9 Best Free Drag And Drop Website Builder Plugins For WordPress

Are you frightened about editing your WordPress site? If you are not expert in HTML, CSS or PHP, you may not customize the WordPress site. Without using the Plugins, of course, it’s not an easy task. Do you know, best free drag and drop website builder Plugins for WordPress is available on the web?
However, If there have any opportunity to design your website by only drag and drop? In other words, you just need to drag the items and drop it in your desired location. How was it? You do not need to work with code or edit them. It seems like a Superman who is coming to you to finish your job with your needs. Therefore Drag and Drop Website Builder Plugins for WordPress are now favorite.

Why Drag and Drop Website Builder?

How can we edit WordPress website by drag and drop only? Many of newbie WordPress users ask the question. Newbie people in WordPress who are trying to build new blog or website but don’t know coding. After all, it is a perfect solution to customize their site to their needs. However, experts are now using these items to save their time.
By using drag and drop plugins, you can easily add multiple columns, content slider, parallax background, full-width images and similar customization. In this article, I’ll discuss some excellent quality free drag and drop WordPress website builder plugins. Check a little collection here to find plugins that can help you to customize your site easily. Let’s dive in and have a look at Free WordPress drag and drop page builder plugins.

12 Important SEO Tips for Your Website

This is part of a series called theBeginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization.

Today, we’re talking about optimizing your whole site, not just a single page, for search engines.

After choosing the right SEO keywords but before writing a ton of content, you have some choices to make.

So think through this carefully.

Before you begin, you need to know the following:
What you’re site is about
What the purpose is
How committed you are

Once you’ve settled on those three things, then it’s time to get to work.

So, let’s begin, shall we?
SEO Tips

To optimize your whole site for search engines, you’ll need to follow these basic tips:
1. Make the website about one thing.

It can be about other stuff, too, but choose one primary topic that is most essential to your message.

This step is important, so you may want to do a little keyword research before choosing a topic.
2. Mention keywords where they matter most.

Include your “one thing” in the site title, domain name, description, tagline, keywords, blog categories, page titles, and page content.

If you’re on WordPress, you can change a lot of this in the General Settings or through a plugin like All in One SEO Pack (which I use).
3. Link to internal pages on your site.

A lot of content management systems automatically do this, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll want to be intentional about linking to your most important pages directly from your homepage and cross-linking them with each other.
4. Use a permalink structure that includes keywords.

Some sites have “ugly” permalink structures that use numbers to identify pages.

Don’t do this. It’s bad for SEO and just doesn’t look good.

Use a URL structure that includes text, and make sure you include keywords in your URLs.

So instead of having a page’s URL be this:


http://yoursite.com/?p=12

It should look more like this:


http://yoursite.com/coolpage/
5. Remove anything that slows down your website.

Page load times are important, so get rid of any non-essentials that bog down your website.

These may including music players, large images, flash graphics, and unnecessary plugins.
6. Use keywords in your images.

Include words that reflect your site topic in the image title, description, and alt attributes.

Also, re-title the file name if it doesn’t reflect your main keywords (e.g. writing-tips.jpg instead of d1234.jpg).
7. Link to other websites with relevant content.

You can do this by including a blogroll, link list, or resources page on your website.

Of course, do it sparingly, as each outbound link is a “vote” for another site. However, if you do it well and people click your links, this tells search engines you are a trusted authority on your particular topic.
8. Update your website frequently.

Sites with dynamic content often rank higher than those with static content. That’s why blogs and directories (like Wikipedia) do so well on search engines. They are constantly being updated with new content.
9. Make sure your website is indexed in search engines.

A lot of search engines will automatically find and index your content, but don’t count on it.

You want to be sure engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are crawling your site, so that people are finding you online. (You can add them directly, if they’re not.)
10. Have other websites link to you.

This is really, really important, when it comes to SEO. The bummer is that it’s not something you can necessarily control. Other than creating excellent content, the only thing you can do is ask (which occasionally works).

My counsel is to spend the time you would trying to convince somebody to link to you on just writing great content. And, start guest posting on other blogs.

Regardless of what you do, know that inbound links are essential to SEO.
11. Stop changing your domain name.

The age of your URL is a factor in your site’s search ranking, so be patient.

If you’re launching a new blog every six months, you’ll never see your site get the value it deserves.
12. Write like a human.

None of the above matters if you create content that sounds like a robot wrote it.

Write great stuff, follow the steps above, have patience, and you’ll see results.

I realize that many of you have already started blogging, but many of these tips can be applied retroactively. And once if you done this, you can start writing regular content. For more about writing SEO pages, read the next article in this series: The Idiot-Proof Basics to Writing SEO Pages.

If you’re curious as to how well your site is performing on search engines, you can use a free website SEO tool like Website Grader.

For more SEO tips, read this: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization


Is your website optimized for search engines? Share thoughts/questions in the comments.

7 Valuable Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates

Email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses for 72% of adults in the United States, according to a recent study conducted byMarketingSherpa. Like any other marketing initiative, email requires a strategy to inspire your audience and grab their attention. When used correctly, email has proven to be the most influential and cost-effective marketing platform.

The goal is not to get your message into that crowded inbox. Your goal is to have your subscribers open your message, and it is the content’s job to reel them in and complete that call to action.

The standard open rate for a marketing email message is 11-15%, with a click-through-rate of just 2-5%, laid out in an infographic by MarketingProfs. If you’re falling behind the curve, you need to fine-tune your strategy, adding personalized and humanization to your campaigns.

To increase open rates, you need to inspire your customers to click your message. Half of all emails will be opened within the first six hours after delivery. As emails pile up, make sure yours doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Once the email is opened, you need to grab their attention with valuable information like a promotional offer or image. Customize your subscribers, understand what they’re looking for, and tell your story in a unique fashion. Your first impression has to hit home to keep your customer engaging with every email you send.

Marketing is all about testing and trying to find a strategy that leads to success. You can’t talk about conversions when your emails aren’t being opened. If you’re encountering a low open rate, test and try these strategies to improve your deliverability and increase open rates.
Subject Lines



A presentation by Jay Baer entitled “What Your Customers Really Think of Your Email Program,” revealed that 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

The subject line will make or break or open rate. Personalize the subject lines and make them descriptive so your subscriber has a reason to open. Subject lines must be inspiring, strong, and eye-catching to stand apart from the crowd of emails your customers are staring at and weeding through.
Concise

The most effective emails are those with short subject lines. A recent study by SendGrid found that three-word subject lines have the highest engagement rates (21.2%) although just 1.6% of emails are that concise. Make sure your subject is well-crafted and descriptive without overwhelming your reader with buzzwords.
Avoid “Spammy” Buzzwords

Although you might think that your reader will want to take advantage of your “sale” or “reminder,” MailChimp advises you to avoid those terms. Having words like “free,” “x% off,” “guaranteed,” or “click here” can negatively affect your campaign and open rate.

If you’re consistently using these buzzwords in your subject lines, many subscribers won’t see your messages as they’ll be directed to spam folders in their inbox. Even if your message lands in the inbox, spammy words often deter readers from your campaign.

It’s okay to promote a sense of urgency if a sale is ending or the time to register for an event is closing. An example like “Sale ends tomorrow at midnight!” shows a user that action is required immediately.
Personalization

If you can add a custom field into your message, and speak directly to your subscriber, the open rate will increase significantly. MailChimp offers you tools to strategize your customization to see what is most effective in your campaign.
Spelling and Grammar

Always remember to use proper grammar and spelling. Punctuation is an essential component of your message, but don’t come off as too salesy or speak too urgently.

A subject in all capital letters, one that includes misspelling, or uses unnecessary exclamation detracts from your message. Asking your users a question and ending the subject in a question mark has a 44% higher open rate than exclamations about your promotion, according to a study found on ClickZ.

One of the biggest factors that influences open rates is to test multiple subject lines with various strategies. Evoke emotion and reel in your audience.

Inspire them to open your message by asking a question that you will answer in the email. Keep it personal, keep it casual, and speak to your customers directly.
List Segmentation



List segments help you further personalize and narrow your audience. You can choose the subscribers on your list that you want to receive a particular message. Segment based on custom fields to utilize your message more effectively.
Occupation
Location
Interests
Industry
Date Subscribed
Purchase/Conversion History
Gender
Age

Plus, take it a step further and think about the topics and content that your subscribers have engaged with in the past. Be as personable as possible. When your subscribers provide you with information that makes it easier to target your messages, use the data to your advantage.

Look at your list, and analyze the metrics to see the content that your subscribers have opened in the past. Move away from mass email blasts that deliver the same message to hundreds and thousands of people.Econsultancy shows how important this tactic is for numerous industries that group their email list.

Learn the program you’re using, and access the list segmentation options to break down your subscribers. You’ll see that some segments have a better response and open rate than others. Build on the data you’re experiencing through segmentation for a high-performing campaign.

When you’re not segmenting your list to deliver personalized messages, you can’t craft relevant subject lines for your audience. Segment your lists, offering unique content that addresses demands. The better your segmentation, the more effective your email marketing will become.
Split Testing



What aspects can you test to get the most out of your campaign? Try variations and tests on your subject lines, body text, call to action, personalization, or the design of your email. Send different versions of the same message to different portions of your list.

Tools like MailChimp and Active Campaign offer support for simplified A/B Testing, or you can split up your subscribers manually to test your campaigns. The initial goal is to get your subscribers to open the email. If you do not see the improvement you anticipated with two versions of the email, try additional versions to see what your audience responds to.

Every aspect of an email affects your conversions. Your open rate is affected by the quality of the subject line. Look at your overall campaign and determine how you want to improve. Experiment with different styles of headlines and personalization.
Variations of split testing include:
Send Time (Morning vs. Evening or Morning vs. Afternoon)
Sender/From Name (noreply@example.com or Joe from Example)
Length/Terms in Subject Line
Personalization in Subject Line

When you’re testing different strategies, keep to a minimum sample size of around 100 subscribers. Accurate testing will help you figure out which strategy leads to higher engagement. Get to know your list and watch how a small difference in your strategy impacts the performance of your campaign.

The unsubscribe rate for every email sent is between .11 and .2%. For every email that is unengaging and feels like you’re pushing your products or services will result in unsubscribes from your campaign.

Test engagements for multiple emails with the same overall message. Your email marketing platform should allow you to test factors and differences in your message quickly and efficiently.
Mobile Mindset with Responsive Design



Your email has to have a responsive design. Maintain a consistent user experience no matter the device they’re using by optimizing your campaigns for a mobile-first environment.

Mobile devices account for 51% of all emails opened, per a recent study byConstant Contact, and over 75% of subscribers will delete your email if they can’t read it on a mobile device.

It’s best to assume your audience is viewing your message on a smart phone. Make sure your entire subject line will display on a standard smart phone screen. While your customers are on in a meeting, waiting for coffee, or on the train, they’re screening their emails from their mobile inbox.

If your open rates have dipped in the last year, mobile screening could be a leading factor. Follow the behavior of your audience with a mobile responsive email campaign. Increase the open rate by using the words in your subject line more effectively (keep it around 30-40 characters), and design the layout for mobile.

Even if your user opens the message, can they read it? Does the width respond to the display? Do the images take too long to load? Are there multiple columns that force a scroll? Simplify and modify your design.
Send Frequency



The frequency in which you contact your subscribers presents numerous challenges. Should you be contacting your list just once a month, as much as once per week, or every quarter of the year? The answer varies across industries.

Keep in mind, your customers are receptive of your communications and messages, but they don’t like untimely messages that are irrelevant. There is no perfect frequency, but there are risks associated with sending too many or too few emails.

According to the DMA’s National Email Client Report in 2015, email marketers are becoming strategic with their approach, contacting their audience less. Most companies are now sending between five and eight emails per month.

You want to stay relevant to your audience without overwhelming them. You can get a better grasp of how often to send messages to your subscribers by testing and segmenting your audience. What works for one brand will fail miserably for another.

Marketing Sherpa published a study asking consumers how often they’d like to receive promotional emails from companies. They found 91% of Americans want to receive your emails, but only 15% like to receive them daily.

For the 85% that want an email at least monthly, where is your middle ground?
Give customers an option to sign up for their desired frequency.
Reduce frequencies automatically for subscribers that aren’t opening your message.
Change the frequency for various segments in your campaign.
Change the tone to provide useful information instead of promotional materials.
Send active subscribers more frequent emails, and cut back communication with those who haven’t been interacting or opening your material.

If you’re overwhelming your customers, they’ll delete your message before they read what you have to say or see what you’re offering. Test your list to determine how they interact with your brand. Once you get to know your customers, you’ll see the open rate of your email campaign increase through an appropriate frequency of messages.
Time Sent



As your marketing campaign is under way, track your data and click-through-rate to determine your engagement patterns. Timing is everything when it comes to your open rate. WordStream goes into great detail about the best times to get your audience to open your emails.

According to WordStream, weekends have low open rates, as well as Mondays and Fridays during the beginning and end of the work week. Tuesdays through Thursdays during business hours (1-3 pm) is the optimal time to ensure your email’s open rate is increased.

You must know your target audience and the message you’re sending. Understand the time of day that your subscribers are typically checking their emails and the device in which they’re using. Still, it’s the subject line and the words in your message that make the most impact. Make them count.
Update Your List and Keep it Fresh



Your open rate suffers when you have a list of outdated email addresses or inactive subscribers.

Companies go out of business and employees leave company email addresses behind. Accounts are abandoned as new ones are created. If you have the same list from five years ago, you’re losing money by sending emails to abandoned inboxes.

To improve your results and leads to increased sales, a clean email list leads to better deliverability.

Take the time to look over your subscribers to ensure everything is in order. If you see a misspelling like “@gmal.com” instead of “@gmail.com,” fix it. Don’t waste marketing efforts sending to an email address that won’t receive your message.

Here are a few more ways to update your list:
Eliminate Duplicated Addresses
Check for Accuracy
Reconfirmation Campaign
Update Details & Change of Information from Contacts

Think about what updating your list means to your bottom line. Make sure your message gets delivered. If your deliverability rate is low based on your list, email service providers will mark your messages as spam.

Many platforms such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact, and AWeber help manage your list to avoid duplicate accounts and check for accurate addresses. Setting up your campaign with a reliable platform gives you access to plugins and API’s that allow signups to your email marketing campaigns directly from your site.

Update your segmented lists and place all subscribers that haven’t opened your messages in the past few months into one list. Send a customized message with a subject line tailored to them.

Reintroduce your brand to their lives. Surprise them with a bonus offer and give them a fantastic customer experience.

Keeping your email list fresh presents your brand to interested consumers. If you keep your messages relevant and list updated, your open rates will grow, and your audience will maintain its engagement.
Conclusion


Don’t be afraid to try new techniques and approaches. Steer away from the same bland approach to your subject lines and newsletter content. Even if your message appeals with images, videos, GIFs, and a unique design, the campaign is failing when your subscribers are just moving your message to the trash.

Customize your strategy to jump-start your marketing efforts and reach your goal of an increased open rate. Email is core to your business. Answer questions your subscribers have, continue testing, and get creative.

When your message arrives in a crowded inbox, how are you enticing your user to open that message and click-through to your next goal?

Deliver your audience a thought-provoking subject line and segment campaigns to deliver relevant messages to every subscriber on your list. Effective email marketing will increase your bottom line and engage new customers in a cost-effective manner.

What is holding back your email marketing campaign? As your subscribers grow, so too should your sales. Make sure your message is heard. Keep testing and keep trying new techniques to meet your goals.



Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Gabrielle Frake. Used with permission.
In-post Photos: Image by Gabrielle Frake. Used with permission.

5 Ways to Build a Culture of Listening and Boost Your Reputation

The line between customer service and business promotion is blurring. Almost every channel you could use in order to talk about your business can be flipped around, allowing consumers to talk to you or about you. And that means anyone working in SEO or online marketing needs to know at least a little bit about customer service.

And it means we need to do more than just talk AT our customers. We also need to learn how to listen to them—and put what they have to say to good use.

Companies that do so can dramatically boost their reputation scores, both online and off, because they’ll look like they really care about their customers. And (bonus!), a good listening game allows you to spot all of the little snags that keep customers from coming back. Fix those issues, and you could boost your company’s bottom line.

So are you ready to build a culture of listening? You can do it in five steps.
1. Dedicate the Staff



It’s hard to listen when you’re stretched too thin. It’s even harder to respond in a calm, comprehensive, and compassionate manner. The solution involves staffing. Adding staffers who can monitor social sites, or giving existing marketing staff a few concrete sites to monitor each day, can help to get the coverage you need to keep a situation from escalating.

Can’t get your boss to add to your staff? Consider running a few key reports of the brand mentions you’ve been forced to pass by. Or work up a set of statistics about how long it takes you to respond to common issues, and what happens with each second you delay. Those numbers may help your boss prioritize your efforts, so you can get the help you need in order to do the job right.
2. Monitor Review Sites

Where do customers go in order to talk about your brand? If you thought of review sites like Yelp, you’re on the right track. But unfortunately, many brand managers don’t take online reviews as seriously as they should.

Consider these statistics from SurveyMonkey. Close to 60 percent of customers look at review sites online, but just 33 percent of businesses take online reviews seriously, in terms of customer feedback. And, just 64 percent of businesses that do pay attention to reviews actually respond to them online.

These are dismal numbers, and they highlight just why everyone involved in branding and SEO needs to pay attention to review sites. You should be watching the numbers, responding to complaints and otherwise being an active member of these platforms. It’s a great way to listen to what your customers have to say, and have a hand in the conversation.
3. Keep an Appropriate Eye on Social

Consumers love to talk about brands on social media platforms. And they don’t necessarily want brands jumping in on private conversations. In fact, more than half of consumers approached in a 2013 study said they wanted to discuss companies online without those companies paying any attention to the conversation.

So, you won’t want to listen via eavesdropping. Instead, you’ll want to listen for the messages your customers send you directly, via social channels. And when those messages come in, you’ll need to address the issue quickly.

In a study of the issue, via The Social Habit, researchers found that 42 percent of social media users expect a response from a brand in about an hour. And they don’t cut brands any slack for weekends and holidays. When they reach out, they expect to get noticed. And they get mad if they don’t get noticed.

That anger is perfectly reasonable. After all, these are people who are taking time to give you very valuable feedback about their experiences. If you ignore their comments, they don’t feel appreciated. And they could show their discontent by looking for another vendor.

If a customer gets great service via social, on the other hand, that customer will spend about 21 percent more, per Brandwatch. That’s a stellar number, and it could really boost your reputation with your boss. With listening, you could make it happen.


4. Encourage Conversations

Customers may be brief with their comments, especially if they’re not really sure you’re paying attention. Drawing them out could give you a big-picture view of what went wrong and what you’ll need to do to fix it. But you don’t necessarily want to have that conversation on a platform you don’t control.

Look for ways to open up customer service conversations on your website. Live chats, email help desks, and more could help you tap into conversations from your chatty customers, without ruining your reputation in the process.
5. Empower Your Staff

If you’re chatting with a customer who has a problem, your listening skills will be put to the test. But you’ll need to do more than just listen. If you can, you’ll also need to solve that customer’s problem. And you’ll need to do so quickly.

Zendesk reports that 69 percent of people tie a good customer service to speed. The faster their problem can be solved, the more likely they are to think fondly of the whole experience.

Think of ways you could work to speed up a conflict-resolution issue. How many steps do your customer service reps need to follow before they can handle a problem for a customer? Can they issue discounts? Trigger free shipping? Solve the problem in some other way? Look for ways to help your staff respond to the comments they get, and you could make your listening really worthwhile.

If I’ve missed any steps you find really empowering in your own companies, shoot me a note in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

How to Create Relationships With Influencers to Boost Your Content Reach

We have so many relationships in our day-to-day lives that we rarely considernot having them as an option. Whether you have your family, friends, or acquaintances around, there’s usually someone you know within arm’s reach. Rarely ever are you alone.

Have you realized that those you know greatly influence your decisions in life? You’ve probably heard thousands of movie, product, and restaurant recommendations from the people in your life that you’ve followed through on. It’s safe to bet that the majority of those experiences that you’ve followed up on, you’ve enjoyed.

Nowadays we have relationships with people we don’t even know or actually hold a conversation with. Think of your favorite author, director, or musician. Think even deeper to your favorite YouTuber or blogger. Now think of your favorites that are within your niche. How much have you discovered because of them? Maybe you’ve followed through on their recommendation for a book, movie, album, video game, or other YouTuber or blogger.

You trust them even though you likely haven’t met and maybe never will. They are your personal influencers.
How and Why You Need to Connect With the Influencers in Your Industry

Likewise, influencers—and your ability to reach them as an online marketer—play a huge part in content marketing. I’m going dissect exactly why and how.


What are Content Marketing Influencers?

Influencers, from a content marketing standpoint, are people or organizations with a wide reach and are the outlet people turn to for opinions or information. You can tell a true influencer from the pack by the fact that people act on what they’re saying. The audience is engaging, not just listening.

They didn’t get to be influencers by sheer luck. True influencers stay very active and put themselves out there in blogs and social media. Maybe they engage with their audience in special ways, maybe they post up-to-the-second content, or maybe they’re one of the most insightful around.

In short, you’re probably trying to become an influencer in your field.
Why Should I Have a Relationship?

As Derek Helpern said: blogging is only 20% content creation and 80% promotion. Henry Ford could have built cars all day in his backyard, but he wouldn’t have built a powerhouse if he didn’t have anyone to drive it.

As stated above, relationships are an important driver of products, ideas, and services. And think about it, if you’re driven to do or try something because of your favorite YouTube personality or blogger, how many others are doing the same thing?

Why does that person’s audience take action on what the influencer says? Because the people trust that influencer more than they trust the brand or person advertising itself.

By utilizing the trust that an audience has with their choice influencer, you can easily bolster brand awareness, which is a win in and of itself.

Outside of mere awareness, when an influencer promotes you enthusiastically, their audience is likely to come to you in droves.

Furthermore, you’ll find that connecting with influencers gives you some “street cred.” This credibility gives you more access to other influencers. It’s the same reason activists, political figures, and social commentators throw their hats in the ring for certain candidates or laws in the next election. It provides that candidate with credibility and moves their audience to that candidate or cause.
Two Examples of What Connecting With Influencers can Do
Jeff Deutsch landed over 200,000 reads on his viral article, Confessions of a Google Spammer, by getting the likes of Moz’s Rand Fishkin and Hubspot’s founder to share it on Google.
I landed over 400 Twitter shares alone on my Top 60 Content Marketers post on my blog by simply asking the marketers I mentioned to share my post.
How do I Find an Influencer?

First and foremost, find out what your lane is and stick to it. If you write a blog on the best travel destinations then it might not be the best idea to reach out to your favorite movie reviewer. On the other hand, if you write an exotic cooking blog it may be reasonable, if a stretch, to reach out to the travel destination blogger because of your authentic Peruvian cuisine.

But where, oh where, are they hiding?

Influencers can be found almost anywhere. But to find one you want to team up with, you’ll want to start with where your influencer of choice would hang out or where “the cool kids” table is.

If you’re a fashion designer and blogger, you might want to consider scoping out Instagram or Pinterest first because of the image-heavy nature of those sites. For an aspiring entrepreneur, there may be some merit to taking a look at LinkedIn. For almost all content creators that want an influencer, it is probably a benefit to check out Facebook and Twitter.

But social media outlets are big places. How do you weed through them and find the top dogs?

The key may be as simple as trending hashtags in your field. Who started the hashtag? Who has a lot of followers and uses those hashtags or similar hashtags on a regular basis? Keep an eye on those people to see if their followers are active or passive.

Another key to finding a good influencer is through SEO stats. Finding out who has a solid domain authority and has frequent updates to their site can be key to building your business.

During this time, it may be a good idea to write down who seems to be an influencer in your realm and some of their attributes.

A great tool to use that shows Top Influencers in any niche you might have is BuzzSumo. I use it all the time when checking on influencers who might have shared my content, or who I can reach out to next.
The Right Influencer: 10 Personality Types to Choose From

Next, think about the type of personality you might need backing you and your brand. Smart Insights has a great infographic about the various types of influencer personalities.

In a nutshell, these ten types are:
The Celebrity with a big audience
The Authority that the audience trusts
The Connector that makes links between dispirate things
The Personal Brand who will love you if you love them, too
The Analyst that has a lot of insight
The Activist that is belief-oriented and ideal-driven
The Expert who knows the industry on all sides
The Insider who knows the industry from the inside
The Agitator who creates debates
The Journalist who has the most recent developments
How do I Reach Them?

The Rule

Once you’ve determined the “who”, it’s time to determine the “how”.

Here’s a rule and a self-affirmation in one: Don’t get star-struck because there’s no one you can’t reach.

Do you know the brand FUBU? If not, maybe you know the name Daymond John.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Daymond John was just some guy selling self-made hats with his friends. He had to mortgage his house to get enough equity to start a full business. But by 1993, he had convinced LL Cool J, who at the time had just come off one platinum record, one double-platinum record, and one triple-platinum record, to wear his gear.

By the next year, Daymond John’s brand was a hit. Today he’s worth somewhere around $300 million.

It’s all because he reached out to LL Cool J in his prime.

Again, don’t get star struck because there’s no one you can’t reach.
Step One: The Draft Pick

Once you’ve gotten the pre-game jitters out, think about who your audience would like or who they probably already do like. Pick someone who shares your values and attitudes, someone who you can build a cohesive message with. Generally speaking, more often than not, you’ll find an audience sticks if you and your influencer share many of the same qualities, but write content that the other hasn’t thought of, acting somewhat as supplements of each other.

There are, of course, caveats to choosing someone with a cohesive message. This is especially true in those fields where debate can be key: politics, media, philosophy, and the like. If you are a creator of those types of content, it may be wise to scope out others who generally share your interests and viewpoints, but are different enough to begin a healthy, respectful debate with.
Step Two: The Courting

So you’ve picked your ideal candidate. Now think about why they should find value in you. There are plenty of ways to make this happen.
Shout-outs: Send your audience to them (like I did in the linked example) and let them know about it. The latter part is important—don’t miss out on promoting and letting them know you talked about them. Otherwise, they won’t reshare it.
Demonstrate value: Engage your current readership or customer base by hosting Google Hangouts sessions or doing contests. Show your chosen influencer that you have an audience and that your audience is engaged.
Send samples: Don’t send samples with any “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” undertones. Just send them your wares with no strings attached. If they’re excited about it, they’ll tell their fans.
Be community minded: Get into the community so your chosen influencer can see you as an active member in your niche.
Education: If you have new information or recent updates, provide them to your influencer through their comments section. This will allow your influencer to see that you’re an expert in the field.
Debate: It’s important to remember the difference between “debate” and “argue”. In the end, a healthy debate will be remembered by the influencer and can show them that you know your stuff.
Ask: If you don’t know something and they hold a Q&A or monitor their comments closely, ask them for clarification or an opinion.
Original content: Make sure you’re writing the most original content you can, especially during this period. If your influencer sees your work as derivate and simplistic, they may not consider you an expert or worth coming back to, let alone sending their audience to.

Keep in mind that many of these influencers probably had to find their own resources in order to make it to the top. Think about Apple’s humble beginnings as two twenty-somethings tinkering with computer parts in a garage. They didn’t start out as a technology powerhouse. They needed to convince local computer stores to sell their homebrewed wares.

Any respectable influencer remembers their humble beginnings. Remember that when you get to the top.
I’ve Found One Who Likes Me!

Congratulations!

It’s not the easiest journey to find an influencer that is excited enough about your product, service, or content to send their audience over, but it’s an infinitely rewarding one.

Just know that the journey doesn’t stop once you’ve gotten a larger audience. At this point you’ll be under more pressure to create content that is fresh, interesting, relevant, and on time.

Break out those old ideas you jotted down and enrapture your newfound audience—keep them coming back for more!

Also, continue to engage and be personable with your larger audience. Just because you’re bigger than you were a few months ago doesn’t mean you can put yourself above your visitors. People like someone accessible, accountable, and involved. In fact, you may want to become more engaged at this point to give everyone a feeling of inclusion.

It’s more work, to be sure, but it will be more fulfilling and lucrative work than you were doing before.
Giving Back

Your influencer did something for you out of excitement for your product. You shouldn’t take that lightly. By all means, feel free to give back to a content creator that you like and admire in some way.

One way you can do this is through providing that content creator with product discounts or giveaways. Make sure to ask them if they’d like more of your wares before sending them along, but it will likely be appreciated and will show that you care about them and what they’ve done for you.

Also, if you haven’t already, send your audience to them. After all, they’ve done the same for you so you should give back how you can. Your audience may not be as big as their audience, but they’ll definitely appreciate the bump that your influence can give them.

Finally, you should consider how guest posts on each others’ blogs can help drive an audience to each others’ blogs. They serve many purposes. Obviously the boost in traffic is nice, but with enough friends it can allow you to take a much needed vacation down the line or give you some extra time to focus on a larger project.
TL;DR

To sum this entire article up in a few easy-to-digest phrases, it’s important to remember a few things:
The people around you influence you a great deal. “People around you” aren’t just your family and friends. They’re also your sources of entertainment and information.
Content marketing influencers are content creators with a wide reach, a hefty amount of pull, respect, and the ability to convince their audience to take action, rather than just ones whose audience passively takes in their content.
Content creation is 80% promotion and 20% content creation. Part of that 80% is finding influencers.
Find influencers by searching high and low in social media outlets and SEO stats.
Find influencers that would enjoy your brand and broadcast that joy to their audience.
Start out by contacting one or two that have the personality type you want to be associated with, a shared message, and that your audience would like.
Don’t get star struck when you’re contacting your influencer. They did the same thing with someone else once upon a time.
Find a way to gain attention and demonstrate value both to your audience and the influencer. Both of these things will help get an influencer on your side.
Once an influencer sends their audience to you, work extra hard to keep the newfound audience engaged and coming back to you for more creative, influential, and authoritative content.
Give back to your influencer.
If someone comes to you when looking for an influencer, take the time to check them out and, if you’re truly excited about what they have to offer, do what an influencer did for you and express that interest. Not only will you be giving back to the community, you may gain a small bump from one of the little guys.
Conclusion

Creating content and developing your audience isn’t an overnight solution to all of your problems; it takes hard work, dedication, and time. If you’re still working a day job, you won’t replace your income immediately. If you’re established, finding an influencer won’t make you a millionaire.

What you’re doing when finding an influencer is building on top of your established foundation. Think of it like building a house on an endless supply of land. You may begin with a modest one-story home, but with the right people and resources, you may find yourself expanding that humble abode into the sprawling estate of your dreams.

All in all, if you are starting out or trying to bolster your traffic, it’s always a great idea to give your blog a shot of adrenaline by having a big name shout you out and get their audience excited to check out your content.



Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Julia McCoy
In-post Photo: EDHAR/Shutterstock.com

10 Tips to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets

It’s so easy. Just create amazing content consistently and you’ll be rolling in traffic.

I’m kidding.

Even if you know what you’re doing, content marketing takes a lot of work. But it can pay off in a big way. For example, Kraft’s ROI from content marketing is four times better than any other form of advertising.

Look around online, and you’ll quickly discover that they are not alone. You don’t even have to go further than here.

I’ve used content marketing to grow KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and now Quick Sprout to well over 7-figure (annually) businesses. I typically get around 100 comments on posts and over 1,000 social shares within days on just Twitter and Facebook alone.

Now, it’s taken me years to get here because content marketing takes patience and consistency. But another thing it takes is a budget.

If you’re doing content marketing effectively, you’re creating some really valuable next-level content. And if you’re creating content like that, it isn’t cheap.

Sure, you can do some of it yourself, but your time has value as well. Don’t forget that.

But like with all things, it’s possible to do content marketing both more effectively and cheaper than most businesses manage to do. It still won’t be “cheap”, but it will be much more affordable for startups and small businesses than what they might be currently spending.

In the rest of this post, I’m going to share with you 10 tips that will help you bring down your content marketing spending significantly, without sacrificing results.
Focus on the Most Cost-Efficient Types of Content

There are tons of different types of content you can produce.

Often, there are 4-5 or even more types of content that your target audience enjoys. This means that you can use any combination of those types to grow your audience.

But here’s the thing: Not all types of content give the same return. They all cost different amounts and will generate different average numbers when it comes to traffic, subscribers, shares, etc.

Here’s a simple 3-step process you can use to find out which types of content are most cost-efficient in your niche.
Step #1: Evaluate the Cost of Different Types of Content

The first thing you need to do is establish a baseline cost for every type of content you might be interested in producing:
blog posts
videos
infographics
slideshows
animations
tools
e-books
podcasts
stock photo collections
etc.

Obviously, the cost can vary based on the exact thing you’re looking for, but try to get a fairly accurate range. There are three ways you can do this:
Get a quote from a freelancer who specializes in that type of content.
Determine how much time it would take to make it yourself, then multiply that by your hourly rate.
Use estimates from other public sources.

Technically, you could get a quote from an agency, but those are usually much more expensive than a freelancer. Since we’re trying to conserve your budget here, start with freelancers.

For the third option, you can find rough estimates for most types of content online. For example, I’ve previously written that you can get infographics made for $250 to $595 each. When it comes to content, most good writers charge $0.10-0.20 per word (although you could negotiate a flat fee, e.g., $200 for a 2,000 word article). And videos typically cost between $1,000 and $6,500 per finished minute of video.

One caveat: You might want to think about dividing each type of content into more specific types of content. For example, you might be able to write a list post much faster than another type of post like a case study.
Step #2: Research the Performance of Your Competition’s Content

If you already have a lot of content creation experience, this is an easy step for you. Just make a spreadsheet where you record the performance of each type of content.

When I say performance, I mean metrics that you care about. For most, it will be a combination of:
traffic
social shares
comments
email subscribers
backlinks

If you don’t have extensive experience, you’ll have to get this performance data from other sources—your competition.

Start by going to the biggest platform for each type of content and finding a few of the biggest channels/brands for that platform. For example:
blog posts: blogs
videos: YouTube
slide shows: Slideshare
infographics: Visual.ly

So, let’s say you were interested in making SEO videos.

You head to YouTube and search for a few major SEO terms such as:
SEO
SEO link building
On page SEO

Make a list of the top creators:



We want to figure out their average result per video.

Click on the name, and then click on their Videos tab:



This will give you a list of videos they’ve uploaded. Start by counting the number of videos the creator has made (you’ll need to click “load more” at the bottom). In this case, Josh has made 123 videos at this point.

Next, add up the number of views that they’ve gotten. Finally, divide the total number of views by the number of videos to get an average. Josh gets approximately 1,000 views per video he uploads.

You want to repeat this for as many creators in your niche as possible. The more you consider, the more accurate your numbers will be. Once you’re done, get a combined average by adding together the averages and dividing by the number of video creators.
Step #3: Evaluate the Performance of Each Type and Choose the Best

At this point, you have the cost of each type of content as well as the typical results for each. Now, you want to divide the result metrics by the cost.

Here’s what a simple version might look like:



You’re looking to get a rough estimate of the cost per metric. Focus on the metrics you care about the most.

What you’ll probably find is that one or two types of content are much more cost effective than the rest. Those are the types of content you should focus on producing in the future.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity

One major source of wasted money is failure to maximize the results from each piece of content.

Marketers see successful bloggers posting 3-5 times a week and assume that they should, too. However, if you don’t have the budget to publish 3-5 greatpieces of content, it’s pointless. You’ll end up publishing 3-5 okay posts instead.

Growth from content marketing comes from quality, not quantity.

Each post should be as valuable as possible. You’re better off publishing one absolutely amazing piece of content per month than publishing 30 mediocre posts.

If you can publish more than one great post—fantastic! But always start with quality.

A great example of this is Brian Dean at Backlinko. As of now, he has about 30 articles in total on the site (seriously), and he’s been going for years now. On average, that works out to about one post a month. He’s also built a 6-figure business from it.

How? Because every single post is amazing. Quality will always win.
Be Smart: Remember the 80/20 Rule

When you’re dealing with a small budget, it’s always about getting the most bang for your buck. In this case, it’s possible to take “high quality” too far.

What the 80/20 rule says is that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.

In this case, it means that 80% of the value of your content will come from 20% of the effort you put into creating it. The main takeaway from this principle is that each extra bit of effort has diminishing results.

By the time you’ve put in a solid amount of effort (say 80-90%) of what you’re capable of, you’ve pretty much maxed out the level of quality that you can get from a piece of content.

Resist the urge to go overboard by doing things like:
creating custom images that don’t add much value to the post
messing around with the layout even though it’s already easy to read
changing sentences over and over again so that they’re “perfect”

If you do those things, you’re spending time with no real return, which means you’re wasting part of your budget. Aim for very high quality, but know when a piece of content is about as good as it’s going to get.
The Absolute Cheapest Way to Create Great Content Consistently

Another way to lower your content creation costs is to get creative. Instead of creating content from scratch, you can repurpose existing content.

If you’re not familiar with the term, repurposing means turning your existing content into a different form of content. For example, you might turn a blog post into a video, slideshow, or podcast. The main benefit is that all the research is already done.

You can also often take images you created for the first piece of content and use them in the new pieces. This can cut your content creation time reliably in half for each piece of repurposed content. And it can also expose your content to a different audience, which is always a good thing.
Repurposing in Action

Let’s go over a few quick examples of repurposing content.

Paul Gordon Brown creates content about reaching students with social media. For example, he created this popular slideshow on the topic. However, he also uses a lot of this information in his blog posts, and he’s even hosting talks on the subject.

I highly doubt he’s creating a new presentation from scratch every time.

For bloggers, there’s a common type of repurposing: turning a blog post into an infographic.

Brian Dean originally wrote a post about on-page SEO, and then he created an infographic and embedded it within the same page.



You could also do what I usually do and just post the infographic as its own post.

Brian chose to combine the two so that he could promote that post to an even bigger audience.

And here’s one final example of content repurposing: The Crazy Egg blog publishes a new blog post every weekday. Some of these posts we turn into short podcast episodes. We have a great podcaster, who essentially reads the post and records it.

Which types of content convert well into other types of content? Any type of content can be repurposed as any other type of content, but it’s easier to do with certain types than others.

The easiest types to repurpose, in most situations, are:
blog posts into: infographics, podcasts, e-books
infographics into: slideshows, videos
videos into: animations (gifs), blog posts

For the most part, visual content translates well into other visual content, while written content translates well into other written (or spoken) content.
Spend Time Improving Your Efficiency

This tip is for you if you do a lot of content marketing work yourself.

If you are creating, planning, and/or promoting your own content, you can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend just by learning a few simple ways to work more efficiently.

I’ve seen marketers double the speed at which they do a particular task just by focusing on it for a short period. And while the specific things you need to do to increase your efficiency depend on your current work habits, there are some general techniques that are almost always useful.
Technique #1: Batching

Batching is a simple technique that involves doing as much of one task as you can at once.

For example, instead of trying to come up with a post idea every time you’re creating a new post, you could come up with 100 all at once. This improves efficiency in a couple of ways:
No transition time: it always takes a few minutes to get going on the next task. Instead of spending this transition time every time you come with an idea, you only spend it one time, at the start of your batch session.
Momentum: once you start doing something, it becomes easier to continue doing it, resulting in faster and better work.

Here are ways you could apply batching immediately:
coming up with content ideas in batches
outlining your posts in batches
writing posts in batches (maybe during the first week of the month) and then scheduling them
editing content in batches
collecting names of people to reach out to (for promotion)
sending out link or share request emails

And there are many more.
Technique #2: Outsourcing (When it’s Smart)

There are two main reasons for outsourcing a part of your content marketing process. It’s best done when you either don’t have the skill or the time.

In particular, the first reason is most important.

Why?

Because if you don’t have the skill, say to design an infographic well, it costs you because you will have a lower quality piece of content. What most don’t realize is that it’s often more expensive to create it yourself as well.

You might value your time at $50/hour, but a freelancer will charge you $100/hour (hypothetically). So you think that you will save money by doing it yourself. However, in the vast majority of cases, the freelancer has so much more experience than you that they can do the job in less than half the time it would take you. This means that outsourcing would actually cost less than doing it yourself, plus you get a better product.

If you recognize that you’re not very good at a particular part of content marketing and don’t have the passion to become an expert, outsource it. You can’t do everything yourself, so get help in the areas where it makes the most sense for the quality and budget.
Forget the Parts of Content Marketing That Aren’t Necessary

Believe me, I understand when marketers, especially new ones, get overwhelmed by content marketing.

The content creation process alone takes a lot of time, expertise, and resources, but then you need to promote it as well. Here’s the thing though: You don’t need to be everywhere at once.

Remember the 80/20 rule? It applies here too.

Eighty percent of your success will come from 20% of your effort. So, find the parts that add little value to your marketing and cut them.
Where to Start

The most and least efficient activities will depend on your niche and business.

But let’s look at an example: When your primary goal is to drive traffic to your content to eventually make sales, what should you focus on?

In most cases, email marketing will give you the best return on investment(ROI – your time and spending) by far. And yet, some marketers spend just as much of their time getting followers on social media, handing out business cards at conferences, posting on forums, etc., as they do on getting more subscribers.

When you have a tight budget, the activities with smaller ROI don’t matter.

So, unless you’re in a niche that social media is crucial for (fitness, food, home decor, clothing, etc.), it’s likely something you can forget about. All you need are the one or two channels that give you the best results.
Get Extremely Specific

This might be disheartening at first:


It’s very difficult to compete with bigger budgets.

Want to outrank a Quick Sprout post on Google for a term I’ve targeted? You’ll have to create something amazing and promote the heck out of it. And that costs money.

The good news is that you don’t need to go head to head with larger budgets.

Consider SEO. You can target longer tail keywords at first and throw your entire budget at them. These keywords typically have less competition and are much easier to rank highly for.

When you do this, you’re not going to get amazing traffic right away, and that’s what scares off most businesses. But you’ll get more traffic by ranking #1 for searches that get a few hundred queries per month than you will ranking #10 for a search that gets a few thousand queries a month.

Guess what happens over time?

Your traffic continues to grow, and so does your subscriber list. Growth in content marketing happens exponentially, so those small initial results grow into big things a few years down the road.

Additionally, as you start to get results from your work, you can slowly add that extra revenue to your content marketing budget, accelerating growth further. You can take this approach to your content marketing as a whole, not just SEO.

Instead of creating content for marketers (like I do), create content for a more specific audience, e.g., social media marketers or small business marketers. The more specific you get, the less competition you have—just make sure there’s enough demand. If you’re writing on somewhat obscure topics, even mediocre content would get some attention.

Once you capture that group, you can start creating content for related groups and expand.
Share Valuable Personal Data

Something that a decent number of content marketers have picked up on recently is the effectiveness of transparency. In short, transparency consists of revealing behind-the-scenes data and information.

One amazing example of this is the Groove HQ blog. They write about marketing topics, but they support their points with personal data and experiments:



They pretty much reveal anything that adds value to a post.

There are two reasons why transparency can be great:
It makes your content better: Using personal data means that you have something unique to offer (no one else could provide it). Having something new to say is a key part of creating value in your content.
It can be cheaper to create: What’s easier: getting some data from your own Google Analytics or trying to get an expert to respond to you and to contribute to your content? You can save a lot of time using personal data, which means you can use your budget for other things.
It’s Possible to Get Free Content From Amazing Creators

If you’re hiring writers to create content for you, it probably costs you at least a few hundred dollars per post.

But there’s a way to get great content free. And that’s by accepting guest posts. Remember though, just because you accept guest posts doesn’t mean you have to approve every pitch.

You’ll end up rejecting 90% of them, but those 10% of good ones will be from quality writers who are willing to contribute in exchange for exposure (to promote their own site).

There are two ways to find these good guest-posters:
Create a guest-post page on your website: they will find it when they research potential targets
Manually reach out to good guest-posters: if you see a good guest post on a competitor’s site, you could email that creator and ask them to contribute to your site

Right now, I want to focus on the first option because it’s much less work in the long run.

A good guest-post guidelines page has three essential elements:
Part #1: Incentives for the Guest Writers

When a content creator finds your guest-post page, their first question is: “Is it worth contributing to this site?”

The bigger your site is, the more you can offer.

Regardless, make this one of your first sections, and frame the benefits in terms that guest posters will find appealing. They are looking for traffic, links, fame, etc.

Here’s a screen shot of Boost Blog Traffic’s guest post guidelines, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen.


Part #2: What You are Looking For

Once the creator is interested in your site, the attention shifts back to you. You need to make it really clear that you’re only looking for exceptional content.

If you publish content in a certain way (a typical length, style, etc.), this is the time to establish your expectations.
Part #3: How Should They Pitch to You?

Finally, you need to let them know what you’re looking for in a pitch. If you don’t, you’ll get tons of emails with unnecessary information, which will waste your time (and your time is money).

Outline the basics of what you’d like to see in a pitch. You can add more to your guest-post page, but make sure you have at least these three parts.

Writers will start finding you and sending you pitches a few weeks after you publish it (or sooner if you have a popular site).
Updating can be as Good as Starting From Scratch

Something that content creators in evolving niches always face is content becoming outdated.

For example, you might write about tax guidelines for 2015. Well, come the day after tax day 2016, that post has lost 90% of its value.

The same goes for many other industries. SEO posts from 5 years ago are just about worthless now.

But instead of creating a new post from scratch, you can often use old content—for much cheaper.

Here are your two options:
Option #1: Update Time-Sensitive Content

Things typically change incrementally over time. So, instead of creating a whole new piece of content, you can just update your original content to reflect that small change in your industry.

This is something Brian Dean does with a lot of his content at Backlinko. For example, he has updated his complete list of Google ranking factors many times now. It was originally published at least a year ago, and the list has grown to more than 200.

Because Brian keeps the list updated, it remains the #1 resource on this topic.
Option #2: Republish Old Evergreen Content

While you can update old content to keep its value high, you can also simply republish old posts.



When you’re first starting out, you have a small audience. Once you grow your audience, the majority of it wouldn’t see a lot of your old good content. By republishing your old content, you’ll expose it to your new, bigger audience.

Although I wouldn’t do it very often, you can republish old evergreen content so that it shows up at the top of your blog. Then, you essentially get a new post for nothing.
Be Extremely Selective With Your Promotion

This final tip is again about trimming the fat.

You need to ensure that you’re getting a worthwhile return from all the promotional work you’re doing. If you have limited time, focus on the most likely sources of traffic for your new content.
Start With Your Email List

Always begin new content promotion by emailing your subscribers.

These are the people who already like your content and appreciate it enough to sign up for your list. They are, by far, the most likely people to share your content with new audiences.

I email my subscribers after I publish a new post, using a simple template:



It works really well and takes next to no time to do.
Reach out to Past Sharers

Not all of your fans like to get email updates. Some would prefer just following you on social media. But when you announce on social media that you’ve published a new piece of content, they might miss it.

Instead, you should look at who shared your content on social media in the past and then send them a personal message about your new content.

There are two ways to do this. Start with your own social posts, and click on the number of shares you got (on any network):



This will show you who shared your content:



Send them a direct message letting them know about the post, saying that you think they will enjoy it.

Secondly, you can also search for a topic (or even a past article title) using a tool, such as Topsy.

For example, since this article is about content marketing, I could search for “content marketing” in the tool. This brings up a list of the most popular articles on Twitter in the selected time range:



Clicking the “more” link beside the speech bubble will bring up all the people who shared that piece of content:



If you have really limited time, start with the “influential only” users, who have the highest number of followers. One share from them is worth more than from the average user.
Conclusion

Content marketing is all about quality, which typically isn’t cheap.

However, there are ways to make content marketing work even for small budgets. Try to implement at least 2-3 of these tips, and you should be able to bring down the cost of your content marketing to a more reasonable level.

If you have any other ideas about using content marketing with a small budget, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments below.



This post originally appeared on Quick Sprout, and is re-published with permission.

10 Amazing Lessons From Being an Entrepreneur

My journey as an entrepreneur has been an amazing experience. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned so far.
Preface: The Search for Something More

Once upon a time, somebody hired you to do a job. You did that job – and did it well.

Successful strategies were developed. Projects were completed on time. Clients were happy with the results. The company was growing and making money. Yet it all somehow felt a bit… incomplete.

Have your smart ideas been ignored or forgotten? Are your passions and skills not being used to their full potential? Are the people running your company lacking the traits needed of true business leaders?

I know that feeling of wanting more.

At one point in my life I felt a pull – almost like some sort of invisible magnet was trying to drag me in a new direction. But where was it pulling me?

The year was 2007. I had yet to start my own award-winning company, WordStream, or have it recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for three straight years.

Little did I know my life was about to change in a BIG way.
1. A Call to Action

Every entrepreneur has had an “a-ha!” moment – a moment when an idea crystallizes and everything makes sense. I had such a moment after I developed software to solve a problem.

My marketing consulting tasks were way more time-consuming and repetitive than necessary. Unfortunately, there were no helpful keyword management software solutions on the market.

So I created one. At some point I realized that a lot people would find my PPC automation software valuable. Many small businesses don’t have the time or expertise or budget to succeed at paid search, so my vision was to address this need in the marketplace.

I also realized that the software business was potentially much more valuable than the services businesses.

Once I had both a product and a service to sell, it was time to aggressively pursue the opportunity. I started pitching venture capital investment firms and, eventually, raised a few million dollars.

Lesson: Come up with several business ideas and test your theories before picking the best one and going all-in.
2. Facing Fear of Failure

In life, it’s a lot easier to just fly under the radar and keep your goals and achievements – and any failures to reach those goals – to yourself. Doing so helps you avoid a lot of embarrassment and judgment.

But when you start a business, you need to market it. You must put yourself out there in a very public way.

Something like 80-percent of businesses fail in the first year, so the odds are pretty stacked against you. And sadly, some people actually are hoping to see you fail – including some of your peers.

Lesson: Stay positive, ignore the naysayers, and learn from your mistakes so that things work out better the next time around. Some serial founders start multiple companies and look at each company as a learning experience, not a failure.
3. Seek Advisors to Help Guide Your Growth

Actually starting up and building my own business was shocking a lot of ways. It’s hugely important to have truly great advisors.

My company has had advisors, including Carol Meyers from Rapid7, Chris Litster from Constant Contact, and Janet Holian, the CEO at Gemvara. I’m an advisor to a few Boston-based start-ups including Curata and ThriveHive.

If you get the chance, definitely try to get into a mentorship or incubator program. It’s a great way to cut the learning curve. Plus, on top of the very tangible benefits, you’ll build relationships that will serve you through your entire career.

Also, in marketing, Rand Fishkin has built a big community and been open with his knowledge and experience, so I’ve learned quite a bit from reading everything he publishes and chatting with him at industry events.

Lesson: I think it’s important for every entrepreneur and business to have access to external knowledge and experience to help guide your growth.
4. Invest Profits Back Into Your Business

Your new business needs to eat in order to grow.

In the early days of my business, I fell in love with sole proprietorship; I could deduct legitimate business expenses, command higher rates as a contractor, and take on multiple clients. I paid myself handsomely, bought a new car, and was basically irresponsible with my newfound “wealth”.

In short, I treated my company like my own personal piggy bank. Big mistake.

Eventually, my thinking matured – I paid myself a lower salary and invested profits back into the business. It’s hard to adjust to the mindset that requires that you spend substantial amounts of “your own money” on payroll and marketing, yet it’s necessary in order to bootstrap the business and avoid taking on a lot of seed-level financing.

Lesson: The transition from employee to entrepreneur can be lucrative, yet dangerous, especially if you experience early success. Don’t let an increase in pay (by way of sales) cloud your good judgment and stunt your growth.
5. Team Building

You might start a business to follow your passion – something you’re good at and interested in. But as your business grows, you’ll inevitably find yourself doing less and less of whatever it was you started out doing.

You’ll find yourself focusing more on trying to find people smarter than you are to do a better job than you could have done.

The most important aspect of your job as a company founder is less about doing stuff you love to do and more about building a team.

Also, it’s really important to give employees the training and tools to be great and support them at every level in their efforts to do so. Authenticity and transparency are critical at Wordstream – we expect co-workers to be honest, ethical, and open to two-way communication.

Beyond that, other core values we live each day are “Take Action” and “Win Together”. Our industry moves so quickly that we absolutely have to be able to rely on and support one another. Employees have to be empowered to take calculated risks, even if it means they fall down from time to time.

Lesson: Even the greatest hobby can easily turn into work when it becomes your full-time job and livelihood. Nurture and encourage your team – employees are so much more engaged when they’re consistently shown that their ideas and contributions are valuable.
6. It’s Not All About the Money



Want to make loads of money? Grow and sell a business.

I won’t lie: that was one of my goals.

One thing you should come to terms with is that the vast majority of entrepreneurs won’t get rich quick. You hope it will happen eventually, but make sure you’re in it for the long haul.

So, in pursuit of those loads of riches, a funny thing happened. Building a business created value that wasn’t monetary.

One of the most valuable aspects of starting a business is the social capital and learning experiences you pick up along the journey. The opportunities I’ve had to meet other company founders and discuss crazy business ideas have been invaluable.

Lesson: Though it’s possible that you’ll make tons of money, be sure, along the way, to savor the insights you gain – about life and work – from the company you keep. It will help you put any failures in the proper context.
7. A Disturbing Lack of Faith

Moments of weakness are par for the course for entrepreneurs. At some point when things are extremely rough and the future of your company seems bleak, you might think about throwing in the towel and going to work for a rock star company.

That’s fine. You can think those thoughts all you want.

However, verbalizing your doubts can be an absolute confidence killer in your company. Cash-strapped entrepreneurs need the unwavering support of investors, staff, and strategic partners alike.

Lesson: Transparency is awesome, yes. But you can communicate your funding issues without raising fears that you may be having second thoughts or losing faith. In almost all cases, it’s critical that you keep doubts to yourself.
8. Chase Your Unicorns

Being impatient helps me come up with unusual solutions to stuff. Hacking a system results in ridiculously game-changing outcomes that drive business growth.

Don’t mistake activity for progress – 99-percent of the work people do is chasing after small changes. Instead you should be chasing unicorns.

The unicorn principle follows a power law, that the one-percent is better than all the 99-percent combined, and the top one-percent of the one-percent makes the unicorns look like failures. When you understand how this works, you stop chasing those small things and only go after big gains.

I believe it’s possible for entrepreneurs to predictably create unicorns (as opposed to discovering them by accident). There’s an actual repeatable workflow. That might sound like deciding to hit a hole-in-one, which is ridiculous, but it’s indeed possible!

Lesson: Very little of your effort will actually make a difference. Use your data to figure out where the leverage really is – the one-percent of work that produces huge marketing benefits. With a bit of math and analysis you can do great things.
9. You’re (Sort of) the Boss!

One of the most common reasons for wanting to start a business is to be your own boss. But generally, if you take on investors (as I did), you lose control of the company when you accept the venture capital dollars.

Even if you don’t have to take on investors, your customers become your new boss – and they’re likely to be much more demanding than your old boss ever was!

When you start a business – and especially when you’re in a growth phase – you are accountable to so many people. You need to think about your employees, customers, investors, and partners (internal and external) with every decision you make.

Lesson: There’s actually less freedom and more responsibility involved in starting a business versus having a regular job.
10. Achieving Success

I used to dream about my big idea becoming a reality. However, I greatly underestimated just how awesome it really is to show up at work and watch your dream become a reality as your company grows over time.

It’s impossible to anticipate or describe how great it feels to get your first office, move into a bigger, “real” office, have a company party to celebrate your achievements, be recognized with an industry award, or even just have really happy customers.

Every day, my WordStream co-workers inspire me with all the brilliant work they do to make us the successful company we are today. I am very thankful for having met such fantastic and dedicated people, and for the opportunity to work with them. They inspire me to do more.

Lesson: Success is great, but not an excuse to stop being awesome. Smooth sailing can breed complacency; it’s rarely the best environment for innovation. Now the question is: how can we continue being innovative and successful?
The Big Lesson for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

“Should I start a business?”

It’s a simple question without a simple answer.

Every year, I watch friends, many of them in the marketing industry, think about venturing into the exciting world of entrepreneurship. If you’re thinking about starting your own business – be it as agency, brand, vendor, or publisher – take the time to seriously think about everything touched on in this article. Building a new company from scratch will require a huge commitment of money and time.

Being an entrepreneur is an experience unlike any other. You must relentlessly chase perfection. You need a ridiculous amount of passion. You have to be able to adapt to crazy, unexpected things. And above all, you must provide something incredible to your customers or audience.

Running your own successful business probably won’t turn out exactly how you imagined – but that doesn’t mean it can’t turn out even better than you imagined!



Image credits: Shutterstock

6 Ways to Use Google Analytics You Haven’t Thought Of

For the readers of Search Engine Journal, the idea of using Google Analytics to monitor daily traffic is a no-brainer. To make effective online business decisions, we must have an idea of where traffic is coming from and what visitors are doing while there.

Unfortunately, for many marketers and business owners, their Google Analytics usage is relegated to a few basic, top-level charts (of questionable value).


There is so much more to Google Analytics than traffic data.

Google Analytics has a wide variety of features that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of. By ignoring the full functionality of Google Analytics, your business could be missing out on valuable insights worth thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

Content marketing effectiveness, in terms of increasing brand awareness and lead generation, is restricted to the data you have at your disposal. Quality data informs better business decisions. Companies regularly pay large sums of money for market research and consumer insights—much of which you can find in your own analytics.

Here are six ways to use Google Analytics that you haven’t thought of, but should start doing today.
1. Create a Custom Dashboard

One of the common annoyances about Google Analytics is having to dig through the different menus to find the information you are most interested in. However, there’s a convenient feature that completely solves this—custom dashboards.

At the top of the menu, click on Dashboards and then New Dashboard.

This process allows you to create a customized dashboard that displays all of the metrics you care about most. You can create multiple dashboards, as well.



Next time you access your analytics, you’ll have everything you need in one place and won’t have to chase it down.
2. Find Your Worst Performing Pages

Most of the time, we like to look for the most popular pages on our website. This is helpful for coming up with new blog post ideas.

But opportunity also lies in identifying your worst performing pages. This process is how you find holes in your content and search engine marketing strategy.

Ideally, you want to keep prospects on your site long enough to convert them from lead or customer.

For this reason, you need to go to the Behavior tab in the Google Analytics menu.

Then click Exit Pages under the Site Content menu.



This process will show you the pages where prospects most often exit your website.

With that information, you can then analyze these pages and look for ways to keep prospects engaged with your website. You might have to change the design or re-write the content—depending on how important the page is.
3. Monitor Site Speed

The performance of your website is an overlooked SEO factor that deserves your attention. Slow load times send prospects away to other websites that instantly load. Thanks to smartphones and social media, we have less patience than ever.

Under the Behavior tab, you’ll see a menu item for Site Speed.



The Site Speed menu provides a list of your fastest and slowest loading pages, along with other information regarding load times. What’s really nice is Google Analytics has a sub-menu, Speed Suggestions, where they provide specific solutions to speed up your page load times for each page.

If you find issues, check out this list of 18 plugins to speed up your site.
4. Study Behavior Flow

In the Behavior tab, you will see Behavior Flow, which provides a flow visualization of the behavior on your website. It looks confusing at first, but this function can be incredibly valuable when you learn to use it.



Behavior Flow shows you the most common patterns of behavior on your website, based on parameters that you can choose.

By default, it will show you which page most people land on, where they go to next, and where they keep going until they finally leave.

This process helps you identify which pages keep prospects engaged with your website, which pages send people away, and which patterns string together most often.

Look for which content sends the most traffic to your lead generating or sales pages. With this data, you can create more complimentary content that turns prospects into leads and, eventually, customers.
5. Start Using Intelligence Events Alerts

Daily activity on your website tends to be predictable. However, some events cause unusual changes in traffic—such as a blog post randomly going viral or getting linked-to by an influencer in your industry.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when these things happen, without having to monitor your analytics 24/7?

You can, by setting up Intelligence Events.

Go to Intelligence Events Overview and click Custom Alerts.



From there, you’ll be able to setup automatic emails (or text messages) that alert you when specified events occur, such as a spike in traffic.

These are real-time signals triggered by website activity.
6. In-Page Analytics

Sometimes you need to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes to understand their perspective.

Often we’ll have a page that we think is perfect, but it isn’t driving traffic through the right links. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see where our website visitors were clicking?

This is where In-Page Analytics shines.



In-Page Analytics allows you to look at your website and see percentages above links that represent the number of clicks those links are getting on that page. You can use this to spot trends, such as people not noticing the links towards the bottom of the page.

Using this feature is easy, you simply click on the Behavior tab and go to In-Page Analytics at the bottom of the menu to get started.
The Rub

Google Analytics is a data goldmine for your website.

You’re doing your business a disservice if Google Analytics is simply a way to check your high-level traffic data. By taking a deeper look into Google Analytics, you’ll find valuable insights into business opportunities you may have otherwise not known existed.



Image Credits

Featured Image: Ingvar Bjork/Shutterstock.com
All screenshots by Ryan Hanley. Taken January 2016.

55 Quick SEO Tips

Most folks with some web design and beginner SEO knowledge should be able to take these to the bank without any problem.

1. If you absolutely MUST use Java script drop down menus, image maps or image links, be sure to put text links somewhere on the page for the spiders to follow.

2. Content is king, so be sure to have good, well-written, and unique content that will focus on your primary keyword or keyword phrase.

3. If content is king, then links are queen. Build a network of quality backlinks. Remember, if there is no good, logical reason for a site to link to you, you don’t want the link.

4. Don’t be obsessed with PageRank. It is just one isty bitsy part of the ranking algorithm. A site with lower PR can actually outrank one with a higher PR.

5. Be sure you have a unique, keyword focused Title tag on every page of your site. And, if you MUST have the name of your company in it, put it at the end. Unless you are a household name, your business name will probably get few searches.

6. Fresh content can help improve your rankings. Add new, useful content to your pages on a regular basis. Content freshness adds relevancy to your site in the eyes of the search engines.

7. Be sure links to your site and within your site use your keyword phrase. In other words, if your target is “blue widgets” then link to “blue widgets” instead of a “Click here” link.

8. Focus on search phrases, not single keywords, and put your location in your text (“our Palm Springs store” not “our store”) to help you get found in local searches.

9. Don’t design your web site without considering SEO. Make sure your web designer understands your expectations for organic SEO. Doing a retrofit on your shiny new Flash-based site after it is built won’t cut it. Spiders can crawl text, not Flash or images.

10. Use keywords and keyword phrases appropriately in text links, image ALT attributes and even your domain name.

11. Check for canonicalization issues – www and non-www domains. Decide which you want to use and 301 redirect the other to it. In other words, if http://www.domain.com is your preference, then http://domain.com should redirect to it.

12. Check the link to your home page throughout your site. Is index.html appended to your domain name? If so, you’re splitting your links. Outside links go to http://www.domain.com and internal links go to http://www.domain.com/index.html.

Ditch the index.html or default.php or whatever the page is and always link back to your domain.

13. Frames, Flash and AJAX all share a common problem – you can’t link to a single page. It’s either all or nothing. Don’t use Frames at all and use Flash and AJAX sparingly for best SEO results.

14. Your URL file extension doesn’t matter. You can use .html, .htm, .asp, .php, etc. and it won’t make a difference as far as your SEO is concerned.

15. Got a new website you want spidered? Submitting through Google’s regular submission form can take weeks. The quickest way to get your site spidered is by getting a link to it through another quality site.

16. If your site content doesn’t change often, your site needs a blog because search spiders like fresh text. Blog at least three time a week with good, fresh content to feed those little crawlers.

17. When link building, think quality, not quantity. One single, good, authoritative link can do a lot more for you than a dozen poor quality links, which can actually hurt you.

18. Search engines want natural language content. Don’t try to stuff your text with keywords. It won’t work. Search engines look at how many times a term is in your content and if it is abnormally high, will count this against you rather than for you.

19. Text around your links should also be related to your keywords. In other words, surround the link with descriptive text.

20. If you are on a shared server, do a blacklist check to be sure you’re not on a proxy with a spammer or banned site. Their negative notoriety could affect your own rankings.

21. Be aware that by using services that block domain ownership information when you register a domain, Google might see you as a potential spammer.

22. When optimizing your blog posts, optimize your post title tag independently from your blog title.

23. The bottom line in SEO is Text, Links, Popularity, and Reputation.

24. Make sure your site is easy to use. This can influence your link building ability and popularity and, thus, your ranking.

25. Give link love, Get link love. Don’t be stingy with linking out. That will encourage others to link to you.

26. Search engines like unique content that is also quality content. There can be a difference between unique content and quality content. Make sure your content is both.

27. If you absolutely MUST have your main page as a splash page that is all Flash or one big image, place text and navigation links below the fold.

28. Some of your most valuable links might not appear in web sites at all but be in the form of e-mail communications such as newletters and zines.

29. You get NOTHING from paid links except a few clicks unless the links are embedded in body text and NOT obvious sponsored links.

30. Links from .edu domains are given nice weight by the search engines. Run a search for possible non-profit .edu sites that are looking for sponsors.

31. Give them something to talk about. Linkbaiting is simply good content.

32. Give each page a focus on a single keyword phrase. Don’t try to optimize the page for several keywords at once.

33. SEO is useless if you have a weak or non-existent call to action. Make sure your call to action is clear and present.

34. SEO is not a one-shot process. The search landscape changes daily, so expect to work on your optimization daily.

35. Cater to influential bloggers and authority sites who might link to you, your images, videos, podcasts, etc. or ask to reprint your content.

36. Get the owner or CEO blogging. It’s priceless! CEO influence on a blog is incredible as this is the VOICE of the company. Response from the owner to reader comments will cause your credibility to skyrocket!

37. Optimize the text in your RSS feed just like you should with your posts and web pages. Use descriptive, keyword rich text in your title and description.

38. Use keyword rich captions with your images.

39. Pay attention to the context surrounding your images. Images can rank based on text that surrounds them on the page. Pay attention to keyword text, headings, etc.

40. You’re better off letting your site pages be found naturally by the crawler. Good global navigation and linking will serve you much better than relying only on an XML Sitemap.

41. There are two ways to NOT see Google’s Personalized Search results:

(1) Log out of Google

(2) Append &pws=0 to the end of your search URL in the search bar

42. Links (especially deep links) from a high PageRank site are golden. High PR indicates high trust, so the back links will carry more weight.

43. Use absolute links. Not only will it make your on-site link navigation less prone to problems (like links to and from https pages), but if someone scrapes your content, you’ll get backlink juice out of it.

44. See if your hosting company offers “Sticky” forwarding when moving to a new domain. This allows temporary forwarding to the new domain from the old, retaining the new URL in the address bar so that users can gradually get used to the new URL.

45. Understand social marketing. It IS part of SEO. The more you understand about sites like Digg, Yelp, del.icio.us, Facebook, etc., the better you will be able to compete in search.

46. To get the best chance for your videos to be found by the crawlers, create a video sitemap and list it in your Google Webmaster Central account.

47. Videos that show up in Google blended search results don’t just come from YouTube. Be sure to submit your videos to other quality video sites like Metacafe, AOL, MSN and Yahoo to name a few.

48. Surround video content on your pages with keyword rich text. The search engines look at surrounding content to define the usefulness of the video for the query.

49. Use the words “image” or “picture” in your photo ALT descriptions and captions. A lot of searches are for a keyword plus one of those words.

50. Enable “Enhanced image search” in your Google Webmaster Central account. Images are a big part of the new blended search results, so allowing Google to find your photos will help your SEO efforts.

51. Add viral components to your web site or blog – reviews, sharing functions, ratings, visitor comments, etc.

52. Broaden your range of services to include video, podcasts, news, social content and so forth. SEO is not about 10 blue links anymore.

53. When considering a link purchase or exchange, check the cache date of the page where your link will be located in Google. Search for “cache:URL” where you substitute “URL” for the actual page. The newer the cache date the better. If the page isn’t there or the cache date is more than an month old, the page isn’t worth much.

54. If you have pages on your site that are very similar (you are concerned about duplicate content issues) and you want to be sure the correct one is included in the search engines, place the URL of your preferred page in your sitemaps.

55. Check your server headers. Search for “check server header” to find free online tools for this. You want to be sure your URLs report a “200 OK” status or “301 Moved Permanently ” for redirects. If the status shows anything else, check to be sure your URLs are set up properly and used consistently throughout your site.