase your products in a cool, sexy way. When creating a product video, focus on a few key features to keep your viewers interested and dazzle them with attention-grabbing footage, like in this video from Korg:

Produce a DIY

You’re probably thinking, is 1 minute enough time to make a truly useful how-to video? The short answer is yes. You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish.

In this short video, Nikon shows viewers how to take high-speed photos with a DSLR camera:

Create Short Commercials

Short commercials on Instagram can be funny, emotional, or inspirational. They’re a great way to portray your product in an artistic way or link it to a particular lifestyle. To illustrate, this Lithium Cycles commercial appeals to an active lifestyle:

5 Tips for Creating Effective Instagram Videos

When making your video, be as creative as you want, and by all means, break some rules. If you’re just starting out, here are some tactics that can help you craft the right kind of video from the get-go.

Use Text Overlay and Subtitles to Tell the Story

Remember that some viewers won’t have the opportunity to turn up the volume on your Instagram video. If the content isn’t understandable with the sound muted, they’re less likely to hang around. Using text overlay in your videos helps viewers get the gist of the message. Adding subtitles throughout allows users to follow any narration playing over your footage.

In this video, Callaway Golf uses text overlay to highlight golfer Phil Mickelson’s unique equipment setups at major championships:

That said, don’t rely only on these tactics to get your message across. You should be able to communicate a coherent narrative through images, footage, and editing, as in this sample from Lowe’s:

Find a Unique Visual Style That Resonates

Do some research to see if a particular visual style is associated with your target audience. If you identify a style, take note of it, and when you create your video, try to create something that’s different from what your audience is used to seeing. It may help you stand out from the crowd.

For instance, suppose you discover widespread use of both high-contrast and handheld shots. One way to stand out is to do the opposite. Make a version that uses both clean and static shots, and see if that style resonates with your audience. Of course, it’s possible your audience may simply like high-contrast and handheld shots, and that’s what made that style popular with them in the first place.

To define which techniques work best, test your ideas in the field to see what sticks. Sure, start with rich visuals and unconventional camera angles, but if you see everybody doing that, try something different. Then let your engagement metrics dictate what style you should pursue.

Use Vertical Videos for Stories and Horizontal Videos for the News Feed

At one time, filming video vertically was considered a bad aesthetic choice. However, that’s changed with the popularity of vertically held mobile devices.

Social networks have tailored the user experience to make it easier to capture, edit, and share all kinds of media on mobile devices. This means accepting vertical videos as a new standard. Shooting vertically is particularly fitting for Instagram Stories. Vertical video naturally fills up the entire screen, creating a more immersive viewing experience.

Instagram Stories video example

This isn’t the case with timeline videos, however. A vertical video will look both small and awkward in the timeline, making it more likely that viewers will turn away. A better option for timeline videos is to shoot horizontally, as in the example below.

Instagram timeline video example

Pique Interest With the Caption

For the video caption, be descriptive but don’t make it an encyclopedia entry. The idea is to let your audience know what the video is about in as few words as possible. Also, make it fun to spark your audience’s curiosity.

Use Relevant Hashtags

The more specific your hashtags are, the better. Relevant hashtags will make it easier for your target audience to find your posts. Although some research has shown there’s more engagement on posts with up to 11 hashtags, don’t overdo it. They can be annoying when misused.

Instagram video caption relevant hashtags example

Conclusion

While there’s no surefire way to make the perfect Instagram video, the tactics above can help you create more effective videos for your Instagram presence.

Remember that the examples featured in this article are just that: examples. What worked for these businesses might not necessarily work for you. You’ll have to find that out for yourself. Review engagement data regularly and apply the tactics users respond to most. Use this information to perfect your Instagram video.

What do you think? What types of Instagram videos work with your audience? Do your videos have a specific visual style? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Discover seven ways to use Instagram video to enhance your stories and timeline with engaging content.

What to Do When a New Potential SEO Client Contacts You

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Editor’s note: We originally published a different article by mistake due to an oversight and a valuable lesson in the dangers of copy-paste; you can see it live here. We truly apologize for the error.


If you’re an agency owner or solo consultant, you’re probably constantly thinking about getting new clients. And we’re inundated in this industry with too much advice around new marketing funnels, new marketing ideas, and “one weird tricks to 10x your traffic overnight.”

But something we don’t talk about enough is what you do when you actually convert that person into a real contact on your site.

I’m not talking about “a lead” here, because that word is used widely in our space and has come to mean everything and nothing at the same time. A lead could be an email address and it could be a long-form submission telling you everything about their needs, as well as their budget and their birth city.

What I’m talking about here is a marketing qualified lead (MQL) that you are going to turn into a sales qualified lead (SQL) so that you can turn them into a business qualified lead (aka a new client). (Note: I just made up business qualified lead, so don’t go around talking about BQLs. Or do, but credit me!).

Over the last two years I’ve helped a lot of businesses connect with great marketing providers through my company Credo, and through that I’ve been able to watch how agencies and consultants alike pitch work.

I see all sorts of strategies done to try to close a lead into a client, such as:

  • Send an intake survey to try to vet the lead more;
  • Send them a Calendly link to get them to schedule a call as soon as possible;
  • Send an initial proposal after the first call and then refine it with the client on the phone;
  • Send tracked proposals using a tool like DocSend so you can follow up depending on whether they’ve viewed it or not.

There are many more I’ve seen as well. Some work well, others don’t. This post isn’t going to dig into the various tactics you can use, as you should be testing those yourself.

What I care about is that you develop a sales strategy that sets a strong base and that you can build from into the future.

I also have a unique view on our industry, because I get to see what kind of sales process actually closes potential clients into actual clients. While you may be doing something that you think works really well, there’s a great chance that I know a better way.

And today, I’m going to give you a view into what I know closes clients, and the sales process that I use to close a high percentage of projects who want to work with me into clients.


What to do when a client contacts you

The first rule of sales in a service business like a consulting agency is that the earlier you reply to a prospective client, the more likely you are to close them into an actual client.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to educate businesses that they should speak with multiple agencies and get multiple proposals, to understand what each agency has to offer and be able to compare them in order to arrive at the right decision for their specific business.

And yet, time and time again I see the first agency to respond to be the one to close the project probably 70% of the time.

This can absolutely be a templated response, and tools like Gmail’s Canned Responses or templates within your CRM of choice can help. I personally use HubSpot’s and push form entries there via Zapier, but there are many different options out there; I’m sure you can find one that connects your form technology to your CRM.

In your response, you have to include these three points at minimum:

  1. Respond as quickly as possible and thank them for contacting you
  2. Acknowledge the project they say they’re interested in
  3. Schedule a time to chat on the phone as quickly as possible

As I said above, I’ve seen many agencies send an intake questionnaire that’s a page or two long before even getting on the phone with the potential client.

I advise against this simply because this slows down the process. Some clients that you would otherwise win will simply move on to another agency. You’re giving them work when really what you need to do is remove friction from their decision to choose you.

This initial contact is also not the place to tell them all of the brands you’ve helped and the results you’ve gotten. If they’re contacting you, they’re already interested. Don’t make them think.

You have one goal with your response: to get them to schedule a phone call with you.


What to learn on the first call

If you’ve followed my instructions above, you’re getting the client to schedule a call with you (when you’re available) as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to have them include their phone number, as well!

Schedule the call for 30 minutes so that you can:

  1. Get an understanding for their project, and
  2. Not invest too much time into them in case they’re not qualified enough.

As a side note, if you’re getting too many “leads” (may we all be so lucky) that are not qualified for your business and thus wasting you or your salesperson’s time, then you may want to look at adding some friction to your lead forms. More is not always better.

You should have an idea of who your best clients are and the kind of work they’ve hired you to do that you are best-in-class doing; you need to walk away from this first call at minimum knowing if they’re a good fit or not.

If they are a good fit, then you can move them forward in your sales process (usually a recap and another call).

You’ll also be able to use this process to qualify out the leads who on the surface seem to be a good fit because they were able and willing to successfully fill out your lead form, but when you dig deeper into their business and needs, you realize they’re not quite such a good fit. We’ll talk about this more in a minute.

On this initial phone call, you need to cover all of these points to determine whether you should pitch the work or not:

  1. What their business model is, so that you can understand if they’re profitable;
  2. The type of project they’re looking for, such as strategy or services or a combination thereof;
  3. Their internal team structure and their knowledge of the marketing channel they’re inquiring to you about;
  4. Whether the person you’re speaking with is the person who has final sign-off and budgetary control, or if they’ve been tasked with sourcing an agency but ultimately are not the decision maker;
  5. Their budget range;
  6. Their timetable for wanting to get started.

Thank them for their time and set their expectations about what you’ll do next and when they can expect to hear back from you.

Now your work really begins.


After the first call

Assuming the first call with your prospective client goes well, you’ll need a process to follow so that followups don’t fail and the process moves forward.

This part is important.

Right after the call, follow up with the person you spoke with via email to recap the call and reiterate your next steps.

First, thank them for their time. Regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide to pitch the project, you should be grateful that they decided to speak with you and not someone else.

Second, recap what you discussed on the call. I like to take notes with my CRM (I use HubSpot, as mentioned above) and then use those to write the recap. A CRM should integrate with your email system and allow you to email the prospect from directly within it so that you don’t have to move between your CRM and your email client.

Here’s a templated response that I use when replying to someone after our initial call:

Hi FNAME,

Thank you for the conversation today! I enjoyed learning more about your business and how we can potentially help.

As we discussed, COMPANY is looking for TYPE OF PROJECT. (recap the project here)

As I mentioned on the call, my next step is to spend some time reviewing your site and your project to determine if it is the right fit for me as well. I will follow up with you within 48 hours (NOTE: THIS CAN CHANGE IF YOU CHATTED ON FRIDAY, IN WHICH CASE SAY END OF DAY ON MONDAY) with my findings and where I think I can add value to your business. In the case that your project is not the right fit for me, I can suggest some other people you should speak with.

Thanks FNAME, and you will hear from me soon!

John

Now you can review their project and website metrics to see where you can add value, and if it’s a project that can be successful within the budget they have outlined for you.

Then, decide if you should pitch for the project or refer them elsewhere.


Deciding whether to pitch the work

Sales is all about determining who the right prospects are and are not, then optimizing your time to focus on the clients you want to sign — not on the ones that are a poor fit for your business.

Hopefully you know who your ideal customer is, in terms of budget but also the type of work they need (strategy, services, or some combination thereof) as well as the marketing channel(s). Once you know who your ideal customer is (and is not), you’ll have a much easier time determining whether or not you should pitch the work.

In my experience with seeing over a thousand projects introduced to marketing providers, the six factors mentioned in the “What to learn on the first call” section are the ones that reliably help you understand whether you should pitch the work or not.

Some of the factors to avoid are:

  1. Unrealistic expectations or timelines
  2. No or low budget
  3. No resources to get things done
  4. Their last four agencies haven’t worked out
  5. Going out of business “unless they get help”

I love that so many in the SEO industry are helpful and genuinely good people who want to help others, but if you start taking on clients that can’t pay you what you need to operate a profitable business or have had issues with many other agencies, then you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard an agency say that they “pitched the work, but set the budget high” I’d be financially independent and retired to a mountain town in Switzerland by now.

Hear me loud and clear here:

You do not have to pitch every project that falls into your lap.

If the project doesn’t meet your minimum project budget, the type of client you can get outsized returns for, or is not within your core competency (your zone of genius), then you should not pitch the project.

Let me explain why.

If a client is below your minimum project threshold and you pitch them, you’ve wasted two people’s time. You’ve wasted your time by creating a proposal and potential project plan, and you’ve wasted their time because they took time out of their day to review something that they’ll never sign off on.

Second, if they negotiate back to try to get the budget lower, you’re going to spend your time to get a project that is smaller than what they ideally need and can afford. You’re literally spending time to make less money, when you could take that time to pitch and negotiate with someone who can easily afford your services.

Should you sign the project that is smaller than or right at your minimum while at the same time being at very top end of their budget, you can rest assured that this client will take up more time than they’re paying for because they feel pressure to make it work quickly. Unless you set expectations explicitly and are very good at saying no to requests for work that are outside of the scope of what they’re paying for, this project will quickly snowball and take up too much time, thus putting it in the red.

Don’t pitch a project that’s very likely to go into the red budget-wise. That is Business 101, and you will regret it. I promise.


Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful to you in learning what to do when a new potential consulting client first contacts you or your agency.

First, speed is of the essence. While we want to believe that the best pitch will ultimately win the business, experience tells us that it is most often the first person to respond who actually gets to pitch and sign the business.

Second, get the potential client on the phone as quickly as possible. Don’t rely on email, as you can gain way more information on a 30-minute call than in a string of emails. People are busy and you don’t want to create more friction for them. Get them on the phone.

Third, you need to send a followup email within a few hours of the phone call where you thank them for their time, recap what you discussed, and set their expectations for what your next steps are and when they’ll hear from you again. Feel free to use my template and adjust it for your specific needs.

Fourth, decide if you want to pitch the project. Don’t pitch projects that are too small, outside your/your agency’s zone of genius, where what you have to offer is not their highest leverage option, or where they’re not set up internally to make the project successful. Your project will not succeed if any of these are true.

I am also writing an ebook, hopefully out in Q1 2018, about everything I’ve learned seeing over 1,100 projects come through Credo. If you’re interested to hear when it launches, sign up.

I’d love to hear your comments below and interact with you around better sales for digital marketing consulting work!