Tag: marketing

4 On-Page Techniques forEffective Search EngineBranding
Digital Branding

4 On-Page Techniques for Effective Search Engine Branding

This guest post is brought to you by Alex Furfaro, owner at Alex Furfaro SEO Consulting and digital marketer who helps businesses get visible in the search engines. I loved his take on on-page optimization techniques and thought you might, too! In case you want to reach out to him, you can contact Alex on LinkedIn.

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When you are branding your website and creating your SEO strategy, you need to consider all methods of optimization. On-page optimization is vital to the success of your SEO strategy because it helps the search engines understand your website and what your business is about. The combination of using your branded elements and keywords in the right locations will help your website rank for the terms you are targeting.

Structuring Content with HTML

The search engine algorithms look for dozens of variables when crawling a website. Properly structuring your content using headings and subheadings is a way to describe to Google that certain information is more important than others.

Websites use HTML code uses tags such as H1, H2 and H3 for headings. The H1 tag is the primary heading of the page and only one H1 tag should be used per page. It is likely the theme or template will automatically make the page title the H1 heading. The H2 tags will be the second most important and so on. The search engine use these tags to determine order of importance in your content using the hierarchy of H tags first and the paragraph text last.

Meta Data and Search Engine Branding

Meta data is specific HTML coding that will use meta tags. This data can be added with a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO or manually in the header of a website. There are three types of meta data: titles, descriptions, and meta keywords. Each page on your website has its own meta data so be sure to optimize each page individually.Meta titles are

Meta titles are the bold, blue link headings users click on in the search engines and the meta descriptions are the supplementary information below the title. Meta data allows a webmaster to provide a catchy title and a brief description of the entire page using text other than what is published on the page.

For example, a page title may be “Columbus SEO Expert” but a user in the search engine results does not know who the page is about. When the brand name is added to the end using a meta title, the search engine link becomes Columbus SEO Expert – Alex Furfaro SEO Consulting. Page titles that you are attempting to rank for locally should often be written in this format of “Location – Niche – Brand.” Meta titles should be 50 and 60 characters in length and descriptions should be at least 140 with 160 characters maximum. The search engines do not display titles or descriptions past those lengths.Meta keywords can be used but are not as powerful in the hierarchy of

Meta keywords can be used but are not as powerful in the hierarchy of meta data. Meta keywords can be words found on the page or additional keywords related to the topic that are not found in the content. Do not “keyword stuff” meta keywords just for the sake of adding more.

Image And Video SEO

Search engines are only able to read text and this makes the indexing of the images and videos more difficult than your body content. To optimize images, rename the image file itself using descriptive characters, keywords, and your brand name where you see fit. If you are using WordPress or another content management system, fill in the boxes for alt text and descriptions as well. Captions can be used as well but remember they will be visibly displayed on the page.

Optimizing videos is a combination of on-page optimization and image optimization. Use keyword rich page titles, descriptions, and keywords in the name the video file itself, as such like with images. Preferably include a transcript of the video as this has the same function as alt text for pictures. Search engines will be able to read the transcript and use that data to understand the video file and help determine rankings. It is also recommended that you upload the video to YouTube and then embed it onto your website because Google owns YouTube and it typically gives videos on its platform a higher ranking.

Internal Linking Strategy

A common on-page technique that is often overlooked is internal linking. An internal link will connect your new content with some of your old content. This not only helps your users to navigate around your site, but it also helps the search engines find your pages. When you create a link from your new content to your old, ensure the content is relevant and adds additional value to your new post. A good application is you provided an in-depth analysis of

When you create a link from your new content to your old, ensure the content is relevant and adds additional value to your new post. A good application is you provided an in-depth analysis of previous topic and refer to it in the new post. This will allow a user to refer to that page for more information, boost the traffic for that page, and keep the reader engaged with your site.

Updating old content with new links is helpful as well. Typically older content is indexed and ranks better in the search engines so more traffic can be funneled through the older post to the new. This technique can help your new content get indexed in the search results as well. When you look at

When you look at internal linking building you need to be careful with the anchor text that you use. A generic anchor text such as ‘click here’ will not work very well with the search engines as it tells them nothing about the link or where it is going. It is best to use the keyword related to the content you are linking to as it tells the search engines exactly what to expect when they go through.

Conclusion

Search Engine optimization is about structuring data properly for search engines but more importantly the users who are visiting your website. These basic techniques will always be relevant, regardless of the changes Google and other search engines make to their algorithm.

Digital Branding

How Apple Creates an Irresistible Brand (and How You Can Too)

It’s inevitable. Every year Apple releases a new iPhone and just like clockwork long lines of consumers flock to stand outside of Apple stores patiently waiting for the next new installment of the Apple legacy. It’s safe to assume that the release of the iPhone 7 will be no different.

Why would people put their lives on hold and stand in line for a phone? We’re not talking about a necessity like food or water, but a cell phone. You could simply wait a few days, walk into a store (sans the line) and buy one. Or, you could ditch the store altogether and order one online. But, no matter how convenient it is in the 21st century to buy an iPhone, there will still be a percentage of raving fans who will pitch a tent and camp out to get their hands on a new iPhone a few days before the general public.

Why Do We Line Up for iPhones?

Why-Do-We-Line-Up-for-iPhones

The most important point of all of this is that people aren’t waiting in line for a phone. They’re waiting in line to be a part of the Apple brand. Apple’s brand represents elegant design, sophistication, and classy minimalism. But, how does this happen and why don’t other brands evoke this response from consumers?

Bestselling author Simon Sinek sought to discover the answer to this question in his book “Start With Why”. According to his research, a company’s marketing can be broken down into three different layers:

  1. Why – This is what the business believes at its very core. This is what it stands for.
  2. How – This is how the company goes about fulfilling it’s “Why”
  3. What – This is how the business operates, or “What” it actually does

Simon discovered that most companies do their marketing in the wrong order. They start with “what” they do, then move onto “how” they do it, and don’t ever mention “why” they’re in business in the first place.

Apple starts out by making consumers aware of their why. Their “why” drives all of their marketing messaging. Simon broke this down in an example to make his point clear. Here’s what Apple’s marketing message would be if they took the same path as just about everyone else:

“We make great computers. They’re user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
apple-macbook

These are all valid points but the message above fails to resonate with the consumer. It sounds like just about every other computer company. They have great computers, with great features and they cost X amount of dollars. This falls flat.

Instead, Apple starts with “why” which evokes emotion from the consumer and gets them excited about Apple’s brand.

“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Since Apple starts out with their core beliefs, they attract customers who share their beliefs, which causes people to get addicted to their brand. Sinek states that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Apple doesn’t sell computers and phones. They sell status, creativity, and a lifestyle.

How to Make Your Brand Irresistible

How-to-Make-Your-Brand-Irresistible

1. Start With the Core Purpose of Your Business

The first step is to align your core beliefs with your marketing. Think about your own business and how you extend your offerings to your consumers. How do you market your products and services? Is it aligned with your brand? People buy “the why” behind what you do so it’s important that your core beliefs are at the forefront of your marketing.

Before you do that you must drill down exactly what your “why” is.

For example, Tom’s is known as the “One for One Company” because they provide a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes they sell. Their why is that they want to help children across the world. What is your “why”?

2. Get your “Why” Into Your Marketing

Get-your-Why-Into-Your-Marketing

Whenever you craft a piece of marketing copy you’ll want to make sure that you’re installing your why into it. For example, here’s an example of the difference between starting with “Why” vs. “How”.

“In our new video course ‘The Top 10 Tips for Maximizing ROI on Your Facebook Ads’ we’ll show you how to create a profitable Facebook ad campaign and how to improve an existing one.” Click here to get your copy.

vs.

“Imagine your perfect customer – someone who loves your product, buys from you over and over again, and raves about your company to everyone. If you could click a button and have a line of these customers knocking on your door to buy your product, would you? In our new video course ‘The Top 10 Tips for Maximizing ROI on Your Facebook Ads’ we’ll show you what buttons to press. Click here to get your copy.

Do you feel the difference? The second piece of leads with the reason why people would want to maximize the ROI of their Facebook ads. People don’t want to actually create better Facebook ads. They want more customers and more specifically repeat customers.

3. Craft Your Buyer Persona

Have you taken the time to think about your buyer? Do you know exactly who buys your products? A lot of companies get so wrapped up in their own activity that they forget the most important part of their business: their customers. Without customers, there are no sales. Without sales, your business won’t last very long.

You don’t just want to know the demographics of your customer. You want to know what drives them to buy from you. Are you the “mom and pop” that has had loyal customers for years and always gives a personal touch to its customers? Do you provide incredible, individualized customer service and make yourself readily accessible when a customer has a complaint? Find what “makes you, you” and sell that to your customers.

Wrapping Up

Marketing this way may seem overwhelming at first but it’s actually very simple. If you need help figuring things out, go to your existing customers to find your “why”. When you start thinking from the inside out you’ll be well on your way to creating an infectious brand that your customers will love.

SaaS Branding

5 Steps to Content Marketing Success for SaaS Companies

Content marketing helps you cut through the noise on the internet by providing relevant and useful information to your clients and to the public at large. It’s a great way to build relationships with your customers. Done right, it will set your company up as an expert in the field, meaning customers will come to you when they need a software solution.

A successful content marketing campaign takes planning and effort, but the results can be well worth the investment. This simple five-step guide will put your SaaS business on the path to content marketing success.

Step 1: Research

step 1. research

Don’t just crank out content and throw it online. Before you write a single word, you should take some time to learn about your industry and identify your audience. The better you know what information is already out there and who might be looking for information in your subject area, the better able you will be to create relevant content.

The good news is you don’t have to start from scratch. If you’ve already developed your software and

are ready to market it, you probably have a lot of the information you need. You already know who your ideal customer is, what types of problems they are trying to solve, and what they struggle with in the day to day running of their lives and businesses.

If you don’t already have the answers to these questions, go out and find them before you try to write.

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Now that you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to reach them. First, define your goals. Do you want to raise brand awareness, build an email list, upsell customers?

Next, narrow down your target audience. Who specifically are you trying to educate and inform? Is it the customer who needs a little help with technology, the customer focused on dramatically growing her client list, or the potential customer who doesn’t yet realize they have a problem that you can solve?

You might identify more than one type of customer, and that’s okay. Just make sure that each piece of content or each series focuses on one of those types.

Step 3: Work Out the Details

Step 3: Work Out the Details

It’s time to decide how you will structure your content. Will you create written blogs or videos, white papers or eBooks? You can include any of these (plus a lot more) in your content marketing strategy. Which ones you choose depends on your audience, your goals, and the money and equipment you have available.

Finally, develop a publication schedule. Online users are more likely to trust you if you reliably post your content. Just like on social media, posting too often can overwhelm users, but if you post rarely or sporadically, users may just forget you exist. So make a schedule and stick to it.

Step 4: Create Content

Step 4: Create Content

Now that you have a plan, you can create your content. This may be harder than it sounds. The blank page is a great intimidator.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are writers and marketing specialists out there who can create content for you if writing is not your strong point. Hiring a professional videographer can make a big difference in the quality of your videos.

If you’d rather do it yourself, but these skills aren’t in your wheelhouse, think about taking a class to hone your skills.

Keep in mind that content should be relevant to the consumer but also advance your strategy. If it doesn’t do both of these things, you probably shouldn’t be spending time on it.

Step 5: Post and Share

Step 5: Post and Share

Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to put it online. Ideally, you’re publishing on your own turf –

that means publishing on a web domain you own, so you’re not at the mercy of the newsfeed algorithms on social media sites.

Even though you’re hosting your content on your website, you should use social media to direct users to your site. Put teasers to new blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Pin your Infographic on Pinterest. Share your latest video on your YouTube channel.

You may even create advertising for your content marketing collateral. Many companies market their eBooks and white papers on Facebook or other sites.

Bonus Step: Working through these four steps will get you started, but a truly robust content marketing strategy needs continuous adjustment. Monitor the performance of each post to find out what’s working and what isn’t. If you had planned a video series but your users are responding better to your blog posts, ditch the video and keep blogging.

SaaS Branding

3 Myths About Your Customers That are Crippling Your Marketing Strategy

Marketing a SaaS presents unique challenges. With all the virtual noise out there, it’s not enough to simply present your product to the public. You have to get your advertising in front of the people who are likely to buy your software. Once they’ve bought the product, you have to maintain a relationship with them.

Before you can find those people and identify the places where advertising will be most effective, you have to know who those people are. You have to define your customers. These three myths may be blocking you from identifying your ideal customer and making the most of the customers you have.

Myth: My Software is Perfect for Everyone

Myth: My Software is Perfect for Everyone

This attitude is a common one. You’re proud of your product, justifiably so, and you believe that everyone, absolutely everyone, can benefit from using it. While this broad definition isn’t necessarily wrong, after all, Salesforce has a host of products that cater to companies of all sizes, it might actually be limiting the efficacy of your marketing efforts.

Most companies aren’t Salesforce. That’s not to say you can’t grow to become a powerhouse in the industry, but right now you’re probably one of dozens or hundreds of businesses offering similar products. To build your market share and access the diverse spectrum of customers that Salesforce has, you first have to narrow your focus.

You need to identify the customers who will benefit the most from your product and then convince them that they have a problem you can solve. Once you’ve identified your customers you can create targeted marketing aimed at them and place it on sites where they are likely to see it.

After you’ve built a strong customer base, you can work on expanding your offerings to encompass other types of clients.

I Know What is Most Valuable About my Software

Myth: I Know What is Most Valuable About my Software

You worked hard to develop your software. You studied the industry and you let your research inform your design. You put in key features that add value for users by helping them perform tasks more efficiently and save money. It’s understandable that you believe you know why your product is valuable to users.

But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s something your product does that really makes customers happy, and you aren’t aware of it? If that’s true, you may be missing vital marketing opportunities.

This problem is one most companies don’t even realize they have until they start to dig into the data. Listen to your customers. Ask for their feedback. Ask them what really sold them on your product. Ask them what they found most valuable.

Asking for customer insight can reap many benefits for your business. You’ll gain valuable information about what makes your software great, which you can then use to craft marketing campaigns that get customers excited about your product. At the same time your customers will feel like you’re listening to them, which will boost customer engagement and customer loyalty.

My Customers Want to be Left Alone

Myth: My Customers Want to be Left Alone

Communicating with clients requires a balance. Customers don’t want to be annoyed by spam emails and sales calls. Aggressive upselling will probably backfire because customers will stop taking your calls and start dumping your emails in the trash. Yet it is important to maintain open lines of communication with existing customers.

The sales relationship doesn’t end just because you’ve convinced the customer to buy your product. Particularly in the SaaS industry, keeping existing customers is far more profitable than converting new ones. Long-term customers provide a steady income for your business. They also offer opportunities for upselling without the expense of converting a new client.

So how do you continue to market to existing clients without annoying them? The key is providing useful advice and support that the customer will value. Instead of sending marketing emails, send training emails. Teach your customers how to really use and get the most out of your product. This helps build trust, which makes a client more likely to turn to you when they have another problem that needs a solution.

Ideally, you’ll identify those problems before the customer does, and present them with a solution that they can use. If you’ve built a strong foundation, the customer will likely welcome your suggestion.

To sum up. No matter how great your product is, you need to target your marketing. Customers are your best source of feedback on how to market your product. Though they don’t want to be annoyed by sales messages, customers will welcome communication from your company as long as it is relevant and useful.

SaaS Branding

Stand Out in the SaaS Market Through Brand Differentiation

You have your software. It provides a service, a service people need. It will make their lives easier, their business more efficient, and their accounting department happy (as happy as accountants can be). Clients should be crashing your server in a mad rush to access this game changing software, but they aren’t. Why not?

You may have a branding issue. In a market where a host of established companies already offer products that provide the same service – the old adage “If you build it they will come” no longer applies. You have to give your customers a reason to choose you over the competition. It’s called differentiation, and it should be the starting point for your marketing efforts.

The following questions serve as a jumping off point to help you identify what differentiates your company from the competition.

What Do you Do?

This should be a fairly simple one or two line statement. As an example, here’s the meta description for the Slack website: “Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.” Don’t worry if your statement isn’t quite as polished as this one. With some work, this statement might become your public mission statement, but right now, it’s a planning tool.

How Do you Do it?

List the key features of your product and the tools that you provide to users. And don’t forget that SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Also list the services you provide.

Where Do you Excel?

Where Do you Excel?

Is there an area of your focus in which you particularly excel? Perhaps you have amazing customer service or the slickest customer interface. Customer feedback can be a great way to identify your areas of expertise. Their answers might surprise you.

Who is Your Target Audience?

Who is Your Target Audience?

Be as specific as you can here. Your answer can’t be – Everyone. Not everyone needs Workforce Automation Software. Think about your ideal user. How big is their business? What kind of services do they provide? How many staff do they have? Do those staff members work collaboratively or independently? How many customers? How do they communicate with those customers? What is their level of technical knowledge? Do they have a formal business culture, or are they hip and trendy?

Now that you’ve answered those questions about your own software and service, you may already have some ideas about where your company excels. That’s great, but we’re not done yet. It’s time to take a look at the completion.

What Do other Brands in Your Market Do?

In examining this question you may identify service areas that other brands cover but yours does not. You may be tempted then, to try to change your software to do even more. Resist the urge. The goal here is not to redesign your product, but to figure out where you fit in the overall market landscape.

How Do They Do it?

Again you may be tempted to patch on a bunch of new features to make sure that your software does everything that theirs does. But hold on. The point here is not to change your product, but to get a clear idea of what your product is.

Where Do they Particularly Excel?

Look at the areas of service your competition stresses in their advertising. Read reviews and see what points they praise. If possible, talk to the customers of your competitors. Find out why they chose that company over others.

Who Do They Seem to be Targeting?

In some cases it’s easy to identify who your competition is targeting. Take Zirtual for example. The main message on their home page tells you their product is “for Entrepreneurs,
Professionals, and Small Teams.” Not all businesses label themselves so clearly, so you might have to make some assumptions based on their marketing. Are they talking about growing your startup or are they putting a lot of stress their software’s ability to handle huge client lists with ease? Is their messaging formal or playful?

Now that you’ve answered what, where, how, and who for both your company and the competition, it’s time to compare your answers. You are likely to find many areas where you overlap. For example, HubSpot and Infusionsoft both provide inbound marketing support through automation and optimization of online marketing to execute their clients’ individual marketing strategies.

If the answer to what What for one of the companies you listed is radically different from your answer, that company may not be your competition at all. You’re differentiated by default, since you offer a completely different service.

Your answers to How and Who are most likely to give you the key to your differentiation strategy. Though you may offer a host of features that are the same as those offered by your competition, you’ll differentiate your software by focusing on the one extra feature. If other companies are focused on clients with large established businesses, you might focus your marketing toward small to medium sized businesses.

A word of caution: you can take differentiation too far. Don’t try so hard to stand out that you promise more than you can give. Getting new customers is not use if you can’t keep them and unhappy customers can do a lot of damage to your reputation.

Focus on what your company does well. Base your marketing on that and you can’t go wrong.

SaaS Branding

A Guide to Deciding When and How to Offer a Free Trial of Your SaaS

The free trial has long been a part of the SaaS marketing and sales arsenal. Many companies including SalesForce.com, Citrix: Go to Meeting, and Concur offer free trials. Yet according to Totango, which does an annual study of trends in SaaS conversion, about 37 percent of SaaS companies choose not to offer a free trial. Workday is one of them.

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

There’s no universal answer to this. SaaS businesses should take into account several variables to make the decision. Ask yourself:

  • Is my software intuitive and easy to use?
  • Will potential clients see the value of the software immediately?
  • Can I afford to support back-end operations for clients who haven’t paid me yet?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then a free trial will probably help sell your software to customers. If you answered no to any (or all) you might want to explore other options like preview videos, demos, or blog posts.

How long should my free trial be?

How long should my free trial be?

Again, there’s no easy answer to this. In fact, it’s been a matter of hot debate in recent years. Conventional wisdom says 30 days.

  • Is my software complex enough that it takes time to understand?
  • Do some functions of my software (like payroll) happen on a bi-weekly or monthly basis?
  • Can I afford a longer sales cycle?

If you answered yes all of these questions then a 30 day trial may be right for your software. If you answered no to any then a shorter trial may be right for you. Try offering a 14 day trial instead. This shortens your sales cycle and helps users maintain a sense of urgency. If your software is exceptionally simple or its value is transparent on minimal use, then you might even reduce your trial to 7 days. Skype is one example of a company that does this.

Short trials may not be right for all users, even if they’re generally a good fit for your product. In those cases you can offer potential clients a trial extension. A good time to offer an extension is when a potential client is getting close to the end of a free trial but has not yet converted.

How do I convince potential clients to try the product?

Offering a free trial does not guarantee that every visitor to your web site will try your product. Just because something is free doesn’t mean people want it.

  • Have I made the free trail difficult to find on my website?
  • Is it difficult for potential clients to understand what the product does?
  • Am I asking trial users for a credit card up front?

If you answered yes (or maybe) to any of these questions, you may need to rethink your strategy. Your website should always feature a prominent call to action, usually in the form of a button. You don’t have to use the words “free trial” because “test drive” or “try it now” work just as well, but make sure the trial is front and center on your website. Pair your action button with a clear description of what your product does, focusing on how it can solve a problem for your potential client. Fancy features don’t mean anything if a client can’t visualize how they’ll apply to his business.

As for credit cards, it seems obvious that getting a credit card from your potential client is a good idea, that way when a potential client is ready to convert, you’ve removed a step in the process. But not so fast. Requiring a credit card can scare users away. They may worry that you’re one of those businesses that is just waiting for the minute the free trial to run out so you can drop a huge charge on their credit card before they remember to cancel the trial. The jury is still out on this issue. You’ll have to decide based on conversion analytics.

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

Not every user who downloads a free trial will buy your product. Some will abandon the trial after a few days. Others will let the trial expire without doing anything at all.

It may be hard to tell why customers dropped out without analytics and some basic follow-up in the form of customer responses or surveys, but once you have that information ask yourself.

  • Does my product have the functionality the user was looking for?
  • Does the user have the basic technical skills and equipment to run my software?
  • Is the price point right for the user?

If you answered yes to all of these questions and the user still isn’t converting you may have a problem of communication. The goal of a free trial is to let the software sell itself by getting customers to engage with it in a hands-on way. They may need guidance on how to do that, or direction on where to find the most valuable tools for their business.

Communicate with your potential clients throughout their free trial. Don’t just send a welcome email. Show them where to find blogs, videos, and step-by-step guides that direct them to the most useful or impressive elements of your software. Offer a demo. The product should sell itself, but you can help.

Ultimately, the free trial is a conversion tool. If offering a free trial isn’t helping you convert customers, or if it ends up costing more money than it’s worth, buck the trend and start charging up front.