SEO Tools You Should Be Using

 

SEO is a pretty nebulous term, wouldn’t you agree? It involves creating content relevant to target keywords, finding backlinks, and ranking in the search engines.

There are tons of SEO tools out there, but which ones should you be using. And for what purpose?

We’re going to go over Chrome extensions, plugins, sites, and software to help you find the right SEO tools for your website.

Plugins

SEO Yoast
Probably the best SEO plugin available. It’s great for SEO newbies and pros. It will help you fill out all the right SEO pieces for your posts and pages. (Free version)

SEO Clean
SEO Clean helps optimize your overall website, not just your posts. It does a few things like clean up your source code and get rid of extra HTTP headers. These are things that can affect your rankings, but can be hard to fix on your own if you’re not tech savvy. ($19)

All in One SEO Pack
Downloaded over 30 million times, so you know it’s good. It doe so many things from advanced canonical URLs to generating META tags automatically. (Free version)

Chrome Extensions

Check My Links
This Chrome Extension is used to help with your broken backlink strategy. (free)

SEOquake

This popular extension gives you tons of metrics right on the search engine results page. Info includes domain score, estimated traffic, and more. (Free)

Websites

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MARKIT Group on SEMRush

SEMRush
This site helps you gain intelligence on your competition. Research keywords, backlinks, advertising data, and more. (Starts at $99.mo)

Moz
Moz uses a suite of tools include Keyword Explorer for targeting keywords, Open Site Explorer for finding content and link building opportunities, and MozBar for analyzing social, search, and page metrics in your browser. (Free trial, Moz Pro starts at $99/mo)

Ahrefs
Lets you track backlinks, brand mentions, and keywords. (Free trial, starts at $99/mo)

Software

Screaming Frog
This free SEO tool is installed on your computer. It can crawl website links, images, CSS, scripts, and apps to determine onsite SEO. (Free)

 

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How to create a buyer persona

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Buyer personas get thrown around so often that many people consider them unimportant. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve never seen the benefit or seen one in action, or that they see the act of coming up with personas with funny names like “Sally Sales” to be a bit useless.

We’re here to tell you that buyers personas are as important as ever! They help you create targeted messaging to your main target audiences, rather than lumping them all into the same category. Once you create your personas, you’ll see use cases for them everywhere in your marketing strategy.

We’ll discuss why personas are important, how to create them, and how to use them.

Why Create a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas, as Hubspot defines it, are “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

These personas are defined by:

  • Demographics
  • Behavior
  • Motivations
  • Goals

But why create them in the first place if you already know your customers? Well, often times you really don’t know them as well as you should.

This is where customer research comes in. Yes, that means you have to actually talk to your customers! It’s surprising just how many businesses out there don’t do this.

But before we jump into exactly how to make the persona, let’s continue on with why you need them.

Personas help you create targeted messaging and content that appeals to your audience groups. Let’s use an example to illustrate.

Bob’s Landscaping has two main customer groups: Commercial buildings and residential single-family homes. Now both of these groups are not really wanting the same thing.

A commercial building owner is never going to go out and landscape their properties. They need someone who is reliable, works within the time frame, and is courteous of building visitors.

A home owner is going to want a landscaper if they have too much on their plate to worry about the yard. Sure, they can do the landscaping themselves, but they have better things to do like spend time with their family, or maybe they have a long vacation coming up.

Notice how the messaging and pain points differ for these two audiences. Bob, at first, saw his audience as anyone needing landscaping. Now he sees two distinct groups with different needs.

How to Create a Buyer Persona

Now, here is where we get into the nitty gritty. This will involve you calling up or meeting with customers. You should have some open ended questions in mind to get them to speak freely. You don’t want just one word answers.

Here are a few questions to get you started (provided by Customerdevlabs.com)

1. What’s the hardest part about [problem context] ?
2. Can you tell me about the last time that happened?
3. Why was that hard?
4. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?

In Bob’s case, let’s say he interviews a homeowner and gets these responses:

  1. The hardest part about keeping up the yard is all the other responsibilities I have. I can’t do it before work, and after work I’m just so tired. I tell myself I’ll do it on the weekends, and I just can never find time. I know I can do it, I just find so many other things to do instead.
  2. Just last week I was supposed to pull weeds and mow the lawn, but it never happened.
  3. I had a big project at work and ended up doing about 60 hours. When the weekend came, all I wanted to do was relax on the couch.
  4. I’ve tried other lawn care companies but they’re not reliable. I ask them to come every 2 weeks and it’s very inconsistent. They also don’t follow all my instructions. The last company pulled out the wrong flowers!
  5. All the companies seem the same, they show up when they want and leave whenever. I don’t feel like they feel that they’re held accountable for their work or when they show up. I haven’t found a company yet that does this.

 

Here is the fictional persona Bob created for his homeowner audience:

Howie Homeowner
Age 30-65

  • Has a family
  • Works a full time, salaried job with long hours
  • Likes to spend the weekends relaxing
  • Has the money to pay for a lawn care company but needs someone reliable
  • Wants a nice looking yard and knows he can do the work, but just can’t find the time

How to use the Persona

These responses (although fictional) are full of gold! Bob now knows that a huge pain point of homeowners, at least this one, is that they want to work on their lawn but are too tired to do so. When they go out to get a lawn care company, they don’t trust them to get the work done.

Now Bob, after interviewing a few more homeowners, is able to reword his marketing message to appeal to these direct pain points and to market his company as reliable and trustworthy. He puts in place a checklist that all homeowners receive after service, so they can see just what was done to their yard. He also adds a guarantee that if the company doesn’t show up on the date specified, you get a free servicing the next day.

Bob now goes back and interviews his commercial customers and creates another persona to better target his marketing.

Buyer personas are not the bad guy, they’re not useless, they may use funny names, but they’re supposed to be fictional caricatures of your actual customers. They help you identify and think through what an actual customer wants from your business and how to you can best address that through your content and strategy.

It’s a very useful tool that can only help you! Try it and see what new ideas you can come up with for your customers.

Resources

Free Persona Template

26 Resources to Help You Master Customer Development Interviews

Customer Interview Script Generator

Buyer Personas You Want to Use: The 9 Essential Parts

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Marketing Plugins for WordPress Websites

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Building a website is about more than just displaying your information to your customers. It is also about collecting those interested customers and buyers so you can market to them later!

Alright, I know that sounds a bit sinister, but, to put it bluntly, many websites don’t do a very good job of collecting info on their visitors and customers or improving the way their customer interacts with their site.

Case in point, go to any local business’s website in your area. It’s fine, I’ll wait. Do they have an email capture form? Probably not. If they do, does it say something like “Sign up for news”? I’d venture to guess that almost nobody signs up for that, and if they do, the website likely doesn’t even send out emails or newsletters.

There are so many ways to improve the visitor experience on your website and to market your website better.

In another article, I’ll go through ways to improve your lead capture system, but in this article, I’ll show you a few cool marketing plugins to help improve the marketability of your site.

SEO Yoast

This is probably the most popular SEO plugin, and for good reason. It makes SEO so simple that anyone can do it. At the bottom of any post or page in the editor, you’ll see fields where you can fill in additional information to help improve the search engine optimization of your posts and pages.

There’s a free and a premium version.

Broken Link Checker

The last thing your site needs are tons and tons of broken links. There’s no time for you to possibly site and go through each and every link. This plugin shows all the broken links so you can pop in and fix them easily.

Akismet

From the name, you’re probably wondering what the heck this is. It’s a way to reduce spam comments on your blog. Just install it, you’ll need it.

Title Experiments Free

Ever wonder if an alternate title you had thought up would have gotten more clicks and opens? Well, Title Experiments Free lets you A/B test blog titles!

Click to Tweet

Use one of the many Twitter plugins to allow your visitors to easily share your content on Twitter.

Testimonials

If your site doesn’t have an area to collect or display testimonials, you’re missing out on a lot of social proof. Showcase your testimonials all in one place.

A/B Image Optimizer

Now you can A/B test which featured image gets the most clicks for your blog posts.

Inline Related Posts

Have you ever read an article and seen a “related post” link between two paragraphs? You can use this plugin to add these types of links to your blog posts to ensure you get your readers staying on your site longer.

Floating Social Media Icons

Ever notice those sites that have the bar full of social media icons? Use this plugin to get a similar bar on your site. It makes it super easy for visitors to share your stuff.

Fancier Author Box

Make your posts look really professional. This plugin let’s you add an author box to your blog posts which includes a photo, name, and description. Kind of like what you see on news and magazine websites.

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HTML vs Text Emails: Which has higher engagement?

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If you’re new to the email marketing world, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is between HTML and text emails.

“HTML is always better, it just looks better. People want nice, professional looking emails.”

This is a common argument for HTML emails. The design is what will drive the engagement. Whereas people will say that a text email doesn’t look professional.

I’m here to argue that text actually is better. Sure, it looks like something your friend wrote, and doesn’t have the flashy template and design of an HTML version, but that’s the point.

The point of a text email is that it looks like it’s from a friend, not a business.

I’m going to go over why text converts better.

Does HTML or Text Drive More Engagement?

There are arguments for and against each of these types of emails.

ClickZ argues that Plain Text should die (Ok maybe they’re not that dramatic).

Meanwhile, a 2014 survey from Hubspot showed that while 2/3 of people said they prefer HTML, in reality they A/B tested emails and found that Plain Text always won.

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Hubspot argues that HTML emails actually decrease open rates.

  • An HTML template with images had 25% lower opens than a Plain text version with no images
  • The more images, the lower the CTR
  • HTML template with images had 21% lower CTR than plain text with no images
  • A simple HTML template had 5.3% higher CTR vs an HTML heavy template
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HubSpot Images vs. CTR

Why is this happening?

One thing HubSpot noted in their article was the fact that a user’s email filter often automatically moves commercial emails out of your inbox.

Another thing is that in Gmail, if the sender is unknown the images will not display automatically.

Who should use text emails?

Text emails are not a must have for every company. A company like H&M is usually sending out emails full of clothing images. A text version probably would not do so well.

Here are a few cases where a text email might work:

  • Your company is based on your personal brand
  • Onboarding emails
  • Contact form thank you emails
  • Cold emails
  • Feedback/survey emails
  • Want to make the email feel personal
  • Showcase personality

Additional Email Marketing Resources

21 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid | Zapier

15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

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Vital elements to branding

Graphic design has been relegated to $99 designs and free logos online. The internet continues to cheapen the market, so why is it that designers still commission such high pay for their work.

Any good designer will tell you that it’s not how long it takes to create something, it’s how that design embodies and illustrates the company. A good logo is worth its weight in gold, while an ugly one can actually harm your business.

A well-designed brand identity shows that you put effort into your business and that, even if you aren’t the best at design, you know how to let a company or designer create something that embodies your company.

Your brand might not become iconic like Starbucks or FedEx, but it still speaks volumes about your company and is important for making a great first impression on a potential customer or client.

Logo

Your logo is how people will come to identify your company. Maybe you choose a symbol, or just a font, or you plan to combine the two.

When you’re creating a logo, you aren’t just in need of a logo. There are other essential elements that go along with the logo according to Visible Logic:

  • Logo or wordmark
  • Different logo “lockups”
  • Key Colors
  • Additional color palette options
  • Corporate typefaces
  • Standard typographic treatments
  • Consistent style for images
  • Library of graphic elements
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Varying color palettes for our client NEBCO

Brand Assets

In addition to a logo and it’s elements, what else is needed to create a cohesive brand? The answer is not so simple, as it varies by company type.

If you’re a company that uses a lot of stationary, you might be in need of custom notepads, sticky notes, folders, and cover letters. If you are a digital company, you may want custom email signatures or email newsletter headers.

Think about all the items that will be shown to customers and/or clients, and think about how you can brand them with your company’s identity.

Web Design

Your website is a large part of your brand identity but it can often get overlooked. The way your site looks is often a make or break situation when it comes to first impressions. Most people will search for a company before contacting or visiting them. If they don’t like your site, if it loads too slowly, if the images are blurry, if info is out of date, they will likely go find your competitor.

Here are 10 key elements your website should have:

  • Space
  • Simple navigation
  • About us
  • Contact information
  • Call to action
  • Search
  • Informational footer
  • Style for buttons
  • Great images
  • Web fonts

 

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Is your content standing out?

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As marketers and business owners, we constantly hear about content marketing. It’s extremely beneficial….when it’s done correctly. And that’s where the problem comes in. Companies think they can just throw a blog up on their website and write a few articles and then look around for the crowds to come in.

There are lots of issues with content marketing that may be hindering your growth. We’ll discuss those, as well as help you identify ways of standing out with your content in your industry.

Why your content marketing might be failing

In essence, content marketing is about creating great content, whether it be a blog, video, infographic, podcast, etc. A major hurdle that businesses seem to face is that, even if they are creating amazing, original content, they are failing to distribute it.

Some will say that distribution is even more important than the creation aspect. If your articles just sit on your site, you might as well have not written them. Unless you’re a huge brand like HubSpot or Buffer, it’s unlikely that anyone is coming to your website to read your blog.

Instead, people organically find articles through social media, email marketing, sites and apps like Flipboard, Medium, Stumbleupon, and Pocket.

The important thing is to have both a creation and a distribution strategy when making a piece of content. Know where and how you are going to spread it amongst your audience. Maybe you send out a special email each time you publish. You can share in relevant groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Email it to influencers that you mention in the content.

Here are 16 content promotion strategies to get you started.

How to create original content

It’s easy to want to just blast through 4 blogs in 3 hours and call it a day. But that’s for lazy people, and you’re not lazy!

You want to create original, well written content that provides value to your audience. Let me say that again….provide value. Make sure you identify what sort of value your content is providing that another piece of content out there hasn’t already. We don’t need more “Twitter tools” or “Best social media tips” articles anymore.

If you’re having trouble finding something original to write about, expand on a popular article in your industry using the skyscraper technique created by Brian Dean at Backlinko. It’s simple:

  1. Find some great piece of content
  2. Make it even better! (More info, better design)
  3. Get it out to the right people (Distribution!)

If your content isn’t original, at least make it better than every other piece on the same topic.

You may think it’s a waste of time, but do your research. You want to identify gaps in your industry where you can provide value. Even if you’re working in something that seems boring like pools, you will be surprised how many people are searching for information on this every day. People have built huge pool companies off of content marketing! Marcus Sheridan took is floundering pool business to thriving by writing blogs that answered his customers questions.

If he can grow a pool company with content marketing, then you can write one amazing piece of content!

 

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Best marketing posts of 2016

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This year has been a roller coaster, to say the least. A controversial election, riots and protests, social change, and much more.

We want to take a moment to bring you all up to speed on just what happened this year in the world of marketing. It’s been a chaotic year and it’s not surprising that we all missed a few great articles, insights and podcasts.

Take some time to review these top marketing posts of 2016 to help you better your content strategy for 2017!

Content Marketing

Use This Agenda For Your Content Marketing Plan

Take a look at your content types (blogs, guides, ebooks, infographics, videos, emails, etc.) and see where the gaps are.

Content Marketing Strategy: How do you do marketing with no budget?

The Nifty Guide to Local Content Strategy and Marketing

You Don’t Know Your Customer and It’s Crippling Your Growth- Lessons on conducting user research

The Specificity Strategy: How to turn generic posts into stand out content

Content Promotion: How we grew from 0 to 32,977 users in 5 months with zero paid traffic

How to Convert Blog Traffic into Customers with CTAs

Email Marketing

75 Calls to Action to Use in Your Email Marketing Campaigns

8 Creatively Effective Unsubscribe Pages You Should Take Notes From

DigitalMarketer’s 101 best Email Subject Lines of 2016

Paid Traffic

How One B2B Company 9x Their Lead Generation by Fixing 3 AdWords Mistakes

The Ultimate Guide to Scaling Paid Traffic Campaigns

Social Media

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy from Scratch

7 Powerful Social Media Experiments That Grew Our Traffic by 241% in 8 Months

General

51 Must-Read Marketing Blogs You Should Know

28 of the Best Marketing Campaigns and Experiments of 2016

28 No-Cost Inbound Marketing Ideas You’ve Got to Try

 

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