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How I increased my email list subscribers by 532% in 1 month

Email marketing is proven to be the most effective (and undoubtedly the most profitable) channel in online marketing – given that the entirety of the Email world still holds the most number of users over the web (both as a personal and business medium).

Building an email list (and continuously growing it) is so crucial for any type of business nowadays. Aside from the fact that this channel has better conversion rates, it’s also a form of “owned media”, a medium where you have full control of, which can allow you to create a recurring revenue stream.

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12 Inbound Marketing Tips for 2014

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I did a short presentation last week for the first ever startup/marketing meetup that our company has organized.

The pointers from my talk were mostly based on my personal experience for the past 3 years of my career as an online marketer and a business owner – so I was really excited to turn my slide deck into a blog post as well.

Inbound Marketing’s popularity as a medium to exponentially grow a business’ ability to attract customers and establish its brand as a leader in its space, has certainly increased these past couple of years.

I believe that it’s not just because everyone’s turning to it these days, or because it’s not as expensive as paid media.

But mainly because of the scalability and longevity of the results it is capable of providing, knowing that it involves data-driven (and measureable) processes – such as SEO, content marketing, social media, analytics, and conversion optimization.

This approach to marketing has helped me develop a one-man consulting business into a 20+ person company in 2 years.

I witnessed its power firsthand, and I’ll definitely be glad to share the key things I’ve learned from doing it.

#1 Great products make great marketing campaigns, not the other way around

Marketing a business is a lot easier when you’re offering a product that no one else in your market can match.

Users/consumers most likely share a product/service that they find really valuable to their peers (word of mouth marketing). And products that can be considered as one of the best solutions in solving a certain problem are definitely newsworthy.

It’s important to genuinely believe in the product that you’re trying to sell (or market). Because it is the driving force of your marketing campaign.

Although, this core principle doesn’t just apply on the product itself, as the entirety of the branded product can also be heavily affected by other factors surrounding it – like customer support/service, packaging, company culture, etc… (think of Zappos).

So when you’re offering a great product that’s in a very competitive market, then your brand’s unique value proposition will really matter, a lot.

#2 Understand the 2 core factors of SEO (for both site and page-level)

Relevance and Authority.

Search engines use hundreds of factors to determine sites/pages that they’ll be displaying to their users. But many of those factors stemmed out to become more accurate in gauging both relevance and authority.

For instance, optimization methods such as improving information architecture, implementing structured data, proper distribution of keywords, content optimization (title tags, meta descriptions, content matching the given title, internal/external links, etc…) and a lot more, all help search engines better understand what the information/products your site is providing and be able to determine if your site is relevant to what their users might be looking for.

Whereas links, brand signals (social, unlinked mentions, etc…), domain authority and sentiments from other entities about the brand tell search engines how popular and authoritative your brand is.

A good question to ask yourself every time you optimize a site for search:

Is this the most relevant and most authoritative site in this vertical for it to rank for keyword xxx?

If not, then you have a lot of work to do.

#3 Design is 50% of the battle

I actually got this tip from one of Rand Fishkin’s presentations (can’t remember which one though).

The more web consumption grows, the lower an average user’s attention span gets. Design separates many successful websites from their competitors, especially in persuading and engaging new visitors to stay longer on the site, because:

  • Sites that provide better visual experience look more credible and trustworthy to users.
  • It makes it easier for visitors to use and navigate the website (UX, usability and site architecture).

This area of marketing can strongly impact your site’s ability to convert visitors. It’s smart to invest more on it.

#4 To educate is the best way to sell

I learned this from my former employers (Simon Slade and Mark Ling) while working full-time for Affilorama and Traffic Travis.

They’ve been giving ton of valuable information for free (through their content marketing efforts) which helped them established their brand(s) as an authority on their respective fields. And it’s a conventional wisdom in any industry that it’s easier to sell when people see you as an authority.

An effective content marketing campaign almost always aims to educate its target audience. Since having the ability to spread new and/or actionable ideas is one of the best ways to be remembered by your audience (influence).

This is the very reason why I always try to write extremely comprehensive blog posts (with ideas that I don’t usually see on other blogs) for the past 3 years of blogging. Because the more I teach my readers the things I do (and how difficult it is, sometimes), the more I can attract people to avail the services we offer.

#5 Invest on developing more “Big Content”

Content marketing has been the center of all attention these days in the world of online marketing – because it’s the center of it anyway. Content ties everything in digital marketing, that’s why it’s king.

When you have the best content on the web about a certain topic, you can get almost everything you need to fuel an online business:

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And a comprehensive branded content (that’s purely informational) can certainly do well in search results these days (and can even outrank Wikipedia).

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Many brands in our industry have already been implementing this (ex: Moz’s beginner’s guide to social media and QuickSprout’s advanced guide to content marketing), seeing that they’re getting a lot of good results from it (plus the fact that it’s a scalable landing page – since the content is evergreen).

big content

This marketing initiative can amplify your brand’s online presence, especially when the content is specifically targeted to a set of audience that can potentially be your future customers.

#6 Earn brand visibility from high-traffic industry communities

Google has brought down a lot of link building techniques over the past decade (from comment spams, article directories, badges, reciprocal linking and now to guest blogging). But perhaps, this is the only artificial link building tactic that will not cease to exist – providing real value to other online communities.

I’ve preached this approach many times in the past, because I’ve had many successes with it.

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Instead of submitting one-off content to hundreds of blogs in your industry, why not just focus on regularly contributing content to one or two top blogs in your space that are sure to pass on more quality traffic back to your site.

Being associated with high-traffic online publications can improve the perceived value that others see in your brand. Become more visible to your target audience through them.

#7 Content and brand identity fuel social media campaigns

This one’s very basic, but many people seem to forget how content plays a big role (a very huge chunk actually) in social media marketing.

Content initiates interactions in the social web, and content can also display a brand’s identity or what differentiates it from its competitors.

Most successful big brands in social media integrate content with their campaigns (like Red Bull), so why would it be any different to the smaller ones.

Understanding the types of content that typically get shared (a lot) on social networks is crucial to be very effective on this area of inbound marketing.

#8 Personal branding is vital in Inbound Marketing

People tend to follow, interact and listen to other people, not brands.

personas

Aside from the benefit of improving the ability of the site to earn its target audience’s trust, having strong personas behind a brand also serves as a strong signal that search engines can use (for entity search).

#9 Use Analytics to find opportunities and traffic assets. Identify what’s working, then do more of them (80/20)

Many practitioners use analytics for reporting, but forget to use their data to actually improve their sites’ performance.

Identify what’s continuously bringing high-quality traffic and conversions to the site (whether it’s high or low in volume), so you can maintain/improve them and take more advantage of them. These traffic assets could be:

  • Landing pages or existing content assets
  • Keyword rankings
  • Linking domains/pages (via Assisted Conversions)
  • Locations where you’re getting more conversions
  • Mediums (email, social, referrals, search, etc…)

conversions

#10 Optimize for remarkability and experience

Think of ways how you can make every visitor feel different when they’re on your site, because that’s what will make them come back.

In my case, I focused on including ideas on many of my blog posts that I think my readers wouldn’t find elsewhere. That was the unique selling point I planned to focus on for my blog’s content development a couple of years ago.

Because I believed that element will somehow make my brand more remarkable. And I think it kind of worked.

If you’ve built your business for the long haul, this should be a high priority. Knowing that eventually, brands and standalone platforms are what will matter most in the web’s ecosystem.

One good sample of this is CollegeHumor.com. They’ve established their brand very well through consistently providing remarkable content, which also impacts the experience their users get every time they go to the site.

logo_collegehumor

Many of their content get shared a lot on social media, and I believe many of their followers just go directly to the site (due to the consistent content updates they do on their site).

The cult following they have built is enough for search engines to understand who they are.

funny videos

#11 Maximize earned visibility to improve owned media

Use or test multiple CTAs on pages constantly generating new traffic to your website.

Calls-to-action shouldn’t just be used on your site’s transactional landing pages, because there are so many other secondary CTAs that you can use to build up your other marketing activities, such as

  • Encouraging visitors to follow you on social networks.
  • To subscribe to your blog’s feed and/or email newsletters.
  • Check out products you sell that they might find interesting (based on the topic of the content they landed on).

#12 Do everything the hard way

The harder the things you do, the more your work becomes valuable. It also makes it harder for your competitors to replicate what you’ve done to succeed.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Taking your Inbound Marketing Campaign to the Next Level

It’s unavoidable for marketers to get stuck when running long-term campaigns, especially when they are accustomed to following a certain process (that most of us do in agencies).

This mostly happens when we have already exhausted almost every tactic limited on that process, which is not that great when you’re looking at scalability – and in consistently getting results.

And that is why being able to identify areas of the campaign that need to be prioritized (that can drive results almost instantly, or what others call “quick wins”) is very crucial, to make the approach more efficient and ROI-oriented.

But what would you do once you’re done in winning in those areas?

I’ve read an article a few weeks ago where Anand Chandrasekaran (Entrepreneurial Product Leader at Yahoo) shared an advice from “The book of life” that I believe fits very well to today’s marketers (particularly for the technical ones).

Always cultivate a beginner’s mind. Because in the beginner’s mind, the possibilities are endless. In an expert’s mind, the possibilities are few.”

In retention, as well as in growing a project in terms of its marketing end, our job as marketers will always require us to continuously find opportunities, problems and fixes.

With that in mind, you’ll always be looking for something new to study, learn and implement. And that hunger is what will fill the gaps within your campaigns, and what I strongly believe takes it to the next level.

More Traffic Opportunities through Search

SEO is still a vital channel for inbound marketing, and that’s for sure. It’s a continuous process, so there could possibly be some areas of search optimization that you haven’t fully maximized yet that could potentially bring in bigger results for your campaign.

Removing duplicate and poor-content pages

Making sure that your site is not allowing search engines in indexing pages that wouldn’t be that valuable to users can tremendously improve its ability to rank better on search results.

One of the best reasons why is that the “authority/link value” flowing within the site will only be passed around the pages that are really important – which in turn allows them to get better search rankings.

Also, this increases the site activity from users coming from search engines (another important factor that’s used to determine relevance), as people are only able to get to pages that they are specifically looking for.

removed dupes

The best way to determine if you have duplicate/thin pages that are being indexed by search engines in your site is by comparing the number of pages in your sitemap vs. the number of pages indexed by Google.

sitemap vs. indexed

Say if you only have 500+ pages you want to be indexed (based on the number of important pages of your site listed on your sitemap), but Google has already indexed 2,200 pages from your website, then it only means you have 1,000+ possible duplicates and poor content pages showing up on search results.

On finding duplicates, you can start digging through Google Webmaster Tools, and see what URL parameters are configured in your site.

url parameters

Check if these parameters are being indexed by Google – by simply searching for them on Google search.

dupes

If they are showing up, you might want to start disallowing search crawlers from accessing and indexing those pages (you can disallow access to these folders through your Robots.txt, or by adding the “noindex” tag on these pages as well).

It’s very important to only serve the pages you want your users to find.

Improving your search listings’ CTR

Export your site’s search queries report from Google Analytics or GWT, and track the keywords you’re ranking for with high amount of impressions but have low click-through rates.

queries

Start optimizing for click-throughs from search results, as this is something that many SEOs neglect after reaching the top spots of the SERPs.

It’s important to understand why people aren’t clicking through, staying longer on the page or converting – even when you’re already at the highest position. Since being able to optimize for these aspects will enable you to sustain your rankings.

Things you can do to improve your page’s CTR from search results and activity once people land on the page:

  • Apply marketing/sales approach on your meta descriptions, to entice people to clicking on your listing.
  • Implement authorship and publisher markups (rel=”author” and/or rel=”publisher”).
  • Use structured data (schema) for reviews, places, products, events, lists and in-depth articles.
  • Make your pages’ title tags more descriptive of the content they contain.
  • Ensure that the content of the page matches the search query it’s targeting (try to provide the best answer for that query).
  • Invest on design and user experience, to make your landing pages more sticky.
  • Include relevant internal links within the body of the content to make the visitor stay longer on the site.

Optimize for Speed

There has been so many case studies out there that prove how site speed optimization can extremely impact search traffic improvement (you can start with this case study from Neil Patel).

You can also use Page Speed Insights, a free web-based tool from Google that enables its users to easily identify elements of the site that make it slow – which also includes instructions on how to fix those issues.

page speed insights

Build more support pages for your key pages

Content marketing and blogging blends well when integrated with SEO for a lot of reasons:

  • Support contents such as blog posts and other content assets can rank for your campaign’s target long-tail keywords.
  • They pass on link value, page authority, traffic and visibility to your site’s important pages (money pages), especially when they are internally linking to them – which makes your key landing pages stronger (and have better search rankings).
  • These content efforts help your site gradually build a stronger online brand presence, which is an important signal these days for search engines.
  • The more pages you have on your site that has accumulated substantial Page Authority, the higher Domain Authority your site can get. This means more chances for your site to rank for the competitive search terms it is targeting.
  • Builds more channels for your site to generate conversions.

Transform your site into a platform

Platforms are the future of the web (and search engines will most likely be biased towards displaying them on search results). You don’t necessarily need to be the biggest, but rather have the best solutions to offer in your industry to win in the digital age.

Big Content

Start investing on continuous development of bigger contents. This is one of the best ways to become recognized in your space as the go-to-brand when it comes to information.

A perfect sample of this is Neil Patel’s content efforts last year, as Quicksprout has certainly invested a lot of time and effort in creating several advanced online marketing guides and tutorials under the site’s University section.

quicksprout

With those initiatives, Neil’s site is slowly becoming a platform that people will come to, to learn more about online marketing.

There are also other forms of big content that you can spend more time in developing, such as:

  • Apps (web-based and/or mobile)
  • Video series
  • Events

Community Building

If you’ll notice, most of the successful sites (in any industry) have a community wherein people actively discuss and interact, not just with the brand, but with other community members as well.

Cultivating a community can certainly take your brand to a higher level.

For example, Affilorama is considerably one of the biggest names in the affiliate marketing industry. Aside from they almost have everything (content resources, extensive lessons/courses, tools and more), they also have a very active community (on their forum section and user-generated blog).

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Affilorama has truly become a platform for affiliate marketers for the past years due to these efforts and investments.

Invite other experts to write for your site

Getting other publishers to contribute content on your site (on a regular basis) also helps attract new markets and audiences, which can strongly demonstrate the strength of your brand, in terms of association and the depth of information and topics you get to share on your website.

This also encourages your visitors to participate more in the discussions, and also in bringing more publishers to write for your site.

Loyalty Marketing

Return visits is as much as important as acquiring new visitors to a website, given that these guys are already aware of your brand and have better chances of converting.

Obviously, the best way to build a loyal following to your brand (customers/readers) is to give them so many reasons to come back.

Consistency in providing high quality and valuable content

Being able to provide the information that your target audience will want to consume constantly is one of the most common reasons why people follow brands on their blogs or in social networks.

Although, as web consumption grows, content marketing also gets more competitive. So it’s important to really understand what quality is to your target audience, in order to genuinely provide value.

I really liked Danny Denhard’s tip from his presentation at the recent Digital Marketing Show – wherein he stated that “you have to understand TV to understand quality content”.

As the more you publish content that will be useful and actionable for your audience, the more you can nurture your audience and more likely for them to visit again (and take actions such as email subscriptions, following you on social networks for updates or availing for your products/services).

Serve content targeted to people who already believe in your brand

Reward your brand’s followers (or existing customers) by giving away exclusive or higher value content. This may perhaps be distributed through email marketing or for people who are already following you on social networks.

Some of the forms of content that you can offer:

  • Free access to your tools/apps
  • Discounts
  • Comprehensive guides, which you can offer to be only available to those who’re already subscribed.
  • Featuring community members on your site’s blog.

Gamification

Apparently, many sites have succeeded in integrating this principle to their product/brand (like Nike, Linkedin, Mint, Moz and Teleflora, to name a few).

Gamification, as a part of your business strategy, can help improve the user engagement of your site, and more often than not, breeds more loyal users/visitors/customers.

Optimize for Experience

Make people’s experience in using your website very remarkable (whether they’re an existing customer or a first time visitor).

Because when people like what they can see, read and/or consume from your website, they’ll definitely be back for more, and share the experience with their peers.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and or follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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5 Inbound Marketing Methods that can Drive Traffic and Conversions

interactive content

Inbound marketing – or combining different online marketing processes such as SEO, content marketing, social media and conversions – has been one of the most effective ways to hit a site’s various business goals in one go, like driving more specifically targeted traffic, improving revenue and/or building a stronger brand mind share.

Aside from involving practices that is measurable, utilizing inbound marketing as an approach to reach a business’ target audience (without disrupting their online activities) has proven itself to be very effective in terms of scaling and growing businesses in a shorter span of time.

Some of the most known advantages of implementing these practices as a whole are:

  • Processes involved are cost-efficient and can be implemented in-house.
  • It works on almost any size of site/business and on almost any industry.
  • Can help cumulatively achieve business goals (like constantly generating traffic, leads, conversions), through all the past and current efforts done to improve the brand/site.

There are so many tactics that you can choose inside the inbound marketing realm that can really help your business grow. Although, in this post, I’ve chosen to highlight a few strategies which I believe can really grow both traffic and conversions when implemented continuously.

Find and optimize for long-tails with high engagement rate

I wrote an extensive guide about this keyword audit process 3 months ago, which I didn’t really expect to become popular and well received.

The whole strategy only requires 2 things: basic SEO skills (basic content optimizations) and your site’s search traffic data from Google Analytics.

As I’ve explained on that recent post, its core concept is based on two aspects:

  • Determining variations of search queries that are sending highly qualified traffic to my site (often keyword variations that I haven’t primarily targeted for my existing pages/posts).
  • Optimizing the pages/posts to match and be ranked/served on those long-tail searches.

Basically, you’ll first need to find and uncover search phrases (that you didn’t really intend to optimize your site’s pages for) that people use to find your site’s inner content.

You can easily identify these search phrases or keywords through your site’s search traffic data (on Google Analytics), by using and depending on engagement metrics such as Average Visit Duration and % of New Visits.

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By segmenting your list of keywords using these 2 metrics, you can get the keywords that are working really well on attracting highly qualified traffic to your site (as these new list of keywords are generating highly engaged visitors to your site based on your data).

Once you have already determined which keywords are driving highly engaged visitors to your site, you can then start reoptimizing the pages where those keywords are generating quality traffic.

Areas in which you can use those newly discovered keywords to target for your already existing pages can be through their Title Tags, Meta Descriptions and/or through building internal links using the new set of keywords as anchor texts.

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For more tips on how to do this optimization strategy, you can check out the full case study here.

How does it improve your conversions?

Since you’ll be able to attract more qualified traffic to your site, getting more visitors that will more likely convert and take actions will be a lot easier.

Regularly contribute content on high-traffic publications

Getting regularly seen on high-traffic publications in your industry is one of the best ways to solidify your brand presence in the online space.

That presence doesn’t just help you reach your target audience, but it also helps your brand establish itself as an expert in the field, which makes it easier for your brand to gain your market’s trust (that often leads to increase in conversions).

Trust is a very important factor in the online marketing sphere, whether it’s about building strong trust signals to get better search visibility or getting more people to buy from you. And this inbound strategy is definitely one of those that can really boost the trust that both search engines and real users can see about your brand.

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Becoming really visible in your online community, by contributing on popular blogs/content hubs in your industry, will help you absorb the right traffic back to your website.

And the best thing about it is that the traffic that you’re generating will have higher tendencies of converting, since they’ve found you through known trusted sources over the web.

Finding the top blogs/publications in your industry is easy (use Google Search). Make a list of them and segment your list by using site and traffic metrics to gauge each prospect (I prefer using DA and Alexa traffic rank in determining strong sites).

blog prospecting

Pitching to become a contributor or a columnist is the challenging part. Here are a few tips to increase your chances of getting accepted:

  • Prove your expertise by making sure that you’re also providing exceptionally useful content on your own site. These can serve as your writing samples once your target prospects start asking about what you can offer to their readers.
  • Be a part of their community by participating and adding value in their popular discussions/articles.
  • Know and understand what their audience want and what types of content are working well in their blogs, and use this knowledge as your pitch’s value proposition.

Build content that drive conversions

Content is imperative in this age of marketing, because it can be considered as a platform wherein a business/site can initiate communication with their target audience.

Web-based content assets are stronger when they are created for a purpose or if they have goals set to be achieved, as they can serve as landing pages which can attract your incoming visitors to take actions that will benefit your business. Content goals may include:

  • To increase social media followers or social sharing activities.
  • To attract or acquire links.
  • To build relationships with targeted influencers.
  • To rank for an industry keyword in search results.
  • To increase subscriptions (newsletter, feed, tools, etc…)
  • To drive more leads or sales.

There are plenty of types of content that can help generate conversions to a site, such as:

Case studies

case study

How to increase search traffic through keyword audit on Google Analytics

Comprehensive guides/tutorials

tutorials

The Advanced Guide to SEO

Interactive Content

interactive content

Life of Pi on Digital HD

Ebooks

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Branding in the Inbound Age

Using content assets is certainly one of the most scalable ways to market and grow a business online, seeing that it can almost automate the marketing and sales processes of a website.

Content assets, especially evergreen content, can help websites get found easily (particularly if you’re providing information that is frequently searched). Another advantage of having ton of content assets within your site is that they enable you to continuously nurture potential customers, without the need of directly engaging new traffic/leads.

The more you help your prospected customers understand and be informed with the solutions you are offering (through your content assets), the more it’ll be easier for your site to sell its products/services.

How to create and promote content assets:

There are 4 phases in using content assets as a part of your marketing strategy.

Research

  • Know your content’s primary goals (is it for links, shares, lead generation, etc…).
  • Implement keyword research to ensure that you’ll get maximum results, especially when the content asset gets older.
  • Analyze its potential audience, and determine how you want the content to be consumed by them.
  • Gather all necessary information when drafting the content to make it comprehensive, as well as to make it hard for your competitors to replicate the content asset.
  • Visualize the outcome of the content while on the ideation process. It can help straighten out the development process.

Development

  • Build the content according to your research and outline/draft.
  • Have the content proofread and edited before launching it.
  • Ask other departments or other industry experts/bloggers for feedbacks if necessary.

Promotion

  • Make sure that the content is optimized for search.
  • Reach out to industry influencers, particularly if your content is of high value and can be really useful to their followers.
  • Reach out to known linkers in your industry.
  • Use paid channels to make the content more visible to targeted users if necessary (like Stumbleupon ads, Facebook’s sponsored stories, etc…).
  • Leverage social sharing and linking through existing relationships (through content distribution, guest blogging, their newsletters, etc…).
  • For more tips, you can check out these posts on viral marketing techniques and content promotion strategies.

Measure and Optimize

  • Track your content if they are achieving the goals that you’ve originally set. Learn from your data and make your content marketing process better and replicable.
  • Maximize your content assets by regularly updating their calls-to-action (like promoting your site’s new offers).
  • Study its search traffic data and see what other variations of search terms that people are using to find that content. Optimize the content for those other keywords to generate more traffic to it.
  • Update the content whenever something new comes up (that’s relevant to its topic). This will help the content maintain its search visibility and for it to also be the go-to-source whenever the subject is being discussed (think Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies!).

User Experience and SEO

Improved usage data results to better search rankings, given that search engines are after what users really like.

Offering better user experience also increases the shareability of a site, since users more often share great experiences, and this precisely means more referred traffic for you.

Aligning UX with SEO is very important these days. I really liked what Jonathon Colman mentioned on one of his past presentations, that:

“SEO is about helping people find what they want and presenting it to them in a way that they expect.”

And UX is pretty much based around the same principle. So below are some areas of a site that you can improve to increase both its traffic and conversions.

Site Speed

Optimizing your site’s loading speed can bring tremendous results to your business, such as:

  • In improving customer satisfaction.
  • In improving search rankings, particularly on highly competitive keywords, as Google use site speed as one of its major ranking factors.
  • In reducing bounce rates and improving conversions and transactions.

There are lots of resources over the web that you can check out for improving site speed, such as this, this and this.

Information Architecture

Making it easier for your users to navigate your site is a huge factor that can really increase activity on your website. And this also affects how search engines can easily crawl, access and rank all of your site’s important pages.

Here are few guides on how you can optimize your site architecture:

Here are 9 more tips for creating great user experience:

Absorbing more followers through collaboration

Collaborating with other influencers, publishers or organizations in your industry to create content is another great way to generate free content that can attract more visitors to your site.

Using this strategy to drive traffic to your site is easy, since you can surely get views from the followers of those whom you’ll be collaborating with.

Few great samples of this type of inbound tactic in actions are:

Another way to collaborate and get maximum results from other influencers in your field is to invite them to become guest authors in your site’s blog. It’s one of the easiest ways to get more readers, followers, expertly made content (which can rank on SERPs) and links to your site.

How does it improve your conversions?

Associating with other known brands in your industry can increase your brand’s perceived value, which can help improve your site’s conversions.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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A Walkthrough to Xight Interactive’s Inbound Marketing Process

Our company celebrated its first year anniversary last month – a really tough year for all of us. And I’m sure that it will be tougher in the coming months, as we all upgrade our goals internally. But overall, our small team is quite proud with what we have all achieved these past 12 months.

Since we’ve reached our first year as a company, a yearly board meeting/planning is certainly a task that we need to undertake. To make sure that we’ll learn from our past mistakes, identify our processes’ pain points, and on how we can build as stronger product from those insights (which is primarily our services/talent pool/culture).

My role – as CEO – has never been more challenging. On our second year, I’ll be focusing more on the big picture, marketing, training and process/strategy development.

And since we have one of the best consultants in the Philippines around to act as our Director of Search (Mark Acsay), and a very promising Content Marketing Director on board (Bev Lopez), the distribution of responsibilities and the leadership that will steer our process have been more solid than ever.

As for the operations, our company’s co-founder/COO – JP Prieto – will be taking over the entire operations. Several of our consultants, associates, creative/tech marketers and content devs are already stepping up to the challenge.

So it’s definitely a very exciting chapter for all of us – and I’m really excited to see how much our team can grow next year.

Enough of us and let’s start discussing more about the same simple inbound marketing process that I’ve proposed from our last month’s board meeting/planning.

Goal Setting

Developing an actionable strategy requires goals. Seeing that setting goals before even launching a campaign will lead you to only take the actions that will help you achieve them.

It’s also important to understand the client’s business/site needs in terms of marketing, not just for content strategy, but also to know the scope of your services that they’ll really benefit from the most.

Several metrics that a sustainable online marketing campaign could be aiming for are:

  • Improving the site’s domain authority (which somehow correlates to the business’ brand authority and search share).
  • Continual growth in targeted traffic (monthly increase in unique organic, direct and referred traffic).
  • Strong brand presence, which can be measured through the links and social mentions being earned by the campaign, particularly on the quality/authoritativeness of publications/sources featuring the site.
  • If improvements are reflecting to the business’ revenue growth.

With these things in mind, you can easily segment the methodologies your campaign will need based on level of priorities. These goals will also allow you to identify tasks that will bring both short and long term value to your campaign (such as knowing how one evergreen content can impact a business as a whole).

Strategy Development

Strategy will always vary, as it highly depends on what you and your client believe that their business really needs. For instance, some might be targeting a smaller market (or could be based on geographical locations) and some could be targeting a wider set of audience (from different places/demographics).

As I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to precisely know what the client and their target customers really need and formulate solutions that will make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

Technical SEO Audit

One of the most vital elements of a solid inbound marketing campaign is making sure that the site is ready for users and for search. That’s why this marketing practice comes first on our list.

A full site audit is very important to know which areas of the site need to be improved, as well as to guide the implementation processes (particularly on both on-page and off-page optimization).

Here’s a simple checklist of the things included on our continuous SEO audit analysis:

Title, Meta Tags and Permalink Structure

Make sure that the title tags, meta tags and URLs of the pages within the site are optimized for both users and search engines. It’s best to use your marketing thinking when optimizing these areas of the site, to entice more search/social traffic to checking out the page(s).

There are several ways and tools that can be used in doing this type of site assessment:

  • Using Traffic Travis’ “My Site” feature (the tool will instantly show if there are problems on your pages’ meta tags).
  • Through Google Webmaster Tools’ HTML Improvements section (under the “Optimization” tab). More details on this post.
  • Importing the site’s sitemap to excel and using Neils Bosma’s free SEO Tool for excel to extract each URL’s (included on the sitemap) title tags and meta descriptions. You can check out this post to see a step by step guide on using the tool.

Site Structure and Hierarchy of pages

Check if the site’s important pages (landing pages/categories) are accessible to both users and search engines. Prioritized important content by moving them up the hierarchy, or by lessening the number of clicks before users/crawlers get to those pages (through internal/navigational linking).

You can also use the sitemap to analyze which pages are important, and which pages should be receiving more link value for them to be able to compete for highly searched/competitive terms. You can check out this post for more tips on optimizing site structure.

Internal Linking

There are so many ways to see how if a site’s internal linking structure is well-optimized. You can start with Google Webmaster Tools (Traffic > Internal Links) to see which pages of the site have more internal links pointing to them, and to also see which pages are lacking internal links.

 

Other things that also be considered when optimizing a site’s internal linking structure are:

  • Checking if the site uses good anchor texts for its internal links and if they are pointing to appropriate/relevant pages.
  • Checking if the site’s inner pages contain broken links (you can use Xenu in doing this task).
  • Manually checking product and content-level pages if they are internally linking to other related pages (that may need more link value and visibility).

Duplicate Content

Finding potential problems within a site that can affect how it’s ranking on search results has been easier these past few months, as tons of tips on uncovering duplicates and thin pages within a site are available over the web.

We normally use Google Webmaster Tools to assess if the site has issues related to duplicate and/or thin pages being indexed by Google (see this post for the extensive version of how to find duplicates/poor content pages with GWMT).

Things to look out for when solving this issue:

  • Compare number of pages from the sitemap vs. the number of pages indexed by Google, to have an idea of how many excess pages from the site have been already indexed by Google.
  • See what URL parameters the site has (for secured version, cart, search feature, paginated version, etc…) and check if these URL parameters are being indexed by Google (you can use search operators like “site:www.example.com inurl:/search/”).
  • Check the site’s key pages (that are competing for the campaign’s major keywords) and see if they have duplicates on other websites (use Copyscape).
  • Once you’ve found the pages that could be harming the site, start blocking search crawlers from accessing and indexing them (through robots.txt or by tagging them to noindex).

Accessibility and Crawling

Check if the site has crawl errors via Google Webmaster Tools (Health > Crawl Errors), and have these assessments included on your list of recommendations and to have them fixed.

You can also use ScreamingFrog to assess if some of the site’s pages could be causing crawling problems (such as 404s or if the site has too many unnecessary 301 redirects).

It’s also best to check the site’s robots.txt to know what content/pages are being blocked from crawlers and if the robots.txt is also directing search bots to the site’s sitemap.

Site Speed

Determine if the site is serving its pages fast to both users and search engines. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights or Pingdom to get more data on the site’s loading speed, especially on the elements that could be causing the site to load slower.

Advanced On-site Recommendations

There are also other technical aspects of search optimization that you can consider when doing a full site analysis such as:

  • Evaluating if the site is ready to implement structured data for rich snippets (like authorship/publisher markups and schema/microdata for the site’s inner pages).
  • If the site’s key pages are serving too much Javascript, Flash or iframes, which could somehow affect how search engines are crawling the site’s content.
  • See if the site is already tracking goals/conversion via Google Analytics. If not, start recommending it.
  • Make sure that the site is canonicalized (or redirects to a single version of the URL – non-www. or www.).
  • Check if the site uses absolute URLs instead of relative URLs.
  • If the site has paginated content, see if the extended pages are being indexed (use dofollow internal links on high priority pages and tag the following pages to noindex).

Content-level Audit

Do a quick run on the site’s important landing pages and see the depth, quality and delivery of content. It’s important that each page can serve its purpose and should provide value/substantial information to its targeted audience.

Another thing that you should also consider when doing content audit is to gauge if the site’s important landing pages are really relevant to the search phrases they are aiming to rank for. This will reduce the exit rate on the site’s important pages, as the intent of the content is specifically targeted to users who are really seeking for what the content should actually be covering.

In doing this task, you can simply start by listing all the important landing/money pages of the site (preferably pages that are generating leads/sales to the business) on an excel spreadsheet. Once you have identified the site’s top pages, you can start assessing and noting how each can be improved in terms of messaging and audience targeting.

Here’s a great guide on implementing content audits.

Keyword Mapping

Relevance is the key in on-site optimization. Ensure that the site’s pages are targeting the most relevant keywords for them, because that’s the best way to have them ranked better in search results.

You can start by assessing the primary search terms that the campaign will be targeting as well as the key pages competing for those keywords. Do a site search with the primary keywords (site:www.example.com “keyword”) to see if the keyword has been overused by the site (to lessen the chances of cannibalizing your primary keywords).

This will help you find and distinguish if the pages are absolutely relevant to the keywords they are targeting, or if you can find another page that’s a better fit for the targeted search term.

Keyword Discovery

It’s imperative to continuously uncover keywords that can help the site draw more relevant traffic through search as the campaign grows. Discovering keywords to target – that will be used for content generation – is not just about getting new keywords, as it can also be about identifying efficient keywords that are already driving conversions.

Some of these keywords could be down the list of mid and long-tail keywords, and can usually be discovered through the site’s traffic activity (via Google Analytics).

Link Profile Analysis

Understand the site’s standings when it comes to linking and popularity to have better insights of how to approach the off-page optimization. You can start by classifying the strength of the links pointing to the site or by equating the ratio of the high quality vs. low quality links to the site.

I’ve shared a guide on link profile audit using Google Webmaster Tools a few months ago (you can use that as a reference):

  • Download the list of domains linking to the site (on Google Webmaster Tools > Traffic > Links to your site).
  • Use the Neils Bosma free SEO Tools for excel to add metrics on each listed domain (I used Alexa Reach rank just to get an initial idea of the domains’ traffic activity and authority).
  • Sort and segment the list by separating high scoring and low scoring domains. By then, you’ll get a rough estimation of the quality of domains linking to the site.

There are also other link analysis tools that you can use for this task, like Ahrefs or Opensiteexplorer.org, which you can use in exploring the types of links that the site has previously been acquiring. If there are too many spammy links pointing to the site, you can then include link removal (or disavowing low quality links) in your campaign/recommendations.

Competitive Analysis

Learn from their competitors’ weaknesses and strengths in terms of business and marketing perspectives. Knowing these things will allow you to fully grasp the elements/edge that will separate the client’s business to its competitors.

Competitive intelligence can certainly help the campaign be more efficient in so many ways, particularly in giving a good direction for the campaign and in overcoming the competition.

Some of the actionable steps that you can implement when doing this task are:

  • Get insights on their approach to content generation. Then offer more than they do.
  • Know the top domains/publications linking to them, to generate ideas on how you can get stronger links and relationships than what they have acquired.
  • Study their top content/pages and learn why they are successful. Replicate, remix and provide better experience.
  • Know the competitive keywords they are ranking highly for (you can use SEMRush Pro version to get this data). Observe how they have reached better rankings for those keywords (assess on and off-page factors).

Online Branding

Surviving the new age of online marketing requires a strong branding campaign. Having a strong brand presence over the web can take a business farther than just search and social.

This is a strong foundation for any online marketing campaign, because no algorithmic update can ever change the perceived value people see in a brand.

In fact, search engines favor brands, because they are somehow known to be credible. When a brand is popular, authoritative and/or trusted, it’s easier to achieve the search rankings it deserves, right?

Below are some of the online branding initiatives that we’ll continuously implement all throughout the campaign.

Local Directory Listings and Citations

If needed, or especially if the client mainly targets a market from certain locations, we’d definitely push through a local listing/citations campaign. Andrew Shotland recently shared a list of the most important local business directories for SEO, and these are definitely the ones that we’ll be primarily targeting.

Social Brand Pages

Check if the site is already utilizing different social platforms for online branding purposes. These channels are very important these days as businesses can use these brand pages to interact with their target consumers and in promoting their own content.

If in case they haven’t integrated their content strategy with social media, here’s a list of social sites where businesses can build brand pages.

Setting up branded pages on these channels is certainly a great way to protect the brand’s search results, as most of these sites have strong domain authority.

Given that these domains have high search share, disseminating content through these platforms can be very effective. Pages from these sites can easily rank for competitive keywords, which can also contribute to adding more visibility for the brand.

It’s important to continuously build on the channels that are really adding value to the campaign (not all the social sites can help the campaign grow, but there are some that can heavily impact the site’s marketing efforts). Along the way, the process will naturally reveal which channels are referring more targeted visitors (that take action).

This type of integration is a recurring process, where the important channels will have to be promoted (through the site, by building links to them, growing their followers, cross promoting via other social sites). Since, it will serve not just as a branding tool, but also a channel where the brand can cultivate its own community.

Ryan Clark also did a great piece on how to benefit more from your social profiles through linking.

Top Domain Prospecting

A huge part of brand strengthening for a site is getting more visibility through the top authoritative domains in their respective industry. Why? Because people who’re really interested in what your client is offering can be found on these places.

Creating a list of these prospected sites/publications where you can build more exposure and where you can exemplify the client’s expertise is easy.

Here’s a quick and easy process in finding potential prospects for content distribution:

  • Download the Mozbar tool for Firefox.
  • Configure Google Search’s settings to display 100 results per page.
  • Start searching for prospects, then export the search results to CSV format.

  • Open the downloaded CSV file, and sort the list by Domain Authority (from largest to smallest). Once the list is sorted, you’ll have a list that’s arranged based on each domain’s DA, and get a better idea of which ones to prioritize/target (we target domains with 40+ DAs, but also consider other factors such as the site’s design, quality of content/community and give more weight on the relevance with the site’s theme).

Getting back to building brand awareness using authority and high-traffic domains, the main objective is to absorb traffic through the exposure you’re getting from them. This can be done through efficient content distribution/placements, which can come in various forms such as:

  • Guest blogging
  • Regular content contribution/column
  • Interactions (participating and adding value to the discussions – comment threads, forum threads, Q&As)

These initiatives will allow you to be a part of the industry’s online community, as people (active in your industry) will see you more often. This helps the brand shape its own identity, given that the approach is more interactive (plus you get to understand more of your client’s industry).

Pro tip: Apply brand building principles in link building (or when placing any form of content on your target sites). The more you emphasize on making the brand look as an authority/expert in the field, the more referred visitors they’ll get from these channels.

Influencer Prospecting

Relationship building is definitely a big part of online branding, especially these days, where most successful content on the web are easily moved across its targeted audience when influential people share/link to it.

This approach to online marketing takes a lot of time (and work most especially), but its returns is definitely a force to reckon with.

Identifying top influencers in your client’s field is not that hard, seeing that there are so many tools these days that people can easily access to gain insights on who to follow and engage, like Followerwonk, Klout and Topsy.

Make a list of the people you feel will be eventually helpful for your campaign (keep in mind that you’ll also need to reciprocate, which means you’ll need to prove yourself to be of some value to them as well).

Several ways you can do to engage them and to be on their radar:

  • Use their content as a resource for your own content (mention and link out to them, and then let them know). Make sure that the content that you’ll create is really good to increase the chances of having them share your content.
  • Share their content on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc…). And let them know.
  • Participate on their blogs’ discussions. Add value and share information/opinions that they (and their audience) will be impressed with.

Once you have their attention, it’ll be easier to earn the links you deserve. Some of the ways you can benefit from building relationships with influencers (or even publishers who have substantial readership/following base):

  • Get them to mention your content on their own piece (especially when they are also finding your materials useful to their audience).
  • Have them share your content on social networks.
  • Acquiring hard-to-replicate links (like natural brand mentions and/or blogroll links).
  • Collaborate on content ideas and/or you can pitch guest posts to them (with higher approval rates).
  • You can invite them as guest authors to your client’s site, which is a solid strategy in building the site’s author portfolio, absorbing followers/traffic and getting more natural links (the more authors who have strong AuthorRank contributing on the site, the more Google will see how credible it is).

Content Asset Development

Creating content assets is the life stream of our campaign, because useful (not just great) content can semi-automate the process of marketing a brand over the web. Content is a significant factor why people will link, share, follow and buy from a brand.

Our process for content development is consisted of 5 phases, and we keep on optimizing our methodologies to meet both speed and quality (though we don’t focus on volume, since we create assets that aim to be relevant and be used for an entire year or more – evergreen).

Content Ideation

Start by listing possible topics that will be used for content distribution (for the site’s blog or to be pitched/submitted to other authority publications). Normally, we do this task every start of the month to guide the content marketing campaign using a content calendar.

For instance, by the time the client’s site is being audited/optimized by our consultants, the content team is simultaneously brainstorming at least 10 content ideas that will be used in the first month of the campaign (which is what we precisely do on a rate of $1,200/month).

The brainstorming meeting takes an hour or two, and mostly includes the following:

  • Coming up with working titles (based on campaign’s theme, highly searched keywords/topics, and possible impact to the campaign’s main goals).
  • Suggested content formats for promising ideas (infographic, interactive HTML5 landing page, kinetic typography, etc…).
  • Prospected publications where some of the content will be pitched to (so the outreach team can immediately create angles on how they can improve response/approval rate, which can be based if the content ideas appeal to their audience).
  • Delegation of tasks (research, outlining, creation and target deadlines).

There are 2 types of content that you can focus on:

  • Content for conversions – topics targeted to potential leads/customers, which usually provides in-depth information to influence buying decisions. These are mostly industry FAQs that are expounded when converted into a full content.
  • Content for awareness – where different content formats are used and tested to acquire natural links, social shares and to spread brand awareness. These may include curation (to engage other authors), rich-media content (infographic, video, HTML5 landing page, Ebook, etc…) and comprehensive guides/tutorials.

For content idea generation, here are a few tips:

  • Use Google Keyword Tool and look for the most searched topics in your client’s industry, or keywords with high search volume and build interesting topics around them.
  • Gather all the frequently asked questions in your client’s niche, and answer them in the most helpful and engaging way (could be visually or by just making the content extremely comprehensive).
  • Check your client site’s already existing content pool, and see if you can repurpose them. Enhance them in all possible ways you can (make them more extensive, add visuals, improve user-experience, etc…).
  • Get content ideas from their top competitors, and see their top and most linked/shared content (you can use Opensiteexplorer.org on this task). Create something similar, but outdo them in terms of information, presentation and promotion. Basically, you’ll have to beat their content on every aspect.

Here’s a quick sample (I’ve actually used this on my presentation at MORCon last September). If I’ll be targeting the keyword “how to get laid”, I’d first want to see the other content that I’ll be competing with.

Apparently, the competition for that topic/search term is pretty tight, though I believe I’ll have better chances of ranking well for that term if I can create something really big and interesting, an asset, like “100 ways to get laid [free ebook]”, right?

The key is to create the best content about your target query. Content that will really entice clicks from SERPs, be shared, linked to, and probably drive more leads/customers to the site.

Content assets have high chances of ranking well and in constantly getting referred traffic. And that’s the point of the strategy.

Topic Research

Research is the core of our content strategy (aside from creativity). This is probably our team’s best asset, as most of us have strong technical research skills and background.

This is a very important aspect for our content development process, as the quality of information of our content outputs heavily relies on this stage. The research phase usually starts once the content/editorial calendar for the campaign is set.

Some of the things that the research phase must implement:

  • To validate the creative ideas mentioned from the brainstorming meeting (see if feasible).
  • To gather necessary data and information for the topic and be included on the outline.
  • To find credible sources (which will also be cited on the content).
  • To check competitors’ similar content and highlight the things they have missed and the aspects of their content is lacking (ex: design, images, coherence, extensiveness, etc…). Use those weaknesses to your advantage.

Content Outline

Outlines serve as guides for content developers (copywriters and/or graphic artists). This is where all the outcomes of the research stage go, and basically the framework of how the content marketers visualize the end product.

Content outlines are usually consisted of the following:

  • The title of the content.
  • Brief description of the content.
  • The logical sequence of the content’s body.
  • The resources that the content developers can use to study and understand the topic.
  • Key phrases and/or elements that the content should contain or reference to (stats, graphs, images, videos, quotations, etc…).
  • Other requirements (which is optional), such as number of words, writing style, where the content will be published (so the writers/designers can have assess the type of audience they’ll be addressing to).
  • Deadline or level of priority.

Content Creation

Once the outlines are finished, the marketing team will then pass it over to the content development team (though we usually send these in batches).

Quality Assurance

We have 2 separate QA processes, in which the finished content will go through, where one is for editorial and the second is for SEO (just to assess if the content will be link/share-worthy and to also include the links for the sources within the content).

When the content has passed these QAs, it will be submitted back to the content marketers/outreach team for publishing/distribution.

Content Distribution and Promotion

The main objective of having content assets is to make them rank. Why? Assets are evergreen, so they’ll practically send ton of traffic to the site overtime, and they have the immense potentials of ranking highly and staying in there for a long time (which means more and constant visibility for the site).

Making these assets strong through promotion will help grow the site’s overall domain authority, which means better chances for the site to rank for the other competitive terms it is targeting (as the authority is passed around to its other landing pages).

When it comes to distribution of content assets, we normally decide on which ones to use for the site and the ones to be submitted to other authoritative domains. It usually comes down to the level of the importance of the keyword(s) that the content assets are targeting.

Choose the assets that you believe will have more impact when placed on the client’s site:

  • If it’ll attract direct leads/customers to the site
  • If it has high possibilities of attracting natural links/social mentions
  • If it can obviously compete for the keyword(s) which your client is primarily targeting

Why give the other assets to other websites, when we can use them all for ourselves? Because placing content assets on sites that already have strong search share can easily rank for competitive search phrases.

This means you get to indirectly attract traffic, links and build brand mind share at the same time, by continuously being exposed to the people who are finding and landing on that content.

Distributing the content really depends on the needs of the site. For instance we can choose to publish 5 of the content assets on the client’s site, and the other 5 on external authoritative sites (to establish the site’s content portfolio and to have most of the keywords targeted within the site).

Below are some of the content promotion methods that you can do to constantly generate traffic to your content assets as well as to get them on the top.

Social and Link Outreach

Find people and sites who’ll be really interested in sharing or linking to your content. There are so many ways and variations in doing this such as:

  • Linker outreach
  • Social outreach (for viral marketing)
  • Broken link building
  • Resource link building

The crucial part in this type of content promotion is making sure that the content you’ll be sharing to your prospects offers real value (not just to them, but should also be relevant to their audience) – value proposition is key to a successful outreach campaign.

Content Seeding

Use other channels to promote your content, particularly by building links/visibility for the content where people who’re seeking for the information it contains can actually find them.

Methods and places where you can seed your content assets:

  • Blog comments, especially on blog posts related to your content asset’s subject and on posts that are continuously getting traffic (have good search visibility). Always remember that you need to add value, for your comments to be really useful and be more receptive to their readers.
  • Related forum threads or creating a new forum thread to share the content. The key is not to just drop the link to the content, but to give solution to the stated problem (and use the content asset as the comprehensive resource that other forum members can reference to).
  • Contributing on Q&A sites (like Quora). Find posted questions that your content can provide answers. Participate and try to answer their questions, and then link to your content asset to redirect them for further reading.
  • Linking back to your content assets through your content distribution campaigns (guest blogging, press releases, etc…). It’s best to make the link very visible to readers (preferably placing the link on the top part of the content, and use longer strings of anchor texts). I’ll be discussing this more on the next part.
  • Sharing the content on different social platforms, where the brand has substantial amount of active followers. Given that most of your assets will be evergreen, sharing them once in a while will be very efficient, so that the brand’s new followers can still get to see the content and make the sharing cycle almost never ending.

Content Stemming

Create more content that will support the idea of the main content asset (or the content that’s capable of attracting more links and/or generating conversions). This will pass more link value to the content assets, which can also affect how they are ranking on search results.

You can utilize user-generated sites – like Slideshare, Scribd, Youtube, Pinterest and many more – when creating support content, since pages on these sites have high potentials of getting searched by users. It’ll be easier to draw more traffic back to your main content asset, when these support pages are already ranking well for high search volume keywords.

Tracking, Analysis and Funnel Optimization

Lastly, we try to enhance the approach of the campaign by monitoring its progress and optimizing every aspect of it, which also implies that we all need to take advantage of every opportunity and important detail we come across.

Tracking progress and reporting

Track all the campaign’s progress, as the more every aspect is being measured, the more enhancements can be made for the campaign’s succeeding months.

This is where all the deliverables will be sent to the client, which usually includes:

  • Full SEO audit report and recommendations.
  • Branding report (link and social tracking).
  • Qualitative report and analysis (summary of the results driven by the content marketing campaign, as well as the opportunities found through these initiatives).
  • Goal report (measuring the campaign’s impact on traffic, rankings and conversions – via Google Analytics).

These documents are used by SEO Consultants to review and visualize the best possible steps to ensure that the actions being taken are aligned with the campaign’s goals, and also to optimize the team’s internal processes (to ensure that we’ll be reaching and eventually expand the campaign’s goals).

Funnel optimization

Another vital part of our inbound campaign is analyzing and understanding more of the site’s funnels (from discovery, purchasing and to getting brand loyalists).

This analysis usually delves in the following areas:

  • Identifying keywords that are really driving conversions to the site, and thinking of ways of how the campaign can get more traffic from it (improving their rankings or the visibility of their respective landing pages).
  • Continuously improving the site’s important landing pages for conversions and visibility (how we can get more traffic to it and on how we can improve the page so visitors will take action). This may be comprised of split testing (MVT or A/B using Content Experiments on Google Analytics) as well as testing CTAs and other page elements.
  • Conversion link building will also be a big fraction of this campaign, where we’ll evaluate the best kinds of links/domains sending traffic with conversions to the site (so we can easily replicate these high-powered links).
  • The content assets that will be built will also be a part of this optimization process, since the content assets will also be tested on which suitable landing pages they should serve as a support (through internal linking or CTA offers).

The findings from these tests will also be included on our analysis and recommendations report, along with the other areas of the campaign that can still be improved.

Marketing and optimization is an on-going process. There’s always something new, and it’s part of our job to make sure that the campaign and the business will be on the right path.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Learning from Affilorama’s Inbound Marketing Success

I’ve worked with Affilorama for over a year and half as an in-house SEO (since early 2010 to mid 2011), and became an external marketing consultant for them for almost a year now. Those experiences alone have taught me ton of things that I’m sure I will not be able to learn if I’ve chosen to work for other companies.

Even the story of my career – as an online publisher, online marketing professional and entrepreneur – has revolved around the fact that I’ve been once a part of a really strong team. That part of my career has been a solid core of who I am and what I do now.

And the thing that I loved the most about working with them is that it allowed me to see more things beyond marketing. They indirectly showed me how a successful business is built, handled and scaled.

Making me understand that inbound marketing is not just about being excellent and resourceful in utilizing/integrating different marketing channels. Because the truth is, building a successful brand/site/business online will take real company shit stuff (#RCS) to get it done.

That’s how you win in online marketing from now on.

Before I start off, here’s a brief background (in case it’s your first time hearing them). Affilorama is a web portal that offers educational resources, training lessons, news and tools related to affiliate marketing. The brand was founded by New Zealand-based tech entrepreneurs, Mark Ling and Simon Slade on August 2006.

Below are few of the biggest factors that made Affilorama a success, which almost anyone can replicate to achieve bigger things when building an insanely awesome brand online.

Great Product

A really useful product that no one in your market can match can be the strongest marketing arsenal a business can have. People will always voluntarily share a product if they find it valuable. And that alone can semi-automate a big chunk of the business process, which is marketing.

Affilorama did well in both creating their products and in promoting them. They have efficiently aligned the product development with marketing, wherein the marketing team had a good grasp of the problems that their products want to solve.

Since when your marketing department fully understands the product, it’s easier to create campaigns that are specifically tailored to its target audience (SEO, content strategy, user-experience, etc…).

Offering more products

More products simply means more chances at increasing conversions, as the more products you offer, the more segments of your market you can target.

Affilorama has offered several products these past few years – from extensive educational courses, themes to pro tools – and that allowed them to improve the ability of the site to constantly get new customers.

Some of the branded products that they’re offering:

Another positive impact of this approach is that each product launch creates an inbound effect. Given that the team makes an effort to promote each product launch/update.

Bonus: Here’s a great guide from John Doherty on making product launch viral.

Continuously improving your product (for it to be great for its users) can tremendously help not just your marketing campaign, but can also ramp up your sales.

For instance, I have been part of the development team of the AffiloBlueprint’s version 2, and I know that it’s way better than the first version. And now they’re already developing the 3rd version, which means more reasons to promote/share the brand/story, and bigger potentials of getting more sales.

Support Product/Microsite

Affilorama has also benefited a lot from its strong microsite that has built its own brand identity and community – better known as Traffic Travis.

Traffic Travis offers both free and paid version of the SEO software that Affilorama has also developed. Since the product is so great (I even highly recommend the free version), it was able to grow its popularity on its own, with minimal marketing effort.

Over 250,000 online marketing professionals use it, and that certainly is a strong indication that the microsite has a huge email subscriber list.

Affilorama can easily promote their new stuff using Traffic Travis’ network, which extremely amplified their traffic and lead generation processes.

Key takeaway: Instead of building dozens of microsites for link building purposes, invest on building one that can cultivate its own community, build relationships and attract more opportunities/leads to your business.

High Value Freebies

The brand has lived by its philosophy – “give more to sell more” (or something similar to that phrase).

Both Affilorama and Traffic Travis have offered ton of useful free stuff, from free video tutorials to free-to-access tools/software. These helped the site attract more visitors (that eventually became loyalists), as these elements of the site are genuinely worth sharing.

Some of the free stuff that Affilorama has been using to continuously attract new visitors/leads:

Providing so much value on the things your brand is giving away for free to its target consumers can help demonstrate and establish itself as an authority in the field.

If people are finding your free stuff very useful, they’d be putting more trust and be more interested with the stuff that you are selling. This increases the chances of converting your returning visitors.

Another reason why this approach really worked with Affilorama is that they have really committed themselves to serving their audience. They continuously update the giveaways they are offering to their potential customers.

Exceptional Customer Service

Affilorama has an amazing support team and system. They not only just serve paying customers, but also extend their help to new site users (particularly to those who ask questions on the site’s forum section).

When I was still working there as a fulltime in-house SEO, some of the support team members forward technical questions to me. That’s why I’m sure that the team is doing the best they can to provide good experience to Affilorama’s users and community.

One of the best advantages of providing great customer support is that it helps maintain the brand’s reliability. In which it is able to develop involuntary word-of-mouth marketing, as the process of retaining visitors/users through satisfying and answering to their needs transforms them to become brand evangelists.

Being excellent on this area of business operations can massively influence the increase in amount of referred customers/users/visitors to a site. People love sharing their experiences, and when the experience is good, they’ll definitely want that to happen to their peers as well (and yes, you’ll earn the links!).

Co-creation and Partnerships

Another key to Affilorama’s rapid and substantial growth is the professional partnerships that they have built over time. They have partnered with some of the biggest names in their industry (such as ClickBank) and other influential individuals that they have well-utilized in endorsing each other in so many ways.

For instance, Affilorama has been co-creating most of its webinars with several top-notch industry experts to provide up-to-date tips. This has grown both entities’ following base, given that Affilorama has a big network, and whereas they also get to absorb their guest presenters’ followers.

Affilorama has been very open to joint venture partnerships as well, where they grant few selected affiliate marketers with higher commissions when promoting their products. Likewise, Affilorama also promote and endorse their partners’ products by providing reviews of them.

Their affiliate program was also a good inbound channel for the overall campaign, since it easily spreads brand awareness, knowing that affiliates will heavily promote the product(s).

Diversified Content Marketing Strategy

Even before content marketing became the new black, Affilorama was already active in pushing out high-utility content to their target audience.

They have gradually molded a strong community through the various content formats they were consistently launching, such as:

  • Regularly updating their affiliate marketing blog (that has 130,000+ feed subscribers)
  • Maintaining a vibrant forum (with 200,000+ members)
  • Monthly newsletter (definitely have thousands of subscribers)
  • Monthly webinars (that’s effectively promoted through email marketing)
  • Guest blogging and authorship (which we’ve started doing few years ago)
  • Crowdsourcing and user-generated content (allowing members to contribute to our content development campaigns)

These series of initiatives that are mainly intended to educate Affilorama’s target market have allowed them to scale the lead nurturing process.

Acquiring good (natural) links, building a strong brand presence, getting more leads/sales and attaining better search visibility (for both long tails and competitive terms) have been easier because of this holistic approach to online marketing.

Personal Branding, Story and Transparency

Stories make brands remarkable. Every business has a story, and that story sometimes separates a business from its competitors.

Affilorama has utilized theirs quite well, seeing that they have shared Mark Ling’s compelling story on how he started (and turning to a point where he taught his dad what he does best).

Those things make people trust a brand, especially if the brand has its own ambassador that says they are real people. If you’ll notice, most successful brands online have a face that people look up to.

Including personal branding as a goal for a business entity is a strategy that allows brands to touch the personal side of their consumers. It is a force to reckon with.

Write, connect and move people. Be good at it. Because that’s what it takes to become an industry thought-leader that earns links, shares, rankings and conversions.

Final tip: You don’t need to be a technical marketing expert at all times. Sometimes, you’ll just need to be really smart in running a real business to be good at inbound marketing.

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Inbound Marketing for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

Inbound marketing or earned media is a marketing principle that merges several online marketing practices that aim to attract visitors/customers to a site – instead of interrupting their online activities through paid methodologies – by simply discerning what its target audience need, search for and find genuinely interesting and providing value to meet those necessities.

Processes that this marketing strategy mostly involves are search engine optimization, content marketing, social media and conversion rate optimization, wherein most don’t rely on heavy marketing budgets, but can provide longevity for its results to a great extent in terms of branding and revenue generation.

Performing well on these other marketing channels can massively improve a site’s search visibility, given that search engines are now using social, usage and trust signals to weigh websites and webpages’ overall authority that allows them to gauge who should be ranking well on their search results.

Gillian Muessig, President of SEOmoz, recently presented about why SEO is more than SEO nowadays, which pretty much explains everything on how inbound marketing works:

 

Inbound marketing is an ROI-focused strategy, and several interesting facts support the idea which somehow proves how powerful it is as a marketing tool today.

  • Methods used in inbound marketing cost 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing, and channels used within these strategies have higher percentage of customer acquisition, which means it can generate higher revenue for a lower cost of investment.
  • Content and blog marketing allows a site to increase its traffic by 55% and 400% more pages to be indexed by search engines (meaning, greater chances of getting found through long-tail search queries).
  • There are 3 billion searches on Google per day, and a huge fraction of those queries are for information about products, services and local businesses.
  • There are already billions of users worldwide on different social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Google+, Linkedin, etc…), which can also improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns through spreading awareness, brand/service/product discovery and interactive communications (in building customer relationships).
  • Getting found through search engines generates revenue, as these visitors already have the intent of knowing more/reviewing/buying a certain product/service. Putting out useful branded content through blogs can then increase customer acquisition.
  • Converting traffic to leads, customers and/or brand loyalists is easier, as most of these marketing channels are measurable and can be improved further through thorough analysis.

Below are some of the processes that small as well as medium-sized businesses can use to grow their website’s traffic, conversions and brand strength.

Merge SEO with Content Marketing

Having SEO in mind before actually launching a full inbound marketing campaign and its content strategy is an advantage, because it will allow you to easily map out the important keywords that your campaign is going to target and on how you can efficiently distribute them to your site’s pages for them to have higher chances of ranking on search engines for their designated search terms.

It’s important to optimize your site for search to be able to have its content (especially the site’s important landing pages and linkable assets) regularly crawled and be ranked by search engines. Some of the optimization techniques that you can implement to your site to support your content marketing strategy are:

  • Making sure that your inner pages will be crawled and can funnel PageRank down to your important pages and categories through good site architecture, canonical URLs, setting up an XML sitemap, readable permalinks, including a robots.txt file and using descriptive keywords/anchor texts for the site’s internal linking, for the reason that this can help your content be more visible on search results.
  • Optimizing for local search results, wherein you can distribute location-based keywords on separate landing pages.
  • Making your inner content sharable by including and making social buttons very visible to users.
  • Determine and optimize the entire site for speed, you can use Google’s Page Speed Online to test how your site is performing in terms of its loading time and to see what elements/aspects of the site are affecting your important pages’ loading process.
  • Put emphasis on implementing trust and brand indicators to your site (about us page, privacy policy, trust seals, disclaimer and social proof), as search engines do use these signals to determine a site’s authoritativeness.
  • Rich snippet optimization such as implementing rel=”author” and microdata to your site’s important pages/content, for them to display more prominently on search results (which can massively increase their CTR).

Keyword research is a vital part of SEO, and small businesses can utilize this process to improve their content development strategy by simply basing their content production to the keywords that their target audience use to find content over the web.

Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Tool, Google Insights for Search and Ubersuggest to find keywords with sufficient search volume and demand that the site’s projected linkable pages can target (infographics, comprehensive articles, videos, etc…).

Base your contents’ titles on your campaign’s target keywords, as people are more likely to use your pages’ titles (including your keywords) when they begin sharing or linking to your content, which can help boost your contents’ search rankings for each allocated search term.

The foundation of your overall campaign should be centered on creating interesting and useful content for your target market and on how your materials can stress your business’ unique value proposition.

Merge Link Development and Social Outreach

Combining the power of social signals and editorial link attributions to your site’s rich content can speed up the process of obtaining better search rankings for your campaign’s targeted keywords.

That’s why it’s always important to provide high value content that people would really want to link to or share with their networks to be able to scale your content marketing strategy, where links and social mentions will come naturally after its promotion stage.

There are many content promotion techniques that you can do before and after creating and launching a solid content, such as:

Link/Social Outreach

Identify and make a list of heavy linkers and social sharers in your industry that will find your content useful and will have high probability of sharing your content. Try reaching out to them (through email) and ask if they’ll be interested to see your content. You can check out this post for more in-depth tips on how to find linkers and on how to do the linker outreach method.

Content Distribution

You can also support your highly resourceful content by building artificial links directing to it to amplify search visibility and content discovery through social channels. Several ways that you can do to build links as well as to market your content:

  • Contextually link to your content through guest blogging.
  • Link to it through free whitepapers, ebooks and slide presentations.
  • Link to your content from your press release submissions.
  • Participate on highly relevant forums/communities and link to your useful content as a reference for your contributions.
  • Cover industry news and pitch it as a guest blog/column to relevant blogs and/or news websites.
  • Offer your content to be featured on other bloggers’ newsletter, incentivize the pitch or propose a deal that will be beneficial to both parties.

Linking Out

Link out to other people or organization in your industry that have strong following base and readership to have a reason for contact. Most of the time, they’ll share your content (and sometimes link back to it), particularly if the content that’s containing a link to their works or website is offering valuable information.

Engaging influencers and building relationships

Building relationships with bloggers in your industry who have strong following (on their blogs or social networks) can also be a powerful tool for your content marketing and link building campaign, as the more your content can reach their audience, is the more you can enhance your chances of acquiring natural links and social mentions from their networks/followers (seeing that they are vouching for your content).

You can also absorb their followers along the process of gaining their trust and having them share your own content to their networks, which normally leads to more brand followers who will regularly share your site’s new updates (new blog posts, promos, events, etc…).

Competitive Intelligence

Know the factors that make people link to or share your competitors’ content by identifying the top domains linking to them as well as their key followers who continuously share their content on different social networks. You can use tools such as Open Site Explorer to determine their top linked pages and Topsy to find influential people who’re sharing their content.

Assess these factors and try to overcome their approach when it comes to content creation and outreach by understanding the nature of linking and social behavior in your industry through extracting your competitors’ data.

Distinguish why those people link to and share your competitors’ content and how you can get them to share and link to yours as well.

Social Media and Lead Nurturing

Social communities can help businesses spread their brand’s messages effectively, especially nowadays wherein more people are heavily participating on different social channels to share compelling and useful ideas related to their interests.

Developing a robust community within the site’s domain or externally (on social networks) is certainly one of the best ways to scale a business, since online communities will enable you to get more possible leads to your business as the community grows, help spread awareness about your product/services/industry (through social sharing), and can help a business build a strong online brand presence.

Below are some of the ways that you can implement to improve your social marketing and lead generation strategies:

Use Social Badges as Secondary Calls-to-Action

Make your social badges or links to your social profiles very visible on your website to continuously grow your social community, since every time you fascinate new visitors from your site, enticing them to follow your brand on different social networks (that you actively use) will help your campaign disseminate new content in the future.

You can place these CTAs on your homepage (above the fold or on the site’s sidebar) as well as on your inner pages’ (blog posts) closing parts.

Improve Middle of the Funnel offerings

Give your audience more reasons to return to your site, because these types of visitors are the ones who’re most likely to buy from you, since they already know your brand and/or have experienced the value you provide to your community.

You can offer monthly free ebooks (like Hubspot’s free whitepapers), newsletters, comprehensive blog posts (regularly), free tools, free webinars, free extensive lessons (like Codeacademy and Affilorama’s free affiliate marketing lessons) and other downloadable freebies (pdf, videos, plugins, etc…)

By improving on these aspects of content marketing, you can constantly increase and grow the amount of sign-ups to your email list, which will allow you to gather more information on your audience and eventually send targeted messages to them.

Leverage Content to Build Conversations

Communicate with your audience through social networks, since they are more to converse on these channels. You can share not just your content, but also other relevant content (perhaps from your competitors and link prospects) that your audience may find useful.

This can then spark conversations with your followers as well as with your link targets, so take advantage of this. You can also use your social profiles to create user-generated content, as this will definitely strengthen your external community.

Building a Community within your site

It’s very important to develop your site’s ability to engage its user, given that usage-data is one of the ranking factors that search engines use these days, and possible new visitors can also use this aspect of the site to assess if it’s worth their time.

You can engage your users in several ways such as building conversations through your blog’s comment sections, inviting guest bloggers to your site’s blog, launching a forum, organizing contests and/or awards. Make use of these content assets to build more brand followers/loyalists and to funnel more possible leads to your business.

Encourage Social Sharing

The more referred visitors you generate to your site through social discovery, is the more you can grow your readership, following and possible leads. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content by making your social buttons very visible on your site’s pages, especially to your site’s share-worthy content (as people will naturally share them if they find it really interesting or useful).

Measure and Optimize for Conversions

Measuring and tracking your campaign’s performance is vital, since understanding your results and the key areas that might need more of your attention can speed up the process of achieving your marketing campaign’s objectives (for instance, increasing highly engaged visitors and improving customer acquisitions).

There are certain metrics that you should be measuring, most importantly for small and medium businesses that are active with their online marketing, because these metrics basically justify your results and let you see where your campaign should be heading next (like improving on channels that generate you more revenue).

Metrics that you can use to assess your campaign’s performance could be segmented into 4 different parts – traffic, engagement, content and conversions.

Monthly unique visitors vs. returning visitors

Compare your previous months to the current month to see the impact of your online marketing campaign (SEO, social media and content marketing).

Traffic Sources

Identify traffic sources and referring websites that send traffic with high user-activity (have low bounce rates, stay longer on the site and view more internal pages of the site). Knowing which sites send the best type of traffic to your site will enhance your lead generation strategy (as you can then focus on getting more traffic from them).

Top performing pages

Determine what pages of the site are performing well in terms of page views and user activity, because these pages can be your campaign’s possible linkable assets (that can help you scale your link building efforts), and you can as well improve these pages’ CTAs for maximum conversions (given that the traffic they are receiving are highly engaged).

Keyword performances and Search Rankings

Check if your targeted keywords are ranking well on your desired search result location(s) and if they are sending traffic that takes action (based on time on landing page, bounce rate and page visits).

Growth in audience reach

It’s also important to monitor the improvement in the size of your brand’s reach when it comes to social networks, blog subscriptions and email subscribers (to your newsletter) to determine the efficiency of your traffic generation campaign (SEO, social and content marketing).

You can use tools such as Klout, Feedburner, and­ Mailchimp/Aweber to measure your audience size and growth for each different sector (social, blog subscriptions and email subscriptions).

Goal Conversions   

Set up your campaign’s goals on Analytics to see how your site’s important landing pages are performing (if they are capable of converting your visitors into leads/sales). You can also check the traffic sources that are generating traffic that leads to customers to your site, and choose to either improve the traffic generation process or the ability of your landing pages to convert the existing constant amount of traffic they receive.

Test your Landing Pages

Use Google Website Optimizer to test the strength of your landing/product/services pages’ call to action and/or to know what page elements appeal to your visitors for them to convert more to your goals.

If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre and add me on Google+.

Image credit: IndependentConceal

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Inbound.org – A New Learning Tool for Inbound Marketers

Inbound.org is a newly launched community-based content sharing website – created by two of the most renowned thought leaders in the field of inbound marketing, Rand Fishkin (Founder of SEOmoz) and Dharmesh Shah (Founder of Hubspot).

It’s a very promising community, basing from the reception it gained from active online marketers worldwide (getting 10,000+ visits on the second day of its launch – and on a weekend), considering it as a new home of the best educational web-based materials in the industry.

I do personally consider Inbound.org as a learning tool for both new and seasoned online marketers, as you’ll see some of the most brilliant minds in the internet marketing industry sharing not just high-utility articles/guides, but highly linkable works that you might have missed reading before.

It’s also a great place to connect with other content creators in the industry, engage and get into their radars, as well as a place to promote your “great content” (relevant to inbound marketing).

In case you’re wondering what inbound marketing is (as defined by Wikipedia) – it’s a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by your prospects/target audience, which is dissimilar to traditional marketing principles that often focus on interrupting its target market through excessive advertisements/promotions.

The whole strategy is usually composed of organic online marketing practices such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Link Development
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Analytics
  • Conversion Rate Optimization.

Features I would want to see on Inbound.org in the future:

Advanced Search feature

It would be easier for users to find specific posts or topics that they want to look for within the site if it has a search feature.

Top links of the week

I noticed that the arrangement of the list of posted links on the front page changes a lot and it’s possible for people who are checking in for updates to miss other awesome content. Curating the top links (voted by users) for each week could be a good solution to this, and can also be a good reward for awesome content creators.

Favorite links (bookmarker)

With a lot of links being submitted to the site daily, it would certainly be hard to keep up on reading everything that you’ll find interesting through the website. Adding this feature will make it easier for users to save links that they might want to check/visit/read again

If you’re keen to learning more about the overall processes that inbound marketing involves, you can check out Inbound.org and follow them on Twitter @inboundorg.

Bonus Round

Here’s a great infographic from Voltier Digital (created last year), explaining why you should invest on this marketing approach instead.

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