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Is Your Website Holidays-SEO-Ready?

Where did 2022 go? It’s hard to believe it’s late October, and that means that consumers are already starting their holiday shopping. Regardless of whether your target audiences are shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, or some other holiday celebrated towards the end of the calendar year, it would be a huge marketing mistake to not capitalize on the year-end uptick in online shopping by making sure your website ranks as well as possible for terms related to it.

While the focus of this post is related to retail, e-commerce, and B2C organizations offering physical products, as you read thru it, you’ll see there are applications for organizations trying to sell services, tickets to events, or even looking for someone to make a donation to their non-profit organization as a gift to someone else.

SEO Tactics For The Holidays

Below are both easy, and more time-consuming/complex SEO tasks your organization should complete by early November to support having a successful holiday sales season.

  • Conduct keyword research to determine the search phrases your target audiences are using most related to holiday shopping or holiday gift giving. If you don’t have access to a keyword planning/research tool, reach out and we will share holiday-shopping-related keyword research with you that we already conducted for FREE (a more extensive list than what we share further on in our post.) That’s our holiday gift to you!
  • Incorporate high-volume keywords (search terms) that are relevant to your target audience in:
    • the public-facing content found on a holiday-related landing page (if you plan to have specials/sales/discounts or want to promote certain items that make great holiday gifts) and/or incorporate such terms on existing product-specific pages.
    • website product and landing page headers (H1 and H2), as appropriate.
    • page title tags, particularly if you have a distinct landing page or several such pages for holiday shopping and specials.
  • Use structured data to support your products appearing at the top of Google search results when someone searches on a very specific product need like “yellow pocketbook.” As a result of the aforementioned fall 2022 algorithm change, use of Google “Shopping ads,” a Google Merchant Center Account and/or Google Surfaces is no longer mandatory to have your products shown to individuals who are shopping. This article details Google’s reason for making the change and where your product information may appear when you properly use “structured data.”

The above task/tactic may be a more complicated and difficult one for your organization and may require your website developer’s help. You can learn more about structured data (also known as “schema markup”) via these resources:

Google Search Podcast

Crowdcontent.com

How To Incorporate High-volume Holiday-Shopping Keywords In Your Website Content

Recent holiday-shopping keyword research we conducted indicated the following as being among some of the highest-volume search terms used related to holiday shopping or gift shopping, in general (the number shown represents the average # of monthly searches in Google for that term):

  • gifts for men – 301,000
  • gifts for mom – 201,000
  • gifts for dad – 135,000
  • gifts for women – 135,000
  • Christmas gifts for mom – 90500
  • Gifting ideas for men – 90500
  • mens gifts ideas – 90500
  • gift ideas for women – 90500
  • mom Christmas gifts – 90500
  • women’s gifts ideas – 90500
  • women’s gifts for men – 74000
  • Christmas gifts for men – 74000
  • Gifts for mens Christmas – 74000
  • Christmas gifts for dad – 49500
  • Gifts for girlfriends – 49500
  • Christmas gifts for boyfriend – 40500
  • Christmas gifts for womens – 40500
  • Gifts for womens Christmas – 40500
  • Gifts for wife Christmas – 33100
  • Best Men gifts – 33100
  • Gift ideas for mom – 33100
  • Husbands gifts – 33100
  • Unique gifts – 33100
  • Best Christmas gifts 2021 (note you can use this phrase but change to 2022) – 33100
  • Gift for Christmas for wife – 33100
  • Unique gifts for men — 27100
  • Christmas gift idea for her — 27100
  • Christmas gifts for a girlfriend — 27100
  • Christmas gift ideas for her — 27100
  • Best gifts for men 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Best gifts for women 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Christmas Gifts 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Christmas gf gifts (change to 2022) (reminder people use acronyms like bff, bf in searches) — 27100
  • Gift ideas for boyfriend – 22200
  • Gift ideas for dad – 22200
  • Best gifts for mom – 22200
  • Top gifts for guys – 22200
  • Best gifts for moms – 22200
  • Secret santa gift ideas – 22200
  • Fun gift – 22200
  • Ideas gift boyfriend – 22200
  • Christmas gift teenagers – 22200
  • Gifts for husbands Christmas — 18000
  • Best gifts for dad — 18000
  • Best gifts for dads — 18000
  • Gift ideas for girlfriend — 18000
  • Unique gifts for women — 18000
  • Christmas gift ideas for mom — 14800
  • Ideas for mens stocking stuffers — 14800
  • Good gifts for mom—14800
  • Gift ideas for wife — 14800
  • Christmas gift ideas for moms — 14800
  • Unique Christmas gifts — 14800
  • Secret santa gifts — 14800
  • Mom’s Christmas gift ideas — 14800
  • Christmas gifts to her — 14800
  • Christmas gift ideas for him — 12100
  • Cool guys gifts — 12100
  • Cool gifts for guys — 12100
  • Presents for mom — 12100
  • Gifts for mother — 12100
  • Women best gift — 12100
  • Best gifts for women — 12100
  • Gadgets for men — 12100
  • Cool Christmas gift — 12100
  • Christmas fun gift — 12100
  • Christmas gift ideas 2021 (change to 2022) — 12100
  • Best gift 2021 (change to 2022) — 12100
  • Gift ideas him Christmas — 12100

As mentioned above, we are glad to provide a much more extensive list of holiday shopping terms and their associated average monthly searches in Google. You can e-mail us at gail.moraski@allintheresults.com to have the list sent to you. As we share all the time with our new SEO clients and attendees of our SEO classes, and as we did in this previous blog post, keyword research can also help you identify new products, services or solutions you should offer.

As alluded to above, be sure to use the term 2022 once or several times related to holiday shopping, and also be sure to include terms for non-Christmas holidays that are celebrated in December. Plus, think about what acronyms or abbreviations someone might use related to a loved, such as “bff” for “best friends forever.”

Before you begin incorporating high-volume keywords in your content, think about whom would most likely be the recipient of a gift of your product, services, event or class tickets, or a donation, and use terms that the searcher of your product or service might use. Let’s say you offer hand-made jewelry for women, you’d want your site to rank well for terms above like “Christmas gifts to her”  and “Christmas gifts for mom” and should incorporate such or similar terms in your website content. 

We’re Here To Help You Rank Well For Holiday Shopping Search Terms

Got questions or need our help. Reach out today as holiday shopping has already begun!

competitive advantage, differentiation, digital marketing agency, diversity, Enjoying What You Do, Importance of taking break, lead generation, marketing best practices, marketing consultant, Marketing Planning, Memorability, Objectives Setting, Passion, push marketing, sales, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing, traditional marketing, Understanding Your Environment

The Two Key Perks To Pre-Internet, Non-Digital (Traditional) Marketing

This morning I participated in an interview with two University of Connecticut students who were working on a class project about leadership in marketing & communications (I’m a UCONN alum to whom they outreached via LinkedIn). I had already completed an initial draft of this post before my meeting with them, but while discussing with them the shift that has occurred since I first launched my marketing career – from “traditional” marketing to digital marketing – it struck me to refer to traditional marketing as “pre-internet” marketing. I’m going to start using that term and “non-digital” more because “traditional marketing” has just never felt right to me as the term to use for activities advertisers engaged in more before Google searches, social media, and texting took over the world!

Read on to learn what I see as the two broad categories of perks to employing non-digital marketing activities.

1. Perks To The Marketing Professional Developing and Executing Non-Digital Marketing Tactics

Call me crazy, but I miss things like print checks and listening to possible music beds and writing advertorial copy – all things that came with being involved with or overseeing non-digital marketing activities like direct mail, TV and radio advertising, and print advertising. I also miss physically visiting or viewing images of billboard locations and scripting messaging for radio ads. And, I miss holding a beautifully crafted – both in appearance and messaging – sturdy, direct mail piece, and being responsible for buying a target audience mailing list and working with direct mail house partners. I miss ad slicks and seeing my print ads in the Metro newspaper that I snagged at the train station to read on my commute to work, and I miss seeing my advertising subway posters on that same commute.

Particularly during my days when I was employed in bank marketing roles, and we implemented integrated marketing campaigns that ran anywhere from one month to three, I loved overseeing the content, production, and design of various pieces; plus, working with our external marketing agency to produce a number of physical marketing pieces that all mirrored each other and sent customers and prospective customers the same marketing messages and reminders. These included:

  • Physical statement stuffers that went in customer bank statements – it was so enjoyable to brainstorm with others on my team to arrive at fun, punchy, effective copy and seeing the stuffer come to fruition in its beautiful slick, printed form. Often we would create extras of these for tellers or other bank employees to give out to customers or prospective customers.
  • Lobby posters – these would appear in each of the bank’s various branches and most branches had several locations within the office to hang the posters that highlighted whatever product or service we were promoting that month.
  • ATM messages – back then, people used ATMs more and we’d arrange for messages to appear on the screen that mirrored the campaign-in-question’s key messages.
  • Teller posters/cards – these were mini versions of the lobby posters that were placed at teller stations for viewing by customers as they waited in line or interacted with the teller.
  • Visual displays – these were physical/tangible items we’d place in bank branches that were relevant to the product or service we were promoting, such as telephones to encourage people to use the bank’s “phone banking” service.

The takeaway? Pre-internet marketing activities allow marketing staff and professionals to use a different part of their brain and more of their senses, including touch/feel, and it’s important to shake things up that way, right? Using one part of your brain can help strengthen the other part of your brain, or give a certain part of your brain a rest or new perspective.

2. Perks To The Organization Employing Non-Digital Marketing Activities And To Their Target Audiences

In keeping with the message that ended the discussion of perk #1 above, everyone has different preferred and default means of learning and absorbing information. Organizations need to understand that seeing a billboard or an advertisement at a movie, mall, or subway station might resonate more with, or be more easily digested by, certain individuals than an online ad or social media post.

Plus, some target audiences may not spend a lot of time online or on the phone because of personal life circumstances or the nature of their job – equating to missed opportunities for the organization who is advertising. Some target audience members may be more likely to see or notice your advertising if it occurred on or in a billboard, train, bus, mall, TV, radio, or a printed/hard copy of a newspaper or magazine. I think you get the picture! Plus, there is so much distraction for a prospective customer when they are on their phone or computer; non-digital marketing tactics are often served up and to, and viewed by, customers when they are in more of a “captive” vs. distracted mode.

To summarize the above, we believe both the advertiser and target audiences win when marketing activities that go beyond digital ones are employed to create awareness and educate prospective customers. As we discussed in our recent blog post, non-digital marketing activities can greatly contribute to the success of a multi-tactic, integrated marketing campaign.

We Can Help You Decide If and What Non-Digital Marketing Is Right For Your Organization

While we often refer to ourselves as a Boston digital marketing agency or Boston SEO company, we are so much more than that, and bring significant non-digital/traditional marketing experience. We can serve as a marketing consultant for developing strategic marketing plans and as your outsourced digital marketing team. Our team can help with both high-level marketing work like determining strategy, as well as hands-on implementation of day-to-day marketing work and marketing campaign and advertising campaign tactics.

The team at Results C & R is glad to hold a complimentary discussion with you about available non-digital/traditional marketing activities, and which, if any, might make sense for your organization. Reach out to schedule your consultation to start planning for the new year!

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Why It’s A Marketing Must That Your Marketing Activities and Tactics Be Integrated

When I first started drafting this blog post, I thought I’d be mainly talking about traditional marketing and what I miss about it. But, as the post evolved, I realized the traditional marketing tactics/activities were just a piece of something bigger that I miss, sometimes, and that is being aware of, involved with, and/or or having oversight for ALL the marketing activities that a particular brand/organization executes. Often as a consultant, my team and I are working with organizations who have their own internal marketing team, and/or who work with a number of different outsourced marketing vendors or agencies. This means, while we are responsible for one or several pieces of the overall marketing strategic plan – usually digital pieces, we aren’t always aware of, kept informed of, or responsible for other pieces. As you would expect, each and every marketing message or tactic that is put out there in the universe by an organization has an impact – both negative and positive – on the effectiveness of the other marketing tactics.

Regardless of the above, because we strive each and every day to support our clients’ success, and to serve and be viewed as a member of their team, we often make recommendations and suggestions related to overall marketing strategy and various marketing tactics that others are overseeing. Sometimes, we suggest adding a new marketing tactic to the mix, even if we won’t be the ones making it happen, and sometimes, our suggestions are about shaking up how an existing marketing tactic is handled or executed.

Why Every Organization Needs Someone Monitoring and Aware Of All Marketing Tactics

Ultimately, each and every organization needs to have one person – whether it be an outsourced marketing consultant or agency or an in-house marketing director, chief marketing officer, or the business owner themselves – who:

  • Is aware of and tracking and analyzing the results of each and every marketing activity to ensure that marketing dollars and time are spent on those activities that lead to the greatest awareness, and ultimately highest possible number of conversions, such as sales (product purchase or engagement for services), and inquiries.
  • Ensures that marketing creative (messaging and design) is consistent across all marketing activities.

What Is Integrated Marketing and Why Is It So Important?

As hinted at above, integrated marketing means that all the marketing tactics you use to promote your organization and create awareness of it are cohesive, and therefore “mirror” each other. All tactics included in a strategic integrated marketing plan/campaign to promote a particular product or service should:

  • Contain and repeat the same key messages of the campaign
  • Reflect the same product or service promise and your competitive differentiators
  • Have a similar appearance as far as logos, design, color, and graphics go

For centuries, those who have succeeded at growing an organization have known that you have to hit the audiences whom you think will be the best target/users of your product or service numerous times to create both awareness and sales. Target audiences need to hear and see the same message multiple times for it to both stick and resonate. If you shake things up too much across your various marketing tactics and vehicles, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to expose your targeted customers to the same messaging and look and feel and you’ll also CONFUSE them.

Check out this blog post from marketing guru, Neil Patel, to read about integrated marketing campaign examples. And, read our blog post that explains how and why content marketing and integrated marketing are different. Or, use the search tool found on our “Ponderings” blog main page, to search for other posts that contain helpful info. on integrated marketing.

Help For Creating, Executing, and Implementing An Integrated Marketing Plan and Campaign

At Results Communications & Research, we bring more than 30 years of experience of implementing effective, integrated marketing campaigns, including ones that contain both digital and more traditional tactics such as outdoors (billboards), print, transit, movie, mall and broadcast (radio, TV) advertising. We can help you develop a strategic integrated marketing plan that outlines the various marketing vehicles and tactics we believe you should employ in a particular campaign, based on what we learn of your marketing objectives, challenges, and target audiences. Then, we’ll work with you to ensure proper tracking is in place to track the effectiveness of each of the various marketing tactics to help inform what tactics to employ in future campaigns or reallocate existing campaign $$ and/or pivot mid-campaign, based on what results are showing. So, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We love developing, executing, and analyzing the results of integrated marketing campaigns!

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Why Combining Keyword Research With An SEO Audit Is A Recipe For SEO Success

Anyone who knows me well, knows I love watching cooking shows on Food Network, particularly ones where competitors have to combine ingredients that are given to them to make a dish that is appealing to both the tongues and the eyes of the particular show’s judges. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m watched pretty much every episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” and countless episodes of “Chopped.”

So, what does food have to do with me, my company, and search engine optimization (SEO)? While my digital marketing agency isn’t just an SEO company, we’ve definitely gotten to be known, particularly in the last five years, for helping organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) in the Greater Boston area and beyond be found better and rank better on Google. Due to more than 10 years of being responsible for how websites rank in Google and other search engines, I’ve learned thru hands-on experience what combination of ingredients, i.e., what SEO tactics/activities, make for a winning SEO recipe!

Keyword Research: Your First and Most Important SEO Ingredient

I’ve given to, or shared with, Massachusetts chambers of commerce and SCORE chapters, as well as existing and prospective clients, a number of SEO presentations about the importance of keyword research. I’ve also written blog posts about it, and have a Word doc I’d be glad to share with you if you reach out to me to ask for it (hey, we don’t want to give out all the secret ingredients in our special SEO sauce too easily!) As we’ve shared in all the aforementioned documents and activities, keyword research ALWAYS needs to be a first step or ingredient in implementing an effective SEO strategy and recipe.

Even if you believe you already know what search terms (known as keywords) your various target audiences are entering into Google’s search engine to identify an organization or individual that offers the products, services, or solutions to problems you do, you should still make the time to confirm your intuitions about target audience’s search behaviors are accurate for these two key reasons:

  • you may be ranking well or trying to rank well for terms that target audiences are truly searching on, but are you missing out on terms that audiences are searching even more frequently on (high-volume search terms), and therefore, missing out on being found for desirable, relevant search terms because you don’t include those in your website content, page headers, meta tags, or other SEO real estate?
  • while you believed prior to keyword research completion that individuals were actively/regularly searching to identify an organization that offers the products, services, and solutions you do, your keyword research ends up indicating that the number of people entering relevant terms into Google is very low or negligible. The aforementioned scenario means all the SEO tactics in the world aren’t going to solve an immediate challenge of wanting and needing to generate more sales and leads for your organization since a “push” vs. “pull” strategy is warranted. You’re not going to drive a lot of “organic search” (search engine) traffic to your site, so traffic to your site will need to come from clicks on social media posts, display ads, links/banner ads on other external sites, e-blasts, and other marketing activities that put the idea of your products, services, and solutions in the minds of relevant target audiences who aren’t actively searching to find you.

Keyword research allows you to take a preliminary set of keywords/search terms you believe your audiences are searching on, and generate a much larger list of relevant search terms and the average # of times a month someone is entering that particular term into Google, for a particular geography. By reviewing this research, organizations can identify the keywords for which they most want to be found, and then make sure, as explained above, that those terms are included in SEO tactics/activities such as meta tags and public-facing website content and headers.

SEO Audit: An Ingredient That Adds Depth To Your SEO Recipe and Strategy

My Greater Boston SEO company employs a paid vs. free SEO audit tool to accurately determine for which of the keywords/search terms our clients most want to rank in a particular geography (identified thru the keyword research process above) they already rank well. We used to conduct SEO site audits for clients manually, but as our client list grew and the number of terms for which clients wanted to rank grew, we knew we needed to, and did invest in, a more cost- and time-efficient way to conduct SEO audits.

I consider an organization to rank particularly well for a particular keyword in Google if a listing with a link to its website or its Google My Business Profile/Google Search & Maps listing appears in the first 10 – 12 listings (for a particular geography) that Google serves up for the high-volume keyword in-question, i.e., appears on the first page of Google search results. I consider an organization to rank well, versus particularly well, if a listing with a link to its website or Google My Business Profile/Google Search and Maps appears within the first 25 listings Google serves up for desirable search terms, i.e., on the first two pages of Google Search results.

Identifying the intersection of relevant high-volume search terms and ranking on Google on pages BEYOND the first two (in positions 26 or higher in Google, and depending on the nature of an organization’s products and services, it may be critical to rank in position 1 – 12 in search results) allows us to know where there are areas for SEO improvement — therefore, areas where our client could be experiencing sweeter SEO success and for what terms we need to apply our secret SEO sauce to support ranking better in the future for those important keywords. The aforementioned secret sauce includes, but is not limited to, applying tactics such as employing the high-volume keywords in meta tags, page headers, and page content.

Why You’ll Want and Need To Repeat Your SEO Audit

Once you’ve set up your initial SEO audit, you’ll want to repeat it monthly to see if and how your organization ranks for the high-volume keywords regarding which you’re applying a lot of your SEO energy. Repeating this SEO audit will allow you to continue to tweak your SEO strategy and where you spend your SEO time, so that you continue to rank better and better for the keywords that are most important to the success of your organization and to your target audiences. Read why SEO is not a one and done marketing activity.

Why You Need This Winning SEO Ingredient Combo

Why does combining keyword research with an SEO audit make for a winning SEO recipe? Why spend time trying to rank well in Google for relevant, high-volume terms you’re already ranking well for? Sure, SEO is not a one and done marketing tactic and you should continue to employ appropriate-to-the-page-or-post-in-question content, headers, and page title tags that include those keywords for which you already rank well, but why not put the majority of your SEO energy into trying to rank well for high-volume search terms your organization currently isn’t ranking well for so you’re not missing out on important opportunities to reach your various target audiences?

Here’s an example from my own business. Two high-volume keywords I want my own site to rank well for are “digital marketing agency Boston” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. = 480/month), and “Boston SEO company” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. also = 480/month) since both of the aforementioned keywords have the highest average monthly search volumes among keywords/search terms that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions to problems we offer. Based on an audit we conducted today, we learned that we rank better for the term “digital marketing agency Boston” than we do for “Boston SEO company” — hey, Boston is fortunate to be a place that a very large number of SEO experts call home, so we are always competing with the best of the best SEO experts to rank for relevant terms. Anyhow, given the aforementioned audit information, while we’ll want to continue our efforts at ranking for “digital marketing agency Boston,” we’ll put extra effort into tactics to rank for “Boston SEO company (for the time being anyhow since rankings constantly change and shift depending on your marketplace and competition to be served up for certain keywords.)

Continuing with our food metaphor, we know this was a lot to “digest,” We’d be glad to walk you thru a recent case study we put together about the above winning combo, so please don’t hesitate to use our calendar app to schedule a time to chat https://calendly.com/gail-moraski.

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Five Promotional Products for Challenging Times

The promotional product world looks very different now than it did in early March. It’s not all gloom and doom, but the way we interact with each other and stay in touch with our prospects and clients has certainly changed. Despite challenging times, you still need to promote your products and services, get in front of your target audience and generate new business.

So, what’s trending lately in the promo world to help companies stay top of mind? Let’s look at some new ideas and all-time favorites.  

Pens

Pens have been my all-time favorite product because they appeal to almost every audience. With the focus on everything being fresh, clean, and sanitized, a new pen is a coveted item. Antimicrobial pens are popular because they help fight off germs – plus, many come individually wrapped in cellophane to avoid any contamination.

Golf

Personalized golf balls are a crowd pleaser and they’re a cinch to customize. Just add your charity or business’ logo, message or photo, and voilà, you’ve got a unique and memorable giveaway. Some may even become collector’s items! Since golf is one of the few team sports that’s ‘open for business,’ many golf events are still on. Yet another reason customized golf ball remains a top choice!

Water Bottles

If you’re like me, you probably want to drink more water, but always forget to pack your water bottle.  Problem solved! Give your prospects and clients branded water bottles that they can’t forget! Water bottles are a health-focused promo gift that your target market can use every day – and the benefit is that your name is always front and center. Want a few ideas? Check out my client’s favorite water bottles.

Mugs

Do you start the day with a cup of joe or look forward to an afternoon tea? If that’s a yes, you know it’s not just part of your daily routine, it’s a time you really love. Chances are you have a handful of favorite mugs; some you’ve owned for years. Branded mugs make a reasonably priced and useful giveaway, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Add mugs to your marketing budget for a promotional item that lasts year after year.

Hand Sanitizer

With everyone going back into the workplace, hand sanitizers are a necessity.  If you thought customized hand sanitizers were a popular handout before COVID-19, they’re now one of my best sellers. Hand washing is serious business, so much in fact that the CDC has an entire section on keeping your hands clean. There’s even a “Life is Better with Clean Hands Campaign”. Piggyback on that for great PR and to do your part to keep America safe.

Why Promotional Products Now?

Business is coming back and the same problems you solved before the pandemic, you’re still solving now. Don’t stop marketing. Let your clients and prospects know you’re well and alive and open for business. Promotional products that are reasonably priced and customized for your business, let the world know – “I’m here. How can I help you?”

Rachel Leone is president of Leone Marketing Solutions, a women-owned promotional product and apparel firm. She helps big brands and small brands stand out, get noticed, and generate leads through her promotional products and services. Thousands of new products are launched every day, and one of them may be just right for you, click here to browse her website. For more information or a complimentary brainstorming session contact her at 781.740.3171 or rachel@leonemarketing.com.

Being Found on Google, Blog, Blogging, competitive advantage, content marketing, digital marketing agency, keywords, lead generation, marketing best practices, organic SEO, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO, Target Marketing, technical SEO, Understanding Your Environment, website

What to Know Before You Engage Someone for SEO Services

How To Be Found on Google - Results Communications and Research

There’s two broad factors any organizations should ponder before they engage an external individual or organization to help them optimize their site to be found on Google, ideally on the first two pages of search results. These are:

  • The Reputation/Credibility of the Firm or Individual In-Question
  • The Nature of and Time Frame Associated With the Services Being Offered

How to Determine if An Individual or Firm Offering SEO Services Is Credible?

My current clients, prospective clients, and I all regularly receive e-mailed or LinkedIn requests from individuals or organizations claiming that they can and will get our website to appear on the first page of Google search engine results for terms relevant to the services or products we offer, or to the solutions to problems we provide. In fact, these SEO vendors, sometimes use the phrase “guarantee” or “guaranteed” along with it. That’s a huge, huge red flag. Without talking to you about your organization’s objectives, the target audiences and geography you serve, and the competitiveness of your marketplace — as well as researching whether or not individuals are even searching for an organization who offers your products, services, and solutions — it is impossible for these SEO vendors to know whether or not it is feasible for a listing with a link to your website to appear on the first page of Google search results.

Being Found on Search - Results Communications and Research

Another big red flag related to ascertaining the credibility of any organization who approaches you about SEO services is whether or not their initial sales pitch to you includes selling you backlinks, i.e., links to your site that will appear on external websites and blogs. As we discussed in a previous blog post, the only external organizations you want sharing a link to your site on their own site or blog are highly regarded organizations with which you have a prior relationship or with which there are some synergies. Allowing an SEO services provider to arrange for such “spammy” backlinks on your organization’s behalf will ultimately cause a decline in how you rank in search results vs. improve how you rank.

Before you engage an individual or organization to assist your organization with being found on Google, ask for examples of the types of organizations to which they have provided SEO services, how they have analyzed and documented/demonstrated the positive implications of the services they’ve provided, and the steps/tactics they took to achieve SEO success.

How Do I Know What SEO Services I Need: One-time/Initial vs. Ongoing?

As we described in this blog post, if you’ve never optimized your website for search or paid someone to do so, and particularly, if you’ve never conducted keyword research related to it, you should be starting from scratch with your SEO and engage an SEO expert to conduct an initial/one-time/one-off review of your website and execute appropriate technical/organic SEO tactics. These tactics include but are not limited to:

  • incorporating relevant high-volume keywords uncovered via keyword research within your website page content and in your behind-the-scenes/meta tags
  • help setting up and/or optimizing a Google My Business Profile, so that you rank well locally and support being found more globally on search.

Once you have completed the important SEO work outlined above, if keyword research has indeed revealed that a high volume of individuals are searching to identify someone like you, then you’ll want to continue to take actions on a regular basis — daily, monthly, or quarterly — to make sure your organization is as well-situated as possible to be found on Google for relevant terms.

Ongoing SEO Services Packages

Many SEO experts and SEO consultants, like us, offer ongoing (monthly or quarterly) SEO packages. Services offered via an ongoing SEO package engagement likely will vary, but at a minimum, we believe they should include:

  • checking to see your site has no broken internal or external links
  • testing to see that your site load speed or the responsiveness/mobile-friendliness of your site isn’t negatively impacting where your organization appears in Google search engine results
  • ensuring that any new images that are added to your site include an “alt-tag” so they will be indexed by Google
  • making sure that any new pages or blog posts that are added to your website are indexed by Google
  • writing content (that includes high-volume keywords) for blog posts, FAQs, or other site pages to support being found for those terms on Google
  • maximizing your Google My Business profile by keeping it comprehensive, current, and posting to it with the same frequency that your post to other forms of social media to support Search Engine Optimization efforts.

Got questions about what we shared above? Please reach out. We’re glad to talk you through all of this, and if appropriate, we’d love to present you with a proposal to provide you with one-time or ongoing SEO services.

Acceptance of Circumstances, brand promise, competitive advantage, keeping up with trends, lead generation, sales, staying current, target audiences, website

The Website-Horse Connection

As I continue to talk and work with clients and prospective clients related to driving target-audience traffic to their website, via a variety of digital marketing activities, I’m regularly reminded of a phrase spoken by the leader of a webinar I attended last year — “your website should be your work horse.” Whether you spell it as one word or two, as shown below, the phrase “work horse” indicates someone or something that consistently, and endlessly, accomplishes a difficult task.

workhorse definition

Now, for the second horse reference — “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Technical SEO, paid search ads, and social media posts & ads are all effective means of driving traffic to your website, but if your website isn’t your work horse, or doesn’t cause a horse to drink, all the other digital marketing tactics in the world won’t help your organization generate more leads and sales. In almost all instances, an organization would serve itself better, from a lead- and sales-generation standpoint, if it invested time and energy to support its website being its workhorse — prior to investing in and launching other traditional or digital marketing activities to increase website traffic.

In many cases, your website will provide the first and only impression an individual or organization has of your organization. Your website should reflect that:

  • you pay attention to detail
  • you care about your organization’s reputation and image
  • you care about accuracy
  • you strive to make your visitors’ life easier and you don’t want to waste their time
  • your clients and customers can expect great things from your products and services because, well, you’re a top-notch, well-pulled-together organization
  • you are relevant and current
  • you are able to make — and do take — the time to ensure your website’s information is current and links and any interactive tools on your site function properly

horse

THINKSTOCK IMAGE

Steps to make sure your website is your work horse, and that will ultimately contribute to your being the “dark horse” in your industry or niche:

  1. Make sure there are no misspellings/typos on your site and your writing adheres to good grammar principles. It’s easy enough to spellcheck and grammar-check content/copy in MS Word or other software before you load it to your site.
  2. Check your site regularly for broken links, particularly links that point to another organization’s website, since these external sites may remove or move content to which you’ve pointed.
  3. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I won’t name any names of content management solutions (CMS) or free or inexpensive website creation tools or hosts. You tend to get what you pay for, and sites using cheap or free tools often end up looking cheap too — particularly when they allow for a website that is small and hard to read and not sized to work well on your desktop or laptop computer.
  4. Related to bullet #3 above, be sure to launch your site on a CMS that allows your website to be “responsive”, i.e., respond to the device which accesses it, whether it be a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop or laptop computer.
  5. Be consistent with where and how you use fonts and colors throughout your site. For example, use the same font and color for page headlines throughout your site.
  6. Make sure your site has a “cohesive” feel and certain pages don’t look like they belong on a different planet than other pages.
  7. Make sure your site is secure. Any website should be an https:// site vs. https:// site. Horses can sense danger, and nothing is going to cause a horse to bolt faster in this day and age of identity and privacy theft, than an indication from their browser that your site is “insecure.”
  8. Forego any kind of over-the-top dynamic video, photo, and graphic displays that are going to cause your site to load too slowly. Horses want to keep moving forward. Any kind of roadblock could cause them to take an undesired detour.
  9. Pay attention to current website trends, and when your existing site strays too far from those trends, update your site’s look and feel, so it feels fresh and relevant. Likely, you’ll need to do this at least once every five years.
  10. Include user-friendly navigation that calls out in clear language the topics that visitors would expect and want to find on a site that offers the types of products and services you offer. Related to this, create and include content & interactive tools that will ensure that visitors can accomplish what they want and need to do on your site. This should ultimately lead to sales and lead generation for your organization.
  11. In keeping with bullet #10 above, use clear “call-to-action” buttons (that link to appropriate page of your site) throughout your site that pertain to tasks your target audience(s) will wish and expect to accomplish when visiting your site, such as “subscribe to our e-newsletter” or “schedule a complimentary discussion.”
  12. Make sure any text is properly aligned and there are no extra spaces between words or inappropriate spaces between paragraphs or large blocks of text.
  13. Remove outdated documents and content, such as pdfs with information that is no longer accurate or relevant/timely.
  14. Delete events that have long since passed from your events calendar.
  15. This is Marketing/Branding 101 – but be consistent as to how you refer to your organization throughout the site and with logo use.
  16. Don’t make your site a dumping ground. Less usually is more. On any one particular page, don’t include so many call-outs and links to pdfs or other pages of your site, or so many graphics and images, that it’s impossible for your visitor to know where to focus.

As is obvious from the above, while well worth the effort, making sure your website is your work horse and, therefore, will lead the horse to drink is not for the work-shy. If the tips above, have you saying “hold your horses!”, we’re always ready to “saddle up” and get you moving in the right direction quickly!

fundraising/development, lead generation, Nonprofit Marketing & Communications, Objectives Setting, target audiences

Nonprofit 411: Driving Diverse, Desired Target-Audience Actions With Online Advertising

Check out this blog post we authored for the MA Nonprofit Network about how nonprofit organizations can use online advertising, such as Google Search or Google Display, to drive a diverse set of desired actions (known as conversions) by target-audience members who visit their website.

https://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-driving-diverse-desired-target-audience-actions-online-advertising/

 

Acceptance of Circumstances, Consulting, Enjoying What You Do, integrated marketing, lead generation, Making Connections and Introductions, marketing consultant, staying current

What I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Running a Consulting Firm

comfortzone

Ninety percent of my blog posts cover marketing topics and trends, particularly digital ones. This, of course, makes sense as I want to be a resource for “all things marketing” for my existing and prospective clients, as well as demonstrate my expertise, and remind folks, in need of marketing help, that I’m here to assist them with both marketing strategy development, and hands-on, day-to-day execution of marketing tactics. That said, for a while now, I’ve been wanting to share with friends, colleagues, and particularly those considering starting a consultancy of any nature, the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a consultant.

I know already I’ll be commenting on or editing this post as pros and cons of consulting come to mind that I neglected to include!

Let’s start with the GREAT!

  • New People, Partners, Connections: You meet so many interesting, knowledgeable, passionate and creative individuals — whether they be fellow small business owners/entrepreneurs/consultants or employees of small, medium, or large for-profit and non-profit client organizations. And, on certain client work, you get to partner and collaborate with fellow consultants who are experts in their particular field.
  • New Industries, Products and Services: You learn about so many different industries, and unique products and services, and you get skilled at getting up-to-speed quickly on various industries. You know the types of questions to ask and the information you want and need to hunt down.
  • Diverse Service and Solution Provision: No two clients’ challenges and opportunities are the same, so with each engagement, you are required to step back and think about which of the solutions and services you offer would most benefit a client and have the most immediate impact on whatever pain point they are struggling with. In my case, because of my line of work, this means I have the opportunity to oversee or assist with a large, diverse set of marketing activities and analytics.
  • Money and Time Savings: If you’re a consultant who works out of a home office — like me — or a local, shared work space, you save time and $$ commuting to an office. You also can spend far less money on work clothes and lunches.
  • Pajamas and Sweat Pants: I don’t do it very often, but yes, you can work in your pajamas and sweats and even attend phone meetings wearing the aforementioned. Before I hit my home office and computer, I prefer to get dressed for the day in something a little less comfortable than sweats or pajamas, so I don’t feel too relaxed and feel more professional and in “work mode.”
  • Flexible Schedule: For someone like me, where past cancer treatment left me with some chronic health issues, it’s nice to have the flexibility to take care of my health and work at a slower pace, if and when required, and to be able to go to doctors’ appointments when I need to. I can also take a longer break to meet up with a friend or colleague for lunch or coffee, knowing that I can make up the lost work time at night or on the weekend.
  • No Difficult Office Politics or Managers: I don’t think the former really needs explaining…keep in mind, though, you can end up with difficult clients, or clients with difficult office politics.

Now, the GOOD!

  • You Are the Boss of You — I’ve always been driven and self-disciplined, so I treat every week day as a work day and rarely run personal errands and/or do personal chores during that time,  but for some being their own boss and not having someone tell them how to use their time or what their deliverables should be, doesn’t suit them. That’s why I listed this as “good” vs. “great”, even though I personally love being my own boss.
  • Nobody Rains (or Snows) on Your Parade — Literally and figuratively. If you don’t have face-to-face or in-person meetings scheduled, you can stay warm and dry on cold or wet days, and you don’t have to deal with negative co-workers dragging you down.

And, the BAD!

  • You Have to Look Good in Hats — You’ll be wearing a variety of them — CEO/President, junior- or entry-level staff person, bookkeeper, business development/sales manager, and marketing person, to name a few.
  • Friends & Family Think You Don’t Work — Friends, family, colleagues, etc. will think they can call or visit you anytime on a workday or you’ll drop everything to meet up with them because “you aren’t working” – hah!
  • Support May be Lacking — No matter how long your consultancy has been up and running, you’ll still frequently get asked by contacts, including friends and family, when you plan to return to a “corporate” job. Your circle may struggle with the fact that running a successful consultancy isn’t a temporary or short-term choice, it’s an active, long-term decision you made.

Boo hoo for the UGLY!

  • Client Work Gets Pulled — Promised work doesn’t come to fruition or projects for which you’ve officially been engaged or you’ve even started get put-on-hold or shut-down completely for a variety of reasons, such as:
    • your contact at your client’s office leaves
    • your contact’s manager or manager’s manager isn’t on board with proceeding with a project even if your contact is/was
    • your client has budget cuts
    • your client has new senior leadership or your contact at your client has a new manager
    • your client’s priorities shift — something unanticipated happens at their firm, in their industry, etc. that makes your work for them less of a priority
    • your client gets bought out by or merges with another firm

One of the most painful and expensive, but also beneficial lessons I’ve learned in the past five years of consulting is never leave “capacity” for a particular client unless you have documented approval of engagement for the work in-question.

  • The 50/50 Rule — At most, you will only be able to spend 50% of your work time, actually completing “paid” work for clients, this includes attending client meetings or participating in client phone calls. The remaining 50% of your time will be allocated something along these lines, unless, of course, you out-source some of this work:
    • Creating and issuing invoices, tracking expenses in an accounting system, such as QuickBooks — 2.5%
    • Posting to social media — 7.5%
    • Staying educated in your particular area of expertise through reading, webinars, and other trainings — 7.5%
    • Responding to RFPs/Creating Proposals – 10%
    • Phone or In-person meetings with prospective clients — 10%
    • Following up with individuals and organizations in your sales pipeline — 5%
    • Reaching out to individuals via LinkedIn, e-mail, etc. for the first time to see if they are open to a meeting — 5%
    • Attending short phone calls or responding to e-mails for which you can’t charge a client, since you don’t want to be viewed as “nickel & dime-ing” them. It’s just expected that a consultant will provide some “pro bono” hours – 2.5%

In sum, if you’re going to run a consultancy, you have to accept that about 50% of the work you do, will be “unpaid” work, i.e., work for which you won’t be able to bill someone.

  • If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Get Paid — enough said, and as I described above, even when you do work, much of it is work you can’t bill for.
  • No Employee/Employer Perks and Benefits (Both Tangible and Intangible) — when you are self-employed, you don’t have access to the following perks and benefits of a “corporate” employer:
    • true “paid”/”employee” benefits like health, dental, and life insurance, 401K contributions and matching, paid vacation time and time-off, short-term disability
    • office parties and celebrations
    • friendships and socialization that an office provides
    • support of and ability to brainstorm with co-workers, plus the ability to delegate work if you’re a manager
    • coverage of training and travel expenses
    • in-house training opportunities
    • and more!
  • You Work 60+ Hours, So You Don’t Have to Work 40 — So, I revamped this phrase that I snagged from Shark Tank, “entrepreneurs work 90 hours, so they don’t have to work 40”. But, basically, when you own and run your own business, it’s very unusual to have a week where you only work 35 or 40. Even if you’re not actively doing client work, you’re constantly checking your work e-mail at night and on the weekends, and quite honestly, often you you do have to work nights and/or weekends to stay on top of your accounting, proposals you need to create and send, blog posts like this one that you want to write, and client work that needs to be completed. And, yes, most consultants I know are thinking about their business 24/7 — while they are lying in bed at night, taking a shower, going for a walk, etc. It’s hard to turn your consultant brain off, particularly the part that knows that you need to constantly be creating new leads for your business.

One factor that both a corporate job and consulting have in common — workloads fluctuates. There will be times when you have far too much work, and times, when you have too little.

Despite some of the more difficult consequences and challenges of being a consultant, there is so much upside, and I wouldn’t change my work situation right now. I so enjoy where I’m at in my career — serving as an advisor and extra-hand to both clients and fellow consultants and marketing agencies — and I enjoy the challenges that come along with it. They’ve pushed and continue to push me to step outside my comfort zone and develop or enhance skills like sales and public speaking. I so look forward to what lies ahead for me in the next five years as a consultant!

A special shout-out to my niece, Angelique Snow, who alerted me to the expression in the image at the top of this post — one that is particularly fitting to my situation and that of other consultants — and to Angelique, who lives her life fully by stepping outside her comfort zone.

good will creation, integrated marketing, lead generation, sales, SEO, social media

A 10-Year Look-back: Observations on Social Media Use by Businesses

Social media is no longer a new and innovative marketing tactic. So, I thought it might benefit my readers to look back at the 10+ years this tactic has been used by organizations and share what I’ve observed and learned.

Roughly 10 years ago, as a contractor, who eventually assumed permanent marketing manager and director roles at a large New England health plan, I was a big champion of social media. At that time, social media use by organizations for business purposes vs. by individuals for social purposes was starting to gain momentum, but there were still a good number of business organizations who had yet to launch a social media presence. I worked diligently to educate senior leadership in the marketing and communications department where I worked, as well as across the entire organization, about why we needed to dip our toes in the social media pool. I’m sure my reasons at the time for pushing my employer to establish a social media presence on one or several social media platforms included several, if not all, of the following:

  • by not having a social media presence, our organization looked dated and irrelevant
  • our competitors were taking advantage of this new marketing tool known as “social media” and we were missing out on the opportunities they were having to connect and communicate with our mutual target audiences: 1) direct users of our services aka members (individuals who qualified for state-funded healthcare coverage programs); 2) healthcare providers who served our members, and 3) nonprofit organizations serving our members who could refer them to us
  • other than employee time to create and share posts, social media was “free” and could help us make the most of our marketing budget
  • through the sharing of thought-provoking and informational posts, my employer could establish itself as a subject matter expert
  • we could drive traffic to our website via posts that contained links to various website content
  • we could create goodwill with other organizations by sharing their posts
  • we could speak to our members and prospective members via one of their preferred vehicles of communications; therefore, not only could we market ourselves using social media, we could keep our members informed

I eventually got buy-in to launch a social media presence for my employer and how we used the platforms and which platforms we used evolved during my time at the health plan. And, five years post my departure, I’m sure the health plan’s use of social media to promote itself, create goodwill, and communicate with its members, providers and the community continues to evolve.

Based on my approximately 10 years’ experience overseeing the social media presence of corporate employers, clients, and my own organization, Results Communications and Research, here’s what I’ve learned about social media use by businesses to create awareness and generate leads and sales. I call out these last two objectives, because ultimately those are the biggest desired end results of organizations who develop and implement a social media strategy.

  • Organizations should never put all of their marketing & communications $$ and efforts into their social media basket. Regardless of an organization’s nature and the nature of the products and services offered, some members of one or all of an organization’s target audiences may not be active on social media; therefore, you need to leave some $$ and time to reach those individuals who aren’t fans or users of social media via another form of communication that may be preferred by them, such as e-mail marketing, search engine advertising, or print advertising.
  • Even if it’s limited, organizations should maintain a social media presence to establish and maintain relevancy. Organizations don’t want potential clients or existing customers to make the assumption you won’t be up-to-speed on other issues because you’re viewed as “behind-the-times” by not having a social media presence.
  • More is not always more. Sure there’s a large # of social media networks/platforms out there: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and others. That doesn’t mean your organization should have a presence on all of them. It’s hard to maintain a strong, effective presence on one or several platforms if you dilute your social media energies too much across too large a range of social media networks.
  • Each platform has distinct audiences, benefits and limitations. Here’s our observations on the platforms we’ve used most to promote our own organization as well as others’:
    • LinkedIn – because it was built for business and professional networking purposes, each & every organization should have a profile page on LinkedIn; a lot of really great conversations happen on LinkedIn via post comments and LinkedIn’s messaging capability
    • Twitter — as with LinkedIn, this is where we see business conversations happening most, regardless of the nature of an organization, but particularly when it comes to business-to-business conversations and services
    • Facebook and Instagram – based on our experience, business Facebook and Instagram profiles work best for organizations offering business-to-consumer services or products vs. business-to-business services or products. A restaurant or hair salon may benefit from having a business Facebook or Instagram page, but a business offering services to another business, like insurance, likely won’t benefit as much. And, if you’re not an organization who wants to or can regularly take and post new photos, you shouldn’t bother with an Instagram account since Instagram is all about serving up a steady stream of interesting photos
    • Pinterest – consumer goods companies, such as food or other retailers will benefit from having a presence here, but there don’t seem to be any applications for organizations offering services. As with Instagram, if you’re going to maintain an effective presence on Pinterest, you need to be able to constantly take and post new photos or graphic images
    • YouTube – organizations need to think of YouTube as a search engine — since the YouTube search tool receives the second largest search volume after Google. Regardless of its nature, any organization should benefit from establishing a channel and sharing videos here
    • Google My Business – while some may not view this as a social media network/platform, I believe each and every organization should have such a profile, keep it current and regularly post to it, the way you would any other social media platform. This will greatly improve your SEO — where you fall in search engine results listings for search terms relevant to your products and services
  • In isolation, social media profiles and posts don’t often directly lead to sales or generate leads. In general, social media strategy and tactics need to be supported by other marketing tactics as part of a much larger, integrated marketing plan. We highlighted this in red to really call out the danger associated with believing that a social media presence will directly promote sales and leads, or suffice as a stand-alone marketing activity to create awareness of your organization and its products and services. In rare instances, social media posts may generate sales and leads, but those are the exceptions. For example, these types of social media behavior may generate a lead or a sale
    • Posts that promote sales or special offers for whatever consumer goods are currently most popular or the “it” thing
    • Posts that promote upcoming events, such as concerts by popular performers
    • Commenting on another organization’s or professional’s post, particularly on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Organizations should use Google Analytics to determine where to put their social media $$ and energies. I always suggest giving equal attention — in the form of posting your own content and sharing, liking and commenting on others’ — to two or three social media platforms that make sense for your organization (for several months), based on what I shared about about the platforms’ benefits and limitations. Then, use Google Analytics to determine which of these social media platforms are referring the most traffic to your site. That will help inform where you’ll likely want to put most of your social media energies going forward.
  • Businesses shouldn’t “go dark” on certain social media platforms without acknowledging it or explaining why. Whenever I’m preparing for a meeting with a prospective client, I check out all their digital/online marketing activities, including their social media presence. I’m always surprised by the number of organizations that have social media icons on their websites that link to profiles on social media platforms that they don’t maintain, e.g., haven’t posted to in the last 3 to 6 months or longer. If you don’t have the capacity to maintain an effective social media presence on a particular platform, i.e., can’t post at least weekly to the platform, consider the following:
    • removing the social media icon link to the platform, in question, until you can give the social media network the attention it deserves
    •  posting to the “neglected” social media platform that you won’t be posting to the platform in the foreseeable future, but that you hope your followers will join you on x,y,z platform instead and include a link to your presence(s) there (assumes you are more effectively maintaining a presence on one or several other platforms)
  • If you’re going to put time & energy into social media, be sure to capitalize on it. Be sure to put social media icons on each page of your website that link to the various social media platforms on which you have a presence. Also, place such icon links in e-mail signatures, and e-newletters. I’ve seen so many organizations neglect to do the aforementioned, and therefore, miss out the opportunity to build stronger bonds and share additional information with customers and prospective clients.

To summarize our observations, in general, social media shouldn’t be used in isolation by organizations to generate leads and sales. It should be one tactic that is part of a much bigger integrated marketing plan. Organizations should maintain a social media presence to be seen as relevant and to create goodwill with customers, prospective customers, and organizations who might be good business referral sources, but it isn’t necessary to have a presence on each and every social media platform. If you’re going to have a presence on a certain form of social media, be sure to post, comment, like, share, etc. regularly, and don’t just “go dark.” Use Google Analytics data to determine which forms of social media drive the most traffic to your website and focus your energies there, and make sure your website and e-communications share links to and promote your social media presence.

Need help creating or evaluating your social media strategy? Contact us to learn about our social media “audit” and strategy development and “voice” services.